Suicide victim suspected in other killings

? Authorities are investigating whether several Nebraska prostitutes were killed by the same man who leaped to his death amid an investigation into his ex-wife’s death.

Thomas Tomich, who authorities say stuffed his ex-wife’s body into a barrel 23 years ago, is now being investigated in several cases after a link was discovered between him and a slain prostitute from Omaha, Neb.

Debra Barajas, 44, was last seen May 25 – nine days after Tomich bailed her out of jail – and was discovered dead Tuesday in southwestern Iowa.

“Tom Tomich associated with prostitutes,” said Marty Bilek, the chief deputy for the Douglas County sheriff’s office in Nebraska.

“He’s a killer, who was also active in the 1980s, and we know now he might have killed again.”

Tomich, 50, died Thursday after jumping from an 11-story apartment building in downtown Omaha, where he worked as a janitor. His death came less than a day after investigators confirmed that remains found last spring in a 55-gallon barrel near Council Bluffs belonged to his ex-wife, Lois. She was 28 when she disappeared in 1983.

Authorities closed that case following his death, saying Tomich strangled his wife with a coat hanger after she divorced him and became romantically involved with his brother.

Omaha Police Chief Thomas Warren said his department had been investigating Tomich in Barajas’ death since discovering Tomich paid $250 on May 16 to bail Barajas out of the Sarpy County Jail in Papillion, Neb., where she had been for a misdemeanor drug possession charge. She was last seen nine days later.

“We interviewed him, but obviously we couldn’t confirm that he had anything to do with her disappearance,” Warren said.

The link has caught the attention of investigators across Iowa and Nebraska trying to solve other cases of slain prostitutes.

Mills County (Iowa) Atty. Marci Prier said investigators are also seeking links between Tomich and 25-year-old Brianne Smith. The Omaha prostitute’s body was found in June near Glenwood, the same town in southwestern Iowa where Barajas’ body was found.

Authorities said Tomich is being investigated in at least four other murder cases.

Steven MacDonald, the sheriff in Fremont County near Glenwood, said he expects other area law enforcement agencies to re-examine their unsolved cases dating back at least 20 years to search for a connection to Tomich.

Authorities said they are confident Tomich killed his wife. Pottawattamie County Sheriff Jeff Danker said Tomich was “very nervous” when they questioned him about her death on Wednesday night.

The next day he jumped off the building.

“We were focused on Mr. Tomich,” Danker said. “We were confident that we would get an arrest warrant for the murder of Lois Tomich.”