Family of murdered woman hopes reward revives old case

Monday, October 30, 2006

Investigator admits chances of solving case diminish with time.

Time is running out.

That's the fear of Eric Friedrich, a sergeant for the Cape Girardeau County Sheriff's Department. For several years, he has been going over evidence, facts and statements from the same homicide again and again.

Bonnie Huffman, a 20-year-old school teacher from Delta, went missing July 3, 1954. Two days later her body was found just north of town. Her killers have never been found, and no one has ever been charged in the murder.

"The window of opportunity is just slowly closing," Friedrich said. "We may never know."

To help attract more attention to the case and they hope convince anyone with information to come forward, Huffman's family is offering a reward for the first time in 50 years for information leading to either an arrest or closure of the homicide.

"We've tried everything else," said Huffman's niece, Wanda Ross. "The reward is the only thing left we knew to try."

A reward was originally issued at the time of the death and was up to several thousand dollars, a lot of money for 1954, Friedrich said.

But when no one claimed the reward, the money was returned to its donors, according to Ross.

Ross and supporters organized a bake sale Saturday to raise money for the reward fund, which would have no limit as to how much it could grow.

The most recent development in the case came two and a half years ago when the sheriff's department received an anonymous letter containing details of the night Huffman went missing.

According to the facts in the case, Huffman joined two friends to see a movie in Cape Girardeau July 3, 1954, following a fight with her boyfriend, Friedrich said. She never returned home.

Her body was found July 5 about two miles away from where her car was found on Route N. She was clothed, but her underpants were missing, leading investigators to suspect sexual assault. Her death was likely the result of her snapped neck, the means of which police still do not know for certain.

The letter writer claims that around 1 a.m. on Route N, two men in a car were stopped on the side of the road. When the witness pulled over to assist the men, as was common in the 1950s, the men began hollering and threatening the witness.

The writer sped off, and fear of retaliation by Huffman's suspected killers kept the witness from coming forward earlier.

Ross hoped the reward will prompt the letter writer to come forward with more details.

"If they had enough guts to write the letter, then I wish they had enough guts to write another one," she said.

Ross praised the work Friedrich has done on the case, which has included reinterviewing several of the original people associated with the case.

With every passing day meaning a less chance at solving the case, Friedrich pleaded with anyone who has information to the contact the sheriff's department.

"Do the right thing and come forward and help this family out," he said.

To provide information on the case, call the sheriff's department at 243-3551.

Anyone wishing to donate to the Bonnie Huffman Reward Fund can do so by sending a check for the fund to the Bank of Advance.

335-6611, extension 127

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