Thursday, August 2, 2018

53 Year Old Unsolved Murder of Classmate; "Too Good a Girl" set for release August 4

Janis Thornton

 “Too Good a Girl,” the Book That Took
53 Years to Finish, Launches August 4

By Janis Thornton

            I’ve always loved that old Don McLean song, “The Day the Music Died.” But for me and most of the kids who grew up in Tipton, Indiana, during the insulated, enchanted days of the 1950s and ’60s, the day music died was Monday, October 18, 1965.

            That was the day we learned our 17-year-old classmate, Olene Emberton, had been found dead, her body lying in a ditch alongside a remote country road.

          Although local and state police conducted a vigorous investigation, they found no clues, no evidence, no witnesses, no cause of death, and ultimately no answers. The case could not be solved. Today, nearly 53 years later, the case remains open.
            Like Olene, I was also 17 — almost an adult, but still a kid. For kids of any age, losing a school friend is traumatic under any circumstance. But the circumstances under which Olene had died were unthinkable. Her death rocked my world.
            The idea of writing Olene’s story first occurred to me some thirty years ago. I felt that someone needed to set the record straight, so why not me? Frankly, 30 years ago, it shouldn’t have been me. I had no writing experience and lacked the skills to report on a sensitive, emotionally charged topic that was certain to ruffle feathers, stoke anger, and hurt feelings.
            However, by 2004, I had been a staff writer at a daily newspaper for four years, and I was ready. I pored over court records, combed through news articles, tracked down and interviewed law enforcement officials who had worked the case, sent Freedom of Information Act requests, talked with forensics experts, studied criminology, attended conferences, surveyed my classmates, met with Olene’s friends and family, and followed the loose ends.
            The result of this 14-year-long pursuit for truth has manifested in my book, “Too Good a Girl,” scheduled to launch Saturday, August 4, at the Tipton County library.
            Did I solve the mystery? No. Instead, I have unraveled all the strands of Olene’s complex story so readers can weave their own tapestry of truth and discover their own solution. And who knows? One of them might just be right. •

How You Can Help Preserve Olene’s Memory and Give Her Life Renewed Meaning
            Readers of “Too Good a Girl” can also help preserve Olene’s memory by helping graduating Tipton High School students achieve their dream of a teaching career.
            When Olene was a freshman at Tipton High School, she authored a brief autobiography. In it, she noted her dream for the future. “I plan to graduate from high school in 1966,” she wrote. “I want to attend Ball State University. After I graduate, I want to be a junior or high school teacher.”
            No one can give Olene’s life back to her, but I believe I’ve found a way to give her life new meaning by assisting graduating Tipton High School students who share her dream.
            With the help of the Tipton County Foundation — a publicly supported organization that helps Tipton residents set up and oversee philanthropic projects — the Olene Emberton Memorial Scholarship has been established. The scholarship will benefit college-bound Tipton High School seniors who, like Olene, plan to pursue teaching.
            Reaching the fund-raising goal of $25,000 by the end of 2018 will ensure that an award of $1,000 will go to a deserving student in Olene’s memory each year in perpetuity.
            I invite you to visit www.tiptoncf.org and make a gift. In addition, the proceeds from book sales will go to the fund. And every donor of $100 or more will receive a copy of “Too Good a Girl” with my compliments and gratitude.
            The book is available for purchase on my website, www.janis-thornton.com and Amazon. •

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