They Were Stabbed and Left to Die. 50 Years Later, a Suspect

Indianapolis cops say Thomas Edward Williams, attacked 2 sisters, friend in 1975; he has since died
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2024 8:04 AM CST
They Were Stabbed and Left to Die. 50 Years Later, a Suspect
Kandice Smith, Sheri Rottler Trick, and Kathie Rottler speak Thursday after their nearly 50-year cold case was solved.   (The Indianapolis Star via AP)

A nearly 50-year-old cold case surrounding three young girls stabbed and left to die in an Indiana cornfield has finally reached a conclusion, although it's one that will end without justice. In a Thursday presser, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department announced that DNA evidence was able to help identify Thomas Edward Williams as the person who, on Aug. 19, 1975, stabbed sisters Sherri Rottler (now Rottler Trick), then 11, and 14-year-old Kathie Rottler, as well as their friend Kandice Smith, 13, in Greenfield, per the New York Times. "Looking somber, and at times with blank expressions on their faces," the three women, now in their 50s and 60s, listened as law enforcement laid out some of the details of their case.

Police say the three girls had visited a convenience store on that summer day nearly five decades ago, then decided to hitchhike to their next destination—an amusement center, per the Indianapolis Star. Williams was said to have picked them up, then driven right past their destination and into a cornfield, holding the girls at gunpoint. Police say Williams raped Rottler Trick and stabbed her in the throat and chest, while Rottler and Smith had their throats slashed. The girls all survived, however, and after Williams had left them for dead, Rottler and Smith managed to get to the road and flag down help.

Despite the women's tenacity and persistence over the years to get local and state officials to keep investigating, it was only in 2018 that Rottler hooked up with the Indianapolis police's cold-case unit. That's where DNA evidence taken from the scene decades earlier was turned into a profile, which was then sent to a Florida lab to undergo "the latest forensic technology available," per the AP. Results led to Williams' children, who agreed to offer their own DNA samples, identifying their father as the attacker.

story continues below

Even though the crime is now a wrap, Williams' victims won't see a full resolution: Police say that Williams, who earned the nickname the "Slasher" for his crime spree, died in November 1983 while in police custody in Texas, at the age of 49; it's not clear why he was in custody. Still, those who suffered at his hand are happy the case has been solved. "I stand here before you today as a survivor who has learned the true meaning of patience," Rottler said at the Thursday news conference, per the Times. "I've learned that sometimes the answer you are waiting for can take decades to get." (More Indiana stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.