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The Strange Death of Katherine Korzilius

6-year-old Katherine Korzilius was the daughter of Paul Korzilius, the tour manager for Bon Jovi. Katherine was a first-grader at Valley View Elementary School in Austin, Texas, and took ballet lessons as well as swimming and soccer lessons. Katherine lived in the 800 block of the upscale gated community, Elder Circle, in Austin, Texas, with her father, Paul, her mother, Nancy, and her 9-year-old brother, Chris. At home, Katherine loved to draw and build homes for the bugs that she found in their lush garden. Elder Circle was a quiet and safe street consisting of grand homes and manicured lawns; street names are chiselled on large stones sitting on top of brick pillars. Katherine would often play with the children of her neighbours who would describe Katherine as a kind and generous little girl.

On the 7th of August, 1996, Katherine, Nancy, and Chris had been running errands. They went to the maths tutor, went to Subway for lunch, and then went to buy Paul some golf clubs for his birthday. On the way home, Nancy stopped at the cluster of communal post boxes at the top of the road near their house on Elder Circle. It was around 4PM when she pulled up alongside the post boxed. Maybe she was bored and fidgety from sitting in the car most of the day, but Katherine asked Nancy if she could walk back home from the post boxes. It was only four houses away so Nancy agreed. “She’s walked home many times,” said Nancy. “It was a route that she was very familiar with.”1

When Katherine didn’t return home, Chris walked to the post box to try and find her. Unsuccessful in finding his sister, he came back home to tell his mother. “He got hysterical and said she wasn’t there,” Nancy recalled. Nancy and Chris climbed back into the car and drove around the block searching for her. Moments later, at around 4:15PM, they discovered Katherine face down on the asphalt around six houses away from their own. She was curled in a fetal pose with her legs extended; she was unconscious. Nancy scooped her up in her arms and drove 25 minutes to Seton Medical Center. It was discovered that Katherine had suffered a head injury that had fractured her skull. At 11:30PM, Katherine died of her injuries.

While there were no skid marks or road debris near Katherine’s body, it was initially believed that she had died from a hit-and-run. “I hope somebody at least has a terrible guilty conscience. If we just knew why and when and what happened, it would never bring her back, but it would certainly close this,” said Nancy.2 Neighbours were interviewed but told police that they didn’t see or hear anything unusual that day. Elder Circle was an extremely quiet street with sparse traffic; many questioned how a hit-and-run could have happened on their quaint and up-market street. While the road that Katherine was discovered was somewhat curvy, a driver still would have been able to see Katherine from about one-tenth of a mile away – plenty of time to stop.

If people were suspicious of the hit-and-run explanation, they had every right to be. Days later, an autopsy ruled out a hit-and-run. Travis County Medical Examiner Robert Bayardo determined that Katherine suffered no other broken bones or internal injuries that would be consistent with a car accident. He said that the small scrapes and bruises on Katherine’s elbows, knees and hands suggested that she had fallen – perhaps from a car. If Katherine had been hit by a car, she would have sustained fractured legs or ribs or some other impact injury. Moreover, when Katherine was found, she was not on the road leading towards her house but leading away.

Neighbours rallied to help the Korzilius family help whoever was responsible for Katherine’s death. They posted fliers offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator. The death of Katherine shook up the residents who now feared for the safety of their own children. “My kids won’t be walking the dogs by themselves for a while,” said Ben Hathaway. Sgt. Philip Kemp with the Texas Department of Public Safety admitted early on in the investigation that there was little evidence to go on; nobody had witnessed a thing. “I’ve worked on cases where there was very little evidence, but not one where there was no evidence,” he said.3

The lack of clues led to bountiful theories. One theory was that Katherine was the victim of an attempted abduction while another theory was that Katherine had attempted to hitch a ride on the bumper of her mother’s car. The bumper theory was widely discredited, however. A summer day in South Texas is often in the late 90s and grasping at the metallic bumper would have burnt Katherine’s hands. Furthermore, Katherine had a splint on her finger from a fracture making it improbable that she could have clung onto anything. The more horrid theory – that she was the victim of a predator – soon started to hold more weight when a K-9 unit was able to pick up Katherine’s scent in an abandoned lot which was around thirty yards from the post boxes. By mid-August, investigators announced that they believed that Katherine had been snatched by a predator and then hurled from a speeding car.

Jon Bon Jovi with Katherine.

With no leads or evidence to go on, the case eventually went cold. Fliers with Katherine’s smiling face on the front were subsequently taken down and Elder Circle soon became a playground for the local children once again. One flier did remain, however. It had been laminated by Paul Korzilius and posted at the entrance to Rob Roy on the lake near a memorial tree and plaque. Katherine’s family were unsatisfied with the “lack of communication” from DPS  about the case. They eventually turned to a private investigator that was unable to crack the case, either, and the suspicious death of Katherine Korzilius still remains unsolved.

Bon Jovi would later release a song titled “August 7, 4:15,” which is about the death of Katherine. “Jon doted on the little girl. He played games with her and treated her like his own,” said a source close to Jon Bon Jovi.4

Footnotes:

  1. Austin American- Statesman, 10 August, 1996 – “Injuries Suggest Dead Girl May Have Fallen from Auto”
  2. Austin American-Statesman, 9 August, 1996 – “Death of 6-year-old Walking Home is Baffling”
  3. Austin American-Statesman, 15 August, 1996 – “Mother Thinks Girl was Hit Accidentally by Car”
  4. The Sun, 17 August, 1996 – “Bon Jovi Girl, 7, is Murdered”

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Angel
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Angel

I love Bon Jovi but never knew this. RIP little angel…

Tara White
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Tara White

Never heard about this. What a horrible tragedy. I’m certain her mother feels guilty everyday about letting her girl walk home…and instead she had to be abducted then thrown out. Just completely scary…but 5K reward? REALLY Bon Jovi?! He could’ve helped a bit more $$$$

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