Barbara Ann Blatnik (1971-1987) was just seventeen years old. On December 20, 1987, her nude body was found about 30 miles from her home in Garfield Heights (Ohio). She had been raped and strangled to death. I have not been able to find out whether she was manually strangled or with an object.
Police originally said that Barbara was found on the grounds of the music center. No newspaper I found describes what the music center is, how it could be reached from the party where Barbara was, and what exactly the area next to that music center looks like. It matter because later police said that Barbara was found in the adjacent area.
Summit County Coroner William A. Cox said in broadcasted interviews that Barbara was killed at an unidentified place and that her body was taken to the wooded area “a couple” of hours before it was discovered. I have not been able to find what led him to that conclusion, whether any traces or dragging trails were found or, whether Barbara’s body held clues typical for another area than the one in which she was found (for example: if you find gravel in the victim’s hair but they were found on carpet than you have a clue that they may have been murdered elsewhere).
Cox said that Barbara was intoxicated and that further testing for drugs would be conducted. I have not been able to find any test results. He did not specify her time of death.
Author Jack Swint writes in his March 2007 book “Who killed? Cleveland, Ohio” this: “Evidence also proved that she was raped by more than one person. Barbara was able to leave the police a clue as to who her killer may have been by a message scrawled in the palm of her hand shortly before she died. Police stated that the message appeared to be numbers and words. Her hand was amputated and sent to Washington DC for analysis. It is not known what the results of those tests concluded.” Barbara’s case is included in the chapter entitled “Who killed four Summit County women in 18 weeks?”
I have found this information about multiple attackers and the amputated hand online and only in Swint’s book. I didn’t buy the book. It wasn’t in my local book store or library so I have not been able to browse through it. If you have the book, please check for footnotes and see if these statements are documented. If you have any links to the test results about the writing on Barbara’s hand, please let me know so we can update this post.
The only page where I found a reference to writing on her hand was on this page from Pipl. The website that they show does not load.
Barbara was last seen around 4pm on the day that she left with friends to attend a party. She did call home from the party on Turney Road around 1030pm to say that she would be home soon. The party was close to her parental home which was part of the reason she had her parents’ permission to go.
Barbara’s murder became notorious as she was the fourth victim in four months in the Akron area leading the public to believe that a serial rapist/killer was at work.
The first murder was on August 10, 1987. Janice Christensen (31), a computer operator at Cuyahoga Falls General Hospital, went jogging along the Bike and Hike trail in Hudson Township. Her body was found the next day in brush just off the trail. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed.
Two months later on October 24, 1987, JoAnn Bartholomew (47) from Stow, was murdered behind the Chapel Hill Mall. She had not come home from church. Her abandoned car was found the next day in the mall parking lot. Two days later, police found her body in the woods. She too had been sexually assaulted and stabbed. Her purse and credit cards were later found in the North Hill area of Akron.
On December 15, 1987, Marcia Kay Piotter (36) from Akron, was reported missing after she didn’t come home from playing bingo. Her body was eventually found inside her car that was in the parking lot of an apartment complex on North Pershing Avenue off West Market Street, Northwest Akron. She had been stabbed in the neck and in her upper chest. Unlike the other women, Marcia was not sexually assaulted. In one news article it said that she was robbed but I cannot find which items were stolen and if anything was found later as was the case with JoAnn. Barbara was found one week later.
Police said that there were no suspects in Barbara’s murder. Capt. Sam Messina added that there were no similarities either with the other three slayings. This was a statement with which Cox agreed. None of the other women was strangled, that part is correct.
When none of the four murders were solved the next year, a task force was formed by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. This task force questioned suspects, conducted DNA testing of evidence, and searched for new clues. However, they never found a weapon nor a suspect to charge in any of the four cases. The current thought seems to be that multiple killers committed these crimes.
If you have any information that can help police solve Barbara Blatnik’s murder, please contact the Cuyahoga Falls Detective Bureau at 330-971-8334.
If you have information about any of the other three cases please contact the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) at 855-BCI-OHIO or send a tip online through the Ohio Attorney General’s website at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov.
Please keep these families in your thoughts during the Holiday Season.
Who killed? Cleveland, Ohio by Jack Swint