I lived in Indianapolis, where this crime technically began, at the time that this occurred. I was very young but I still remember bits and pieces of it from the days in which they were attempting to solve the crime. Steven Judy became infamous in Indiana because of this crime. First there was the callousness of the crime because it involved the deaths of three young children. I could tell you that it was a heinous and brutal crime, and while it was, sadly by today's standards I am unsure it compares. Then there was the fact that not only did the prosecutors ask for the death penalty, but so did Steven Judy. In fact, he threatened the jury and the judge what would happen if they did not sentence him to death. Once getting his wish and being sentenced to death Steven Judy ordered his lawyers to end the automatic appeal that comes with a death sentence and he waived all subsequent appeals. On March 9, 1981 Steven Judy became not just the first person in Indiana, but also the United States, to be executed. He was only the fourth person executed in the United States since capital punishment had been re-enacted in 1976.
Times were vastly different when this crime occurred on April 28, 1979. Some argue that crimes like this did not occur, but history has told us differently. Of course there was not the Internet to splash the story to billions of people within minutes, with multiple newspapers and newscasts reporting. No, back then there were still national papers but a vast majority of articles, if published at all by them, about more localized things were simply reprinted from the local paper. No one can argue that forensics or how law enforcement handled crimes was not different than it is today. Today we have DNA evidence that is often the so called “nail in the coffin” in cases. Back in 1979 there was only blood typing. They had at least gotten as far as being able to determine blood type through things like semen, but nothing concrete. How suspects were treated and looked at by law enforcement then is also different than we see today. Even the courts have new ways of having charges and levels of conviction. In 1980, when Steven Judy went to trial he pleaded insanity. There did not seem to be a question by the time the trial came about that he was guilty but there was not a “guilty but insane” plea option. Do I think he was “insane”? Legally, no. But, then again I do not necessarily agree with the requirements the law makes in making that determination. Do I think he was technically insane, maybe. Do I think he deserved to be convicted and never be released, regardless if it was through execution? Yes. So enough about the legal aspects of this case for now and let us move on to the story.
In the early morning of April 28, 1979 twenty-one year old Terry Chasteen loaded her three children, five year old Misty, four year old Stephen and two year old Mark into her car to take them to a babysitter. Terry worked at a local grocery story in Indianapolis and was expected to work that morning. While driving on Interstate 465, which circles the city making it easier to get from one side to the other, Terry noticed a man waving for her to pull over indicating something may have been wrong with the rear of her car. As other people were driving down the road several people saw Terry's car and a red and gray truck stopped on the side of the road. They described Terry and a blonde haired man as being with her. No one else apparently stopped so these witness statements of what they saw and when had to be pieced together by those who drove by.
Whether Terry did have an issue with the rear end of her car or not seemed to be unclear. Some things indicated that Terry and the blonde man were seen changing one of her back tires, but whether there was a legitimate issue or not I cannot say. Steven Judy would later say that he told Terry that her back tires looked “loose” as a ruse to get her to pull over. He could have gone as far as changing a tire to make things look legitimate. However, before any such thing could be looked at Steven Judy said that Terry told him that her emergency brake did not seem to be working properly. This would be imperative if the car was to be put on a jack. Steven Judy used this opportunity to have Terry open the hood of her car. At this point he removed her coil wire which completely disabled her car from starting. If you have never seen a coil wire they are very small, easily detached and can fit in a pocket without being noticed. At some point after this Steven indicated he was done and Terry got into the car to leave but of course it would not start. Steven offered to give Terry and her children a ride and she accepted.
We need to keep in mind that this was a time before cell phones, or even the little emergency call boxes you sometimes see on the side of the Interstate. People trusted others more easily than they do now and Terry had few other choices at that moment. She could have stayed on the side of the road, with her children but unless someone she knew drove by, and there would be no way of knowing if that would happen, she would have to rely on the “kindness” of a stranger. She already had one of those, a stranger that is, offering to help so she took him up on the offer.
It is unclear at what point Terry knew that she and her children were in trouble but Steven did not obviously take her to her destination. Instead he drove to the small town of Mooresville Indiana where especially at that time there were fewer homes and they were spread farther apart than you would see now. Much of the area consisted of farm fields. Steven pulled into the area of White Lick Creek where he ordered Terry and her children out of the car and directed them into a wooded area. The children were walking ahead when Steven began attacking Terry. He would rape her and then bound her with strips of her own clothing. According to his later confession he would say that the children came back to the area and yelled at him as he was strangling their mother. He then placed her body in the creek (that by description seemed to be rather long and large). In his confession he apparently indicated that he then took each child and threw them into the creek as far as he could although according to the autopsy report prosecutors believe that he had taken each child and held them underwater, indicating it was only a few inches deep, until they drowned.
On the way back to his truck Steven Judy attempted to disguise any feet prints that he had left leading to the creek. He got in his truck and drove away. Once again authorities would have to rely on several people to report what they had seen to piece things together. One person remembered a blonde man driving a red and gray truck with a woman in the front seat going into the area, where someone else saw the same truck with the man, but not the woman come out of the area sometime later.
In the meantime of course Terry did not make it to the babysitter's home, nor obviously to work that morning. A few hours after Steven left Terry and her children in the creek some mushroom hunters were out and found her body. They contacted the police and soon after their arrival they also discovered five year old Misty. One detective has said that right around this same time, as they were recovering Misty's body, investigators down stream hollered up that they had found two more bodies. Fairly quickly it seems they knew this was Terry Chasteen due to a bank book beinf found at the scene nearby and it did not take long before they found her car back in Indianapolis on the side of the Interstate. This is when they began piecing things together with the witnesses who identified a blonde man with a red and gray truck.
It was not long before investigators found their way to Steven Judy. He had a record. In fact, his foster parents, Robert and Mary Carr had bailed him out of jail just the week before on armed robbery charges. Robert Carr owned a truck like the one described and Steven drove it often. Investigators interviewed Steven but he denied any involvement and said he had been with his girlfriend at the time of the murders. His girlfriend initially collaborated his story but would quickly change it denying they had been together at the time. I tried to determine just how it was between when the crime was discovered and Steven Judy's arrest occurred but I was unable to do so. So much of this story centers not just on the viciousness of the crime but the fact that not only did Steven Judy receive the death penalty and ultimately executed but that he had asked for it.
Steven Judy went to trial in February of 1980. By this time he had confessed but apparently did not make a plea deal. His attorney was attempting an insanity plea. Aside from his confession, prosecutors had witnesses who identified the truck Steven was driving as well as he being the blonde haired man they saw with Terry. They had also apparently extracted semen fluid from Terry and through blood typing it had “matched” (as it could be in 1980) to Steven. He did apparently have a more rare blood type or a rare enzyme in his blood that made it a bit more certain than normal for the times. Steven forbade his attorney from presenting any mitigating circumstances in his trial but those would come out later. After his conviction and prior to his sentencing he was given the opportunity to speak to the court and it was said that he threatened the judge and the jury members that if they did not give him the death penalty he would kill again and he would go after their families first. The jury, and then the judge, complied with his wishes. After his automatic appeal began due to the death penalty he ordered his lawyers to stop it and he waived all subsequent appeals. His last meal consisted of prime rib and lobster. He had requested a beer with dinner but that was denied. On March 9, 1981 Steven Judy was put to death in the electric chair at the state prison in Michigan City Indiana.
His last words wee “I don't hold no grudges. This is my doing. I'm sorry it happened.”
Nearly everything I read about this case indicated that Steven Judy never expressed remorse for his actions but I have wondered about that. I gander to guess that much of this comes from his confession and his behaviors while telling it as well as his behaviors in court. Of course I was not there so I cannot fully say if I agree or disagree with this assumption but it seems to me that he obviously knew what he had done was wrong and this his punishment was deserving. That does not mean that even if I felt as if he did have remorse that he could have done anything about it or that he did not deserve the death penalty. As evil and vile as Steven Judy apparently was, he did the right thing in the end. Steven's foster mother, Mary Carr, has stated that he did cry often about what he had done, and not for the punishment he faced. Some have said that in the last few hours of his life he had become nervous and some thought he may have asked for a last minute reprieve but he did not. My attitude on that is, of course he was nervous, how could you expect him not to be. He took his punishment like a man and even in the end blamed no one but himself it seems.
So how did this man get here in the first place? As I said he prevented his lawyer from presenting any evidence that may have garnered sympathy from the jury and allowed them to sentence him differently, but things were discovered later. Steven Judy came from a broken home, which in those days was not as common as it is today. It appears that both of his parents were alcoholics and his childhood was filled with violence. Whether that violence was directly towards him is unclear. What does seem to be clear is that there was little guidance given to him and he “ran wild” as we say. By many accounts his parents were all but concentrated on their own addictions and their issues and less on Steven's. At thirteen Steven posed as a Boy Scout and forced his way into a neighbor woman's home. Once inside he not only raped the woman but stabbed he in excess of forty times. The woman survived the attack and testified against Steven in court. He received a six month stay in a home for delinquent juveniles and then was sent to Central State Hospital. Central State was the mental hospital that was located in Indianapolis. While he was there he was diagnosed as a sexual psychopath.
When he was seventeen he was released from the hospital and went to live with Robert and Mary Carr, his new foster parents. At the time the Carr's had three young children and when I first came across this I found it odd that they would take this violent teenager into their home. Mary Carr would state much later that they had only been told that he had “accosted” a woman and had a mental breakdown but no other details. She would claim that the state no only never gave them complete details but that they never so much as suggested continuing psychiatric care. After Steven's execution Mary Carr indicated to the press that she and her husband intended to sue the state for not fully disclosing his issues and putting her family at risk. I am sure there are some that would argue that the Carr's did not have violent issues with Steven and they had treated him, right up to the end, as if he was one of their own, I can see her point. I was never able to find if the Carr's did sue the state, and if they what the outcome was. I am sure that there are those who would believe that if the Carr's did sue it was about money, and without knowing them that could very well be true. However, as an advocate of the law and legal proceedings, in my opinion I hope that they did sue, not because I think they were necessarily entitled to anything but because the state should have fully disclosed Steven's issues and criminal past before the Carr's were given an opportunity to take him in. They obviously had to know he had problems but they were entitled to know the full extent. A lawsuit could have forced the state to not only give full disclosure to a child's issue to foster parents but also possibly make sure that someone like Steven, who had a diagnosis of a sexual psychopath was not exposed to small children on a daily basis.
Today Steven Judy, or his defense could have argued “guilty but mentally ill,” something that was not available as an option in 1980. That is not to say that it would have changed things in this case, especially considering that Steven himself had advocated for the death penalty for him. While few argue that the death penalty was not warranted in this case it is interesting to note the toll that it took on all of the attorney's in the case. Steven's lawyer, Steve Harris decided that Steven's case was the last death penalty case he would ever handle. He was present at the execution and while he knows that his client had asked for the death penalty and he himself actually believed he deserved it, the emotional toll it took on him was long lasting. Prosecutor, Tom Gray would become a judge in 1981 and would later say that Steven's case “took the fire out of me.” He went on to tend to have as little as possible to do with death penalty cases. The assistant prosecutor at the time of Steven's trial, Steven Oliver was an advocate of the death penalty in 1980. Today he no longer believes that it is a deterrent or something that should be enforced. He has been quoted as saying “He was a true sociopath, with absolutely no conscious, remorse or guilty” when speaking of Steven.
He may not have expressed remorse or guilt but you have to give him credit in admitting his crime and taking responsibility for it. I cannot say that he never “blamed” anyone else because obviously I never spoke with him. And, yes, I realize he lied in the beginning but I believe so many inmates have what I call “The Shawshank Syndrome.” If you have ever seen the movie you would understand what I mean. Many criminals refuse to admit their guilt or take responsibility for their actions and despite convictions in which there is clear proof of such, and especially in death penalty cases they clog the courts and milk the system. At least Steven Judy did not do that. He was executed less than two years after he committed his crime.