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Relative's tip leads to suspects in serial killings

Updated:
GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) _ Few connections seemed evident in the case files of a casino patron's death in Mississippi and the slayings of women taken from truck stops across the country.

That was until the relative of a long haul truck driver watched a crime show detailing the death of Casey Jo Pipestem, a Shawnee, Okla., woman whose nude body was found in January 2004 off a bridge in Grapevine.

Now detectives from around the country are investigating John Robert Williams, 28, and his partner, Rachel Cumberland, 35, in the truck stop killings, including Pipestem's death.

After a family member of Williams watched a June 4 episode of America's Most Wanted, she called the show's hotline. The relative explained the killing sounded like one that Williams boasted about.

``As much work as all the investigators had done on these cases, I just knew that one day we would get a break,'' said Grapevine Detective Larry Hallmark, assigned to a multi-state task force investigating the truck stop killings. ``That tip was it.''

Williams had worked for several companies during the past three years and Cumberland rode with him.

Pipestem, a 19-year-old member of the Seminole tribe, was last spotted at an Oklahoma City truck stop days before her body was discovered in the North Texas suburb.

By the time police got tip, Williams and Cumberland had been charged in the August 2004 shooting death of Nikki Hill, the woman they had met at the casino.

Earlier this month, Williams was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to the kidnapping and murder of Hill. Cumberland pleaded guilty to manslaughter and got a 20-year sentence.

Initially, their arrests last year in that case didn't draw much attention from investigators because the pattern didn't seem to fit the truck stop killings, Hallmark said.

But when Grapevine police investigators received the tip, Hallmark and Sgt. Bob Murphy traveled to Mississippi to talk to the couple. In late June, they spent 11 hours interviewing them _ eight hours with Williams and three with Cumberland.

``They were very talkative,'' Hallmark said. ``You have to be careful because when you get someone that talkative you discover that 30 percent is the truth and 70 percent is not,'' Hallmark said.
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