CHARLESTON, W. Va. — Detectives across the country are re-examining cold cases including the deaths of women in Chillicothe, Ohio, after a possible serial killer was shot to death while allegedly attacking a West Virginia woman, CBS News reports.
That woman managed to kill 45-year-old Neal Falls, who investigators believe is connected to a string of murders in Ohio, Illinois and Nevada.
The chief of detectives in Charleston, Lt. Steve Cooper, told The Associated Press that the possibility is being looked into that Falls is connected to the cases in Chillicothe, Ohio where four women have died under suspicious circumstances and two others remain missing. Lt. Cooper said the possibility is being looked into because women were the victims in both places and because of geographic proximity — less than a two-hour drive from Charleston.
However, Monday afternoon, Lt. Michael E. Preston, spokesman for Ross County Sheriff’s Office, told CNN, “There is nothing whatsoever that can tie him to the missing women in Chillicothe.”
Charleston Gazette-Mail reports Falls had responded to an ad for an escort on Backpage.com. When he arrived at the home of a woman who asked only to be identified as Heather on Saturday, July 18, she said things quickly went from bad to worse.
Heather said minutes after she opened the door, Falls started beating and strangling her. She said he held a gun in one hand and held her by the throat with the other. Heather managed to grab a rake in an attempt to fight off her attacker.
“He put the gun down to get the rake out of my hand and I just grabbed the gun and shot over behind me,” Heather said as she gestured over her shoulder.
That one shot hit Falls in the head and he was killed.
“He was going to shoot me. He was going to kill me,” Heather said.
Heather ran out of the house and flagged down a neighbor, who called 911.
“She had to defend herself and she shot him and he’s in the kitchen,” the woman told dispatchers.
Heather can be heard in the background saying, “He pulled a gun on me.”
“He pulled a gun on her. She’s got cuts and stuff all over her,” the neighbor told dispatchers.
When investigators responded, they found a cache of weapons inside Falls’ SUV including knives, a machete, axes, a sledgehammer, shovel, plastic trash bags, bleach, and a bulletproof vest. They also found four sets of handcuffs in his pockets.
“What comes to mind when you look at those items is a serial killer kit,” said Lt. Steve Cooper, who was the Charleston police detective who responded to the scene .
Cooper said the items, Falls’ methods and his previous known locations may tie him to the murder or disappearance of nine women in three states.
Falls lived in Las Vegas for eight years and worked at Hoover Dam. During that time, four women disappeared. Three of those women’s bodies were later found dismembered.
Authorities said all of those women, most like Heather, advertised online.
“I believe that Heather saved lives and hopefully we’ll be able to bring some closure to some other families, too,” Cooper said. “If she didn’t fight back, she most certainly would be dead.”
The Associated Press and CNN contributed to this report.