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Arrest made in 1988 Mishawaka teen's murder

By WSBT-TV Report
Published On: Dec 24 2013 07:10:40 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 13 2013 05:07:58 PM CST

WSBT's Kelli Stopczynski reports on Friday's arrest of a suspect in the 1988 shooting death of 16-year-old Theresa Burns of Mishawaka.

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. -

Police in St. Joseph County believe they have solved a 25-year-old murder mystery.

In January 1988, 16-year-old Theresa Burns left Mishawaka High School to go to her Dillman St. home to change clothes. Police say Burns was released from school late that morning with the plans she would return to school, but she never returned to class. While she was home, a neighbor saw a young man enter her family's house.

Several hours later, a family member found Burns on the living room floor of the home, dead from multiple gunshot wounds.

The suspect in the cold case has been arrested and identified. He's 43-year-old Phillip Geans of Mishawaka.

At a Friday news conference held by the St. Joseph County Metro Homicide Unit, police said Geans was a friend of a friend to Theresa Burns, and he had talked with "a number of people" about the murder and .22 gun used.

Officers interviewed several hundred people.

Police say Burns' boyfriend told investigators he had been speaking to her on the phone between 11 and 11:30 a.m. Near the end of the conversation, he heard the doorbell to the home, and Burns told him someone was at the door. They then ended their talk.

Metro Homicide says after Burns' death, Geans' stepfather brought a .22 caliber revolver to the Mishawaka Police Department. The stepfather and Geans' mother eventually told police they had found the gun in Geans' bed. They told officers they did not want Geans to have a weapon, as all it could do would be to cause trouble.

After performing numerous tests, police determined the .22 caliber gun was the weapon used to shoot Burns.

Officers spoke with a stepsister of Geans, who said Geans had burned her with a hot curling iron, believing she had taken the gun. She denied that. According to a court affidavit, police were told Geans told his stepsister he would kill her if she did not return the handgun to him.

Geans was interviewed by police, telling them he knew Theresa Burns, who was a friend of his then girlfriend. He told police he had been at Burns' home in the past, but he denied killing her. Police say he later admitted having the .22 caliber gun his mother and stepfather turned over to detectives.

Police say Geans told detectives he began having "dreams" that he had killed Burns. They also say Geans tried to sell the handgun but told people it had a "major crime on it."

According to court documents, at another party, a Crime Stoppers commercial regarding Burns' death came on TV. Geans then supposedly said he killed her. Police say on two other occasions, he told people he should kill them "just like he killed Theresa Burns."

Geans was arrested around 1:30 p.m. Friday while he was walking near the corner of Ironwood and Lincolnway in Mishawaka.