For the past 30 years, Kansas City police have been searching for answers in the gruesome murder of 18-year-old Sarah DeLeon.
DeLeon’s body was discovered just before 10 a.m. on Dec. 29, 1989, on an isolated track of railway by Interstate 435. She had been stabbed to death, sustaining most of her injuries on her back, neck, and chest.
Her car, a black Ford Mustang, had been found a few miles away earlier that morning by a patrol officer, who noticed there was no blood or any sign of a struggle at the scene. There was, however, an impact scuff on the car’s rear bumper.
At the time of the killing, there were several reports of “bump and rob” collisions around the city. Could DeLeon’s offender have intentionally rear-ended her, and the burglary escalated to a murder?
Cold case investigator Paul Holes and crime scene investigator Yolanda McClary considered this theory while reexamining the case on “The DNA of Murder with Paul Holes,” but they later theorized that the slaying was too brutal to be a random attack — after DeLeon suffered a fatal wound to the heart, the offender went on to stab her multiple times in the neck and back, the latter of which were inflicted post-mortem.
“There is a level of rage being expressed. This is not the bump and rob scenario,” Holes said. “I’m starting to lean towards whoever killed Sarah knew her.”
During the original investigation, police learned DeLeon had been on a date with her boyfriend, Matt Uland, the night before her murder, and that she had left his house around 1:30 a.m. to drive home.
While loved ones characterized DeLeon as a friendly, outgoing young woman who was not the type to make enemies, a rumor circulated that she had experienced tension with Uland’s ex-girlfriend, Carolyn Coon (now Heckert).
Heckert, however, was never officially linked to the case until 2016, when she was charged with DeLeon’s murder and named a person of interest in the 1994 murder of Diana Ault, a 26-year-old mother of two who was shot to death in her home, reported NBC News.
Both DeLeon and Ault had allegedly been Heckert’s romantic rivals, and Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Tatum argued Heckert was the joint connection between the two killings. But the following year at a probable cause hearing, it was ruled there was not enough evidence to tie Heckert to DeLeon’s murder, according to NBC News.
As of now, no further charges have been filed against Heckert, and she has since been released from custody. She has also never been arrested or charged in connection with murder of Ault.
Holes and McClary believe additional DNA testing needs to be conducted on the evidence to identify a potential suspect.
Based on the way DeLeon was dragged through the dirt at the railway track, they also speculate there could have been two offenders — one carrying her by the wrists, and another by the ankles. Holes and McClary tested this theory in a crime scene recreation, and the experiment showed it is “absolutely … a possibility” that two people “abduct[ed] and kill[ed] Sarah.”
Holes is currently in touch with the Chief of the Kansas City, Kansas, Police Department, and he will be presenting his findings and recommendations in hope of moving the investigation into DeLeon’s murder forward.
To hear more about the investigation, watch “The DNA of Murder with Paul Holes,” airing Saturdays at 7/6c on Oxygen.
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