The Stay-At-Home Mom Who Solved A Decades-Old Murder

There were a lot of unanswered questions when 20-year-old Angela Samota's body was found in the early morning hours of October 13, 1984. Police were at a loss as to who had sexually assaulted the Southern Methodist University student and stabbed her 18 times.

In a BBC article written by Angela's roommate and best friend, Sheila Gibbons, the process of investigating Samota's murder is described as a frustrating one. The longtime suspect was an architect named Russell Buchanan with whom Angie had gone out dancing that night. Buchanan was questioned multiple times and took a polygraph test. Eventually, Sheila says that he stopped cooperating and hired "this real famous attorney called Richard "Racehorse" Haynes and if you got Racehorse Haynes, by God, you were guilty." Despite efforts by Sheila and the authorities, no physical evidence pointing to Buchanan's involvement was ever discovered.

With good reason, as it turns out. Russell Buchanan didn't murder Angela Samota. But it would take 20 years, a supernatural experience, and a heck of a phone bill for the police to figure that out.

20 years later

In 2004, Sheila Gibbons, by this point called Sheila Wysocki, was living in Tennessee, a mother of two. "So I was reading," she told BBC, "and then I remember looking to the right and there was Angie. I thought, 'Am I dreaming? Am I asleep? What is it?'"

Taking this encounter as a sign that it was time to figure things out once and for all, Sheila started making phone calls — roughly 700 of them, by her estimates. She phoned the police again and again and was, by her recollection, largely blown off. Later that year, she went so far as to become a licensed private investigator, all in the hopes of landing a little more clout with law enforcement.

Eventually, police reopened the investigation, assigning a female detective to the case. They dug up evidence that was thought to be lost, including DNA pulled from bodily fluids and skin found under Samota's fingernails. In the end, it was concluded that Angela's murderer was Donald Bess, a convicted rapist out on parole at the time of the killing. Already in prison for a different charge by then, he was given the death penalty and is currently awaiting execution, according to the Texas DoJ.

Oh, also. After the trial concluded, Sheila apologized to Russell Buchanan, which he probably appreciated.