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Police Question Man About Murders Of Red-Haired, Freckled Women

March 8, 1985

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) _ A truck driver charged with kidnapping a red-haired, freckled woman is being questioned about the murders of at least six other women fitting the same description, authorities said Friday.

The victims, found along busy highways in Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Arkansas and Mississippi, may have been slain by a single person, said David Davenport of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

Jerry L. Johns, 36, of Cleveland, Tenn., was arrested Thursday and charged with the aggravated kidnapping of Linda Schacke, who was found Wednesday beside Interstate 40 with strips of cloth tied tightly around her neck.

Ms. Schacke, of Knoxville, survived the attack by pretending to be dead, and she identified Johns as her assailant, said Knox County Detective Larry Johnson.

Authorities described Johns as an extremely intelligent ex-convict who has taken numerous courses in criminal justice and is fascinated by serial killings.

Johns called The Knoxville News-Sentinel from the Knox County Jail to profess his innocence, saying someone is trying to frame him and that travel logs kept in his tractor-trailer rig would vindicate him.

He said he was convicted in 1968 of transporting stolen goods and was recaptured after he escaped from a federal prison.

Davenport said Jones is a suspect only in the Schacke case, although authorities from Arkansas and Texas want to question him about unsolved murders in those states.

Police in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas, formed a task force to investigate four similar murders and three cases involving missing women described as having reddish hair and freckles.

″There are several cases going back several years that we’re going back to take a look at,″ said Fort Worth Detective J.A. Bennett.

The Crittenden County, Ark., sheriff’s office has asked Tennessee investigators to question Johns about the body of a woman found on Interstate 40 near West Memphis, Ark., on Sept. 16, authorities said.

″We’re now talking with the TBI in Knoxville two or three times a day,″ said Crittenden County Chief Deputy Bobby Sanders. ″I know our detectives have been swapping evidence.″

Johns, who is being held in lieu of $83,000 bond, faces eight charges, including felonious assault, carrying a deadly weapon and possessing a stolen vehicle.

He was arrested after a 100-mph chase through Knoxville, Davenport said. The pickup truck he was driving had been stolen in Houston and bore a fake identification number, he said.

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