Is The Gruesome Slaying Of An Elementary School Principal The Work Of A Sexual Predator?

The brutal 1998 murder of Kathleen Heisey shocked the town of Bakersfield, California.

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Evidence From Kathleen Heisey's Murder
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Evidence From Kathleen Heisey's Murder

Cold case investigator Paul Holes and Bakersfield Police Department Detective Christina Abshire goes over the crime scene evidence from the 1998 murder of Kathleen Heisey, an elementary school principal who was killed inside her home. Nothing was reported missing from the house, and Heisey's identification was taken out of her purse and displayed.

Kathleen Heisey came from a prominent family in Bakersfield, California. Her father had been a city councilman, and her family called the city home for four generations.

Heisey had two children — a daughter, Lisa, and son, Timm. At 50 years old, she was the principal of Browning Road Elementary School, a few miles north in the town of McFarland.

She was “the mom everyone wanted to hang out with,” Lisa told “The DNA of Murder with Paul Holes,” streaming now on Oxygen.

On June 29, 1998, Heisey spent the afternoon with friend Lynn Runyan before returning home around 7 p.m., according to Bakersfield NBC affiliate KGET. She left a message for her daughter that night at approximately 7:25 p.m.

Lisa said her mother used to unwind after work by opening the doors to her back patio, which was backed up against an open field, to enjoy a drink and a cigarette.

The following day, Heisey missed work. When she didn’t show up that Wednesday, her co-workers asked Runyan to check in on her. She arrived at Heisey’s home that afternoon to discover a horrific crime scene.

“She was stabbed numerous times,” Bakersfield Police Department Detective Christina Abshire told “The DNA of Murder.” After Heisey was killed, the assailant dragged her body down the hallway to her bedroom and posed her in a sexually humiliating manner. 

“She’s found lying on her stomach in a bedroom,” Abshire said. “She was possibly assaulted, or there were some items, objects used, that were inserted into orifices of her body during the assault.”

There were no signs of a break-in, and detectives believe the assailant may have snuck in through her unlocked back door. A shoe print found in the field behind her house was a match to ones found inside the home. A board in her back fence was broken, possibly by her killer as he fled.

Kathleen In 1998

No one was ever been arrested for Heisey’s murder, although Bakersfield PD has looked at several possible individuals over the past two decades. Cold case investigator Paul Holes believes the key to solving the case is determining whether this was an “interpersonal crime” or committed by “a fantasy driven predator.”

Although Holes considered two men in Heisey’s life during his investigation, he ultimately concluded the crime was predatory in nature.

At the time of her murder, Heisey was having an affair with a married man. Lisa Heisey said her mother had recently “given him an ultimatum,” and Lisa found a letter from the man pleading with her not to end their relationship. Former coworker Carol Mehochko told “The DNA of Murder” he had planned to take a stand “that weekend.” For the most part, however, Mehochko said the two got along well, and Holes did not think the man raised red flags in Heisey’s death.  

One suspect interviewed by Bakersfield PD at the time of Heisey’s death was coworker Lloyd Wakelee. Large and well-built, Wakelee had “a very bad temper,” according to Mehochko.

Wakelee had a history of road rage incidents, according to KGET, and Mehochko claimed he was angry upon learning that Heisey intended to give him a bad work evaluation.

“She said to me, ‘I’m afraid he’s going to come to my house and kill me,” Mehochko told “The DNA of Murder.”

During the original investigation, Wakelee gave authorities a DNA sample, and his home was searched, wife Debbie Wakelee told KGET. He subsequently provided receipts, photographs, and statements from multiple corroborating witnesses that placed him miles away at the time of the murder, and no charges were ever brought against him.

Kathleen Heisey

Another potential suspect in the Heisey murder is death row inmate and serial rapist Michael Charles Brown. In 2016, Brown was sentenced to death for the murder of Ruby Lee Jackson Meriweather, according to local newspaper The Bakersfield Californian.

Meriweather had been raped and murdered in her Bakersfield home in 2000. She was stabbed 18 times, and her body had been positioned at the foot of her bed in a sexually humiliating display, according to KGET.

Brown was arrested for committing a series of rapes in 2007 and 2008, sometimes sodomizing them with foreign objects, according to KGET. After providing a DNA sample to authorities, he was linked to the Meriweather murder. 

 Holes said the Heisey and Meriweather murders show a significant overlap in offender behavior.

“He went into Ruby’s house, stabbed her, and posed her body. There appears to have been post-mortem foreign object insertion in Ruby’s case,” Holes said.

While no evidence currently links Brown to Heisey’s murder, Holes believes “he’s suspect number one. He’s the prime suspect as far as I’m concerned.”

DNA testing is currently underway in the case.

Find out where the evidence takes him next on “The DNA of Murder with Paul Holes,” streaming now on Oxygen.

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