Montana man may be involved in more deaths

A Montana man who was arrested after DNA linked him to the death of a Spokane woman in 1986 is being investigated in at least three other unsolved slayings.

Gary L. Trimble, 62, of Lincoln, Mont., faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Dorothy E. Burdette, 62, who was found dead in High Bridge Park on Christmas Day 1986. Police said she'd been beaten and appeared to have been sexually assaulted. She died of asphyxiation.

Spokane police are looking for any connection between Trimble and the unsolved slayings in 1986 and 1987 of Ruby Jean Doss, 27; Mary Ann Turner, 30; and Kathleen DeHart, 37, The Spokesman-Review reported Tuesday. The three women suffered blows to the head, most were sexually assaulted, and all were strangled.

"It's highly unusual to have more than one killer, killing like that," said Spokane police Major Crimes Detective Kip Hollenbeck. He said killers who asphyxiate their victims do it because that particular method excites them.

Hollenbeck obtained an arrest warrant for Trimble charging him with Burdette's murder, then interviewed the man in Montana.

"After about an hour of interviewing, he asked for a lawyer," Hollenbeck said. "He was nervous."

Trimble did say he was a visitor to Spokane during the mid-1980s, Hollenbeck said. Officials said the man's criminal history puts him in cities all around the Northwest during the past 25 years.

Hollenbeck called Burdette's three children on Monday to tell them about Trimble's arrest.

"Since day one, we've been waiting," said her daughter, Linda Iwanow, 61. She and her brothers, Tom and Robert, were relieved to hear the news, Iwanow said.

Trimble was being held Monday in Helena, Mont., on a separate probation violation.

In 2005, evidence from Burdette's crime scene was submitted to the Washington State Police Crime Lab for DNA analysis. In 2008, the crime lab reported semen had been found on the woman's bra and on the blanket. A DNA profile from the semen was entered into a national database, but no matches were found.

Last week, the Combined DNA Index System notified the crime lab that a recently submitted DNA profile matched Gary L. Trimble. A 2008 felony conviction in Montana required Trimble to submit a DNA sample to the state Department of Corrections, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said.

Hollenbeck learned Trimble was wanted on a $15,000 probation violation warrant from Teton County in Montana, and Lewis and Clark County officials arrested him on that warrant Friday near Lincoln.

Trimble was charged in November 2007 with felony robbery and intimidation and a misdemeanor count of partner or family member assault, said Teton County Undersheriff Denny Blauer.

As part of a plea agreement, Trimble pleaded guilty to intimidation and was given a five-year suspended sentence. The Montana Department of Corrections website lists Trimble as having absconded from probation in July 2009.