Sigrid M. Stevenson (Jan 24, 1952 – Sept 4, 1977)

Sigrid M. Stevenson, photograph from her Livermore High School senior yearbook

Sigrid M. Stevenson, photograph from her Livermore High School senior yearbook

Sigrid M. Stevenson (Jan 24, 1952 – Sept 4, 1977) a.k.a. the Kendall Hall Murder Mystery at Trenton State, NJ. She is the case of the month for August 2014. Sigrid does not have a good web presence and what I found about her case is riddled in disputed facts and fiction. Hers is not a ghost story or some medium’s case. Sigrid’s murder is very real and unsolved as of yet. This is year 37 of her senseless murder.

The following is based on what I found online and what seems to be undisputed. What is disputed is discussed next.

Undisputed:

Sigrid Stevenson loved music and her instrument of choice was the piano. She studied to get a master’s degree in music and planned to become a teacher. She was known to be on her own. She was not the partying kind, friendly but reserved, kind but always cautious, and she was very comfortable being alone. She did have a tendency of staying in university buildings after hours.  Her bike outside buildings was a telltale sign.

Being in between places to stay after her vacation and before her host family would return to town, Sigrid needed a place to stay for a few days only. Just until school started. She snuck in Kendall Hall. It included an auditorium and a basement.

Kendall Hall had a piano on stage in the auditorium. On the night of September 4, 1977, Sigrid was murdered near her favourite instrument. She was found a little before midnight. Patrolling police saw her bicycle in the bike rack in front of Kendall Hall. They knew it was hers so they went inside.  When the officer climbed on the stage, he found her dead body.

In most online articles, I read that Sigrid was found nude, lying face down, and wrapped in a covering. Her blood had spattered her music sheets and there was pooled blood on the stage trailing to or from the piano. Some of her belongings were found such as her wallet that contained some cash and travelers checks. Some of her clothes were found as well.

Speculation galore whether Sigrid was murdered by someone she knew or by a stranger. If it was someone she knew, this person could have walked into Kendall Hall with her, could already have been inside Kendall Hall, or had a hunch that she would be there and came in after she had already entered the building. Was she being followed?

If this was a stranger, we would need to know how well-known Kendall Hall was to the public. Could it be seen from the main road? Was the building often used by the public in other words was the layout familiar or known to many? Was the auditorium visible from the outside? Could anyone have seen Sigrid on stage through one of the building windows? If she had lights on was that visible from the main road?

Sigrid Stevenson's graveThe following are disputed details that I found in the online articles mentioned below under resources.

1: Sigrid’s age is in some articles 21 and in some 25. Her date of birth was Jan 24, 1952 so she was 25 when she was murdered.

2: Did she have a boyfriend and if so, who was it. In some articles people refer to a fireman, some point to the person she rented a room from, and some said she had no boyfriend. If she did, I hope he was questioned and if he was eliminated as a suspect I hope he is doing well. Finding out that your girlfriend was murdered cannot be a trauma from which you recover easily. I did not find any online articles where police officially stated that they had a person of interest but that they could not make the case against him.

3: Sexual assault, yes or no. The fact that she was found nude suggests an assault but then again some articles seemed very sure she had not been raped. I hope that during the autopsy some samples were preserved so we can test them with modern technology. DNA was in its infancy in 1977. Who knows what we could find now.

4: Strangled or beaten to death? I found an online article that mentioned Sigrid was strangled and in one of the comments it said she was strangled with a piano cord. If so, did the autopsy officially rule out manual strangulation? There was in other words no trauma to her throat, neck, or larynx caused by manual pressure and her eyes did not show signs of petechiae (tiny ruptured capillaries that look like red spots)? Did the piano on stage miss a cord? Did we find a single piano cord on the stage? If she was beaten to death, have we established that fists were ruled out? Was it a sharp or a blunt object that was used? Was it an object most likely brought into Kendall Hall from outside or was an item from the auditorium or stage used to beat Sigrid? The former would suggest at least the intention to harm her.  Were any splinters found inside her wounds? Any paint chips? Any wood chips?

5: Sigrid was covered but was it with a blanket or a piano cover? Was she just covered or rolled into that covering? If it was a piano cover, did it match the piano on stage or not? If it was a blanket was that blanket a prop from the auditorium or was it brought by the killer? Were there other blankets around the stage? Did we find any fabric threads in Sigrid’s wounds?

6: Her wrists were either bound or not. Bound by what? Chains, rope, fabric, electrical wires, duct tape, what? Did her wrists show signs of binding or adhesives?

7: Some articles stated that there was blood on her music sheets. What we know now about blood spatter, patterns, and velocity is dramatically different from what we knew then. Have these sheets been reexamined by scientists? What type of paper sheets did she use? Were any finger prints found on these sheets? If she had been beaten to death, did the blood spatter contain skull fragments or other object materials to determine what the murder weapon might have been? Does the blood pattern show that she was hit while sitting at the piano, lying in front of the piano on the floor, or standing in front of the piano?

8: According to some online articles, Sigrid was so badly beaten that a professor who was called to identify her could only recognize her hair. If this is correct than this murder was a very personal one by someone known to Sigrid and who wanted Sigrid to suffer. He erased her facial features expressing his anger towards her. This would rule out the stranger killer theory.

9: Was a shirt wrapped around her face or placed over her face? Was it her own shirt or not? Has that shirt been examined for touch DNA? This shirt as well as the cover or blanket should be examined with the M-Vac from Jared Bradley’s company to see if it can pick up some DNA left by those who handled the shirt and the coverings.

10: Her clothes and possessions were found but nobody has a complete list. If her face was covered by a shirt not hers was another shirt belonging to Sigrid found? Did she wear a coat? What was the weather like that evening? Rainy? Was there any mud found on stage near her? Where were her shoes? Have her clothes been reexamined for DNA? Are they properly preserved so we can examine them for touch DNA with the M-Vac? Are any clothing pieces missing? Is there any chance a piece of clothing was taken as a souvenir? What about jewelry?

Last thoughts:

What could have been the motive to kill Sigrid? If she was beaten beyond recognition it tells me that it was a highly personal crime. She knew her attacker and he had interactions with her before. A jilted lover maybe?

I know that I say “he” but it is very well possible that the killer was a woman. Depending on the person, there are certainly women strong enough to beat up someone beyond recognition. Stripping Sigrid of her clothes may then have been a tactical decision to blame the crime on a man because nude hints at a sexual assault. In case of a women killer, we could look at someone who was jealous. Jealous because a man preferred Sigrid over her? Rivalry?

Was Sigrid killed where she was found? Were any dragging trails found? Any footsteps or shoe prints found in the pooled blood around the piano? Were there any indications that someone had tried to clean up the crime scene?

So many unanswered questions in this cold case.

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Resources used:

Murdered Music Major Haunts College of NJ (Trenton State)

The Signal: Grad student killed in Kendall in ’77, the unsolved story

Weird Message Board on NJ

Facebook: Weird NJ

Facts, Myths, and Legends of TCNJ’s Campus

Unresolved Mysteries

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In the series “Case of the Month” I highlight an old cold case. These posts are never an in-depth analysis and of course, in some cases more information can be found online and in newspaper archives. The goal of these posts is to get the case back in the spotlights, to get people talking about it again, and if anything to make sure that we do not forget the victims. Just because their cases are cold does not mean that we can forget about them.

If you have any thoughts about this case I encourage you to post them on your own social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc. Every time Sigrid’s name gets mentioned online you enhance her digital footprint. We must make sure that she retains her web presence if we ever wish to find answers in her case. You can help by linking to or sharing this post.

Thank you for helping me help Sigrid.