In the spring of 1983 the Fuller family moved from their home in Essex, England to North Texas in search of the American Dream. Unfamiliar with the Arlington area, the family temporarily moved into “Kensington motor lodge hotel and apartments” on 1220 West Division Street while they house hunted and looked for jobs. The area wasn’t the safest, but new to town the Fuller family weren’t aware of that. The English family had been in the country only less than a month before tragedy struck. On June 27th, 1983, their youngest child, 11 year old Julie Fuller, went to take out the trash while the rest of the family prepared and got dressed in anticipation of going out to dinner. The patriarch of the household, Colin, an engineer, had just received his first paycheck from his new job at CPI electrics and wanted to celebrate by going out to eat with his wife, Janet, and his children.
Barefoot and dressed in a white skirt and blouse Julie walked outside to take out the trash. The dumpster was full so she decided to circle around to the back of the motel to find an empty one. She never returned.
Her family quickly reported her missing to the police who began searching for her in and around the area with the help out the local community, to no avail. Locals recall Janet standing outside of the motel and wringing her hands in distress repeating “I want my baby back”.
The following day at around midday the naked body of a young girl was discovered by construction workers around 15 miles away from the motel, just off the 200 block of Handley-Ederville Road in Fort Worth. At first, police thought it was the body of another missing child, but it was later determined to be that of missing 11 year old Julie Fuller. Autopsy would later reveal that she had been raped and strangled to death, which was evident by the ring of abrasions around her neck. The child's clothing was never recovered.
Police canvassed the area heavily and interviewed the tenants of the motel. They also interviewed known offenders who had committed similar crimes but could not pin-point a suspect. Those who heard about the family’s tragedy and hardships sent food and money to the family in a goodwill gesture to ease their situation, a gesture that caused Colin great pain.
“The American dream is a nightmare” Colin Fuller told reporters.
Julie was buried in a local cemetery and her family soon relocated back to the U.K leaving their daughters remains behind. Those who had gotten to know her in the community described her as a well-mannered and optimistic child who was enjoying all the differences of America. She loved the other kids accents and how different the buildings and surroundings looked in comparison to back home and was intrigued and delighted by simple things like fast food drive-thrus and the hotel pool.
Her brother, Lee, who was 13 at the time, blamed himself for not paying closer attention to the safety and whereabouts of his younger sister.
“I was probably doing something worthless like watching T.V. She took out the trash and never came back” he said.
A studio portrait photograph of the siblings shows their similarities, both pale and freckled with strawberry blonde hair and not much age difference between them.
Police had no suspect and newspaper headlines could only report that whoever had abducted, raped and murdered the 11 year old child was still on the loose, striking fear in the local and surrounding communities.
Two months after the murder an intoxicated man in his 40’s confessed to the crime but it was later revealed to be a hoax.
The DNA collected from the victim’s body was ran through the FBI’s criminal database, CODIS, but turned up no results and the case would go unsolved for 36 years.
In 2018 the DNA was submitted to Parabon Nanolabs where it was used to create a digital snapshot of the perpetrator but the generated resemblance did not bring in any tips.
Several years later the DNA was entered into a genetic genealogy database where a relative of Fuller’s killer had a profile. Police contacted the relative and eventually narrowed the killer down to a man named James McNichols. He was officially identified on December 13th 2019.
McNichols, who died in Iowa in 2004 at the age of 52, had lived in the same area as the Fuller family at the time of the crime. Although he had a criminal record his details were, for some reason, not entered into any criminal database.
Lee Fuller, who had not stopped looking for his sisters killer over the years, said that he was pleased that Julies killer had been identified and that the crime had finally been solved after a long three and half decades. Detective Thomas O’ Brien who worked the case commented that he wished McNichols was still alive so he could be held accountable for his crime.