The I-70 Killer: A Long Path to Facts– The Mick McCown Murder

Ever since my name got associated with a POI in the case of the I-70 Killer, traffic has been coming to some old posts of mine– in particular those relating to the Terre Haute murder of Michael “Mick” McCown. Believe me, I have analytics. My website The Quester Files, as those who follow me know, has the finalized, details results of any of my investigations. My blog here is for preliminary thrashing out and introduction. Years ago no one was investigating and presenting the case of the I-70 Killer. No one apparently ever sought actual facts. I was the first to try and get the Coroner Reports, discovering in the process only one jurisdiction (St. Charles) even knows where their report is.

In fact, if recent assertions are true, the case presentation may have been on the level of folklore– an uncritical rehash of information released in the first month of the murders (April-May 1992).

From the very beginning of the crime spree (April/May 1992) statements have been made and cycled . . . unto this very day. One of those most frequently cycled statements revolves around Mick McCown. Because he was the only man murdered, his case seemed key to any insights on the I-70 Killer’s stalking and selecting pattern. It was always said that he had long hair and wore it in a ponytail. For this reason it was theorized that the I-70 Killer murdered him by mistake, thinking he was a woman. Analysis cannot deny this is an obvious induction . . . However, all that was reported may be false.

St. Louis Post Dispatch photo, May 1992, Sylvia’s Ceramics, Terre Haute, Indiana.

Two sisters of Mike McCown have sent me messages. Through email in return, I have invited one of them to make her own statements and told her I will publish them on here. She has asserted that her brother did not have long hair anymore and that there were bells on all doors of “Sylvia’s Ceramics Shop.” The implication, of course, is that there could be no mistake that the I-70 Killer murdered her brother fully knowing he was a man.

So that we might all appreciate the facts and, hopefully, far more details, when and if reported here, I list below only a fraction of source material repeating that Mike McCown had long hair and a ponytail. The reader should note: when both Teresa McCown Lee and her mother Sylvia are quoted, disagreeing that he was a mistaken victim, the reporter gives no reason why they disagree. It is merely presented as a personal opinion. Short of uncovering the Coroner Report, only the family are in a position to set the record straight.

May 12, 1992:

On April 27, the only male victim was killed in a Terre Haute ceramics store. Authorities said Michael McCown, 40, may initially have been mistaken for a woman because he wore his long hair in a ponytail and had an earring.

Mark Potok
USA Today
May 26, 1994

“Our life is ruined, it has devastated our family,” says Sylvia McCown, mother of Michael “Mick” McCown, who was killed in his Terre Haute, Ind., ceramics shop. Police think the killer may have mistaken McCown – who had longish hair and wore earrings – for a woman.

Diana Penner
Indianapolis Star
Sunday, April 9, 2000

• April 27, 1992, Michael McCown, 40, was found shot to death in his ceramics
store in Terre Haute. He was the only man killed in the series, but police
think the shooter might have mistaken McCown for a woman because of his
ponytail. Also, his store was called Sylvia’s Ceramics, which could have
suggested it was run by a woman.

Valerie Schremp-Hahn
May 2, 2012
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

The first victim was slain April 8 inside a Payless Shoe store in Indianapolis. Kitzmiller was the fifth victim. On May 7, in Raytown, Mo., near Kansas City, a woman was killed in a health food store. All the victims but one were young women with long brown hair. The only male victim wore his hair in a pony tail and might have been mistaken for a woman. The killer fired point-blank at the head or behind the ear, or both.

Amy Renee Leiker
May 22, 2014

Michael McCown – the only male – was killed at his ceramics shop in Terre Haute, Ind., on April 27, 1992. Police think that because of his long hair, the shooter may have mistaken him for a woman.

May 4, 2016
Christian Fellwock
(Vox Magazine)

Only a few pieces of evidence connected the murders between April 8 and May 7. Five victims were brunette women working at small stores just off I-70. The exception was Michael McCown, whom police believe the killer mistook for a woman because he wore his long hair in a ponytail. Each victim was shot in the head with the same .22-caliber rifle.

Haley Bull
May 22, 2017
Fox 59

April 27, 1992 Terre Haute, Indiana – Michael McCown, 40, was killed in his shop, Sylvia’s Ceramics, 2615 S. 3rd Street.  His body was discovered by a customer at about 4:15 p.m.  Michael was the only male victim in this series.  Because of all the circumstances – including the fact that he wore his hair very long – we assess that the killer, watching from outside, mistook Michael for a woman until he entered the store.

Steve Huff
April 18, 2018
Inside Hook

In Sylvia’s Ceramics Shop it was probably quiet. As the Post-Dispatch reported, owner Michael McCown—”Mick” to his friends—was “reaching for a small, white ceramic house” on a shelf when he was shot at close range in the back of his head. McCown, who wore his hair long and had an earring, died immediately. Theories of the crime in the years since have suggested the killer mistook McCown for a woman.

Jon Webb
Courier & Press
8:00 a.m. CT May 11, 2018

40-year-old Michael “Mick” McCown seemed like a good guy. I found one blogger who claimed to work with a couple bands Mick played bass in. Mick had a big grin and helped his mother at the store she owned: Sylvia’s Ceramics near I-70 in Terre Haute.He also wore his long brown hair in a ponytail. And police believe that might be what got him killed.

Lily Pesavento
May 26, 2019

In the shop, police found the body of 40 year old Michael ‘Mick’ McCown, the only male victim.

He was shot in the back of the head while stocking shelves.

For years police have believed the killer mistakenly thought McCown was a woman, but those who knew him disagree.

“I don’t think it’s true. And neither do his friends or the rest of the family. I think he went into the ceramics shop because it’s named ‘Sylvia’s,’” said McCown’s sister Teresa Lee. “My mom’s name, expecting a woman.”

Lee doesn’t want him to be remembered as the “mistaken” victim in a string of unsolved murders.

Mick McCown still remembered fondly by family, friends and fellow musicians.

*         *        *

Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.

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