A guilty plea Tuesday by Roger Reece Kibbe, now 70, who became known as the I-5 strangler, finally puts to rest many of the questions surrounding the 1977 slaying of 21-year-old Lou Ellen Burleigh (left). The Walnut Creek woman was last seen on September 11, 1977 on her way to a job interview at a Pleasant Hill shopping center on Contra Costa Boulevard.
Kibbe (below) was already serving 25 to life in San Quentin State Prison for the 1987 murder of a 17-year-old West Sacramento prostitute, whose body was found at Echo Summit in El Dorado County. He had also been indicted on six other killings that took place between 1977 and 1986, including the killing of Burleigh. Kibbe received his nickname for committing some of his crimes along Interstate 5.
By pleading guilty to these crimes, Kibbe, who was eligible for the death penalty, is avoiding it. Investigators hope that he will provide key details about these crimes.
At the time of her death, Burleigh was living on Walnut Creek’s Oakland Boulevard and working for Heald Business College in Oakland. According to the Charley Project, she answered a call from a man hoping to open a new office for Helena Rubenstein Cosmetics in Pleasant Hill. He boasted a secretarial position that included an attractive salary and travel opportunities.
Burleigh’s initial appointment with the man was to take place September 10 at the Regency Plaza Shopping Center on Contra Costa Boulevard. She met with a man at that location, but he told her that the office was still under construction, so he invited her inside his van for the interview. Although uncomfortable, Burleigh agreed, had the interview, and reported back that the interview went well. She said the man asked her to return the next day, on September 11. She reportedly made it to the shopping center, but was never seen from nor heard from again. Her 1972 Audi was found in the shopping center parking lot.
Authorities, already believing that Kibbe was the I-5 killer, also suspected him in Burleigh’s disappearance. He was indicated for her murder in 2008.