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Archive for Tuesday, August 17, 1999

SEARCH FOR DEAD RESUMES AT PARK

August 17, 1999

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Investigators continue to search for the bodies of Richard Grissom Jr.'s murder victims.

A grassy field at Clinton Lake State Park again is the focus of a 10-year-old investigation into the presumed murders of three Kansas City-area women.

Richard Grissom Jr. was convicted in 1990 of murdering three women in the summer of 1989. The bodies of Joan A. Butler, 24, Overland Park, and Theresa Brown, 22, and Christine Rusch, 22, both of Lenexa and roommates at the time of their abductions, never have been found.

A team of scientists, academics and homicide investigators searched the 200-acre area from Thursday to Sunday evening, trying to bring closure to the investigation, said Sgt. Pat Hinkle of the Lenexa Police Department.

"We have always known that field was a hot field," Hinkle said. "Unfortunately we didn't know about it until about six months after the abductions. We believe it to be credible information."

Investigators don't know if all three women are buried in the field. Grissom has talked about burying from one to three women there, Hinkle said.

The police department has been working with Necrosearch, a private company that assists in locating bodies, the sergeant said.

Hinkle has spent a lot of time at the field, situated off Douglas County Road 458 southeast of the Clinton Lake dam.

When Hinkle first was tipped about the field -- by a woman who lived down the road and who had written down a tag number from a brown Toyota she saw about the time of the murders -- "I about went through the ceiling," he said.

"It was a stolen tag from another attempted abduction," he said. "It was a big lead. We searched and searched that field from that point on."

Media interest in the case always has been strong, and one of the early searches was filmed by Kansas City-area TV crews. The coverage later proved to be a breakthrough for investigators.

When Grissom saw the footage, Hinkle said, he told an inmate: "Hinkle's so close. He's so close, he could almost reach out and touch where the graves are."

"I've been back to the field," Hinkle said Monday. "My kids have been in that field. My wife has been in that field."

Hinkle said the most recent search was sparked by fresh information about the site.

Though bodies weren't found this time either, Hinkle said there were some encouraging "indicators" that will result in more searching at in the field at a future date not yet determined.

"We did find some indications that we felt were very positive," he said. "We did an archaeological dig there. We could not explain why we had so many indications in one area. It's hard to reconcile some of these indicators."

Hinkle declined to go into detail about what "indicators" means.

Grissom, 38, is eligible for parole Sept. 28, 2071, according to Kansas Department of Corrections spokesman Bill Miskell. The former house painter was sentenced Nov. 20, 1990 on three first-degree murder charges as well as others, including aggravated kidnapping and aggravated burglary.

-- Deb Gruver's phone message number is 832-7165. Her e-mail address is dgruver@ljworld.com.

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