This guest post “On Tusing and Stidham” was written by Miriam Said and holds her thoughts and feelings about the cold cases of Amanda Tusing and Dana Stidham.
Two beautiful young women, Amanda Tusing and Dana Stidham died in similar circumstances just over ten years apart. Their families still feel the pain of losing them to this day. Their murders have never been solved.
You might have that tiny piece of information that helps the Police solve these murders and allow Amanda and Dana’s families to finally have some peace. All I ask is that you read about Amanda and Dana in this post and help us to start defrosting two cold cases.
Dana Stidham left to go on an errand on July 25, 1989, she never returned. On the same day, her car, a Grey Dodge Omni, was found abandoned on Highway 71, north of Belle Vista Town Centre in Arkansas. There were no signs of a struggle, her keys were found still in the ignition and her wallet had been left as well. The left rear tire was a little bit flat and the contents of her purse/handbag were found strewn around the area of Chaucer and Hanover Road.
A Police Officer, under hypnosis, recalls driving past Dana’s car and seeing a three tone Chevrolet Ranchero truck with a medium green top, a dark wood grain insert in its middle and the lower part of the truck was white.
Dana was finally found on September 16 by a hunter in a remote, wooded area, somewhere near the Newburn Lane area, a long way from where her car was found. He didn’t report the skeletal remains he found buried in a shallow grave, in a dry creek river bed until the next day,September 17, 1989.
At the time of the first investigation into her death, a rejected suitor was the prime suspect. He was being harassed by Army Recruiting Officers in the area to join the Army during this time, but resisted joining up until after Dana’s death. It seems he was truly besotted with her and carried a photograph of her in his wallet for a long time after she died.
You can read more about the Dana Stidham case here.
Amanda Tusing left her fiancé’s house to drive home to her parents on June 14, 2000. She never got there. When Amanda didn’t arrive at her parents’ home, her Father contacted her fiancé and they both set out to search for her. They found her black 1992 Pontiac Grand AM on the Arkansas Highway 18, which is nearly five miles from the St. Francis Bridge.
Eerily, just like when Dana Stidham’s car had been found, there were no signs of a struggle, her wallet was still in the car and the keys were in the ignition. The windshield wipers had been stopped in the middle of the windshield/windscreen, the radio was still on and a still cold drink was in the cup holder. It is also notable that Amanda’s car was found surrounded by houses and was underneath a streetlight.
Three days later, June 18, Amanda’s body was found in a rain swollen ditch about twelve to thirteen miles from where her car had been found. Police say that there were no signs of a sexual assault, but vital forensic evidence could have been washed away by the storm that filled the ditch with water. Police also believe that Amanda was suffocated before being left in the ditch as she was found to have water in her nasal passages, but not in her lungs.
MY THOUGHTS ON BOTH CASES:
I believe these cases are so similar that they were carried out to the same modus operandi.
Both of the girls’ cars were found quite far distances from their abandoned cars – Amanda Tusing’s car was found 12/13 miles from her abandoned car and Dana Stidham’s car was found a long way from her car.
No robbery or theft of car or contents.
No signs of struggle at either car discovery site.
No signs of sexual assault, (although Stidham’s skeletal remains cannot tell us if there was or not)
No known enemies or protagonists only a rejected suitor in the Stidham case.
I change my view that the Stidham case was of a sexual nature. The porno magazine found further away from her body and stated as being found as one of several items strewn along the roadside may not be related. This could be coincidence or, it could have belonged to Stidham or, have been in her car shopping for a male friend/relative.
I have gone through a variety of scenarios in my mind. There are three possible scenarios:
1) the killer is a single male and acting as either a law enforcement officer or an army/military officer. Both are trusted by the public. This perp is able to lure the victim from her car and raise no initial suspicion of danger to the victim or to any passing members of the public whilst acting under the guise of either police officer or military officer. However, the more I run this scenario the weaker it gets.
This single perp would want to kill and leave quickly for fear of being caught with the victim. This person might leave clues for forensics to find and would stand out to passing public (people are curious and look whenever they see a police car pulling someone over or, would take even more notice of a military vehicle/officer pulling someone over).
The victims’ remains were found far from their abandoned vehicles. This would suggest that someone (maybe in either police officer disguise or army disguise) would be spotted and remembered travelling to the areas where the victims were found.
The crimes were committed more than 10 years apart, suggesting that one perp could not have carried out both murders due to aging and changes in life circumstances in that time period and police officer and military uniforms/insignia would have changed during this amount of time and an old police officers uniform would be notably different from a modern one.
Therefore I find that this scenario is possible, but not probable, but I do not discount it.
2) The killer has an accomplice and they are taking turns to commit these murders to show each other their competency and willingness to bond in admiration, loyalty or even treating it as some sort of game.
This would explain the time gap between both murders as the accomplice may be a lot younger than the other perp and would explain the similarities in modus operandi and style and the differences in the way the victims were found suggesting that one accomplice/partner was more confident and did not panic when disposing of the victim’s body.
The more experienced perp of the two showed his new apprentice the Stidham trophy site and told his tale of murder and the younger apprentice tried to emulate this with the Tusing murder.
I find this a stronger scenario, with the possibility of a younger accomplice/apprentice to murder being a family member of the elder murderer, possibly his son following in his father’s footsteps.
Therefore I find this scenario both possible and probable.
3) The crimes are committed by a close bonded group who use these women as hunting game.
Some professionals are trained to hunt people in war scenarios, in searching from house to house for a target or, tracking a target over terrain. They are also trained in terrain and survival techniques. These skills could easily be transferred to hunting for game and animals. They are effectively hunting humans for either sport or ritual. This scenario would not involve a sexual or robbery motive, or grand theft auto motive.
Their motive is to hunt the ultimate prey, humans, and to possibly leave trophy sites for those who follow them or, who are involved in the group but are hunting in other areas/regions to show those who visit what they hunted and that they succeeded. This would explain the similar modus operandi in both cases and the long time elapses between the murders.
Army training also includes information about booby traps, staging an ambush overtly or covertly and, which weapons leave little or no damage to a corpse. They could be using tranquiliser darts to knock their prey out after having lulled them into a covert ambush, possibly staging a false automobile accident or other scene which would make a usually careful person stop to help. The tranquiliser dart possibility may have been used on Stidham, regarding the nick in her collar bone and the possibility they had to cut her bra strap to get the dart out.
After tranquilizing their prey, they would then move her to a remote area, disorienting her, and then hunt her. Once they have caught their prey, they could possibly suffocate her with a plastic bag over her head or water boarding leading to suffocation. This would leave no trauma marks on the body, only marks where she may have fallen or tripped over something whilst running. The victim is buried in a shallow grave in either a riverbed or ditch so they can return to the trophy and have animals mutilate the corpse covering their tracks and operations for them.
In the Stidham case, I believe that the army were in the area harassing her rejected suitor to join up, to which he resisted until after her death.
Did this human hunting team target her because he wouldn’t join up and they knew he was in love with her and that he’d never join up unless they hunted her and got rid of her without him knowing?
Was there an Army recruitment team in the area when Amanda Tusing was killed??
They may kill in the hunting season in different locations/state/counties and leave trophy sites.
Was the squirrel hunter in the Stidham case from an army background?
Army types are also used to carrying heavy backpacks whilst travelling on foot. They could have made the footprints at the gate in the Stidham case to give a false impression of the person who left those footprints near the gate. If someone is carrying extra weight it could give a false weight to height ratio and throw the scent of a lead off. Or, that person could in theory have been carrying another person and this would also lead to a false deep impression of a footprint depth to throw off a height/body mass lead.
This scenario I find is the most likely, most possible and most probable one. I also find this scenario the most chilling one and I presume that there are many more bodies to be found in many states with a similar if not identical modus operandi and execution of the killings. (One of the above web sites gives an assertion to a similarity to the Kara Knot case where it was found to be a police officer committing the murders).
I don’t think either woman would have gotten out of her car, leaving the keys in the ignition, for anything other than an Army Officer, a Police Officer, a child, a disabled person or, a woman in distress at the side of the road.
Those are my thoughts so far on both cases and yes, I do find them to be so eerily similar, that I can say I think the murders have been committed by different people, but with the same ideas and the same reasons that can only explain either scenario 2) or 3).
Foot Note: It is also interesting to note that a group of American Soldiers have been arrested and charged with plotting to assassinate President Obama and that they are accused of the murder of at least two people.Amanda Tusing, Arkansas, Autopsy, Crime Scene, Cruelty, Dana Stidham, Evidence, Forensics, Identification, Investigations Division, Police, Rape kits, Unsolved Homicide, Victim, Witnesses