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Cold case murder with ties to BTK serial killer finally solved after three decades

A decades-old cold case in Missouri that was long believed to be tied to notorious serial killer Dennie Rader, has been solved – and investigators say he is not the suspect.

Rader, who refers to himself as the BTK killer, and is behind bars for the slayings of at least 10 women, had been a potential suspect in the 1990 murder of Shawna Garber, according to the McDonald County Sheriff’s Office. Larry Hall, another serial killer serving time, was also a suspect.

But neither man is believed to have killed 22-year-old Shawna Garber. At a press conference this week, the sheriff’s office identified Talfey Reeves as the suspect. Reeves died on 15 November 2021, which essentially closes the case.

On Halloween night in 1990, Reeves picked up Garber along Highway 59 in Missouri, “hogtied her by bounding her wrists and feet, and drove her to an abandoned farmhouse where it is believed that he sexually assaulted her and overdosed her with drugs, according to investigators.

Facial reconstruction by artist Victoria Lywood shows Shawna Garber as an adult (NamUS via Othram)
Facial reconstruction by artist Victoria Lywood shows Shawna Garber as an adult (NamUS via Othram)

“He raped her. He bound her, and he overdosed her...to shut her up because she was screaming so loudly that it began to scare him in that valley because it echoed,” lead investigator Lori Howard said.

Her body was found in the farmhouse two months after her death, but from 1990 until 2021, she was only known as “Grace Doe.”

It wasn’t until March 2021, that technology advancements helped investigators determine a familial match from DNA extracted from Garber, positively identifying her.

Talfey Reeves was identified as the man believed to have killed 22-year-old Shawna Garber (McDonald County Sheriff's Office)
Talfey Reeves was identified as the man believed to have killed 22-year-old Shawna Garber (McDonald County Sheriff's Office)

The manner of her death and the fact that she was hogtied led them to question Rader in the murder.

The BTK killer, which stands for blind, torture, kill, who is now 78, has confessed to 10 murders and remains in prison. He waived his right to remain silent, and spoke with investigators at length, denying involvement in any other slayings.

While he was considered to be a suspect, Det Howard pointed out that Reeves had also always been a suspect.

“He raped her and we know that because we had a witness who was terrified in 2010, 2015, 2017, to talk, but eventually, all six sources came forward, without knowing what happened in regards to each individual person,” Howard said. “No one knew what the other was saying. And we’re able to verify that it did happen.”

Shawna Garber as a child and Dennis Rader, who was questioned in her 1990 murder (Othram)
Shawna Garber as a child and Dennis Rader, who was questioned in her 1990 murder (Othram)

Shawna has been in foster care during her childhood and her family lost contact with her, her half-sister Danielle Pixler told investigators.

Dennis Rader had been a potential suspect in the 1990 Halloween murder of Shawna Garber (Getty Images)
Dennis Rader had been a potential suspect in the 1990 Halloween murder of Shawna Garber (Getty Images)

“Shauna had a hard life,” Howard told Fox News Digital. “She was born in a car, set on fire by her mother, had a failed adoption, in and out of foster care. Then met the devil and was killed in such a horrific manner.”

There are pictures of her as a child, but none of her as an adult. A facial reconstruction by artist Victoria Lywood shows what she is believed to have looked like when she died.

Ms Pixler said she will still continue to look for answers.

“I refuse to let her be invisible,” she said.