By Russ McQuaid
INDIANAPOLIS – That the Paul Reese family was terrorizing its east side neighbors for decades was no surprise to the Little Flower community or the cops who patrolled their streets.
“Everybody in the police department knows about the Reese family,” said retired IMPD Homicide Capt. Robert Snow. “They’re one of the families that are always in trouble and their name comes up a lot whenever there’s trouble.”
There was trouble in mid-March, 1986, when neighborhood girl Dawn Marie Stuard disappeared.
“She was last seen playing pool with Paul Reese, Sr., in the basement of his house,” said Snow who chronicles the family in the 1400 block of Bosart Avenue in his new book, “Killers in the Family: Inside a Real Family of Criminals Bound by Blood.”
The day the teenager disappeared, Ted Stuard knocked on the door of the Reese home and asked if anyone had seen his daughter.
Matriarch Barbara Reese said no and violently slapped the face of a young daughter who piped up that the girl had indeed been at the house earlier in the day.
“When I was over there trying to find my daughter, they were very deceptive about everything,” Stuard told Fox59 News.
Investigators thought so, too, and filed charges against Paul Reese, Sr., and his son Paul Reese, Jr., but the case was dropped because DNA testing of blood evidence didn’t exist in 1986.
Sgt. Roy West of the IMPD Homicide Branch held on to his original files, and kept track of his original evidence, and never stopped investigating.
“You can never give up on a case like this,” said Snow who was West’s supervisor for a few of those years. “Dawn Stuard was an innocent 13-year-old girl who had never done anything to deserve what happened to her.”
While the Stuard murder case sat on the back investigative burner, Paul Reese, Sr., continued his life of crime.
“He was in and out of jail his whole life,” said Snow. “He was in for burglary, robbery. He tried to kill his girlfriend one time. He was in prison for that. He was in and out of prison a lot.”
So were his sons.
“The Reeses were trouble,” Snow recalled. “When anything bad happened in the neighborhood, the first person they always suspected was the Reeses.”
In the intervening years, while neighbors’ lawnmowers and gas grills would disappear, when doors would be kicked open, when residents were warned to look the other way, the Reese household continued its family crime career while one offspring was preparing for a murderous finale.
In the summer of 2008, three people were killed during eastside burglaries and robberies over the course of a few days.
Brian Reese, his father’s son, was the common denominator.
Dad was along for the ride, either smoking crack with his son in between the killings or serving as the lookout during the murder of a retired auto worker.
On July 10, 2008, IMPD started looking hard for Brian Reese.
Officer Jason Fishburn found him, sneaking away in a van driven by his mother, in an eastside grocery store parking lot.
“Police tried to stop the van,” said Snow, “and Brian ran again, and this time the police were chasing him on foot and this is when he stopped and shot Officer Jason Fishburn.”
Fishburn suffered a disabling gunshot wound to the head and eventually retired from the department.
Reese was convicted of trying to kill a cop.
And the Fishburn shooting brought Fox59 News to Ted Stuard’s door again, 22 years after he identified his daughter’s body in the back of a coroner’s wagon at Pogue’s Run.
Stuard was stunned to learn the man who gunned down Officer Fishburn was the son of the man who he always thought killed his daughter.
Meanwhile, Sgt. West, by now retired from IMPD and working for the Marion County Prosecutors Office, resubmitted what was left of a blood sample recovered from the Reese house for DNA testing and struck investigative gold.
“They found the blood…it was still in the freezer at the crime lab,” said Snow. “It shows that the blood belongs to Dawn Marie Stuard, the 13-year-old girl who Roy insisted had been murdered in the basement of the Reese home.”
Further DNA testing confirmed the carpet fibers found on the girl’s body also came from the Reese house.
West had an eyewitness account of a neighbor who came forward years later to tell detectives what she had seen the night of the killing.
“A neighbor saw late at night them carrying…the father…one of his sons and the mother…carrying the body out of the house and load it into a car where they took it and dumped it,” said Snow.
Paul Reese, Jr., and Barbara Reese were never convicted for their roles in the killing.
At the time of his murder trial, Reese, Sr., was serving a 20-year sentence for helping his son in the burglary/murder of Clifford Haddix about a week before Officer Fishburn was shot.
“Criminals like to brag to other criminals about what they’ve done,” said Snow, “and Paul Reese, unfortunately, had talked to a cellmate of his about Dawn’s murder.”
Reese, Sr., admitted committing the slaying to his brother, too.
Father and son are now serving essentially life terms in prison for the terror they spread throughout the eastside of Indianapolis for more than 20 years.
Roy West still investigates new cases and consults on old ones from his desk at the prosecutor’s office.
Ted Stuard told Fox59 he is grateful to the investigators and the media for not forgetting about his daughter’s case.
Bob Snow is researching his next book on true Indianapolis crime.
He will sign autographed copies of, “Killers in the Family” Saturday at two p.m. at Bookmamma’s at Johnson and East Washington Streets in Irvington.
“When a child’s murdered, and you never solve it, it really sticks with a detective,” said Snow. “They never forget this case as Roy never forgot the Dawn Stuard case. He simply could not get it out of his mind.”