By Carly O'Keefe, KFVS
CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, MO (KFVS) –
Timothy Krajcir was the Heartland’s most prolific serial killer and sexual predator.
Krajcir confessed to murdering nine women and raping dozens of women in southeast Missouri, southern Illinois, western Kentucky, and Pennsylvania in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
“His reign of terror, and it truly was a reign of terror, only lasted five years,” said retired investigator Lt. Paul Echols formerly with Carbondale, Illinois Police Department.
At the height of his reign of terror only his victims saw Krajcir as a monster. Those closest to Krajcir saw him as a friend, and a compassionate emergency medical technician (EMT).
“He did seem compassionate and caring for his patients,” said former EMT Valerie Scott.
By living two very different lives, Krajcir was able to evade justice for a very long time.
Krajcir covered his face and terrorized women in homes and parking lots in four states.
“It was a handkerchief,” Timothy Krajcir said in a 2007 taped police confession. “Like a blue handkerchief. They ended up calling me the Bandana Rapist in the newspaper.”
Investigators say he chose his victims at random.
“Whole neighborhoods where these ladies lived were terrified,” said retired Detective Jim Smith formerly with the Cape Girardeau, Missouri Police Department.
Krajcir often spotted women in parking lots, stalked them and then weeks later donned his bandana and attacked them in their homes.
“The description they often gave of him — wearing a bandana, a dark complexion, dark eye — those were pretty much present in several of the investigation files,” Det. Smith said.
Those case files remained open for decades. It would take 30 years and advancements in DNA technology to finally unmask the Bandana Rapist and the Heartland’s serial killer.
“He had the ability to fit in,” said Det. Smith. “Just a Jekyll and Hyde type thing.”
Like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, what made this shadow-lurking villain so difficult to catch was that in the light of day his alter ego wore the uniform of a lifesaving medical professional.
“On the Ambulance Service we were people in a position of trust,” said former EMT Valerie Scott. “As ambulance workers, people let you into their homes.”
“That’s the type of person he was, helping people at one time and then murdering people at other times,” said Det. Smith.
As an EMT, Krajcir saved lives, delivered babies and helped people in their hour of need.
“That’s the side we saw,” said Scott, a former EMT.
Scott worked alongside Krajcir on the newly formed Jackson County Ambulance Service in southern Illinois from 1976 to 1979. She is in no way defending his actions but agreed to share her story to shed some light on the depths to which Krajcir was able to deceive even those closest to him.
“We were kind of a tightknit group,” said Scott. “So, it wasn’t uncommon to go out for a bite to eat at the end of a shift, or at the time I had a boat on Crab Orchard Lake. We might go skiing on the boat. It was a stressful job, and you want to unwind sometimes afterwards. So, yes, I would say that I thought I knew him. It’s apparent now I did not.”
Scott said it was no secret among EMTs that their co-worker “Tim” had done time in prison. Krajcir had been hired on with three years’ experience as an Illinois Department of Corrections inmate EMT through the Vienna Correctional Center.
“We figured he’d paid his debt to society, and he had a good record, and he was early release,” said Valerie.
However, Scott said when the crew learned the nature of Krajcir’s conviction they wanted to know more.
She said Krajcir told them a story about teenage lovers being discovered by an angry parent.
“He was like, ‘Well you know I was with this young girl who was underage, and her dad came in – and then there was this fight and altercation,’ so it was a very plausible explanation,” said Scott.
It wasn’t the real story, but Scott said the crew had no reason to doubt Krajcir’s honesty. The real story was that when Krajcir was a Navy cook based at Great Lakes Naval Base in North Chicago, Illinois, his deviant desires had already begun to develop.
Krajcir was convicted and spent years in prison for breaking into a Waukegan, Illinois woman’s home, raping her and stabbing her with a 10-inch pair of scissors for not cooperating. The woman was holding her baby at the time.
“Tim Krajcir was responsible for at least two rapes that we’re aware of out of the North Chicago area in the early 1960s which brought him to prison, which ultimately brought him to southern Illinois,” said Lt. Echols.
Not knowing the truth of Krajcir’s past, Scott said “Tim” became one of the gang.
“He certainly knew the kind of front to put on in front of the rest of us,” said Scott.
From the time Krajcir was paroled and hired on as an EMT with the Jackson County Ambulance Service, he seemed to keep his nose clean.
It would seem the soon-to-be serial killer was trying to live the life of fully rehabilitated felon. He had a job, friends, even a girlfriend, but the good life didn’t last. A break-up led Krajcir down a violent path.
“At that time, we broke up and it was at that point I made probably the stupidest decision in my life, which was to go out and rape again,” Krajcir confessed to police in 2007. “I said to myself the first good looking gal that comes up, I’m going to assault.”
After Krajcir’s predatory pursuits led him to rape in Cape Girardeau, Missouri once, a burglary in Carbondale, Illinois gave him a tool to escalate his evil urges to a whole new level.
“I picked that gun up, and it was like a rush of adrenaline,” Krajcir confessed. “You know an all-powerful feeling, you know. Which is part of a rape thing you know, it’s power and control. How can you not be more powerful than when you had that gun, you know? God, I wish I had never picked that gun up.”
Meanwhile, Krajcir’s ambulance service co-workers had no idea what their friend “Tim” had started doing in his free time.
“You rack your mind. What did I miss? How did we not see it? How could he be the monster and the demon and do the horrific things that he did, and then understand the side that we saw,” said Scott.
Krajcir seemed to have no trouble switching between those two sides. By summer 1977, Krajcir was so intrenched in the group of ambulance service workers that one of the other EMTs asked him to be a groomsman in his wedding.
It would only be decades later that Scott and her co-workers would learn that wedding weekend was far darker than the sunny summer ceremony photos would suggest.
“it was a joyful day, it was a beautiful setting. It was down at Giant City State Park,” said Scott.
Scott’s gift to the couple was to serve as their wedding photographer to capture the promises made and special moments as they unfolded beneath the hot summer sun.
“So, I was going around and taking pictures of everyone enjoying the day and was appalled to learn later the significance of that day,” Scott said.
Scott had no idea that as she snapped photos of the bridal party’s smiles, a mother and daughter lay dead, still undiscovered after a double homicide on Cape Girardeau’s Koch Street.
Mary and Brenda Parsh were Krajcir’s first kills. He shot both mother and daughter after sexually assaulting them both in the family home. Less than 12 hours later, Krajcir stood with the rest of the wedding party and smiled jovially for Scott’s camera.
“As anyone would be attending a friend’s celebration for starting a new life,” said Scott.
The depth of Krajcir’s depravity was discovered only decades later. When confessing the details of the Parsh murders to police, Krajcir recalled the specifics and timeline of his first murders remembering the date only because of his friend’s wedding.
In Krajcir’s confession taped in December 2007, Detective Smith asked Krajcir, “What was going on that made you think it was August?”
“One of my friends was getting married,” Krajcir replies. “I think it was a Friday night even, if I’m not mistaken. ‘Cause they was having a party that Friday night and I had made my mind up that I was gonna, prior to going, go to Cape Girardeau and do an assault. I didn’t know the daughter was going to be there.”
By his own admission, Krajcir shot and killed the Parsh women and then joined the other groomsman to celebrate at his friend’s bachelor party without giving the gruesome scene he left behind a second thought.
“With him, life just went on as nothing had ever happened,” said Lt. Echols. “He just did not have the same conscience you or I have, or that most people have. To him, it was just another day.”
The Parsh murders were just the beginning for Krajcir. As his reign of terror ramped up he even deceived his friends into unwittingly helping him evade justice.
While Krajcir’s dark urges drew him to Cape Girardeau and other towns to stalk, rape and even kill it was a crime committed in his own home that landed him back in prison, at least for a little while.
“He killed quite a few women while he was molesting me,” said sexual assault survivor Angel Ambrose.
Angel Ambrose was just 11 years old when Krajcir moved into the trailer behind her grandmother’s Carbondale home in 1977.
“We became friends and I was telling him everything that was going on at home,” said Ambrose.
Ambrose said it wasn’t long before Krajcir’s friendly compassion changed into something dark.
“That’s when he took me to the basement,” said Ambrose. “He pushed me down to my knees, put his hands around my head and told me to close my eyes, and open my mouth. I was so frightened and trying to pull away. He just would not let me up. He said it was going to be our special secret, and if I told anyone me or my family could get hurt.”
For nearly two years, the 30-something neighbor forced Ambrose to perform various sexual acts by threatening violence to her family.
“I started going into the trailer when he would whistle for me. That was my cue,” said Ambrose. “He would take me to the back bedroom and he would molest me and rape me.”
All the while, Krajcir’s deviant desires were called out of control. Between 1977 and 1979, Krajcir raped and killed Mary and Brenda Parsh, 21-year-old Southeast Missouri State University student Sheila Cole, and Virginia Witte of Marion, Illinois.
“He explained to us that he was looking for ‘easy targets,'” said Lt. Echols.
When Krajcir wasn’t on the prowl, he was working 24-hour shifts as an EMT, often sleeping in close quarters mere feet from fellow EMT Valerie Scott.
“We had two twin beds that were not four feet from each other,” said Scott. “He never made advances toward me, and I was single at the time. Never had any of those feelings.”
That’s why when Krajcir was jailed on a sex crime involving his young neighbor, Scott and the other EMTs didn’t doubt his assurances that he was innocent.
“He vehemently denied the charges that he would ever do something like that,” said Scott. “And, why would a guy that age want to be messing around with a 13-year-old girl? It didn’t make sense.”
Scott said what did make sense was Krajcir’s cover story. He told the crew the girl’s mother was seeking revenge for him rebuffing her advances. The crew trusted his earnest-seeming excuse and pooled enough money together to bail their friend out of jail. Scott contributed the most.
“Obviously, this is the greatest regret I have,” said Scott.
One might suspect the brush with the law would scare Krajcir straight, but that was not the case. Instead, the looming possibility of more time in prison seemed to only intensify his penchant for rape and murder.
“The fact that while he was out on bail, that he did continue to do horrific events and take lives and rape helpless women and inflict incredible damage, it’s something I would change if I could,” said Scott.
While out on bail in the months that followed, Krajcir killed Joyce Tharpe of Paducah, Kentucky and Myrtle Rupp of South Temple, Pennsylvania. He also returned to Cape Girardeau paying his first visit to the Carter residence on Middle Street.
“He attacked my mom,” said Marcia Carter. “When she woke up, she woke to someone who had her by the throat with a garden hoe. She had it out front because she did a lot of gardening.”
Krajcir had been stalking Marcia Carter’s younger sister. She wasn’t home when Krajcir walked into the home and sexually assaulted her mother.
“In his questions, he asked where my little sister was,” said Marcia Carter. “That was his focus, to get her.”
A month later, based on the child sex crime and new public indecency charges, a Jackson County judge sent Krajcir to prison as a sexually dangerous person (SDP). His time behind bars was short lived.
“They had no clue what other crimes he had been involved in up to that point,” said Lt. Echols.
Psychiatrists at Menard Correctional Center recommended Krajcir’s release in January 1981, just 15 months after he was incarcerated saying in a psychiatric evaluation that Krajcir “might no longer be sexually dangerous, however, this cannot be proven as long as he remains incarcerated.”
“The prison said they’d done all they could do and the only way to see if he is going to be able to function in society is to put him back in society,” said Lt. Echols.
In June 1981, the serial killer was back on the streets and able to resume his reign of terror. His time in prison had given him plenty of time to think.
“While I was locked, I used to imagine sexual fantasies,” Krajcir told investigators in a 2007 taped confession. “I decided when I got out I would do whatever I fantasized about.”
Krajcir returned to his primary hunting ground, Cape Girardeau, back to the Carter house. Once again, the younger sister was not home. Instead, he found Marcia Carter.
“He came through, had the gun,” said Marcia Carter. “He asked where my sister was again. Told him she wasn’t there.”
Marcia Carter, then 23 years old, said she was just about to hit Krajcir with a phone to fend him off when he was able to gain the upper hand.
“One of the young kids, my nephew, came around to see what was going on and he pointed the gun at him,” said Carter. “That halted a lot. That’s when the assault happened, and you know it just sent me to another place.”
Krajcir left Carter alive, but deeply traumatized. She said she lived in fear for decades.
“I’d read the paper, okay there was another attack,” said Carter. “I’d read the paper, there was another murder.”
Carter battled low self-esteem and said she took to drinking heavily to numb the pain the mysterious man in the bandana inflicted upon her that night.
“He not only rapes your body, he rapes your mind,” said Carter.
After the second attack at the Carter house, Krajcir went on to sexually assault and murder two more women in Cape Girardeau: Margie Call and Mildred Wallace.
In Carbondale, Illinois he raped and strangled 23-year-old Deborah Sheppard. DNA in Sheppard’s case ultimately unmasked Krajcir as the killer he was 25 years after her death.
In 2008, Krajcir appeared in courtrooms in Missouri, Illinois and Kentucky to answer for some of his crimes. He apologized to the families in court but has admitted to feeling no remorse.
Krajcir was always aware of both halves of himself, the predator and the protector. However, he was always careful to hide the predator, even in prison.
“I shouldn’t have been put back out on the street,” said Krajcir in a 2007 taped confession. “Sad part is, I was smart enough to, like we talked about … to fool the counselors.”
Counselors were indeed fooled. Krajcir’s 1981 psychiatric evaluation stated:
“Mr. Krajcir is not an intimidating man. You can get close to him and he does not need to push you away as individuals who are at a more chronic risk for violence.”
“He knew how to play the game when he went in the first time, and he knew how to say the right things,” said Lt. Echols.
The same psychiatric report stated that:
“Sexually dangerous offenders or any offender’s suitability for treatment depends, on whether they have the capacity to develop anxiety and guilt about the offenses they commit.”
Therein lies the problem. Krajcir would later reveal he felt absolutely no remorse for any of his crimes.
“I don’t have big feelings of remorse or anything, because if I did, I wouldn’t have done it to begin with,” Krajcir said in a taped confession. “As much as I would like to say that I have a lot of feeling there, I don’t have that part in me. That’s one of the things about my situation. I wished I had those kinds of feelings, but I never have since I was little.”
The tragic reality is, the only feelings of guilt or shame that exists were felt by survivors and his former friends.
“I’ve carried guilt for 40 years,” said Ambrose.
“My self-esteem had dropped so much,” said Carter.
“I have the deepest regret that we ever did anything to allow him to remain free as long as he did,” said Scott.
Krajcir’s reign of terror stretched across four states and devastated countless lives. Even 40 years later, some are still trying to heal.
“He ruined a lot of my life. He ruined a lot of people’s lives,” said Ambrose. “That little rock he threw in the pond had a long rippling effect.”
Ambrose has grappled with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder much of her life. Through specialized sexual abuse therapy and support from friends and family, she is working to make peace with the past and look toward a brighter future.
“Everybody has to heal. Everybody,” said Carter.
Rape survivor Marcia Carter is further along on her journey to healing. She said she was able to let a lot of her anger and terror go when she was able to face Krajcir in court.
“There were no more fears because I know who you are, and you know who I am, that I’m not scared anymore,” Carter said.
Now, Carter is hopeful that her story helps other survivors.
“Don’t let your hopes drop. Just push forward and be strong,” said Carter.
While former co-worker Valerie Scott wasn’t physically injured, she said Krajcir’s deceptions left her questioning everything.
“You feel like collateral damage,” said Scott. “The only thing that give me any peace is to understand that there were trained professionals like the psychiatrists he saw at Menard and he fooled those people as well.”
Timothy Krajcir went back to prison as a sexually dangerous person in the 1980s. He opted to quit going to counseling sessions. Had he continued therapy, it is likely he could have convinced psychiatrists to release him again.
In 2007, evidence collected in Deborah Sheppard’s case matched Krajcir’s DNA on file in the Illinois prison system. Now, Krajcir will never see the outside of prison walls again. He is currently serving two 40-year sentences in the Illinois Department of Corrections for the murders of Deborah Sheppard and Virginia Witte.
He was sentenced to more than a dozen life sentences in Missouri, Kentucky and Pennsylvania for the murders of Mary and Brenda Parsh, Sheila Cole, Joyce Tharp, Myrtle Rupp, Marjorie Call, and Mildred Wallace.
If you are a survivor of sexual assault there are resources available to help you. Contact the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). It is a national, non-profit anti-sexual assault organization available 24-hours a day to help you. Call 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) to find local assistance in your community or go to RAINN’s website for more information.