Crime

Police ID man found slain in wooded area near walking and biking trail in Kansas City

jlondberg@kcstar.com

Kansas City police have released the name of a man found killed in a wooded area near a walking and biking trail in Kansas City Monday morning, ten days after news broke that four homicides near a separate trail system shared similarities.

Police identified the man as 31-year-old Chase Hardin.

Officers were called to the 8600 block of Woodland Avenue just before 8 a.m. Monday. Hardin’s body was found off the Harry Wiggins Trolley Track Trail near Legacy East Park. Kansas City police initially called the death suspicious but later classified it as a homicide.

The Trolley Track Trail is a 6-mile biking and walking trail. Spokeswoman Stacey Graves with KCPD said Hardin was found “just off of a walking path near the dead end street in the 8600 block of Woodland.”

Six law enforcement officers walked the trail Monday afternoon. One said they were canvassing the area and having that number of officers on the scene of a body discovery was normal.

Residents in the area said they heard gunshots. One said he heard about five shots at approximately 2:30 a.m. Monday. Donald White said he heard two shots while on a walk at about 7:45 a.m.

Michelle Campbell, who lives less than a quarter-mile from the trail, said she often walks it with her dog. She’s always considered the trail safe. She usually encounters few people on it east of Woodland Avenue.

Now, however, she said she’ll probably avoid it after the discovery of a body.

“I’m thinking, ‘Is it related to what’s going on at the Indian Creek Trail?’” Campbell said.

  

Since August, four white males between the ages of 54 and 67 have been found killed on or near the Indian Creek and Blue River trails, in an area roughly between 95th and 110th streets. Three of the four were walking their dogs. The FBI has joined the investigations into those deaths.

“We’ve asked the FBI to come and look at it to see if they see something that we don’t. To get some different on eyes on it,” said Officer Darin Snapp, a KC police spokesman. “There is still zero evidence linking any of them together.”

Hardin had not been walking a dog, Graves said.

“There is no indication (Monday’s) death is related to the homicides that share similarities in and around Indian Creek Trail,” she said.

When asked last week if a serial killer could be at-large in Kansas City, Maj. Donna Greenwell, a commander of the Kansas City Police Department’s violent crimes unit, said, “Not yet, we’re not there. I won’t put that out. It’s not even on the radar yet.”

Jeff Lanza, a retired special agent with the Kansas City division of the FBI, said the bureau often is called on to assist city police departments with unsolved violent crimes.

“In the cases of these four homicides, the FBI has no jurisdiction to prosecute, but what they do offer is behavioral science expertise that might aid the case,” Lanza said by phone Monday. “The FBI nationwide helps police departments solve violent crimes, especially ones in which there might be a link and the possibility of a serial killer.”

Lanza added that he was not privy to the details of the four homicides. He has been retired for nine years after a 20-year career. But he said statements by the police suggesting no link between the cases could evolve as more evidence is gathered.

“Just because no link has been established doesn’t mean there isn’t one,” Lanza said. “The way you solve homicides that may be connected is to look for links, and that’s probably what the FBI will be assisting police in doing.”

Lanza said he uses the Indian Creek Trail. The killings have alarmed him, especially considering that he shares characteristics with the victims.

“On a personal level, it strikes home to me,” Lanza said.

Mike Darby, the most recent among the four victims, was killed May 18. The 61-year-old co-owner of Coach’s Bar & Grill was found slain on the Indian Creek Trail. He’d been walking his two dogs.

The other victims were:

John W. Palmer, 54, found killed Aug. 19 near East Bannister Road and Lydia Avenue. Palmer was found in a wooded area. Police have not said how he died.

David Lenox, 67, found killed Feb. 27 in the 9900 block of Walnut Street. Lenox was shot just a few steps away from his front door while walking one of his dogs.

Timothy S. Rice, 57, of Excelsior Springs, found dead April 4 inside a shelter at Minor Park, near East Red Bridge Road and 110th Street.

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg

Glenn E. Rice: 816-234-4341, @GRicekcstar

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