Police seek links between West Virginia killing and cold cases

Reuters News
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Posted: Jul 28, 2015 2:54 PM

By Ian Simpson

(Reuters) - Police in Illinois and Nevada are seeking links between cold-case killings and a man shot dead by a West Virginia prostitute when he tried to attack her, authorities said on Tuesday.

The suspect, Neal Falls, 45, was killed on July 18 in Charleston, West Virginia, when he threatened the prostitute's life with a 9mm pistol. The woman, called "Heather" by police, seized the weapon during a struggle and shot him in the head.

Lieutenant Steve Cooper of the Charleston police told CNN that officers found a "kill kit" in Falls' car that included a machete, a sledgehammer, an axe, a shovel, box cutters, bleach, knives and trash bags. He also had four sets of handcuffs in his pockets.

"That's a pretty sinister combination," he said.

Since Falls' death, Charleston police have been in contact with authorities in Illinois and Nevada to see if he may have been involved in the disappearance of four Las Vegas-area prostitutes between 2003 and 2006.

Police in Henderson, Nevada, are looking for a connection between Falls and Lindsay Harris, 21, who went missing in May 2005, police spokeswoman Michelle French said.

Her legs were found three weeks later in a field near Interstate 55 close to Springfield, Illinois. The remains were not identified through DNA tests as Harris' until 2008.

Master Sergeant Matt Boerwinkle, a spokesman for the Illinois State Police, said the agency was checking to see if Falls was involved in the Harris case.

"Nothing is off the table," he said. CBS News reported Falls had lived in Las Vegas for eight years and had worked at nearby Hoover Dam.

Las Vegas police are seeking a connection between Falls and the 2003 homicide of a second woman, Misty Saens, 25, said Officer Michael Rodriguez, a police spokesman.

The Las Vegas Review-Gazette newspaper reported that in 2008 police said that Harris' murder appeared to be linked to the cases of two other area women who had been killed and a third who was missing.

Like Harris, Jodi Brewer, 19, and Saens were found dead near highways. The fourth, Jessica Foster, 21, has never been found, the newspaper said.

CNN said Falls had met Heather after connecting with her through the escort section of Backpage.com. Cooper said Heather had suffered a broken vertebra, separated shoulder and mental trauma during the attack.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler)