A recent Wisconsin State Journal story on the upcoming 40th anniversary of UW-Madison student Christine Rothschild's brutal murder contained this discouraging line: "The trail of the murderer could not get any colder, unless the killer is dead too."
Linda Schulko, a friend of Rothschild's who is planning a memorial at the UW Carillon Tower on May 26, 11 am, begs to differ. She finds ample reason to suspect a particular individual, especially in light of information she uncovered two years ago.
In July 2006, after Schulko wrote about the case in an alumni magazine, she received a letter from Rev. Kay Krebs, a pastor in Colorado. It related that on May 26, 1968, when Krebs was a student working at UW Hospital, a surgery resident walked into a hallway where she was gazing outside at a storm and said, "Nice day for a murder."
At the time, Rothschild, 18, was already dead, having been stabbed to death with horrific force, but her body had not yet been discovered.
The resident, it turns out, was questioned in connection with the killing. Krebs was aware of rumors to this effect but never contacted police. Schulko says she passed Krebs' letter on to authorities; Krebs tells Isthmus that police have never contacted her.
Schulko, who lives in Texas, says this resident likely knew Rothschild, and had a reputation as an oddball. (Krebs' letter relates the hospital's concern about his rough treatment of women patients.) The resident's former roommate shares other chilling details.
According to this roommate, who spoke to Isthmus on condition that his name not be used, the resident brought pictures of mutilated bodies back from a trip to Africa; owned guns and once held one to the roommate's head; was feared by his hospital coworkers; and wore fatigues for the first time on the morning that Rothschild was killed.
These details, the roommate says, were provided to police back in 1968: "They seemed to think he was the guy, but they didn't have enough of a case."
After being questioned by police, the resident abruptly left town, without even telling his roommate.
Lt. Peter Ystenes of the UW-Madison police wasn't aware of the information from Krebs but says, "I'm sure the detective working the case knows about it. We've followed up on hundreds and hundreds of leads, and I'm sure that one was followed up."
How could this be without any law enforcement officer ever contacting Krebs? Ystenes: "I'm not sure."
Schulko tries to remember that the case is bigger than whichever detective happens to be working it at any given time. "I'll never give up on this," she promises. "I'll never stop advocating for Chris."
We should all be so lucky as to have friends like this.