DNA results from rape kit backlog in Memphis reveal possible serial killer

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A new development in the DNA rape kit backlog in Memphis is linking one suspect to multiple horrendous crimes across different states.

Authorities say they’ve managed to connect a rape suspect in Memphis to other rapes and murders in Missouri and South Carolina.

They’re eager to catch the man who they say targets kids and teens as rape victims by scoping out houses with toys in the yard.

Sketches of the suspected serial killer have hung by New Madrid County Sheriff Terry Stevens’ desk for nearly 20 years.

“It’s a cold case, but we’ve never considered it a cold case because it’s on the top of our plate and we’re not going to let it go until we get it solved," said Sheriff Stevens.

He’s talking about the brutal double homicide of a mother and daughter in Portageville, Missouri in 1998.

“It was a very shocking scene."

Sherri Scherer, 37, and her daughter Megan, 12, were found shot to death.

The Sheriff says the man talked his way into the house using a ruse. He then bound the two victims and raped the young girl.

“We would have a homicide from time to time, but not one that was so invasive coming into the home and the sexual assault of a juvenile is why it was so upsetting to everybody.”

Hours later, a woman reported a man tried to get into her house in Dyer County, Tennessee.

“The homeowner actually fought him off, but he shot through the door, striking the homeowner with a bullet."

That bullet was determined to have come from the same gun involved in the Portageville double homicide.

Sketches of the suspect were drawn and they were restless trying to find him.

“We didn’t put it in a box," said Sheriff Stevens of looking for suspects. "We kept our scope very broad.”

A decade later, DNA test results from a rape and murder that happened in 1990 in Greenville, South Carolina matched their suspect. The 28-year-old victim had also been bound and killed by the same type of revolver.

But years went by with no new leads, until earlier this month when the sheriff got a call from Memphis police. A rape kit from 1997 that was finally tested matched their suspect.

“This may sound a little wrong-headed, but we were excited. Not because there was another victim, but there was the potential for more evidence and possible witnesses that could help us solve our double homicide.”

The rape kit was part of the backlog WREG discovered in 2009.

Memphis police say a 14-year-old victim was raped in the 4900 block of Byron Road in Berclair. A man knocked on the door asking for help, then forced his way in and cut the phone lines to keep them from calling police.

The crime had many similarities to the others, including the house being close to a highway or interstate.

“We anticipate contacting the victims in their crime and working with them and just gathering what information we can," said Sheriff Stevens.

Sheriff Stevens says he’s optimistic even though the DNA matches haven’t led to an arrest yet, and says the sketches in his office aren’t coming down until the man in them is caught.

WREG's Bridget Chapman reached out to the Shelby County District Attorney’s office to see if the DNA sample from the Memphis rape has been indicted, but they said they can’t provide that information nor comment on the case.

If you have any information that could help lead to an arrest in any of these cold cases, you’re asked to call Crime Stoppers at 901-528-CASH, the New Madrid County Sheriff's Office at 573-748-2516 or Missouri State Highway Patrol at 573-840-9500.

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