Woman may have slain se­rial killer

Po­lice think a man who at­tacked a W.Va. sex worker and ended up shot dead with his own gun may have killed women in Ohio and Ne­vada

The Washington Post Sunday - - POLITICS & THE NATION - BY PETER HOL­LEY peter.hol­ley@wash­post.com

A woman in Charleston, W.Va., may have saved her own life and the lives of many other women, as well, when she shot and killed an al­leged at­tacker in her home last week.

Neal Falls went to the woman’s home July 18 af­ter an­swer­ing an es­cort ad she had placed on Backpage.com, ac­cord­ing to po­lice.

Falls showed up with a “kill list,” mul­ti­ple pairs of hand­cuffs and a Subaru full of weapons and tools, in­clud­ing a shovel, knives, a bul­let­proof vest, a ma­chete, bleach, trash bags, sledge­ham­mers and axes, ac­cord­ing to Fox af­fil­i­ate KPTV.

In Falls’s pocket, po­lice said, was a list of names of po­ten­tial fu­ture vic­tims, all of whom are sex work­ers who ad­ver­tised on Backpage, ac­cord­ing to the Daily Dot, an online news site.

Now in­ves­ti­ga­tors are try­ing to de­ter­mine whether Falls, 45, was re­spon­si­ble for a string of slay­ings tar­get­ing sex work­ers in Ohio and Ne­vada, KPTV re­ported.

“We have been able to lo­cate most of them, and they were all on a Web site advertising for es­cort ser­vices,” Lt. Steve Cooper of the Charleston Po­lice Depart­ment told the Huff­in­g­ton Post on Wed­nes­day. “The stuff that we found is so alarm­ing that we want law en­force­ment across the coun­try to be aware of it.”

From the mo­ment Falls showed up at the home of his latest al­leged vic­tim, he turned vi­o­lent, the woman — who asked not to be iden­ti­fied — told KPTV.

“I knew he was there to kill me,” she said. “I could tell that he had al­ready done some­thing be­cause he said that he was go­ing to prison for a long time. And that’s when I knew he was gonna kill me.”

The woman told the sta­tion that Falls, who was from Spring­field, Ore., pulled a gun on her and be­gan stran­gling her. She said she had a split sec­ond in which to take con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion.

“When he stran­gled me, he just wouldn’t let me get any air,” she said. “I grabbed my rake, and when he laid the gun down to get the rake out of my hands, I shot him. I just grabbed the gun and shot be­hind me.”

Af­ter the shoot­ing, the woman stood in an al­ley while a neigh­bor called po­lice. In a record­ing of that phone call played by KPTV, the woman’s pan­icked voice can be heard in the back­ground.

“There’s a lady in the al­ley here say­ing that some guy tried to rape her and she had to de­fend her­self, and she shot him, and he’s in the kitchen,” the neigh­bor told the dis­patcher. “He pulled a gun on her; she’s got cuts and stuff all over her.”

“Do you know who the guy is?” the dis­patcher asked.

“No. I opened the door, and he said, ‘Live or die,’ ” the woman told the dis­patcher, cry­ing.

Po­lice said Falls did not have a crim­i­nal history, ac­cord­ing to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. They told the news­pa­per that Falls worked as a se­cu­rity guard in Ore­gon and had mi­nor traf­fic of­fenses on his driv­ing record in sev­eral states.

Cooper, the Charleston chief of de­tec­tives, told the Gazette-Mail that Falls’s DNA might be the key to link­ing him to other crimes.

“We are en­ter­ing his DNA pro­file into CODIS, which is a na­tional crime DNA data­base, to see if it matches any pre­vi­ous sub­mis­sions from any­where in the United States,” he said. “If his DNA has been lo­cated in any other crimes and his pro­file was en­tered into CODIS, there will be a match.”

At least six women have dis­ap­peared from Chilli­cothe, Ohio — a town of 21,000 peo­ple about two hours from Charleston— in a lit­tle over a year.

Four of their bod­ies have been found, al­most all of them dumped in nearby streams and creeks. The vic­tims have sim­i­lar sto­ries in­volv­ing sex work and drug ad­dic­tion, ac­cord­ing to po­lice, and some of the women knew one another from drug re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion.

The killings have ral­lied lo­cal po­lice, sev­eral county sher­iffs’ of­fices and state in­ves­ti­ga­tors des­per­ate to solve the mys­tery of the killings. FBI an­a­lysts are as­sist­ing with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion by com­pil­ing a pro­file of a pos­si­ble se­rial killer.

“I don’t want to come out and say, ‘ Yes, we have a se­rial killer,’ but it’s a small com­mu­nity that we live in . . . and the num­ber of fe­males who have come up miss­ing, and then the bod­ies that we’ve found, that’s quite a bit for our com­mu­nity,” Staff Lt. Mike Pre­ston of the Ross County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice in Chilli­cothe told The Washington Post last month.

“The com­mu­nity is start­ing to get con­cerned,” he said. “Ev­ery­one just wants an­swers.”

Whether or not Falls is linked to the crimes, po­lice said, his in­ten­tions dur­ing last week­end’s con­fronta­tion were clearly vi­o­lent.

“He made a deal with the vic­tim to ex­change money for her ser­vices as an es­cort,” Cooper said. “He brought no money with him. What he brought with him was a firearm, four sets of hand­cuffs and all of the items you have photos of from the trunk of his car. So . . . clearly his in­ten­tions were dark.”

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