FBI assisting KC police on trail killings; retired special agent says link is possible

The FBI is assisting the Kansas City Police Department in its investigation of four killings on or near walking trails in a nine-month span in Kansas City.

Kansas City police said earlier this month that the homicides shared “obvious similarities.” All four victims were white males between the ages of 54 and 67. Three were walking dogs. Three were found on or near the Indian Creek Trail, and one was found on the nearby Blue River Trail. All four killings happened in an area roughly between 95th and 110th streets.

“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,” Officer Darin Snapp, a KC police spokesman, wrote in an email. “There is still zero evidence linking any of them together.”

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.

Monday, 31-year-old Chase Hardin was found killed just off the Trolley Track Trail, which is approximately two miles north of the sites of the four killings. Capt. Stacey Graves, a Kansas City police spokeswoman, said it is too early to say whether the FBI will assist with this case as well.

Graves said in an emailed statement the case is being investigated as a homicide.

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

Max Londberg: 816-234-4378, @MaxLondberg