Is It a Serial Killer Or Drugs That’s Killing Women in Ohio?
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Is It a Serial Killer Or Drugs That’s Killing Women in Ohio?


It’s an unnerving time to be a female resident of Chillicothe, Ohio. The small town of 22,000 not only has a big heroin problem but also has been suffering from an epidemic of disappearing women over the past year or so.

Three haven’t been found, two apparently died from overdoses and one was murdered. The common denominator? They all used illicit drugs and prescription pills. But though most of them ran in the same circles, authorities just aren’t sure whether the string of deaths and disappearances is a coincidence or if there’s a serial killer on the loose.

The Vanishings

Charlotte Trego was the first woman to disappear, in May 2014, leaving behind a distraught mother and two kids. There’s still no trace of her.

Timberly Claytor, 38, was found near an abandoned building with three bullet holes in her head on May 29, after going missing a year earlier. A mother of five, she knew many of the other women who have vanished or been found dead.

Shasta Himelrick, 20, was found floating in the Scioto River on Dec. 26, and the autopsy revealed she had cocaine and OxyContin in her system. She was also pregnant. Law enforcement called her death a suicide, but her friends and family aren’t buying it.

“There’s not a soul in the world who believes Shasta committed suicide,” said Elizabeth Caldwell, who’s been working with victims’ families and friends.

Then there was Tameka Lynch, 30, whose body was found in May 2014. She was close pals with Trego and, though the autopsy concluded she overdosed from cocaine, amphetamines and alcohol, her family thinks there was more to it.

Tiffany Sayre, 26, and Wanda Lemmons, 37, have also vanished without trace. Family members are holding out hope, but the deaths of Himelrick and Claytor aren’t exactly positive omens.

No Smoking Gun

With all these disappearing women, it’s easy to get suspicious and scared and maybe think there’s a killer out there who’s got it in for drug-addicted women. But Ross County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Schmidt isn’t jumping to any conclusions.

“There is no smoking gun that says, ‘Hey, we have a serial killer on the loose,'” he told reporters.

Police have cast suspicion on Jason McCrary, 36, a convicted sex offender who family members and prosecutors have linked to at least three of the women. “We have great concern about the contact he would have had with the missing girls,” Ross County Sheriff George Lavender said at a press conference.

McCrary has only been arrested for failing to register as a sex offender. Not that that’s a small thing, but still—there’s no hard evidence to link him to the murders.

Asking For It?

It’s all too easy to “drug-shame” these women and blame them for their misfortunes (examples of this shaming can be found in the comment threads in news articles about the cases). Of course, such conclusions belittle the power of addiction and the reality that many of these women tried to get clean, were successful for some time, but then relapsed.

And if foul play was involved, you can’t minimize the culpability of the perpetrator.

Still, a lesson can be learned. Like it or not, using recreational drugs poses more threats than just overdoses or addiction—it leads to interaction with seriously shady characters, putting both men and women who use in very real jeopardy.

The best way to keep yourself safe is to steer clear of the stuff completely (and perhaps get some pepper spray). Too bad that’s easier said than done.

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About Author

Tracy Chabala is a freelance writer for many publications including the LA Times, LA Weekly, Smashd, VICE and Salon. She writes mostly about food, technology and culture, in addition to addiction and mental health. She holds a Master's in Professional Writing from USC and is finishing up her novel.