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St. Louis serial killer pleads guilty to 2 murders, receives life sentences

Gary Muehlberg pleaded guilty to murdering Brenda Pruitt and Donna Reitmeyer in the 1990s.

ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis-area serial killer was sentenced Tuesday to two additional life sentences for the murders of two of the four women he has confessed to killing during the 1990s.

Gary Muehlberg, 74, pleaded guilty in a St. Louis County courtroom to the murders of Brenda Pruitt and Donna Reitmeyer. The two life sentences he received for their murders will run concurrently with the two other life sentences he has already been given.

He’s been in prison since 1995 after he killed a man who tried to buy a car from him. Earlier this month, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life for the murder of Sandy Little, whose remains were found inside a container in O’Fallon, Missouri.

Reitmeyer’s nude body was found June 11, 1990, inside a rubber trash can on the sidewalk along Gasconade Street near South Broadway in St. Louis. Her body was too badly decomposed to determine a cause of death. She was 40 years old and left behind three adult daughters, including Juanita Zills, who spoke during Tuesday's hearing.

"I am grateful that you admitted to her murder,” said Zills, who also appeared at Tuesday’s hearing via Zoom. “At the end of the day, I don't understand how you could have lived with all these secrets all these years.

“I don't understand how you could watch all the families on TV crying for their people and continue to kill. But I am, however, at peace knowing that justice has been served and that I finally know what happened."

Pruitt’s body was found on Oct. 4, 1991, inside a plastic trash can on the side of the road near Page Boulevard and Interstate 270 in Maryland Heights. She had been smothered or strangled.

Her family reported her missing on May 9, 1990. She was 27 years old.

Only her granddaughter whom she never met remains, said Terry Ledbetter. He served as the lead detective on the Pruitt case for the Maryland Heights Police Department before he retired to join the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office as an investigator.

He attended Tuesday’s hearing.

“The granddaughter could not be here and for me it brings a closure professionally,” he said. “I learned from my job with Medical Examiner’s Office dealing with grieving families that it’s rare that a family member, especially a victim of violence, that this brings closure to them because they’re going to live with this for the rest of their lives but there is a lot of comfort from this.”

A man who identified himself as Muehlberg’s cousin also attended Tuesday’s hearing. He told 5 On Your Side with tears in his eyes that he needed closure, too, and left without giving his name.

It was the second of three hearings planned for the Muehlberg in which he was expected to plead guilty to four murders.

He has confessed to dumping the bodies of his victims in various containers in St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Lincoln County between 1990 and 1991. His MO earned him the nickname of the Package Killer, and he picked up all of his victims along what was once known as the Cherokee Street stroll.

The identity of a fifth woman he claims he killed remains unknown.

Muehlberg pleaded guilty March 6 in a St. Charles County courtroom to the murder of Sandy Little. He said he strangled the 21-year-old to death and put her body inside a dresser that was found along a highway in O’Fallon.

All of the cases came together after O’Fallon police Sgt. Jodi Weber sent evidence from the scene of Robin Mihan’s murder in Lincoln County to be tested for DNA. In early 2022, DNA experts at the St. Charles County Crime Lab got a full DNA profile from that evidence, which is required to run it through a national database of criminals called CODIS.

Muehlberg has been in prison since 1995 for killing a man at his Bel-Ridge home who tried to buy a car from him in 1993.

Prosecutors from St. Louis County, St. Charles County and Lincoln County sent letters to Muehlberg assuring him they would not seek the death penalty and that nothing about his current conditions in prison would change in exchange for a full confession.

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