The Grisly Story Of The Missoula Mauler — And How A Would-Be Victim Ended His Crime Spree

Believed to have killed at least six people between 1974 and 1986, Wayne Nance only stopped his reign of terror when he was fatally shot by a would-be victim.

Wayne Nance

Missoula County Sheriff’s OfficeWayne Nance is believed to have taken six victims before he was shot to death in 1986.

Known as “The Missoula Mauler,” Wayne Nance shot and stabbed his victims, often raping them beforehand. Between 1974 and 1986, he invaded homes across from Montana, slipping out of the shadows long enough to take someone’s life, only to quickly escape back into the night.

Eventually, it wasn’t the police who ended his six-victim crime spree, but a heroic couple Nance had failed to kill. Wayne Nance’s last crime was the invasion of his boss’s home. Although Nance plunged an eight-inch blade into the man’s chest, beat him over the head, and raped his wife, the man managed to survive — and shoot Nance dead.

It was only then, after taking a sample of Wayne Nance’s DNA, that police realized this was the previously-unidentified Missoula Mauler they had been chasing all along.

The Murders Of Wayne Nance

Born on Oct. 18, 1955, in Missoula, Montana, Wayne Nathan Nance grew up in a mobile home outside of town. With a father employed as a trucker and a mother who worked as a waitress, Nance was a latchkey kid who nonetheless excelled at school.

Aerial View Of Missoula

City of MissoulaNance killed at least six people in Missoula between 1974 and 1986.

While the motive remains unclear, Wayne Nance committed his first murder at 18. It was on April 11, 1974, that he invaded the home of Harvey Pounds while the Bethel Baptist Church deacon was at work. Tragically, his wife, Donna, was home alone.

As a regular visitor and family friend, Nance knew where Pounds’s .22-caliber Luger was. He snuck into the bedroom and retrieved the gun, then tied Donna up and raped her at gunpoint. Then he led her into the basement and fired five bullets into her head. While a neighbor reported seeing Nance near the house that night, the information alone was of no use.

Police found bloody underwear in the home, but they couldn’t identify where it came from, as it had been washed. Suddenly, Harvey Pounds himself became a suspect in his own wife’s murder, with suspicion compounded by the fact that he was in the middle of an affair. Insufficient evidence against either party ultimately turned the murder into a cold case — and thus began the Missoula Mauler’s reign of terror.

Wayne Nance Mug Shot

Missoula County Sheriff’s OfficeWayne Nance’s driver’s license photo.

The body of a raped and stabbed teenage girl was found near Beavertail Hill State Park five years later. She matched no missing person’s report, however, and was thus dubbed “Betty Beavertail” until 1985 — when she was identified as 15-year-old Seattle runaway Devonna Nelson.

In 1984, Nance was working as a bouncer at Missoula’s Cabin bar. He was also dating a 16-year-old drifter named Marcella Bachmann, who also went by “Robin.” The couple announced they would leave town in September to start anew somewhere else. Three months after they did, Robin’s body was found in Missoula’s woods.

The pathologist could not only tell that she had died of three gunshots to the head, but that she had been decomposing for three months. Dubbed “Debbie Deer Creek,” after the crime scene, she was only identified as Bachmann by DNA tests in 2006.

Wayne Nance’s Bloodiest Home Invasion

Mike And Teresa Shook With Children

Missoula County Sheriff’s OfficeThe Shook family.

In September 1985, yet another unidentified body cropped up. “Christy Crystal Creek” had been shot twice in the head and dumped. On Dec. 12, Nance returned to his home invasions.

Mike and Teresa Shook had just eaten dinner with their three small children when Nance banged on the door. Mike was stabbed to death with a butcher knife when he opened it, while his wife was dragged to the bedroom and raped. When Nance was finished, he stabbed her to death — and set the house on fire to kill the kids.

While authorities found them alive, there was no trace of Wayne Nance — or anything linking him to the brutal home invasion. Nance soon had a job at Conlin’s Furniture, hiding in plain sight. He was decent-looking, and could’ve drifted into obscurity if he hadn’t soon returned to his violent ways.

“He, like many serial killers, was very charming, though, when he turned on the charm,” Missoula County Sheriff’s Office Detective Marta Timmon said. “He was handsome. He wasn’t bad to look at.”

The End Of Wayne Nance’s Killing Spree

Unfortunately for Wayne Nance, he was enamored with Kris Wells — the wife of his manager, Doug Wells. On Sept. 3, 1986, Doug spotted somebody skulking around his bushes and went outside to assess the situation. When Nance was discovered, he claimed he was driving by and stopped when he saw someone peering into the house.

When Doug turned to get a flashlight, Nance pistol-whipped him.

Kris And Doug Wells

Open Road MediaKris and Doug Wells survived the 1986 assault.

Kris was ordered at gunpoint to tie her husband up. Nance then tied Kris up, and dragged her to the bedroom before ordering Doug into the basement. After stabbing Doug in the chest with an eight-inch knife and thinking him dead, Nance returned to the bedroom.

Fortunately, Nance had missed Doug’s heart by about an inch. Near-death, Doug miraculously freed himself of his restraints and grabbed his .250 Savage rifle. Stumbling upstairs, he confronted Nance before shooting him in the side. Enraged and adrenalized, Doug then bashed the rapist’s skull in.

In the end, only Wayne Nance’s death allowed for authorities to link him to his crimes. In May 2021, modern DNA testing also helped identify “Christy Crystal Creek” as 23-year-old Janet Lee Lucas. It remains unclear if Nance killed her — and how many others the Missoula Mauler victimized.

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