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Officials Seek to Track Down 60 Killings : Crime: The nationwide probe of unsolved deaths is aimed at determining if a confessed slayer is telling the truth about being a serial murderer.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Investigators across the nation Wednesday began combing unsolved murder cases seeking to determine whether a confessed murderer from Texas is telling the truth about killing more than 60 people while roaming the country during a 10-year period.

Donald Leroy Evans, 34, of Galveston, Tex., made the claims after he confessed to recently kidnaping a 10-year-old girl from a Gulfport, Miss., beach and then murdering her, authorities said.

To verify that confession, Evans confessed to dozens of murders in other states, officials said. They included California, Florida, Texas, Alabama, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, the Carolinas and perhaps Georgia. Evans said that the killings began in 1977, after he left the Marine Corps, officials reported.

“We’re in the process of organizing a task force to follow up on leads from other states,” said Jenny Smith, media coordinator for the U.S. attorney’s office in Jackson, Miss.

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As the task force takes shape, law enforcement officials in several states said in telephone interviews that they were comparing the facts of cases with what Evans has told investigators in Mississippi.

Kati Corsaut, information officer for the California Department of Justice, confirmed that “we are involved” in the investigation but noted that no specific town has been cited as the site of a murder. Officials in Alabama, Florida and Illinois also confirmed their involvement.

Three killings and their sites have been specified: The Gulfport girl, Beatrice Louise Routh, whose body was found Sunday, and two women who were killed in Florida in 1985.

In Ft. Lauderdale, Ott Cefkin, a police department spokesman, cited the murder of a prostitute, saying there were “unusual aspects, forensically,” to the crime and adding that investigators are seeking “a detailed statement through the FBI” from Evans.

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Sgt. Bill Tillard, public information officer for the Daytona Beach Police Department, said that investigators are focusing on the case of a Pennsylvania woman.

In light of Evans’ claim, Tillard said, his department is eager “to see what he has to say.”

In Atlanta, Larry Wheeler, assistant deputy director for investigations at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, said that Evans claims he committed a murder that “involves a highway.”

Wheeler said that the confession “ran our antenna up,” but he added that he does not know the “pecking order” of states that want information on unsolved murders.

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FBI officials were circumspect on that matter, saying in a statement: “This investigation is in its early stages and will be strictly controlled and organized in the dissemination of information provided by Evans. No final conclusions have been reached at this point.”

Several officials recalled the case of another Texan, Henry Lee Lucas, who confessed to 100 murders but recanted, explaining that he liked the publicity. Officials in some cities closed cases based on the confessions, but others did not.

Beatrice Routh was kidnaped on Aug. 1. Evans reportedly has admitted raping her and strangling her with a rope in Covington, La., then dumping her body in Mississippi. He was arrested on Aug. 5 in Louisiana, driving a stolen car.

Evans’ confessions, made public this week, came about a month after a Milwaukee man, Jeffrey L. Dahmer, confessed to murdering 17 people since 1978. If Evans is telling the truth, he would lay claim to killing more people than any other serial killer in U.S. history.

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Evans has asked for the death penalty, according to his court-appointed attorney, Fred Lusk.

Lusk told reporters that Evans, a convicted rapist who was paroled in Texas earlier this year, “definitely knows right from wrong. He’s rational. He fits your description of a middle-aged Caucasian with above-average intelligence.”

Lusk said that Evans “insists on talking. He’s the director. He’s doing what he wants to do. He told me, ‘I want to die.’ ”

Staff researcher Edith Stanley contributed to this story.

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