IOWA CITY, Iowa — Investigators on Wednesday arrested a long-haul trucker from Iowa who they say is linked by DNA evidence to the killings of three women whose bodies were dumped in Wyoming and Tennessee in the early 1990s.
Police arrested Clark Perry Baldwin, 58, at his home in Waterloo, Iowa, on murder charges filed in Wyoming and Tennessee in the deaths of the women, including two who were pregnant. Investigators said they were looking into whether Baldwin could be responsible for other unsolved slayings.
Baldwin was arrested after investigators used semen and other material recovered from the victims to develop DNA profiles of their perpetrators, according to court documents in Wyoming. Last year, they learned that the same profile matched all three cases.
Investigators zeroed in on Baldwin after finding DNA in commercial genealogy databases of someone related to the suspect’s profile, court documents say. Last month in Waterloo, the FBI secretly collected DNA from Baldwin’s trash and a shopping cart he used at Walmart and it matched the profile.
In Wyoming, Baldwin is charged in the deaths of two unidentified women whose bodies were found in 1992 roughly 400 miles (643.74 kilometres) apart.
A female trucker discovered the nude body of the first victim in March 1992 near the Bitter Creek Truck turnout on Interstate 80 in southwestern Wyoming. An autopsy determined the woman suffered head trauma consistent with strangulation and her body had likely been in the snow for weeks.
A month later, Wyoming Department of Transportation workers found the partially mummified body of a pregnant woman in a ditch off of Interstate 90, near Sheridan in northern Wyoming.
An autopsy didn’t determine the cause of death but found the victim had an injury potentially consistent with suffering a blow to the head.
Investigators never identified the women and referred to them as “Bitter Creek Betty” and “I-90 Jane Doe.” Both were believed to be in their late teens or early 20s, Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation Cmdr. Matt Waldock said.
In Tennessee, Baldwin is charged with two counts of murder in the 1991 killing of a 32-year-old pregnant woman from Virginia, Pamela McCall, and her fetus.
McCall was found in woods off Interstate 65 in Spring Hill, Tennessee in March 1991. An autopsy determined McCall had neck injuries and died of strangulation. Sperm was recovered from pantyhose worn by McCall, who was last seen at a Tennessee truck stop days earlier.
Court documents say that Baldwin allegedly raped a female hitchhiker in Wheeler County, Texas, at gunpoint in his truck in 1991. The 21-year-old woman told police that Baldwin struck her on the head, bound her hands and mouth and tried to choke her to death. He allegedly admitted to the assault but was released pending grand jury proceedings. Court documents do not indicate whether he was charged or prosecuted.
Baldwin, who has previously lived in Nashua, Iowa, and Springfield, Missouri, was a cross-country truck driver for Marten Transport at the time.
Baldwin’s name also surfaced during a 1992 homicide investigation in Iowa. His ex-wife told police then that Baldwin once bragged about “killing a girl out west by strangulation and throwing her out of his truck,” court documents say.
Waldock said investigators were “hopeful” to solve other cases with Baldwin’s arrest.
One case of interest is the 1992 death of Tammy Jo Zywicki, 21, an Iowa college student who was last seen after her car broke down on an Illinois highway. A white man who was driving a semi-trailer was seen near her vehicle. Zywicki’s body was found in rural Missouri, stabbed to death.
Another is the 1992 killing of Rhonda Knutson, 22, a truck stop convenience store clerk in northern Iowa who was bludgeoned to death during an overnight shift. Investigators have released sketches of two men who were in the store, including one trucker. Baldwin lived in nearby Nashua then.
In 1997, Secret Service agents raided Baldwin’s apartment in Springfield, Missouri, after learning he was making counterfeit U.S. currency on a personal computer. He and two female associates were indicted on counterfeiting charges. Baldwin was sentenced to 18 months in prison and released in 1999.
In 2008, a fire destroyed a Nashua building where Baldwin operated a candle business and damaged two adjacent buildings, including one that housed the town’s newspaper. The cause of the fire was never determined.
Baldwin is being held at the Black Hawk County jail pending extradition proceedings to Tennessee.
The charges stunned Jazz Baldwin, 32, of New Hampton, Iowa, who said she learned two years ago that Baldwin was her father after he purchased a DNA test kit. The two had been in contact over Facebook since then, she said.
“I heard rumours about his ‘possible crimes’ but always thought they were bogus,” she wrote in a Facebook message. “Murder was NOT on the list of things we thought he had done and gotten away with.”
Associated Press journalists Rhonda Shafner in New York City and Mead Gruver in Cheyenne, Wyoming contributed to this report.
Ryan J. Foley, The Associated Press