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Ohio officials reviewing trucker's routes after he's labeled serial killer

Megan Guza
| Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, 10:48 a.m.
Robert Rembert Jr. appears during his arraignment in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in Cleveland.
Robert Rembert Jr. appears during his arraignment in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Friday, Oct. 16, 2015, in Cleveland.

Authorities say determining whether a long-haul trucker can be linked to unsolved cases in Pennsylvania will come down to “good old-fashioned police work.”

Robert Rembert Jr., 45, of Cleveland was indicted this week on multiple counts of murder in four Cleveland slayings, and prosecutors have labeled him a serial killer.

Investigators are looking at routes he drove in Pennsylvania and Ohio for connections to other deaths.

“Information-sharing is probably the most important part in cases like this,” Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Adam Reed said. “Just good old-fashioned police work.”

Rembert is accused of raping and strangling 47-year-old Rena Mae Payne in 1997 and 31-year-old Kimberly Hall in June. He is also charged with fatally shooting 26-year-old Morgan Nietzel and his cousin, 52-year-old Jerry Rembert, last month.

Rembert was sentenced to six years in prison when he pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter in the 1997 fatal shooting of 24-year-old Dadren Lewis.

“So far, we know he's purposefully executed five people,” Cuyahoga County prosecutor Tim McGinty said this month.

It would not be the region's first brush with serial death.

Panic gripped Western Pennsylvania and Eastern Ohio in 1977 and 1978 when the area experienced more than two dozen unsolved murders. Authorities linked 18 of those murders — mostly couples — to a long-haul trucker from Aliquippa named Edward Surratt.

Suspected victims of Surratt — known for a pattern of immediately killing the husband with a shotgun blast and raping and killing the wife — included John and Catherine Shelkons, who were found dead in their Baden home Jan. 7, 1978.

Long thought to be among victims were Richard and Donna Hyde. Richard Hyde was principal at Fern Hollow Elementary School in Moon when he and his wife were murdered Dec. 3, 1977. He was found dead of a gunshot in the stomach, and his wife, found several miles away, was beaten to death.

Surratt was arrested in Florida in 1978, and the killings stopped. In 2007, he confessed to six murders in Western Pennsylvania.

Reed said state police will follow pertinent information from officials in Cleveland.

Rembert pleaded not guilty Friday to murder charges and is being held on $5 million bail.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8519 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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