Police believe they know suspects in 1991 highway murder of mother

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PUTNAM COUNTY, Ind. – Within days of the death of Marsa Gipson in the summer of 1991, investigators had a pretty good idea who threw the boulder off a Putnam County overpass that killed the mother of two on I-70.

“They were local, they knew each other, there had been drinking going on, kind of going out and having a good time,” said Putnam County Prosecutor Timothy Bookwalter. “We know that everybody else except two people have alibis for the night that Marsa Gipson’s death happened.”

The murder of a woman who died because of someone’s stupid prank is the latest case to be profiled on “Indiana’s Unsolved.”

“August 27, 1991, in the early morning hours about 1:15 am, 28-year-old Marsa Gipson was operating her 1984 Chevrolet Camaro westbound on I-70 and as she traveled underneath the Manhattan Road overpass here someone threw two large rocks on to her car,” said Indiana State Police Sgt. Joe Watts as stood beside the highway one recent hot summer morning.

“One of those rocks went through her windshield striking Marsa about the head and chest and she was pronounced deceased here at the scene.”

The rock that was thrown off the Manhattan Road overpass wasn’t the first act of interstate vandalism that summer.

“That month of July and August of 1991 there were a series of seven incidents off that overpass or one next down from it on Interstate 70,” said Bookwalter. “There were a number of people that we found out that were on those bridges on those seven other incidents, a group of about five or six people.”

For a group of both men and women in their early twenties, throwing debris down upon unsuspecting motorists while partying up above was their idea of fun to break up the boredom that summer.

It didn’t take investigators long to run down the members of the group and figure out where most of them were that night.

“We’ve got these two people who had been there every previous time, they’re really unaccounted for that night,” said the prosecutor. “We found out that all but two with independent verification had alibis. They were either at work, they were with others who could verify where they were at except for two people. Those two people had been at a bar in Cloverdale, had left sometime in the evening and they were each other’s alibi, they allegedly were driving around.”

Investigators even found a neighbor on Manhattan Road who recalled a pickup truck stopped on the road by his property and the people inside helped themselves to a huge rock, similar to the one found in the front seat of Gipson’s damaged Camaro.

“We collected physical evidence here at the scene, rocks if you will, photographs and so forth, and we have all of this information processed at our State Police laboratory,” said Sgt. Watts who indicated lab technicians were able to recover DNA from the boulder. “We collected a number of evidence here at the scene, we interviewed hundreds of persons that had some knowledge of the case.”

State troopers even conducted a re-enactment in 2008 to gain a better understanding of how the killing occurred if not why.

A small weather-worn cross with Gipson’s name marks the spot where the rock came hurtling down from up above that night.

The death of the woman who was driving back to Terre Haute with her boyfriend to be reunited with her two young children put a halt to the Putnam County highway vandalism.

“It seemed to all quit right then,” said Watts. “The family has been through a tortuous time with the ups and downs of maybe an arrest, maybe not an arrest, and so on and so forth, so we know someone’s out there who has the information.”

Gipson’s family told FOX59 that the young woman’s mother died recently, still heartbroken over her daughter’s unsolved death.

Investigators know who threw that rock off the Manhattan Road overpass. The suspects know the police know. It’s quite possible their family or close associates know, too.

Anyone with information in the death of Marsa Gipson is asked to call Indiana State Police at (765) 653- 4114.

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