Murder of Vicki Heath

Vicki Heath

Vicki Heath recently got engaged and was looking forward to the next chapter in her life.

Forty-one year-old Vicki Heath had spent most of her life in Hardinsburg, Kentucky. Things just kept looking up and she was looking forward to the next chapter in her life. With a son and daughter both starting their adult lives, she recently got engaged to her fiancee. They decided to move into a home in Radcliff, about thirty-five miles east of Hardinsburg. To get some extra money she decided to take a job working nights at the Super 8 Motel right off I-65 in historic Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

 

Background Information

Elizabethtown is a small historical city and county seat of Hardin County, Kentucky. In 1987, long before strip malls and commercial zoning took away from the city’s old town feel, Elizabethtown was a town with just 18,000 people that seemed a million miles from anyplace that felt like a “big city”. It wasn’t just it’s historical architecture, boyhood home of Lincoln feel and museums that was attractive to both residents and visitors, it was and still is perfect for anyone who loves the outdoors. Plenty of greenbelts, parks, trails, rivers and lakes to choose from for miles and miles any direction you choose.

Once you get past Louisville heading south on I-65, it’s a peaceful scenic forty-five minute ride down to Elizabethtown. Highway US-62, known as Mulberry St in town, is the first main exit to get into the northeast side of Elizabethtown. In 1987, the wasn’t much but two hotels, a couple semi lots for drivers, gas stations and three fast food places. It was a light residential area, just outside of town. Just east of I-65 on US-62, was a new Days Inn, just a few feet from the I-65 north on ramp. Just past Days Inn was a large lot for semi drivers and then a small Marathon Truck Stop. Right next to the Marathon, with a small drive even connecting their parking lots was 2028 N. Mulberry St- the Super 8 Motel. It was just a simple two story motel perfect for just getting a place to sleep for the night.

Super8

The Elizabethtown Super 8 Motel as it looks in 2018. Vicki Heath was brutally raped and murdered here in 1987. Police thought had long believed it was “one off robbery gone wrong”. In 2010, her case would be linked to the I-65 Serial Killer, showing he was active two years earlier than previously thought.

In morning hours of Saturday February 21, 1987, it was 36°F just above freezing, and a light dusting of snow fell on Elizabethtown- just a tenth of an inch. Vicki Heath was working the overnight shift and for the most part, it had been an uneventful evening. The motel was reported to be just about half full. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. The manager had last spoke to Vicki about 11 p.m. Friday, when he left for the night.

 

Crime Scene and Immediate Aftermath

At 6:38 a.m. the Elizabethtown Police Department received a call from a guest at the Super 8 Motel at 2028 N. Mulberry St. The caller told the dispatcher they walked into the lobby to check out and it was “a complete mess, in total disarray”. They couldn’t find the front clerk or anyone else who worked there. They were worried.

Minutes later a patrol officer from EPD walked inside and it looked like “there had been a brawl” between a group of people. Items from the front desk were all over the floor, furniture in the lobby had been overturned, and the payphone had been ripped from the wall. The front desk clerk was nowhere to be found. The officer called for back up, believing there may be a group of men fighting and the clerk had been hurt in the fray. The officer reportedly went upstairs to quickly walk down the second floor hall listening for any activity. When got to the end of the hall, he went downstairs to the first floor and decided to go out the rear door to the back lot to search the property.

It didn’t take long to find her.

Directly behind the dumpster was a gruesome sight.

A few minutes before the 7:26 a.m. sunrise, Lt. Ruben Gardner arrived and was assigned as lead detective. Vicki Heath was lying on her back in “dead muddy grass caused by fresh melted snow”. She still had on her sweater and plaid skirt. Her clothes were pretty tore up and mangled. She had some blood and mud on her. It appeared she’d been shot in the head. One set of muddy footprints let away from her body and partway into the parking lot lot where they abruptly ended and a fresh set of tire tracks started.

Later that afternoon, Hardin County Coroner William H. Lee Jr. would perform the autopsy on Vicki. She had been robbed, beaten, sodomized and shot twice in the head with .38 handgun.

One of the .38 bullets that killed Vicki had exited and went into the ground. It was recovered.

EPD was able to get pictures of several footprints left at the scene by the suspected killer. Because the snow was so light and melted within a few minutes of sunrise, they were unable to get solid pictures or impressions of the tires.

Vicki’s clothes were processed as evidence and would later contain usable DNA. A rape kit was used to obtain evidence.

A few days later when asked about any new developments in her murder, lead detective Lt. Ruben Gardner of the Elizabethtown Police Department replied, “We have no substantial suspects yet”.

 

Developments and Analysis 

EPD detectives initially theorized that it was “a robbery gone wrong, possibly because she had put up a fight”. Other times detectives theorized it might have been “a targeted rape and execution”, it certainly appeared like “it could be a crime of passion”. Police were baffled, there was just so little to go on. They were certain that this has just been a “one off”.

After numerous detectives worked this case for years and waiting for DNA advancements in DNA, EPD Detective Clinton Turner submitted what little DNA evidence they were able to obtain. They sent it off to the Kentucky State Police Crime Lab for DNA comparison.

In April of 2010 there was a hit in Combined DNA Index System(CODIS). It matched the DNA of an unknown offender known as the I-65 Serial Killer wanted in Indiana for the March 3, 1989, sexual assault and murders of Days Inn clerks Peggy Gill and Jeanne Gilbert, and the rape and stabbing of another Days Inn clerk who survived an attack in Columbus 1990.

In 2013, there was another hit in CODIS, this time from a similar case in 1991 from a survivor in Rochester, Minnesota. While details of that case have not been released, it is believed this killer has had many more victims.

i65 wanted poster

If you have any tips that can identify this traveling killer, or may connect a similar crime, call 1-800-597-8123 right away. You can remain anonymous.