Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hunting Humans

"Eklutna Annie"

Anchorage police had a sneaking suspicion that Sherry Morrow's murder was not an isolated incident. Over the last two years, there was a sudden increase in the number of missing persons reports being filed, many of which were topless dancers and prostitutes. Prior to this latest discovery, the reports had not prompted much attention. Prostitutes tend to be loners and often travel from city to city, only to reappear years later. If there was a link, investigators did not want to tip the killer off. Any concerns they had were kept private.

When discussing Morrow's murder with The Anchorage Daily News, investigators said they doubted that it was related to the disappearance of at least three other women since 1980. "We don't believe we have a mass murderer out there, some psycho knocking off girls," said Anchorage police detective Maxine Farrell.

Joanne Messina
Joanne Messina

Alaska State Trooper sergeant Lyle Haugsven was assigned to determine whether or not Sherry Morrow's murder was an isolated incident. Working with the Anchorage Police Department, the two agencies began sharing files and comparing notes. According to Bernard DuClos in Fair Game, the first indication of a possible link appeared to be with two unsolved cases from 1980. In the first case, construction workers digging near Eklutna Road discovered the partial remains of a woman buried in a shallow grave. Animals had taken off with a majority of the remains and there was very little evidence at the scene. The victim had never been identified and was dubbed "Eklutna Annie" by police assigned to the case. Later that same year, another body was found in a nearby gravel pit. The victim was later identified as Joanne Messina, a local topless dancer. Unfortunately, her body was badly decomposed and, as with "Eklutna Annie", there was little evidence to be found. In the end, Haugsven had few leads to follow and very little evidence at his disposal.

As months passed, hope of catching the killer began to diminish. Then, on the night of June 13, 1983, everything seemed to turn around. Earlier that evening, a trucker was passing through town when he noticed a frantic young female waving her arms and calling out to him. The girl had a pair of handcuffs dangling from one of her wrists and her clothing was disheveled. She told the trucker that a man was after her and asked him to take her to the Big Timber Motel. Once inside, she had the front desk clerk place a call for her. As she waited outside for her pimp, the truck driver drove straight to the Anchorage Police Department and reported the incident.

When Anchorage Police Officer Gregg Baker arrived at the Big Timber Motel, he found the girl alone and still in handcuffs. Once he removed her cuffs, she began telling him an extraordinary story. According to reports she gave to investigators, she had been approached on the street by a 40ish, red-haired man, and offered $200 for oral sex. She agreed to the price, but midway through the act the man locked a handcuff around her wrist and pulled out a gun. He told her if she cooperated he would not kill her. He then drove to his house in Muldoon, an upper class area not far from town. Once inside, the man brutally raped her, bit her nipples, and at one point shoved a hammer into her vagina. After a brief rest, the man said that he was going to fly her to his cabin in the mountains and told her he would let her go if she cooperated. Upon their arrival at the airport, her kidnapper shoved her inside a small plane and began loading supplies. The young prostitute knew she was in serious trouble and that the man would probably kill her once they got to his cabin. Waiting until his back was turned, she shoved open the door and ran for her life. According to her, he chased after her at first, but then relented when he saw her wave down the truck driver.

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