Carrie Ann Jopek was a 13-year-old seventh-grader at Kosciuszko Middle School in Cudahy, Wisconsin, when she disappeared on the 16th of March, 1982. She had been suspended from school for walking the halls but after leaving school that afternoon, she never arrived back home.1
Her remains wouldn’t be found until more than a year later. A contractor had been working on the back porch of a house just across the street from Carrie’s house when human remains were discovered. Buried with the remains was a jacket which was identified by Carrie’s mother, Carolyn Tousignant: “I verified her clothing, her torn jacket on the side which I sewed.”
Elaine Samuels, an associated medical examiner, said that some kind of “scuffle” probably preceded Carrie’s death, adding that there was no evidence that she had been shot, stabbed or suffered head trauma. She could not determine a cause of death but due to the fact she was buried, somebody else had evidently been involved.2
There would be an unexpected breakthrough in the case in October of 2015 when 50-year-old Jose Ferreira called WISN 12 News to reveal a deep and disturbing secret. He said that when he was 17-years-old, he murdered Carrie.
According to Ferreira, he and Carrie had been at a party at the home where her body was eventually found. He said that he saw her take a puff of marijuana that he had given her. After that, he asked her if she wanted to go down to the basement where he expected that she would make out with him.
Before they went down the stairs, however, Carrie said: “I don’t know if this is a good idea.” Ferreira said he stared at her and said: “You are going downstairs.” He admitted that he then shoved Carrie down the basement stairs. She hit the railing and wall and then tumbled to the floor.3
He claimed that he thought that she was unconscious and proceeded to sexually abuse her. As he said, he saw it as an “opportunity.” According to Ferreira, he then realised that Carrie wasn’t unconscious but dead, so he decided to bury her.4 He opened the basement door, grabbed a shovel and buried her underneath the porch.
Ferreira also confessed the murder to his wife on the same day. While Ferreira was calling WISN 12 News, she went to police.
Ferreira would be arrested and charged with the second-degree murder of Carrie. According to investigators, Ferreira and the other teenagers at the party that day had been considered suspects, or at least persons of interest, but there was never any evidence to warrant an arrest.
“It’s been 33 years since she’s been gone. I’ve been praying for this day,” said her mother, Carolyn. She said that she believed her daughter had gotten suspended from school on purpose so that she could attend the party with the other teenagers that afternoon. The school had given Carolyn an option that day, to pick her daughter up or let her walk the short distance home. She chose the latter, and it was a decision that had haunted her ever since.5
Many would wonder why it had taken Ferreira so long to come forward and confess. Ferreira would provide that answer when he said that Carrie’s ghost had been haunting him. Despite the fact he made a full confession, he would plead not guilty to Carrie’s murder.6 He would subsequently be found competent to stand trial.
Early the following year, however, Ferreira would appear in court where he changed his plea to guilty. He had reached a plea agreement in which he pleaded guilty to amended charges, including attempted second degree sexual assault/use of force, as a party to a crime, and false imprisonment, as a party to a crime. In court, he said: “I just want this over and done with.”
The agreement had come through mediation and with the consideration of limitation and evidence needed from almost 35 years ago. “At least now he is going to be sentenced,” said Carolyn. “At least she has some closure and we have some closure.”7
Assistant District Attorney Karl Hayes had acknowledged that the case against Ferreira would have been difficult to prosecute. He referred to Ferreira as a “pathetic individual,” adding that he posed no threat to the public anymore.
Both he and Ferreira’s defence lawyer painted a picture of a man who had been plagued by a tortured life. He had brush ins with law enforcement throughout the years and suffered from mental health illnesses. He had also become an alcoholic, and had been drinking heavily in the run up to his confession. Assistant District Attorney Karl Hayes said: “Mr. Ferreira had hit a wall, sort of a rock bottom.”8
Jose Ferreira would be sentenced to just seven years in prison, which was the maximum that the judge could impose. He was asked if he wanted to provide a statement. He said: “I can’t take back how it happened. Sorry, from the deepest pain in my heart, sorry.” Carolyn was also allowed to provide a statement. She said: “He’s still alive. Carrie’s gone. The only time I’ll see her again is in heaven.”
Carolyn also said that she didn’t believe that Ferreira was truly remorseful. She believed that her daughter had been haunting him, stating: “That girl was very persistent…”
- Associated Press, 13 October, 2015 – “Arrest Made in 1982 Cold Case Death of Girl, 13”
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 14 October, 2015 – “Police Confirm Arrest in ’82 Death”
- Associated Press, 19 October, 2015 – “Man Charged in Girl’s Death Says He Pushed her Down the Stairs”
- FOX – 6 WITI, 13 October, 2015 – “Cold Case Heats Up”
- American Press, 18 October, 2015 – “Man Charged in Death of Girl Who Disappeared in 1982”
- Associated Press, 27 October, 2015 – “Man Pleads Not Guilty in 1982 Killing of Milwaukee Teen Girl”
- FOX – 6 WITI, 17 January, 2017 – “Jose Ferreira, Accused in 1982 Death of Carrie Ann Jopek Avoids Trial”
- Associated Press, 18 March, 2017 – “Milwaukee Man Receives 7 Year Sentence in Girl’s 1982 Death”