Six years after the brutal June 3 murder of young Asenath Dukat of suburban Columbus, Upper Arlington police officials still receive tips they hope will lead them to her killer.
Columbus police say the same of the 1982 murder case of 8-year-old Kelly Prosser.
People still telephone Union County sheriff's detectives with possible leads on the 1981 slaying of 14-year-old Joanne Hebert.
These cases and others like them in Ohio still are open; the leads still are followed. The hope of solving the crimes has not diminished. But the odds have.
Upper Arlington police say they usually notice renewed interest in the case each year about this time. Lately, however, the number of leads seems to have dwindled.
'Very few people are calling in now,' said Lt. Tom French. 'If they haven't, they probably aren't going to now, except for the people who really did see something and don't realize it yet. I still think there's somebody out there who saw something important that seemed insignificant to them at the time.'
Asenath, 8, was 'so predictable, residents said they could set their clocks by her' as she walked home from school each day, said Det. Ed Tyne. On June 3, her usual punctuality was disrupted when her class had to serve a 10-minute detention after school. She was seen last heading home about 3:30 p.m.
Her body was found in a shallow creek near her home. She had been sexually molested, then struck in the head with a 20-pound rock that shattered from the impact.
Asenath's murder is just one of many across Ohio that remain unsolved.
Kelly Prosser, a Columbus girl who also disappeared while walking home from school, was killed Sept. 20, 1982. It was the first day she had been allowed to walk to school by herself.
Her body was found two days later in a cornfield near Plain City. She had been sexually molested, badly beaten and strangled. The case remains a mystery.
'It's still there and it's not going to go away,' Julie Joseph, a Columbus homicide detective who has handled the Prosser investigation, said. 'You'd like to give more time to it than you can.'
Joseph said most of the leads she is given come from police officers who still hope for a solution that has eluded them for nearly four years.
'Yes, it's well-remembered,' she said. 'It's not something you can forget. It's in the back of your mind every day. I mean, she was an 8-year-old girl. You keep thinking that that guy's still out there and you wonder if it could happen again.'
Joanne Hebert had ridden her bike to a corner market for a can of pop July 22, 1981 when she disappeared. Her partially nude, decomposed body was found two months later in a rural section of Union County about three miles from her home. She had been beaten to death and sexually molested.
Investigators in all three cases at one time sought links between their crimes and the July 17, 1982 murder of Krista Lee Harrison of Marshallville in Wayne County. The 11-year-old girl had been strangled and died of heart failure.
Wayne County sheriff's detectives were able to close that case with the conviction Robert Buell, who lived in Franklin Township and worked for the city of Akron. Buell, convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering the 11-year-old girl, is on death row at the Southern Ohio Correctional facility at Lucasville. His attorney has filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.
Buell, 43, also was sentenced to more than 200 years in prison for kidnapping, raping and torturing a Damascus woman and for kidnapping and raping a Chester, W.Va., woman.
He also is suspected in the murder of Debbie Smith, 10, of Massillon. Debbie disappeared June 25, 1983 while walking home from a carnival. Her badly decomposed, nude body was found Aug. 6 near the Tuscarawas River in Bolivara.
'So far, our prime suspect in the Debbie Smith case is Buell,' Bruce Wilson, a Massillon police detective, said. 'We're still working on it.'
Yet another case possibly tied to Buell is that of 12-year-old Tina Harmon of Wayne County, who was strangled Oct. 29, 1981. Two men convicted of her murder were released when fibers from Buell's van were matched with evidence from Tina's case. Buell has not been prosecuted for the crime.
At one time, a computer analysis showed significant similarities between Krista Lee Harrison's murder and 22 others in Ohio said Franklin Township Det. Ron Fuchs.
Upper Arlington, Union County and Columbus police detectives say they were unable to place Buell in their areas at the times of the murders.
'It's open-ended,' said French. 'We never had any information that placed him in Upper Arlington, but we never had any that said he wasn't here, either. But there was no physical evidence. And there are some better suspects.'
In fact, there are nearly 700 named suspects in the case. In an effort to narrow the list, Upper Arlington and federal officials compiled separate profiles of Asenath's killer, based on case facts and repetitive history.
The reports agree that the suspect probably is a white male, a high school graduate with no criminal record who was 22 to 27 years old at the time of the crime and whose employment requires little skill.
The suspect is believed to be a casual drinker who has experienced failures with women, employment or finances, someone who lacks self-esteem and someone who seeks out younger women because of an inability to handle adult relationships.
Both profiles say the man probably was not a drifter and most likely lived or worked in the area, though officials believe he may have left after the crime.
French said he has checked all over this country and Canada with police agencies that have similar cases.
'Some of their cases are so similar to ours, it's uncanny,' he said.
Joseph said Columbus police have been through the same procedures.
'There are clips in Kelly's file fom all over the country,' Joseph said. 'I'm sure we've got 1,000 names (ofpotential suspects) in her file. We've got a whole city full of suspects. But as time goes by it becomes increasingly difficult ... to trace back in time and determine where someone was on that date.'
Union County detectives are somewhat more hopeful about the case of Joanne Hebert, which they reopened in March 1985 when they received a tip from an informant.
'We feel that it is solveable, but it's going to take more than we've got right now,' said Det. Lonnie Elmore. 'But every time it seems like it's dying down, people start calling in.
'I'm really glad that we got the tip. It opened up some new things for us. I think eventually somebody's going to confess.'
Most departments share the hope that one day, someone will confess to a string of crimes that will clear their cases. Fuchs said Buell still may hold the answers to many.
Buell refused to talk with Franklin Township officials except for a brief, but perhaps promising, conversation.
'He said that if they intend to go through with his execution, he'll talk. I've always hung on to that in the back of my mind,' Fuchs said. 'I hope we have the opportunity to speak to him one more time.'