IMAGE: Lorenzo Gilyard
David Eulitt  /  AP file
Lorenzo Gilyard, left, during a 2004 court appearence in Kansas City, Mo. with his defense attorney, Donald Williams.
updated 3/5/2007 7:03:10 PM ET 2007-03-06T00:03:10

A former trash company supervisor charged with strangling seven women had sex with them just before they died, a prosecutor told a judge Monday as the man’s trial opened.

DNA evidence will tie Lorenzo Gilyard to a series of murdered women and girls, whose strangled, shoeless bodies were dumped in secluded spots around the city, prosecutor Jim Kanatzar said.

Gilyard, 56, is suspected of killing 13 women and girls, most of them prostitutes, between 1977 and 1993. The trial covers seven of those killings; prosecutors dropped the other six counts Monday, saying the remaining cases were stronger.

“All were found dead during the same one-and-a-half-year period, all were left in secluded or obstructed locations, all were strangled, all showed signs that they were involved in a struggle, all were missing their shoes and all but one showed distinct signs of sexual intercourse,” Kanatzar said.

If convicted on even one count of first-degree murder, Gilyard would face life in prison without parole.

Gilyard’s attorney, Tom Jacquinot, noted that police at first suspected other men and pointed out that most of the victims had a history of taking rides with strange men as part of their work as prostitutes.

“My client stands before you facing these accusations telling you the same thing he told police more than three years ago: He did not kill anyone,” Jacquinot told the judge.

Not seeking death penalty
Prosecutors agreed in January not seek the death penalty as long as Gilyard’s attorneys agreed to a trial before a judge without a jury. His attorneys also agreed to give up nearly all of their client’s appeal rights.

In telephone conversations with his relatives, Gilyard has consistently contended he is innocent and eager to go to trial.

“I know I couldn’t get convicted of something I didn’t do,” Gilyard told a relative in one call, among more than 200 minutes of recordings The Kansas City Star recently obtained through a Missouri Sunshine Law request.

Gilyard has a history of scrapes with the law and served time for crimes including child molestation. From January 1969 to June 1974, he was a suspect in five rape cases, though he was never convicted, court records show.

But Gilyard had been largely off the police radar in the years before his April 2004 arrest. By then, Gilyard lived with his wife of about a decade in a modest home at the end of a quiet dead-end street. His wife divorced him after his arrest.

A crime lab eventually used DNA to link 13 killings to a single attacker. The identity of that assailant remained unknown until the lab analyzed a blood sample taken from Gilyard in 1987, when he was a suspect in the death of one of the women he is now charged with killing.

Court papers filed by the defense list the victims as Catherine M. Barry, 34, the only victim not known to have worked as a prostitute; Naomi Kelly, 23; Ann Barnes, 36; Kellie A. Ford, 20; Angela Mayhew, 19; Sheila Ingold, 36; and Carmeline Hibbs, 30.

The other victims were identified as Stacie L. Swofford, 17; Gwendolyn Kizine, 15; Margaret J. Miller, 17; Debbie Blevins, 32; Helga Kruger, 26; and Connie Luther, 29.

The trial is expected to last three weeks.

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