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1975 Cold Case Solved IMPD

Source: IMPD

INDIANAPOLIS–An Indiana cold case dating back to 1975 was solved using genetic genealogy testing.

On August 19, 1975, 13-year-old Kandice Smith, 11-year-old Sheri Rottler Trick, and 14-year-old Kathie Rottler were leaving a gas station on Washington Street on the east side of Indianapolis. The girls decided to hitchhike. A white man driving a station wagon pulled over and offered to give them a ride.

The man decided to not stop at the girls’ destination, so they tried to get out of the station wagon, but were unable to. He eventually stopped the car near a cornfield in Greenfield.

IMPD says the man forced the three girls out of the station wagon and bound two of them. He then sexually assaulted one of the girls before stabbing her and eventually stabbed the other two girls numerous times. He ran away.

Two of the girls got back to the main road and were rescued by another driver. All three girls survived the attack and were at a news conference together on Thursday. A composite sketch was developed and leads were followed, but the trail went cold at the time.

In 2018, IMPD Sergeant David Ellison, who is now retired, was contacted by the survivors and looked into the case. Ellison worked with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office to obtain, analyze, and test the evidence.

In 2021, Ellison learned the Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency had successfully recovered DNA from pieces of the evidence and had developed a full DNA profile of a male. Additional testing on two other evidentiary items also produced male DNA. All three of these DNA profiles matched one another. Investigators believed this DNA profile to be that of the suspect.

In 2023, Sgt. Ellison submitted an application for genetic genealogy to be completed by DNA Labs International in Deerfield Beach, Florida. DNA Labs International (DLI) is a private forensic DNA laboratory and was enlisted on this case to utilize the latest forensic technology available.

“The ForenSeq Kintelligence System, the newest Forensic Investigative Genetic Genealogy (FIGG) technology, was designed specifically for challenging forensic samples. This testing enabled the development of a DNA profile 48 years later that was then used by DLI’s genealogy team to generate a new investigative lead for law enforcement. DLI was also able to confirm this investigative lead using DNA kinship testing,” said Steve Dubois, a Client Experience Specialist at DNA Labs International.

It was through all of this work that they were able to identify the suspect as Thomas Edward Williams. He died in November of 1983 while in prison in Galveston, Texas.

Funding for this testing was provided by Audiochuck, an Indianapolis-based media company that creates and produces multiple podcasts.

“When the Audiochuck team was made aware of this need for funding, it was a no brainer for us to step in. We are honored to be standing here today as a small part of the team that made this solve possible. The advancements that have been made in DNA testing is astounding and we’re encouraged by what this means for cold and ongoing cases,” said Audiochuck Founder & Chief Creative Officer Ashley Flowers.

“Today’s announcement is nearly 50 years in the making, but it shows the dedication and perseverance of our detectives and partners.  IMPD will hold criminals accountable, no matter how long it takes. While we would like to do this immediately, this may take years and even decades, and we never stop looking for answers,” said Chief Adams.