What's in a name? The chance to catch a killer

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FOVAMP's billboard for Jennifer.

This past Saturday, at the annual meeting of the non-profit group Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons (FOHVAMP), I heard a true crime tale that involved one of Westword’s own. A serial killer was uncovered because of a phone call made by Luke Turf, back when he was a staff writer here.

FOHVAMP was created by Howard Morton for families who want to see justice for their murdered loved ones and whose interactions with law enforcement have been disappointing -- or worse, in many cases. The group’s meetings. while empowering, can also be tense – and very sad, since many of the group’s members, Morton included, are still waiting for murders to be solved.

This year’s gathering included "How I Managed My Own Cold Case," during which five panelists talked about taking investigations into their own hands when law enforcement couldn’t, or wouldn’t, help them. One of those panelists was Bob Marcum. In 2006, Turf wrote a story about Marcum’s missing daughter, Jennifer Marcum, a single mom who’d had been a stripper at Shotgun Willie’s when she disappeared in 2003.

An entire year after Marcum disappeared, the FBI finally notified her parents that her car had been found abandoned. After that, Bob Marcum and his ex-wife, Mary Willis, who both lived in Illinois, came to Denver to look for their daughter. The FBI arranged a meeting between them and Scott Kimball, an ex-con who’d seen Jennifer the day she disappeared; Kimball told them Jennifer had had a suitcase and was heading to the airport, but he didn’t know where she was going. But after that meeting, Kimball asked to meet with Marcum and Willis privately, and separately, and told Jennifer’s parents that he could lead them to her body.

By the time Turf contacted Bob Marcum about his missing daughter, Marcum already suspected Kimball was Jennifer’s killer. Though he didn’t feel he could explain why without jeopardizing any potential investigation, Marcum said at the FOHVAMP meeting, he believed it was important that the story mention Kimball had been the last person to see Jennifer alive – in case anyone reading the piece knew anything about Kimball.

He was right.

The reference to Kimball was important to someone else: Rob McLeod. After he read Turf’s story, he called Luke and asked for Marcum’s phone number. He had a missing daughter, too. A daughter who’d known Kimball. When the fathers met, McLeod told Marcum about nineteen-year-old Kaysi McLeod, who’d last been seen on August 23, 2003, when Kimball picked her up to drive her to work at Subway.

Both fathers had tried to convince law enforcement officials that their daughters had been murdered by Kimball, to no avail. Kimball was an FBI informant who had been serving time on fraud and forgery charges when he was let out of prison early in 2002 to pose as a hit man. But now Marcum and McLeod went to the FBI together to tell their stories and that of another missing person they knew to be connected to Kimball: Terry Kimball, his uncle.

Finally, authorities agreed to investigate. Soon, they’d tied Kimball to a fourth disappearance, that of Leann Emry; they found photos of four more women they’ve been trying to identify on his computer. And in April, a human skull and other bones that had been found in the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge were identified as Kaysi McLeod’s.

On May 15, news broke that Kimball, who was already in custody in Jefferson County on unrelated charges, was a suspect in a series of killings.

Marcum told the group that he didn’t know if the investigation would have ever gotten that far if McLeod hadn’t stumbled across Kimball’s name in Westword. But then, Luke Turf might not have written that story if not for the efforts of Families of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons. – Jessica Centers

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