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What about the gun? I-70 serial killer's weapon of choice may have been the oddest choice of all

KMOV St. Louis logo KMOV St. Louis 1/24/2022
Erma Werke Model ET22 pistol. © Provided by KMOV St. Louis

Erma Werke Model ET22 pistol.

ST. CHARLES COUNTY (KMOV.com) -- In a cold case where nothing made sense about the killer or his motives, it may have been the oddest choice of all.

Why did he kill in the first place? It must have just been for the thrill.

How did he get away without a vehicle in sight? The only plausible explanation is he had one parked somewhere, away but not near the crime scene.

Wasn't he concerned that someone could walk in and catch him in the act? See the first question and multiply the thrill.

But the gun? Nobody has an answer about the gun.

Killers have long made their weapon of choice for their dastardly acts. Mainly semiautomatic pistols, maybe a Ruger 9mm, a Raven Arms 25, a Lorcin 38, or the most common: a simple Smith and Wesson 38 revolver. But not this guy. The I-70 killer pulled out the rarest of guns from his closet, an Erma Werke ET22. Ballistics traced the gun to all six of the killings, from Indianapolis to Wichita to Terre Haute to St. Charles to Raytown. If you haven't heard of the Erma Werke ET22, don't feel bad. It was last used by the German Navy in World War I. They were mainly target pistols.

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“This was certainly an unusual gun,” said Detective Tim Relph of the Wichita Police Department.

The oddity of the Erma Werke didn't stop with it being ancient. It was also prone to jamming and malfunctioning. Oh, and you couldn't hide it.

"Not a very usual weapon of choice," said Detective Kelly Rhodes of the St. Charles Police Department. "Because it’s not very easily concealable."

That's because the ET22 has a barrel that is almost a foot long.

And the list goes on.

Only about 6,000 of the ET22 models were ever made. It had problems both feeding and ejecting, leading to jamming and malfunctions. They were notorious for suffering more misfires than fires. Hardly the weapon of choice for a madman roaming the country. How did one land in the hands of a killer, and how did he manage to make it work?

You can buy an Erma Werke on the internet, but it will run you about $1,000. But a serial killer? Not likely. Equally not as likely that he just happened to come across one on the street from a seller. That would leave buying one at a gun show, having one handed down to him by relatives, or the murderer resorted to a lesser crime, and just stole one from somewhere. But once he had it, getting it to work, with all of its problems, would not have been easy.

Police discovered each casing at all the crime scenes was linked to the others by a red substance forensically lifted from it. They sent it for testing. Incredibly, it was jeweler's red rouge. The killer would rub the bullet casings with the rouge, using the corundum to polish the cartridges, allowing the bullet to slide more easily into the chamber. For detectives, feeling the need to polish the bullets is a clear sign that the I-70 killer was assembling his own homemade guns.

"He was probably a collector of weapons," Relph surmised. "He probably had several."

Police would put out a detailed sketch of the rare gun, asking the public if they knew anyone who had one. Ammunition was CCI brand, with copper-clad lead bullets.

Realizing the rare gun held their biggest clue, the St. Charles Police Department went on the hunt. They bought the exact Model ET22 through an online auction. It sits in an evidence box on the case. They communicated with gun enthusiasts on web pages, asking anyone with information about the gun to come forward. Even today, they are placing ads in gun magazines.

Eventually, investigators on the case would reach out to the FBI to conduct a profile on the killer. Here is what they had:

He appeared to have no motive, other than the thrill of killing.He seemed to have little concern if someone walked in.He had no getaway vehicle in sight.His weapon of choice was a German made Navy pistol from World War 1 with a foot long barrel that constantly jammed and malfunctioned.The only clue left behind was jeweler's red rouge.

So, you want to be an FBI profiler?

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