Revenge is a dish best served cold. It’s a cliche statement but one that it seems everyone knows the importance of. After all, how great does it feel when we see someone guilty punished for their crimes, when we see righteous vengeance finally enacted?
It was the first murder in 25 years and it rocked the town of Crothersville to its core. The guilty parties involved had led the police on a merry chase but eventually, the real culprit was found. Though even once he went to jail, his true punishment was only just beginning…
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Dollar Store Run
It was the end of January and other than the fact that it was bitingly cold in Crothersville, Indiana, it was a normal Tuesday. 10-year-old Katie was home from school when her mother called out to her and asked her to go down the street to the Dollar Store and get some toilet paper. The store was only a few blocks away, but with the January cold waiting for her outside, Katie was not really looking forward to heading out.
Still, Katie was a good girl and she always tried to do what her mother asked her. Especially when it was something so simple. She put on her coat and stepped out into the chilly afternoon. It was the last time her parents would ever see her alive. What was supposed to be a quick run to the store, soon stretched into hours of uncertainty…
Katie’s parents reported her missing and before long an AMBER Alert was issued for the whole area. A search team, made of police, family members, friends, neighbors, and random volunteers, took to the streets to find the missing 10-year-old. Unfortunately, even after a few days, there was still no sign of Katie.
Up the Creek
It wasn’t until five days later, that a group of police investigators discovered the lifeless body of a girl floating in a creek, not 15 miles from Katie’s home. Despite some decomposition, they were able to tell that the body belonged to Katie. She had been murdered, that much was clear. And if that weren’t enough, it appeared as though she had been sexually assaulted beforehand as well…
Before police could even mount a proper investigation into Katie Collman’s murder, a man came forward. 20-year-old Charles James Hickman confessed to the police that he and another man had abducted the girl as she walked home that day because she’d seen him taking part in an illegal drug transaction. He knew that he couldn’t let her get away, so he resolved to scare her a bit to keep her quiet.
Hickman’s friend, 22-year-old Timothy C. O’Sullivan, was apparently with Hickman when the abduction happened and it was assumed he joined in the girl’s abuse and mistreatment. The men took the girl to a creek about 20 miles away and tied her hands. Before they knew what was happening, Katie fell into the creek and drowned…
As it turned out though, Charles Hickman’s admission wasn’t the whole truth at all. In fact, it wasn’t any of the truth. A few weeks after his arrest, Hickman told police he’d been lying. The police thought they had caught a lucky break but now all they had were a ton of unanswered questions and a rather inconvenient red herring.
No Butts About It
“Even though he appeared to be very cooperative, he was doing about the worst thing possible for the investigation,” explained the chief of police. So detectives did the only thing they could do, they combed the area where they’d found Katie’s body and came upon a random cigarette butt nearby. They compared the DNA on the discarded cigarette butt to the DNA they’d found on the girl’s body and finally, got a match…
Got a Match?
The DNA on both the girl and the cigarette belonged not to Hickman or O’Sullivan, but to a man named Anthony Ray Stockelman. Stockelman had apparently been visiting his mother in Crothersville on the day Katie disappeared. Not only that, but he also drove a white pickup truck that looked exactly like the one a witness had seen her get into that same day.
“It put us behind about nine weeks. If you have a murder, and during the course of the investigation someone steps up and says, ‘Hey, I killed that person,’ then automatically you have to go in that direction. We’re not embarrassed at all.” said Richard Benton, of the Jackson County prosecutor’s office. Still, the confessions that led up to that moment had done a great deal of damage to their credibility, especially in the eyes of the Collman family…
Mr. Hickman was still found guilty of some things. He had mislead an investigation, he obviously had possession of illegal substances, and some months later, would be returned to jail on separate charges of child molesting. He allegedly had a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl.
Meanwhile Anthony Stockelman, the real killer, was in a pretty sticky situation. The DNA represented an ironclad case against him and he had no choice but to plead guilty in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table. He was sentenced to life imprisonment, but his problems were only just beginning…
The story should have ended there, and for Katie Collman, it sort of did. But Stockelman’s time in prison was going to be much harder time than he ever anticipated. What he didn’t know, as he was marched into Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, was that someone related to his victim was also imprisoned there.
Katie’s cousin, 22-year-old Jared Harris had gone to prison in 2000 for burglary and was in the same wing as Anthony Stockelman. As you can imagine, Jared was not happy to hear that someone had sexually assaulted and drowned his little cousin. Harris threatened Stockelman several times in the open, but did nothing. Then, three days into his stay in the new wing…
Harris took his chance by slipping into the open cell Stockelman shared with another prisoner and hid. Then, when Stockelman returned, he locked the cell door before his cellmate could re-enter. Harris closed his hand around Stockelman’s throat and told him, “I’m either gonna stick you and leave you bleeding or I’m gonna tattoo you.”
Harris was holding onto a tattoo gun that he’d managed to keep from the guards. Stockelman had no choice, he was either going to die at the hands of Katie’s vengeful cousin, or be scarred for life. He chose the tattoo and when Harris was done, he had the words “KATIE’S REVENGE” tattooed permanently across his forehead…
After applying the tattoo, Harris discarded the tattoo gun in a prison trash can and left. Of course, when Stockelman’s cellmate finally returned, he found the child-killer bleeding and crying on the cell floor. The guards managed to intervene, but not until long after Harris had added his artistic decoration to Stockelman’s head.
Harris felt no guilt about what he had done and when he was questioned about it, told investigators that he’d chosen that moment to attack because he was scheduled to move to a new prison level later that day and it was the only chance he’d have to enact his revenge. He was charged with battery and since the 2006 attack, has had an additional seven years added to his original 20-year sentence for breaking prison rules…
Since the attack, Anthony Stockelman has remained in a private cell. He eats alone, has recreation alone, and keeps to himself whenever possible. Child molesters and murderers are notoriously disliked in prison and a man now forced to wear his crime upon his forehead is in particular danger.
Scarred for Life…in Prison
A medical practitioner has since agreed to remove the tattoo free of charge and though treatments have begun, there’s no telling yet whether or not they will be able to completely remove the tattoo. Either way, it’s not like Stockelman is going anywhere.