Life seemed like it was on the right path for Carol Jursik on a July evening in 1979 as she jogged with a housemate.
A nationally ranked college fencer and a possible contender for a spot on the 1980 U.S. Olympics team, Jursik, 24, was a Penn State University graduate student working during the summer through a cooperative job program at a U.S. Steel facility in Monroeville.
Jursik and a friend, Michael Pierce, had jogged 15 miles together the night of July 30 before they separated at roughly 9:15 about one mile from the home in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill North neighborhood that they shared with four other friends. The home, which had been converted into apartments, was found on Murrayhill Avenue (also spelled Murray Hill).
Jursik continued running on to a Giant Eagle supermarket on Murray Avenue at Bartlett Street while Pierce returned home. She never made it back. Just 10 houses away from her own front porch, neighbors walking their dog on the sidewalk of cobblestone Murrayhill found her tattered grocery bag with its contents scattered about at around 10:30 that night.
The Pittsburgh Press, though, reported that a cash register receipt from the grocery bag was stamped at 11:15 p.m.
Pierce reported Jursik missing, and their other housemates tried to see if anyone at the Giant Eagle remembered seeing her that night.
After Jursik was reported missing, police searched Schenley Park and other places near the Oakland-area intersection of Forbes Avenue and Craig Street, where she and Pierce parted. Jursik's parents, who lived in Rochester, MN, offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to her discovery.
Six days after she vanished, Dave McSwigan, an off-duty Pittsburgh firefighter who was walking his dog, discovered Jursik's partially decomposed body between two logs and under some brush beneath the Commercial Street bridge at a remote corner of Frick Park. She was partially clad and lying face down, Penn State's The Daily Collegian reported on Aug. 6, that year.
Though McSwigan didn't know it at the time, a woman had called police several hours before with a tip to search the general area where the firefighter discovered Jursik's body. Although police appealed to the woman to come forward to provide more information, she never did.
According to a story in the News-Dispatch, then-Allegheny County Coroner Cyril Wecht determined that Jursik had been stabbed once in the chest. The blade of the weapon used had penetrated her heart. Because of the state of decomposition, it was uncertain whether or not she had been raped. Her jogging pants had been removed and could not be located.
Just 12 days after Jursik's body was found, the body of a Utah man was found off of a jogging trail near Beechwood Boulevard in Frick Park. He had suffered a gunshot wound to the head, and a Swissvale Borough man was charged in the death. The two cases were unrelated, police said.
A year after Jursik's death, the Pittsburgh Press reported that police had differing theories on what happened to her that summer night. Some detectives believed that Jursik met her death at the hands of someone whom she knew. Others believed that she was accosted by a stranger. The one thing that they all agreed on was that she had been taken away by a vehicle.
A number of women were murdered in western Pennsylvania in the late 1970s, leaving investigators haunted by the possibility of a serial killer being responsible for at least some of the deaths.
On April 14, 1988, Gary A. Robbins, a Murrysville man suspected in a series of slayings and sexual assaults, forced his way into the home of state Trooper David Marker in Brothersvalley, a small township in rural Somerset County, and shot Mary Ann Marker, the trooper's wife, in her face. After a brief shootout with another state trooper along Route 219, Robbins shot and killed himself. Mary Ann Marker survived the attack.
According to a story in the Pittsburgh Press on April 19, that year, Robbins was a suspect in the deaths of women from Steubenville, OH; Reed City, MI; and Bel Air, MD; as well as the sexual assaults of women from Center Township, Butler County; and Timonium, MD. In Robbins' rental car, police found duct tape, plastic fiber rope and two guns.
Pittsburgh police were interested in the state police's investigation of Robbins because he had rented a car at Payless Auto Rental in Squirrel Hill for a trip to Somerset County. Robbins' own car was found within a block of where Jursik's grocery bag had been found in the 1100 block of Murrayhill nine years earlier. Robbins once lived on Timberline Court in the same general area.
The tip from the anonymous woman about the location of Jursik's body provided police with the possibility that at least one person other than the killer and the victim knew what happened. But to this day, Jursik's case has not been solved.
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