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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29 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Steven

    Thomas,
    Do you know around when the family suspected Barnes or dont they? Do they think the Frederick police covered up the crime? If that is the case, why wasnt the Maryland State Police brought in?

    Reply

  2. Avatar

    thinkingoutloud

    probably the security guard

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    Bill Blaski

    So sad this case is still unsolved

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    Thomas

    I believe it was most likely the Security Guard, Don Barnes, Jr. I think that there’s enough circumstantial evidence to prove it that wasn’t presented in the Unsolved Mysteries episode along with new evidence that has come forth since it’s airing:

    1. Don Barnes, Jr. had a roommate at the time named “Sean” which would give into Sean’s obsession with the case and him saving newspaper clippings about it since he knew the actual killer. Sean knew he couldn’t go the police so he sought other avenues.

    2. Don Barnes, Jr. was the son of the Sheriff at the time which would lead many people to believe that his father and fellow officers would cover up for him.

    3. Don Barnes, Jr. cannot account for the time between 9:00 pm when he noticed the store’s light on and 10:30 pm when he went into the store and discovered her body.

    4. At a later date it was revealed by the daughter of Don Barnes, Jr. that she believed he killed her based off of conversations she heard him have while growing up. She also said that during his unaccounted for hour and a half time lapse that he went to his wife’s house, whom he was separated from, to change into a new uniform which would explain why there was no blood on his clothes. She also said Barnes was 25 at the time and was into younger women.

    5. The Westridge Shopping Mall which she was killed at and Don Barnes , Jr. was a security guard at was not that large. It’s part of the Golden Mile in Frederick and I have been to many times. He could’ve walked that whole strip close to 20 times within an hour and a half which leads me to question why he didn’t check on Tracey much earlier. Either he wasn’t doing his job or he was up to something.

    6. The killer supposedly escaped through the back door but there’s been no evidence provided that he did unless the door was left open. My guess is if that information was provided by Barnes’ testimony then that was an error on his part but his testimony has yet to be released.

    7. Several people have contacted the Frederick Police Department in regards to new information on the case they discovered only to have no return calls, leading me to believe it’s still a cover up.

    8. Not long after the murder did Barnes move to Egypt, and then Florida where he currently resides.

    9. Tracey Kirkpatrick was spotted several times along throughout the night (one by a friend and another by her mother) and the only person who was constantly there was Barnes. How did he not notice anything? The shopping center then was not a busy place at the time, nor still is.

    10. Tracy Kirkpatrick was stabbed in the back in the backroom. There was no sign of struggle so she must’ve known the assailant and was comfortable enough with him to leave the store front to go in the back.

    11. Barnes, Jr. and Tracey Kirkpatrick obviously knew each other since they both worked in the same area and other store clerks have witnessed them speaking to one another. She got back with her boyfriend the day before she was murdered so Barnes, Jr. must have found out that night she was working and subsequently killed her in a “heat of passion” moment once she told him the news because of his advances on her. Keep in mind he was separated and single at the time.

    12. The lead investigator, Honer, admitted to botching the crime scene and not being thorough which would certainly help the case of destroying evidence that could link Barnes, Jr. to the crime since his father was the Sheriff and Honer’s boss.

    13. It was common knowledge around members of the community in Frederick that Barnes, Jr, was the murderer but because of his father’s status he would never be indicted.

    14. An investigator of the case back in 1994 said that he believes the killer was a fellow high school student from Brunswick where she attended school. He said there was enough evidence to indicted him but not convict him which is why nothing has happened. My problem is why haven’t they issued any of their evidence on this supposed fellow classmate so that maybe others that knew him could come forward with their knowledge. They won’t even release the man’s name. No one that knew her from Brunswick has come forth even speculating a fellow classmate.

    It all leads back to Don Barnes, Jr.

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    Anonymous

    Why couldn’t they just have watched the security cameras

    Reply

  6. Avatar

    thinkingoutloud

    strange to me this man does all this ‘confessing’ and stuff, but in the end they clear him for not enough evidence. clearly he knows every detail about this murder and has info on it. I wonder why they cleared him.

    he at least has connections to the who killed her. maybe the security guard is involved.

    very interesting case

    Reply

  7. Avatar

    Jake

    Does anyone knows what the guy look like that called in. I think I was at that shopping center that night. If I still can remember.

    Reply

  8. Avatar

    Chloe A.S.

    The security guard killed her. Fact.

    Reply

  9. Avatar

    Toni

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

    Reply

  10. Avatar

    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

    • Avatar

      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

  11. Avatar

    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

  12. Avatar

    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

  13. Avatar

    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

  14. Avatar

    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

    • Avatar

      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

  15. Avatar

    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

    • Avatar

      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

    • Avatar

      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

  16. Avatar

    Snarr

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

    Reply

  17. Avatar

    Tina

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

    Reply

  18. Avatar

    Someone

    knows something. PM me.

    Reply

  19. Avatar

    dave

    go back andtalk to theofficer that was firstthere

    Reply

  20. Avatar

    dave

    whydidtheywanttogetthestorecleanbroedupat11:30thesamenighttheycanafterustohelpcleanupthestor/askaattbrownoneoftbheofficethatwasthereseemfunnytocleanupthesamenight

    Reply

    • Avatar

      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

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