COURTESY KORKY SANDERS
Robyn Mihan was abducted from the Southside Stroll in March 1990.
The Package Killer murders began on March 22, 1990, when police say Muehlberg abducted Robyn Mihan from the stroll.
Mihan, already a mother of two at 18, had established a call-girl phone line with her friend Faye Sparks as a way to make money via sex work while avoiding the worst perils of walking the street. However, on that night, the escort service’s phone sat silent in its cradle. Mihan, in the grips of severe crack cocaine addiction, was desperate for money.
“I told her to take a Valium and come down, crash,” says her brother Tommy, who worked security for his sister and Sparks as he battled his own addiction. “Instead, she went to the stroll. She took Faye with her.”
Mihan and Sparks parked on Texas Avenue near Cherokee Street. As a rule, when one of the women got in a man’s car, she would ask him to circle the block once so the other woman could get a look at the car and its driver. This provided a measure of security. But it didn’t always work. That night, Mihan went around the corner onto Cherokee Street looking for a customer, and Sparks sat in the car, waiting for a drive-by that never happened.
Gary Muehlberg had abducted his first victim.
Now 66, Larry Kennedy knew Gary Muehlberg in the early 1990s when the two hung out at the same diner in Overland. Kennedy remembers Muehlberg as a condescending narcissist, twice divorced and openly feared by his then-girlfriend, a diner waitress.
“He was always staring down at somebody,” Kennedy says of Muehlberg, who stands at 6 feet 3 inches. “Gary didn’t like anybody who didn’t respect the way Gary lived.”
Robyn Mihan with baby.
Muehlberg worked construction both in St. Louis and around the country. Various people who knew him tell the RFT
he was a creepy man with a hostile demeanor who often espoused bizarre ideas. When he was in town, he lived in a rundown house on an out-of-the-way street in Bel-Ridge. According to a 1993 police report, his home was defined by its filth, disarray and a basement where he maintained a “secret room.”
Given what we know now, that basement became what was almost certainly a torture chamber for Robyn Mihan, a place where Muehlberg murdered her.
Joe Burgoon, a St. Louis city detective in the early 1990s who now works cold cases, says that Mihan’s body was found with quite a bit of blood and a ligature around her neck. There was a stab wound to the head that pierced the scalp but didn’t go through and contusions on her face, cheek, wrist and feet. Some of these were defensive wounds, implying a struggle. Others were postmortem. “My guess was she was in pain,” Burgoon told the RFT
Korky Sanders, a former boyfriend of Mihan’s, was shown photos of her corpse taken by the medical examiner. The photos show unthinkable torture that still haunts Sanders 30 years later. “Whoever did that to Robyn deserves to be sent to hell the same way he sent Robyn to heaven,” Sanders says.
Four days after abducting Mihan, Muehlberg dumped her lifeless body along State Highway E, 60 miles northwest of St. Louis in Lincoln County. He’d tied two mattresses around her remains, leaving a gory scene soon found by a lone commuter.
Maze and Jones made a similarly gruesome discovery seven months later on October 5, 1990.
Courtesy Antinelle Pruitt
It would take months of painstaking work to identify the decomposed remains, but a dedicated fingerprint analyst named Janet Majors eventually found they belonged to 27-year-old Brenda Pruitt, whose family had reported her missing on May 5, 1990, five months to the day before her body was found. She lived near the intersection of South Grand Boulevard and Cherokee Street.
Pruitt’s granddaughter Antinelle Jackson says neither she nor her sister, also named Brenda, know very much about their grandmother. “Nobody ever talks about her because it’s too painful,” Jackson says.
Jackson did recall one ominous story she’d heard from her mom about one of the last times Pruitt was seen alive.
Pruitt took Jackson’s mom, Danielle, out for ice cream on Cherokee Street. While the nine-year-old ate, Pruitt got in an argument with a man in an alley. Pruitt came back to her daughter in tears.
Shortly after that, Danielle didn’t see her mom for weeks, and the family filed the missing-person report.
The ice cream story has become family lore, and Brenda Pruitt’s granddaughters can’t help but wonder if the man their grandmother got into an argument with was Muehlberg.
“My mother, Danielle, died three years ago,” the younger Brenda Pruitt says. “She was depressed her whole life. She was very scared, with anxiety through the roof. This man has caused us more agony than I could ever explain.”
Muehlberg worked for Cherick Construction, a company headquartered in Maryland Heights. Authorities long suspected that the Package Killer may have been employed in construction. The killer used Conex cable, a material used by electricians to wire houses, to tie the mattresses around Mihan’s body and to tie the trash bag over the bin containing Pruitt.
Detectives interviewed employees of Beiner Hardware, where the trash bin Pruitt was found in had been purchased. They identified a semi-regular who may have bought the bins. Police showed the employees photos of three suspects. The employees didn’t recognize any of them, and none of the suspects was Muehlberg.
By the time Pruitt’s body was discovered in Maryland Heights in October, Muehlberg had already abducted his next victim, Sandy Little, whom Muehlberg held captive in his Bel-Ridge house. Police believe Little shared the basement with Pruitt’s dead body.
“He had two people,” Burgoon, the former detective, told the RFT
in 2019. “Whoever it was had a couple of bodies at the same time.” Little, 21, disappeared Labor Day weekend 1990 from the Southside Stroll and was found dead five months later, on February 17, 1991, in O’Fallon, Missouri, 30 miles west of St. Louis. A motorist on his way to work that morning discovered her body alongside Interstate 70, crammed in a home-fashioned box.
“He was smart about where he dumped the bodies,” Burgoon said in 2019. “He knew to spread them out across jurisdictions to make things harder for us.”
In addition to the Conex cable, other physical evidence connected the murders of Pruitt, Mihan and Little. The three women had hair from the same type of dog on the clothes they were found in, meaning they were likely held in close proximity to the same animal. According to a 1993 police report, Muelhberg did indeed have a dog in the early 1990s.
All women were found with ligatures around their necks, their faces covered.
Like Mihan and Pruitt, Little was also a new mother when Muehlberg allegedly killed her. She’d given birth to her son Chris Day Jr. in 1989.
In the months prior to her death, Little lived with her infant son and her boyfriend, Chris Day, in Day’s mom’s apartment above an antique store at Nebraska and Cherokee streets. A sense of duty to her newborn son motivated Little to get clean and get a more stable job. She died wearing the tattered remains of the uniform from her fast-food job.
But her old life still beckoned. Day says Little worked the stroll in 1990, and he was at her side, himself hustling for clients. He kept an eye on her, and she kept an eye on him. But the night she was abducted, he was locked up in city jail.
“I’ve never been able to go visit her grave,” he says. “I couldn’t face her. Now I guess I’ll have to.”