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Murder Suspect Confesses to Four Killings; Body Found

July 22, 1990

ASHEVILLE, N.C. (AP) _ A man admitted killing four women, and directed authorities to a body he said was that of his latest victim - a 21-year-old woman found stuffed in her car’s trunk, officials said Saturday.

Lesley Eugene Warren was captured Friday in High Point in central North Carolina, just hours after police from the Carolinas and New York held a news conference in Asheville alerting officials to be on the lookout for him.

″His mindset is such that he will kill again,″ New York state police Lt. Ed Grant, who specializes in investigations of serial killings, told the news conference in this western North Carolina city.

The 22-year-old Candler man confessed to the crimes Friday night, and told Asheville authorities they could find a body in the trunk of a car on the second level of a downtown High Point garage, police said.

The body of Katherine Noel Johnson of High Point was found in a car there, said High Point police Capt. Blair Rankin.

Warren told Asheville officials he killed Ms. Johnson on July 15.

Warren also confessed to killing Jayme Denise Hurley, 39, of Asheville; Velma Faye Gray, 42, of Travelers Rest, S.C., in 1989; and Patsy Diane Vineyard, 20, of Sacketts Harbor, N.Y., in 1987, officials said.

Warren was charged in the slayings of Ms. Hurley and Ms. Gray. He is to be arraigned Monday in the Hurley case. Warrants are pending in Ms. Vineyard’s death.

Ms. Hurley had been missing since May 25; her body was found Wednesday in a shallow grave near her hometown.

Asheville police Chief Gerald Beavers said Warren became a suspect in Ms. Hurley’s case shortly after her disappearance. But he could be held only on charges of failure to produce title to a motor vehicle and misdemeanor larceny of a purse, and was released June 7 on a $25,000 secured bond.

Officials said Warren met Ms. Hurley when he was her student at the Juvenile Evaluation Center in Swannanoa several years ago.

Dr. LuJuan Gibson, a psychologist and assistant director of the center until she and Ms. Hurley left it about two years ago, said Ms. Hurley had taken a particular interest in Warren. She said she did not believe the two were romantically involved.

Ms. Gray was killed last August, and her body was found floating in a lake by two fishermen.

Investigators in Spartanburg County, S.C., on the North Carolina line believe Warren abducted Ms. Gray after she wrecked her car. Investigators say they believe he was driving a tractor-trailer rig at the time.

In 1987, Ms. Vineyard was found in Lake Ontario near her home in Sackett’s Harbor. Her husband, an Army soldier at Fort Drum, N.Y., reported her missing when he returned home from two weeks of field training.

Warren, who was an Army private at Fort Drum, was one of 150 soldiers questioned in the case.

Warren was born and raised in the Asheville area. His parents were divorced when he was 4, he was a high school dropout and later worked in construction and in a factory. He has a wife and a child living in South Carolina, relatives said.

Beavers said Warren has no prior convictions of violent crimes as an adult, but the Asheville police chief declined to comment on problems Warren had as an inmate at the Swannanoa juvenile center.

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