The Haunting Lynda McDaniel Cold Case

The Haunting Lynda McDaniel Cold Case

Elementary school teacher found bound up with Christmas ribbon and drowned in bathtub.


Indianapolis was shaken on December 1st, 1977 by the horrific murder of a young elementary school teacher, 32-year-old Lynda McDaniel. She was found dead in the bathtub of her second-floor apartment on West Lake Drive, a victim of foul play in a case that remains frustratingly unsolved over 45 years later.

Lynda's body was discovered nude and kneeling over the tub, submerged in water. Her hands were visibly bound behind her back with a red ribbon in what investigators described as a murder staged to look like an apparent drowning. Lynda had no visible wounds except a single bruise on her upper left arm, presumed by police to be a grip mark from her killer.

The Star Press 02 Dec 1977

The grisly scene was discovered when Lynda's aunt came looking for her after the passionate teacher failed to show up to work at Maplewood Elementary School. She was known for usually arriving early, so her absence was troubling. After no answer at Lynda's door, her aunt retrieved a maintenance worker who unlocked the apartment. Lynda was found deceased shortly after.

Source: IndyStar.com

What they discovered inside shook investigators and those who knew Lynda to their core. Detectives took stock of a puzzling scene that showed little struggle despite clear evidence that a killer had been inside. Lynda's front door was locked from the inside with the bolt and chain. The door to the bathroom where she was found appeared to have been locked by someone else on their way out after positioning her body.

No items had been taken in the apartment and Lynda still wore jewelry on her body. Her purse sat undisturbed and that day's work outfit still hung neatly in her closet. Christmas craft supplies covered the kitchen table, little paper trees Lynda had excitedly talked about finishing up the night before during her regular check-in call with family.

But conversations with those closest to Lynda soon unveiled troubling revelations about the night prior to her murder. Lynda had gone on a disappointing blind date with a man who turned aggressive. Though she refused to share his name, Lynda told friends that he had tried to sexually assault her and wanted to come to her apartment the next day to apologize. Investigators grappled with whether this man's advances were rebuffed, turning him violent, or if a different perpetrator saw an opportunity amidst Lynda's independent new life alone.

With little forensic evidence beyond fingerprints, which frustratingly led to nothing concrete, detectives hit wall after wall chasing leads and potential suspects. Details did emerge - an uncooperative person of interest caught after the fact in a Kentucky prison, an eerily similar cold case from 1958, a prowler seen by a neighbor matching descriptions of a peeping tom the night of Lynda's murder. But each thread only led to maddening dead ends.

In a last ditch attempt to jar memories that could break open new leads, police turned to hypnosis on several key witnesses years later. But the identity of Lynda's killer continues to elude authorities decades on, leaving her family, friends, students and community haunted by the violence that claimed her life and robbed a passionate educator from continuing to change the lives of children. The tragic case remains unsolved, but hopefully continued spotlight can one day lead to the closure and justice that Lynda deserves.

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