After a store clerk is murdered, a man phones a call-in crime tip line and confesses to the killing.

Tracey Kirkpatrick

A security guard found Tracey’s body

CASE DETAILS

In early 1989, Tracey Kirkpatrick was a quiet teenager in the small town of Frederick, Maryland. Her passion was writing poetry. As her mother Diane explains, it got her through tough times:

“She expressed her feelings through her writing. She wrote a lot of lonely poems. She was very intelligent. She was a hard worker. She loved people and she loved to be around people. And she loved to have a lot of friends and everything.”

“Don” called to confess

During Tracey’s senior year in high school, she worked two part-time jobs, one of them as a sales clerk in a clothing store. On the night of March 15th, 1989, Tracey was assigned to close the store and add up the day’s receipts. Fifteen minutes before closing time, she was alone. It was 8:45 P.M.

Two hours later, a security guard noticed that the lights were still on in the store and that the front door was unlocked. When the guard called out, he got no response. He went in to investigate. In a back storage room, he found Tracey’s lifeless body and called the police.

At about the same time, Tracey’s parents were on their way to the mall. It was nearly 11 P.M. and Tracy was more than an hour late coming home. Tracey’s mother arrived to see police at the scene:

“I said, ‘Is she alright, can I see her?’ And when he shook his head no, I just blocked out everything. I didn’t want to hear the rest of what was going to be said to me. Did someone have it against her so much that they would do something like that to her? She never did anything to hurt anybody.”

Police found no motive for Tracey’s murder and detectives were baffled. Then, three months later, they got their first break: a phone call recorded by a nationwide confession hotline:  “Hello, my name is Don and I’m calling from Frederick, Maryland. I know this is going to sound surprising, but three months ago, I stabbed a girl to death and you might think that in making this tape, I’m setting myself up to be caught, but there are a lot of guys named Don in Frederick.”

“Sean” sent a psychic newspaper clippings

The confession hot-line staff sent the tip to Frederick police. Cpl. Barry Horner remembers the call:

“The sincerity that I heard in that voice and the knowledge that the person was displaying, talking about what he had done, at that point convinced me that I probably was listening to the killer.”

Cpl. Horner played the rest of the tape for his chief: “The girl I killed was working in a ladies sportswear store. I often came by and talked to her when she was working alone, and one night when she was in the storeroom and we were talking, our conversation turned into an argument. And so I took out a knife I have with me at all times, and I killed her. And a few days later, I realized I had created a lot of sadness, and I thought about turning myself in to the police. But whatever they do to me, that won’t bring Tracey back. So, I’ve decided that I better keep free because we have the death penalty in Maryland. Thanks for listening. I’m sorry about what I did, but nothing can change it. Bye.”

Was “Sean” or “Don” the killer?

The police traced the call back to a supermarket 8 miles away in Walkersville, Maryland. Cpl Horner thinks this was significant:

“If it was the killer, he wanted to be caught. And he was seeking help through this hotline.” 

Two weeks later, on October 24, Frederick police received another phone call. This time it was a woman named Martha Woodworth. She told police she was a psychic and had been contacted by a young man who identified himself only as “Sean.” Woodworth told police that Sean had contacted her repeatedly. He was obsessed with finding the person who had murdered Tracey. She asked Sean for more information and he eventually sent her some newspaper clippings about the crime:

“When I received the envelope with his handwriting on the outside, I thought this person has a much stronger involvement than just being a friend who’s interested. I found the handwriting extremely disturbing. So I felt it was my responsibility to alert the police that I had a potential suspect for them.”

Chief Ashton played the confession tape for Martha to see if she could recognize the voice. She knew it immediately:

“I knew it was Sean. In fact, my heart dropped. It was very chilling to hear the voice of the person I’d been speaking to for months actually confessing to the crime.”

Police followed the return address on Sean’s envelope to Walkersville, Maryland. It was the same town where the call-in confession had come from. The young man living at the address was not named Sean or Don, though he had sent the clippings.

Police still didn’t have enough evidence to charge the young man from Walkersville. They asked a local DJ to broadcast the confession tape. Three people called in to say they knew the voice. They all provided the identical name, a name the police recognized as the young man from Walkersville who had sent the newspaper clippings. Police searched his home for evidence the next day. Cpl. Horner:

“Unfortunately, the evidence was examined and re-examined and we were unable to confirm that he was either at the crime scene that night or had any particular part in this criminal act.”

In the end, the young man pleaded the fifth and refused to answer any questions. Tracey’s mother hasn’t entirely given up hope:

“There has to be someone who’s seen something, someone coming from that store, running from that store or leaving that store orwho heard something.” 

Update:

The man who called himself Don and Sean has been cleared as a suspect. No one has ever been arrested for Tracey’s murder and the case remains open and unsolved.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season three with Robert Stack and in season seven with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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20 Comments

  1. Chloe A.S.

    The security guard killed her. Fact.

    Reply

  2. Toni

    Don, Shawn character actually knows what happened because he knows the killer.He decided to plead the fifth. Look into it

    Reply

  3. Anonymous

    When the man called to confessed he said he use to come in to the store and talk to Trcey when she was alone !!! They problaby got him on camera ???????

    Reply

    • Anonymous

      Since her murder has gone unsolved this long, y guess is that there were either no cameras, or no footage of the killer.

      Reply

  4. Chanita

    She’s So Beautiful May God Bless Her! And She Is Up There In heaven Looking Down on That Killer! Eventually The Killer Will Have A Gutily Feeling! Be At Ease Mrs Kerpatrick God Will Surely Come to Your Aid!

    Reply

  5. sara c.

    I agree on that women should not work in isolated quiet night jobs too dangerous in this time and age. Tracy’s murder does not make sense from all the clues ive read.theres a skeleton waiting to be discovered, hope a smart persistent bad ass detective takes on this case to find that skeleton.

    Reply

  6. kitty

    A lot of time and money is wasted on leading people on to look in the wrong direction while the guilty get away. Planet earth is a hell hole. Women don’t belong working in unsafe environments at night. Predators are everywhere and they know where to look to pick out their next living toy to gratify their obsessions and fantasies. Accidents will happen. Love is not always mutual. In fact love is a rare gift.

    Reply

  7. Anonymous

    What I don’t get is what happened to them suspecting this Shawn guy. Why was he cleared if it was found out he made the call. Was it a hoax?

    Reply

    • Chloe Aaron

      That’s what I’m wondering. Too bad they don’t tell us those things. I mean, 90% of the story is about this guy. And suddenly he’s not even a suspect anymore?? I don’t get it. WHY is he no longer a suspect? Surely they can tell us that.

      Reply

  8. Lee

    I understand that the Security Guard on duty (at the plaza) was the son of the Frederick County Sheriff and possibly had a romantic interest with the victim (though the SG was married with kids) Was an autopsy done? Was the victim expecting? I also understand the S.G. move south after the murder.

    Reply

    • Chloe A.S.

      Are you sure that the security guard is the son?
      Because they claim that due to politics, etc they can’t convict this person they are certain is the killer. Nice.
      Here’s the article I read:

      Retired Frederick Police Department Cpl. Bob Servacek is convinced he knows who killed Tracey Kirkpatrick.
      “The case was solved in 1994,” Servacek said. “As far as I was concerned.”

      Based on circumstantial evidence, he believes more than enough evidence exists for an arrest and a conviction. He believes a friend of the 17-year-old Brunswick High student killed her.

      “What derailed the process was politics and personal agendas,” Servacek said. “Certain individuals did not do their jobs and derailed the case.”

      He did not wish to elaborate.

      Servacek took over the case in 1992 from retiring Cpl. Barry Horner, who was the first detective assigned to the investigation.

      While most investigators had 12 to 14 cases to work on, the Kirkpatrick case was Servacek’s sole responsibility for one year, 1994.

      “Ninety-nine point nine percent of my day was working on the Tracey Kirkpatrick case,” Servacek said. “It was probably the most sophisticated case I was associated with.”
      (snipped)
      While police still have two persons of interest, Servacek said he is convinced only one is the killer.

      Reply

    • Brandon

      Yes that is true the s.g that was the son of the chief I believe back then did in fact leave Frederick county. I had been told by my mother who knew this s.g from driving a school bus back then. That he would come up to my moms bus when she was sitting waiting to pick kids up an talk to her. She swears to this day that it was his voice on the phone call recording.

      Reply

  9. Snarr

    Have you by chance looked into the highway 70 murders for a connection by chance?

    Reply

  10. Tina

    How about the guy that they got for the Stacie Hoffmaster murder. Just a thought or suggestions tPbrH

    Reply

  11. Someone

    knows something. PM me.

    Reply

  12. dave

    go back andtalk to theofficer that was firstthere

    Reply

  13. dave

    whydidtheywanttogetthestorecleanbroedupat11:30thesamenighttheycanafterustohelpcleanupthestor/askaattbrownoneoftbheofficethatwasthereseemfunnytocleanupthesamenight

    Reply

    • dave

      to clean up acrime go scene the night it happen just was wrong Ithingto do Ithinktheyneedtogoback and talkto first police that was there

      Reply