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Help requested in solving cold case

Monday, June 2, 2008

The Putnam County Sheriff's Department is asking for help on a cold case possible murder from 2003.

Back in Aug. 2003, Bernadine Webster, 89, Russellville, was the victim of a suspicious death. The reclusive woman was never married and reportedly had no surviving family. She also never let anyone into her home.

On Aug. 13, 2003, her neighbor, who was designated "first contact" by Lifeline in case Webster activated the panic button on her Lifeline pendant, drove by and noticed a strange vehicle at Webster's residence. When the neighbor arrived at her home, Lifeline was calling. They told the neighbor that Webster had activated the panic button but had said nothing.

The neighbor rushed back to Webster's home to find the strange vehicle had left. Meanwhile, Lifeline was trying to contact Webster via her pendant. No contact was made but voices could be heard in the background.

When the neighbor arrived, she found Webster lying on the floor. She was rushed to the hospital but died several days later. Webster had head injuries; however, autopsy results revealed evidence of blunt force trauma to her chest as the cause of death.

Due to Webster's home being in a rural area and overgrown with shrubs, it was difficult for any witnesses to notice suspicious activity. Webster was noted for never letting anyone into her home regardless of their relationship with her. Despite her rural setting, she also always kept the doors locked.

According to Putnam County Sheriff's Dept. Detective Mike Biggs, "What really happened remains a mystery. The intruders may have believed the home to be vacant due to the outside appearance. When they found (Webster) there could have been an unexpected confrontation."

A cold case team formed by the Putnam County Sheriff's office, under the direction of Biggs, has pursued leads in several west-central Indiana counties as well as at least two other states. Some of those leads did not pan out and some remain open. There are also various theories being considered.

Five years have passed and the cold case team believes that someone has to know what happened to Webster.

"To assure that the untimely death of Bernadine Webster is not forgotten, a reward for information leading to the resolution of this case has been offered from within the community," Biggs said.

If anyone has any information, regardless of how insignificant it may seem, contact the Putnam County Sheriff's Department, Detective Biggs at 653-1910. An anonymous tip line has also been made available for this case at (800) 381-6111.



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