© 2022 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

How Gary Muehlberg was revealed by police as St. Louis’ 'Package Killer'

GaryM_PackageKillercollage.JPG
Missouri Department of Corrections, Police Booking Photo
/
Convicted murderer Gary Muehlberg, shown in mugshots in March 2020 and in 1993. On Monday, he was charged with the murders of four women in the early 1990s.

In the early 1990s, a series of grotesque murders terrorized St. Louis. The serial killer, who appeared to target women and sex workers, became known as the “Package Killer” for the manner in which the victims’ bodies were abandoned — packed into containers, boxes and mattresses.

But little else was known about the murderer — until now. On Monday, police and prosecutors in St. Charles announced that the killer has a name: Gary Muehlberg. The 73-year-old now faces murder charges for the killings of Robyn Mihan, Brenda Pruitt, Sandy Little and Donna Reitmeyer.

Dozens of investigators had attempted to solve the case in the intervening decades, but, in the end, the case was cracked by DNA evidence and the work of O’Fallon Police Sgt. Jodi Weber. Earlier this summer, the detective confronted Muehlberg with the DNA evidence — and then, in a moment that closed one of St. Louis’ most infamous cold cases, he confessed to the murders attributed to the Package Killer.

 O'Fallon police detective Jodi Weber stands for a photo in her uniform. Weber spent the last 14 years searching for the "Package Killer."
Wicentowski, Daniel
/
O’Fallon Police Department
O'Fallon Police Sgt. Jodi Weber spent the past 14 years searching for the "Package Killer."

“I don't even know if I could put it in words, the feelings that you feel,” Weber said Friday on St. Louis on the Air. “I know, it was a long time coming for me, for 14 years. I couldn't imagine what it was like for a family member waiting 32 years for answers.”

Muehlberg’s confession raises additional questions about whether investigators may have missed potential evidence in 1993, when Muehlberg killed Kenneth “Doc” Atchison and hid the body in a homemade coffin.

Muehlberg was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for Atchison’s slaying. For the families of his other victims, Weber said, the news that Muehlberg has been imprisoned for the past 27 years carried different feelings.

“I think, on one hand, they were happy that there weren't any other victims after Doc Atchison,” she said.“ Then, on the other hand, I think they questioned why it took so long to get a DNA hit with him being incarcerated and with the availability of his DNA.”

Weber said improvements in DNA technology meant that detectives could submit samples beyond just those derived from blood or bodily fluids. She’s still working on identifying a fifth woman whose death Muehlberg confessed to. Weber said Muehlberg doesn’t know her identity or precisely where he left her, all he knows is that her body was hidden in a metal barrel near a self-serve car wash.

Sgt. Jodi Weber and Ryan Krull join St. Louis on the Air

"We have tried everything so far that we can think of to do” to identify the victim, Weber said. "We do need the public's help."

The decades of false starts and possible suspects have been difficult for the families of his victims. Riverfront Times reporter Ryan Krull, who has written extensively about the case and the Package Killer’s victims, believes Muehlberg’s confession has brought a sense of resolution to these families.

“They were complicated feelings,” Krull said of families’ reaction to the confession. “But, I know there was a lot of gratitude, and a lot of appreciation, and a sense that there could now be more of a sense of closure that hadn't been possible before.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is produced by Miya Norfleet, Emily Woodbury, Danny Wicentowski and Alex Heuer. Avery Rogers is our production assistant. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

Stay Connected
Danny Wicentowski is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air."

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org.