Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Obscure Streetwalker Strangler

Killer Next Door

Coincidentally, Gilyard became a garbage collector by trade after his release from prison in 1986. His boss at Deffenbaugh Disposal Service told reporters that Gilyard was punctual, personable and reliable, and he had been promoted to a supervisory job.

Logo: Deffenbaugh Disposal Service
Logo: Deffenbaugh Disposal Service

After two solid decades as a familiar face in Kansas City courtrooms, he seemed to go straight in 1989.

Gilyard lived with his fourth wife, whom he married in 1991, in a small house on a dead-end street in south Kansas City. Neighbors told reporters that he rarely spent time outside and his interactions with others on the block were curt or surly.

By 2004, Gilyard must have been confident that he'd gotten away with murder. The investigation into the serial killings had been on ice for years, with forensic evidence sealed and stored.

But his past finally caught up with him.

Patch: Kansas City police
Patch: Kansas City police

Stored evidence from cold cases like the Kansas City murders has gone begging for testing since the advent of DNA crime-solving technology. But Kansas City police, like most departments in America, deplete their laboratory budgets on current cases. Few can afford the time and expense of testing swab samples from the victims of forgotten murdersespecially those of prostitutes. But in 2003, Kansas City police won a $111,000 federal grant to pay lab gumshoes overtime to run DNA tests on stored evidence from violent cold cases.

Police had evidence stored in some 600 unsolved rapes and murder, and detectives narrowed that down to 85 cases that showed investigative promise. One of them was the murder of Naomi Kelly, the prostitute murdered in 1986.

Over 13 months beginning in February 2003, the police scientists amassed 2,500 hours of overtime on nights and weekends in a DNA-testing marathon. The work paid off when DNA from the same man was matched in evidence from each of the eight murders from 1986 and '87, along with the five others from 1977, 1980, 1982, 1989 and 1993.

And on April 12, 2004, the lab white-coats came up with a name to match the DNA. He was Lorenzo Gilyard, linked to the crimes by DNA extracted from hair or semen found on the victims.

He had been right under the police department's nose all along.

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