INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- It was just a couple days after Christmas in the 2000 when Karen Jo Smith decided she had had enough from her abusive ex-con ex-husband Steven Halcomb and was going to kick him out.
“I talked to Karen in September after Halcomb got out of prison,” said her aunt Sandra Lee. “I knew she was living with him and I'm like, ‘What are you doing?’ She said, ‘As long as I have him in front of me, I know what he's up to.’”
What Halcomb was up to was threatening Karen Jo’s life, under the mistaken impression she had called police on him in 1995 for the drug dealing that resulted in a five year prison sentence.
“I was working narcotics,” said retired detective Greg West, “and one morning in the office I got a phone call from a concerned citizen. Said we had a guy named Steve Halcomb wanting to kill his wife.”
“He wrote her a six page letter saying that he knew that she was the one that had turned him in and that she wasn't going to keep his child from him,” remembered Karen Jo’s cousin Lana Niblock. “There was a suitcase full of letters that had been written to her that she had actually said, “If anything ever happened to me, give this to the police.’”
What happened to Karen Jo was she disappeared hours after her 12-year-old son Brandon walked into the kitchen of their house on Weghorst Street and saw Halcomb threatening his mother.
“He was hovered over and I grabbed my baseball bat and I said, ‘We ain't doing this no more.’”
Brandon was almost the last person to see Karen Jo alive.
The actual last person was her killer.
“I knew in my heart and mind that she was dead and so I knew once he got her alone he would kill her,” said Patti Carter Bishop, Karen Jo’s stepmother. “He had promised.”
Karen Jo’s disappearance began a four-year long odyssey for her family, an Indianapolis missing persons detective and a grand jury prosecutor who was faced with the challenge of trying to convict a killer without the victim’s body.
The search continues today for the remains of Karen Jo Smith.
“There’s gonna be two things that are gonna happen,” said Karen Jo’s father Ed Bishop once said. “We’re gonna bring Steve Halcomb to justice. We’re gonna find our daughter Karen.”
It was half-a-promise Ed Bishop wouldn’t live long enough to see.
The disappearance and murder of Karen Jo Smith, and her family’s commitment to discovering the truth and the investigative strategy that brought her killer to justice, is an incredible story full of mystery and foreboding and courage.
No matter how well you think you remember this case, you will learn something you’ve never known before.
Listen to “What Happened to Karen Jo Smith”, Season 2 of the FOX59 podcast “Indy Justice” here.