Ch 1: The Body

It's not every day that the body of a half-naked woman lies in a yard undiscovered, but those who passed by didn't see it for nearly ten hours.

It was as if it were an insignificant clump lying off the beaten path, out of the clear line of sight of anyone who passed, obscure to anyone not specifically looking for a dead body on a trail. There was a pile of wood close by; perhaps the body was thought to be part of the debris. A peripheral scan could have seen it but associated it with the discarded boards and lumber. It was visible, but not enough to draw the attention of occupied passersby.

The body was that of a woman who had a wound on her head and stab wounds, but those who rose early that morning and walked through the path didn't notice the lifeless corpse that seemed to cry out for discovery. [1]

Those who walked along the path were focused on their destinations. They knew the path; they had walked it countless times before. There was no need to look to the side or pay attention to an unusual mass lying still in the soggy earth. It was 35 degrees, and the cold air alone forced their eyes in front of them as their feet crunched the nearly frozen grass along the path with coats pulled snuggly around them, blocking all views other than the one before them.

The bodies had grown cold long before they started their solo treks through the beaten path. Hours earlier, someone had pulled the woman off the street. She screamed and fought off the attacker, but no one heard her; if they did, they did not respond. The assailant was strong, but she proved difficult. She weighed 190 pounds and knew how to defend herself. She fought back, yelling out and reaching at him with claw-like motions, swinging her arms with a snarled look on her face. She was strong, too strong to be subdued by his strength alone, so the assailant pulled out a knife and stabbed her once in the shoulder, but she kept fighting, seemingly unscathed by the wound. He stabbed her again, grunting as he plunged the blade just below her rib cage. She slumped but kept fighting him; then he stabbed her in the neck, and instantly both of her hands reached up to grab the wound as blood began to spurt through her fingers like a fountain and flow down her hands. While she stood there, the assailant picked up a two-by-four and hit her in the head. She saw the world around her spin and turn into a fading blur as she dropped to the ground, plunging head-first into the mud.

The deed was done, but not complete. The assailant quickly started to strip off her clothing. He pulled off her black pants and a yellow and black top and dropped them to the ground. He took off the orange scarf she wore and threw it on top of the pants suit, and he tossed her pants suit jacket about three feet away. It was done calmly and methodically as if undressing her for bed or displaying her in a mortality museum for the public to see his handiwork. He then pulled down her girdle, pantyhose, and pants and left them around her ankles. He took off her brown buckle-up shoes and tossed them, unbuckled, about three feet away. Then he pulled off her bra and used it to tie her hands behind her back, leaving her in the mud with most of her clothing three feet or more away. He looked around for any incriminating evidence. There were no fingerprints because he wore gloves, no witnesses, and none of his blood. He left the board but retrieved the knife. Anyone who stumbled upon this scene would think she had been raped and murdered. They would be right about the murder but totally wrong about the rape; it's an assumption he both calculated and anticipated.

He left the body to be discovered by some unfortunate person who would pass along the path at sunrise.

As the assailant ran away from the scene, a neighbor saw him but could not recognize him. Why would anyone run from behind a house at 3 a.m., looking suspiciously guilty of something? The assailant started to chase the neighbor; he needed no witnesses, but the neighbor instinctively ran for what he thought was his life. He escaped the assailant but did not make any connection with any crime. The assailant himself disappeared.

In all of the struggles, the residents of the house nearby heard nothing, and early the next morning, they were not aware that a crime had been committed. Kenneth and Vernon Staten both lived in the house next to the murder scene, but neither of them heard anything. At 2 a.m., Kenneth came home but did not see a body and heard no struggle or sounds. At 6 a.m., he left his house by the rear door to catch a ride to work. The ride did not come on time, and he made three trips back and forth before leaving for work. He glanced in the vicinity of the murder scene, but he did not see the woman's unclothed body at the rear of the empty house. Vernon Staten came outside the same house minutes later and brushed his teeth. As he spat out the residue, he glanced in the direction of the body but did not notice anything. Both of them were just twenty feet from the body.

Five hours later, Johnny White, a local repairman, arrived on the scene. He had been hired to repair and paint two houses in the area. While passing from one house to the next, he saw what the others did not see. He saw the woman's body lying face down in the mud. He stared at the lifeless bulk and realized that the woman was dead. Someone had beaten, stabbed, stripped, and left her for dead. He stared at the body in total disbelief, then ran to the street and flagged down a police car that happened to be in the area. In a panicked frenzy, he described what he found to the detectives, and soon other officers arrived.


Investigation Report, Monroe Police Department, Homicide-Rape, Case #77-2959, by Detectives Larry Ellerman and Warren Brown, February 21, 1977.

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