Thomas Edward Williams, who has since died, allegedly kidnapped three girls after offering them a ride in Aug. 1975
Kandice Smith, then 13, Sheri Rottler Trick, then 11, and Kathie Rottler, then 14, were abducted in 1975 while hitchhiking
After 48 years, Thomas Edward Williams has been identified as the man who stabbed all three girls and raped one of them, police announced on Thursday
The survivors — who never gave up hope that their case could be solved — 'played dead' so that Williams would stop stabbing them, authorities say
Police in Indiana have announced the identity of a man who stabbed three girls in a cornfield and raped one of them nearly five decades ago.
The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department identified Thomas Edward Williams as the man who kidnapped Kandice Smith, then 13, Sheri Rottler Trick, then 11 and Kathie Rottler, then 14, in August 1975 while they were hitchhiking.
At a press conference held on Thursday, David Ellison, an investigator with the department’s Unsolved Homicide Unit, detailed the circumstances surrounding the attack – and subsequent rescue – of the girls.
On the evening of August 19, 1975, the three went to a gas station, bought some items and decided to hitchhike. A man in a white vehicle allegedly pulled up and offered them a ride, Ellison said.
He directed the girls to sit on the front seat of his vehicle, with Kathie sitting next to him.
When Rottler, Trick's elder sister, realized that he kept going past their destination and pointed it out to him, he allegedly “seemed to accelerate and kept going,” Ellison added.
Rottler asked one of the girls to open the door but when they realized the door didn’t have a handle, she tried to halt the car by pressing the brake pedal, “but her leg was not long enough,” Ellison said.
Williams then allegedly put a gun to her head and threatened to kill the three girls, prompting them to comply with his demands.
He parked his vehicle at a cornfield and bound two of the girls, and proceeded to sexually assault the third. He then repeatedly stabbed her and cut her throat and proceeded to stab the other victims numerous times before taking off, Ellison said.
“They actually played dead to try to avoid being stabbed anymore,” he added.
Rottler and Smith managed to make their way out of the cornfield and go to a nearby road where they were rescued.
Even though the girls “miraculously” survived and authorities were able to create a composite sketch of the attacker, the case would soon go cold, IMPD said in a statement.
The case was reopened in 2018 and with the use of forensic genealogy and DNA recovered from the evidence, authorities were able to identify Williams through DNA of his daughter, the statement claimed.
The three survivors were present at IMPD’s announcement and shared moving testimonies, thanking the people who saved them as well as authorities who continued to pursue this case.
Rottler shared that not giving up her hope to solve the case was “worth the wait.”
“Soon after our case went cold, I tried to keep the case open but it seemed every call I made was met with another dead end,” she said at the hearing, IndyStar reported.
“I stand before you as a survivor who has learned the true meaning of patience,” she said, per the outlet. “I’ve learned that sometimes the answer you're waiting for can take decades.”
Williams, who allegedly lived near the site of the kidnapping, died in a Texas prison in 1983, per the police statement.
He was 49, IndyStar reported.
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