Eli Stutzman Jr.
Residents of Fort Worth Texas were in for a surprise in January of 2007. Their friend, Eli Stutzman Jr. had been found dead in his apartment. They knew him as a shy, quiet man who made his living selling leather goods such as purses and bible covers. Some had been told that he has spent some time in prison but were told it was for a drug conviction. It seems that most knew that Stutzman had a liking for cocaine, something he did not necessarily keep a secret, so a drug conviction did not seem to be all that out of the realm of possibilities. What they did not know is that he had actually been convicted for the murder of his former roommate in Travis County Texas nor that he had served time concerning the death of his nine year old son in Nebraska. They also did not know that Stutzman's wife, Iola, had died in a mysterious barn fire in 1977 or that he was suspected of murdering to Colorado men in 1985.
Eli Stutzman Jr. had once lived in Dalton Ohio and the member of an Amish family in the area. At the time of her death Iola had been eight months pregnant and while family members and the Amish community were apparently suspicious of Stutzman, especially after learning that just prior to his death he had changed their joint bank account to only show his name, they never reported their suspicions to law enforcement.
It appears that it was not long after Iola's death that Eli left the Amish community with his son, Daniel. Whether he left on his own accord or was all but forced out is unclear. There were reports that he would later visit his family in Ohio but this seems a bit odd to me. If you know much about the Amish community you know that once they have left the community, no matter the reason, they are often shunned and have no contact with their family unless it is done in secrecy which was not indicated. This does not mean that it is not done, or not heard off, it is just a bit different.
Little seems to be known just what Eli Stutzman did for the next few years. We know that by May of 1985 he was living near or in Austin Texas with his son and a man named Glen Pritchett. We also know that he had apparently been living a homosexual lifestyle, one that could have caused an ousting in the Amish community but not proven, and was running a remodeling business. Pritchett not only shared a residence with him but also worked for Stutzman.
Twenty-four year old Pritchett would be found in a ditch on the side of a Texas road with a gunshot wound to his head in May of 1985. Seeing as he was Pritchett's roommate, Stutzman was questioned but nothing seemed to come of it. Soon Stutzman would leave town.
It is unclear just exactly what Stutzman did for the next few years but we do know a few things now. At some point he was in Wyoming. It was there that he apparently met a couple in which he left his son in their care for several months. It appears that then Stutzman may have gone to Colorado for a time. It seems that he apparently lived in or around the town of Durango for a bit. Durango has been described as a small town (at least in 1985) that had not seen a murder in nearly four years. Then on November 10, 1985 the body of thirty-six year old David Tyler was found in the back of a truck bed at a business he co-owned. Some three weeks later Durango would have another murder when the body of twenty-four year old Dennis Slaeter was found in the basement area of the liquor store he worked at. Stutzman would not become a suspect in these murders for a few years and it would take until after his death to prove his involvement.
On December 31, 1985 the body of a young body was found in a frozen ditch in Chester Nebraska. The boy was found wearing a blue sleeper and despite an effort to identify him the boy would be nicknamed “Little Boy Blue” and eventually buried by the townspeople. Two years later, in December of 1987 there was a story about Little Boy Blue in Reader's Digest telling his story, the story of how the town had come together to donate things to properly bury him and asking for clues to his identification. A couple in Wyoming would read the story and contact the Chester Nebraska police. They suspected that Little Boy Blue was Daniel Stutzman, the little boy they had cared for in 1985. They had had little contact with Daniel's father since he had come to retrieve the boy in December of 1985. Eli had told the couple that he had returned to Ohio and that Daniel was in school but something apparently did not seem right with his story, hence their suspicions about Little Boy Blue. To be fair there may have likely been a sketch of the boy found in the story and they thought it looked like Daniel. They would send police a picture of Daniel taken at the time that Eli had come and picked the boy up as well as a report card the couple still had of Daniels. Investigators in Chester Nebraska would match the palm print found on the report card, given to them by the Wyoming couple, to the prints taken from the body of Little Boy Blue.
It seems that while they now knew who Little Boy Blue was, they had to build a case and that at the same time authorities in Austin Texas were building a case against Stutzman in the murder of his roommate, Glenn Pritchett. It also seems that this is when Colorado investigators began looking more into Stutzman also.
Nebraska authorities had a bit of a problem. While they had finally identified the child that had been left in the snowy ditch the medical examiner could not determine a cause of death. There had been some animal activity on the body which also hindered the examination. Stutzman would be found and interviewed. He would claim that the boy had “quietly and unexpectedly” died while driving from Wyoming to Ohio. At another point he would say that Daniel was suffering from an upper respiratory infection and that he had stopped to wake him to give him medication and that he was unresponsive. He would claim that he feared his family would blame him for Daniel's death and accuse him of not taking proper care of him. He would go on to claim that he spent several hours “praying” about the issue and that he was scared and “bewildered,” all which led him to making the decision to leave him in the ditch and cover him with snow. At some point one of the doctors involved in the case had stated that it was possible that Daniel had died of Reye's Syndrome, a rare but deadly disease that comes from giving young children aspirin, but again this was unproven. I also cannot say if Stutzman's statement of attempting to give medication came before or after this doctor had made these statements or when Stutzman may have heard the claim.
In January of 1988 Eli Stutzman would plead guilty in Nebraska to abandoning a body and concealing a death. He would receive a sentence of eighteen months. Upon serving that sentence he was sent to Texas where in August of 1989 he would be convicted in the murder of Glenn Pritchett and sentenced to forty years in prison. Some of my information says that he was paroled in March of 2002 while other information says that did not happen until 2005.
In the meantime Colorado investigators were working on building their cases but they too came up with a snag. They had apparently determined that Eli Stutzman did know David Tyler. They even believed that Stutzman and Tyler had attended a party together just two days before he was found dead. They also knew that Tyler and Slaeter knew each other but could not prove that Stutzman for sure also knew Slaeter. Friends of Tyler's stated that he had told them that he was receiving death threats by phone from someone who hated homosexuals and had begun carrying a gun with him. I am unsure if investigators looked into this or were able to connect Stutzman. Investigators also knew that Stutzman had left town just after Slaeter had been murdered. But they did not feel that the prints that were on file for Stutzman were of good quality. Between wanting new prints and the advent of DNA the investigators wanted samples from Stutzman to compare. However, according to my research while it said that without his cooperation there would have been a legal battle it seems that was not a battle the investigators wanted. But, upon the news of his death in 2007 they were apparently able to get those things. While most of the information I found two things regarding the Colorado cases in my research. The first pertained to items that spoke of the suspicion and the upcoming testing expected to be done and the other were reports listing Tyle and Slaeter as victims of Eli Stutzman. What I did not find was anything conclusive to say that those tests were ran and that they had been matched for certain to him.
At the time of his death the coroner in Texas ruled Eli Stutzman's death a suicide. He was found on the couch in the living room of his apartment covered in a blanket. His left wrist had been slashed to the point in which an artery had been cut and he bled to death. There was cocaine in his system. He did not leave a note. There are those who believe that the presence of blood in the bathroom has led them to believe that Stutzman was possibly murdered. The medical examiner said that death would not have necessarily come instantaneously and that it is possible he slit his wrist in the bathroom and made his way to the couch. Others disagree. But, in fairness it seems that most of those who believe this theory were not made aware of Stutzman's past until after he died. It was then that it was discovered that he had told many different stories, if any were told at all, about his past and what they were hearing was not matching up to the man they knew.
Eli Stutzman Jr is considered to be a serial killer but to be fair he was only convicted in the murder of one person. He pleaded guilty to the circumstances surrounding the body of his son being found but absent being able to find a cause of death legally he was never held accountable. The same goes to the issue of his wife, Iola in 1977. Despite suspicions and the fact that she is listed on his list of victims, there is nothing legally proving he did anything to lure her to the burning barn. As far as Tyler and Slaeter, there seems to be evidence that he was in the area but as I stated earlier I found nothing that stated for sure he was linked to their murders, despite again being on his list of victims.