Heartland Solved: Serial killer identified

Heartland Solved: Serial killer identified
Robert Eugene Brashers is the man investigators say killed Megan and Sherri Scherer in their home in 1998. He's also linked to other crimes in other states. (Source: KFVS)

NEW MADRID COUNTY, MO (KFVS) - Robert Eugene Brashers. He’s the killer investigators have searched for since March 28, 1998.

Brashers is responsible for the brutal murders of Sherri and Megan Scherer in their Portageville home.

However, he administered his own life sentence less than a year after that horrifying crime, shooting himself to death in a Kennett motel on January 13, 1999 during a standoff with police.

The many crimes of Robert Brashers

They wanted to talk to Brashers about a stolen license plate. They had no idea they had a serial killer cornered.

Missouri investigators explain how they identified killer

Investigator with the Missouri State Highway Patrol found Brashers through a genetic profile submitted to a public genealogy database. They first found likely family members, then used that information along with traditional police work to identify Brashers, a man with a violent criminal past dating back to the mid-1980s.

Here’s a timeline of events:

  • November 1986 - Brashers was convicted of attempted second-degree murder stemming from an incident in Saint Lucie County, Florida that happened in Nov. 11, 1985.
  • April 6, 1990 - Genevieve Zitricki, 28, was found dead inside her Greenville, South Carolina apartment after she failed to report for work
  • March 11, 1997 - A 14-year-old girl is raped. She and four other people were at a home in Memphis when a man knocked on the door. As one person tried to close the door, the man pulled a revolver and pushed his way inside. The victim and witnesses provided a description and helped with a composite drawing of the suspect.
  • March 28, 1998 - At around 7 p.m. the bodies of Sherri and Megan Scherer were found in their rural home in Portageville, Mo. Both had been murdered and Megan had been sexually assaulted
  • March 28, 1998 - Approximately two-and-a-half hours later, an attempted home invasion and shooting was reported near Dyersburg, Tenn. A man in a van stopped, asked for directions and tried to force himself into the home of a 25-year-old woman and her children. The man pulled out a gun and fired a shot during a struggle with the woman. The bullet hit her in the arm after she had went inside her home. Ballistics connected the Dyer County incident to the Scherer murders. The woman gave a description of the suspect and helped with a composite drawing.
  • April 12, 1998 - Brashers was arrested in Paragould, Ark. Brashers tried to break into a single woman’s home
  • 1998 - A partial DNA profile was developed from evidence at the Scherer scene. However, the profile lacked enough markers for entry into the Combined DNA Index System
  • 1998 to 2006 - Investigators conduct numerous interviews and follow hundreds of leads. The cases were also featured on America’s Most Wanted.
  • Jan. 13, 1999 - Brashers shoots himself during a standoff with police in a Kennett, Mo. motel room. He died from his injuries on Jan. 19, 1999.
  • 2006 - Advances in the DNA testing led to evidence from the Scherer murders being resubmitted to the Missouri State Highway Patrol’s crime lab. A full suspect DNA profile was developed and entered into CODIS resulting in a match to the April 6, 1990 murder of Genevieve Zitricki.
  • 2006 - Following the DNA match, investigators from South Carolina, Tennessee and Missouri worked together to investigate more than 1,200 leads. The cases were again featured on America’s Most Wanted.
  • May 2017 - A CODIS match to the rape of a Memphis, Tenn. teen
  • 2018 - Investigators use DNA technology company Parabon NanoLabs which, along with the traditional investigation, helped lead to the identification of Robert Eugene Brashers. Parabon uses DNA analysis technology combined with DNA testing and genetic genealogy to establish a relationship between a person and their ancestors. Investigators got DNA samples from Brashers' surviving family members and traditional forensic tests showed he was the suspect.
  • Sept. 27, 2018 - Brashers' remains were exhumed by court order. Additional DNA samples were collected and lab testing confirmed Brashers' DNA matches the suspect DNA in the crimes

Memphis investigators held a news conference on Friday, Oct. 5 about the case.

WATCH LIVE: Memphis authorities hold news conference on killer Robert Eugene Brashers' connection to their case https://bit.ly/2pCPfXz

Posted by KFVS-TV on Friday, October 5, 2018

Brashers' criminal history included attempted murder, burglary, impersonating a police officer and unlawful possession of a weapon.

In the 20 years since Sherri and Megan’s murders, the Scherer family and investigators never lost hope their killer would finally be found.

Heartland Solved: Serial killer identified

“I would say there’s renewed hope. And that’s what it is, is renewed.”

Highway Patrol Master Sargent Bud Cooper has been on the Scherer case since day one.

“I think there’s been hope from day one, and a lot of us have not lost that," he said.

Cooper has kept in constant contact with Tony Scherer, Sherri’s husband and Megan’s father.

“I don’t feel that Bud’s let up any,” he said. “He’s still very devoted to this case.”

Like Cooper, Sheriff Terry Stevens took this case personally.

“I can’t speak for everybody, but myself, as the sheriff, I’m very optimistic that we’re going to solve this case,” he said.

We talked to New Madrid County Captain Chris Hensley after the Memphis DNA link.

How DNA caught a killer

“I think I heard the term cautiously optimistic,” he said. “You know, they have several suspects that they had eliminated in different ways back in ’97. Now that we have new technology, we can go back through their suspect list.”

Retired Highway Patrol investigator Don Windham had the difficult task of working the Scherer crime scene.

When asked if he thought there was still a chance to get the man responsible, he said he hoped so.

“I hope and pray everyday we can stop him.”

Sgt. Cooper went on to say they want to solve it.

“It’s been tough on this whole community, the county, the family. I mean, it’s one we really need to get solved,” Cooper said.

And as investigators worked, Tony Scherer waited.

“I’ve become more patient,” he said.

When asked in what ways, he said, “Well, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.”

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