COLUMBUS (AP) — After six women died or disappeared within the past year in a southern Ohio community, law enforcement officials are looking to state and federal investigators to assist in their search for answers.
Three women have been found dead and three others have been reported missing since May of last year in Chillicothe, according to police and the Ross County Sheriff’s Office. That’s an usually large number of missing or deceased women for the community, said Lt. Mike Preston.
One death was a homicide, another ruled a suicide and the third an overdose authorities called suspicious.
Investigators said they don’t know if the cases are connected, but noted that the six women appeared to have run in circles where drug and criminal activity was prevalent.
The local departments have asked the FBI, Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigations, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Scioto County Sheriff’s office, the Portsmouth Police Department and the state prison system to join a task force to assist in the investigations.
A continued lack of answers in the cases led to the decision to create the task force, Preston said. He said he hopes extra resources and technical assistance from the FBI and other agencies will help generate information on the deaths and missing women.
Officials said the six women appeared to have known each other or knew some of the same people. At one time, they were all known to frequent an area in Chillicothe known for high drug crime activity, but officials aren’t hung up on the lifestyles the women may have had, said Chillicothe Police Chief Keith Washburn.
“What this boils down to is these are people, and it doesn’t matter what their lifestyle is,” he said. “They don’t deserve to be victims of crimes.”
The dead include 30-year-old Tameka Lynch, 20-year-old Shasta Himelrick and, most recently, 38-year-old Timberly Claytor, who was found dead last week with gunshot wounds near a vacant dairy bar. A suspect in her death was in custody this week on unrelated charges, and officials are waiting on forensic test results, Preston said.
Lynch’s death was ruled a drug overdose after she was discovered last May in Bainbridge, southwest of Chillicothe, but authorities called it a suspicious death and the investigation is still open. Himelrick’s body was found in the Scioto River in January after she’d been missing for about a week. Her death was ruled by a coroner as a suicide by drowning.
Police continue to search for the three missing women: 29-year-old Charlotte Trego, missing since May of last year; 38-year-old Wanda Lemons, missing since November; and 26-year-old Tiffany Sayre, missing since May 11.
For now, the task force is in an organizational stage and is getting started by setting up a 24-hour tip line. The agencies will then move into an operations phase, Washburn said.
Meanwhile, Chillicothe, a community of about 22,000, trudges on, waiting for leads. A crowd of about 100 people gathered Thursday night for a candlelight vigil to commemorate the six women.
“I think the community is wanting answers as to what’s going on,” Preston said. “This task force will hopefully provide those answers.”