"Justice delayed is justice denied."
-William E. Gladstone
It was the 3rd of October 1984. A Wednesday. Fifteen year old Kristina Hickey was at a high school choir concert at Rich East High School in Park Forest, Illinois, United States. As Kristina was singing in the choir, she wanted to look smart. She was wearing a pink and white striped dress, pink and white jewelry, a mauve raincoat, a grey corduroy purse and grey shoes.
Kristina loved singing and she loved the people in the Choir. Kristina had a lot of friends as she was easy to get along with,witty and funny. That evening, before she went to the school to sing, her mother Patricia asked her if she wanted her to collect her after the concert. Kristina said that she would prefer to walk and she left her home to walk to school at 6.30pm. It was a walk Kristina did daily as she walked to and from school. She arrived on time and sang with the Choir. When the concert ended, she was due to go straight home. She promised Patricia that she would go home immediately after the concert. It was a short walk for Kristina. The school was less than a mile from her home. But Kristina never made it home that night.
The concert ended at 9 pm and fifteen minutes later, the musical director for the Choir saw Kristina using the telephone outside the athletic director's office in the school. But there was no sign of Kristina after that and nobody knew where she was. A search of the area began.
Two days later, Kristina was found but it was the outcome that Patricia was dreading. Kristina was dead. Her body was discovered in bushes near a downtown shopping centre. It was an area that was popular with teenagers like Kristina as it was close to the school and students often spent time there. The parking lot lights and exterior building lights of the shopping center were not working at the time so the area would have been extremely dark that night as Kristina walked home.
The area where Kristina was found and her injuries revealed she suffered a savage and brutal death.
Kristina was still wearing her pink dress. She had been savagely beaten, raped and stabbed multiple times. Her throat was cut. There was a gaping wound in the center of the throat area , a single deep slash wound, six inches in length and stab wounds in the center of her chest just to the right of the left breast. 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 cup of Kristina's bra had been cut away and the bra had been pushed up around her neck. Kristina's nylons and panties had been pulled down to her ankles.
There were bruises on the back of Kristina's left arm and on her ankle and an abrasion on the back of her right arm. There were abrasions to the right side of her face which indicated her face may have been struck against an object or her head slammed against a hard surface. There was blood between Kristina's scalp and her skull which was consistent with her head being struck against a hard surface. There were further abrasions on her neck and collar bone. The bruises on the left side of the neck and collar bone were consistent with someone kneeling on her shoulder and neck but could also have resulted from being struck with some object.
The Autopsy determined that it was likely that the chest wounds were inflicted first and that Kristina died very quickly after the transection of her neck.
There was a mound of dirt around Kristina's body. It looked like it had been caused by Kristina frantically moving her legs and arms. It was apparent that she had fought for her life that night. Her death not only devastated Kristina's family but all of the Park Forest residents. Her murder changed the area for good. Everyone wanted answers and wanted to know exactly who was responsible.
It took over one year for an arrest to be made. On the 30th of November 1985, eighteen year old Christopher Abernathy was brought in to the police station for questioning. Christopher knew Kristina and even claimed they had briefly dated. Christopher's friend, Allan Dennis, told police that a few months after Kristina was murdered, Christopher told him that he killed her. Police had already spoken to Christopher shortly after Kristina's murder as he was heard saying that he had a gun in his car and intended to fire a salute afterward at Kristina's funeral. At the time, police determined it was not necessary to look into the matter further as the comment was not serious. They had searched his car and discovered there were no weapons inside.
"I asked my friend, Tony, to take me out to Park Forest to see some friend. I went to Jewel's to get me something to eat. I got a Twinkie and a can of pop. Then I see Kris walk by herself, so I walked up to her and she was crying at the time. I asked her what was worry, she said she got into a fight with her boyfriend. I asked her why, she said it was not any of my business at all, so I said to her if she wants me to walk her home and she said, yes, please. Then she started to get upset more, then she hit me and I grabbed her arms at the time, I had a knife with me. I had it in my hand at the time that I was holding her. She pulled away from me. I think that I could have hit her with my open hand. Then I grabbed her again, I still had the knife in my right hand in front of her, then tried to pull her arms up in front of her. She put my hands by her neck, then I said something to her, I can't remember what I said to her. She turned her neck and then I accidentally cut her neck. I took my picture from her, then I ran to Mickey D's, then I went to the park for awhile, then I went and called Tony to pick me up and then I went home."
Defendant (ie Christopher) said that he had known Kristina for about a year before her death. On October 3, 1984, he saw Kristina in the vicinity of the Park Forest Plaza. Kristina was crying. Defendant asked her what was wrong. She said she had had a fight with her boyfriend. Defendant asked her the reason for the fight, and she replied that it was none of his business. Defendant then asked her if she wanted him to walk her home and she said yes. As they were walking, defendant kept asking her about the fight. She became upset and hit him. He pushed her "like to cheer her up." They started arguing. They were next to the Marshall Field's store when "[he] might have hit her without realizing it. Then [he] probably accidentally knocked her down." He "got on top of her," pushed her dress up and pulled her panties down. He was trying to have sex with her. He had a butterfly knife with a three or four inch blade in his hand. "[He] had her pinned. [He] didn't realize the knife was in [his] hand at the time. Then she was struggling. Then [he] might have, without realizing, stabbed her once or twice" in the chest. She threw him off and he got back on her. He pinned her arms to her chest. "Then she tried to pull her hands away and instead of pulling, she pushed them up. Then she turned her head suddenly and [he] might have cut her" neck "on accident." He grabbed her purse and her slip, took his picture out of the purse and threw the purse and the slip away. Two days later, he was treated at South Suburban Hospital for injuries to his face, chest, ribs and arm that he suffered when he ran into a tree.
''There is no sentence that will bring my daughter back, but the thought of Abernathy ever being let out of jail to mingle with society and perhaps commit a vicious and brutal attack on anyone else would be more than I could stand emotionally. He has his life, which is more than my daughter will ever have again. I hope and pray that the courts put him away for the rest of his life so he can never again enjoy the freedom and joy of living that he so carelessly destroyed for my 15-year-old daughter.''
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