When a young mother, Nadine Madger, was found murdered in her Willoughby, Ohio, apartment on a January evening in 1980, her loved ones and the authorities were shocked at the crime’s brutality. However, all they had was an unknown suspect on their hands, and it was not until four decades later that they could finally identify her killer. ‘On the Case With Paula Zahn: A Lifetime of Grief’ delves into Nadine’s tragic murder and chronicles how the police solved the case. So, who was the perpetrator, and were they ever brought to justice? Let’s find out!
How Did Nadine Madger Die?
Born on October 4, 1954, Nadine Madger was 25 at the time of her death. In January 1980, she was happily married to Mark Madger for a year and a half, and the couple had an adorable six-month-old baby boy named Daniel. To date, Nadine’s husband fondly remembers her as a kind and caring woman who never spoke ill of anyone. He reminisces how he immediately fell in love with her amiable personality and cherished the warm hugs she gave. Besides, Nadine was pretty friendly with those around her and had no conflicts with anyone, making her sudden demise all the more shocking.
The day of January 11, 1980, started as a regular one as the 25-year-old mother stayed home with her infant son, and Mark went to work. Yet, little did he know that it would be the last time he saw his beloved wife alive. At around 5 pm that day, Mark returned to the couple’s apartment in Willoughby, Ohio, only to find the house eerily quiet. What he saw inside was a scene from a nightmare — while his little son was safely in his playpen in the living room, his wife lay dead nearby in a pool of blood on the dining room floor.
Not just that, a butcher’s knife was sticking out of Nadine’s body, indicating she had been stabbed to death. Once Mark called the authorities, they immediately arrived and thoroughly searched the apartment. Moreover, an autopsy stated that the victim had been stabbed more than 40 times with the same butcher’s knife found on her body. In the meantime, the medical examiners concluded that the murder occurred between 1:15 pm and 4:45 pm that afternoon.
Who Killed Nadine Madger?
Luckily, Nadine’s baby was physically unharmed when Mark found him, and the police could not find any signs of forced entry or sexual assault. Furthermore, the victim had no known conflict with anyone, making it hard to decipher who would have wanted to harm her so mercilessly. Additionally, nothing from the apartment was missing except a knife from the kitchen, which soon turned out to be the murder weapon. Given the absence of clues after searching the house or any possible suspects, the investigators struggled to make much progress with the case.
Nevertheless, a neighbor did state they had reportedly seen an unidentified yellow Dodge Dart sports car parked in the apartment complex around the estimated time of Nadine’s murder. But despite two years of hard work, the police could not make significant progress in the investigation, and the case eventually went cold for around sixteen years. It received its first breakthrough in 1996 when the county crime lab examined the shirt Nadine wore at the time of her death. Apart from her blood, it surprisingly contained the blood of an unknown male, whom the police believed to be the killer.
According to the authorities, the perpetrator had likely gotten injured while attacking the victim, and his blood had dripped onto her clothes, leaving a crucial clue behind. Yet, unfortunately, the blood sample could not be analyzed further due to the primitive DNA analysis technology at the time. Hence, Nadine’s murder investigation again went cold for over two decades until 2014. That year, the police partnered with the Ohio Bureau of Investigation, who re-analyzed the blood found on the 25-year-old’s shirt again and ascertained that the killer stood over her body.
Eventually, in 2018, the police and the Parabon NanoLabs in Virginia used modern technology to build the potential suspect’s family tree from his DNA sample. The lab first determined some of the person’s probable physical characteristics by phenotyping. After thoroughly searching databases, tracing distant cousins, and studying extensive genealogical patterns, the police could finally zero down on one person — Stephen Simcak. An ex-Marine who lived in Eastlake, Ohio, at the time of Nadine’s murder, he had no previous criminal records.
Still, once the police dug deep, they discovered shocking coincidences. As per sources, Stephen reportedly owned a yellow Dodge Dart sports car in the 80s, identical to the one spotted in the victim’s apartment complex. Also, he worked at Lincoln Electric in 1980 and was suspiciously absent from work on the day of the murder. Stephen had apparently called in sick with the flu and did not report to work. On top of it, he additionally worked at a winery and a florist in Wickliffe, just a few miles southwest of his and Nadine’s residences. Given all the evidence the detectives had compiled, they were almost sure in 2022 that Stephen was involved in the murder.
How Did Stephen Simcak Die?
Regardless of the investigation’s progress, the police still needed concrete evidence to zero down on Stephen Simcak as Nadine Madger’s killer. But to their dismay, they learned that he had died at 79 of unknown causes in June 2018. Despite the lack of Stephen’s DNA sample, the authorities managed to obtain his grandson’s DNA from the coroner.
As expected, it matched the suspect’s profile in Nadine’s murder and confirmed Stephen as her killer. Yet, what befuddled everyone was the possible motive behind the crime, as Mark was confident that his wife never knew the man personally. Unfortunately, the exact reasons and details of the crime remain unsolved, and the police and Nadine’s family are still left with many unanswered questions.
At the official press conference, her son, Daniel Madger, stated, “I am angry and upset that Stephen passed away as a free and care-free citizen before he could be identified as well as caught, in turn getting the ability for questions to be asked and justice to be served.” That said, he and Mark are glad that at least the murderer was finally identified. As of writing, the police are still investigating the possible motives behind Stephen’s crime and have requested the masses for potential leads.
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