Linda Weldy's family thinks a serial killer is to blame for her murder -- but police are skeptical. Linda was 10-years-old when she was abducted from her bus stop in 1987. Her body was found three weeks later. Her killer is still out there.
Its been 26 years since her daughter Linda Weldy was kidnapped and murdered. And Karen Egolf has felt every single minute of those 26 years.
"Some days are good and some days are bad," says Egolf, "and they say with time it will heal all wounds -- when something like this happens to your child, it doesn't heal. Sometimes you feel a little numb. But no, it never goes away. It never heals."
Linda Weldy was a happy 10-year-old girl. She loved fishing and riding her bike.
"She was a riot. She was so funny. She loved this TV show called Mork and Mindy," says Egolf.
Life was good, Egolf says, and the day Linda disappeared, was like any other.
"We never thought that anything like this could possibly happen to us. We weren't rich, we didn't have very much money and we always thought that people who got kid napped got kidnapped for a ransom. And we were just so ignorant," says Egolf.
Linda's Disappearance and Murder
On the afternoon of February 24th, 1987, Linda's bus dropped her off near her home on McClung Road. It was about 3:30p.m. According to police, her bus driver and other children saw her walk toward the family mailbox, as she did each day. The bus drove off. Linda was supposed to walk about 250 yards down the curved gravel driveway to her home, which was hidden by trees. A Veteran of Foreign Wars building now sits where Linda's home used to stand. Linda never made it home.
Police say Egolf's then boyfriend, Robert, whom she later married, was at home at the time. Robert helped raise Linda and Egolf's son. According to newspaper reports, Robert and Egolf's 12-year-old son were in the front yard installing an antenna. Karen says she worked the late shift at her job. So she didn't realize Linda didn't make it home until she talked with Robert and he asked where Linda was. Egolf says Linda often went over to a friends house after school. When they realized Linda was unaccounted for, Egolf went to police.
"I didn't want to think my baby is gone and she is never coming home and Ill never see her again. I just kept clinging to that hope that she will come home, that we will find her and she will be back. I wouldn't give up. We still had that fragment of hope," says Egolf.
That fragment shattered 22 days later. Linda's body was found by a farmer along some long abandoned railroad tracks on County Road 500 South near Kingsbury. Linda had been strangled. Police asked Egolf to identify the body.
"I still held on to that hope. No, no, it can't be her. It has got to be somebody else," says Egolf, "But, then I saw her. Who would do this to a child and live with themselves? I don't understand people. I don't understand how anybody can hurt another person."
According to newspaper reports at the time, police said they believed the person -- or people --- responsible for her murder probably knew Linda. But her family has a different theory. Egolf believes suspected serial killer Larry Hall murdered Linda.
Could a Serial Killer be to Blame?
Christopher Hawley Martin wrote a book about Larry Hall titled "Urges." According to Martin, Hall is believed to have abducted and killed several girls throughout the 80s and early 90s. Hall is serving a life sentence in Texas on federal kidnapping charges. He has never been convicted of murder.
Martin says he has established a rapport for Hall and that they have a special way to communicating with each other so that Hall will not face any more charges that could lead to a death penalty.
"We've established a kind of a code," says Martin, "for example, I might ask Larry about a case and he will give me two or three facts about it. Then he will give me one false fact about it. What that does is contaminate it as far as law enforcement in concerned."
Martin says Hall would use his van to abduct women and girls and then murder them. Martin believes Linda is one of his victims.
And while LaPorte County investigators know of Larry Hall, they are skeptical that he committed this crime. Detective Sergeant Pat Cicero says he has had a discussion with Martin.
"We noted several similarities with Hall's M.O," says Cicero, "I believe Mr. Hall could be a person of interest, but based upon the results of the ongoing investigation, we believe there were other persons who had more culpability."
Cicero says suspects were developed in this case but he wouldn't elaborate.
That means there are still no answers for Linda's family.
"We still don't know," says Egolf, "we still have our suspicions. And the police still have their suspicions. And it would be nice to be able to just close this."
"We would ask for anyone who has information to please come forward. The suspect(s) knows who they are and what they did. It is time for them to help a grieving family," says Cicero.
Egolf sits down every now and then to look at the pictures of Linda's life. The photos are reminders of how beautiful Linda was as a child. But there will be no wedding photos, no snapshots of graduation day, no grandchilden to add to her album. The photos of Linda Weldy will forever end at age 10.
"She didn't get a chance to do anything. But I am so very glad that I had her. Even it was just for a short time," says Egolf.
Do you know something?
Please contact the LaPorte County Sheriff's Office Detective Bureau at 219-326-7700.