"If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared."
It was the 25th of January 2005. A Tuesday. Katie was finished school for the day and was back home in Crothersville, Indiana, United States. The ten year old lived with her mother Angela, father John Neace and her older sister.
When Katie got home that day, Angela was in the kitchen making dinner for that evening and John was still at work. He worked in a local factory. At 3pm, Angela asked Katie if she would go to the Dollar Store to pick up some toilet paper. It was a trip Katie was used to making. She had been there numerous times and it was just a few blocks away from her home. Katie wrapped up warm. It was a particularly cold day and she made her way down the street to the Dollar Store.
When Katie got to the Dollar Store, she bought the toilet paper. The clerk helped her count out the correct amount of money. Katie stopped off at the Bank next door to get a lollipop from their counter and made her way home.
Angela noticed that Katie was taking longer than normal to return but she wasn't too worried as she knew she may have just met some friends on the way home. When John got home though, Katie still had not returned. They both began to fear for her safety and went out looking for her and when they couldn't find her and there was no sign of her anywhere, they reported her missing.
The community and the police all searched for Katie. At the time, just 1500 people lived in Crothersville and everybody knew everyone. But nobody knew where Katie was or what had happened to her. The police dogs picked up her scent and traced it to the railway tracks but a neighbour told police that Katie had stopped off on her way home to let them know that their dog had been killed by a train. She went missing just after that.
A couple of days after Katie was reported missing,an amber alert was issued. Since the amber alert was introduced to Indiana, it had been used a little over twenty times and every single time, the child was found alive. That was the hope that police had. In fact, there had not been a murder in the area in some twenty five years.
Police issued the amber alert two days after Katie was reported missing because a witness came forward to tell police that they saw a girl who looked like Katie in a truck. The witness described the driver as:
“ a very skinny white man about 6 feet tall with short dark hair and fair complexion."
The witness told police that the girl in the truck did not appear to be in distress or looking for help in any way.
Five days after Katie went missing, her body was found in a creek near Cypress Lake north of Seymour. The creek was just a few miles from Katie's home. Katie's hands and feet were tied and she had been sexually assaulted and her cause of death was drowning.
Police received a call from twenty year old Charles ‘Chuckie’ Hickman. He confessed to the police that he and another man had abducted Katie. He said that she witnessed an illegal drug transaction on her way home that day and because she had seen too much, they wanted to try to scare her so she wouldn't speak or tell anyone about it. He said that he and his twenty two year old friend, Timothy C. O’Sullivan, took Katie to his house and then to the creek.According to Chuckie, they tied her hands and Katie fell into the creek and drowned.
While it initially seemed that the case had been solved in a fast manner, it later transpired that Charle's confession was a false confession. This undoubtedly added to the pain and stress of Katie's family. Police focused their efforts on gathering DNA evidence instead and found a cigarette butt near to where Katie's body was found.
In early April 2005, after DNA results were complete, police arrested a man called Anthony Stockelman instead. Police compared the DNA on the discarded cigarette butt to DNA that they found on Katie's body. It was a match.
The DNA that was found on Katie's body and the cigarette butt belonged to Anthony Ray Stockelman. Anthony, a father of two young boys, was not from Crothersville but he was there the day Katie went missing visiting his mother. He also drove a white pickup truck that looked exactly like the one a witness believed they saw Katie in that day.
The Prosecution case against Anthony was strong. They had matched his DNA to swabs taken from Katie's body to a cigarette butt at the creek, and to red carpet fibers taken from Katie's body and from the carpet in the home of Anthony's mother.
The Prosecution offered Anthony a plea deal. If he plead guilty to the molestation and murder charges, they would not seek the death penalty. He entered a guilty plea and was sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Anthony later claimed, at an Appeal against the severity of his sentence, that at the time of Katie's adduction and murder,he was under the influence of extreme mental or emotional disturbance. Anthony testified that his father had died six months before the crime. He had been very close to his father and when he was diagnosed with cancer, he cared for him. He claimed that his father's death had a great impact on his mental and emotional state. The Court rejected that argument and his sentence was upheld. It was affirmed that his sentence was life without parole.
Anthony avoided the death penalty due to the plea deal but he did not escape punishment entirely. When Anthony was in prison, he met Katie's cousin. Jared Harris was serving a sentence for burglary and was in the same wing as Anthony. Jared tattooed the words "Katie's Revenge" across Anthony's forehead. He wanted to ensure that Anthony would never forget Katie and everybody else would know exactly who Anthony was and what he did.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello