In March 2008, our community mourned the unthinkable slayings of a woman and child. Neighbors and others across Omaha struggled to comprehend what kind of evil could take the life of a housekeeper and a young boy.
Shirlee Sherman, 57, was doing her job when evil walked in with a briefcase. Thomas Hunter was just 11 years old, a King Science and Technology Magnet Center student, the son of a Creighton doctor, when he was killed.
Five years later, long after the trail had gone cold, Omaha coped with the slayings of two more people tied to the Creighton medical community.
Dr. Roger Brumback and his wife Mary, both 65, were about to embark on a retirement adventure together when a cold-blooded killer came calling.
There were some similarities between the cases, and the Omaha Police Department, working with local, state and federal authorities, formed a task force to comb for clues that might link all four deaths. Police Chief Todd Schmaderer prioritized the cases and warned that he wouldn't want this task force coming after him. Two months later, we see why.
The group's work led to this week's arrest of an Indiana man who was fired years ago from the Creighton medical residency program that was then overseen by Thomas' father and Dr. Brumback.
The investigations involved painstaking police work over the years. They followed hundreds of leads, some that crossed international borders, and identified a number of suspects.
OPD and its law enforcement partners took any and all necessary steps to bring a possible serial killer to justice. They are to be commended for their hard work, their perseverance and for investing the needed staff time and resources.
“We did not feel this individual would stop unless an arrest was made,” Schmaderer said.
If indeed the man in custody proves to be tied to these crimes, an entire community left wondering about the killer in their midst will find some peace.
The Dundee neighborhood can get back to emphasizing its many strengths and stop watching “America's Most Wanted.” Most importantly, families mourning the horrific losses of loved ones can pray for some measure of justice.
Five years later, there's no reasonable explanation for what happened in March 2008 and May 2013. But there will be a day in court, and for that, we can thank those involved in such smart police work.