Missouri · unsolved

Teen killed while babysitting

March 18, 1950
Columbia, Missouri
Janett Christman (top photo, left) is killed while babysitting a toddler

Christman, killed three days before her 14th birthday, had been babysitting a 2½-year-old boy. Police received a call around 11 p.m. on March 18, later presumed to have been from Christman. A “girlish” voice gasped “come quick” and was followed by screams and sobs.

Then the line went dead.

Police had no way to trace the call as Columbia had moved from switchboards to a dial telephone system, and were unable to follow up on the call. They received another call at 1:30 a.m. from the Romack home — the family she was sitting for — after Christman’s body was found.

Christman had been beaten over the head with a pipe or something similar, was “criminally assaulted” (raped), had small puncture wounds to her head, and was strangled to death with a cord cut from an electric iron. The toddler was safe in his room, and had slept through the murder.

The crime scene indicated Christman’s attacker broke in through a window, though because light fixtures and furniture around the window were undisturbed, investigators believed the window had been broken after the fact to stage the scene. The theory was that Christman had known her killer whom she invited in.

A man by the name of Robert Mueller, friend of the Romacks’ and familiar to Christman, was questioned. He was in the habit of carrying a mechanical pencil which was consistent with the small puncture wounds to Christman’s head, and Mrs. Romack had noted he had “on a number of occasions, told me how he admired Janett Christman.” Mueller was able to pass a lie detector test and brought a $3,000 slander and libel suit against the police department, effectively ending the investigation’s only lead.

Christman’s case went cold and, despite efforts to revisit the crime, her murder remains unsolved.

Sources:
“New Effort to Solve Columbia’s Rape-Killing.” The Sedalia Democrat. April 4, 1954
“Delayed for a Pencil.” The Kansas City Times. May 15, 1952
“Fight Libel Suit.” The Kansas City Times. December 22, 1950
Noonan, Ray. “Girl Assaulted And Strangled After Struggle.” The St. Louis Star and Times. March 20, 1950

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