Kristina S. Hickey (1969 – 1984) was murdered in Park Forest, Illinois, 1984. She was 15 years old and still in high school.
On January 15, 1987, Christopher Abernathy was convicted for Kristina’s murder. On February 11, 2015, after 30 years of incarceration, Abernathy was exonerated by DNA and set free. But who killed Kristina? Her case remains unsolved.
On January 15, 1987, Christopher Abernathy was convicted for Kristina’s murder. On February 11, 2015, after 30 years of incarceration, Abernathy was set free. He had the help of the Illinois Innocence Project at the University of Illinois Springfield. Then-State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez acknowledged that Abernathy had been wrongfully convicted and said none of the DNA found at the scene was his.
His story is awful. Just do a quick online search on his name and you can read all about it. But with Abernathy out of the equation, we are left with a cold case as we have no idea who killed Kristina Hickey.
There is an online petition to re-open the investigation into this case. I sincerely hope that she will not be forgotten. So let’s explore the case again.
On Oct 5, 1984, Kristina’s remains were found in the shopping center Park Forest Plaza by two boys. She had been reported missing by her mom the day before. Kristina’s wallet and purse were found later in a field behind the Plaza. It is unknown if authorities found any traces on those items that can be used to identify her murderers.
Kristina had been brutally beaten, was sexually assaulted, and stabbed multiple times. Her throat had been slashed. The disturbed dirt around her body told police that she fought hard for her life and died where she was found. She was buried Oct 9, 1984.
The information that follows comes from the trial transcripts of Abernathy’s 1989 appeal. The description of the attack is gruesome. I want to explain why I have included it here in this post. The authorities think that they deal with men who are angry with women and who may have committed similar crimes. As we are now looking again for Kristina’s killers, we need to check for similarities in solved and unsolved crimes. hence the need to know how Kristina died and what trauma she had to suffer.
October 3, 1984
In the evening of Oct. 3, 1984, around 630pm, Kristina left home to walk to Rich East High School. Kristina was a sophomore and sang in the school choir. That evening she was to perform at a choir concert. “She was wearing a pink and white striped dress, pink and white jewelry, a mauve raincoat, a grey corduroy purse and grey shoes.” Her mom, Patricia Hickey, had offered to drive her however the teen said that she’d rather walk. Her school was less than a mile from their home and she was used to walking. The last interaction between mother and daughter was mom telling the teen to come straight home after the concert.
The concert lasted until 9pm. At 915pm, Mr. Ulreich, the choral music director at Rich East High School, testified that he saw Kristina making a telephone call. She was using the telephone outside the office of the athletic director. Who did she call? Was that call traceable?
One of the security officers from Marshall Field’s (a store in Park Forest Plaza) was Nancy Kruez. She had not been called to testify but she had informed authorities that “the parking lot lights and the exterior building lights of the Marshall Field’s store were inoperative on October 3, 1984, and that the area was extremely dark.” Kristina was found in some bushes east of Marshall Field’s entry door.
Alan Kulovitz, an evidence technician with the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, testified that “Kristina’s dress had been torn and folded in such a way that the left side of the chest, from the navel to the shoulder, was exposed while the right side was covered. The left side of the dress did not have blood on it, an indication that it had been folded back before the chest wound was inflicted.” He said that the bra’s left cup was cut, the strap was cut, and the bra was pushed up towards her neck. Her underwear and panty hose were pulled down to her ankles.
Kristina’s arms were behind her back. Her right arm was held in place with the belt from her own coat. Underneath her body police found several personal items from her purse.
Around Kristina’s body were many disturbances in the dirt from the fight. As she was fighting while on her back, her right foot buried itself in the dirt. This is another indication (together with the lividity) that she died where she was found.
Kulovitz told the court that Kristina had “a gaping wound in the center of the throat area and a stab wound in the center of the chest just to the right of the left breast.” He saw from the chest’s blood patterns that Kristina had not (been) moved after that knife attack. There were two stab wounds to the chest. One was superficial. The other was deep.
Kristina had bruises on the back of her left arm, ankle, and an abrasion on the back of her right arm. She had a single, deep slashing wound of approx. six inches on her neck, slashed from side to side. Her throat, the trachea, and the esophagus were cut.
There were five abrasions over the right side of Kristina’s face. Whether they were made manually or with an object is unknown.
The autopsy was performed by Dr. Eupil Choi. He is a pathologist employed by the Cook County Medical Examiner’s Office. The autopsy took place on Oct 6, 1984.
There were many abrasions and skin bruising on the left side of the neck and collar bone and over her left jaw. These bruising are “consistent with someone kneeling on her shoulder and neck but could also have resulted from being struck with some object. The bruise on the left jaw, which was three inches wide, was consistent with her head being slammed against a hard surface.” Dr. Choi found blood between the scalp and the skull. This means that her head was indeed struck against a hard surface.
As for what killed Kristina, Dr. Choi testified “that the chest wounds were inflicted first and that Kristina died very quickly after the transection of her neck. The wounds were inflicted with a sharp instrument like a knife.”
Dr. Choi testified that he found “areas of bruising on the external aspect of her genitalia and on the labia. Samples taken from her vagina tested negative for the presence of spermatozoa.” On cross-examination, Dr. Choi said he does not know if Kristina had been sexually penetrated. On redirect, he explained that “some object did bruise the interior of Kristina’s vagina although he did not know the nature of the object.”
In 2001, the Illinois State Police tested human cells found under Kristina Hickey’s fingernails. The results were inconclusive.
In 2014, the Illinois Innocence Project got permission to test eight pieces of evidence for DNA. Included were a swab from Kristina Hickey and her concert dress. This dress had been torn down the front and folded over to expose part of her chest. DNA from that dress is from an unknown man. The wrongful conviction lawsuit from Abernathy states the DNA from the crime scene came from two unidentified men.
Rest in peace, Kristina S. Hickey.
If you have any information please contact the Cook County Sheriff’s Office at (312) 603-6444. Their cold cases page is here. At the time of writing, Kristina’s case was not on that page.