|Nancy Eagleson Part 6|
‘If you know something, please come forward’
By Paulding County Progress Staff
Part 6 of 6
Originally published Sept. 6, 2000
Stunned and saddened, 500-600 people attended Nancy Eagleson’s funeral on a November day in 1960. Students of Paulding School were dismissed to attend the last rites of their slain classmate, a vibrant teenage girl whom had died at the hands of a merciless killer.
Following Nancy’s death, the Eagleson family couldn’t move back into their little home. They resided with Bettie’s parents for awhile. Upon returning to their home about a month later, they found that their phone lines had been cut for some reason. Why? Had they been cut prior to Nancy’s abduction?
These are two of many unanswered questions.
Many strange events have taken place over the past 40 years. There have been letters, phone calls, tips from people, and numerous trips, all trying to provide the ever-elusive clue that may provide a closure to this horrendous crime.
Approximately one month following Nancy’s murder, Sheryl, her mother, and grandmother were all at home. Bettie’s father and husband had gone bowling. Little Sheryl was in the kitchen, and Bettie went to do a chore in another room of the home. The next sound she heard was Sheryl screaming. Bettie’s first thought was, “Oh, they’ve come back for Sheryl.” Sure enough, someone had broken into the back door, which had been double locked, and had tried to take Sheryl.
The two back door locks had been filed, and entrance was gained into the residence. A search was conducted, and came up empty-handed. Was this the killer returning to finish his crime, and silence any witnesses?
Bettie recalls receiving a telephone call one night at midnight. It was from someone claiming they knew who killed Nancy. The unidentified voice told Mrs. Eagleson to meet him at a phone booth in Buckland, Ohio. He also told her to come alone. Buckland is located close to Lima. Bettie then called Sheriff Keeler, and the sheriff and Bettie’s husband Don Eagleson and her father Buck Hardesty drove to Buckland. Needless to say, no one was there.
Merrill Eagleson Miller, Nancy’s youngest sister, has spent more than a decade trying to put the pieces together in the unsolved crime. In 1985, Merrill received a telephone call, supposedly from a post office in Tampa, Fla. It seems the Postal Service had a package returned to them, which was to be sent to Merrill. However, the zip code was wrong on the package, and so Merrill gave them her correct address. The package never arrived, and to this day, Merrill believes that it had a connection with her sister’s death. “Why,” she said, “would the post office call me from Tampa Bay? My phone number wouldn’t be on the outside of the package.”
She knew that former Sheriff Keeler was in Florida at the time, and thought maybe he was sending her some information. Sheriff Keeler passed away two months later. Was there a connection? No one knows.
There was also another call from Shreveport, La. It was supposedly from an oil rig, and the person asked Merrill if this conversation was being recorded. He then hung up.
Bettie Eagleson said, “Just so many possibilities. So much has happened. I would just like to know who and why.”
Bettie, as well as the rest of the Eagleson family would also like to know what ever became of key evidence. They know that Nancy’s purse, shoe and a pink scarf were found, and their whereabouts are another mystery.
Sheriff Dave Harrow says the department has none of the physical evidence. Nancy’s clothing was sent to a Toledo crime lab for testing. It is unknown whether the clothing was ever returned. While Progress staff members were reviewing the Eagleson case file, Harrow contacted law enforcement offices in Toledo and was told that no record was available on the evidence.
The Progress also contacted the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation; a spokesman said no evidence was sent there for testing.
Whether the shoe, purse and scarf were tested is not known. At least one person has actually seen the purse, several years ago, but its present location is unknown.
Were the items sent to a crime lab and never returned? Are they in storage somewhere in a county building? Have they been destroyed?
The Eaglesons received their daughter’s funeral guest book only a few months ago. It was being held in the sheriff’s office. The family is very thankful to have it, so they can see the names of those who viewed their loved one.
With today’s modern technology, it would be quite possible to have caught the perpetrator of this rape/slaying; however in the year 1960, scientific investigative techniques were very limited. And, it was too easy to let contamination enter into a crime scene.
If the physical evidence from the crime could be located, it might be possible to perform DNA testing and identify the killer.
It seems everyone in this small town has an opinion of who killed Nancy, but no one has ever come forward with any evidence supporting their claim.
Some key questions that need answered, but who can answer them?
Why have so many strange telephone calls and incidents happened to the Eagleson family over the past 40 years?
Where is the gun that was found in a tree stump in the mid-1980s? Is there a report on it? Was another gun found in the late 1980s?
If 20 or so cars were in the vicinity the night of Nov. 13 (according to a newspaper account at the time), why didn’t anybody see anything unusual? If they did, why didn’t they report it?
Why was a patrol car headed back into Paulding, with officers claiming they had searched the entire area, just about the time the two hunters found the body?
Why is anyone who is interested in the case told to “back off?”
Have there been any new leads? Can this case be actively investigated?
Some key people have refused to be interviewed for this series, some even saying, “Don’t use my name.”
The Eaglesons have lived with only memories of Nancy for almost 40 years. Or 14,533 days. Bettie Eagleson wonders, “Was my family targeted? Why us?” Her only peace of mind will come by knowing who killed Nancy and why.
“We would like to have this case reopened, and someone actively working on it,” says Bettie. “Not just shoved under the rug.”
She pleads, “If anyone out there remembers anything, please come forward. She was my baby.”
(Editor’s Note: The Paulding County Progress staff has written these memories of Nancy at the request of the Eagleson family, with their help and support. Our intention has been to focus on how a family has coped with the tragic loss of a young girl, and to try and help bring some closure to this unsolved mystery of 40 years.)
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