The Times West Virginian

West Virginia

September 4, 2009

FBI calls serial killer suspect in cold case

CLARKSBURG — A handyman who confessed to killing five people before committing suicide in June is now suspected in an unsolved 2004 slaying, and Clarksburg police said Thursday they will reopen that case at the urging of FBI behavioral experts who have declared James Childers a serial killer.

Childers, 45, of Clarksburg shot himself in a motel June 2 as police closed in to arrest him on murder and arson charges. He had mailed them a package of notes and a two-hour audiotape, confessing to four arsons and five murders.

Only two bodies have ever been found, those of 40-year-old Carolyn Sauerwein of Philippi, who had been shot twice in the head, and 26-year-old Carrie Lynn Baker of Clarksburg, who had been hit in the head with a blunt object.

Police Lt. Robert Matheny said the FBI’s report, which he read from but did not release, recommends West Virginia State Police re-examine a 96-acre property in Braxton County where Childers dumped one of the women.

Police will also work with the state medical examiner on the five-year-old case of a Clarksburg man found dead in his home. They would not identify the victim or comment on whether the man’s body would have to be exhumed, but Matheny said the victim knew Childers, whom the FBI now considers “the prime suspect.”

A second cold case will also be reviewed, but police did not offer any details about it.

Matheny warned, however, that without more bodies, fresh tips or witnesses, or some other new evidence, many questions about Childers may remain unanswered.

“When he took his own life, he took a lot of good information with him,” Matheny said.

If the next search of the family property is fruitless, Detective Mike Walsh said, the investigation could hit a dead end: “There will come a point when we’ve done all we can do.”

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