STOCKTON -- More than two decades after a 21-year-old Modesto woman disappeared and was found strangled near Interstate 5, prosecutors have charged a convicted murderer long suspected in her death.
Roger Reece Kibbe, a one-time Ceres businessman dubbed by the media the "I-5 Strangler," was arraigned Friday on charges of murdering Lora Rena Heedick and five other women in the 1970s and 1980s, the San Joaquin County district attorney's office said.
Kibbe, 68, has been serving a sentence of 25 years to life in San Quentin State Prison since 1991 for the 1987 murder of 17-year-old Darcie Frackenpohl, a runaway from Seattle who was working as a prostitute when she disappeared in West Sacramento.
At that time, Kibbe was not charged with other murders, but a judge allowed prosecutors to present evidence linking him to the deaths of four other women, including Heedick.
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According to news reports, Heedick was working as a prostitute the night she disappeared, her boyfriend told deputies. She was last seen early April 21, 1986, getting into a car with a white man who appeared to be in his 50s. Her body was found Sept. 6, 1986, near Highway 12 and Interstate 5 near Lodi.
The final witness in the trial in Frackenpohl's death, Sacramento County sheriff's Lt. Ray Biondi, testified that Kibbe had become more adept as he went about strangling his victims. Prosecutors pointed to similarities in the slayings.
Authorities believed Heedick possibly was the strangler's first victim. She was strangled with her tank top.
But prosecutors listed an earlier victim in their announcement Friday, Lou Ellen Burleigh, who died in 1977.
Frackenpohl, presented by prosecutors as Kibbe's final victim, was choked to death with what prosecutors said was a cord with dowels at both ends. Biondi said they found that type of weapon in a storage locker used by Kibbe.
A San Joaquin County prosecutor left open the possibility of filing charges. Amador County, however, maintained it did not have enough evidence against Kibbe in the death of Charmaine Sabrah, 26.
The mother of three was returning to Sacramento on Aug. 17, 1986, when her car broke down on Interstate 5. She left her mother in the car and was last seen taking a ride with a man who offered help. Her strangled body was discovered Nov. 9, 1986, in Amador County.
A San Joaquin County grand jury indicted Kibbe late last week on six counts of murder and multiple special circumstances, making him eligible for the death penalty, according to the district attorney's office. Citing the confidentiality of grand jury proceedings, prosecutors would not give details about the evidence that led them to indict Kibbe.
The district attorney's office identified the other victims as Barbara Ann Scott, who died on or about July 3, 1986; Katherine Kelly Quinones, who died on or about Nov. 5, 1986; and Stephanie Brown, 19, whose body was found June 15, 1986.
Brown also was discussed at Kibbe's earlier trial. The Sacramento woman had been sexually assaulted, and a crumpled map was found alongside her car near Interstate 5.
Kibbe is scheduled to appear Monday afternoon in San Joaquin County Superior Court in Stockton for further proceedings.
Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2324.