Nancy Wyckoff Murder: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?

Image Credit: BlackCatEnthusiast/ Find A Grave

In the early hours of February 8, 1972, students in the Poling Hall dormitory at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon, were startled by a scream. They also heard the sound of someone running up the fire escape. When they traced the source of the noise, they found Nancy Wyckoff lying on the floor of her dorm room with a stab wound, and a knife was lying next to her. Shortly afterward, Nancy succumbed to her injuries. Lifetime’s ‘Danger in the Dorm,’ inspired by the actual events of Nancy’s murder, illuminates what transpired and the ensuing horror that quickly engulfed the college, revealing this was not an isolated incident and the perpetrator might be more dangerous than imagined.

Nancy Wyckoff was Killed in Her Dorm Room

Nancy Diane Wyckoff was born in Los Angeles, California, on January 5, 1954. She was the apple of her mother Claire Wyckoff’s eye, always a diligent and loving young girl who aspired to achieve the best for herself. Exhibiting a streak of independence, she enrolled at Oregon State University to further her ambitions. With a keen interest in Mathematics, Nancy chose to major in the subject at this reputable institution. As a freshman residing in the Poling Hall dormitory, 18-year-old Nancy was thriving, surrounded by friends, and eagerly anticipating her opportunities and bright future.

Image Credit: Waymarking

Around 3:45 am, residents of the Poling Hall dormitory heard a scream coming from Nancy’s room, followed by the sound of footsteps ascending the fire escape. Panicked, they rushed to her room, finding the door open and Nancy lying on the floor with a stab wound in her chest. She was bleeding heavily, with an 8-inch carving knife beside her. They dialed 911 and waited for the police to arrive, but tragically, Nancy had already passed away before receiving any medical help. An autopsy revealed that she had died from a stab wound to her heart and had a minor injury on her neck. A homicide investigation was launched into her death.

A Flashlight Proved Significant in Catching Nancy Wyckoff’s Killer

The police began conducting interviews on campus and soon discovered that two other female students had been attacked in the weeks leading up to Nancy Wyckoff’s murder. Although the previous victims hadn’t seen the perpetrator clearly, they described him as a young man with short brown hair. With the escalating threat on campus, students were advised to be vigilant and walk in pairs to prevent further attacks. Meanwhile, the police rounded up more individuals and questioned them thoroughly. It didn’t take long for the police to zero in on another student on campus named Marlowe James Buchanan.

Image Credit: Crime Soup Podcast/X

Buchanan, a freshman electrical engineering student, lived on the second floor of the same dormitory as Nancy. The police grew suspicious of him as they began to find evidence linking him to the murder. To start with, Buchanan lacked a consistent alibi, frequently changing his story and recollection of his whereabouts. His demeanor and lack of confidence further fueled the police’s doubts about him. The police had also recovered a flashlight from the third floor, where Nancy’s room was. When they asked around, no one claimed ownership of the flashlight.

However, when Buchanan was shown the flashlight, he admitted it was his and said he had lost it on the third floor a few weeks before the murder. Upon searching his room, the police found a set of knives with one missing, which matched the knife found next to Nancy’s body. Confronted with this evidence, Buchanan broke down. He claimed that he went to Nancy’s room intending to play a prank by setting off a smoke bomb. He stated that he had been struggling with mental health issues, and when he entered her room, she woke up, screamed, and charged at him.

It caused Buchanan to panic, and he added that because he had been raised with conservative values, he did not want to be caught in a girl’s room in the middle of the night. He said he panicked and unintentionally killed Nancy. Buchanan was charged with manslaughter but pleaded not guilty, claiming mental incompetence. Psychiatrists who examined Buchanan refuted his claims of mental incompetence and found him mentally stable enough to be tried as an adult. Consequently, he received a 10-year sentence for the crime, as it was believed he had not entered the room with criminal intent.

Read More: Morgan Patten: How Did She Die? Who Killed Her?