‘The Vanishing Women’: Does a Small Ohio Town Have a Serial Killer on the Loose?

Kimberly Potts
·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment
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If Steven Avery’s story is best summed up as Making a Murderer, Investigation Discovery’s true crime documentary series about a group of six Chillicothe, Ohio women who went missing across a year-long time period might best be titled Making Victims.

The series, actually titled The Vanishing Women, is a six-part documentary that premiered in June, and details the stories of the troubled women whose disappearances from the 20,000 population Southern Ohio town began in 2014.

The women had some unfortunate things in common — drug issues, past or present, for all — as well as histories that, for some, included physical and sexual abuse, and prostitution. Some of the women knew each other, too, and among the many theories posited in the series is that their common problems might have led to common acquaintances who could be involved in their disappearances. The possibility of a serial killer is also a theory batted around during local authorities’ investigations of the cases, though a very recent development — the July 15 conviction of a man accused of murdering one of the women — may mean that theory is less likely true.

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Another universal, and the most compelling, feature of the series: the honest, but respectful portrayals of the women, two of whom are still missing. The victims’ families speak to producers about their lives, and no sugarcoating is involved as they detail their troubled pasts. But while putting the victim on trial is too often associated with cases like these, the producers allow the families to try to paint full, if complicated, portraits of their loved ones.

Single mother of two Tiffany Sayre had some painful, abuse-filled years in her early childhood, her father, aunt, and grandmother recall in The Vanishing Women; that turned around when her mother signed over custody to her father. But when Tiffany began to look older than she was as a teen, older men started to notice, and childhood issues she hadn’t dealt with begat years of unhappiness and struggle that included drugs and prostitution.

Sayre, 26, had met and begun dating a military veteran who was trying to help her get her life back on track, and her drug issues under control via rehab, but her family says he died unexpectedly from complications from an injury he sustained while on active duty, and his death sent Sayre on a downward spiral.

She was reported missing on May 11, 2015, and her body was found a little more than a month later in a drainage culvert 30 miles outside of Chillicothe.

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The rest of the story:

The Other Victims

Tameka Lynch, a 30-year-old mother of three, whose brother Chris says she became addicted to pain medication she began using to treat Lupus. Unable to continue at her job, Lynch and her family were evicted from their home, and she began to work as a prostitute to support her addiction. Lynch was reported missing May 20, 2014 by her husband (who hadn’t seen her for four days prior to that), and her dead body was found in a creek, 20 miles outside Chillicothe, on June 29, 2014.

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Charlotte Trego, a 27-year-old mother of two who was friends with Lynch, and, according to rumors that were never proven true, had attended a party with Lynch shortly before her disappearance. Trego, who’d told her mother she wanted to go to rehab while also sharing news about a “weird date” she’d gone on, was reported missing shortly thereafter, on May 20, 2014. Trig remains missing.

Shasta Himelrick, a pregnant 20-year-old who disappeared on Christmas Day in 2014. Her abandoned car, with its doors wide open, an empty gas tank, and run down battery, was found near the Scioto River, where her dead body was found on January 5, 2015. She was a recovering drug addict who had gotten clean during a six-month jail stint, but then relapsed after the sudden death of her father. Her best friend tells producers she was excited about the impending birth of her first child, but when police searched her car, they found her cell phone, with an unsent text message that was described by an officer as being a goodbye note. Her death was ruled a suicide.

Wanda Lemons, a 37-year-old mother of five, last seen on November 3, 2014, and reported missing on Dec. 29 that year. She had become addicted to pain pills in her late 20s after suffering an accident in Texas, but moved to Chillicothe to live near her mother, and got and remained sober for eight years. Lemons was supposed to join for Thanksgiving dinner, but failed to show. A friend said she was planning to go to Texas, hitching a ride with a truck driver, for Christmas, but multiple searches for the driver have turned up nothing, and Lemons’s bank account has remained untouched. Her mother, Diana, is shown in The Vanishing Women to maintain a friendly relationship with local police, trusting they will continue the search for her missing daughter.

Timberly Claytor, a 38-year-old mother of five, who was last seen on May 28, 2015. Just days prior, she had told her best friend she was going to rehab to battle her addiction, but on May 29, 2015 her dead body was found next to an empty store. She had been shot three times, and on July 15, a local criminal was convicted of her murder (see below).

The Vanishing Women Episodes

Episodes 1-5 — “Find Our Daughter,” “Evil Among Us,” “Dumping Ground,” “The Sound of Silence,” and “In the Shadows” — have aired, with each featuring news footage and details on the women and their disappearances, as well as interviews with family and friends, updates on the investigations, and a look at the impact of the disappearances on this typical, fairly tight-knit community, where, previously, these kinds of crimes, in these kinds of numbers, did not occur. But law enforcement officials also touch on topics like the area’s rampant drug problems, and one local community leader insists the disappearances of the women are directly tied to human trafficking crimes.

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Recent Developments

After three hours of deliberation — which included a twist involving a teary juror who had to be replaced at the last minute because she told the judge she couldn’t continue to participate in the trial — 38-year-old Chillicothian Jason McCrary was found guilty of the murder of Timberly Clayton. The first person tried or convicted in any of the disappearances, McCrary, prosecutors say, killed Clayton by shooting her in the head when she was in his car. He denies the charge, saying he paid Clayton to have sex with him in his car, but that another local criminal, Ernest “Dolla Bill” Moore shot and killed Clayton from the backseat of McCrary’s car. McCrary is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 12.

Meanwhile, The Chillicothe Gazette reported the series has already led to new tips in the cases, from throughout the country. “The show has certainly brought more notoriety to these cases,” the chief deputy for the local county sheriff told the newspaper. “We look at every one and determine the value of each. We’re still out pursuing good leads.” Gazette editor Mike Throne and former reporter Caitlin Turner, who wrote about the cases from the beginning, are also featured in the docuseries, putting many of the investigation findings in context of how they impact the town and its citizenry.

Future Developments

The final installment of The Vanishing Women was originally scheduled to air on July 18. Instead, Episode 6 will air sometime later this summer or in the early fall, as producers spent this week in Ohio filming the trial of Jason McCrary, and hope to be able to add further details and updates on the cases for the finale.

The Vanishing Women is currently streaming on the Investigation Discovery website, and is available to watch on Amazon Video and iTunes.