July 24, 2018
On the evening of December 1st, 1981, a 40 year old realtor named Virginia Freeman received a call from a man who was interested in purchasing a property listed on the agencies books. The man claimed to have the $73,000 necessary to purchase the property on him in cash and requested to arrange a viewing of the property that day.
The man, who did not identify himself, did not ask for Virginia by name, he simply asked to view the property.
Excited at the prospect of making a sale that day, Virginia, or “Ginger” as she was known to friends and family, postponed dinner with her husband and friends to meet the client.
The property stood alone in an isolated spot on Greens Prairie Road near Welburn in Texas. Virginia was on a rotation list at the office which meant any new clients who were not yet on the books would be referred to her. Eager to make the sale she agreed to meet the man, but first she made sure to stop by the family home to inform her two children, 11 year old Brad and 14 year old Betsy, that she would be a little late for dinner that evening. She told them to get dressed and said she’d see them a little later than planned, before taking off in her White 1981 Chevrolet station wagon.
Letting her family know where she was and when she would return was very important to Virginia, she always put her family before anything else.
Friends and colleagues described Ginger as a “model mother and housewife”. She had a strong presence in the local community and was a volunteer for the American Red Cross as well as the local girl scouts. Virginia was also part of the First Baptist Church Discovery program at the Texas A& M University and would host dinners to welcome international students to the USA. She was well liked in the College station area.
When Virginia had neglected to return home by 6pm that evening, her husband, Charles, began to grow concerned. He called the real estate office only to discover that none of his wife’s work colleagues had seen her in the past four hours. They informed him that she went to show a man with a “country accent” a property on Greens Prairie Road at around 2pm and hadn’t returned.
Charles and a friend decided to look for Virginia along Greens Prairie Road and it wasn’t long before they made a very unfortunate discovery. The partially clothed, bludgeoned body of Virginia Freeman was lying in the yard of the property that she was showing that day.
An autopsy would later reveal the cause of Mrs.Freeman's death. She had been stabbed in the neck a total of 11 times and choked with such force that her neck was actually broken. She had been struck across the head multiple times with a blunt instrument, which was later identified to be either a rock of a slab of concrete. She was estimated to have died at around 3:30pm.
Some articles state that she was sexually assaulted; however the majority does not mention sexual assault.
The earth around her body was raked with scratches, indicating sign of a struggle. The killers DNA was found under her fingernails and the defensive wounds to her hands implied that she had fought her attacker in a desperate battle for life. The forensic pathologist performing the autopsy clipped her fingernails during the examination, which were then carefully sealed in a plastic evidence bag.
Investigators came to the conclusion that Virginia had not even entered the property with the prospective client who had lured her out to the rural location earlier that day.
The local area was canvassed extensively by police and Brazos county crime stoppers offered a reward of $1000 for information leading to the arrest of a suspect in Mrs. Freeman’s murder. Those residing in the local area were asked to come forward if they saw Virginia driving her white station wagon near Greens Prairie Road that day and local restaurants were asked if they’d seen a suspicious man, possibly bloodied, come in to use their restrooms at any point on December 1st.
From various witness accounts police came up with a composite sketch of a possible suspect. The image was circulated but no one was arrested for the crime and the case eventually went cold and stayed that way for over three and a half decades.
Later, modern technology would help paint a more visually precise image of the slayer using a forensic DNA analysis service provided by a company called “snapshot DNA analysis”. DNA Phenotyping is one of the services provided by "Snapshot" that takes the DNA of a suspect who cannot be traced via databases and creates an image of what the person may look like. It’s not cheap to use the service, but in this case the $3600 fee was paid by National Geographic, who agreed pick up the bill in return for permission to film an episode about it as part of the NatGeo explorer series. Using the killers DNA found under Virginia’s finger nails, "Snapshot" was able to produce the following images:
The DNA data was then run through “GED match”, which is an open data genealogical database famously used to help identify the Golden State Killer (EAR/ONS). When they ran the killers DNA from the Virginia Freeman case the database turned up two female relatives of the killer (second cousins). This discovery got the ball rolling in the hunt for the suspect and after what one can only assume was hours of genealogical research “Snapshot DNA analysis” provided investigators with who they considered to be a possible suspect in the murder of Mrs. Freeman- a man named James Otto Earhart.
James Earhart had a son who provided a sample of his DNA to be tested against that of the DNA found on the victim.
James Otto Earhart was named Mrs. Freeman’s killer on the 25th of June 2018, 36 years after her murder. Earhart is also responsible for the abduction and murder of a nine year old girl named Kandy Kirtland whom he snatched off the street in Brazos County, Texas in 1987- just 10 miles from where Ginger Freeman was brutally murdered.
He was convicted, sentenced and killed by lethal injection on the 11th of August 1999.
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