27 y.o.man,charged w/kidnapping,raping,& killing 19 y.o.college student gal in TX in 1998,is prime suspect in unsolved 1994 college gal killing in AR

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Joe1orbit

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Feb 9, 1999, 3:00:00 AM2/9/99
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Hello,

Here's some interesting news on a 27 year old fellow in Texas named Larry Ray
Swearingen, who just MIGHT be a double murderer, and COULD even conceivably be
a genuine serial killer. Right now, Larry is under arrest, only facing one
capital murder charge, for having harvested a 19 year old female college
student named Melissa Trotter that he kidnapped, strangled, and dumped the dead
body in a remote, wooded area near Houston. This occured last year, and police
now say that there are REMARKABLE similarities between this murder, and the
unsolved 1994 murder of a young Arkansas female college student named Melissa
Witt. There truly are so MANY similarities, that the ONLY logical conclusion
that I can draw is that it is 98+% certain that ONE killer, very possibly
Larry, did serially kill both of these gals. here is just a small list of the
similarities between the two cases:

1: Both gals had a first name of Melissa.
2: Both were the same age.
3: Both had the same type of physical appearance.
4: Both were wearing similar clothing.
5: Both had personal possessions taken from them by the killer.
6: Both were dumped in a national forest located 50 miles away from the site of
their abduction.
7: Both were abducted in the same WEEK, four years apart.
8: Both were college students.

I think it is very clear that they were both killed by the same person, a
cunning fellow who aspired to be a serial killer, if in fact he isn't one
already. If 27 year old Larry DID indeed commit this 1998 murder of Melissa
Trotter, I'd be willing to bet big bucks that he ALSO committed the 1994 murder
of the other Melissa.

Police say that they are TRYING to figure out whether Larry was in Arkansas
when Melissa #1 got herself abducted and killed. They clearly believe that
Larry killed her, but so far they only have enough evidence to gain an
indictment for the 1998 murder, and have already done so. So far, they have not
found any paper trail which PROVES Larry was in the specific Arkansas city,
Fort Smith, that victim #1 was abducted from. It is an undeniable fact that
Larry HAS travelled extensively throughout the USA, which of course increases
the likelihood that he may have harvested victims in other states, and even if
the bodies have been found, they may not have been LINKED together, or linked
to the 1994 AR killing, by police.

If you would like to view photos of Larry, along with BOTH very attractive
young college students that he is suspected of having killed, simply point your
web browser to:

http://www.swtimes.com/1999/February/08/news/witt.html

Larry looks to be a fairly well-built and clean-cut young fellow, who wears
glasses.He is a resident of TX. He COULD of course be a genuine serial killer.
If he committed these two killings, he clearly has demonstrated certain
character traits that are similar to actual serial killers. Very possibly he
HAS claimed additional victims. Four YEARS is a LONG cooling-off period,
between murder #1 and murder #2. Most enraged and aspiring serial killers do
not wait for years between their 1st & 2nd killings, but of course EVERY human
being is unique, and so is every enraged predator who commits multiple murder.

Larry does have a past criminal record, for theft AND assault. Last year, he
held a GUN to the HEAD of a different gal, inside of the very same forest that
body #2 was found in, but did not physically harm this gal. There is BOTH
physical and forensic evidence linking him to the 1998 killing of Melissa #2.

Even though we only have one murder charge right now, I AM posting this to My
Mailing list as well, based upon my conclusion that it's 98% likely that both
of these gals were killed by the same serial predator, and PROBABLY 35%+ likely
that Larry is the double murderer and DID manage to kill some additional gals,
putting him at or over the magic number of 3.

Take care, JOE

The following appears courtesy of today's Reuters news wire:

Possible Murder Suspect Found

February 9, 1999

Reuters

(FORT SMITH) -- A man arrested in connection with a Texas murder is now under
investigation by Fort Smith authorities as a possible suspect in a similar
murder there in 1994. Larry Swearingen is already charged with the murder of a
Houston, Texas college student. Police say the details of the murder are
remarkably similar to those involving Fort Smith resident Melissa Witt. Witt
and the Texas victim were the same age, had the same first names, had the same
body type, wore similar clothes, and both their bodies were found dumped in a
national forest 50 miles from the scene of their abductions.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------
The following appears courtesy of the 2/9/99 online edition of The Southwest
Times Record newspaper:

Police get new lead in Witt case

Larry Swearingen

Southwest Times Record

BY MARCUS BLAIR, TIMES RECORD

Police say a man charged with the murder of a Texas woman could become a
suspect in the 1994 slaying of Fort Smith student Melissa “Missy” Witt if they
can prove he was in the area at the time of her slaying.

Larry Ray Swearingen, 27, of Willis, Texas, was indicted Jan. 26 on capital
murder charges in the slaying of a Montgomery College student, 19-year-old
Melissa Trotter. Police believe he abducted and strangled the woman and dumped
her body in a remote, wooded area near Houston.

After the Times Record brought the Texas case to the attention of Fort Smith
authorities, police found the resemblances too many and too striking to ignore.
They immediately began collaborating with Montgomery County, Texas, authorities
and looking for evidence that Swearingen was in Fort Smith at the time of
Witt’s murder.

The women shared the same first name, age, appearance and build. They were
wearing similar clothing at the time of their abductions, and both were found
in wooded areas by hunters on National Forest land about 50 miles from the
abduction sites. They were missing similar personal effects, and both were
strangled. Each woman also was active in her church and was well-liked and
active at her school.

And Trotter and Witt were abducted four years apart to the week.

Capt. J.C. Rider of the Fort Smith Police Department, who has been heading the
Witt investigation from its beginning, said the cases are mirror images of each
other and could be the work of a serial killer.

“I’ve been waiting for a guy like this to come along since the case began,” he
said. “I’ve never seen two cases this similar, but I’ve also run into more
coincidences in this case than any other. But the coincidence is almost
unbelievable.”

Rider has been placing one phone call after another since receiving the
information, hoping to find some record of Swearingen in Fort Smith.

So far, no traffic citations, offense reports, accident reports or pawn slips
have yielded results. But Rider thinks the best hope of linking Swearingen to
Fort Smith will come from his employment records.

Montgomery County investigators have formed a time line which tracks
Swearingen’s movements up to two years ago. Police have learned he was a
journeyman electrician who traveled through the Southeast, along the east coast
and as far north as New England in search of work. Rider thinks local
electricians might have records of Swearingen’s possible employment in Fort
Smith.

“We’re just doing a process of elimination now,” Rider said. “Until we can tie
him here, we’re not listing him as a suspect, and won’t question him until we
find evidence.”

Hunting and fishing license records or credit card purchase records could also
place Swearingen in Fort Smith, Rider said, but results from those searches
will not be available for at least two weeks.

According to reports published in the Houston Chronicle and corroborated by the
Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Swearingen has a history of theft and
assault convictions and is being held on a kidnapping charge on $500,000 bond.
He allegedly held a gun to a woman’s head last September in the same section of
the Sam Houston National Forest where Trotter’s body was found.

Rider said Swearingen matches exactly the FBI profile of Witt’s killer.

“We were told we would be looking for a big beer drinker, driving a big red
truck, a macho man with many girlfriends, a police-groupie and a sportsman,” he
said. “We have learned that he fits this description.”

Authorities said Swearingen and Trotter met just days before her disappearance,
and he allegedly admitted he talked with her the day she vanished at the
college where she was preparing for finals. He denied leaving the campus with
Trotter, but authorities say they have both physical and forensic evidence to
link Swearingen to Trotter’s death.

On Dec. 1, 1994, Westark Community College student Melissa Witt vanished. Car
keys, later identified as Witt’s, were found in the parking lot at Bowling
World in Fort Smith where her mother, Mary Ann Witt, was bowling. A small
amount of blood was found on the keys.

The disappearance sparked a massive search effort. Thousands of flyers and
bumper stickers with Witt’s picture and description were distributed throughout
the area.

Three days later, Witt’s 1995 Mitsubishi Mirage was found in the bowling
alley’s parking lot. Police found more blood drops near her car, but because
there are no records identifying Witt’s blood type, police do not know if it
was hers.

Finally, after authorities spent six frantic weeks searching for Witt, a
trapper found her nude body lying face down near Turner Bend in Franklin
County. Her personal effects were never found.

Rider said police interviewed more than 215 people in the case and developed
many suspects. Among the most promising is Ozark native Travis Crouch, 31, who
is in a Boulder, Colo., jail for an alleged sexual assault. Crouch was a
carpenter at a church camp north of Ozark where Witt’s body was found, and
police say he was seen driving a bronze Chevrolet Caprice near Bowling World at
the time of Witt’s disappearance.

Hair, fiber and stain samples taken from the car in March 1998 have been sent
to the FBI for evaluation, but tests have not been completed, Rider said.

Police said Crouch has a history of arrests involving violence and sexual
assault. In 1997, Crouch was panhandling at a Boulder shopping mall when he
started talking to a girl who later got into his vehicle. He then took her to a
mountain and allegedly raped her, Boulder authorities have said.

Police said Crouch grew up in the Franklin County area where Witt’s body was
found and often hunted there. Because Witt’s body was found during deer season
in such a remote area, police believed only a hunter familiar with the area
could have dumped the body without being caught.

Mary Ann Witt said even if her daughter’s killer is found, closure still might
never come to her.

“It’s hard to say. When you’ve had a child murdered, I don’t know if there can
be closure,” she said last week. “But I guess to get someone behind bars, it
would bring me pleasure to know he’s not out there to stalk other girls.
Numerous lives would be saved.”

Anyone who is a relative of Larry Swearingen or knows him is asked to contact
Rider at the Fort Smith Police Department at 709-5119 or call Crimestoppers at
78-CRIME.
-----------------------------------------------------------
The following appears courtesy of the 2/9/99 online edition of The Houston
Chronicle newspaper:

February 09, 1999
 
No link seen in Arkansas, Trotter cases

By PAUL McKAY
Houston Chronicle

CONROE -- Police in Fort Smith, Ark., acknowledged Monday that they have no
evidence linking the suspect in a Montgomery County abduction-slaying to a
similar murder that remains unsolved in Fort Smith.

Still, Fort Smith police Capt. J.C. Rider said he has not ruled out the
possibility that Larry Ray Swearingen -- a Willis man charged with capital
murder in the Dec. 8 slaying of Melissa Trotter -- could have been involved in
the death of Melissa Witt.

Witt disappeared Dec. 1, 1994. Blood was found on her keys and in her car,
which was parked outside a Fort Smith bowling alley.

Rider said he is amazed at the similarities between the cases -- and between
the victims -- who were 19-year-old college students with the same first name.
The women, who both died of strangulation, were found in remote and heavily
wooded areas a considerable distance from where they had disappeared.

Trotter, who lived with her parents in Willis, disappeared from Montgomery
College in The Woodlands after she was seen talking with Swearingen in the
college library on the afternoon of Dec. 8. Her fully clothed body was found in
the Sam Houston National Forest in northwest Montgomery County almost a month
later.

Witt's body also was found in a forest weeks after she vanished.

Although Montgomery County authorities say Trotter was strangled with pantyhose
and did not appear to have been sexually assaulted, Witt probably was strangled
manually and most likely was sexually assaulted, Rider said.

Investigators note, however, that the two teens were about the same height, 5
feet 5 inches, and that both had dark, shoulder-length hair and hazel eyes.

"Putting the two cases side by side and looking at the pictures and
descriptions of the girls, they're real similar," Rider said. "In the (Trotter)
case, I'm told they've never recovered her watch and backpack. The girl in our
case had a purse and jewelry that were never found.

"She was very popular, very well thought of, and active in her church," he said
of Witt. "This case is going on five years old and I sure would like to solve
it."

At least one other man is considered a suspect in the Fort Smith case. He has
not been charged, although he is in a Boulder, Colo., jail facing charges in a
1997 sexual assault.

Montgomery County sheriff's Lt. Dan Norris cautioned that neither his
investigators nor those in Arkansas have any evidence linking Swearingen to the
Fort Smith case. He said Swearingen, a construction worker and electrician,
once worked in states along the East Coast.

"Right now, we just can't place him in Arkansas, and I think it's premature to
even suggest that he had anything to do with the case up there," Norris said.
"I'm not saying he didn't do it, but I sure have nothing to indicate that he
did."
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