It’s certainly unheard of for a serial killer to be killed by his intended victim. Nevertheless, that’s exactly what happened to suspected serial killer, Wayne Nance, in 1986.
Nance was born in Missoula, Montana, in 1955. His mother worked as a waitress while his father worked as a trucker. The young family lived in a mobile home just on the outskirts of town. While young Nance excelled in school, often earning A’s and B’s, he had a hot temper and was known as a troublemaker. Nevertheless, he sailed through grade school and high school.1
While considered a bit peculiar, Nance was well-liked around the town.
Living several houses down from the Nance family was the Pounds family. Donna worked part time at a Chrstian book store in Missoula while Harvey worked at Yandt’s Men’s Store. The couple were extremely religious with Harvey being the deacon of the Bethel Baptist Church. They had three children, Kenny, Karen, 20, and Kathy, 12.
It was the 11th of April 1974 when Donna was home alone; Harvey and Karen were at work, Kenny was in the army and Kathy was at school. A man crept into the family home, retrieved Harvey’s .22 calibre Luger and approached Donna in the bedroom. He tied her up in a spreadeagle position on the bed with clothesline which he had brought along with him. After raping the terrified woman, he took her down to the basement, pushed her under the stairs and then shot her five times in the back of the head.
A neighbour told police that she had seen a man who looked like Nance in the vicinity of the Pounds’ home that afternoon. Furthermore, Nance was a regular at the house and knew exactly where the .22 calibre Luger was kept. When police arrived to question him, he denied any involvement and claimed he had been sick in bed all day.
Police executed a search warrant of his home and discovered a bloodstained pair of underwear which had recently been washed. While the bloodstain was identified as coming from a human, they could not determine who it had come from. While Nance was considered a likely suspect, they could find no physical evidence to connect him to the case. Another suspect at the time was Harvey. It was uncovered that he had been having an affair which hinted towards a potential motivation. Nevertheless, police could find no evidence to connect him to his wife’s murder.
The case gradually went cold.
In 1979, railroad workers discovered the badly decomposed body of a young woman near the I-90 in Missoula. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death. She was caucasian and wore a flower-print dress. Police searched through missing person reports but were unable to identify her. Therefore, she became known as “Betty Beavertail.”
In the summer of 1984, Nance became romantically involved with a woman from out of town known only as Robin. The duo dated throughout the summer and then in September, the couple left town, presumably to start their own family.
Just shy of three months later, a wildlife photographer trudging through the woodland of Missoula came across a grisly scene. Poking out from the earth was a human foot. Police arrived at the scene and unearthed the body of a young woman. The pathologist determined that she had been dead for around three months. Police trawled through missing person reports yet none matched the features of the dead woman. Whoever she was, she had met a brutal death; there were three gunshot wounds to her head. With no identification, she became known as Debbie Deer Creek.
Then in September of 1985, a bear hunter found skeletal remains scattered across a hillside in West Missoula. She had two bullets lodged into her skull. She had no personal items which could identify her and she became known as “Christy Crystal Creek.”2 Forensic experts at the time theorised that she was likely of Asian ethnicity and had dental work unique to Asia. She was likely left-handed and took care of her teeth.
The following year on the 12th of December, 1985, Mike and Teresa Shook and their three young children had just finished up their dinner when they heard a violent knock on their front door. When Mike opened the door, a man lunged at him with a butcher knife, stabbing him to death. Teresa was dragged to the bedroom where she was tied up and then raped and stabbed to death. Afterwards, the man set the house on fire in a bid to conceal evidence but miraculously, the Shook’s three children escaped the blaze unharmed.
Meanwhile, Nance had gotten himself a job at Conlin’s Furniture, where he worked as a delivery driver. His store manager was Kris Wells and he was said to have developed a crush on the married woman. One night in September of 1986, Kris and her husband, Doug, were returning home. It was around midnight when Doug thought he spotted somebody lurking outside their home in the darkness of the night. He went to inspect and sure enough, he found Nance in the bushes. Nance explained to Doug that he had been driving past when he thought he saw somebody looking into their window.
Nance asked Doug to go inside and get a flashlight for them to investigate further. However, when Doug turned his back, Nance struck him on the back of his head with a gun. Doug fell to the floor, bleeding profusely from the wound. The two men struggled on the floor as Kris rushed to see what all the commotion was about. Nance pointed the gun at her and forced her to tie her husband’s hands and feet before Nance tied hers. With Doug and Kris bound, Nance took Kris to the bedroom and tied her to the bed.
Nance then turned his attention back on Doug. With his hands and feet tied, he forced Doug down to the basement. Here, Nance tied Doug’s neck to a pole before lifting out an eight-inch butcher knife. Nance plunged the knife into Doug’s chest, just missing his heart by centimeters. Believing that Doug was dead, Nance then went back upstairs and headed towards the bedroom where he had tied Kris up.
But Doug wasn’t dead. Despite the beating and the stab wound to the chest, Doug was still alive and still conscious. Doug managed to free himself from the binds and retrieved his Savage 250 rifle. He staggered up the stairs and confronted Nance. Doug shot Nance once in the side and he dropped to the ground. As Nance attempted to get back up, Doug began to batter him with the rifle. He continued to do so until Nance stopped moving and his head was a bloody mess.
Both Nance and Doug were rushed to the hospital. Nance died of his injuries but miraculously, Doug survived.
After Nance’s death, authorities uncovered that this attempted slaying wasn’t an isolated incident. Nance was linked to six different murders. In his home, police discovered a photograph of him with Marci Bachman. When Marci was 16-years-old, she went missing from Vancouver, leaving behind a family who had no clue about her fate. Her family recollected that Marci was a “kind and gentle and loving individual.”3
Then in 2006, DNA testing showed that the woman known as Debbie Deer Creek was Marci. Furthermore, an investigation uncovered that the young woman known as “Robin” in Missoula was also Marci, indicating that almost as soon as she left town with Nance, he killed her. Robin had been a pseudonym Marci used after running away from home.4 In his home, they found evidence which connected him to her murder.
In 2009, Betty Beavertail was identified as 14-year-old Devonna Nelson, a runaway who had been hitchhiking through Missoula from Seattle. Christy Crystal Creek still remains unidentified but its presumed that she too was a victim of Nance.
The true number of victims attributed to Nance is unknown, but it’s safe to say he certainly never expected to meet his demise with the same violence he showed his victims. However, unlike his victims, he was deserving of it.
In May of 2021, Christy Crystal Creek was identified as Janet Lee Lucas. She grew up in California and Washington and had a son who was five-years-old when she vanished. He had spent much of his adult life searching for his mother.
- The Toronto Sun, 25 October, 1992 – “They Survived”
- Montana Kaimin, 1 April, 2019 – “The Nameless”
- The Columbian, 19 April, 2006 – “Vancouver Girl Found Death in 1984 Deemed Victim of Serial Killer”
- The Billings Gazette, 17 April, 2006 – “Cold Case Research Yields ID of 1984 Murder Victim”