Army Spouse Melinda Stewart, Army Sgt. Daniel Stewart, Jill Yousaf & Army Soldier James Catlin Conspired and Murdered Homeless Colorado Teen Maggie Fetty (1991)

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Margaret ‘Maggie’ Fetty (photo credit: http://www.FindAGrave.com)

When the time came to handle funeral arrangements for Maggie Fetty, no one was there to do it so Lt. Joe Kenda and his fellow officers did it themselves. They chipped in and bought her a head stone to assist with the evidence of her passing. The headstone is a reminder for Joe Kenda of why he chose a life in law enforcement. Joe said he can’t stop a murderer or undue the murder once it’s been done but he can certainly find the person responsible and make sure they don’t do it again. Society has a way of forgetting about the most vulnerable but when it comes to Joe Kenda, nobody slips through the cracks, not a culprit, not a co-conspirator, and certainly not Maggie Fetty. -Homicide Hunter

Patrol officers received a call that a body was found on Gold Camp Road near Point Sublime in Colorado Springs, Colorado on December 3, 1991. It was a fully clothed female who appeared to be a teenager. Homicide detective Lt. Joe Kenda of the Colorado Springs Police Department ordered the officers to turn the body over. They observed a ligature mark on her throat. A ligature is used to apply pressure to the neck and it’s a torturous way to die. This wasn’t just a who done it, but a who was it? Detectives went through her pockets and didn’t find anything. Although they did find an identifying marker, a tattoo on her hand with the initials JM. An anonymous tipster called and said the victim’s name was Maggie and they should talk to Jill Yousaf. Jill had an arrest just recently; she was arrested for shoplifting. According to the police report, Margaret Fetty, 16, was also arrested. This tied the two together.

Investigators dug into Maggie’s records but there were none. She was a ward of the state; her mother disavowed her and her father’s whereabout were unknown. Maggie was part of the children’s program Chins Up but ran away from the center a year ago. She was living on the streets all alone and she had nobody looking out for her. She was an adolescent girl who was murdered and thrown away like trash. The only people looking out for her were Kenda and his guys. Kenda met up with 28 year old Jill Yousaf to try to obtain some information from her. Jill agreed to go to the station for questioning. She described Maggie as her best friend. She said she met her a year ago and had become somewhat of a big sister to her. According to Jill, they clicked well and even had matching ‘JM’ tattoos. Kenda informed Jill that Maggie was dead and she broke down in tears. Kenda observed that Jill’s demeanor and body language had guilt all over it.

Kenda informed Jill that he thinks she had something to do with the Maggie’s death. Jill claimed she knew the killer’s identity and that the person who murdered Maggie was Melinda Stewart. Kenda ran a background check on Melinda Stewart and learned that she was married to an Army soldier at Fort Carson. According to Jill, on November 30, 1991, she was hanging out at her home with her friends while her husband was playing cards with his Army buddies. The girls decided they were going to go out. Jill claimed she was driving and Maggie was in the passenger seat. They were all talking, laughing and passing around a bottle of tequila. Then for no apparent reason Melinda began to strangle Maggie from behind. Jill said she tried to stop Melinda but she threatened her and said she would be next. Once Maggie was dead, Melinda asked Jill to help her discard the body. Detectives needed to find out why Melinda wanted Maggie dead. Jill said it was because Melinda was ‘crazy’ and told them she was placed in a psychiatric institution the day before.

Joe went to Cedar Springs psychiatric hospital to find Melinda. She was there and her husband brought her in the day before. She appeared to be deeply disturbed and the interview was anything but routine. Melinda was saying very bizarre things, she wasn’t very helpful, and she appeared to be speaking in a child-like voice. Her bizarre behavior did not let up so Kenda played along and addressed Melinda like a little girl. Melinda started talking about Maggie being cold and needing a coat. She then said she went to Point Sublime with Jill and Maggie to look at the city lights and drink. Melinda claimed she was driving and Jill was in the backseat. She was telling a story opposite that of Jill because she claimed Jill was in the backseat of the car and strangled Maggie. Kenda couldn’t help but wonder if Melinda’s story might be true. Kenda didn’t have enough to hold Jill or Melinda on murder charges but he did have enough to hold them on charges of obstruction of justice. By believing them both, he could keep them in jail until he got to the bottom of things.

With Jill and Melinda in custody, Kenda needed to find a witness who could shed some light on the situation. They started with Melinda’s husband Army Sergeant Daniel J. Stewart. He had been in the Army for quite some time and worked in the Engineer Battalion; he built bridges and seemed to be reasonably intelligent. Sgt. Stewart seemed astounded to learn his wife was being charged with murder. Kenda took Sgt. Stewart down to the station. Lt. Kenda wanted to learn more about his wife’s mental illness. According to Sgt. Stewart, his wife had multiple personalities but she didn’t have a dangerous bone in her body. He denied that his wife had anything to do with Maggie’s murder. He claimed there was no unusual behavior with his wife on the night of the murder after they returned. He also said he was playing some cards with some Army buddies when the girls decided to go out. A few hours later, Jill and Melinda returned. They were fine.

But the next day, Melinda had a psychiatric melt down. Her multiple personalities surfaced and Sgt. Stewart was afraid his wife was having a nervous breakdown. Detectives believed the meltdown was connected to the murder but weren’t sure if she was having a meltdown because she strangled Maggie or if she witnessed Maggie get strangled by Jill. Sgt. Stewart finally admitted that he believed Jill Yousaf was the one who killed Maggie. Sgt. Stewart told detectives they needed to speak with James Catlin who was a boat specialist in the Engineer Battalion; they worked together. Sgt. Stewart shared that Catlin dates Jill Yousaf. When James Catlin was questioned, he provided a story that was consistent with that of Dan Stewart. Kenda needed a hook, another piece of information that could help them put the case together. Then he got a phone call that changed everything. On December 17th, two weeks after Maggie’s body was found on Gold Camp Road, detectives received a phone call from Melinda’s sister Penny Rhoads. Penny said she spoke to Dan Stewart who admitted to her that he burned all the evidence.

Detectives learned Sgt. Stewart burned the clothing worn by Melinda and Jill on the night of the murder. It was burned in an effort to protect both of them. As a result, Sgt. Stewart was booked for conspiracy after the fact. Detectives confronted him with the new information they learned from the conversation with Penny Rhoads. Dan Stewart realized he needed to start talking. He claimed once Melinda and Jill arrived home, they talked about the murder and each woman was blaming the other. He didn’t want Jill accusing his wife Melinda of murder so he burned all the evidence to protect her. In the course of the interview, Sgt. Stewart also mentioned Silas Nelson. At first he said he was there, then he backtracked and said he wasn’t. For Stewart it was a slip of the tongue, for Kenda it was one more clue to look into. Stewart was booked. Then Kenda set out in search of Silas Nelson. Detectives tracked down Nelson at Fort Carson and questioned him. Nelson told Kenda he was at Sgt. Stewart’s house the night of the murder and also spent the night.

Silas Nelson claimed he was in bed when Jill and Melinda returned home. But he said he was present before they went out and the two of them were talking about killing Maggie. Kenda thought if this information was true, the two of them conspired to kill Maggie Fetty. According to Nelson, Stewart and Catlin joined the conversation and they were all talking about how they could kill Maggie. Now Kenda has learned Catlin and Stewart assisted with the cover up and were active participants in the planning of the event. But Kenda still wanted to know who strangled Maggie and why? As a result of the information gleaned from Nelson, Sgt. Catlin was arrested and grilled by detectives for answers. Catlin finally broke down and admitted they didn’t like Maggie and decided to kill her. According to Catlin, Maggie was heavy into drugs and the two had no toleration for that because they didn’t want Jill and Melinda doing drugs. But Maggie was feeding the pair drugs so it was a hard bond to break. They were tired of her being around.

Nelson helped confirm when Melinda and Jill discussed killing Maggie and Dan Stewart and James Catlin jumped at the chance to show the girls how to do it. This proved that all of them conspired together to kill Maggie. Catlin claimed Melinda was the one who strangled Maggie. He said she attacked Maggie from behind and Jill did not stop her but she did help dispose of the body. When Melinda and Jill returned home, Sgt. Stewart disposed of and burned the evidence. All four co-conspirators were prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. In exchange for her testimony, Melinda pleaded guilty to second degree murder and was sentenced to 48 years in prison. James Catlin striked a similar deal and received a 30 year sentence for second degree murder. Jill Yousaf maintained her innocence all the way to trial. The jury found her not guilty of murdering Maggie but did find her guilty of accessory to murder. Jill was sentenced to six years in prison. Sgt. Dan Stewart was convicted of first degree murder and conspiracy to commit first degree murder.

After she was dead, nobody ever came knocking on my door, what about my daughter, what are we doing, how do we know what happened, nothing. No inquiries from concerned relatives because there aren’t any. We can say to ourselves we did the right thing here, for a girl who desperately needed someone to do something right for her. We were just too late to save her life but we took punishment against those who took her life. -Lt. Joe Kenda, Homicide Hunter

Related Links:
Obituary: Margaret Ann “Maggie” Fetty
Woman, 29, Pleads Guilty to Killing Teen
Lt. Joe Kenda: A Gathering of Evil
Inside the Kenda Files: Fetty
Homicide Hunter: Joe Kenda ‘A Gathering of Evil’


Teen runaway Maggie Fetty is found strangled to death on a mountain road. An anonymous tipster blames Maggie’s best friend, but she accuses a mental patient with multiple personalities. Kenda must turn the suspects against each other to learn the truth. -Investigation Discovery

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