Crime Junkie Podcast narrates the mysterious death of 17-year-old teen Tracy Kirkpatrick in Frederick, Maryland in March 1989. Tracy’s body was found in one of the stores she worked part-time, and her murder remains unsolved even after more than three decades. The case has several twists and turns which is enough to perplex the listeners. If you’re intrigued and want to find out more about the case, here’s what we know.
How Did Tracy Kirkpatrick Die?
Tracy (AKATracey) Lynn Kirkpatrick was born on June 9, 1971, in East Liverpool in Columbiana County, Ohio, to William and Diane Kirkpatrick. She was a studious and hard-working teenager studying at Brunswick High School with good grades. Her sister, Deonda Kirkpatrick, recounted, “When we played school at the house, she was always the teacher. She did a chalkboard. We had homework and everything. She always said she wanted to be more like me—more popular like me—and I always wanted to be smart like her.”
Tracy was an introvert – shy and quiet – but with a great sense of humor. While her two sisters, Deonda and Angie, played softball, she did not have a knack for athletics or sports. Instead, her family recounted how Tracy aspired to be a model when she was little because of her stately looks, with red hair and hazel eyes. Her father, William, laughed while reminiscing, “She hated having pictures taken.” Deonda added, “She loved taking pictures, but she would not let you take a picture of her. Every one of them, she has her hand up blocking so you would not take a picture of her.”
In March 1989, the 17-year-old high school senior was simultaneously working two jobs at the Westridge Square Shopping Center on the Golden Mile in Frederick, Maryland. She worked as a sales clerk in two side-by-side stores – Barnett Shoes and Aileen Ladies Sportswear – as part of a work-study program and to lessen the financial burden on her parents by saving for her college fees. A few months shy of graduating, the teen had got a chance to study accounting at Mount St. Mary’s University and aspired to become a lawyer.
According to news reports, Tracy drove to the Westridge Square Shopping Center around 1:00 pm after leaving school on March 15, 1989. At approximately 4:00 pm, she went next door to the Aileen Ladies Sportswear store for her other part-time job. She was supposed to close the stoor for the first time on that day after tallying up the day’s receipts. Her mother, Diane, stated how she and the store manager dropped in at the store at different points of the day to check up on her.
The episode described how Tracy was alone in the store around 8:45 pm, 15 minutes before the store was assigned to be closed. That was the last time Tracy was seen alive the final time. At around 10:50 pm, the mall security guard was suspicious after finding the lights on in the store. He went to check the store and was surprised to discover the doors unlocked. After calling out several times but not receiving any response, the guard walked toward the back of the store and found Tracy’s lifeless body in the store room.
According to police reports, the 17-year-old had multiple stab wounds in the back and chest. The lack of defensive wounds on her body and no signs of struggle made the police hypothesize that the victim might have known her perpetrator. Since Tracy was not sexually assaulted or the store manager did not report any money stolen from the cash register, the investigators could not find any motive for the crime. The detectives also could not locate witnesses claiming to have seen or heard anything suspicious.
Who Killed Tracy Kirkpatrick?
With no tangible clue or lead to follow up, the Frederick Police Department was stumped as to why Tracy was murdered or who did it. According to news reports, Diane had stopped by the store at around 6:00 pm to deliver her daughter some food. She found her daughter alone in the store, reading a book. The store manager also dropped by around 8:00 pm to check on her, and the cash register did not record any sales after 8:00 pm. The investigators questioned the security guard, Don Barnes Jr., who was also the Frederick County Sheriff’s deputy but came up with nothing.
The officers interviewed Tracy’s parents to learn about a boyfriend with whom Tracy had broken up but patched up the night before her murder. Her father said he saw her with the guy the night before while he was going to pick up her daughter after she was late, and he thought her car might be experiencing mechanical issues. However, the police had no physical evidence tying the boyfriend to Tracy’s murder, and the homicide investigation started to get cold after some weeks.
Around a month later, the case took an odd turn when an anonymous caller dialed a Las Vegas crime hotline in early June 1989 and claimed he had murdered Tracy. He asserted he had known her for some time and alleged often talked with her when she was working at the shopping center. The caller, claiming his name was ‘Don,’ alleged he had been talking with Tracy on March 15 when they argued and stabbed her to death. However, ‘Don’ refused to divulge his identity since “Maryland had the death penalty” at the time. The call was traced to a supermarket in Walkersville, Maryland.
The lead investigator on Tracy’s case penned a letter to the anonymous killer, urging him to come forward so that the authorities could help him. However, the letter published on the front page of The Frederick News-Post on October 10, 1989, elicited no response. But a Massachusetts-based psychic came forward claiming “Don” had called her to discuss the case and even sent her newspaper clippings about the murder. According to the show, the return address on the envelope was in Walkersville – the same town from where the anonymous caller had called in to confess.
However, the police found no evidence to tie the occupant of the address to Tracy’s murder. Even after more than three decades, Tracy’s homicide remains unsolved. According to the show, the officers at that time made multiple mistakes while investigating the crime, including not seizing the back doors through which the perpetrator escaped or subpoenaing the store phone records.
Due to the absence of modern forensic technology, the investigators also lacked the means to use DNA analysis or other techniques to solve the case. However, multiple crime shows had covered the case, and Tracy’s family and the police remain hopeful someone might come forward with information leading to the arrest of the killer. The Kirkpatrick is also offering a $5,000 reward for genuine information about the murder.
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