The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana on July 23, 1989 · Page 49
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The Indianapolis Star from Indianapolis, Indiana · Page 49

Indianapolis, Indiana
Issue Date:
Sunday, July 23, 1989
Page 49
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C-6" Victims' By JONI JAMES STAR STAFF WRITER The other victims of a killer's senseless crime the family and friends of Margaret M. Gill and Jeanne Marie Gilbert are still coping in Merrillville and Rensselaer. Ind. But they aren't forgetting. Gill's mother. Anna Gill, hasn't driven past the Merrillville Days Inn since her daughter was killed there five months ago. "It's a real shocker to see your kid in that coffin. I tell you," she said. In Rensselaer, Gilbert's parents, Andrew and Patricia Mitchell, are taking care of their daughter's two children, friends said. They declined to talk to The Indianapolis Star. Gilbert's daughter, Kimberly, graduated this year from Tri-County High School, where she was a cheerleader. Her junior high son, Scott, likes to play basketball. Family members are keeping Gilbert's lawn cut and the box Tiedge in front of her house clipped. Day lilies grow in the back yard. Georgia McKim, a former schoolmate who lives across the street from Gilbert's white wood house, said Gilbert was an energetic woman who spent her free time working on her house. Slaying k Continued from Page 1 said it's possible the cases are connected. The motive in the Indiana killings may have been robbery. In Merrillville, $179 was missing from the motel's register; at Remington, $247. Fingerprints taken at the scenes have failed to match any prints in national police files of previously arrested people. Examination of lists of the two motels' employees and ; guests has not unearthed anyone seeking revenge against the motel chain or the two women. A $20,000 reward, offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the women's killer, has netted leads, but no results. Though police know that the same .22-caliber handgun was used to kill both women, it isn't known if the women were slain by one man or several people. DNA testing results from the FBI laboratories in Washington, D.C.. are expected soon. They will tell if the same man sexually assaulted both women. Authorities believe they have pieced together events on the morning of the killer's rampage. Margaret Gill was the only employee on duty at the Merrillville Days Inn on the cold. Icy morning she was killed. The motel. Just east of 1-65 at the Merrillville exit, is one of six economy inns clustered near the Southlake Shopping Mall. Gill, who was called Peggy by friends and relatives, preferred the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift because the nights were quieter and not as hectic, said her boss, Betty Pierce. "She was kind of shy and timid," said Pierce, who has managed the 130-room motel for nine years, during which there have been three robberies. Located at the base of the U-shaped motel, the office consisted of a small seating area and a check-in desk. At the time of Gill's death, the motel had neither security guards nor special windows for customers to use after 11 p.m. like some other economy motels in the region. - The motel had from 70 to 80 guests that night. The last guest, who except for the killer is believed to be the last person to see Gill alive, checked in at 1:30 a.m. A student at a small Lake County college reportedly told police shortly after the murder that he had tried to check into the motel around 2 a.m. that day, but found no one in the lobby. The man, who isn't considered a suspect, is no longer cooperating with authorities. Police say they don't know Gill's whereabouts from 1:30 a.m. to 5 a.m., when she failed to telephone Pierce with a customary morning wake-up call. "If it'd been a different clerk, I wouldn't have thought much of it. But that wasn't like Peggy to miss a call," Pierce said of Gill, who started at the motel as a maid almost two years ago. From her home. Pierce called the motel. When she received no answer, Pierce notified the police at 5:51 a.m. that Gill was missing. In the lobby, Merrillville police found no indication of a struggle. Gill's purse, keys and wallet were intact. The old green Plymouth Volare she drove was in the parking lot. At first, police told Gill's parents they thought she had been abducted. "They told me to stay by the phone in case she called," said her mother, Anna Gill. Her husband, Terry, went to the motel. Around 6:30 a.m., when Pierce arrived at the motel, police found Gill's naked body in the second-floor hallway of a va-cantjjjving. Police speculate tyiat the kill families cone with memories She said Gilbert, who had a full-time job with Carter Oil Co. in Rensselaer in addition to her part-time motel job, was taking business courses at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer. Sharon Kruge, the motel manager, still doesn't feel comfortable talking about her friend's death. "She would have made a difference in the world." she said. In rural Merrillville, sitting in their white, ranch-style home, Anna and Terry Gill spoke openly about their daughter's violent death and how their Catholic faith which their daughter shared has carried them through the bad times. "I just figured that was her allotted time on earth. . . . She could have died In a nicer way," Anna Gill said. "You never thought anything. She works in a Days Inn. It's a job." Terry Gill said, "You expect someone to get robbed, but not something like that." A wallet-size photo of Gill, 24, the youngest of their four children, hung on the kitchen bulletin board. Gill always baked and decorated birthday cakes for fellow employees, said Betty Pierce, the Merrillville Days Inn manager. "You couldn't ask for a better person. She was reliable, loyal," Pierce said. er forced Gill at gunpoint from the lobby to the hallway the area of the motel farthest from the office where she is believed to have been raped before being shot twice in the head. Gill's Days Inn uniform was found beside her 5-foot, 6-inch body. Daniel Demmon, a detective with the Merrillville Police Department, declined to say whether the woman's clothes had been torn off her body, or if they had been removed, perhaps at gunpoint. Autopsy reports show that there was a fresh cut on Gill's left shoulder. No one at the motel reported hearing gunshots. Employees at nearby businesses in the Merrillville commercial district also saw nothing unusual. An hour before police discovered Gill's body, a passing motorist on his way to work had seen something on the side of a rural county road near Brook-ston about 65 miles south of Merrillville in southern White County. He didn't know it was a body, and didn't report the Information until later. Motel murders Source: Indiana State Police ; A school bus driver driving past around 7 a.m. first called Indiana State Police and reported a nude, body on County Road 1 50W just south of County Road 900S. About 19 miles northwest of where the body was found, authorities .were just becoming aware that Jeanne Gilbert was missing from the Remington Days Inn. Customers called the Jasper Sheriff's Department shortly before 7 a.m. because the office was locked and they couldn't find an employee. Gilbert was substituting for someone that day and was the only employee on duty from midnight until 8 a.m. Police believe she had been studying in the side room of the office for business classes she took part time at St. Joseph's College in Rensselaer. Gilbert made a 4:30 a.m. wake-up call to a motel guest. When police unlocked the two-room office, the alarm clock set for 5 a.m. was still ringing in the side room. In the glass-fronted lobby, $247 was missing from the cash register, but nothing else in the office, including Gilbert's personal belongings, had been touched. Gilbert's motel key. which police believed may have been used by the killer to lock the front door of the lobby, was found in the side room. Authorities believe the killer and Gilbert left the building between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. from the side room door, which locks automatically when closed. From there, authorities think the killer drove south on 1-65. On that route, Exit 188 the Junction for Ind. 18 was the first exit without gas stations or businesses. "laporte ; N WXE lp0RTER JCO. $5) Me7nllvlfl -L i I r 1 ..L-X, -'stahkeS rt JASPER TOTCr"" 5 I co. c0-?wd Rensselaer I .1 W i WHITE : Remington-- xtate) Tilr coNT8) -0 irStHcrtor THE INDIANAPOLIS STAR- Officials think the assailant turned east on Ind. 18, which runs between cornfields and farmhouses. Turning north on County Road 150W, the killer passed a cluster of eight houses and dumped his naked victim in a frozen, barren cornfield about three miles from 1-65 sometime before 6:30 a.m., police believe. "Apparently this bird was trying to find an isolated area," said Larry Smith, White County coroner. He said a fatal shot near Gilbert's left breast went through the lung and pierced her aorta, the body's main blood vessel. She had been shot two other times, behind her left ear and in the right shoulder blade area. There were no exit wounds. The uniform she wore at the time of her death has not been found. The killer left behind the Jewelry she wore silver stud earrings and two gold rings. They were later returned to the family. It is believed that Gilbert was raped before she was killed. But authorities don't know where the assault took place. There was no sign of struggle in the office or at the site where Gil- j Margaret "Peggy" Gill was last seen alive at 1 :30 a.m. March 3. A 2 a.m. customer finds the motel lobby empty. At 5:51 a.m. Gill is reported missing to Merrillville police. At 6:30 a.m. her body is found in a vacant wina of the motel. L2J Between 4:30 and 5am, Jeanne Marie Gilbert of Rensselaer is believed to have been abducted from the Remington Days Inn registration lobby. She was reported missing at 7 a.m. by Between 6 and 6:30 a.m. a male motorist spotted something by the side of a rural county road in southern White County, about 19 miles southeast of the Remington hotel. Gilbert's body was positively identified at 9 a.m. STAR STAFF LLUSTRATION bert's body was found. Hicks said. Jasper County Sheriff Steven Reames believes the slight scrapes found on her body could have been caused when the killer took the body out of his vehicle. The killer placed Gilbert's body face-down on the shoulder perpendicular to the road.. Her feet, still clothed In her shoes and socks, were farthest from the road. Her hands were under her head. Reames said. Mabel Schultz. who lives near the cornfield where Gilbert's body was found, looked out her window and saw police that morning and wondered what all the commotion was about. A neighbor told her later. A tan, recent-model Toyota window van was seen in the area the morning of Gilbert's death. A school bus driver reported seeing the vehicle, with its lights pn. driving fast on County Road 700 about 6:30 a.m. Police don't know if the vehicle is connected to the case. A helicopter immediately scouted the area. Investigators worked 16- to 18-hour days the first weeks after the slaylngs, but the investigation slowed, as did the leads. "The case hasn't stopped and won't stop." Hicks said. While police continue their investigation, motel officials have taken steps to protect their employees. Located Just east of 1-65 beside the "76" truck stop and across from a soybean field, the Remington Days Inn now has a video camera that records everyone who walks into the lobby. In Merrillville. a bulletproof window has been installed in the Days Inn lobby between the desk and the sitting area. An armed security guard is on duty. ' Most of the other six motels surrounding it have done the same. After getting a degree from Sayler Business College in Merrillville, Gill started at the motel almost two years ago as a maid, and was promoted to night auditor. Her parents said she liked her Job. She also liked to paint and cross-stitch. Her pictures still hang on her parents' living room walls. On the day of her funeral, her family displayed some of her cross-stitch pieces, including one of the Last Supper, next to her coffin. Her parents don't talk of revenge, only uncertainty. When some newspapers printed that a young college student was a suspect, Terry Gill said he wasn't anxious to hang the man. "You're going to have to prove to me he did it before I'll believe it was him." Police have since said the young man wasn't a suspect. Anna Gill says the lack of a suspect is a mixed blessing. "In some ways, it's peace not to have to look at someone. But you read about something else and you wonder, 'Was that him, too?' 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