Editorial: Solving 44-year-old murder case shows commitment to victims
Pamela Maurer's story could have been one of those sad, long-forgotten mysteries left to painful memories and periodic speculation. Instead, thanks to scientific advances and determined investigators, it is, terrible as it is, a dignified coda to a life unlived. And, authorities say, it may lead to similar resolutions for many -- perhaps as many as a dozen -- other long-unsolved cases.
Pamela, a shy 16-year-old girl from the south side of Woodridge, disappeared one January night in 1976 when she left a friend's house for a short walk to McDonald's. Her body was found the next day along College Road in Lisle. She had been strangled. Initially, authorities said they had lots of leads on her killer, but weeks, then months, then decades passed with no answer.
Assuming, correctly as it turned out, that Pamela's attacker was male, M.J. Wurth, the police chief in Lisle in 1976, predicted, "We'll probably never find out why he killed her. But we're going to find him."
Now, they have. And, in so doing investigators not only offer faint slivers of hope to countless other families who have long yearned to know the details of lost loved ones, but also reaffirmed our abiding respect for a human life.
That lives cut short stay with us was clearly demonstrated by the appearance of Cindy Evans at the press conference Monday in which investigators described their conclusions about her teenage friend's death. Evans said she wanted to hear the news directly for herself. She recalled saying goodbye to her friend when they left school on separate buses the day Pamela disappeared. She reflected on long-sought answers and her relief the killer was not someone she or Pamela knew.
"(Pamela) would never have gotten in (a car) willingly with a stranger," Evans said. "We could never imagine one of our friends doing it."
The person who did do it, it turns out, was a cold young man from Aurora who would go on to be accused of rape and kidnapping before being released while free on bond when his accuser's body was found and the cause of death could not be determined. He died in early 1981 in the act of stabbing to death 18-year-old Charles Huber, of Naperville.
Tracing him to Pamela's death was itself a labor taking decades. It began in 2001 with a profile of a suspect built from DNA evidence at Pamela's killing. That profile produced no conclusion, but a more-advanced analysis last year helped investigators develop what they called a rough "snapshot" of the suspect telling color of eyes, skin and hair and enough other details to build a composite drawing. Working from a genealogical database, they narrowed suspicion to Lindahl and were able to conclusively tie him to Pamela's death through further DNA testing after exhuming his body.
Pamela Maurer is, of course, just one of countless murder victims whose stories go untold for years, decades or maybe forever. But the conclusion of her mystery pays a kind of homage to all those human stories. Achieving justice, of course, involves striving to make responsible criminals pay for their wrongdoing. But it also, as this case shows, sometimes just helps ensure that no victim of wrongdoing is ever forgotten.