On November 30, 1984 Drexel University student, Deborah Wilson was found murdered in the stairway at the Philadelphia University. There were no signs of rape or even robbery as she was fully dressed, minus her shoes and socks, and her purse was not taken. An investigation was launched and the security guards at the school were questioned. The crime would go unsolved until September of 1993 despite the fact that the answer seemed to be in front of the investigators faces all along.
In 1992 police would reopen the murder case and one of the first things they found was a discrepancy in an interview given by security guard, David Dickson. In the interview Dickson told police that he heard the printer working in the computer lab at about 1:30 am so he did not disturb anyone. He claimed that a few hours later when he did his rounds there was no one there. It is unclear if he told the police if he had any interaction with Deborah. Dickson had worked the hall where Deborah had been from midnight until eight in the morning. At some point the security guard that he had relieved told officers that he had asked Dickson to walk Deborah to her car. I can only assume that information was available in the initial investigation but I am uncertain of that. It was also discovered at some point that the printers in the computer lab shut down at 10 pm so there was no way Dickson heard the printer at 1:30 in the morning if that is true. My research tended to indicate that this was not learned until the investigation in 1992 which seems a bit odd to me that they could know that eight years later. The other explanation would be that it was in the original file and no one had ever connected the two.
Investigators began looking deeper into Dickson and learned that he had left his job at the University not long after the murder and had re-entered active duty in the Army. They would also learn that an odd “crime” wave had been following him no matter where he had been, even before Deborah Wilson was murdered.
In 1979 Dickson was court martialed and discharged from the Army for burglary. It had been discovered that he had broken into female soldiers' homes in Korea and stole their shoes. I found this part interesting considering at the time of Deborah's death he was an Army Reserve Sergeant and then went back to active duty after the murder. Prior to that he had been stationed at a Philadelphia Naval Base where women seemed to be reporting the same strange crime. Their white sneakers came up missing. Officials on the base dismissed the claims and believed that the woman were “crazy” and just playing a game while their husbands were away. Yes, this was literally what was said. I cannot make this up. At some point he had worked at a pharmaceutical company. It was there that he was fired after he sent a co-worker a sexually explicit letter and then called her on the phone and whispered that he was going to rape her.
By September of 1993 investigators believed that Dickson was their man and they arrested him. They conducted a search of his home and found video tapes with what was described as “foot pornography.” In a storage unit Dickson had they found more than twenty pairs of individually wrapped white sneakers. Deborah's apparently were not among them.
The prosecutor would theorize that Dickson had “karate chopped” Deborah on the head and neck area and then hit her in the head. They then believed that he strangled her, as this was the official cause of death and apparent by the “foam-like” saliva that had formed around her mouth. It was then that investigators believe he dragged her body to the stairwell where he removed her shoes and socks.
Dickson's first trial would end in a mistrial when the jury deadlocked on their decision. His second trial was in December of 1995. According to prosecutors, while Dickson maintained his innocence, a “jailhouse snitch” testified that Dickson had bragged to him about killing Deborah. Prosecutors would claim that the details that the “snitch” gave corroborated with the evidence including bruises that were found on Deborah's feet. The jury found Dickson guilty of 2nd degree murder and he was sentenced to life in prison.
There is a part of me that believes I am a bit iffy on this conviction. I hope that there was more determined at his trial than what I found in my research. When the crime occurred DNA was not something that was thought of quite yet so there would not have been those types of forensics available to the investigators. However I have to admit that the fact that her shoes were missing and he obviously had a foot fetish does point to his guilt. But, it took investigators eight years to figure out the one person who should have been high on the person of interest list was the perpetrator.... why? He was admittedly the last known person to see her. I have to wonder why his story was not looked into better and how it took eight years to figure out his story did not make sense or even that he had these issues that followed him.
I have often said that I have to always feel going into a case that a jury got it right in their verdict, and while there have been times I absolutely cannot see it, this is not one of them. I have to believe in our justice system and that they finally solved this crime.