After a store clerk is murdered, a man phones a call-in crime tip line and confesses to the killing.
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:
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:
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.”
The confession hot-line staff sent the tip to Frederick police. Cpl. Barry Horner remembers the call:
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.”
The police traced the call back to a supermarket 8 miles away in Walkersville, Maryland. Cpl Horner thinks this was significant:
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:
Chief Ashton played the confession tape for Martha to see if she could recognize the voice. She knew it immediately:
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:
In the end, the young man pleaded the fifth and refused to answer any questions. Tracey’s mother hasn’t entirely given up hope:
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.