Columbus police were not calling the slayings of Crow, Kimberly Rodgers and Shawna Sowers the work of a serial killer, but, yesterday for the first time they underscored the similarities. Besides having criminal records, each woman was white, between the age of 29 and 36 and found dead within a half-mile of the others.
"There are apparent similarities in these crimes. However, at this time, the investigations have not proceeded to a degree where they would be officially termed the result of a serial killer," said a news release from Columbus police spokesman Sgt. Earl Smith.
Police contacted the FBI about the slayings and sent out a nationwide alert asking whether other police departments have dealt with anything similar. Crow, a 36-year-old mother of four, was the most recent victim. Her body was found Thursday afternoon behind Ohio Wire Form and Spring Co. off S. High Street.
Crow's slaying was not surprising to her mother, Jean. When she heard news reports describing Sowers, 30, and Rodgers, 29, before their bodies were identified, she had feared it could be her daughter.
For years, Jean Crow had hoped and tried to get her daughter to give up drugs and prostitution. Jean Crow worried it would lead only to her daughter's demise.
The younger Crow could stay off drugs for nine months at a time when she was pregnant with each of her four children, but she would always go back. "All of a sudden it would grab her, and she'd be gone," Jean Crow said. For the past two months, Lisa Crow had been living with a couple on 3rd Street. She told them she was about to win half of a lucrative business as part of a divorce settlement, which was not true, police said.
Crow's criminal files include several addresses on the South Side. At one of them, a 64-year-old man who gave his name only as Ed, said he last saw Crow on Tuesday when she came by asking for something to eat. "It's disgusting to think that someone could do that because they think these girls are nothing," he said, adding that he also knew Sowers.
Both he and a 72-year-old man at another address said they gave Crow food and a place to stay. They both also said they paid her for sex.
Crow, Rodgers and Sowers died violent deaths.
An autopsy performed yesterday on Crow revealed that she died of "blunt trauma to the upper body." Police would not elaborate.
"That's part of the cards in the poker game with the killer or killers," Smith said.
Rodgers, whose body was found Nov. 7 in a cornfield off Groveport Road, had been strangled. Thirty yards away at a construction site, Sowers' body was found Sunday. The Franklin County coroner's office said she died of a broken neck.
The bodies of Rodgers and Sowers were partially nude. Police would not say how Crow's body was dressed.
Rodgers and Sowers had been convicted of prostitution and other charges. Crow had never been convicted of prostitution but had been involved in it, her mother said.
Crow would often say she was going to quit, said the man identified as Ed. "A couple of days later I'd see her working the streets."
After Crow got out of jail in March for taking a friend's car, she showed signs of leading a "normal life," her mother said.
For 10 days, Lisa Crow lived with her mother in Groveport. She looked for work and attended Narcotics Anonymous at a Maryhaven addiction-recovery center, Jean Crow said.
Her daughter was uncharacteristically optimistic about her future, she said. But on March 10, Lisa left with her mother's car to go to Maryhaven. She never came back.
Police called six days later, saying the car was in the city's impoundment lot. Jean Crow never heard from her daughter again.
Jean Crow said she is sure that drugs led her daughter astray.
She sympathizes with parents who try to pull their children away from the lure of crack cocaine. "There's not a whole lot you can do for them. It's hell."
The meeting was to make sure everyone is working together to investigate the killings of the women, who all had ties to prostitution and drugs.
"There is a critical commitment to solve these homicides," Sgt. Earl W. Smith said. "We're still not willing to call them a serial killing. It's a genuine whodunit."
The 13 detectives at the meeting work in vice, homicide and the strategic response bureau, Smith said.
He declined to say what was discussed.
Police supervisors have refused to be interviewed on the subject, instead referring all calls to Smith's office. It was widely confirmed yesterday that homicide detectives Russell Redman and William Gillette are leading the investigation.
"They are pursuing all investigative leads and we're obviously waiting for a variety of test results," Smith said.
The secrecy is necessary, Smith and detectives have said, because the disclosure of evidence could hamper identifying and prosecuting the killer or killers.
The three women -- Kimberly Rodgers, 29; Shawna L. Sowers, 30; and Lisa Crow, 36 -- all were discovered nude or partially clothed within a half-mile of one another between Nov. 7 and Thursday.
Police and Franklin County Coroner Brad Lewis have refused to be specific about the causes of death.
Rodgers, whose body was found in a cornfield off Groveport Road, was strangled. She had two small children and reportedly worked as a cashier at a South Side convenience store.
Sowers' body was found on Nov. 18, 30 yards away at a construction site. She had a broken neck.
Crow, a mother of four, was found behind a business at 2270 S. High St. Unlike the other victims, Crow had no convictions for prostitution, but several sources, including her mother, said she was involved in it. Lewis said only that Crow had suffered "blunt trauma."
Police have contacted the FBI and sent a nationwide computer alert to other law-enforcement agencies asking whether they have dealt with anything similar. Patrol officers in South Side precincts have been told to issue warnings to streetwalkers as well as handle routine enforcement of soliciting laws. Four women were plucked from city streets since Monday and charged with soliciting.
A fifth was arrested on an outstanding warrant, according to jail records.
Police had just questioned him for the second time, taken his blood and scoured his truck for evidence after following him for days. Then they sent him home. "I'm vindicated. They don't have nothing on me," neighbor Thomas Ward recalled Fuhr saying.
Yesterday, Fuhr, a 33-year-old tree trimmer, was charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Shawna L. Sowers, 30, and Lisa A. Crow, 36. He also is a suspect in the slaying of Kimberly Rodgers, 29. All three were prostitutes, police said.
Columbus police were led to Fuhr on Thanksgiving morning through a pickup truck found near Ohio Wire Form and Spring on S. High Street, where Crow's body had been discovered that morning.
The truck belonged to Fuhr's boss, Terry Laymon, who told investigators that he had loaned it to Fuhr the day before Thanksgiving.
With the aid of neighbors, police camped outside Fuhr's mobile home in Old Trailer Court off E. Main Street and questioned Fuhr.
"He knew he was a suspect and so did we," Laymon said.
Fuhr had spent Thanksgiving Day and the night before at the home of his ex-wife, Terri D. Byers, on Mithoff Street in Merion Village. She said they knew police were following them on Friday.
"I was giving him a ride to his trailer, and they were following us," Byers said. "It was an unmarked car with tinted windows. There was no mistaking it." Byers, 27, and Fuhr married in August 1999. She said his cocaine addiction destroyed their marriage. When their divorce became final in May, she was granted custody of their son, who is nearly 2 years old.
Byers, a lifetime South Side resident, said she met Fuhr about four years ago when he moved to Columbus from New York.
Although their relationship was marked by periods of violence, Byers said she was stunned by the charges against Fuhr.
"He'd get upset like any husband and we'd bicker, but for him to kill someone? No, I can't imagine him doing that," she said.
There was a history of domestic disturbances in the household, the divorce file showed. On Jan. 28, 2000, Fuhr pleaded guilty to domestic violence.
"He choked me one time, and it was for about five seconds and it wasn't bad enough where I couldn't breathe," Byers said.
She said she knew nothing about Fuhr frequenting prostitutes, which police alleged.
Byers discovered that Fuhr was a cocaine addict shortly after the birth of their son, she said.
"He was disappearing and money would come up missing. I'd go out driving around trying to find him," she said.
Byers said that his disappearances lasted a few hours to three or four days and that he refused to say where he'd been.
"Cocaine owned Christian," she said. "He couldn't say no."
One of Fuhr's hangouts was the New Point Tavern, 2631 Parsons Ave. Bartenders and patrons there said they never saw any sign that Fuhr used drugs or patronized prostitutes.
"He was friendly, never caused problems," bartender Gary Maynard said. "When I seen that on the news, it blew me away," he said of the charges against Fuhr.
But Maynard and the bar's patrons said they weren't surprised that the suspect is someone they know.
"Everybody said all along, 'It's gonna be someone we know,'" he said. "On the south end, everybody knows everybody."
A bartender at the Friendly Tavern, 1766 Parsons Ave., said Fuhr made only one visit to that bar, but it was a memorable one.
He said Fuhr came in by himself one day last week and soon was "kissing on" two women at the bar. The three left together and returned after a couple of hours. Fuhr then approached another woman at the bar and kissed her, biting her lip, said the bartender, who asked not to be named. Fuhr eventually left by himself. The next day, homicide detectives stopped at the Friendly Tavern to ask about Fuhr's visit. The bartender said they also showed him a photograph of Crow, the third homicide victim.
Neighbors in his Whitehall trailer park had a different impression of Fuhr, as someone who is arrogant and quick-tempered.
"If he didn't think he was the best, he'd try to be," one neighbor said.
But to girlfriend Ammie Turos, Fuhr has been a perfect gentleman during the three months they have dated. The Whitehall woman said she trusts him; she even spent Friday night with him after she learned he was a murder suspect.
"I can't say a bad thing about him," she said, although the couple had argued about where he had been the night before Thanksgiving.
Turos had loaned Fuhr her cellphone and tried to call him numerous times on Nov. 21, but he never answered.
She didn't hear from him until at about 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving, when he called asking for a ride. Angry, Turos refused.
Crow's body was found shortly before 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Detectives obtained samples of Fuhr's blood on Monday through a court-ordered search warrant. Yesterday, they were still waiting for test results, such as DNA evidence.
More than a dozen detectives met Tuesday to discuss the progress in the investigation. It appears now that they decided to charge Fuhr at that meeting. Yesterday, Fuhr agreed to come to Central Police Headquarters for a third interview. Detectives, communicating by radio, followed Fuhr in several vehicles to the interview.
Once inside, Fuhr reportedly asked for a lawyer. He was arrested after 3 p.m. Police spokesman Sgt. Earl W. Smith would not say whether physical evidence, witnesses, Fuhr's statements or a combination of the three led to the charges. "Clearly, he is a suspect in Kimberly Rodgers' death, but we are still pursuing other leads as well," Smith said. "Detectives said his name surfaced fairly early in the investigation. We do know that he did associate with prostitutes and he was known to be a crack user."
Police had been reluctant to call the slayings the work of a serial killer, but had called in the FBI and sent out a nationwide computer alert about the unsolved slayings.
"This is probably one of the best examples of cooperation within law enforcement across the board," Smith said after the arrest.
In the end, Columbus detectives said they solved the case without help from outside agencies.
New York records show Fuhr served 28 months in prison on a conviction of possession of stolen property. He was released in May 1992.
The three victims were white women found within a half-mile of one another between Nov. 7 and last Thursday.
Police and Franklin County Coroner Brad Lewis have refused to be specific about the cause of death.
Rodgers, whose body was found Nov. 7 in a cornfield off Groveport Road, was strangled.
Sowers, whose body was found Nov. 18 at a construction site 30 yards away, had a broken neck.
Crow, a mother of four, was found behind a business at 2270 S. High St. Lewis said Crow suffered "blunt trauma," but Crow's mother said a funeral director told her that she also had been strangled.
Unlike the other victims, Crow had no convictions for prostitution, but Jean Crow said she was involved in it.
Despite the publicity surrounding the case, six female prostitutes, including five on the South Side, were arrested this week, according to jail records.
She wasn't there to support him.
"He makes me sick," Terri D. Byers said as she left the courthouse. "Christian is a very mentally ill man."
Although he won't enter a plea until next month, Fuhr said he is not responsible for the slayings.
"He totally and vehemently denies these charges," said Max Sutton, a public defender who represented Fuhr yesterday in court.
Standing, Fuhr kept his head up and looked straight ahead as his case was announced.
The 33-year-old tree trimmer is charged with two counts of murder in the deaths of Shawna L. Sowers, 30, and Lisa A. Crow, 36. He is a suspect in the slaying of Kimberly D. Rodgers, 29.
Police have said all three were prostitutes.
Fuhr has cooperated with Columbus police, Sutton told Municipal Judge Scott D. VanDerKarr. He was arrested Wednesday when he went to Central Police Headquarters for a third interview in the investigation.
Given the nature of the offenses, Assistant Prosecutor Dale Blankenship requested that Fuhr be held without bail or with a "very high'' bail. VanDerKarr set bail at $1 million.
Byers said she needed to see the court appearance and "didn't want to wait for the noon news."
"I was hoping he would have no bond at all," she said.
"Why the judge did that, I have no idea."
As Byers was leaving the courtroom, she approached a crying woman and discovered she was related to one of the victims.
"I told her I'm so sorry. I feel so bad, and there's nothing I can do about it. . . . I'm shaking," Byers said, looking down at her trembling hands. Byers' 19-month marriage to Fuhr ended in divorce in May, a breakup she blames on his cocaine use.
She was granted custody of their son, who is almost 2 years old.
"I have no idea what I'm going to tell his son when he grows up," she said. Fuhr's girlfriend, Ammie Turos, left the courtroom in tears with her mother and declined to comment.
Also yesterday, court documents verified that Crow had been strangled and was last seen alive with Fuhr in the area where her body was found Thanksgiving Day behind a business at 2270 S. High St.
Sowers was found dead Nov. 18 at a construction site off Groveport Road. She had a broken neck.
Detectives yesterday said physical evidence will link Fuhr to Sowers' death, but they did not elaborate.
Rodgers was found strangled Nov. 7 in a field off Groveport Road, not far from where Sowers' body was discovered 11 days later.
Yesterday, detectives searched Fuhr's rented mobile home in the Old Trailer Court, 3737 E. Main St., Whitehall, and removed eight bags of evidence.
"There's not much in there,'' homicide detective Michael McCann said.
Police were awaiting lab results on blood and hair samples taken last week from Fuhr. The tests will provide DNA samples for trial, McCann said.
Police think they also have evidence in a pickup truck Fuhr borrowed from his employer the day before Thanksgiving.
The truck was found abandoned with a flat tire, and Crow's body was found nearby next, to a trash bin.