3 girls were kidnapped and stabbed in 1975. Now they know who did it.

Holding hands, three women — two sisters and a friend — sat together Thursday as police officers in Indiana shared something the women had waited nearly five decades to know: the name of the person who stabbed them and left them in an Indiana cornfield late summer night 1975

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said press conference that using DNA evidence, investigators were able to determine that Thomas Edward Williams stabbed 13-year-old Kandice Smith, 11-year-old Sheri Rottler (now Sheri Rottler Trick) and 14-year-old Kathie Rottler on August 19, 1975, in Greenfield, Ind. Mr. Williams died at age 49 in November 1983 while in custody in Galveston, Texas, authorities said. It was not clear why he was detained.

Grim and sometimes expressionless, the women, now in their 50s and 60s, listened quietly as authorities recounted some of the harrowing details of the violent attack.

The girls hitchhiked after buying some items at a gas station east of Indianapolis, police said. A man driving a wagon offered them a ride, and he drove them to a corn field. There, police said, he forced the girls out of the car, tied two of them up, and then stabbed each of them several times.

“They were actually playing dead to try to avoid multiple stabbings,” said Sgt. said David Ellison of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police.

Two girls sought help from passers-by on the main road, and when the police arrived, they found the third in a corn field; all were taken to hospital, Sergeant Ellison said.

After police officers recounted the crime and how the victims’ persistence, along with police work and DNA evidence, led to the case being solved, each of the three women spoke.

“I stand here before you today as a survivor who has learned the true meaning of patience,” Ms. Rottler said. “I’ve learned that sometimes it can take decades to get the answer you’re waiting for.”

Ms. Rottler said that even after the case went cold, she tried to keep it open.

“Every call I made seemed to hit another dead end,” she said. “But I was determined not to give up.”

The women worked with several state and local officials over the years, and in 2018 they contacted Sergeant Ellison, who agreed to look into their case.

Sergeant Ellison, who recently retired, said he began looking for DNA recovered from crime scene evidence. Using genetic genealogy, investigators were able to identify people with DNA similar to DNA recovered from the crime scene, Sergeant Ellison said, noting that they were able to find Mr. Williams’ daughter. She agreed to provide a DNA sample last year, which indicated a match to Mr Williams.

Speaking to the three women, Deputy Chief Kendale Adams of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department said, “I’m not going to pretend I know what you’re feeling today, but I hope this is the first step in providing what the criminal justice system can shut down. .”

During the press conference, Ms Rottler Trick said she had decided to forgive Mr Williams for the attack.

“I’m sorry if it offends anyone,” she said.

The last of the three women to speak on Thursday was Ms Smith. She said identifying Mr Williams brought her “closure” and brought justice to her family.

“It brought peace to my heart,” she said.

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