Painting the Bible Belt Strangler: EHS students create profile of possible serial killer

Published 3:58 pm Friday, April 27, 2018

One-by-one Thursday, Elizabethton High School students in teacher Alex Campbell’s sociology class read aloud into the microphone of true crime podcaster Shane Waters.

As each student spoke, they slowly created the picture of a possible serial killer who is suspected to have been responsible for the unsolved Redhead Murders that happened in the 1980s in Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arkansas. The murders have not been officially linked to one another by state and local law enforcement.

Many people, however, believe that one person could be responsible for the killings due to the similarities of the victims who were close to the same age, shared a similar occupation, had the same red hair color, were all found along the large highways in the southeast United States, and most had died from strangulation.

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Waters, the creator of the “Out of the Shadows” podcast, is currently reporting on the 1980 murders and had visited the students Thursday to collect recordings for the next episode of his podcast.

The students each read from an eight-page criminal profile they have been on working since January. Waters said the profile, which covers 21 possible characteristics of what the class voted to call “The Bible Belt Strangler” could help bring attention to the cold case, which hasn’t received much notice due to the victim’s transient lifestyles.

“I think the profile will help make this feel real to people,” said Waters to the class. “One of the things about unsolved cases is that, if you have a Jane Doe or a John Doe, it is hard to get momentum for the case.”

After hearing and reading the profile the students had created, Waters said he was impressed with the student’s work and happy to see them take an interest in helping solve the case.

“When I first talked to Alex (Campbell) on the phone, I knew it was a class, and I assumed it was a college class,” said Waters. “I would have never thought that high schoolers would be into something like this. True Crime is popular but in the sense that people want to hear about it and not research it.”

“When they sent me the profile, it was eight pages, and I thought, ‘Wow,’” added Waters. “We don’t know anything about this man. I knew he would be a trucker, but I haven’t thought about the details yet. I had found an eyewitness. But just the fact that they came up with a profile and it fits along with what this witness said is a huge thing as well.”

During Thursday’s class, via Facetime, the students also got to speak with Gemma Hoskins of the Netflix series “The Keepers.” Like Waters, Hoskins was also impressed with the profile.

Campbell said that the profile is being shared with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Behavior Analysis Unit in hopes of bringing even more attention to the roughly 30-year-old case.