Who killed Marlys Harper: part 1

NOW: Who killed Marlys Harper: part 1

It was a clear cool night, just after midnight on September 10TH  1999.

Five-year-old Crispin Harper was asleep on his couch, his mother had just put him to bed.

What he would discover when he woke up, scared him for the rest of his life.

"I come running into the house looking for. And I'm like, okay, by the time I come downstairs, I come around the corner. She's already slumped up against the door. Dead," Crispin Harper remembers.

"He told me that he had seen someone chase mom through the house and then he heard the shot and then he went and found her," Chuck Shultz describes.

A 28-year-old mother shot dead inside her own home.

"Just beating on the door beating on the door and I woke up and she was like Kizzy, she was like Marlys is dead. So, I was so, I seen the tape outside of the house. And I just, I just lost it," said Kizzy Harper.

Marlys Harper was born May 18th, 1971.

She lived in Elkhart and worked at a local body shop.

She had two children, Anthony and Crispin, whom she loved dearly.

Marlys stepfather Chuck Shultz remembers her best qualities.

"She was always laughing about stuff. Her kids were the most important thing to her, and she dated. She had boyfriends but her kids were more important. She worked. She was a good cook. She enjoyed she enjoyed going out with friends," Chuck described.

On the evening of September 9th, 1999, Marlys was home alone with Crispin.

Her boyfriend at the time, Tommy Rees, told police he was out of town.

Crispin was sleeping on the couch in the living room just under the front window when he woke up to a loud sound.

"I just heard a big boom," Crispin described.

The big boom, a gunshot.

He went into the kitchen looking for his mother.

"So, when I soon as I came around the corner, I seen her slumped up against the door, her back against the wall, like she must have answered the door, and then just fell and turn and fell up against the wall because I come around the corner, I see her. I'm looking down at her and she's just like, slump up against-. I got to, that's the only door I can get out of. And I gotta get out of here. I see all the blood. I'm like, I gotta get out and I kind of like had to squeeze my way up out of here and get out. I ran next door," remembered Crispin.

Crispin banged on his neighbor's door until someone answered.  

His neighbor Todd Houser went over to the house with Crispin and found Marlys, shot in the head lying in a pool of her own blood.

Elkhart city police responded to West Lexington Avenue the morning of September 10th, 1999.

Police arrived here just after 12:30 a.m. and discovered Marlys lifeless body slouched over by the back door.

"There was no hope of her recovering," Chuck said.

She was taken to Elkhart General Hospital where she was pronounced dead later that morning.

5-year-old Crispin was taken to the Elkhart city police station.

"I was at home. I got I received a call from Elkhart Police Department. They asked me to come pick up Crispin, the youngest grandson they had him at the police station," Chuck said.

"What did they tell you?" I asked.

"They said there was a problem and with his mother and I needed to come pick him up and they would talk to me when I got there," Chuck remembered.

"When you arrived at the Elkhart police station, what happened?" I asked.

"They explained that someone had shot her," said Chuck.

Her son Crispin was interviewed by police.

He told police that he had seen a tall man running through the house.

But now he says, that didn't happen.

"I was like very anti-police. So, I was like, whenever questioning me. I ended up lying," Crispin stated.

So, what actually happened?

According to Crispin his mother had a very abusive and toxic relationship with her boyfriend at the time, Tommy Rees.

"Tommy Rees. What do you remember about him?" I asked.

"Very abusive. They used to fight a lot. I hated him," states Crispin.

"Is there any, like specific event you remember, specifically with him and your mother in a dispute or a fight or anything?" I followed up with.

"The last one I rarely remember it was he was like on the ground choking her," Crispin remembers.

But Rees was on his way to Memphis with a friend.

Elkhart city police verified his alibi.

There was no evidence at the crime scene connecting Tommy with the crime.

Rees even went further to prove his innocence by taking a polygraph test.

So, with Rees out of the picture who killed Marlys?

23 years later the question still isn't answered, and Chuck thinks it's because the investigation has lacked experienced investigators.

"The first detective that handled investigation was not forthcoming at all. I feel it was his investigation was inadequate," Chuck stated.

The case was eventually re-assigned to someone else.

"Steve Rezutko."

A veteran detective with a questionable record.

Detective Rezutko would later be accused of unethical practices like showing suggestive photo lineups.

In one case, identifications lead to the arrest of 2 men for a robbery which they were later cleared of.

"He had told me there were several people of interest. One of them was deceased. The other one Marlys had testified against in court," Chuck remembers.

It is unknown if these leads were ever followed up on.

In 2001 Rezutko resigned from the Elkhart city police department after he learned he was under an internal investigation.

So -- could Marlys testimony have been the motive to have her killed?

Coming up tomorrow night in part two of this cold case were diving deeper into who Marlys testimony and why her family believes she may have been killed.

That's tomorrow night on night team.

At this moment the case remains unsolved so if you have any information, please call Crime Stoppers

That number is on your screen right now---1-800-288-stop.

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