1975 Homicide Solved Using Genetic Testing


IMPD Unsolved Homicide Unit Solves 1975 Case Using Genetic Genealogy Testing 

INDIANAPOLIS – Today, IMPD Deputy Chief Kendale Adams and IMPD detectives announced the 1975 abduction and assault of three juveniles has been solved using genetic genealogy testing. They were joined by Steve Dubois from DNA Labs International and Audiochuck Founder Ashley Flowers.  
 
“My hope is this investigation demonstrates our commitment to justice, no matter how much time has passed. After 48 years, we now can tell these survivors who was responsible for this heinous act,” said Deputy Chief of Investigations Kendale Adams.  
 
On August 19, 1975, at 10:45 p.m. 13-year-old Kandice Smith, 11-year-old Sheri Rottler Trick and 14-year-old Kathie Rottler were leaving a gas station on Washington Street near Belmar Avenue on the eastside of Indianapolis. The girls decided to hitchhike, and a white male driving a station wagon pulled over and offered to give them a ride.
 
As the girls were in the vehicle, they realized the male had continued to drive past their final destination. The girls attempted to get out of the vehicle but were unable to. Eventually, the male stopped the car near a cornfield in Greenfield, Indiana.   
 
The suspect forced the three girls out of the vehicle and bound two of them. He then proceeded to sexually assault one of the girls before stabbing her. During the vicious attack, the suspect also stabbed the other two girls numerous times. As the girls laid in the cornfield, the suspect fled the area.
 
Eventually, two of the girls were able to make it back to the main road where they were rescued by passerby and police were called.  
 
All three girls were rushed to the hospital and incredibly, all survived the heinous attack.  
 
Police from several jurisdictions, including Indiana State Police, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and Cumberland Police Department, worked together to analyze the crime scene.
 
A composite sketch was developed of a possible suspect, and several leads were followed. However, after ruling out suspects, the investigation stalled, and the case went cold.  
 
Over the years, the survivors of the attack kept in contact with police and the case was revisited, but a clear suspect had never been developed.  
 
In 2018, IMPD Sgt. David Ellison, who is now retired, was contacted by the survivors and agreed to look into their case. In 2019, Sgt. Ellison worked with the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office to obtain evidence from the case and have it analyzed and tested.   
 
In 2021, Sgt. Ellison learned the Indianapolis-Marion County Forensic Services Agency had successfully recovered DNA from pieces of evidence and had developed a full DNA profile of an unknown male. Additional testing on two other evidentiary items also produced unknown male DNA. All three of these DNA profiles matched one another. Investigators believed this DNA profile to be that of the suspect.   
 
In 2023, Sgt. Ellison submitted an application for genetic genealogy to be completed by DNA Labs International in Deerfield Beach, Florida. DNA Labs International (DLI) is a private forensic DNA laboratory and was enlisted on this case to utilize the latest forensic technology available.   
 
“The ForenSeq Kintelligence System, the newest Forensic Investigative Genetic Genealogy (FIGG) technology, was designed specifically for challenging forensic samples. This testing enabled the development of a DNA profile 48 years later that was then used by DLI’s genealogy team to generate a new investigative lead for law enforcement. DLI was also able to confirm this investigative lead using DNA kinship testing,” said Steve Dubois, a Client Experience Specialist at DNA Labs International.  
 
Funding for this testing was provided by Audiochuck, an Indianapolis-based media company that creates and produces multiple podcasts.   
 
“When the Audiochuck team was made aware of this need for funding, it was a no brainer for us to step in. We are honored to be standing here today as a small part of the team that made this solve possible. The advancements that have been made in DNA testing is astounding and we’re encouraged by what this means for cold and ongoing cases,” said Audiochuck Founder & Chief Creative Officer Ashley Flowers.  
 
In April of 2023, DNA Labs International re-analyzed DNA samples from the crime scene using forensic genetic genealogy technology and were able to develop a profile for the suspect in this case. Further research on ancestry was conducted, and the pool of family members of the suspect continued to narrow.  
 
In August of 2023, the genealogists at DNA Labs International were able to use FamilyTree.com, GEDmatch.com, and DNA of the suspect to identify the daughter of the suspect.    
 
The suspect was identified as Thomas Edward Williams, who died in November of 1983 while in prison in Galveston, Texas.     
 
IMPD would like to thank Kandice Smith, Sheri Rottler Trick and Kathie Rottler for their bravery, courage, persistence, and patience in this case.  IMPD would also like to acknowledge those who continued to search for answers, including Audiochuck, DNA Labs International, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, Lt. Steve Gibbs and Sgt. David Ellison.  
 
“Today’s announcement is nearly 50 years in the making, but it shows the dedication and perseverance of our detectives and partners.  IMPD will hold criminals accountable, no matter how long it takes. While we would like to do this immediately, this may take years and even decades, and we never stop looking for answers,” said Chief Adams.     
 

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Indianapolis, IN 46204

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