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Sean Patrick Goble used to disappear for a day or two while he was on the road in his 18-wheeler. His employer was never sure why.

"He'd always have an excuse like that the truck broke down or the lights weren't working," said William Stonestreet, owner of Rocky Road Express, Inc., a long-distance trucking firm. "And he'd always make up for the lost time."But Goble's disappearances suddenly made sense to Stonestreet on Thursday, when the trucker was charged with murdering a woman whose body was found along an interstate service road in Virginia in January.

Authorities said Goble admitted he strangled 45-year-old Brenda Kay Hagy of Bloomington, Ind., at a service station in eastern Tennessee and took her body to Virginia.

The death fit a pattern of killings in at least seven states, although Virginia authorities wouldn't comment on any possible links.

"The fact that he is a long-distance driver, we may be hearing from some other states where police are looking at their file of unsolved murders," said Ron Barker, the sheriff in Forsyth County, N.C.

In 1991, the FBI and authorities in several states established a task force to investigate unsolved highway slayings, many involving women like Hagy who loitered at truck stops and whose bodies were dumped along highways.

The head of the task force could not be reached for comment.