Missoula Serial Killer

For years since I moved to Missoula, I would hear off and on about a serial killer who operated in the early 80s, and each time the subject would come up, I’d be shocked–utterly shocked–to learn that something so diabolical could have happened not only in the place I love, but a place as beautiful as Missoula. But then I’d summarily forget about it.

To Kill and Kill Again

Finally, this year I decided to read the only book on the subject: To Kill and Kill Again: The Terrifying True Story of Montana’s Baby-Faced Serial Sex Murderer by John Coston. While reading it, I had a profound sense of unease simply because I recognized the areas Coston was talking about. It wasn’t some nowhere place I’d never been but rather a ten minute drive from my house, a two minute drive from the gun range, a thirty second bike ride from the river.

The book itself is what I like to call “overinflated.” Instead of giving a straight forward account of events, Costa choses instead to write in a very melodramatic manner, at times perhaps inflating the truth or speculating on characters’ thoughts in ways he could have no way of knowing. The details of the final scene were awfully precise, leaving me to wonder where he got his information–although I will say that after having read a document on the City of Missoula’s website, it appears that Coston got the gist of it right.

Unidentified Victims

So who was Wayne Nance? First, he was one of the very few serial killers in history to be killed by an intended victim. Second, there’s really no way to know how many people he killed. He’s got 4 confirmed to his name, and another 2-4 circumstantially attributed to him with varying degrees of certainty.

Just like the recently apprehended Golden State Killer, Nance scouted the homes of his intended victims. He went inside some of those houses, and he raped and murdered his victims. As a furniture delivery man, Nance gained access that way, but among his belongings was found hand-drawn maps of apartment complexes and other houses which he should have had no access.

The first of Nance’s possible victims was 5 year old Siobhan McGuinness. In 1974, her body was found raped and murdered alongside the road of East Missoula. While her killer has never been identified, the location of her body and the fact that serial killers often escalate from “easy” victims to increasingly harder ones, points to Nance as being circumstantially connected to her murder.

Circumstantially Guilty

In 1974, Nance’s neighbor Donna Pounds was found dead in her basement. Nance was still in high school and bragged to his friends that he was going to kill someone. In addition, Nance went to school with the victim’s children and had often been to her house. On the day of the murder, Nance was absent from school. Pounds was shot with her husband’s gun, which was kept in a location only the family knew about. The family, and Nance himself, having been friends with Pounds’ son Ken, who had shown him where the gun was located.

In 1976, Verna Kvale was found sexually assaulted and murdered in her home in Missoula. No links have been made between her and Nance, although the M.O. matches.

Another potential victim was dubbed “Christy Crystal Creek.” She was found shot in the head in Missoula in 1985, and has never been identified. Similarly, a stab victim called “Betty Beavertail” was found in 1979.

Then in 1985 there was the drifter known as Robin, who was later identified as Marcella Cheri “Marci” Bachmann. She was connected to Nance via friendship after having arrived in Missoula in an attempt to escape a family dispute. Nance claimed she left town in 1984.

Nance enlisted in the Navy and was stationed in California, during which the unidentified murders ceased.

A Family Besieged

In 1985, after having built a new house down the Bitterroot (a valley south of Missoula), Teresa and Mike Shook were found murdered (shot and stabbed). The murderer attempted to burn down the house but the flames didn’t catch. The Shook’s four children were home at the time but survived the fire with only short hospital stays for smoke inhalation. Nance was never definitively linked to the case, but two items stolen from the house were later found in Nance’s home.

Couple Survives OrdealThen in September 1986, Nance gained access to the home of his boss Kris Wells, where she lived with her husband Doug. Doug invited Nance inside and was subsequently struck in the head. Nance tied Doug up in the basement, and Kris in the bedroom. Nance then stabbed Doug before going upstairs. Doug managed to break free of his bonds, collected a shotgun, and went upstairs. Nance heard him and when he confronted Doug, Doug shot him in the chest. Doug beat him with the gun, but Nance was able to get his .22 and fired three rounds. At one point, Doug got the gun away from Nance and shot him in the head. Nance was pronounced dead at the hospital.

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