Police ID man who abducted, assaulted three girls in Indiana cold case

Posted at 8:31 AM, January 19, 2024

INDIANAPOLIS (Scripps News Indianapolis) — Detectives have solved a 48-year cold case in which three young girls were abducted and assaulted, according to the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.

On Aug. 19, 1975, at 10:45 p.m., Kandice Smith, 13, Sheri Rottler Trick, 11, and Kathie Rottler, 14, were leaving a gas station on Washington Street near Belmar Avenue on the east side of Indianapolis.

Police say they decided to hitchhike, and a white male driving a station wagon pulled over and offered to give them a ride.

officers and survivors pose for photo

Officials from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department pose with the three survivors of a 1975 assault case. (IMPD News)

IMPD says as the girls were in the vehicle, they realized the male had continued to drive past their final destination. The girls attempted to escape the vehicle but were unable to. Eventually, the man stopped near a cornfield in Greenfield.

The suspect forced the three girls out of the vehicle and bound two of them, police say. He then sexually assaulted one of the girls before stabbing her. During the attack, the suspect also stabbed the other two girls “numerous times.”

The suspect fled the area and left the girls in the cornfield. All three victims survived the attack.

IMPD says two of the girls eventually made their way back to the highway and received help from a driver passing by.

Police from several jurisdictions, including Indiana State Police, analyzed the crime scene and investigated the incident.

A composite sketch was drawn, and several leads were followed, but eventually the investigation stalled, and the case went cold. No suspect was ever charged for the incident.

In 2018, an IMPD Sgt. re-opened the case and had evidence and DNA analyzed. In 2021, the Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency linked the evidence to a possible suspect.

In 2023, a genetic genealogy was completed by DNA Labs International in Florida.

black and white photo of an empty cornfield

This photo provided by IMPD shows the cornfield where three girls were attacked and abandoned in 1975. (IMPD)

“The ForenSeq Kintelligence System, the newest Forensic Investigative Genetic Genealogy technology, was designed specifically for challenging forensic samples,” Steve Dubois, a Client Experience Specialist at DNA Labs International, said. “This testing enabled the development of a DNA profile 48 years later that was then used by DLI’s genealogy team to generate a new investigative lead for law enforcement. DLI was also able to confirm this investigative lead using DNA kinship testing.”

Funding for this testing was provided by Audiochuck, an Indianapolis-based media company.

“When the Audiochuck team was made aware of this need for funding, it was a no brainer for us to step in,” Ashley Flowers, Audiochuck Founder & Chief Creative Officer, said. “The advancements that have been made in DNA testing is astounding and we’re encouraged by what this means for cold and ongoing cases.”

The suspect was identified as Thomas Edward Williams, who died in November 1983 while in prison in Galveston, Texas.

“IMPD will hold criminals accountable, no matter how long it takes,” IMPD Deputy Chief of Investigations, Kendale Adams, said. “After 48 years, we now can tell these survivors who was responsible for this heinous act.”

This story was originally published by Scripps News Indianapolis, an E.W. Scripps Company.