Case File: 37 years later, the daughters of Patricia Stichler are still seeking justice
TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - She was a successful young single mother with three little girls living in a seemingly safe neighborhood in Sylvania. But 37 years ago, 30-year old Patricia Stichler was brutally murdered in her home while her three young daughters slept down the hall in the same house.
Her 11-year old daughter Andrea would wake up early that morning to find her mother in a pool of blood after she was stabbed multiple times and her throat slashed.
The case has gone unsolved for almost four decades with her now-grown daughters vowing not to stop until they get answers from the person who killed their mother.
Her middle daughter Kirsten Kelley, who now lives in Florida, is working with a new team of investigators to renew the investigation with the latest DNA technology.
“My family is left to pick up the broken pieces of 37 years,” she said. “Almost 37 years of not knowing anything, really. We know very little.”
Kirsten was 9-years old then, her younger sister Elise was 5.
“It was just a normal night. We’d went to bed. I do remember that we had a lot of phone calls coming in. But I remember my mom, I can still hear her voice go, Hello? Hello? And they were hanging up on us,” Kirsten said, “which had happened quite a bit that night.”
Investigators say sometime after midnight someone broke into the house to attack Patricia, who was assumed to be sleeping in her room.
“I think she was being watched or stalked or somebody had a personal vendetta against her,” said Lucas County Coroner Dr. Diane Barnett, who specializes in cold cases.
The case file on Patricia’s murder showed her throat had been slashed, killing her, but not before she put up quite a fight.
“I think it was very intense,” Barnett said. “She was trying to either get the knife away from the assailant or disable the assailant somehow.”
Barnett says there were quite a few stab wounds to Patricia’s hands and arms, along with stab wounds to her abdomen after she was dead.
When Sylvania City Police Chief Rich Schnoor took his post two years ago, he made the Patricia Stichler case a priority because there have only been three homicides in the city and the other two were solved pretty quickly.
“It was a violent crime scene,” he said. “There was blood spatter in at least two different rooms. Several wounds. Blood on the bed and on the carpets.”
Chief Schnoor says to this day it’s unclear whether someone broke into the home through a bathroom window or they knew Patricia and she may have let them in.
“There is evidence both circumstantial and existing evidence that could lead to both theories,” he said.
Both Patricia’s ex-husband and her boyfriend at the time have been investigated and never charged in the case. Police say they have other leads, including strong DNA evidence that is now being tested using the latest technology called forensic genealogy. Detective Sergeant Justin Music is now the lead investigator in the case.
“They can upload it and try and compare it to other family members,” Music said. “So there might be a connection, a distant relative and then what we can do is work from that distant relative to bring us closer to a potential suspect.”
One of the most haunting parts of Patricia’s case is that her three young daughters were asleep in the house at the time of their mother’s murder. Her oldest daughter Andrea woke up to find her mother dead. Police say she called their father, who called police as he headed over to the house.
“She had babies, and her babies are my age now; actually her one daughter who I worked closely with is almost my exact age,” Music said. “So there’s something distinct about that, there’s a connection.”
Kirsten says, her sister Andrea doesn’t remember that night to this day because of the extreme trauma surrounding the murder.
“We don’t know exactly what Andrea saw or heard,” Kirsten said. “We don’t know. It’s impacted her life in ways that people will never understand.”
Kirsten says she too remembers little.
“The next thing I recall is waking up. Lights on in the hallway and there are police officers everywhere,” she said.
But Kirsten says there are aspects about that night that haunt her to this day.
“We were there. We slept through this. That changes you forever,” she said. “I’ve spent most of my life not sleeping. Not sleeping well.”
Surprisingly, Kirsten says an arrest and conviction at this point aren’t the priority for her and her sisters. They just want answers.
“Things like, how’d you get in our house? Did you see us? Why didn’t you kill us? Did you walk past our bedrooms? Why did you kill our mother? Why did you leave her there? Help us understand the unknowns,” she said. “Help her children end their suffering because it’s not fair to any of us.”
If you have any information about the Patricia Stichler case, you are asked to call the Sylvania City Police Department at 419-885-0467. Or call the 13ABC I-Team: 419-534-3838.
You can also call the I-Team with a case that needs solving.
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