Life seemed like it was on the right path for Carol Jursik that July evening in 1979 as she jogged with a housemate.
A nationally ranked college woman fencer and possible contender for the 1980 U.S. Olympic team, Carol, 24, was a Penn State graduate student working for the summer at the U.S. Steel Corp. in Monroeville through a cooperative job program.
Carol and a friend, Michael Pierce, had jogged 15 miles together the night of July 30 before they separated at roughly 9:15 p.m. about one mile from the home, which had been converted into apartments, on Murrayhill Avenue (also spelled Murray Hill) in Squirrel Hill they shared with four other friends.
Carol continued on to the Squirrel Hill Giant Eagle supermarket on Murray Avenue at Bartlett Street while Pierce returned home. Carol never made it back. Just 10 houses away from her own front porch, neighbors walking their dog on the sidewalk of the cobblestone street found her tattered grocery bag with its contents scattered about 10:30 that night.
Another story in the Pittsburgh Press, though, reports that the cash register receipt from the bag was stamped 11:15 p.m. Pierce reported her missing and the other housemates tried to see if anyone at the store remembered seeing her that night.
After she was reported missing, police searched Schenley Park and other areas near the Oakland intersection of Forbes Avenue and Craig Street, where she and Pierce parted. Her parents, who lived in Rochester, MN, offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to her discovery.
Six days after she vanished, Dave McSwigan, an off-duty Pittsburgh firefighter walking his dog, discovered Carol's partially decomposed body between two logs and under some brush beneath the Commercial Street bridge at a remote corner of Frick Park. She was partially clad and lying face down, the Penn State Daily Collegian reported on Monday, Aug. 6.
Though McSwigan didn't know it at the time, several hours before, a woman had called police with a tip to search the general area where the firefighter discovered Carol's body. Although police appealed to the woman to come forward to provide more information, she never did.
According to a story in the News Dispatch, then-Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht determined that Carol had been stabbed once in the chest. The blade of the weapon used had penetrated her heart. Because of the state of decomposition, it was uncertain whether or not she had been raped. Her jogging pants had been removed and could not be located.
Just 12 days after Carol's body was found, the body of a Utah man was found off a jogging trail off Beechwood Boulevard in Frick Park. He had suffered a gunshot wound to the head and a Swissvale man was charged in his death. The two cases were unrelated, police said.
A year after Carol's death, the Pittsburgh Press reported that police had differing theories on what happened to her that summer night. Some detectives believed she met her death at the hands of someone she knew. Others believed she was accosted by a stranger. The one thing they all agreed on was that she had been taken away by car.
A number of women were murdered in western Pennsylvania in the late 1970s, leaving investigators haunted by the possibility of a serial killer being responsible for at least some of the deaths.
On April 14, 1988, Gary A. Robbins, a Murrysville man suspected in a series of slayings and sexual assaults, forced his way into the home of state Trooper David Marker in Brothersvalley, a small town in rural Somerset County, and shot Mary Ann Marker, the trooper's wife, in the face. After a brief shootout with another state trooper along Route 219, Robbins shot and killed himself. Mary Ann Marker survived the attack.
According to a story in the Pittsburgh Press on April 19 that year, Robbins was a suspect in the deaths of women from Steubenville, OH; Reed City, MI; Bel Air, MD; as well as the sexual assault of women from Center, Butler County; and Timonium, MD. In the rental car, police found two guns, duct tape and plastic fiber rope.
Pittsburgh police were interested in the state's investigation of Robbins because he had rented a car at Payless Auto Rental in Squirrel Hill for the trip out to Somerset County. His own car was found within a block of where Carol had been abducted in the 1100 block of Murray Hill Avenue nine years earlier. Robbins once lived on Timberline Court in the same area of Squirrel Hill.
The tip from the anonymous woman about the location of the body provided police with the possibility that at least one person other than the killer knew what happened. But to this day, Carol's case has not been solved.