Cold Case Pam Milam Pt. 1


It is the oldest cold case in Terre Haute. Almost 50 years ago, a young woman was murdered and found on the ISU campus.

Despite the passage of time the family and local law enforcement have not given up in their search for the killer.

Her name was Pam Milam.  She was a young lady.. full of love, faith and promise.  But she was murdered and no one has been brought to justice in this case of Terre Haute’s Most Wanted.

For some people, the memories of what happened to Pam Milam in September 1972 remain very vivid in their minds.

Pam lived with her parents and two sisters on Terre Haute’s Southside. The well liked girl was a Hoosier Scholar and involved with clubs and activities at school and church.  Her closest friend was younger sister Sam.

“She was very good willed and good spirited and not one of her friends said you know not a mean bone in her body,”said her sister Sam.

The future looked promising as Pam and eventually her sister attended ISU.   In the fall of 72, Pam was a sophomore and Sam a freshman.  Pam was an English major and involved in the Sigma Kappa sorority.

On Friday, September 15, Pam went to a rush meeting at Holmstedt Hall.  After the meeting, she planned to stay the night at the sorority’s suite in Lincoln Quad.  At some point, Pam walked to her car, alone, to move it from lot 27 across from the Quad.

What happened next is a mystery.

“We learned later that she did not show up at Lincoln quad, but the people there didn’t do anything about it,” said Sam Milam.

Nearly 24 hours had passed, when Pam’s boyfriend Dave Smith came to the Quad to pick her up for a date.  When Pam could not be located, Smith phoned her sister Sam.   During the conversation, someone from the sorority saw Pam’s car in the nearby parking lot.   It was empty except for Pam’s glasses on the back window shelf.

“People started getting concerned because her car was parked in the parking lot and nobody had seen her since Friday,” former boyfriend Dave Smith.

Smith told Sam about the discovery of the car.  Sam and her father drove to the campus lot. With a spare key Mr. Milam opened the trunk to find his daughter.  She had been bound, gagged and suffocated to death.

“As my father and I saw her, he exclaimed there and it was just a stab for me,” said Sam Milam.  This is the most awful thing ever and we can’t do anything about it.”
“The evidence suggests that she was going back to her car, said Shawn Keen, Asst. Chief Terre Haute Police. Evidence inside the car suggest that she at least made it to her car and then again the body was discovered in the trunk of the car.”

The murder and investigation grabbed headlines for weeks.  Police questioned many people, including Pam’s boyfriend, Dave Smith.

Today Smith is a retired Terre Haute police officer after serving for 31 years. Looking back now, Smith reflected on being questioned by police.

“You know as a policeman, I understand it more now than I did at the time I was kind of like I just couldn’t believe and in my heart that they’re looking in the wrong direction,” said Smith.

And just to clarify, Dave Smith was not involved in Pam’s death.  However, during the same time frame another man with the last name of Robert Austin was arrested and convicted of kidnapping in another case.   Police thought he might have a connection to Pam Milam, but DNA tests cleared Austin in 2001.

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