HAMMOND | She walked off into the night Halloween 1981 and never returned home. But she has never left her mother's thoughts.
"I don't want to give up. I just can't give up," Verna Hoosier said of her efforts to find who killed her 16-year-old daughter Debra Mae Fulton.
Hoosier recently asked police to reopen the case in the hope new technology will provide the crucial clue that has escaped other detectives who have worked the case for more than 27 years.
"Police have never told me a whole lot, but I suppose there wasn't much to tell since nobody would say they knew anything," Hoosier said.
Hammond Police Chief Brian Miller said last week his department is looking for new leads in the case.
"We might have someone out there now who didn't want to come forward for whatever reason. We ask anyone who does have information to call (219) 852-2806," Miller said.
Debra's fully clothed body was found the next day beneath the Calumet Avenue bridge on a bank of the Grand Calumet River, just north of Michigan Avenue. Police at the time said the blood on her face and the position of body appeared to rule out an accident. The coroner's office listed the cause of her death as a fractured skull and classified it as a homicide.
"She was very small," Hoosier said of the 5-foot, 1-inch, 100-pound victim. "She was just a sweet, loving daughter. She went to First Baptist church, not regularly, but she was baptized.
"I did have a problem with her leaving home and not coming back and going places where I didn't want her to go and with people I didn't want her to go with, when she was younger. There were times when she wouldn't come home, and I would go looking for her. We talked and got everything straightened out. I let her date, and she didn't run away anymore," Hoosier said.
Debra's older sister Teresa Schweihs said, "Debra was very opinionated, headstrong. She and I butted heads, but basically a good girl. She was taking classes at Sawyer Business College in photography."
Her mother said Debra was a regular at The Roller Dome Rink, 730 Gostlin St., which closed its doors last year, but was enjoying a revival in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
"She went roller skating every Saturday night she could, if she had the money," Hoosier said.
Schweihs said, "The night she disappeared, she and (a friend) were fighting, and she took off (for the Roller Dome). My mother offered her a ride, but she was so upset she just wanted to walk."
Schweihs said two family acquaintances went out to catch up to her but later returned saying they never found her.
Hoosier said, "The Roller Dome said she never got there. We were all out looking. My other daughter called me to come over to the bridge. She wouldn't tell me why. I went over to the bridge, and my daughter was down there, partially in the water. A boy who lived in the neighborhood was wandering along the creek bank and saw her and called police."
Police said at the time they couldn't account for the victim's whereabouts between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Halloween night.
Schweihs said, "The police told me one time we might solve that case is if (the killer) came after my other sister or me. Otherwise, it would not be solved."
Hoosier said, "We still go out looking, in the hope people will say something to us."