What’s bothering me in Teresa Sue Hilt’s cold case? A lot bothers me in her case so this is a brainstorming session to get things clear in my mind:
1: Tess’ travel checks were found in the parking lot and her billfold was found near the rail tracks, both to the south of the apartment complex. It leads you to believe that Tess was murdered by a stranger or strangers who did not live near the campus and dumped Tess’ belongings while they fled away. Or, it was an attempt from the killer who actually did live close by, to distract the cops. This is an action that I can see a man do. A woman might be reluctant to be near a railroad at night. However, the items could have been dropped during the day. I am curious whether any fingerprints were found on the billfold.
2: The remark: “She was kind of a loner who wanted to be in the center of things.” That seems to hint at insecurity on Tess’ side and the need for attention which seems to be contrary to her character. If true however, it could hint at jealousy as a motive for the crime.
3: Sgt. Wright was convinced that the killer was a woman because the scene had been cleaned up and Tess’ dead body was covered with a sheet. He saw it as something a female would do. I disagree. There are many male killers who clean up the crime scene and do that very well. I guess that now we know more about killers and serial killers so a killer’s neatness is not necessarily indicative of their gender. Covering Tess is a very personal act that could have been done by both a female or male killer. It indicates the killer knew Tess.
4: According to the St. Joseph News Press from January 20, 1974, Tess died a virgin. I quote: “The autopsy showed Tess was a virgin so that tends to eliminate a man as her assailant.” Well, this may lead you to believe that absent that type of sexual attack, the killer could not have been a male. I disagree again. Tess may not have been raped but this murder could still have been committed by a man. Moreover, if it was indeed established during the autopsy that Tess died a virgin I’d like to know whether the science of using the hymen as indicator for sexual activity is still used during autopsies today. We only need to look up the literature for honour killings and see how misleading it can be to rely on the hymen as an indicator.
5: What exactly is the order in which everything happened? Was Tess stabbed first and then strangled or the other way around?
The cleaned up scene does not make me favour one gender over the other. But the puncture wounds in Tess’ uterine area give us a clue.
If the killer was female, the jealousy could have centered on Tess being suspected of having an affair with someone else’s boyfriend or, a man the killer had an eye on. In addition to the latter, that man had somehow indicated a preference for Tess over the killer. Is it possible that Tess made someone jealous by stating she had an affair or, was pregnant by a man desired by the killer? The puncture wounds seem to say “you cannot get him and if there was any fruit to bear, it is gone now.” How deep were the puncture wounds and could they have been made by the knife found with Tess? The depth of the stabbing wounds might also tell us something about the force used and therefore possibly, the killer’s gender.
If the killer was male, the stabbing in the uterine area could have been out of fear that Tess was pregnant from an amorous evening with or without intercourse. However, fear existed that somehow she might have become pregnant. This man could not afford a girlfriend. He might have been involved already or, he was married. And he definitely did not want a girlfriend with a child. The order of the attack matters here too. If Tess was strangled and thus already dead, there was no need to stab her in the uterine area. Unless the killer was not convinced that Tess was really dead or, that she might be found and survive. In that case, the uterine stabbing could have been done to “make sure that at least there is no pregnancy.” It still sounds irrational to do because if Tess would survive she would probably be able to name her attacker.
Hat tip to Clouseau for brainstorming with me!