The 25th of January, 2005, started out just like any other day for 10-year-old Katlyn “Katie” Collman. She woke up, had breakfast with her family, and then her father, John Neace, drove her to school. Katie was excited about the pajama party that was scheduled for the following day at Crothersville Elementary School in Indiana, where she was a student. Katie arrived home from school that afternoon at around 3PM.
By this point, John was at work and Katie’s mother, Angie, was busy preparing dinner. Wanting to help her mother, Katie volunteered to walk to the nearby Dollar Store and pick up some toilet roll as the house was running low. Angie agreed and handed Katie $1:10. The store was only around a block and a half away from their home and Katie had made the trek numerous times.1
When Katie didn’t return home, initially Angie wasn’t worried. Katie was a popular girl with numerous friends living along the route she would’ve taken to walk back home. Angie started to call around the locals to see if anybody knew where Katie was. When it became evident that nobody had seen Katie, Angie became concerned. She searched the street on foot before calling police at around 7:30PM to report her daughter missing.
By the time police arrived on the scene, there were already around 125 locals assisting in the search. They searched throughout the night and onto the next day. A helicopter hovered overhead while sniffer dogs picked up Katie’s scent and followed it to a nearby set of railroad tracks before losing it. A neighbor told Katie’s family that on the day she disappeared, she had come to their house to inform them that their dog had been killed near the railroad tracks.
Since there was no evidence of an abduction, an Amber Alert was not initially issued. Missing person posters described Katie as 4 feet 6 inches tall with chin-length brown hair and brown eyes. She was last spotted wearing a red shirt, black sweatpants with a stripe down the leg, black tennis shoes and a medium light blue winter coat. They also described Katie as having a lazy eye.2 Several days later, an Amber Alert was finally issued.
On the 29th of January, a composite sketch of a man believed to have abducted Katie was released to the public. The man was described as being very thin and white, around 5 feet 8 inches to 6 feet tall, 18 to 20-years-old with dark hair and pale skin. The composite sketch was created after a witness told police they were certain that they had seen Katie in his truck just a short time after she disappeared. The witness said that the truck was a white Ford F-150 pickup truck around 15 years old that appeared to be clean and well-manicured. 3
Angie and John issued a written statement appealing for their daughter’s safe return. “Please do not harm her. We ask that you just drop her off anywhere so that she may return to a family and community that loves her very much and misses her dearly,” the statement said.
On the 5th day of the search, Katie’s parents received the crushing news that her body had been found in a creek by an Indiana State Police trooper. The creek was in the Cypress Lake area, around 19 miles away from her home. Her hands were bound behind her back and she had been raped and then drowned.4
Shortly after the discovery, Charles Hickman was arrested and charged with Katie’s murder. Hickman lived just yards from the Dollar Store and other locals always considered him a bit of an odd-ball. Neighbors recollected that he often just stood out in his yard, gazing at nothing, and would throw parties nightly. Hickman claimed that Katie had witnessed some methamphetamine activity at the Penn Villa apartments and that he dragged her into his trailer. He claimed he had wanted to scare her into silence and took her to the creek in the middle of the night. He said that she accidentally drowned and he fled from the scene.
It appeared to be an open and closed case.
However, police soon noticed that Hickman’s story as to what happened to Katie kept changing. His inconsistencies led to further investigation during which police retrieved DNA evidence from the crime scene. The DNA was found on Katie’s body and a discarded cigarette nearby. When the DNA sample was run through the database, there was a match but not to Hickman. The DNA belonged to a man named Anthony Ray Stockelman, a local father of three. 5
Following his arrest, Stockelman pleaded guilty in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table. Prosecutor Stephen Pierson announced that he would instead be pushing for life without parole and the sentencing was scheduled for 17 April, 2005. As Stockelman was being led out of court, his wife, Tabitha, shouted: “Why’d you do it, Tony?”
Stockelman was sentenced to life imprisonment. He was sentenced to an additional 30 years for molesting Katie.
There were mixed emotions in Crothersville; while many were pleased that the grisly details surrounding Katie’s death wouldn’t be played over in court during a trial, many felt as though Stockelman should have been sentenced to death. “I’d rather see him get the death penalty for what he did to the little girl but at least he’s going to be punished,” said local, Marsha Fink.
Stockelman was sent to Wabash Valley Correctional Facility. Unbeknownst to him, Katie’s cousin, Jared Harris, was also incarcerated there. On the 22nd of September, 2006, Harris slipped into Stockelman’s cell and lay in wait. When Stockelman entered the cell, Harris slammed the locked door behind him, trapping Stockelman. He then held Stockelman down and tattooed “KATIE’S REVENGE” on his forehead as a daily reminder of his crime.
- The Courier Journal, 6 March, 2005 – “Katie’s Town”
- The Times-Mail, 27 January, 2005 – “1/27 Missing Crothersville Girl”
- The Journal Gazette, 30 January, 2005 – “Sketch of Alleged Abductor of Girl, 10, Generates Leads”
- The Tribune, 31 January, 2005 – “Missing Child’s Body Found”
- Journal and Courier, 27 June, 2005 – “Doubts Persist About Girl’s Killing”