DNA proves a long-dead man attacked 3 girls in Indiana nearly 50 years ago, police say

Jan 19, 2024, 1:42 PM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A man who died in a Texas prison decades ago has been identified as the person who abducted and stabbed three Indiana girls and left them in a cornfield nearly 50 years ago, police said, citing DNA evidence.

The girls, ages 11, 13 and 14, survived the attack, but “a clear suspect” was never pinpointed and the case went cold — until now. Investigators using “forensic genetic genealogy” have identified the attacker as Thomas Edward Williams, who died at 49 in November 1983 in a Galveston, Texas, prison, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said Thursday.

“Today’s announcement is nearly 50 years in the making, but it shows the dedication and perseverance of our detectives and partners,” Deputy Chief Kendale Adams said in a news release.

At the time of the August 1975 attack, police said Williams lived in Indianapolis near where the three girls were abducted while hitchhiking.

They were driven to a cornfield in suburban Hancock County, where one of them was raped and stabbed in the throat and chest and the two others had their throats slashed, The Indianapolis Star reported. Two of the girls flagged down a motorist to summon help.

Investigators began reviewing the case in 2018 after the three now-adult women contacted police about the unsolved attacks, leading to the testing of crime scene evidence.

In 2021, authorities developed a full DNA profile of an unknown male from some of the previously gathered evidence, then matched it to two additional DNA profiles obtained from other evidence, police said.

Investigators submitted the profile last year to DNA Labs International, a Florida-based forensic laboratory, where it was subjected to “the latest forensic technology available,” police said.

After ancestry analysis helped identify the suspect’s children, samples from Williams’ relatives helped confirm his identification as the attacker, police said.

The three women — Sheri Rottler Trick, Kathie Rottler and Kandice Smith — recounted at a news conference Thursday how they had remained committed over the decades to pushing law enforcement to identify their assailant.

“I’m at peace now in my heart,” Smith said.

Rottler Trick said she had forgiven the man who attacked her “in order to continue my life.”

The Associated Press doesn’t generally identify people who have been sexually assaulted unless they voluntarily identify themselves.

National News

Janet Jarrett shows a photo of her sister, Pamela Jarrett, she keeps on her phone at the home they ...

Associated Press

Heat-related Texas deaths climb after Beryl left millions without power for days or longer

SPRING, Texas (AP) — As the temperature soared in the Houston-area home Janet Jarrett shared with her sister after losing electricity in Hurricane Beryl, she did everything she could to keep her 64-year-old sibling cool. But on their fourth day without power, she awoke to hear Pamela Jarrett, who used a wheelchair and relied on […]

4 hours ago

Melissa Shepard, left, directing attorney of Immigrant Defenders Law Center, explains the Biden adm...

Associated Press

Behind Biden’s asylum halt: Migrants must say if they fear deportation, not wait to be asked

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Posters inside a complex of giant, white tents tell migrants in English, Spanish, Mandarin and Hindi they should tell an officer if they fear being deported and “your claim will be heard.” On a side wall where migrants are seated in a processing area, a video conveys the same message on […]

5 hours ago

FILE - People walk past the Fiserv Forum ahead of the 2024 Republican National Convention, Thursday...

Associated Press

With GOP convention over, Milwaukee weighs the benefits of hosting political rivals

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Downtown Milwaukee turned red last week as thousands of Republican National Convention delegates and other party stalwarts gathered in Wisconsin’s largest Democratic stronghold to formally rally behind Donald Trump as their candidate for president in the pivotal swing state. Outside the security zone where the convention took place, residents grumbled, ignored or […]

5 hours ago

A second-floor balcony at the Hemingway Home & Museum in Key West, Florida, on Wednesday, July 17, ...

Associated Press

Ernest Hemingway fans celebrate the author’s 125th birthday in his beloved Key West

KEY WEST, Fla. (AP) — Ernest Hemingway spent the 1930s in Key West, Florida, and more than six decades after his death, fans, scholars and relatives continue to congregate on the island city to celebrate the author’s award-winning novels and adventure-filled life. Hemingway Days started in 1981 with a short-story competition and a look-alike contest. […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Salt Lake City wildfire prompts mandatory evacuations as more than 100 firefighters fight blaze

Salt Lake City officials have ordered residents to evacuate some areas ahead of a wildfire as more than 100 firefighters work to contain the blaze. Helicopters and airplanes were dropping buckets over the flames Saturday as ground crews tried to contain the fire on Ensign Peak. The first fire crew was dispatched around 4:30 p.m. […]

6 hours ago

Democratic Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi speaks at the North Carolina Democratic Unity Dinner fundra...

Associated Press

Pelosi delivers speech to NC Democrats with notable absence — Biden’s future as nominee

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — In a state expected to help decide the presidency, House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi did little to quell speculation on President Joe Biden’s path forward as the Democratic nominee to a room full of North Carolina Democrats on Saturday. Pelosi addressed more than 900 people at the North Carolina Democratic Party […]

7 hours ago

DNA proves a long-dead man attacked 3 girls in Indiana nearly 50 years ago, police say