ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM)- It’s a case that’s left a lot of Upstate New York confused for almost four decades. How could a 20-year-old girl from Minnesota be brutally murdered in Upstate New York and police have yet to name a suspect?
Kristin O’Connell, a college student from Burnsville, Minn., took a trip to Ovid, NY. in August of 1985 to visit a boy she had met on spring break in Florida. She spent two days in the small town before going missing, her naked body would be found two days later in a cornfield.
What we know about the case
- August 14, 1985: Sometime during the day, Kristin called her mother to let her know that she planned on ending her trip early and coming home the next day. According to her mother, she sounded upset but wouldn’t say if anything was wrong.
- August 14, 1985: Around 11-11:30 p.m. Kristin left a gathering at the boy’s house to go on a walk. She never returned.
- August 16, 1985: Around 5 p.m., her body was found in a cornfield, naked and stabbed in the chest with her throat slit.
- Witnesses came forward to say that they saw Kristin walking along County Route 139, and others claim to have seen her stopped along the road talking to someone(s) in a car.
- Other people have said that they saw Kristin walking back to the trailer she was staying at, with two men following behind her.
- Despite having over 2,000 leads, it seems none of them have panned out since police have never named a suspect in this case, even after 38 years.
We began this investigation by talking with Kristin’s now-82-year-old mother, Phyllis, to learn what the past almost four decades have been like for her and her family.
A mother’s fight for answers
“This has affected our family terribly,” said Phyllis, “My son, he will never marry, he was only 15, dealing with the death of his sister.” She went on to say that she has no grandchildren, just the memories of her daughter.
Phyllis described Kristin as loving, caring, and responsible. “We had a great relationship. I think we only argued one time,” said Phyllis, “she was the one all the boys wanted to marry.” Phyllis and her sister, Barb (Kristin’s aunt), sat and reflected on some of their favorite memories of Kristin. They talked about Kristin’s love for horses, weddings, and people. “She was the type of person that wanted to sit and chat about anything and everything going on in her life,” said Barb Baer.
Phyllis and Kristin had a very trusting relationship and because of this, Phyllis let her daughter go on spring break during her sophomore year of college. On spring break, Kristin met a boy that happened to be from Upstate New York, and at the time, Kristin was interested in getting to know him better. In August of 1985, Kristin packed her bag and headed to Ovid. “She was so excited when she left that day,” Phyllis recalled, tearfully. “She came in, kissed me, and said, ‘mom don’t worry, everything’s fine, it will be fine,'” said Phyllis. While Phyllis didn’t like the idea of it, she trusted her daughter would be safe.
“So, she left, and I haven’t seen her, that was it.”
Since that day, Phyllis has continued to fight for justice, even visiting the Town of Ovid a few times herself. She’s worried that when she passes, no one will continue to fight for answers. “I promised Kristin till the day I die, I will be after who killed her,” said Phyllis.
Barb added that there are people in that town that know what happened, and she just asks that whoever knows anything, to please come forward so their family can get closure.
When an 18 News crew took a trip to Ovid, a man that lived down the street from where Kristin was killed stopped us to thank us for covering the case despite how long ago it happened. He adamantly added that he feels there are people in the town who know what happened but haven’t come forward.
“Don’t keep secrets… don’t keep something like this going,” Phyllis implored, “because maybe the next person might be your daughter, and you will know the kind of pain it is to lose a daughter and especially through murder.”
There is a Facebook group called ‘Justice for Kristin O’Connell‘ where you can keep track of any progress made in the case. As of right now, this is still an open investigation and anyone with information is encouraged to call State Police Troop E: (585) 398-4100.
A GoFundMe page has also been set up as an effort to get justice in Kristin’s case.
This is the first story in our series on Kristin’s death. 18 News will have more interviews and perspectives in the coming days.