Military Judge Sentenced Air Force A1C Timothy Wilsey to Life in Prison, Possibility of Parole for the Strangulation Death of Colleague A1C Rhianda Dillard (April 11, 2018)

Air Force A1C Rhianda Dillard, 20, was found dead in her dorm room at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska on August 1, 2016. A1C Timothy Wilsey, 21, disappeared after the murder and was arrested eleven days later in Emporia, Virginia on desertion and murder charges. Timothy Wilsey was charged with pre-meditated murder under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). A1C Dillard was from Biloxi, Mississippi and had only been in the Air Force for five months before she was murdered. She was a cyber systems operation specialist assigned to the 55th Strategic Communications Squadron. On August 4, 2018, AP reported that Wilsey’s court martial was scheduled for trial at Omaha’s federal courthouse. If found guilty of the federal charges, Wilsey risked a life sentence without parole. “Court-martial proceedings were moved off the base to a federal courthouse to make room for the public.” Wilsey pleaded guilty to a single count of premeditated murder and one count of deserting his unit. On April 11, 2018, a military judge sentenced Timothy Wilsey to life in prison with no possibility of parole but because of a pretrial agreement with his command (26th Air Force) Wilsey will be eligible for parole in the future. “Wilsey also received a reprimand and reduction to the lowest enlisted rank, forfeits all future pay and allowances, and is to be dishonorably discharged.”

“I killed Airman Dillard by putting my arm around her neck. Then I switched arms,” he said as he entered his guilty plea. “I sat on top of her and strangled her with both my hands.” -Timothy Wilsey (Clarion Ledger, April 6, 2018)

Airman 1st Class Timothy M. Wilsey of the 55th Intelligence Support Squadron has been charged with premeditated murder and desertion in connection with the death of Airman 1st Class Rhianda N. Dillard at Offutt Air Force Base, a news release from the 55th Wing said. -KETV (December 13, 2016)

Related Links:
Offutt airman charged with murder in connection with fellow airman’s death
Offutt airman charged in murder case
Air Force airman charged in death of fellow airman
Air Force airman charged in August death of fellow airman
She died, he disappeared. Now he’s charged with murder.
Airman faces premeditated murder, desertion charges in death at Offutt Air Force Base
Offutt airman charged with murder, desertion in death of fellow airman
Airman accused of murdering fellow airman at Offutt AFB officially charged
Airman from Valdosta charged with murder
‘He’s not talking’: Offutt airman charged with murder in connection with fellow airman’s death
Airman at Offutt Charged With Murder Appears in Court
Journal details Offutt airman’s slaying
Prosecutors: Journal details Offutt airman’s slaying
Airman at Offutt detailed killing of fellow service member in journal, agent testifies at hearing
‘My bad’: Chilling diary entries and texts of ‘murder-obsessed’ soldier ‘who strangled female classmate for fun and to steal a pack of Oreos’
Court martial for airman charged with murder moved downtown
Court martial for airman charged with murder moved downtown
Court martial for airman charged with murder moved downtown
Airman pleads guilty to murder
Airman pleads guilty to murder at Air Force base near Omaha
Mississippi airman’s killer pleads guilty to her Nebraska murder
While on the run, Offutt airman wrote that he had thoughts of killing again
‘I just enjoy killing. Simple as that.’ Quotes from airman’s journal shared at sentencing in Offutt slaying
‘I just enjoy killing’: Nebraska airman’s journal reveals ‘a thirst’ for murder
‘What went wrong?’ Friends, family are baffled as to how Offutt airman became killer
Airman from Valdosta gets life in prison
Former airman sentenced to life in prison
Airman who described himself as ‘homicidal’ is sentenced to life with possibility of parole for Offutt slaying
Airman who killed colleague at Offutt gets life with chance at parole
Airman Who Killed Colleague Gets Life with Chance at Parole
‘I Just Enjoy Killing’: Airman Gets Life in Prison for Strangling Another Air Force Member
Airman Gets Life In Prison For Murdering Colleague, Wrote In Journal ‘I Just Like Killing’
Air Force A1C Rhianda Dillard Found Murdered in Offutt AFB Dorm Room; Military Judge Sentenced A1C Timothy Wilsey to Life in Prison, Possibility of Parole (August 1, 2016)

48 Hours Premiered ‘Crime & Punishment’ on CBS (2017)


“48 Hours” Presents: A stepfather sits in prison for killing his wife. Her daughters vow to keep him there. Does he deserve parole? Correspondent Tracy Smith investigates Saturday, July 1 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.

Phonthip (Boonack) Ott, 33, disappeared from her home in California on May 17, 1992. A couple months later, Phonthip Ott’s dead body was discovered in the Sacramento River near Sacramento. Phonthips body was stuffed in a large nylon duffle bag about 5 feet tall. It was held down with H-shaped cement anchors. The day their mother disappeared, Phonthip’s daughters, Tippy Dhaliwal, 14, and Jeanette Marine, 10, spent the day with their grandparents. Upon their return home, the two girls sensed something was wrong when their mother wasn’t home and immediately suspected their stepfather of killing her. Dennis Ott was an active duty petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard and his relationship with Phonthip was tumultuous. Read more from Military Justice for All here.

Related Links:
’48 Hours’ Sneak Peek
Sneak peek: Crime & Punishment | 48 Hours
Ott case: Sheriff zeroes in on a murder suspect | 48 Hours
Notebook: The possibility of parole | 48 Hours
Murder victim’s daughters share their emotional journey | 48 Hours
Remembering Phonthip Ott | 48 Hours
The possibility of parole: “48 Hours” examines life after a murder verdict
Ott murder: Crime & Punishment | 48 Hours (website)
California Sisters: Keep our mom’s killer behind bars!
Phonthip Boonack, Dennis Ott: ’48 Hours’ Reels In Case Of Missing Mother Found Dead In California River
‘He deserves to rot in prison’: Sisters fight to keep their mother’s killer behind bars as he comes up for parole 25 years after the victim’s body was pulled from a river in a weighted duffel bag
Phonthip Ott Discovered Dead in California River; Spouse Dennis Ott, US Coast Guard, Convicted of Murder and Sentenced to Life in Prison (1992)

Reasonable Doubt Premiered ‘Failure to Remember’ on Investigation Discovery: Penny Brummer Maintains Innocence in the 1994 Homicide of Sarah Gonstead (June 21, 2017)

Penny Brummer, a military vet, is accused of murdering her ex-girlfriend’s best friend in a jealous rage. However, Penny was so drunk that night she was in a blackout state. Can Chris and Melissa help fill in the gaps of her memory to prove her innocence? -Reasonable Doubt, Investigation Discovery

Air Force veteran Penny Brummer was convicted on October 1, 1994 of murdering her ex-girlfriend’s best friend 21-year-old Sarah Gonstead in Madison, Wisconsin. On March 14, 1994, after a night of heavy drinking with Penny, Sarah was shot in the back of the head execution style and found three weeks later in a secluded field. Detectives theorized that Sarah most likely trusted her killer. On this episode of Investigation Discovery’s Reasonable Doubt, Penny’s mother, Nancy Brummer, turned to Detective Chris Anderson and criminal defense attorney Melissa Lewkowicz to help her prove Penny’s innocence. Nancy believes the prosecution had no concrete evidence except for circumstantial evidence and she also believes the the jury was biased and led to believe that lesbians are inherently violent. Detective Anderson and Melissa Lewkowicz worked with Nancy Brummer by taking a second look at Penny Brummer’s case featured in the ninth episode of Reasonable Doubt aptly titled ‘Failure to Remember’. It’s their job to investigate the cases that family members swear are wrongful homicide convictions and in the end the duo share their assessment of guilt or innocence based on meticulous investigative work.

Nancy Brummer has been fighting to free her daughter for twenty-two years. She told Detective Anderson and Melissa that they were her last hope. The two learned that Sarah Gonstead left her mother’s house to go out for a night of drinking to celebrate her 21st birthday with her friend Penny but Sarah never came home. Twenty-five days later, Sarah was found in a secluded field in Madison. Sarah had been shot execution style in the back of the head and Penny was the last known person to see her alive. Eight days later, Penny was arrested and charged with first degree murder. Penny claims she pulled over to clean up some beer that spilled in her vehicle and Sarah exited the vehicle to walk half a block to her best friend Glenda’s house. But prosecutors painted a darker picture. They theorized the two got drunk and Penny drove Sarah out to a empty soy field and murdered her. Prosecutors believed the motive was jealousy because Glenda had just broken up with Penny and Penny blamed Sarah for the break-up. They claimed Penny wanted revenge and the jury bought it. Penny Brummer is currently serving life in prison and her first opportunity for parole is in 2045.

Detective Anderson and Melissa met with the Nancy Brummer first to hear her plea for justice. Nancy stated that she wanted to find the person who committed the crime and free Penny so she can come home. Nancy confirmed that Glenda and Penny were dating and broke up about a month prior to Sarah’s disappearance. Sarah was Glenda’s best friend and the three of them would hang out and party together. Penny was in her early twenties at the time of the homicide so her behavior was typical of most young people at that stage in their life. Nancy Brummer described Penny as very social and happy-go-lucky. She said Penny was really into sports and she was on the softball team and volleyball team in high school. Nancy opined Penny was a typical teenager and started drinking around the age of seventeen. After high school, Penny joined the Air Force and shared with her mom that it was hard being in the military because of the secrecy she had to maintain regarding her sexual orientation. Nancy Brummer believes that the jury was biased and led to believe that a lesbian is more prone to violence. She referenced a questionnaire that Melissa agreed was inflammatory and would need a second look.

The prosecution painted a picture that Penny was jealous of the friendship between Glenda and Sarah. The two were strictly friends and Sarah was straight. Nancy observed that Penny was sad and disappointed about the break-up but not what one would consider obsessive. She reminded Detective Anderson and Melissa that the prosecution had nothing: no physical evidence, no DNA, no blood evidence, nothing that tied Penny to the murder. The prosecution said the gun that was used in the commission of the crime was a 22 handgun that belonged to Penny’s father. Nancy admits that her husband’s gun did go missing and was never recovered. When Sarah’s body was found, Nancy said a witness came forward to the police and said that he had driven by the scene of the crime a day or two after the murder and saw a suspicious vehicle along the side of the road. He saw a man standing behind the vehicle with what looked like a pink and purple duffle bag and as it turns out, Sarah’s jacket was the same pink and purple color. Nancy said this evidence was ignored. Nancy informed both Detective Anderson and Melissa that even if they don’t find Penny innocent, she will keep fighting for her release.

Detective Anderson and Melissa began their investigation. Detective Anderson started with the man who was the eyewitness. This man told Detective Anderson that he did in fact see a vehicle by the side of the road near the location of where Sarah’s body was found in the field. He claims he made eye contact with the man in question but that was about the extent of it. He said after the man made eye contact with him, he put his head down. The eyewitness was concerned that this man was trying to move the body, after all it was only a couple days after she had gone missing. He said the police informed him that they already had a suspect in the case and he felt that his testimony was largely discounted and ignored. Melissa investigated the prosecutors jealousy motive. One of Penny’s close friends described her as a great friend and a someone she went bar-hopping with. Penny’s friend believes that she was a binge drinker and most likely an alcoholic because she would drink until she blacked out. Penny’s friends said she hoped she would get back together with Glenda but certainly didn’t act like a jealous ex-girlfriend. Penny’s friend Mary believes she is innocent.

Detective Anderson met with a forensic expert to go over the physical evidence or lack there of. The two examined the crime scene photos and other evidence available. The forensic expert didn’t see any signs of struggle and it appeared Sarah’s body fell forward after she was shot in the head. There was no sexual assault and no beating. It was an execution style killing and Sarah most likely knew and trusted the person who shot her. Sarah was walking in front of the perpetrator when she was shot in the back of her head. Detective Anderson visited the last known location of both Penny and Sarah, a local bar in Madison. A witness said Sarah and Penny were celebrating Sarah’s birthday because she had just turned twenty-one. The two had been drinking prior to their arrival at the bar but the witness didn’t think either appeared to be drunk. She said they showed up at the bar around 10:30 p.m. and left a couple hours later; they had a couple drinks while they were there. The witness observed they were both in great spirits and having fun and they were both able to carry on a conversation. On the night in question, Sarah was kind of quiet while Penny appeared to be enjoying herself with others at the bar. Neither of them were agitated or upset; they both appeared to be in a really good mood.

Detective Anderson interviewed Penny via the telephone. Penny said she dated Glenda for 8 or 9 months and admits she fell in love with her. She also claimed to have a nice friendship with Sarah. She shared that Sarah never did anything bad to her and never meddled in her relationship with Glenda. Penny said Glenda just decided one day to end things and told her she was going back on birth control. Penny assumed Glenda wanted to go back to guys. After the break-up, Penny was heartbroken. She admitted she got physical with Glenda one time; they pushed each other during an argument. On March 14, 1994, Penny said she got out of work around 7:30 p.m., got some beer, and went to Sarah’s house. Penny said they stopped at a couple bars and drank more beer. Penny said she doesn’t remember being at Jakes (the bar where the eyewitness last saw both Penny and Sarah at around midnight). Penny admitted she was an alcoholic then and was very intoxicated. Penny and Sarah were on their way to pick up Glenda when Penny spilled some beer in her car and stopped to clean it up. Penny said Sarah wasn’t feeling well so she started walking to Glenda’s house which was about a half a block away. Penny told Detective Anderson she doesn’t know why she didn’t take Sarah to Glenda’s house but she went home after cleaning her car. Penny reminded Detective Anderson that she isn’t the type to kill anyone, she didn’t have a weapon, and she had absolutely no reason to hurt Sarah.

In the meantime, Melissa looked at the questionnaire that was given to the jury asking them about their thoughts about lesbians and violence. Melissa said, as a criminal defense attorney, she would insist that the jury not be subjected to or see the questionnaire because it is inflammatory. Melissa also spoke with Glenda who was the glue that held the case together. Glenda claimed she dated Penny for about a year but wasn’t necessarily in love with her. Glenda claimed Penny drank a lot but could still function; she just wouldn’t remember it. Glenda described Sarah as a shy, soft-hearted, and loyal friend. Glenda believed that Penny was jealous of her friendship with Sarah. Glenda admitted that Penny did in deed find her birth control pills and assumed that she was breaking up with her so she could date men again. Glenda admitted she broke up with Penny because she was way too controlling. Glenda also claimed Penny was pissed that she broke up with her. When Glenda ended it, Penny shoved her and she shoved her back and kicked her out of her house. Glenda said the look in her eyes scared the crap out of her and she began to cry. Glenda believes they have the right person and is still grieving the loss of her friend.

Detective Anderson and Melissa met with Nancy Brummer to share the results of their investigation. Nancy claimed the jury was bias because of Penny’s sexual orientation and Melissa believes she was absolutely right. Melissa said the questions asked of the jury were highly prejudicial. Penny’s close friend felt that the motive of jealousy was crap but Glenda was 100% convinced Penny was the killer. Glenda claimed the motive in this case was vengeance. Glenda declared that if Penny gets out of jail, she is moving to another state because she is scared of her; if Penny did this once, who is to say she won’t do this again? Nancy doesn’t believe Glenda and said she is a good actress. Detective Anderson told Nancy he followed up with the eye witness at the scene of the crime and said this was a problem because each and every lead needs to be taken seriously. He also shared that only one of the detectives was alive and he refused to meet with him. Melissa confirmed that there is no physical evidence tying Penny to the crime. Detective Anderson addressed the gun they believed was used in the commission of the crime and Nancy confirmed the 22 they owned had indeed gone missing. Detective Anderson addressed the autopsy photos and shared that the forensic expert did not observe any signs of struggle. It was a cold night and if someone ran towards Sarah, she definitely would have heard it. Detective Anderson deduced Sarah was shot by someone she knew or was led into the field at gunpoint.

“Circumstantial cases are a series of little things that add up until they point in one direction.” -Detective Chris Anderson, Reasonable Doubt

Nancy Brummer said there was no way her daughter would have shot Sarah in the back of the head. But Detective Anderson had some serious issues with the fact that the only person who claims Penny was in a black out that night is Penny. He spoke with a bartender who claimed that Penny appeared to be functional. Jake’s bar is significant because it is less than two miles from where Sarah’s body was found. Detective Anderson noted that Penny said she couldn’t remember being at Jake’s that night but she remembered very specific things earlier and later that night. Detective Anderson felt it was suspicious that Penny remembered everything really well that night except being at this bar. Is this a form of convenient amnesia? Melissa empathized with why Nancy felt a sense of injustice all these years. The biased questionnaire, the ignored witnesses, and the overall investigation had major problems; the evidence was highly circumstantial. Penny was the last known person to see Sarah alive that night; Penny was last seen at a bar with Sarah which is located less than two miles from where Sarah’s body was found; Penny said she can’t remember being there but does remember a lot of details earlier and after Sarah went missing; Sarah was killed with a 22 and Penny’s father owned a 22 that was now missing; Penny was a military vet who was trained to shoot guns; and Sarah wasn’t trying to run away, she didn’t struggle, and she most likely knew and trusted her killer.

Why would Penny do this? Melissa shared that she read through the police reports and noted that Penny admitted she was heartbroken when things ended with Glenda. Penny also admitted that after the break-up she wondered who Glenda was with, where she was, and what she was doing. Penny also said Glenda was in her head 24 hours a day (obsessed) and that she resented Sarah because she assumed Sarah was trying to drag her back into the straight world. On the night of March 14, 1994, Penny did what she always did. Melissa explained Penny got really drunk, the break-up was fresh, her feelings were raw, and she spent the entire night with the person she believed came between her and the woman she loved. Melissa asked, “did Penny plan to walk Sarah into the woods or was it just a horrific idea fueled by fifteen drinks? Did she remember shooting Sarah, does she remember her falling to the ground, or does she not remember anything at all?” Ironically, Penny admits that prison saved her life. Penny believes she would not have made it to thirty had it not been for prison. Penny said she turned her life around behind bars. Based on the leads Nancy provided and an independent investigation, Detective Anderson and Melissa revealed there was nothing new in the investigation that would bring Penny home. They both suggested Nancy ask her daughter the tough questions and then she will know, even 22 years later.

“The problem is that the things Penny remembers are the things that will help her and the things that she can’t remember are the things that would potentially hurt her.” -Melissa Lewkowicz, Reasonable Doubt

Source: Reasonable Doubt ‘Failure to Remember’

Twenty-one years ago a jury found Penny Brummer guilty in the murder of Sarah Gonstead. The family of Brummer has spent those 21 years working to prove her innocence. Dave Delozier reports. -Channel 3000 | News 3 (December 14, 2015)

MJFA Links:
Sarah Gonstead was Shot Execution Style in the Back of Head After a Night Out Celebrating 21st Birthday with Friend & Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer (March 14, 1994)

Related Links:
Who Killed Sarah?
Seeking justice for Penny Brummer
New Trial for Penny Brummer, Wrongfully Convicted | Petition
Penny Brummer Defense & Support Fund by Truth in Justice

1994
Sarah Gonstead Murder

1995
Reasonable Doubt by Ingrid Ricks | The Advocate

1997
State of Wisconsin v. Penny L Brummer

2003
A short history of exposing misconduct

2005
Chapter 1: A tale of three young women
Chapter 2: A hole in her story
Chapter 3: A surprise witness appears
Chapter 4: Defense sows seeds of doubt
Chapter 5: Emotional debate ends in guilty verdict
Chapter 6: Supporters of Brummer offer their theories; they say the evidence was too thin and question makeup of jury
Gift enables investigative journalism class to probe old murder case

2012
Dane Co. DA Approves DNA Testing in 1994 Killing
Wisconsin DA approves DNA testing in 1994 killing
Will DNA Save Penny Brummer?
Spring Green woman could be cleared

2013
Innocence project founder promotes cause of Madison woman convicted of murder
Did Homophobia Convict a Wisconsin Woman of Murder?

2014
A Look Back After 20 Years
A look back at a 20-year-old murder and if the right person was convicted

2015
Who killed Sarah? The trial of Penny Brummer
Group questioning conviction of Penny Brummer in 1994 death of Sarah Gonstead
Reward offered in 21-year-old homicide conviction
$10,000 Reward Offered in Wrongful Conviction Case
Person of Interest Hits Wrongfully Convicted for Serving in U.S. Military
On Wrongful Convictions and Penny Brummer

2016
Penny Brummer’s fight for justice
The Lynching of a Madison Lesbian: Wisconsin’s Wrongful Conviction of Penny Brummer
Wrongful Conviction: Penny Brummer Is Innocent and Still in Prison
Richmond Crime Author Sheila Berry Takes on Wrongful Convictions Nationwide

2017
Penny Brummer convicted of murdering Sarah Gonstead, but is there Reasonable Doubt?

Books:
Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila & Doug Berry (2005) | Amazon
Who Killed Sarah? by Sheila & Doug Berry (2005) | Walmart

Video Links:
Reward offered in 21-year-old homicide conviction
Reasonable Doubt | Investigation Discovery | Amazon
Failure to Remember | Reasonable Doubt – Investigation Discovery
Failure to Remember | Reasonable Doubt | Investigation Discovery | YouTube

MFJA Links:
Sarah Gonstead Shot Execution Style on 21st Birthday; Friend & Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer Found Guilty of 1st Degree Murder, Sentenced to Life in Prison (March 14, 1994)
Air Force Veteran Penny Brummer Found Guilty of the 1st Degree Murder of Sarah Gonstead; Sentenced to Life in Prison with Possibility of Parole After 50 Years (October 1, 1994)

Homicide Hunter Premiered ‘I Now Pronounce You Dead’ on ID: Jennifer Reali Killed Lover’s Wife Dianne Hood in Colorado Springs (October 2, 2012)

Mother of three Dianne Hood is shot to death by a masked gunman on her way home from a Lupus support meeting. Police initially assume it’s a robbery, but Lt. Joe Kenda uncovers a sordid web of lust and greed, revealing a killer no one ever expected. -I Now Pronounce You Dead, Homicide Hunter (S2, E1)

Update:

Reali shot and killed her lover’s wife in 1990. -CBS Denver (April 6, 2018)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
Jennifer Reali Dies After Being Released From Prison
Update: Jennifer Reali | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery
I Now Pronounce You Dead | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (S2, E1)
I Now Pronounce You Dead | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (website)
I Now Pronounce You Dead | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
I Now Pronounce You Dead | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Under His Control | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Preview)
Under His Control | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (S4, E10)
Under His Control | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (website)
Under His Control | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Under His Control | Deadly Women | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Love Before Life | Facing Evil | Investigation Discovery (S1, E3)
Love Before Life | Facing Evil | Investigation Discovery (website)
Love Before Life | Facing Evil | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Army Spouse Jennifer Reali Shot & Killed Lover’s Wife; Sentenced to Life in Prison, Paroled in 2017 & Died of Cancer Three Months Later (September 12, 1990)
Deadly Women Premiered ‘Under His Control’ on Investigation Discovery: Brian Hood Used Lover Jennifer Reali to Kill Wife (October 19, 2010)
Facing Evil with Candice DeLong Premiered ‘Love Before Life’ on Investigation Discovery: Jennifer Reali Fatally Shot Lover’s Wife in Colorado (November 26, 2010)
Deadly Women: 30 Military and Veteran Homicide Cases Featured on Investigation Discovery
Lt. Joe Kenda Shares His Top 5 Episodes Ever of “Homicide Hunter”

Army Spc. Tracy Spencer Sentenced to Life in Prison for the Rape & Murder of Veteran Micki Filmore & Nurse Barbara Kramer (December 31, 1986)

When 22 year-old Micki Filmore is found raped and murder in her apartment, detective Kenda focuses his investigation on her activities the previous night. Micki was seen dancing with a man who then paid a late night call to her door. -A Killer Always Rings Twice, Homicide Hunter (S1, E3)

Colorado Springs is the home of five military bases made up of about 40,000 personnel. A lot of them live off-base in local apartment units. On July 19, 1986, as Army Spc. Tracy Spencer was walking by, he noticed his neighbor Micki Filmore was laying lifeless on the floor in her apartment. He was alarmed and ran to his wife Lisa to seek help. She claims she went through the window of the apartment because of her own concern for Micki and discovered that she was in fact dead. They called the police. Lt. Joe Kenda of the Homicide Unit at the Colorado Springs Police Department was assigned to investigate the case. Kenda deduced from the observation of the crime scene that there did not appear to be any struggle, the victim’s wallet and cash were present, and she was naked with her legs open and bruising around her neck. He suspected Micki Filmore was raped and strangled in a quick and brutal attack.

Joe talked about the crimes of rape and murder for a bit. He talked about how rape is unfortunately a very common crime but he also noted that rape and murder is not that common. Lt. Kenda educated the public about the fact that rape and sexual assault is mostly a punishment of women. And in this particular case, the perpetrator surprised Micki Filmore while she was in bed. His only purpose was to rape and kill her. While Joe waited on the results of the autopsy, he tried to figure out the modus operandi of this particular offender because he would strike again. Joe wondered why it was so important for this person to get in and out of the apartment quickly. Was he a local and making sure that nobody saw and recognized him? Neighbors Lisa and Tracy Spencer reported they saw Micki the night before; she was happy, eating pizza, and nothing appeared out of the ordinary.

Joe canvassed the neighbors in the apartment complex and learned that Micki was having troubles: he heard from neighbors that her fiancé left her, she was pregnant, and broke but nobody knew who the father of the child was. One neighbor told Lt. Kenda that he went to a night club with her the night before. He claimed that while they were there, she saw someone she knew. She left the club with her neighbor around 2 a.m. but she did give a piece of paper to the friend she ran into at the club. The neighbor claimed they talked for a little bit and then went their separate ways. After lying down, the neighbor heard knocking on her door. He looked out briefly and saw the same man from the club standing there. Another neighbor said she was awoken by a loud scream and then a thumping noise around 3:45 a.m. She assumed whoever it was they were fighting. Joe still had little evidence to go on but the autopsy helps tell a story.

The autopsy revealed that Micki Filmore’s last moments were met with violence, anger, and rage. And she had engaged in sexual relations within the last twelve hours. Despite what her neighbors said, she was not pregnant and there were no drugs or alcohol in her system. Lt. Kenda learned Micki was twenty-two years old and originally from a rural community in North Carolina. She joined the Army straight out of high school, did a three year tour of duty, traveled the world, and her service ended in December 1985. She was looking forward to leaving to be with her fiancé in a few weeks. Lt. Kenda contacted the fiance and learned that he had not abandoned Micki. The fiance was finalizing a divorce so he could marry Micki and he could verify his whereabouts at the time of the murder. The fiance shared he asked his friend Frank Lynch to look out for Micki while he was gone; but now he had concerns that maybe he was involved. This gave Kenda a new lead and potentially a new suspect.

Kenda met with Frank Lynch who denied any involvement in the murder and could account for himself on the night in question. As a result, Kenda closed out Lynch and in the meantime got a phone call from DiCarlo Dowden. DiCarlo was the man at the club that Micki gave a piece of paper to and the same man suspected of showing up at her apartment the night of the murder. DiCarlo admitted that he ran into Micki at the club, they chatted, they danced, she told him she was not ‘with’ her neighbor (he was an escort), and then gave him her number. She also gave him her address which to him was an invitation so DiCarlo dropped by her apartment but no one answered the door so he left. DiCarlo noticed that a neighbor did see him after looking out their window, which also matched the neighbor’s story. DiCarlo denied any involvement in the crime and there was no probable cause to arrest him, he did volunteer to provide biological evidence for testing.

It takes several weeks for the comparative analysis testing to be completed at the labs. Joe reiterated that DiCarlo was not off the hook yet. On August 12, 1986, another body was discovered in the same apartment complex. Lt. Joe Kenda knew this was not a coincidence. The victim was twenty-four year old Barbara Kramer who was a nurse at Eisenhower Hospital in Colorado Springs. She didn’t show up to work so her sister and a friend went over to her apartment to check in on her. They discovered the newspaper outside her door, signs of a struggle in the apartment, and the friend found Barbara Kramer dead in her bedroom. The family was devastated because they were already worried about her safety after the first murder in that apartment complex but they reported that Barbara was cautious and playing it safe. Kenda was horrified by what he saw at the crime scene because he immediately knew it was the same guy.

The modus operandi of both crimes was exactly the same aside from one woman was black and one woman was white. Both were displayed with their legs open after they were murdered; both were attacked in the middle of the night between the hours of 4 and 7 a.m.; both were single females living alone; both were strangled; and both were living in the same apartment complex. Lt. Kenda was feeling an even more heightened sense of urgency because this guy was a serial killer and was not going to stop; he wanted to prevent a third victim. He also deduced that the killer probably lived in the area and he was carrying on as if nothing mattered. He questioned DiCarlo about his whereabouts and DiCarlo was cleared as a suspect because his girlfriend could alibi him. Kenda knew DiCarlo wasn’t his man because the person he was looking for killed Micki Filmore and Barbara Kramer.

Lt. Kenda knew these murders were similar offenses; they were the same crime, different targets. He wondered how many more had to die before the Colorado Springs Police Department could stop him. Kenda theorized that the perpetrator most likely stalked his victims before the attacks. He did not feel that these crimes were random and he believed that the perpetrator surveilled his victims. This offender simply waited for the right place and right time. Kenda noted that these guys are not as intelligent as one would think but they are cunning. He knew the guy made mistakes and he had to be the one to find them. After interviewing more neighbors about the night before, Kenda learned that one neighbor was awakened to screams around 6 a.m. and another neighbor saw Tracy Spencer banging on Barbara’s door with a piece of paper in his hand around 6:25 a.m. She saw the door open, Spencer enter the apartment, and then the door slam.

This new information intrigued Lt. Kenda because now Tracy Spencer not only found Micki Filmore’s body but a witness saw him knocking on Barbara Kramer’s door around the time that she died. Kenda looked into his criminal history and found only minor offenses, nothing to indicate a propensity for violence. But Kenda was going to apply for a warrant regardless and arrest Tracy Spencer based on the evidence he had. But first he wanted to talk to Tracy’s wife. Lisa was still claiming that Tracy was with her the night of the murders so Kenda told her that a witness saw him and she began to cry. Kenda did not understand why she would protect him and told her she could be arrested next. She told him she did lie and that Tracy was not with her all night. As a matter of a fact, she admitted that he left the apartment in the middle of the night often and went for walks. She claimed Tracy told her he kept finding Barbara’s mail on the ground and wanted to return it to her, despite locked mailboxes at the apartment complex.

Lisa Spencer also admitted to finding an empty envelope with Barbara’s name on it so she threw it away. She observed Tracy get angry when he couldn’t find it but she never told him she threw it away. She also confessed that she did not go through the Micki’s apartment window like she originally shared with the police; she went into the apartment to help Tracy cover up the crime. When Kenda asked her why, her response was that she loved him. Kenda learned that Tracy was on the move so he made a decision to arrest and take him to the station before he hurt someone else. Kenda got a search warrant for his apartment and found the letter he couldn’t find right in the trash where his wife said she put it. And it did in deed have Barbara Kramer’s name on it. Kenda questioned Tracy at the station and even after he was told there were witnesses, Spencer stuck to his story. Eventually he folded some and admitted to taking mail to Barbara but said he didn’t go inside her apartment.

Kenda realized Tracy Spencer was a prolific liar. He denied everything. Kenda confronted him with the semen he said matched him (which was a lie) and then Tracy admitted that he was lying to him because he was having an affair with Micki and did have consensual sex with her that night. He had an explanation for everything. The bottom line was that he was going to commit the crimes regardless of the consequences and then lie about it. That’s what they do. The lab results came back and showed that both Tracy’s blood and hair samples matched those at the crime scenes. Tracy Spencer was arrested for the first degree murders of Micki Filmore and Barbara Kramer. On December 31, 1986, Tracy Spencer was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison plus twenty-four years. He is eligible for parole in 2032. Lt. Kenda ended the show with the fact that Spencer overpowered, raped, and killed two girls he didn’t even know for no real reason. Two women paid the price for his crimes and there could have been more, and that scared him.

Source: A Killer Always Rings Twice, Homicide Hunter, Investigation Discovery

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $3.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict. Download the ID Go app or purchase ID True Crime Files & binge away.

Related Links:
Homicide Hunters: Lt. Joe Kenda Episode 3 – Double Murder In Mayberry
A Killer Always Rings Twice | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (S1, E3)
A Killer Always Rings Twice | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (website)
A Killer Always Rings Twice | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
A Killer Always Rings Twice | Homicide Hunter | Investigation Discovery (Hulu)
Violent Crime, Suicide & Non Combat Death at Fort Carson, Colorado
Homicide Hunter Premiered ‘A Killer Always Rings Twice’ on ID: Lt. Joe Kenda Hunts for Serial Rapist & Killer Before He Strikes Again (November 8, 2011)
What the DoD Doesn’t Want You to Know: 50 Shocking Military Homicides in the Last 30 Years (March 23, 2018)