Tips begin arriving on women’s deaths

After Nicholas Reed’s sister was killed in August and dumped on the side of a gravel road in Kearney, he didn’t want her unsolved death to be forgotten.

His sister, Nicoleone Reed, had struggled with mental illness, became hooked on drugs and worked as a prostitute on Independence Avenue in Kansas City.

“I was worried that nobody would care,” said Reed, 23, of Gladstone.

On Friday, police in Kearney and Kansas City assuaged such concerns. They had a news conference in Kansas City to announce that they had formed a task force that had been working since December to solve the deaths of Reed, 24, and another woman who worked in prostitution, Tamara R. Sparks, 40. Police linked the deaths to the same man, who left one of his shoes, a size 11 Crocs loafer, at the scene where Sparks was found.

“It’s a big relief to see all the news media covering the story and to see all the work going into the investigation,” Reed said.

By late afternoon Friday, the news coverage had generated at least eight calls to the TIPS Hotline and seven to a detective’s direct line that was provided at the news conference. The calls continued into the evening and kept investigators busy, said Sgt. Doug Niemeier, who is overseeing the investigation.

Nicholas Reed said he learned of his sister’s death while in basic training for the Missouri National Guard.

“It was hard for me to stay focused after that,” he said. “My grandmother died the day I arrived at basic training.”

His sister was buried at the foot of her grandmother’s grave in Alma, Kan.

The last time Nicholas Reed talked to his sister, she had asked him for a ride to get a state identification card so she could try to get a job.

“She was a good sister. She was a smart girl,” he said. “But the streets took a hold of her and she couldn’t get out.”

Police don’t know the cause of death for Reed or Sparks, whose body was found discarded by the side of a gravel road at Northeast 120th Street and Eastern Avenue on Oct. 4, 2011. Their bodies were similarly posed, with their shirts pushed up and pants pulled down. Police are investigating whether the deaths are related to the late 2011 kidnapping of a third woman who worked as a prostitute and was dumped alive next to a gravel road in Caldwell County.

Investigators hope someone will recognize the shoe or the suspect vehicle, an American model 1970s to 1990s white pickup truck with an off-colored passenger side door. They have linked a truck with that description to all three women.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of lifestyle someone leads,” Niemeier said. “They’re a victim and it doesn’t give anyone the right to take their life.”

Anyone with information should call the TIPS Hotline at 816 474-TIPS (8477) or the detective’s phone at 816-288-0087.