Killed At The Dry Cleaners: The Murder of Kathy Woodhouse
The city of Herrin in Illinois wasn’t known for its violent crime, so when police received a call on January 18th 1992 saying there had been a rape and a murder at the dry cleaner’s, the dispatcher was somewhat taken aback.
Although they were suspicious it may be a prank, they nevertheless passed the message on to police so officers could be sent to check it out. Investigators must have been concerned about the choice of words the anonymous tipster had made, too. After all, how could someone stumbling upon a crime scene infer sexual assault unless they were trained — or had been involved?
A tragic scene littered with forensic details
When Illinois State Police arrived at Fox’s Laundry, they found it empty with no one manning the front desk. But after moving through to the staff area, they were horrified to discover the bloody body of 40-year-old employee Kathy Ann Woodhouse.
Crime scene technician Kenneth Otey would later testify that Kathy was found face down near the furnace, naked apart from a bra. There was a substantial wound to her head and a metal mop wringer was found discarded on the floor that was consistent with the damage inflicted.
Investigators quickly secured the scene and began to assemble any details and evidence they could that may catch who did this to the married mother-of-three. Biological material was collected from the body and a bloody handprint garnered from a plastic bag it looked like the killer had brushed against on his way out.
Detectives also took fingerprints from the payphone close to the store — and outside they found part of the leg from a pair of pantyhose that could have been used by the attacker as a disguise.
Unfortunately, the limited means of testing forensic evidence in the early 1990s meant technicians could only report that their suspect was a non-secretor (someone who does not excrete antigens relating to blood type in their bodily fluids).
Furthermore, neither the fingerprints nor the handprint matched anything on record.