MARTINSVILLE — Scott Burnham will be the first to tell you that he didn’t know his cousin very well.
“I think I was probably with her maybe a total of 10 times in my life,” Burnham said. He grew up in Michigan City, about 200 miles from his cousin in Cambridge City.
But despite their limited interactions, Burnham's cousin, Ann Harmeier, clearly made an impression on him.
“I always tell people that Ann had a sparkle, a certain quality about her that you don't find in many people.”
That sparkle vanished on September 12, 1977.
“I was 10 years old when she was murdered,” Burnham said.
Harmeier was a theater major who had just started her junior year at Indiana University. She was on her way back to Bloomington after visiting her mother, Marjorie, in Cambridge City.
She never made it to Bloomington.
Police discovered her rust-colored Pontiac Lemans on the shoulder of State Road 37 near Eskew Hill, about 2 miles north of Martinsville. The car was locked. There was no sign of Ann.
“I think Marjorie, for a large extent, blamed herself,” Burnham said.
Burnham says she felt blame for telling her daughter to head back to Bloomington Monday morning instead of Sunday night because it would be safer.
In the weeks that followed, search parties were formed to find Harmeier. Bright orange bumper stickers with the words, “WHERE IS ANN?” were handed out to concerned residents.
A distraught Marjorie Harmeier spoke with WRTV reporter Rick Sallinger on Sept. 27, 1977.
"Please, please let us know where she is," Marjorie said. "Dead or alive.”
The body of Ann Harmeier was found 36 days later in a cornfield near Williams and Egbert roads, about 5 miles from where her car was left on State Road 37. According to police, Ann was strangled by her own shoelace.
While no one was ever charged with the killing, police did have a suspect early in the investigation.
“Steven Judy had been a suspect for a long time and that's ultimately who my aunt was told had committed the crime,” Burnham said.
Steven Judy was convicted and executed for the 1979 slaying of Terry Lee Chasteen and her three children.
In March 1981, shortly after Judy’s execution, an Indiana State Police detective told WRTV reporter Sy Jenkins that despite similarities in the cases, Steven Judy couldn’t have killed Ann Harmeier, because he was in the Marion County jail at the time she went missing.
Burnham says his family didn’t talk much about Ann’s death through the years. “It really wasn't a topic that my parents or adults in my family discussed with their kids.”
It wasn’t until four decades later that a break in a cold case on the other side of the country sparked something within Burnham.
“It probably all started for me with the arrest of the Golden State Killer in 2018,” Burnham said. “That really renewed my family's interest in Ann’s case because the Golden State Killer had been apprehended through DNA evidence,” Burnham said.
Burnham began requesting records on his cousin’s investigation from Indiana State Police. However, his requests didn’t yield much new information.
“The case was officially active and they couldn't release any information because of that, even to the closest family members, after more than four decades,” Burnham said.
But Burnham is intent on keeping attention on Ann’s unsolved case. Along with a few friends, he created a social media presence for Ann.
“I didn't want it to be just a memorial,” said Burnham. “The idea of having Ann actually post comments from her point of view, with a lot of like snark and sort of like a cheeky attitude where she would post these updates about her murder.”
Burnham says the response has been mixed, as the persona portrayed online is nothing like the real Ann Harmeier.
“I say, yeah, you're right. She wouldn't talk like that, but, you know, she's not here and I'm trying to solve her murder. I think it’s effective.”