Deceased man, Thomas Edward Williams, identified as 1975 Slasher who left three girls for dead in a Hancock County cornfield

January 23, 2024

Warning: The following post contains mention of sexual assault and harm towards children. Reader discretion is advised.

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In late August of 1975, Indianapolis newspapers were filled with reports about the rape and stabbing of three little girls found in a Hancock County cornfield.

On the night of August 19, 1975, at approximately 10:45pm, three children, Sheri Rottler, 11, Kandice Smith, 13, and Kathie Rottler, 14, stepped out of a local gas station in east Indianapolis and set off on foot to attend an amusement centre in the area.

It wasn’t long before the little girls were approached along US 40 by an unidentified male in a car, who pulled up alongside them in his vehicle and offered them a ride. The vehicle was white, or light blue, it was difficult to tell in the light. It was a late-sixties model four-door station wagon with rust around the fender wells.

During the ride, they noticed there was no handle on the passenger door, nor was there a radio. The interior was dark inside.

The girls climbed into the vehicle, excited to reach the amusement park, but their excitement soon turned to dread as the man passed their destination, continuing to drive off towards a large cornfield in Hancock County, 700 West. It was then they realised that they were being kidnapped and held against their will. They attempted to exit the vehicle, but couldn’t, and there were unable to reach the break pedal, despite trying. The man instead sped up.

Newspapers reported that the man pulled up next to a cornfield, took out a gun, and forced the girls out. He then tied up and gagged the sisters, before sexually assaulting 11-year-old Sheri.

The man then slashed Sheri three times in the neck, before stabbing her a staggering fifteen additional times in the abdomen.

He then slashed the throats of Kandice and Kathie and carried each of the children four rows deep into the cornfield, before climbing back into his vehicle and fleeing the scene.

The girls would later admit that they played dead to avoid being stabbed further.

Their attacker assumed the girls would die from their injuries, however, Kandice and Kathie managed to drag themselves to the side of road, where they were eventually able to wave down another car and ask for help. Three men driving down the US 40 on their way to Indianapolis spotted the two blood-soaked sisters, who had managed to escape their bonds. They took the girls to a nearby motel where the police were alerted. Local officers soon found Sheri still in the cornfield. They described as “semi-conscious and moaning” when they found her. She was rushed the nearest hospital for medical attention.

All three girls were taken to Community Hospital. 11-year-old Sheri was reported to be in critical condition. The condition of the older sisters was said to be “good” and “satisfactory” despite the cuts to their throats.

The girls attacker made no attempted to disguise himself from his victims, likely believing he had left them for dead, but in a true testament to the human spirit, the girls had miraculously survived the ordeal. They were able to describe their attacker in great detail, telling officers that he was middle-aged with short, reddish brown hair that was greying and curled at the tips. They described his face as having "flabby skin," and said he was clad in a pink and white shirt with vertical stripes, brown slacks, and a gold Pulsar watch.

Despite the detailed description of their attacker, and the best efforts of Police to locate potential suspects, the man went unidentified for decades. The girls never stopped trying to identify their attacker.

Last week, however, the attackers identity was released by The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, after DNA evidence from the attack was used to identify the slasher as Thomas Edward Williams, a now-deceased man who lived near the scene of the crime.

The DNA was sent to DNA Labs International, and the profile created was used to trace Williams' offspring, who provided investigators with DNA swabs for comparison and helped to confirm the suspects identity.

Thomas Edward Williams died in a Prison in Texas in 1983. It is unclear if he has any more victims, however, newspapers at the time of the 1975 crime reported that prior to the attack on the three girls, a woman in the area had almost been run off the road by an unidentified male, but managed to escape.

Sheri said in a press conference last week that she forgives her attacker, saying: “I do forgive this man. I had to, in order to continue my life. I hope anybody who’s in this situation can please do the same.”

Kandice said she now felt at peace.



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