Detective still investigating 1986 murder of Indy teen

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- It’s been well over a decade since Bill Reardon has been an Indianapolis homicide detective.

Currently, the police chief at Indianapolis International Airport, Reardon spent 15 years solving murders for what was then called the Indianapolis Police Department, but one case sticks in his memory and gnaws at his investigator’s sense more than others, so much so that, after 30 years, he still keeps a stack of crime scene photographs on his desk.

Bill Reardon is still searching for the killer of Trisha Meredith on FOX59’s “Indy Unsolved.”

It was on April 7, 1986, at the Springhill Apartments, in the 4500 block of Glen Arm Drive, when the 19-year-old woman, who had just moved into her first apartment with a boyfriend, was found stabbed to death and left to die behind a bank of clothes dryers in the community laundry room.

“Trisha was laying in a pool of blood. It was on a clear linoleum floor and it was pretty brutal in how she was murdered,” said Reardon, recalling the teenager was stabbed more than 15 times. “It was evident that once we started looking at the crime scene that she tried to get away from the suspect. She went behind the dryers and was fighting for her life and ultimately she was murdered inside a dusty closet filled with lint and electrical appliances.”

Reardon said Meredith did not die quietly that afternoon.

“I had a couple men who were out shagging golf balls and one just casually mentioned, ‘That sounds like to me somebody being murdered,’” said the retired detective.

Reardon was able to eliminate Meredith’s boyfriend as a suspect based on his alibi, but there were two other people at the apartment complex that day who admitted being in the laundry room the day the woman died.

“We did have an individual, a young man, who I was able to put out working on a vehicle at the time,” said Reardon. “He may have made advances toward her and she rejected him.”

Another resident watched with great interest the investigation unfold below his balcony and even offered Reardon the use of his telephone to call IMPD headquarters.

“As the investigation went on, that person became a suspect, a person of interest,” said Reardon. “Unbeknownest to me, as the investigation went on for a day or two, that individual who allowed us to use the telephone had a recording system set up in the back of his apartment and so he knew all the conversations that I was having with my partner who was trying to get a more comprehensive story from the boyfriend of Trish who had found Trish.”

Over the years, Reardon has kept track of his two best suspects and has developed no new leads to sway him from their pursuit.

Dena Meredith-Culver was Trisha’s big sister that spring day 30 years ago.

“We went to my aunt’s house and we had Easter Sunday together,” she said, recalling the last time the sisters were together before the murder. “It was horrible. You don’t sleep. You don’t eat. You’re calling (detectives). They’re calling you. You’re waiting for an answer. You’re waiting for them to say they have a suspect or they have someone in custody but they don’t and it’s horrible.”

Jennifer Cleary was a younger neighbor who idolized Trisha and looked up to her to learn how to be a teenage girl.

“That was a life changing day for a lot of us,” she said. “It changed a lot of us back then. A lot of us girls especially.”

Cleary said, the day Meredith was murdered signaled a loss of innocence for her young friends.

“She didn’t have a mean bone in her body so how could someone do that to someone so sweet?” Cleary remembered asking. “It put a little fear into all of us, too, I think.”

Meredith’s brother Brandon told FOX59 in 2010 that he would search for his sister’s killer until the day he died.

Brandon Meredith died in 2012.

Amy Irwin, a private investigator, agreed to take over administration of Brandon’s Facebook page dedicated to finding his sister’s killer days before his death.

“This person was covered in blood. Somebody had to have seen them leaving. Somebody helped them cover this up,” said Irwin. “This wasn’t something that a good person has done. Somebody who is a good guy, is a good kid. I don’t think that is what has happened. I think there is a darkness in somebody who could do what was done to Trisha and it is a darkness that I don’t think that a lot of people have and I don’t think you can get rid of.”

Irwin expects the renewed attention to the Trisha Meredith murder will stir interest in the community and in the killer.

“I think the person who did this is absolutely keeping tabs on on what’s going,” she said. “They’d be crazy not to. They want to keep this hidden. They want to know what’s going on with it.”

Meredith’s mother died within months of her daughter’s murder, the second victim of Trisha’s killer.

“And I think that’s what took Brandon, too, because he never left that laundry room,” said Irwin. “He never did. And I don’t think anyone in his family ever did. They stayed in there with Trisha and it ate away at them.”

It still eats away at Bill Reardon, too, even though he was a veteran of more than 100 homicide scenes.

“The only unsolved case I had was Trisha Meredith,” said Reardon. “I am firm believer that all cases can be solved.”

Reardon shuffled through his stack of crime scene photographs one more time.

“It’s a failure that I was not able to figure out what happened to Trisha,” he said. “I personally believe that at some point in time after the murder the suspect made Trish…she’s the reason why he did this. He blamed her for whatever reason. Maybe it was the way she looked. Maybe it was the way that he wanted to just have a friendly conversation with her and she rebuked him and ultimately he’s changed his twisted mind around to blame Trish in this.”

Reardon recalled that two families were touched by the killing: Meredith’s and her murderer’s.

“There’s a strong possibility they may have told family members and the family members, if you’re possibly the only son, they may want to be very protective of bringing any harm to your family, especially if its put a certain way, ‘I didn’t want to do this, she made me do this.’ That’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility.

“It’s a reminder of the evil and the violence in the world. To me it’s a reminder of somewhere along the line I’ve missed something.”

Chances are Reardon hasn’t missed something, it’s just that there’s a final piece of the investigation, or tip that has been held so closely all these years that it will take an act of conscience or a long buried recollection to unearth it.

If you know anything about the murder of Trisha Meredith inside the laundry room at the Springhill Apartments just after Easter in 1986, call Crimestoppers at (317) 262-TIPS or IMPD’s Cold Case Squad at (317) 327-3426.

There could be a reward at stake, or simply the satisfaction of doing the right thing to help a family, and a detective, finally figure out why a young woman lost her life in such a wanton fashion so long ago.