Story Time

Witness to a Murder…Almost… Story Time #1

A little known fact about me is that being a Detective or FBI agent was actually something that interested me back in the day. However, I know myself well enough to know that while I may have been interested in it, I probably would not have handled it well. I am an empath and feel people’s emotions deeply. I think the job would have eventually gotten to me over time. So I live vicariously through true crime documentaries, books, and movies.

However, one April night back in college, a true crime story hit extremely close to home. That is the story of a young 13 year old girl named Tiffany.

Tiffany.

Let’s rewind…

My best buddy, Niki, and I were attending the university where this crime took place. She was living in one of the dorms on campus. I lived off campus. That night, we were supposed to meet up with some friends of ours in the parking lot outside of her dorm. We sat inside the car, listened to music, and chatted while we waited.

We sat there for hours wondering what the hold up was with our friends. I am going to age myself here but this was back before cell phones were the norm. Needless to say, we only had pagers. ::face palm::

We found out later that our friends were in a parking lot on the other side of campus so it was just a case of miscommunication. They thought we were supposed to meet over there.

I did not live on campus since my house was just down the way from school so I went home to bed not knowing how close I was to an actual murder.

The next morning my mom frantically came into my room to check I was in my bed. She was relieved when she saw I was home. Not being much of a morning person back then, I said, “What are you doing?! Of course I am home!”

She explained it was all over the news that a student walking to work found a decapitated body (yes, you read that correctly) on the campus of my university. So like mothers can be, she was worried it was me. You know, that whole “You could be dead in a ditch” scenario. I jumped up to watch the news coverage. Then Mom and I, being insanely nosy, piled into the car to go to campus.

We arrived to cop cars everywhere and naturally lots of areas blocked off.

See that parking lot to the right?
That was the lot we were in. The red X is where Tiffany was found.

Not only was this just horrific to begin with but my blood was chilled even more when I saw where the crime scene was. It was directly next to the parking lot where Niki and I had been sitting in the car waiting for friends. We did not hear or see a thing even though the officers estimated this happened around the same time we were in the parking lot.

Things like that did not happen in that city so people were on edge. Details about the murder started to shape up over the next few days. After bringing in blood hounds, they tracked Tiffany’s scent to a Port-a-Potty on the far side of campus where the sports field was. Inside, was her head. To this day, I cannot use a Port-a-Potty.

They did not know who this girl was, her age, or anything about her other than she had been sexually assaulted, stabbed, and decapitated. Oh and for good measure, the killer burned her genitals to erase evidence. We knew we were dealing with a real sicko.

Then at school, police and detectives started showing the students PICTURES OF THE GIRL’S HEAD, in the cafeteria no less, to see if they could get an ID on her. They thought she was a student. No way, no how did I want to come across this photo. I skipped school for like a week because I was terrified I was going to end up having to look. Helicopters were hovering and reporters were swarming the campus like flies trying to interview students and staff. People were not allowed on campus unless they had a student or staff ID.

That Spring, the theater department I was in was performing Macbeth. Rumors started to swirl that the killer was inspired to cut her head off since that is how Macbeth meets his fate. Out of respect, we cut that part of the show and it was insinuated backstage. The severed head we had made to resemble the lead actor, was also taken out of the show. If the killer did come to see the performance, I am horrified that we entertained this sick fuck.

Then the bloodhounds signaled that there was something in the small lake on campus. It was a bed sheet with an unusual pattern on it. They figured out this was the sheet used to transport her head to the Port-a-Potty. Since it was an unusual pattern, they decided to put it on the news in hopes someone would recognize it.

And someone did.

A young man named Jason Richter was in his dorm room in Cobbs Hall, watching news coverage of the murder and saw something that must have sent chills down his spine. His roommate, Jason Shipman, hadn’t been staying in the room since Tiffany’s body had been discovered. When he looked over at Jason’s bed, there was the matching fitted sheet. The flat sheet and pillow case was missing. He called his father to come to campus and they alerted the authorities.

“That’s when it hit me,” Richter had said. “This is my roommate. This is actually happening.” (Side note about Ritcher, he was in school to be a gym teacher. After being involved in the case, he changed his studies to criminal justice to become a police officer. He joined the U.S. Marshals within a year after that.)

This was just the break in the case they needed because after 400 leads, police were getting worried. Finals were coming up and they were concerned that possibly the killer or any witnesses would be leaving the state when school got out.

They had a name: Jason Shipman, a 21 year old college student at the university.

They finally found him at a hotel, though there were also rumors he was at his previous girlfriend’s house, and he denied everything. However, he finally cracked but blamed it on another guy, Billy Joe Logsdon, a 15 year old.

Long story short, their alibis and details of that night did not add up and Jason Shipman finally admitted it was all him. Rumors swirled that Tiffany was an ex-girlfriend of Billy Joe and she dumped him so he wanted revenge and Jason helped him. This ended up being not true.

Once the death penalty was taken off the table, Jason agreed to talk. He said was “hunting” on campus for a while but he never found anyone that would work out for him. (My God, I could have walked right past this guy at any point. ::shiver::) So he decided to “hunt” off campus. He came across Tiffany who was in a nearby neighborhood babysitting. She had stepped outside to smoke and Jason approached her and convinced her to come hang out with him on campus.

Jason and Tiffany hung out in his dorm room listening to music until she mentioned she had to go home before her mom came back. He offered to walk her home. When they were behind some trees next to the water towers, they stopped to smoke a cigarette. Jason proceeded to rape her, stab her in the chest and back of the neck paralyzing her, and then came the decapitation.

The detectives said he had all the makings of a serial killer and they believe if he had not been caught, he would have killed again. Shipman is serving three life terms plus 150 years in the Missouri Department of Corrections.

Photo by Kat Owens

After her burial and the media attention had died down, I went to the cemetery where she is buried. I left a little note telling her how sorry I was that this happened to her. RIP Tiffany. I will never forget you.

Stay safe everyone.

M.

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