Suspected "I-5 Strangler" Roger Reece Kibbe made his second court appearance Monday, where he saw the judge who will preside over his trial on allegations of killing six women.
San Joaquin County Superior Court judge Bernard J. Garber then promptly issued a gag order that he'd prepared as soon as he learned the case would land on his bench.
Kibbe, 68, said nothing as interim Public Defender Pete Fox asked Garber for more time than usual, "in view of the extremely voluminous nature of this case."
Garber scheduled a March 17 hearing on whether to seal a stack of transcripts from grand jury proceedings.
A grand jury indicted Kibbe on six counts of rape and murder in deaths ranging from 1977 to 1986. Approximately 80 witnesses testified before the grand jury, which convened in the last week of January and issued the indictment Feb. 25.
Kibbe did not enter a plea Monday to six counts of murder, which could make him eligible for the death penalty.
He is charged with killing Lou Ellen Burleigh, 21, of Walnut Creek, in 1977, and five other deaths in 1986: Lora Heedick, 20, of Modesto; Barbara Ann Scott; Stephanie Brown, 19, of Sacramento; Charmaine Sabrah, 26, of Sacramento; and Katherine Kelly Quinones, 25, of Sacramento.
According to a true-crime book about the case, as well as media accounts of Kibbe's 1991 trial on one murder charge, the I-5 Strangler targeted women along Interstate 5. Either they broke down and he stopped to help, or he faked car troubles of his own.
The bodies were then found dumped in rural areas, including Highway 12 west of Interstate 5, where Brown's body was discovered.
The cases were investigated by a task force of San Joaquin and Sacramento county investigators, though bodies were found in other counties.
Kibbe is serving a sentence of 25 years to life for the 1987 death of 17-year-old Darcie Frackenpoehl, who disappeared from Sacramento and whose body was found in El Dorado County.
Why the case is being prosecuted in San Joaquin County is not clear, and Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau said that was a matter of grand jury testimony, which is still under seal. He made the statement before Garber issued the gag order.
Garber has previously issued gag orders in high-profile cases. Among them is the murder trial of Sarah Dutra, a college student accused of helping give her boss, Larry McNabney, a lethal dose of horse tranquilizer and putting his body in a refrigerator inside his Woodbridge garage.
The gag order means that witnesses, along with attorneys in the case, are now barred from talking to the press. Such gag orders typically last through the end of a trial.