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Thursday, November 18, 1999 Published at 20:30 GMT

World: Americas

Police baffled by Texas I-45 murders

The murders beside a Texas highway of several young women remain unsolved

By the BBC's Brian Barron in Texas

In Texas, the FBI have been called in to investigate nearly 30 murders - all of them schoolgirls or young women - along an 80km (50 mile) stretch of motorway between Houston and the Gulf Coast.

Watch Brian Barron's report from I-45
The killings span 28 years but none has been solved. Local police forces have been criticised for failing to help each other.

As dusk falls on Interstate 45 or I-45 as it is known, there is one question lurking in the minds of many: Is this the most dangerous road in America?

The 11 police forces whose precints cover the length of I-45 failed to realise that there was a deadly pattern.

[ image: Tim Miller is frustrated by the inability of the Texas police authorities to solve his daughter's murder]
Tim Miller is frustrated by the inability of the Texas police authorities to solve his daughter's murder
For one father, Tim Miller, the past 15 years have been a living hell.

"We've got no suspects, no closure and we've still got a serial killer walking around some place," he says.

Tim Miller's 16 year-old daughter was murdered and dumped within earshot of I-45 - and the bodies of at least three other female victims were found nearby at different times.

Police frustration

Stung by criticism of their failure to find and convict even one of the murderers who have prowled I-45, local police forces have turned to the FBI.

But, as Detective Carla Costello of the Texas City Police Department put it, no one is optimistic about a breakthrough.

"It's very frustrating. You feel like you're not doing your job. There's somebody out there who's been waiting 28 years for a phone call - from us - to say that we know who murdered their child," she says.

Arguably the muddled investigations over the years left families moving into the new housing developments along I-45 vulnerable.

[ image:  ]
They had no warning that serial killers were literally getting away with murder. So parents like Gail Smither didn't take precautions.

Twelve-year old Laura Smither left her home to go jogging two years ago. Three weeks later her headless body was dumped in a pond.

" We thought we lived in a really safe town," her mother says. "And that at nine o'clock in the morning, to go for a run on a little private road, that she would be fine."

Sex offenders released

[ image: I-45: The most dangerous road in America?]
I-45: The most dangerous road in America?
Law officers, like Police Chief Jared Stout, say that hundreds of sex offenders released from state jails have settled in this fast growing corner of Texas.

" A lot of people who are moving through this environment who, when you begin to study it, come from this pool of known sex offenders."

The police are bitter about their failure to crack the I-45 murders.

They complain far more resources are allocated to car thefts than the abduction and murder of young women.

And one of the dectectives voices what is on many people's minds: "There's going to be another one."

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