MORGAN COUNTY, Ind. — Family says Ann Harmeier was a beautiful, talented Indiana University co-ed who was just starting her junior year as a theater major.
“I always tell people that Ann had a sparkle about her,” said Ann’s second cousin Scott Burnham. “A certain quality that you don’t find in too many people.”
But her dream of becoming an actress would never come true.
On September 12, 1977, Ann was heading back to Bloomington after a weekend at home in Cambridge City. She was supposed to telephone that she had made it back, but the call never came.
Roughly 2 miles north of Martinsville, Ann’s rust-colored 1971 Pontiac LeMans broke down on the side of State Road 37.
“The car was later found parked on the shoulder with the doors locked and the hazard lights flashing,” Indiana State Police said on its website. “It was later determined that the engine radiator was out of water and that the car had overheated.”
However, Ann was nowhere to be found. Her family searched for her and asked for help from the community, but she still was nowhere to be found.
5 weeks later, in a Morgan County cornfield, police found Ann’s body. According to ISP and newspaper archives, she has been tied up, gagged, raped and strangled with a shoelace.
“The funeral was held in this tiny Presbyterian Church in Cambridge city and it was just completely packed,” Burnham recalled.
Ann’s murder made headlines and traumatized her family and community. Scott, who was just 10 at the time, said it was something he’ll never forget.
He is one of the few family members Ann has left. Her father died when she was young and she was an only child.
“After Anne died in 1977, my aunt Marjorie just had completely given up and I think that she was just emotionally exhausted,” Burnham said. “I think it took a physical toll on her and she actually died a few years later in 1983.”
Burnham took a renewed interest in Ann’s case after hearing news reports about the Golden State Killer and his capture using new DNA technology. He reached out to Indiana State Police and now stays in regular contact with detectives as they continue to test evidence that was found at the crime scene.
“There’s her belongings, her clothing, her shoelaces that were used to tie her up and to strangle her, her hair brush that was used as more of a tourniquet to asphyxiate her,” Burnham explained. “I do know that they test certain objects regularly to find out if they could scrape some DNA. They haven’t had any success at this point.”
Burnham said that for the longest time, his family was told that police thought a man named Steven Judy had murdered Ann.
Judy was sent to the electric chair in 1981 for the rape and murder of a young mother and her three children. However, Burnham said records show Judy was in the Marion County Jail on an unrelated charge when Ann disappeared
“After Judy was arrested, he had confessed to many other crimes and murders that he wasn’t even suspected of having played a role in,” Burnham said. “When they asked him about my cousin’s case, he had no idea what they were talking about.”
While Burnham waits for DNA technology to improve, he’s hoping renewed attention to Ann’s case could provide some new leads.
“Obviously somebody knows something and maybe more than one person knows something,” Burnham said. “So getting them to come forward would be a big break.”
It’s been a long 45 years and Burnham said he is well aware that time is running out. However, he said that he is confident he will eventually be able to answer the all-important question: Who killed Ann?
“A lot of the critical players are getting older so there is a sense of urgency to it,” Burnham said. “It’s definitely solvable. I definitely think that police are serious about finding her killer.”
Burnham has started numerous social media pages dedicated to spreading information about Ann’s case. You can find the Facebook page here.
Anyone with information on the case can contact detectives at (812) 332-4411.