The Shaw Creek Killer
Between the years of 1987 and 1993, four bodies were found in the woods of rural Aiken County in South Carolina. Two of the bodies were identified as missing women from the area: Jackie Council (who went missing in 1986) and Risteen Durden (who disappeared in 1989). The other two - found in 1987 and 1993 - have remained unidentified ever since.
March 18th, 2018 Micheal Whelan
November 16th, 1987 - a Monday morning. A pair of hunters were making their way through the woods south of Eureka, South Carolina. They were roughly a mile-and-a-half south of the intersection where Highways 191 and 208 met - the roads called Johnston Highway and Mt. Calvary Road, respectively.
If you are familiar with this area of South Carolina, you are more than likely familiar with the body of water that flows through these woods, named Shaw Creek. The hunters were coming across a patch of forest not more than a stone's throw away from this creek when they stumbled upon an unmistakeable object - a find unlike any other.
The white skeletal remains, barely even covered up by the soil around them, were lying face-down, with their legs crossed and their arms outstretched. Whoever the victim had been, she had been left there in the preceding years, without any articles of clothing or any belongings.
The police officer who would respond roughly half-an-hour later that morning would note that the remains looked posed, in a way.
The remains were discovered to have been there for some time, with roots growing over the bones of the finger. No insects were found near the body, which implied that it had decomposed at least a year beforehand; police would theorize that they had been there between one and five years.
In addition, several of the bones from the foot could not be found, as well as the segment of the neck known as the hyoid.
Police responded that morning, taking away the remains for further examination. The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division - also known as SLED - was there to help conduct a search of the area, and would help in the coming weeks and months in trying to identify the remains.
A metal detector was run over the crime scene, in the hopes of locating any clues. They would find just one: a brass shell casing, which had been fired by a shotgun. It was found in the soil underneath the body, and contained none of the plastic or paper casing found in other, more modern shotgun shells.
Over the coming weeks and months, several things would become known: led by Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend, authorities would learn that the victim had high cheekbones, indicating a heritage that was predominantly black, but may have included European, Indian, or Caribbean influence. Whoever she was, she stood between five-feet-eight-inches tall and five-foot-ten. She weighed approximately 150 to 160 pounds.
The scar tissue from her remains showed that she had led an active life, to say the least. The left side of her nose had likely been fractured at some point, and then healed. There was some kind of healed injury to her right knee. The first molar on the lower right side of her mouth had been removed early in her life, she was missing at least four other teeth at the time of her death, and she had a pronounced overbite.
More importantly, at least for investigators, her hair tested positive for cocaine. This would open up many avenues for investigators to locate her identity, but over time, would merely reduce the pool of candidates. Namely, to missing sex workers and drug addicts from this area, which included both South Carolina and northern Georgia.
Police originally theorized that she may have been a migrant farmer, who had gone missing from a nearby farm. A particular farm owner from the surrounding area had been fined in the past for violations pertaining to migrant workers. He had no known workers during this time period, but police kept him on their radar for some time - not as a suspect, but as a potential lead for finding the identity of this woman. Perhaps she had worked there years beforehand, and suddenly disappeared... or something like that.
A facial reconstruction was created in July of 1989, and provided the public with their first look at the woman found nearly two years beforehand.
Authorities believed that the woman's remains had been resting there, beside Shaw Creek, for anywhere between one and five years at the time of her 1987 discovery. It was really impossible for them to tell at the time, but her remains were decomposed to the point of police being unable to find any more evidence.
This woman's remains have gone unidentified for over thirty years, but it hasn't lessened the impact of her story. The mystery that is her identity has perplexed investigators for over three decades, and the larger, more terrifying question - that of who killed her - has loomed large over her case and others.
You see, this is just one of four victims found within this area over a six-year period. Two of the victims have been identified, while the other half remain enigmas. The four women have been linked together due to their geographical location, and it has been theorized that they fell prey to the same killer... who has since gone unidentified.
This is the story of the Shaw Creek Killer.
Jacquelyn Marie Council was born on October 21st, 1956. Not much about her early life is publicly known - in fact, if you search out this woman, you'll be greeted by a couple of news articles from the local Augusta Chronicle, but very little else. Her story was mentioned on the Fall Line podcast, but her story isn't widely known outside of those.
What we do know about Jacquelyn - more commonly called Jackie by those that knew her - is that in the Fall of 1986, she had just celebrated her thirtieth birthday, and was the mother to four children.
On November 10th, 1986, Jackie dropped off her youngest child at school. After saying goodbye to this five-year old son, she left... and was never seen again.
She was reported missing by family members later that evening, but her loved ones would be left without conclusion for years.
A little over a year later - within a week of Jackie Council's disappearance, in fact - the remains of a young black woman were found in area around Shaw Creek.
I can't tell you whether or not police originally believed the remains belonged to Jackie, but there is no mention of it in the police reports. Maybe it was the physical characteristics of the remains that stood out - the pronounced overbite, the prior knee and nose injuries, the history of cocaine use, etc. But police didn't relate the two... and wouldn't, for some time.
It wasn't until 1991 - nearly five years after the disappearance of Jackie Council and close to four years after the discovery of the first unidentified victim - that a second body would be found.
On March 22nd, 1991, loggers were cutting down pine trees in the area off of South Carolina Highway 191 - the same area south of Eureka, nearby Shaw Creek, where the 1987 Jane Doe had been found.
A little after 10:30 that Friday morning, a call reported the finding of skeletal remains to the Aiken County Sheriff's Department. The police responded to the scene at approximately 11:06 AM, and began examining the area for any clues.
The body, just like the first set of remains found in 1987, had been left nude. Sue Townsend, the Aiken County Coroner, would state that this body had been there for years.
Very few of these details have been released, such as the cause of death. However, because of the scant amount of clues and deteriorated remains, police would have the linger on the identity of this victim for the foreseeable future.
A little under two years later, on January 25th, 1993, another body was discovered in this area, close to the border between Aiken and Edgefield County.
This body, which bore a striking difference from the other two, was discovered at approximately 9:45 that Monday morning.
The striking difference between this set of remains and the other two, found within the same mile-and-a-half stretch of woods, was that these remains had been burned after-the-fact. Authorities surmised, based on the state of the remains, that this victim had been killed, potentially allowed to decompose in one spot, and then relocated to this area in the woods. At that point, the body had been burned, removing all of the body's soft tissue - the hair, eyes, cartilage, etc. - all of which would have been beneficial to identification.
Because of this postmortem burning, it made the investigation much more difficult. Sue Townsend summarized that the body had been there anywhere between two and five years, and the cause of death was a wound to the back of the neck - most likely a stab wound, but potentially a gunshot. Notes in the police reports indicate a stabbing, so I'm inclined to go with that.
Just like the other two victims, this woman had been left in the woods, nude. There were no clothing or belongings to help police narrow down the search for whom he had been.
Based on the remains, investigators were able to create a solid understanding of whom this woman had been. She had been in the approximate age range of 25 to 32, she had stood somewhere between 5'4" and 5'7", she had a slight-to-medium build, she was right-handed, and she had a set of protruding teeth.
On May 21st, 1993, Sue Townsend - joined by her Deputy Coroner Tim Carlton and Aiken County Sheriff's investigator Robert Johnson - went back out to the woods along Shaw Creek to search for any more remains or clues. During this search - which was eventually interrupted by a call for Townsend to respond to another crime scene - the trio were able to find a tooth, or at least a part of one, several bone fragments, and a vertebrae from the victim's spine.
They used a metal detector, hoping to come across another shell casing or a piece of evidence, but no such luck was had this time.
Later that year, 1993, would see the public release of the facial reconstruction from the second victim, whose remains had been found in 1991. The residents of Aiken and Augusta were now able to see what she had potentially looked like, in the hopes that someone could help identify her.
Police struggled to make any real progress in the case over the coming year, with no major leads seeming to develop. However, in 1994, police would receive one of their first real tips, and it came from another police department in a nearby state.
On March 15th, 1994, the Aiken County Sheriff's Office was tipped off that a criminal named Frank Thaniel Potts may be a person-of-interest in what was beginning to look like a serial killer investigation.
Frank Potts was a migrant worker who lived throughout the southeast: namely Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. However, he had traveled to work as far north as Illinois and Pennsylvania, having acquaintances and friends in every state along the way.
Frank was known as a nice guy to his neighbors, with a sterling reputation for helping out friends in times of need. However, he was also a bit weird, having bought a cheap plot of land in northern Alabama, and building himself a small cabin where he lived away from civilization. He was described as a bit of a loner: a survivalist, before that kind of lifestyle was seen as trendy.
He was a migrant worker, who would travel along the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast in search of seasonal jobs. He would work for a time, and then move on - either when the mood struck or the employment opportunity dried up.
Frank Potts also had a dark side to him, though. Between 1982 and 1988, he had been imprisoned for molesting an eleven-year old girl in Florida, and he was released after serving only six years of a fifteen-year sentence. After being released in 1988 for good behavior, he continued his work as a migrant worker, traveling through the eastern half of the United States.
A violent incident in 1992 put him back on the radar of law enforcement, when he was accosted by a game warden in Alabama. You see, Potts was hunting alongside his teenage son, Frank Potts, Jr., but wasn't wearing the proper equipment and didn't have a permit. Instead of face the consequences of these actions, Potts responded by kidnapping the game warden and holding him at gunpoint. The gun he was using at the time, a Heckler and Koch MP5, stood out in investigators' minds - not only was it illegal for Potts to own a firearm, being a felon and all, it was a sub-machine gun valued upwards of $5000.
The game warden survived and lived to tell his tale, but Potts continued his migrant lifestyle. Eventually, he was arrested in Florida in 1994 for molesting another eleven-year old girl, a charge which he was then convicted of and given a life sentence for. He would have to serve a minimum of twenty-five years in jail for the repeat offense, but that wasn't the end of his legal issues.
When police searched his forty-acre lot in Alabama, where he had built his survivalist cabin in the woods, police found the body of a young man who had gone missing in April of 1989. His name was Robert Earl Jines, and he had been another migrant worker who had travelled with Potts.
Potts was convicted to a second life sentence for the murder of Jines, but he wouldn't serve that sentence - in an Alabama prison - unless his Florida life sentence for repeated child molestation got vacated... which is unlikely.
Despite Potts denying any allegations of murder - including the death of Robert Earl Jines, found on his plot of land - he has since gone on to claim that he has never "killed anyone in America." Many consider that an inane comment that doesn't really hold up in court.
Authorities originally stated their belief that Frank T. Potts, who traveled repeatedly throughout the southeast and held relationships along trips to Illinois and Pennsylvania, may have been responsible for many more crimes. At one point, he was tentatively tied to anywhere between thirteen and fifteen additional murders in various states, but lack of evidence and the persistence of time has led to those leads going nowhere.
At this moment in time, it is very unlikely that Frank Potts is the killer of these three women found along Shaw Creek in Aiken County, South Carolina. Not only is there no physical evidence to tie him to the crime, but the timing just doesn't match up. Potts was imprisoned between 1982 and 1988 - the time period in which the first two victims were likely abducted and murdered.
So, could he have killed the third victim? Possibly. However, that's just speculation, because that victim bore much in-common with the other two. Frank T. Potts may have been a criminal who did terrible things, but it was unlikely he committed these murders.
The identity of the three victims would linger for the next few years. Frank T. Potts was eliminated as a suspect almost as soon as he emerged, and the investigation continued to falter.
A 3D facial reconstruction of the third victim - whose remains had been burned near the Edgefield county line - was released four years after her discovery, in 1997.
If you're familiar with the stories I've been telling over the last few episodes, then I'm sure you're familiar with Shanta Sturgis - the younger sister of teenagers Dannette and Jeannette Millbrook. In March of 1990, the twins disappeared from their old neighborhood in Augusta, Georgia, and their case was never followed up on. Links between their disappearance and these three Aiken County Jane Does weren't officialy made for years, but Shanta - who was just reaching adulthood at this point in the mid-1990s - tried to make a connection between one of her missing sister Jeannette and this body, recovered three years after their disappearance.
Over the years, Shanta has tried to demand that police follow-up on this lead, but she has been met with relative silence. Richmond County authorities have dragged their heels on testing the remains, as confirmed by the Aiken County coroner. Testing wasn't done two decades ago, when Shanta first made this possible connection, and it's been impossible to find out whether it has been done since.
It's very possible that these remains do not belong to Jeannette Millbrook. However, it is a solid lead that investigators should continue to investigate until exhausted. If it is possible to identify another of these bodies, authorities should continue to attempt any forensic possibilities.
I mention identifying "another" body, because the late 90's would see at least one of these Jane Does getting their identity back.
In 1997, a forensic pathologist from the University of South Carolina helped out with the investigation. Using then-cutting edge technology, this pathologist was able to superimpose a photo of Jackie Council over the skull of the body found in March of 1991.
This pathologist concluded that the body belonged to Jacquelyn Marie Council.
Despite this finding, police continued to try and find a way to further confirm the identity of this victim. In November of 1999, they tested the DNA of the remains and compared it to a son of Jackie, named Tifilio.
On November 16th, 1999, authorities held a meeting with the family of Jackie Council, who had been holding out hope for their missing loved one for over thirteen years. They were told that the remains found over nine years prior, off of Shaw Creek and Highway 191, were indeed, that of Jacquelyn Council.
Jackie's mother had long held out hope that her daughter was alive and well. Early rumors after her disappearance alleged that she had run away on a boat - a possibility that would have been cruel to her children and other loved ones, but a more inspiring proposition than this tragic reality.
Sue Townsend, who had been the Aiken County Coroner for over a decade now, and had examined all three bodies and led the forensic investigation into identifying them, stated about this:
"Clearly we have somebody who has dumped three bodies in Shaw's Creek. This," she said of identifying Jackie Council, "is the first step to find out who did that."
Robert Johnson, the Aiken County Sheriff's investigator in charge of the case, also added:
"The common denominator was that there was nothing found with them. There were no remains of clothing, no items normally carried by a woman in a purse."
When we factor in that information, it raises the possibility that there is at least one more victim of the same killer: a victim who isn't usually tied to the murders of Jackie Council and the two Aiken Jane Does, but whose case can't be ruled out as belonging to the same killer.
Risteen Durden was born on February 6th, 1960. I wish I could tell you more about her, but there has been very little written about her or her story in the decades since.
She had just turned twenty-nine years old that February. She was last seen on March 13th, 1989, in her Avera, Georgia home.
Avera is a very small town, with a population just over two-hundred, and it is about forty-five minutes to an hour southwest of Augusta, Georgia. Tack on an additional twenty miles or so, and you can travel through Augusta to Aiken, South Carolina.
Three years later - after the first Aiken Jane Doe and the remains of Jackie Council had already been found along Shaw Creek - the body of another woman was found near Uncle Duck Road in rural Aiken County.
This area, just off of Mount Pleasant Road and nearby Sawyer's Pond and Gilly Creek, is approximately fifteen miles away from where the other three bodies would be found.
For any of you astute listeners, Mount Pleasant Road may sound familiar. I mentioned a road of the same name in my last episode, in which I detailed the disappearance and investigation to find Malakia Logan in Greenville, South Carolina. However, as I have learned, these are totally separate roads, located roughly sixty miles apart from each other.
However, despite this geographical difference from the three related crimes, there were various similarities. Risteen Durden matched the same victim profile - she was a young black woman from the area - and just like the other victims, had been left nude nearby a body of water.
Police conducted a forensic reproduction of the victim's profile, which was then published in the Augusta Chronicle - the area's largest paper.
A relative of Risteen's saw this facial reconstruction, and contacted the authorities. Risteen had been reported missing back in 1989, so they had been eagerly awaiting any leads or updates in her case since.
Dental records later confirmed her identity, but there has been little movement in her case since. It is still very much open, and her killers - or killers - have never been identified.
In March of 1993, a forensic anthropology professor from the nearby University of South Carolina led a class of students into the area where Risteen's body had been found. Along with the coroner, Sue Townsend, and a police officer or two, they scoured the woods along Uncle Duck Road, hoping to find any clues or evidence.
They didn't find much, but they were able to find some more bone fragments, which had belonged to the young woman. They were returned to her body, but the mystery of how they - and she - had ended up there persisted.
When I began researching this story, I was completely and totally unaware of Risteen's case. Her story hasn't been publicized in the media since, with the Aiken Standard having no mention of her case, and any articles from the Augusta Chronicle - save for one - being archived long ago.
She hasn't been officially tied to this case, but I think it's too much of a coincidence for there to be another murdered woman, found without any clothing or belongings, in the same area at the same time as three other victims. It's very possible that she fell prey to the same killer, who has since gone unidentified in the decades since.
Before I continue on in the episode, I need to talk for a minute about the proximity of Aiken, South Carolina, and Augusta, Georgia. I know that I've thrown out the names of both pretty casually this episode, so it might be confusing.
Both towns sit pretty closely to the border between Georgia and South Carolina. If you look at both towns on the map, they seem to be about twenty miles apart, but I don't think that does the area enough justice.
Augusta is pretty firmly on the border between the two states. I live in this area, and there are some roads that will weave you you in-and-out between South Carolina and back into Georgia. All without turning. In fact, there is even a section of Augusta - called North Augusta - which sits on the other side of the Savannah River. It's officially a town in South Carolina.
Aiken, on the other hand, is firmly in South Carolina. However, it is very easily accessible by people in Augusta. For reference, the dentist I go to is in Aiken, and it's about a twenty-to-twenty-five-minute drive from my house. If you go to the Wikipedia page for Aiken, you'll see that the entire county is included in the Augusta metropolitan area, which includes a total of seven counties: five in Georgia, and then Aiken and Edgefield Counties from South Carolina.
I just wanted to briefly touch on this, because most of the suspects I will be bringing up have ties to the Augusta area. However, you should know, that despite Aiken and Augusta existing in different counties and neighboring states, they are generally grouped together.
So, with that out of the way, let's talk about a potential suspect for these killings. This is a person-of-interest that was brought up on the Fall Line podcast, and remains one of the most convincing suspect for these crimes and others.
His name was Joseph Patrick Washington.
Joseph Patrick Washington lived in Augusta, Georgia, at 104 Hale Street, and worked for the Merry Brick Brickyards. Both locations were in the same area that Dannette and Jeannette Millbrook, Augusta's missing twins, lived in and visited on the night of their disappearance.
Washington wasn't a very big guy - standing only five-feet-and-four-inches tall - but he was described as being stocky and strong for his size.
In 1993, Washington was arrested in connection to a series of violent rapes that had taken place in the Augusta area. All of the crimes carried a common theme: they were perpetrated against young women who were kidnapped at gunpoint, ordered to get into Washington's vehicle, and then taken to a second location. He would sexually assault them, and then shoot them in the stomach and leave them for dead.
The victim profile remained largely the same: they were all young black women with short hair, who ranged in age from their late teens to late 30's.
Some were sex workers, and others seemed to be victims of opportunity. Some lived to tell the tale, and others unfortunately did not. Those that did told a pretty common story, including how their attacked claimed to have gotten HIV from an ex-girlfriend, and these violent rapes were his psychotic way of seeking vengeance against the fairer sex.
In a similarity to the victims in Aiken County, the victims were often left at the second location without any clothing or belongings.
He was eventually convicted on over twenty-five charges of rape, assault, sodomy, kidnapping, and robbery. It was a death sentence in all but name, but police were preparing a death penalty trial against him for the murders of two women: Marilyn Denise Kelly and Loretta Dukes. Both were women who lived in the Augusta area who authorities believed Washington had sexually assaulted and then killed... this time, by shooting both in the head.
Ronnie Strength, then-Chief Deputy of the Richmond County Sheriff's Office, shared his thoughts with the Augusta Chronicle:
"Without a doubt, we are convinced that Mr. Washington is responsible for the two homicides and is a prime suspect in a third from 1991."
Despite the police believing him to be guilty of the two crimes - and potentially a third unnamed case - he never stood trial for the murders. That's because Washington's health deteriorated over the next few years while behind bars, heavily rumored to be because of his HIV progressing into AIDS. Authorities weren't able to reveal the official cause of his 1999 death, due to privacy laws, but that's the common belief.
Because he can no longer stand trial for the murders he was accused of committing, those cases are officially unsolved. However, many have theorized that Washington may have been the perpetrator in more than just those crimes - the Fall Line podcast makes a very convincing argument that Washington may have been responsible for the disappearance of Dannette and Jeannette Millbrook. After examining the case of the three Shaw Creek victims, as well as the unsolved murder of Risteen Durden, I think it's impossible to rule Washington out as a person-of-interest in the crimes.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation took DNA from Washington's three vehicles and his home, which they still have on-file. Only time will tell whether interest in the case spurs the G.B.I. to test that DNA against the separate cases: that of both the Millbrook disappearance and the Shaw Creek slayings.
John Wayne Boyer was easily-identified for his grandfatherly, "Santa Claus"-esque appearance. He stood about five-feet-seven-inches tall, weighing in close to 300 pounds, and he was bald with a big beard full of graying white hair.
When he was arrested in 2007, he became known nation-wide as "The Long Haul Territory Killer," and his story has been adapted for TV shows such as Criminal Minds.
Boyer first popped up on the radar of law enforcement after the body of a young woman named Scarlett Wood was found in 2004. She had been a hotel maid who disappeared from North Carolina's New Hanover County the year prior, in January of 2003, but her body wouldn't be identified until 2006. At that point, police were easily able to trace back her steps on the night she disappeared to Boyer's hotel room, where the two had in engaging in illegal drug activity together.
Boyer was arrested at his mother's home in Augusta, Georgia, where Boyer had been living for most of his life. He had spent time in both Augusta and its southern neighbor, Hepzhibah, while working as a long-haul trucker that traveled throughout the southeast.
After his arrest, Boyer showed aggressive behavior. In the interrogation room, he was quoted as saying:
"What bitch are you here about?"
Police immediately suspected that he may have been responsible for more than just the one crime he was detained for, but he quickly confessed to taking drugs with Scarlett Wood, and being there when she accidentally fell backwards and hit her head on a piece of furniture. At that point, after the alleged accident, he claims that he panicked and dumped her body nearby in an effort to be rid of her.
He plead guilty to second-degree murder in his 2007 trial, and he was given a twelve-year sentence. He was due to be released in 2017, until authorities discovered some more skeletons in Boyer's closet.
DNA taken from him during his trial for Scarlett Wood's death matched up with another cold case from Tennessee, in which a twenty-five year-old named Jennifer Smith was found dead in April 2005. Her body had been found in an abandoned parking lot off of Interstate 40. When questioned, Boyer confessed to this crime, as well, and told the story.
Apparently, Jennifer Smith was a sex worker he picked up in his semi-truck, and he took her to the abandoned parking lot she was found in. At that point, while haggling over money, he lost his cool, strangled Smith, and dumped her body outside of his truck. Her case had gone cold for over two years, until the DNA matched up with John Wayne Boyer.
He has since been released from his murder conviction for the death of Scarlett Wood, and he was transferred to a Tennessee prison where he is unlikely to ever be a free man again. However, police have not stopped matching up potential cases with Boyer, including another sex worker from South Carolina.
Michelle Haggadone was found in April 2000, having been strangled with a wire or a cord. Her body was left in a parking lot along Interstate 20, just outside of Florence, South Carolina - roughly two hours northeast of Aiken. In fact, you can use the road that Michelle's body was found along - I-20 - to travel the entire distance.
Detective Scott Smith, of Tennessee's Hickman County Sheriff's Office, stated about the possibility of other potential victims:
"I think there are a lot more. There's no telling. This guy travelled all over the country. Hopefully we'll get more of these cases solved through DNA."
Boyer's own defense attorney, H. Lawrence Shotwell, shared a similar thought with reporters:
"It wouldn't surprise me if there's other stuff out there. I have absolutely nothing other than a gut instinct on that."
Authorities believe that John Wayne Boyer - "The Long Haul Territory Killer" - may have many more victims out there. He travelled extensively through Tennessee and the Carolinas, and lived in the Augusta metropolitan area for most of his life.
In 2011, after Boyer's misdeeds had been made public, the Aiken County Sheriff's Office stated publicly that the four victims found along Shaw Creek - including Risteen Durden - may have been the victim of a single killer, who was possibly a long haul trucker. After all, all four bodies were found just a short distance away from I-20, a major interstate that runs throughout South Carolina.
However, while these comments and Boyer's own past paint a very unflattering picture, I find it personally unlikely that he is the man responsible for the four murders we're discussing today. Now, he has definitely proven himself to have the temperament for the crimes, but the three victims that police have named - Scarlett Wood, Michelle Haggadone, and Jennifer Smith - were all slightly-built white women. They were found in various locales, separated by time and distance.
Meanwhile, the four victims from Shaw Creek were all black women, ranging from smaller-to-medium builds, and they were found nude along the waterways of Aiken County.
Additionally, the victims that Boyer is accused of killing were a good distance away from his own home. The Aiken County victims were just a quick trip away from his own backyard.
Whether or not John Wayne Boyer had more victims is almost a guarantee... however, I find it unlikely that he is the serial killer that left bodies along South Carolina's Shaw Creek.
Shaw Creek itself is spawned from the South Fork Edisto River, one of North America's longest rivers. It carries water all the way from just north of Aiken State Park, out to the area north of Trenton, South Carolina... the area just east of the city of Edgefield.
For approximately thirty-two miles, Shaw Creek carries water onto various outlets: other creeks, ponds, and rivers. For a good chunk of those thirty-two miles, Shaw Creek is surrounded by forests, which hold almost as many secrets as the creek itself.
One of the creepiest things about living in the southeast is that so much of the surrounding area is undeveloped: dark, swampy woods where countless killers try to hide their secrets.
I've told you about a few today: Frank Thaniel Potts, Joseph Patrick Washington, and John Wayne Boyer. There are a handful of others I haven't mentioned, because they haven't presented themselves during my research, or I don't view them as pertinent to the story. These include Richard Daniel Starrett, who lived in Martinez, GA - just west of Augusta - and was arrested in 1989 for kidnapping and raping one young woman, and murdering another. Police referred to him as "the second coming of Ted Bundy," and he lived in proximity to these crimes.
Another is Reinaldo Javier Rivera, a notorious killer who lived in Augusta, GA for years. At the turn of the century, he was arrested for raping and murdering four women between 1999 and 2000. Many have theorized that he could have been involved in these crimes, even though - again - the victim profile and the methods of operation were completely different.
Then there's Henry Louis Wallace - also known as the "Taco Bell Killer" - who lived half an hour southeast of Aiken in a town called Barnwell, South Carolina. He was a drug addict who killed and raped at least ten women between his hometown and Charlotte, North Carolina, and is rumored to have been involved in various other assaults and crimes.
All of these killers - these nightmarish excuses of men - are just possibilities I'm floating out there. I like to float these suspects because the idea of them being the culprit - a known evil - make the case easier for me to comprehend.
However, the reality is that it's likely, and unfortunately, none of them. The culprit is probably still out there, having never had to worry about handcuffs shackling his wrists together and being led to face judgment for his crimes.
Despite not knowing the identity of this unknown killer - or killers - we do know a few things.
We know that the first Aiken County Jane Doe, found in 1987, had been laying along Shaw Creek for anywhere between one and five years. That puts her time of death somewhere between 1982 and 1986.
We also know that Jackie Council went missing on November 10th, 1986. Her body was found in 1991 and later identified in 1999, but she went missing right at the end of 1986.
We know that Risteen Durden disappeared on March 13th, 1989, from Avera, Georgia. Her body was found in the same geographic area as the others - and hasn't been officially tied to the crimes - but statements by police in 2011 indicate that she may belong to the same unknown killer.
The Aiken County Jane Doe, found in 1993, had been burned, but police were able to theorize that she had been stabbed in the back of the neck, and had been laying there for anywhere between two and five years. That would put her approximate time of death in the range of 1988 to 1991.
So, you have two crimes that took place in the mid-1980s, and two crimes that took place a few years later. The next question we need to ask ourselves is: why? Why were these victims chosen?
Jackie Council and Risteen Durden were both regular Janes, with not a lot that set them apart from one another. Jackie was thirty years old, and Risteen was twenty-nine. The 1987 Aiken Jane Doe was theorized to be between seventeen and thirty years old, while the 1993 Aiken Jane Doe was theorized to be between twenty-five and thirty-two.
So, all of the victims seem to be in their mid-to-late-twenties, bordering on thirty.
The 1987 Aiken Doe had hair test positive for cocaine, and that's perhaps why the 1993 Aiken Doe was found disinterred and then burned... perhaps the killer didn't want a link being found to either drugs or prostitution, but that's just me spit-balling.
There are so many more questions I wish I could ask, but the details of this case seem to be lost with time. It has been almost thirty years since some of the most recent updates for this case, and many of the people involved - family, friends, neighbors, etc. - have either moved or passed on.
On Friday, March 9th, I was able to visit Aiken County, where I met with a representative of the Sheriff's Office. He allowed me to look over the case files, which he joked suffered from the issues many government agencies had with documents over twenty years old: they had not been curated in a computerized format, so there was a fair amount of illegible writing.
The pages of the file contained many details and notes that investigators and County Coroner Sue Townsend had made over the years. They made numerous attempts to match up the Aiken Does with missing people from surrounding counties and states, but seemed to have no luck.
The case file was invaluable to my research: it contained many pieces of info that would be impossible to find anywhere else. After all, these four victims - Jackie Council, Risteen Durden, and the two Aiken Jane Does - have gotten very little media coverage. Outside of a brief overview on the Fall Line Podcast, and a handful of articles published in the Augusta Chronicle over the last three decades - most of which are now archived - they are ghosts. There are no documentaries chronicling their lives, no books that have tried to retrace their steps, nothing. Just a local journalist or two and a few podcasters that have tried to make-do with what we have... and what we have, unfortunately, isn't much.
I struggled with this story because, sadly, there's just not a lot of information out there about these four victims.
I had originally titled this episode "The Aiken Does," and wanted to focus on the two unidentified victims. They have often been tied to the various cases from the area - in particular, the Millbrook Twins - so it made sense for me to address them. But the more I learned, the more I realized that they were a story of their own... not just the two Aiken Does, but Jackie Council and Risteen Durden, as well.
If you Google "The Shaw Creek Killer," you won't come up with anything, really. You may find a news story or two, regarding the Aiken Does or the two other named victims. That's because police have only publicly theorized that these four women fell prey to the same killer. However, after looking at the documents provided by police, it has become pretty clear that these four women were related... not only because of their proximity to one another, but the state they were found in and the period of time in which they were killed.
So, without sounding too full of myself, I took it upon myself to put a name to this unknown killer: the Shaw Creek Killer. I think that's how we help raise awareness that whoever he or she is, they have at least four victims to their name and have never been brought to justice.
I wish I could do and say more, but for the time being, the stories of Jackie Council, Risteen Durden, and the Aiken Jane Does remain... unresolved.
Sources & further reading
- Unidentified Wiki - "Aiken County Jane Doe (1987)"
- Unidentified Wiki - "Aiken County Jane Doe (1993)"
- The Doe Network - "Case File: 7UFSC"
- The Doe Network - "Case File: 46UFSC"
- The Augusta Chronicle - "Mystery still surrounds 1986 Aiken County slaying of Jackie Council"
- The Augusta Chronicle - "Woman's slaying in 1992 thought to be by serial killer"
- The Orlando Sentinel - "1 Man, 2 Differing Impressions - He's Suspect In Up To 15 Deaths"
- The Ledger - "One-Time Suspect in Tine Janose Murder Case Is Still Full of Hate"
- The Augusta Chronicle - "Man dies in prison, facing trial"
- The Augusta Chronicle - "Case mirrors others with Augusta ties"
- UPI - "Murderer to appeal Alabama conviction"
- StarNewsOnline - "Man serving time for killing New Hanover woman indicted on murder charges in Tenn."
- Daily Mail - "Long-haul trucker who lived with his mother is 'a serial killer who has murdered prostitutes across U.S.'"
- The Augusta Chronicle - "32 deaths since '77 are still unsolved"
- Wikipedia - Henry Louis Wallace