Inside the Evidence: 1985 cold case homicide in the Finger Lakes

July 19, 2019 11:23 PM

OVID, N.Y. (WHEC) — "This field right here is where Kristin O'Connell's body was found," New York State Police Inv. George Grbic said.

It was the summer of 1985. Madonna had launched her first concert tour and Ronald Reagan was president. 

"This was big news around here," News10NBC's Nikki Rudd said.

"Yeah, absolutely," New York State Police Investigator George Grbic said. "Everybody knew that something really bad had happened." 

Kristin O'Connell was a 20-year-old college student from Minnesota. Investigators say she was in Ovid, Seneca County visiting a young man she met while on spring break in Florida. 

On Aug. 16, 1985, her lifeless body was found in a cornfield off County Road 139 in Ovid. 

"She had multiple stab wounds," Grbic said. "Her throat had been slit and she was naked." 

Investigators say there were no signs of sexual assault. 

"I think this is a random crime of opportunity," Grbic said. "Sexually motivated."

News10NBC obtained pictures of the clothes O'Connell was wearing when she was killed—a red and white striped shirt and white capri-like pants. 

"I think it was a very violent encounter," Grbic said. "I believe Kristin fought back very violently as well and ultimately, I think that might have motivated this person or persons to silence her."

O'Connell had been staying at a trailer behind the Golden Buck Restaurant less than a half-mile from where she was found dead. Investigators say around 11:30 p.m. on Aug. 14 she went for a walk. She didn't take her purse and was barefoot. 

Shortly after midnight, neighbors reported hearing a loud, high-pitched scream. 

Grbic says witnesses also spotted O'Connell being followed by two men on her walk that night. 

"That's the last known sighting of her alive," Grbic said. 

"Do you believe those two men are who killed her?" Rudd asked.

"I do. I do," Grbic said. "I think those two are involved."

However, those men have never been identified. 

About a week after O'Connell's body was found, an anonymous phone call was made to state police. 

Click here to listen to the audio from that call. Here's the transcript from the call: 

TROOPER: State Police, Trooper Reyer.

CALLER: Hello.


CALLER: Is this the State Police in Ovid?

TROOPER: Yes, it is.

CALLER: Listen to me, all right?


CALLER: And, ah, don't interrupt me. Do you want the guy that killed that guy, or ah, that girl?

TROOPER: Go ahead.

CALLER: You look at, ah, ah, behind the Chevy, the green Chevy on, ah, Main Street in Waterloo and you'll find him. And if you open the trunk, if you open the trunk, you'll find what you want.

TROOPER: Okay. A green Chevy on Main Street.

CALLER: In Waterloo, and if you open the trunk. I'm getting out of town because I told him not to do it. I told him not to do it. I'm getting out of town.

TROOPER: But wait a minute now. Okay, green Chevy.

CALLER: (Hung up)

Troopers went to Waterloo but never found a green Chevy. 

"I'm not really so sure it was a phone call meant to help us or not," Grbic said.

"Do you think it was something to throw investigators off?" Rudd asked. 

"[It's] very possible that's exactly what happened with that call," Grbic said. 

He believes the caller could be the killer. 

Investigators say a witness also reported seeing a green or blue sedan driving slowly by O'Connell as she was walking that night. That driver has also never been identified.

"There's no lack of suspects or leads," Grbic said. "We have over 2,000 leads in this case."

A half-mile from the crime scene is the former Willard Psychiatric Center. In 1985, it housed hundreds of psych patients, some of them violent. Grbic says it was overcrowded and understaffed at the time. 

"That's always something I would not want to rule out as a possibility," Grbic said. 

Grbic says he believes the killer or killers used to live in Ovid, but he believes they're no longer in the area. 

"You can rest assured we are definitely not too far behind them," Grbic said.

State police say the man O'Connell was visiting in Ovid and other people at the trailer that night were cleared as suspects.

Next week, you'll hear from O'Connell's mother as she fights for justice.

If you have any information on who killed O'Connell, call New York State Police at (585) 398-4300.

WEB EXTRA: Here's the story News10NBC aired the day Kristin O'Connell was found dead.

APP USERS | Click here to watch the web extra.


Nikki Rudd

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