Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Murder by the Book: The Murder of Karyn Slover

Rumors

Lake Shelbyville
Lake Shelbyville

A couple fishing that afternoon on Lake Shelbyville near Findlay Marina saw something floating in the water, so they pulled it aboard. The object proved to be a bag. One of the pair handled it and thought it felt like a human head; he called the police. Deputies arrived to open the bag and found the head of a young woman inside. Authorities then searched the entire lake over the following few days and collected ten separate plastic bags, many of which had surfaced and floated ashore. All had been wrapped tightly, some even double-bagged, and many contained a heavy piece of concrete to weigh them down. But the plastic bags had filled gasses from decomposition and so returned to the surface. The task force suspected they had found Karyn Slover's remains; they asked her parents for the name of her dentist.

Evidence: Concrete pieces
Evidence: Concrete pieces

Investigators consulted Karyn Slover's dental records and soon declared that they had made the identification: the remains were those of the missing woman. The remains were transported to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield for an autopsy to attempt to determine the time frame and cause of death. A drop of blood found on a bridge over the lake was also matched to Karyn via DNA analysis, and a fingerprint was lifted only inches away.

Re-enactment of the autopsy
Re-enactment of the autopsy

Right away, speculation arose that she had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and had become the victim of a roving serial killer. This hypothetical predator had killed her, cut her up and dumped the remains in Lake Shelbyville, forty miles from the site at which the car was found, to prevent police from discovering the crime.

Detective Michael Beck quickly rejected this scenario; it did not appear plausible to him. This killing did not seem to him to be the result of random targeting by the rare killer who liked to dismember bodies; rather, it looked as if Karyn had known her killer. In fact, police already suspected that whoever had killed her had then driven her boyfriend's car in another direction to divert any search away from the lake. Staging means taking pains to make one sort of crime look like a different type altogether.

To focus the investigation, an eight-member task force was formed comprising representatives from five different area agencies. They began by checking out rumors they'd heard about a messy divorce and an angry ex-boyfriend, as well as what Karyn's co-workers had told them about a customer of the newspaper who had been acting strangely. They publicized their search for witnesses who might have seen Karyn after she left the newspaper office, or who might know of someone in her life angry enough to kill her. At this point, they had only a handful of leads.

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