Home Hair color After 4 Decades, Mansfield Murder Victim Identified By DNA Evidence As Tampa Woman

After 4 Decades, Mansfield Murder Victim Identified By DNA Evidence As Tampa Woman

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It’s been 41 years since Hernando County Sheriff’s Deputies descended on a 6-acre junkyard in the Weeki Wachee Acres neighborhood of Spring Hill, ready to begin digging around the house neighbors now call the ‘house of horrors’. “.

But on March 16, 1981, the day diggers and deputies began digging, it was simply the family home of Billy Mansfield Jr., the eldest son of a convicted child molester who took over his father in a way beyond their common name.

Within weeks of digging, deputies unearthed the remains of four women on the Mansfield property. Two were quickly identified but, year after year, the other two women have remained anonymous.

That changed Wednesday afternoon, when the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office officially announced that one of the two victims had been identified as Theresa Caroline Fillingim. Fillingim was just a week away from her 17th birthday when her sister, Margaret Johns, reported her missing to Tampa police on May 16, 1980.

Johns did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Now, thanks to a new partnership with the University of North Texas and Virginia-based DNA technology company Parabon Nano Labs, Hernando investigators said they can conclusively say Fillingim’s body was the third removed from the land around the Mansfield home on April 3, 1981. .

St. Petersburg Times photographer Olie Stonerook climbed a tree to get this crime scene photo in 1981 as investigators discovered the skeletal remains of four serial killers Billy Mansfield Jr. strangled and buried on the Spring Hill family property. Mansfield is currently serving a life sentence in a California prison. [ STONEROOK, OLIE | Times ]

Investigators also worked alongside renowned expert Erin Kimmerle and her colleagues at the University of South Florida’s Department of Forensic Anthropology.

Fillingim’s remains had been sent to numerous labs over the years, but experts failed to develop a DNA profile until 2020, the sheriff’s office said. This sample was then sent to the University of North Texas to search for a match in a national database, but this effort again proved unsuccessful.

This year, however, researchers told the sheriff’s office they wanted to try again – this time using Parabon’s new “Snapshot DNA Phenotyping” services to create their own profile of the woman who was killed instead of just search for correspondence.

“Using DNA evidence from this investigation, Snapshot produced trait predictions for the associated victim. Individual predictions were made for ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckles and the shape of the victim’s face,” the statement from the sheriff’s office said Wednesday.

This profile allowed investigators to generate their own “actionable leads” for the cold case, the statement said. A DNA sample from Fillingim’s sister confirmed her identity, according to the sheriff’s office, “finally bringing peace to the victim’s family.”

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Mansfield Jr. had already racked up a long list of crimes, including assault, kidnapping and sexual assault, when he met 30-year-old Rene Sailing in a California tavern on December 6, 1980. The two left together and the next morning. officers found Sailing’s body in a drainage ditch, riddled with bullet holes. Mansfield Jr. was arrested for first degree murder a few days later. After a mistrial and attempted escape from prison, he was found guilty of rape and strangulation Sailing.

Billy Mansfield Jr., center, is escorted from the Hernando County Courthouse by deputies in 1982. He was convicted that year of strangling four women and burying them on the Spring family property Hill.  He is currently serving a life sentence in a California prison.
Billy Mansfield Jr., center, is escorted from the Hernando County Courthouse by deputies in 1982. He was convicted that year of strangling four women and burying them on the Spring family property Hill. He is currently serving a life sentence in a California prison. [ BOB MORELAND | Times ]

Publicity from the California case led an anonymous tipster to call authorities in Hernando and ask them to search the home of Mansfield Jr. Sandra Graham, a 21-year-old woman from Tampa who disappeared on April 17, 1980.

The first skeleton buried in the grounds was unearthed the next day – March 17 – but was only identified by experts as a white woman in her twenties and still remains a “Jane Doe”. A week later, another skeleton was discovered – this time identified as 15-year-old Elaine Zeigler, a tourist from Ohio who disappeared from a nearby campground on New Year’s Eve in 1975. April 3 , authorities pulled from the ground what they know was the body of 16-year-old Fillingim. And four days later, tipsters’ predictions came true when Sandra Graham’s body was finally found.

Related: Art of Forensics exhibit features 17 cold cases between 1973 and 2020 in Florida, Pennsylvania and North Carolina

Court documents say the women were all sexually assaulted by Mansfield Jr., his younger brother Gary, and their father, William Mansfield Sr. It was Mansfield Jr., however, who would end up killing the women and often dismembering them, records show. judicial. .

Mansfield Jr. eventually pleaded guilty to murdering the four women found in his home, and also pleaded guilty to the attempted sexual assault of a fifth woman. He is serving a life sentence in California.