Stalking the Stalker

updated 09/02/2002 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/02/2002 AT 01:00 AM EDT

It was the middle of the night, but to Pam Kinamore's family that didn't matter. As soon as they heard the horrifying news that Pam's husband, Byron, had come home around midnight on July 12 to find his wife's keys in the door and car in the driveway—but no Pam—her mother, brother, sisters and other relatives swung into action By early morning the family had converged on the antique-filled house in Baton Rouge that Kinamore, 44, had so lovingly decorated and joined Byron, 46, in working the phones. They designed posters with photos of the former beauty queen, enlisted media help to get the word out, even began getting tips "We were hoping it was someone who was just infatuated with Pam," recalls her brother Ed Piglia, 47. "And we thought, If there's anyone in the whole world who could talk her way out of this, it was Pam."

Tragically, that would not be the case On July 16—two days after Byron broke the news of Pam's disappearance to their son Jacob, 12, who had been away at camp—a state surveying crew found Kinamore's naked body, with multiple stab wounds, dumped off Interstate 10 some 30 miles west of Baton Rouge. On July 29 there was even more shocking news for city residents: A serial killer was on the loose. Police announced that DNA evidence conclusively linked Kinamore's slaying to the same man who had killed at least two other local women in the past year: nursing supervisor Gina Wilson Green, 41, found strangled on Sept. 24; and recent MBA grad Charlotte Murray Pace, 22, whose throat was slashed in a townhouse near the Louisiana State University campus on May 31. Like Kinamore, the two earlier victims were attractive women with chestnut hair. And both Green and Pace had somehow been persuaded by the killer to open their doors and allow him into their homes. "I think people are extremely apprehensive—and they should be," says Col. Mike Barnett, the sheriff's chief criminal deputy. "Someone is out there stalking women and killing them."

These days Louisiana's stately capital feels like a city on the edge of panic, especially with recent reports of four attempted abductions, the latest on Aug. 14. The once-familiar sight of coeds jogging under the Spanish moss-draped pines on the LSU campus has become a memory, stores have sold out of pepper spray, and women are swarming to self-defense courses. "A girlfriend and I went to the mall the other night, and we brought our pistols," says Kristi, 32, who declined to give her last name out of concern for her safety as she practiced at a Baton Rouge firing range recently. "There's a lot of things I was doing before but I'm not doing now." Although FBI and local authorities have formed a 40-member task force to investigate the murders and have alerted the public to the danger posed by the Baton Rouge serial killer, they have been holding back details of his crimes. "There are things we are not telling the media," says Barnett. "But there are mistakes that he made. We will catch this guy."

The families of the three murdered women intend to help. They successfully pressed for formation of the task force and have brain-stormed to find similarities among the victims, passing their thoughts along to authorities. "We want to keep out there, stirring the pot until we find the man who did this," says Kinamore's mother, Lynne Marino, 66. (Kinamore's family is also offering $75,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.) "I just cannot stand the thought of another family having to go through this."

The pain remains raw for relatives of Gina Wilson Green, whose slaying last September in her stone-and-brick Victorian home on the edge of Baton Rouge's tony Garden District left "a huge hole in our family that will never be filled," says her older sister Shereé Bryant, 46. Although the twice-divorced Green didn't have children of her own, she loved being an indulgent aunt to her two sisters' girls, often slipping them sweet treats when she thought their mothers weren't watching. "They called her Beamer at work," says Green's mother, Margaret Wilson, 69. "She had a BMW but she was a 'beamer' in more ways than one. When she came in, it lit the place up."

Family and friends say the same of Charlotte Murray Pace, who lived only three doors down from Green at the time of the older woman's death. (Pace, who investigators believe did not know Green, had moved to the other side of the LSU campus three days before her murder.) Nicknamed Cobra by her sorority sisters at Millsaps College in her hometown of Jackson, Miss., because of a wardrobe heavy on animal prints, Pace poured equal energy into her social life and her studies. She remained close to a group of 15 college pals, with whom she continued to take road trips during grad school. But Pace still managed to be among the youngest students to finish LSU's MBA program and was looking forward to moving to Atlanta in August to begin working for consulting firm Deloitte & Touche as an internal auditor. Says her father, Casey Pace, 56: "She packed more living and doing good in 22 years than most people get around to in a lifetime."

The day of her murder, Pace left her job as a grad school assistant at noon to change for a wedding. When she failed to show up that evening, her mother called police. There was no evidence of forced entry at her townhouse but inside police found signs of the struggle put up by Pace, an avid runner who had taken self-defense courses. "He must have been strong," says Pace's mother, Ann, 57, "because, my goodness, that child was' strong as a horse."

In her own way so was Pam Kinamore, a determined woman quick to know what she wanted and with the drive to get it. While still a student at LSU, the fine-arts major managed to save enough between competing in local beauty pageants and working at the school's stadium concession stands to buy her own house. After her second date in 1980 with Byron Kinamore, a handsome computer programmer she met through a mutual friend, Pam told her mother this was the man she was going to marry—never mind the fact that a car crash two years earlier had left him a paraplegic. Byron's disability had a silver lining, she explained, tongue in cheek: They always got good parking spots and never had to wait in line.

When it became clear that the couple, who married in October 1982, were unlikely to have a biological child, Kinamore embraced the idea of adoption. Once they got Jacob through the St Elizabeth Foundation in 1989, she was so grateful that she immediately started volunteering at the agency. In recent years, although she had her hands full between active involvement in every aspect of Jacob's life and running her antiques shop, Comforts and Joys, Kinamore began fostering babies awaiting adoption. "That was typical of her inner spirit," says her husband. "She always wanted to be doing for somebody else."

Everything changed July 12, when Byron came home from visiting a friend to find his wife missing. "My life was taken and turned upside down," he says "I've been through the whole gamut of emotions." Although much of his focus has been on comforting his son, Kinamore admits Jacob "has been supporting me rather than me supporting him. If he sees me upset he says, 'It's okay. Just think of the good things with Mommy.' "

Besides the memories, what keeps Pam Kinamore's close-knit family going is the thought that its efforts, as well those of the other victims' survivors, will keep heat on the cases and help to catch this killer. "If it takes all of my resources and the rest of my days, I will find the man who did this to my sister," vows Kinamore's brother Ed Piglia. "I refuse to be one of those families who never knows what happened."

Bob Stewart, Malia Boyd and Derrick Nunnally in Baton Rouge

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