Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Pressed for Crime: The Heather Stigliano Murder Mystery

Killer at Large

After graduating from High Point Regional High School in rural Sussex County, New Jersey, 19-year-old Heather Stigliano moved to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, to chase her dream of becoming an actress.

Heather Stigliano
Heather Stigliano
"I had just gone through a divorce, and she promised to stay with me for a year till I got my legs, and when that year was up she made plans and she moved," said Susan L. Wright, Heather's mother.

After securing a job as a waitress at a local eatery, Heather rented a small apartment near the beach. Her first few weeks at Myrtle Beach were fun-filled and full of excitement; however, she soon discovered that breaking into showbiz was not as easy as she had thought.

"She wanted me to come down. She was feeling homesick, and things were not going as well as she wanted it to go down there," Susan said.

Unfortunately, that phone call would prove to be the last time Susan had any contact with her daughter. The following week, on Nov. 4, 1991, friends found her body lying on the floor inside her apartment. She had been stabbed multiple times and strangled to death with an electrical cord.

During her autopsy, forensic pathologist Jamie Downs noted "40 separate individual injuries including significant blunt force injuries."

The prosecuting attorney would later describe it as one of the "most brutal" crimes he had ever seen.

Investigators found no evidence of forced entry; however, the motive for the murder appeared to be robbery, as several of Heather's possessions—a wallet, 35-millimeter camera, and television set—were missing. Her car was also nowhere to be found.

Several clues were found inside the apartment. Investigators found unidentifiable pieces of broken plastic next to Heather's body and fingerprints that did not a match the victim. They also found shoe prints from a size 11 athletic shoe. In addition to the evidence, investigators also made note of the fact that the killer had placed a pillow underneath Heather's head, suggesting the he or she may have known the victim.

 

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