To his neighbors, Wayne Nance, a furniture mover from Missoula, Montana, appeared to be an affable, considerate, and trustworthy guy. No one knew that Nance was the “Missoula Mauler,” a psychopath responsible for a series of sadistic sex slayings that rocked the idyllic town between 1974 and 1986.
Nance’s only requirement for murder was accessibility—a preacher’s wife, a teenage runaway, a female acquaintance, a married couple. Putting on a friendly façade, he could easily gain his victims’ trust. Then, one September night, thirty-year-old Nance pushed his luck, preying on a couple who lived to tell the tale.
A true story with an incredible twist, written by former Wall Street Journal editor John Coston and complete with photos, To Kill and Kill Again reveals the disturbing compulsions of a charming serial killer who fooled everyone he knew, stumped the authorities, terrified a community, and nearly got away with it.
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To Kill and Kill Again
By John Coston
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1992 John Coston
All rights reserved.
A Girl Named Robin
The big truck's chassis heaved under its own weight, coming to rest. The driver jettisoned the remaining air in the brakes, punctuating the silence of the parking lot with the chisel-like sound of escaping air. In the next automatic move, he swiveled to face the girl who sat across from him, pointing to the door handle, signaling for her to get out.
At first she hesitated. Then he raised his voice, motioning again toward the door.
There was no point in delay. The girl collected herself and began angling her way out. She didn't bother to say good-bye, or even to thank him for the ride. She just slid off the seat, out the door, and down the long step to the pavement, listening to the monster engine rev, watching as the rig inched back onto the highway, shifting sequentially into higher gears, crawling away into the night.
It was late summer in the Rockies. She tugged at the collar of her beaten raincoat, shielding her throat against the cold, studying her next move in the same moment that she was dismissing the significance of having lost her ride. It was over some stupid argument. But there was always another ride, another cup of coffee, another cheeseburger with fries. Down the road. Wherever that would be.
After the truck was gone, she saw that she had been dumped on a football-field sized asphalt parking lot. It was a truck stop, and the sign high overhead told her it was Taber's. Through a milky, vaporous light, she could make out the inside of the restaurant. It was deserted. A car sped past, followed by a loud pickup truck. Then, in an interval of silence, her attention focused across the highway, where an inviting hubbub beckoned.
To her left, the spotlighted sign of the Reno Inn promised fine food and drink, although it didn't appear to be any kind of sure bet. Without enough money even for a beer, she scanned further. Directly across from Taber's she could see the dark outline of a more promising target. The sign outside said it was the Cabin, and it was obvious from the comings and goings of its customers that it was a cowboy bar with a much grainier edge than Reno's. It would do just fine. And she wasted no time in crossing the road.
Her name was Robin.
It was late August of 1984. The place was the strip in East Missoula, a truck town just east of Missoula, Montana, and a place where trouble is always waiting to happen. As she neared the entrance to the Cabin, her eyes targeted the bouncer at the door. He wore a big smile and she couldn't help noticing his handsome physique, evident under a tight, Star Wars T-shirt worn with the sleeves cut off.
His name was Wayne. He recognized right away that this girl was from out of town. She told him that she had just been kicked off a truck after she had gotten into an argument with the trucker. She didn't have any money. That was not surprising, either, given the slept-in appearance of her trench coat. He also could see that she had beautiful, pearly white, perfect teeth. She said her name was Robin. About five-foot-four, she had auburn hair, which she had recently dyed and — maybe partly because she was heavy set, probably weighing close to 140 pounds — very large breasts, which he couldn't help but notice.
Wayne poured on the charm and in no time had escorted Robin inside, bought her a beer, and was getting to know more about this new arrival. When the obvious question arose — where would she be staying? — Wayne offered the solution. He invited her back to his house, which was no more than three blocks away.
Wayne was not the only person who noticed Robin on this night. Julie Slocum, a barmaid who had harbored a crush on Wayne for four years, was at first curious about the ragamuffin that Wayne towed into the Cabin. When it became clear Wayne planned to take Robin home after work, Julie was more than curious. She was outraged. Her jealousy flared as she studied the short, dark-haired, heavy-set stranger. To her, it was not surprising that this new girl found Wayne attractive. He was the super guy who would go outside after work and scrape the ice from everybody's windshield and brush the snow off their cars, who would show up at her doorstep with flowers behind his back, and remember her birthday with a card and a present, and not forget her on Valentine's Day, either. When Julie's sister had a baby, Wayne gave Julie a stuffed animal to pass on to the new mother he didn't even know. He was like a sweet brother to her.
And Julie had always figured that Wayne's disinterest in any romance with her was pegged to the fact that she was heavy set. Julie knew Wayne well enough to know that he always seemed to end up with "fat broads," as he would call them, but she knew he didn't like it. So why was he in pursuit of this one? What did he see in this no-name drifter? Wayne never asked anyone to go home with him. Julie had been invited into Wayne's home, had been in his room, a private sanctuary that she knew only a few had ever entered. What was going on? Wayne never took anyone home. Ever.
But he did that night. And when Wayne and Robin left together at closing time, Julie planned to check things out the next day. She would stop at Wayne's house in the afternoon and try to figure out what Wayne saw in this girl, who, it seemed, was so much like herself, even in age.
Home for Wayne was a one-story ranch-style house on Minnesota Avenue, a straightaway dotted with stop signs; trailer homes, some of them haphazardly built up as disguised frame structures; and the odd, plain, one-story house, like his own, where he lived with his father. The number of parked vehicles — cars, pickups, semis, motor homes, and even flatbed trailers — typified a struggle for affluence among working-class poor who spent little or no time tending to a front lawn.
On the night he invited Robin to crash at 715 Minnesota Avenue, his father, George, a long-haul trucker, wasn't home. He was out on the road. Julie knew that Wayne might have hesitated bringing a girl home with him if his father were there because George, it seemed to her, had Wayne on a pretty tight leash. It been this way for years, especially when Wayne's mother was alive.
But now, even though Wayne was a grown man who was twenty-nine years old, had been in the Navy, and held a full-time day job in addition to his part-time bouncing at the Cabin, he was always ready to jump through hoops for his father. He would suddenly leave a party to get home because he said his father wanted him home early. Or he would leap for the phone at work whenever his father called. It was unnatural, Julie thought. But, then, who was she to judge? She liked George. Just as much as she liked Wayne's mother, Charlene, whom she had worked with at the Cabin until her death in 1980. And she liked Bill, Wayne's brother, who also had been a bouncer at the Cabin and who had gotten Wayne the part-time night job.
Wayne's day job was at Conlin's Furniture, a giant warehouse store in Missoula, where he made local deliveries and worked as a warehouseman. Julie knew the particulars of Wayne's life well enough to know that he would be around in the afternoon when she stopped to check things out, because it would be his day off from Conlin's.
Julie fidgeted as she sat there, lounging in George's favorite armchair, listening to Wayne and watching with precision as his glances darted frequently at Robin. The conversation was circuitous and nervous. Neither Wayne nor Julie, who up to this time, she thought, were two kindred spirits, brought up the subject: Where was this girl from? How long was she going to stay? What would George have to say about it?
"So what are you guys up to today?" Julie asked without much real interest.
"We haven't figured it out, yet," Wayne answered, throwing a smile at Robin.
That was the kind of friendly chatter the three of them shared. They were visiting, presumably getting to know one another, but actually they were not. As the conversation rolled along, Wayne and Julie offered bits and pieces of their personal histories, all of which Julie already knew. She and Wayne had spent hours together. On more than one occasion, they had stayed out all night to watch the sunrise from the promontory at the top of Deer Creek. They spent many evenings together, sometimes getting a little drunk or a little high, looking across the Clark Fork River at the modest glimmer of light emanating from the little town of Bonner. They were drinking pals who took off for the riverbank on hot summer days to slug Charlie Birches, Wayne's favorite mixture of vodka and root beer, or Booze Milk, a concoction of vodka and milk. They went to the movies, even the drive-in, together, and they spent a lot of their free time just driving around in the woods, high on pot, having a good time.
As a matter of pride, Julie didn't want to appear to be digging for information about Robin. So she didn't pry until Wayne left the room.
"Where're you from?"
Robin was a friendly type. She of course told Julie where home was, but Julie was still preoccupied with knowing more about the relationship of these two newfound lovers. She would only recall later that she thought Robin said she was from Texas, or that she had been in Texas for a while. One thing was certain. Robin didn't have an accent of any noticeable type.
The conversation drifted to more serious topics: men, marriage, and children. Julie felt right at home talking to Robin about these things. And Robin helped cement a ready bond by volunteering the information that she had almost had a child. But she didn't. Robin told Julie that she had recently had an abortion. All Julie would later recall about that private moment of what she describes as "girl talk" with Robin is that Robin had no immediate plans, had just been booted off a long-haul truck by the driver, with whom she had some kind of argument, and that she probably would be hanging around with Wayne for awhile.
A day and a half later, Julie stopped in again. In fact, for the first couple of weeks after Robin's arrival, Julie made it a practice to drop in every other day. The visits didn't shed much light on the relationship. She could see that George had welcomed the girl into the house. Because Robin had no clothes except what she had on her back, he offered to buy her some jeans and shoes, in trade for doing some of the housework.
"Christ, this was Wayne's home," George would recall later. "I can't say 'You can't bring nobody home.' He had his own room. She was broke. She didn't have no clothes."
In every other way, Wayne's life seemed to change little. He worked at Conlin's by day and showed up as usual at the Cabin.
What struck Julie as different, though, was Wayne's bragging about his sex life with Robin. Julie always had the impression that girls who liked a lot of sex weren't Wayne's bag, but he bragged to her about Robin, saying she wore him out, that she gave him blisters. And because Julie was Wayne's presumed confidant, he would also tell her that he was getting disgusted by it.
To the guys who worked with Wayne at Conlin's warehouse, it was a different story. He didn't hold back in describing his relationship with the voluptuous Robin.
"We have a great sexual relationship," he bragged to Rick Mace, his boss, who had some reason to doubt the claim. Rick had always known Wayne to be shy around women.
But aside from the infrequent bragging moment, Wayne kept Robin in a low profile. He showed pictures of her to one of the saleswomen at Conlin's, but he never brought Robin into the store. Rick Mace was the only employee at Conlin's to ever meet her, and that meeting wasn't prolonged enough to be memorable. Rick had said hello to her one day as she sat in Wayne's truck.
Wayne had good reason to keep Robin in the wings. For most of the summer, he had been dating another, much younger girl. Her name was Joni Delcomte. She was a heavy-set brunette, the daughter of Jan Del, a country-and-western singer of some local renown. And Joni didn't know anything about Robin.
Joni was eighteen years old, fresh out of Missoula's new Big Sky High School, when she started dating the twenty-nine-year-old Wayne Nance, and he seemed like the nicest guy she had ever met. He was the kind of man she dreamed about marrying someday.
She first saw him at a rodeo when Rick Mace and Wayne came over to sit with Joni and her girlfriends. Wayne was charming, and he seemed so sweet. When he asked her to go out, she jumped at the invitation. They went to the movies and took long picnics together, but they spent most of their dating time that summer at bars and nightclubs, including the Cabin, listening to Joni's mother perform.
What made her believe that Wayne was the best boyfriend a girl could ever hope for was his incredibly attentive manner. Every time he came over to her house, he brought flowers. He always arrived when he said he was going to come. He painted pictures for her. He carved her name in a small rock. He was quiet and considerate, and even though Wayne was more than ten years her senior, to Joni they were just two young people in love. Wayne took her up a dirt road off Deer Creek, where they would wade barefoot in the clear mountain water. They lolled on the warm grassy stream bank, picnicking and petting, drinking Miller Lite. Joni had no way of knowing that Robin was back at the house doing the housework for Wayne and his dad, waiting for Wayne to return.
One night, when they were alone in Joni's house, the necking and petting got more serious. It was the first time they had ever made love. But to Joni, it seemed it was over just as it had begun. Wayne acted strangely. Just as soon as Wayne had made love to her, he was getting up and getting dressed. He wouldn't look her in the eye. He seemed embarrassed.
"Good-night," was all he said. Then he left.
Joni didn't read much into the fact that he had made such a quick exit. Maybe, she thought, he really was embarrassed about letting things progress so far.
That night, after Wayne had left, she was able to dismiss his abnormal behavior the same way she dismissed his never taking her to his house. She knew Bill, Wayne's brother, and George. She had met them at the Cabin. One day, she was sure, he would take her home. For now, she was joyously happy. She told her friends that she was going to marry Wayne. He was the kind of guy who was so incredibly aware of what women want to feel. He was the most affectionate person in the world. This was the guy.
But their one-time lovemaking session would lead nowhere. And Wayne would not, it turned out, ever invite her to his house. A couple of weeks later, after they had spent a few more nights out together, Wayne had an announcement to make. It was in early September. As he and Joni sat alone in the backyard of her mother's house, Wayne started to cry.
"I'm getting too serious about you," he told her, pausing to find the words. "I don't like how I feel when you aren't with me."
Joni knew it was coming. The breakup. But she didn't show it. She listened.
"I'm not the type to have a family and I don't like being so serious about somebody. We have to break up."
Wayne was sobbing through his words. Joni wasn't. She didn't say much, and though there were no tears, it wasn't because she wasn't hurt. She didn't want to make it any harder for Wayne. She played it cool.
As Wayne poured out his heart, blubbering away, he began to see that Joni didn't seem to be upset at all. It angered him then, but he didn't show it. Joni learned later that Wayne was angry and hurt that she didn't at least cry a little. Wayne had told her sister's boyfriend about how unaffected Joni seemed by their breakup. But Wayne and Joni remained friends, and on the few times they crossed paths afterward, it was as if there never had been a romance. Behind an opaque exterior, Wayne was playing it cool now, too.
The last time anyone saw the girl named Robin was on the night of September 28, 1984, when Wayne brought her to a party. The occasion was Julie's birthday, but it was a festive time of year anyway. Summer was over. The seasonal change that was always under way was inspiring. The days were still warm and bright. The nights were cool and clear, and the air was full of snap. With the whole town rejuvenated by the return of thousands of University of Montana students and the start of the Grizzlies' football calendar, Missoulians were characteristically upbeat.
But not Wayne. His summer flings were over.
Excerpted from To Kill and Kill Again by John Coston. Copyright © 1992 John Coston. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
- Author’s Note
- Part I
- Chapter 1: A Girl Named Robin
- Chapter 2: A Christmas Grave
- Part II
- Chapter 3: The Minister’s Wife
- Chapter 4: The Husband
- Chapter 5: A Prime Suspect
- Chapter 6: The Pentagram
- Chapter 7: A Sadistic Little Boy
- Chapter 8: A Father’s Exit
- Chapter 9: The Great Escape
- Chapter 10: The Grand Jury
- Chapter 11: A Mother’s Suicide
- Chapter 12: On the Prowl
- Chapter 13: A Split Personality
- Chapter 14: The Bear Hunter
- Chapter 15: A Really Nice Guy
- Chapter 16: A Delivery South
- Part III
- Chapter 17: Twelve Days Before Christmas
- Chapter 18: A Christmas Present
- Chapter 19: The Orphans
- Chapter 20: A Company Man
- Chapter 21: Best Friends
- Chapter 22: The Shutterbug
- Chapter 23: A Dead End
- Chapter 24: Born to Kill
- Chapter 25: A Strong Suspect in Mind
- Chapter 26: Only Time Will Tell
- Chapter 27: A Day to Remember
- Chapter 28: “Oh, God … I’m a Dead Man”
- Chapter 29: The Knife and the Elk
- Image Gallery
- About the Author
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