Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Pressed for Crime: The Heather Stigliano Murder Mystery


After ruling out their first two suspects, police focused on a friend of Heather's who had recently stayed at her apartment while in town on business. However, like the two before him, he was also soon ruled out when he provided investigators with proof that he was out of town at the time of her murder.

The case was quickly going cold—police were out of suspects and unable to match the prints to any known criminals in the area. Then, things suddenly changed when an antique dealer from Pawleys Island called police after seeing reports of the murder on his television.

According to the antique dealer, a man had recently come into his shop and tried to sell him a camera matching the make and model of the one missing from Heather's apartment. He said the man acted suspiciously and became aggravated when he would not buy the camera. The incident troubled the shopkeeper to the extent that he wrote down the license plate of the vehicle the man drove away in. That number, as it turned out, was a match to the plate on Heather's stolen car.

Police had their first break in the case and also a description of their suspect, "a Caucasian man, mid 30s, with dark hair."

Using those details and others provided by the antique dealer, investigators were able to put together a composite sketch of the suspect, which they distributed to news outlets throughout the country.

Within days, employees of a construction company in Myrtle Beach contacted police and told them they recognized the man in the artist's rendition as 38-year-old James Bernard Whipple, a former coworker who had suddenly stopped coming to work over a week ago.

When police ran Whipple through their criminal database, they discovered that he had a record spanning four states for burglary, grand larceny, unauthorized use of a vehicle, petty theft, DUI and resisting arrest.

Whipple's last known address was in Melbourne, Florida.

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