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I-71 murder victim talked with police before disappearing

LEBANON, Ohio -- Federal authorities have offered their assistance in the investigation into a string of prostitute slayings along Interstate 71 in southwest Ohio.

'We have been in contact with the FBI in Columbus in that regard and at this point they have offered their cooperation,' Warren County Sheriff James Collins said Tuesday.

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A police officer in suburban Youngstown said the latest victim in the series of four slayings had offered to provide information about the killings but he said she disappeared before giving any details.

Anne Marie Patterson, 27, of Findlay, had told the officer she had some sketchy information about who may have been responsible for killing three other known prostitutes who frequented truck stops in the Youngstown area. She made the general statement after being arrested Feb. 7 for criminal trespassing at truck stop in Austintown.

But Patterson, who said she was afraid she would be killed if she relayed information to investigators, disappeared the next day and was found beaten to death last week along Interstate 71.

Collins said the locations where the women were last seen and the nature of their deaths led to speculation that the slayings are the work of a serial killer.

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'I don't think we can say we've established as fact that they were murdered by the same person, but I think anyone who looks at the circumstances ... would say there's a basis for investigating that possibility,' Collins said.

The first murder victim, Marcia Matthews, 25, of Akron, was found dead in June 1985 along Interstate 71 in Richland County. The body of Shirley Taylor, 22, of Virginia, was discovered July 20, 1986, in a rest area on the highway. The third victim, April Barnett, 18, of Akron, was found strangled Dec. 4, 1986, near an Interestate 71 rest area in Ashland County.

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