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chair-copyBill Comeans was Murdered 36 years ago, But he’s Tweeting From Beyond the Grave

On Jan. 7, 2014, the 34th anniversary of his murder, Bill Comeans inexplicably sent a tweet.

Bill Comeans was murdered 34 years ago when he was 14 ? and his Twitter account won?t let you forget it.

His family?created the account, @BillComeans, on Jan. 7 to bring attention back to the unsolved mystery in Ohio. His killer was never found.

One of Comeans? first tweets ? and dozens more afterward ? described his murder in the first person, as if he were still alive.

On Jan. 7, 1980, a few days before his 15th birthday, Bill Comeans left his house in New Rome, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, to pick up his sister Kathleen from a birthday party next door. When he arrived at the party, she told him she didn?t want to leave yet, so he stopped at home to help his father work on a car in the garage before leaving again.

A few hours later, Comeans hadn?t returned home, so his father and brother went looking for him. At around 9pm, they found him a few blocks away from the house, in a snowy ditch by the railroad tracks. He had been strangled by his own winter scarf.

Despite his brother?s attempts to resuscitate him, Bill Comeans was pronounced dead at the hospital two hours later. An autopsy later concluded he had died of ?cardiopulmonary arrest? due to ?compression of the neck.? His killer was never found.

So why is Bill back? Maybe the better question is how? The keyboard behind the tweets isn?t Bill, of course, but rather his younger sister Kathleen Comeans Park. She was 8 when her then 14-year-old brother was murdered, and she?s using?Twitter?to revitalize interest in the cold case and share memories from her brother?s short life.

Kathleen Comeans Park, turned to social media 34 years later,?still hoping to find his killer. She also?created a YouTube tribute?to her brother, but it wasn?t enough ? Twitter was the next step.

?I miss him everyday, when I was growing up, I followed him around everywhere, I was his little shadow.?

Bill Comeans? body was found a block away from their West Columbus home. He had been strangled with his own scarf. Franklin County Sheriff?s deputies say there aren?t any new leads in the case, but Kathleen wants to gain an emotional response from the tweets.tweet-1-copy

William Comeans?Unsolved homicide

  • Case number: 713
  • Incident location:?Buena Vista Avenue
    Columbus, Ohio – Franklin County
  • Incident date:?1/7/1980
  • Homicide date:?1/7/1980
  • Date of birth:?1/11/1965
  • Gender:?Male
  • Race/Ethnicity:?White
  • Height:?5’09”
  • Weight:?170lbs
  • Hair color:?Brown
  • Eye color:?Brown
  • Law enforcement agency:?Franklin County Sheriff’s Office

Details

William Comeans was helping his father work on family car. He then went two doors down to get his sister to come from a birthday party but it wasn’t over, so he came home and told his mother that he would go back to get her. His parent’s never saw him again before his discovery. They filed a missing persons report and police canvassed the neighborhood. William’s father and neighbor found him at the dead end of Buena Vista Ave., which was the next street over, by the railroad tracks. William died later at the hospital. The cause of death was strangulation. On two previous occasions, in September and October, William was attacked by two unknown males and was choked on both occasions.

Anyone with additional information or questions regarding this case should?submit a tip.

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The tweets vacillate wildly in tone, from sweet and poignant to increasingly mordant and bizarre.

The effect of a murder victim using social media to address his killer from the grave is at once macabre?a 21st-century version of ?The Tell-Tale Heart,? with a dash of?The?Lovely Bones?thrown in?and heartrending. The first-person perspective in particular is ?cathartic for the family, because it allows them to express questions and concerns that they never got to process,? says Kristy Dyroff, a representative for the National Organization for Victim Assistance. ?But it?s also literally a way to give voice to Bill.?

Each tweet offers a glimpse of Comeans?s all-too-brief life. The Ohio boy had curly light brown hair, unruly eyebrows, and a large build for a 14-year-old, solid enough to convincingly portray Santa Claus for his family every Christmas. He wore braces in middle school. He loved drawing, playing piano, and his mother?s French toast. For his last Christmas, his mother got him a personalized ID bracelet, which he was wearing when he was buried.

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@BillComeans?has been effective: The Twitter account attracted the attention of reporters from all over the world, all of whom were fascinated by the Comeans family?s unorthodox method of drawing attention to the case. Although Kathleen Comeans had previously used social media to highlight her brother?s case, creating a?YouTube?tribute video and a Facebook page in 2011, the haunting first-person perspective of the Twitter account struck a chord. As news coverage increased, the number of @BillComeans followers jumped from a few hundred to 2,600.

For the first time in 34 years, it looked like Bill Comeans was one step closer to finding justice.

Tragic: The body of Bill Comeans, right, was found January 7, 1980 a block away from his West Columbus, Ohio, home after he was strangled by his own scarf. His killer was never found.

Tragic: The body of Bill Comeans, right, was found January 7, 1980 a block away from his West Columbus, Ohio, home after he was strangled by his own scarf. His killer was never found.

No new leads: Franklin County Sheriff's deputies say there aren't any new leads in the case, but Kathleen, pictured with Bill and their two older brothers, is urging them to use new technology to find his killer.

No new leads: Franklin County Sheriff’s deputies say there aren’t any new leads in the case, but Kathleen, pictured with Bill and their two older brothers, is urging them to use new technology to find his killer.

Although most recent reports on the Comeans case have focused solely on the family?s efforts to use social media to find Bill?s killer, the details of the case are perhaps even more bizarre than the Twitter account itself.

For one thing, Comeans had been brutally attacked on two separate occasions a few months before, in September and October of the previous year.

The first time, Comeans told his parents that two unidentified men had attacked him while he was on his paper route by placing a plastic garbage bag over his head and wrapping a bicycle inner tube around his neck.

The second time, according to a?Columbus Citizen?report of the incident, the two men jumped out from an ?aqua-coloured car,? tied a rope around Comeans? neck, and left him under a tree. Comeans passed out for five hours before regaining consciousness and walking home.

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While Comeans was unable to identify his assailants on either occasion, he, his best friend, and his girlfriend also found threatening notes in their school lockers around the time of the attacks. Although detectives did not reveal the contents of the notes, eight families in the Comeans? neighborhood received similarly threatening missives about nine months after Bill?s?death, which read ?U.R. next,? ?time is short,? and ?all have been warned.? While Franklin County law enforcement?initially thought the messages were a hoax, according to an article in the?Free Lance-Star, handwriting analysis later concluded that the same person who wrote messages to Comeans? neighbors also authored the notes to Comeans.

The details of the Comeans case?the prior attacks, the threatening notes?posed a challenge to local police, who had initially ruled his death a suicide. While they interviewed dozens of people related to the case, the Franklin County Sheriff?s Department never identified a suspect, in part because the advent of DNA testing was a few years away, and in part because they simply couldn?t find a motive.

Comeans was ?the perfect student, the perfect child, the perfect citizen,? Det. Tony Rich of the Franklin County Sheriff?s Department told the?Columbus Dispatch. ?There is no apparent reason for his death whatsoever. There is just nothing.?

It?s true, there?s nothing new to talk about?which is exactly why @BillComeans is busy tweeting.

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Kathleen Comeans Park said that she is picking up where her mother left off.

?My mother kept journals every day for over a year and a half,? Comeans Park said. ?She had 14 notebooks filled with information.?
The information in the journals includes possible leads in two previous attacks. Detectives said that Bill was bullied as a freshman and jumped twice, nearly strangled to death in both of the incidents.
Clark said that?she believes the incidents could be related to Bill?s murder.
Until the Comeans family finds out the truth, Comeans Park said that there is not a day that goes by when she does not think of her older brother.
?We may never know who it was,? Comeans Park said. ?I?ve lived my life not knowing, and to think maybe one day I?ll know, I don?t know how I?ll handle that.? Bill?s parents have both passed away, but his sister, along with two older brothers, remain active with sending along social media tips to cold case detectives.

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Timeline

September & October Threatening Notes Rec?d at School

  • Throughout the fall, Bill finds 3-4 threatening notes in his school locker, which he gives detectives.
  • Some are typed, some are written, and some are cut from pieces of magazines.
  • Bill?s best friend and a girl friend each also received a note in their lockers. These messages, typed in red ink, say ?Blood will spill,? ?It?s your turn,? and ?Bill has three mths. left. ps. make the best of it.?
  • At least one note is found at Westland HS after BC?s death. It says, “You’re next” and is signed with a red “S.” (A source says this is according to BC’s parents, as deputies would not confirm such a note was found.)
  • LE compares Bill?s handwriting to the handwriting on the notes.

9/5/1979, Wednesday First Assault (Attempted Murder?)

8:30 PM

  • Bill is on his way home from a friend’s house and cuts through the woods behind Prairie-Lincoln Elementary School, at 4900 Amesbury Way.
  • Bill is on a trail 50 yards into the woods behind the school.
  • Bill is knocked from his bike by ?two unknown men? who approach from behind.
  • They tie a plastic garbage bag over Bill?s head and wrap a bicycle inner tube around his neck.
  • Bill nearly loses consciousness but frees himself.
  • Bill returns home with bruises on his neck.
  • Police find inner tube, plastic bag, and BC?s bike at scene, plus note that says ?He was warned.?
  • Bill later files an assault report with Sherriff?s deputies, and police find Bill’s bike bag, inner tube, and note at the scene.
  • Bill is unable to describe his assailants.

10/22/79, Monday Second Assault (Attempted Murder?)

6:30 PM

  • Bill is out collecting money on foot for his paper route near Beacon Hill Road and Maple Drive.
  • Two men leap from an older model, aqua/turquoise car and jump him from behind.
  • They tie a rope around neck and leave him for dead under a tree or some shrubs.
  • Bill lies there unconscious for 5-1/2 or 6 hours, then walks home at 1 AM.
  • Bill arrives home with rope burns on his neck and a gash on the right side of his face.
  • Bill tells his parents what happened.
  • Bill quits his paper route after this attack.
  • Bill sees a doctor and files an assault report with Sheriff?s deputies.
  • Bill describes his assailants as two white males in their late teens/early 20s.
  • Four days later, Bill takes a polygraph test at Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation in London, Ohio.

1/7/80, Monday the Murder

About 9 PM

  • Sister Kathleen (age 9) attends a birthday party two doors down the street from the family home.
  • Bill goes to pick Kathleen up, but she asks for more time and Bill leaves.
  • Mother is in living room of family home.
  • Father is working on the car in the garage.
  • Bill brings his father coffee twice.
  • Bill wanders from the garage to the porch to the yard and never returns.
  • Nearly 20 minutes later the family becomes alarmed when they realize Bill is gone.
  • The family believes he was abducted.
  • Father says Bill would not have left the yard without telling someone.

9 – 9:45 PM

  • Father searches for Bill with a neighbor.
  • Bill is found near the Conrail RR tracks at the north end of Buena Vista Ave.
  • Bill?s winter scarf was used to choke him and is still knotted tightly around his neck.
  • He lies face down in a snowy ditch, about two blocks from home, amidst beer bottles, broken tree limbs, and rusted car parts.
  • Brother Mike cuts the scarf free with a pocket knife.
  • Bill?s father and brother Bob give Bill CPR until ambulance arrives.
  • The ambulance takes Bill to Doctors West Hospital.
  • LE determines that, aside from the strangulation, there are no signs of a violence/struggle, no marks on Bill?s body, and Bill was not robbed (one source suggests he was not robbed during any of the attacks); they are unsure at this time if his death was caused by murder or suicide

About 11 PM Bill is pronounced dead at Doctors Hospital West.

4/22/80, Tuesday Coroner?s Report Released

  • Coroner William Adrion rules death a homicide. (Adrion may have had to put his name on all reports, as another source says Dep. Coroner Patrick M. Fardal conducted the autopsy.)
  • Finding is based on autopsy findings and sheriff?s department investigation.
  • COD: Cardiac arrest due to compression of the neck by ligature.
  • MOD: Petechial hemorrhaging shows he was most likely strangled.
  • Toxicology report shows diazepam (valium) in BC?s blood, but LE sees no evidence of personal drug use and does not know how Bill may have gotten any.
  • The report says Bill has internal injuries from the strangulation as well as facial hemorrhaging, but no other wounds to his body.
  • Coroner declares death ?a very bizarre case.?

7/21 – 10/31/80 Neighbours on Maple Drive receive threatening letters/notes

  • 13-19 letters (sources are mixed on the exact number) are received by eight families living w/in 200 yards of one another on Maple Dr. (or within 200 yards of the Comeans home)
  • Families on Maple Drive who receive the notes include: Armstrong, Baker, Blain, Comeans, Kidwell, Stormont, Tope, and Watts
  • Families receive identical notes on same days.
  • In July they start to arrive at two-week intervals.
  • Some are mailed, others hand-delivered at night (several sources say tied to porches and cars with leather belts; one source says taped; one source says leather straps).
  • First to be delivered in person arrive 9/9/80.
  • Sometimes arrival is 4 days apart, other times 33 days apart.
  • Handwriting is described two ways
  • ?crudely printed messages?
  • ?neatly penciled on pieces of cut envelope.?
  • Handwriting analysis reveals all are written by same person. (Unclear whether comparison include pre-death notes.)
  • Messages are ?very brief in three or four words or in poorly constructed sentences.?
  • Messages reported in press
  • Parents should guard their children carefully, signed X.
  • ?Time is short?
  • ?[Name] is next? (seven neighborhood females, aged 7-50, were specifically named across in these notes)
  • ?All have been warned?
  • ?Death in October?
  • ?U R Next?
  • ?It?s time.? (left the night before Halloween)
  • Police believe the letter writer may be BC?s killer.
  • On Nov. 2, LE calls the letter writer a ?terrorist? and go to Syracuse to get a psychological profile done on the letter writer.

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In 2012, according to Sgt. Bill Duffer of the Franklin County Sheriff?s Department, the Comeans case was reopened at the family?s request. Although no new evidence had been found and there were no new leads in the case, the family requested that Comeans?s scarf be submitted to a lab for DNA testing, as well as a knife found at the scene.

The state crime lab said the results of the DNA samples would be released at the start of 2013, when more advanced technology would be made available. To date, the samples have not yet been tested. (According to Jill Del Greco, the public information?officer for Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, while the Ohio state crime lab has a turnaround of approximately 20?25 days for most DNA results, it?s fairly common for DNA samples from older or cold cases to be suspended for better testing technology, as it ?could result in the return of useful results in situations where current testing might not.?) The Franklin County Sheriff?s Department would not comment or release records related to the case, on the grounds that it is still an active investigation.

In their quest to find their brother?s killer (Bill?s parents, Carol and Robert, passed away in 2010 and 2012, respectively), the odds are against the Comeans siblings. According to the Ohio Attorney General?s?website, there are approximately 5,000 unsolved cases in Ohio, and one can assume that a 30-year-old case doesn?t take priority. Furthermore, even if the DNA samples from the Comeans crime scene are tested, one?study?says that only 20 percent of cold cases result in a ?conclusively identified? suspect, with a meager 1 percent resulting in a conviction.

Last picture of Bill Comeans, victim of an unsolved murder at age 14 in January 1980 after several previous attacks. Bill is on the right hand side.

Last picture of Bill Comeans, victim of an unsolved murder at age 14 in January 1980 after several previous attacks. Bill is on the right hand side.

?I think, quite frankly, that the Twitter is probably more cathartic than resolving anything,? Dyroff adds. ?I commend their effort to draw attention to it, but it doesn?t appear they?re getting much real feedback or information related to the case. And it?s just so difficult to get much traction on these older cases.?

Still, Kathleen Comeans holds out hope that the increased attention will bring her a step closer to her brother?s killer: She continues to tweet at Nancy Grace,?Dateline, and the?New York Times?repeatedly, as well as at the Franklin County Sheriff?s Department.

?I don?t want him to be forgotten,? she has said. ?Whoever murdered him is out there, so?somebody knows something, and Bill?s got a story to tell, and?we?ll use whatever means to tell it.?

In an effort to get renewed media attention for her brother?s case, Kathleen, started to use?social media. She opened a?Facebook?page, uploaded videos to?YouTube, and opened a?Twitter?account.

The Twitter account is both eerie and heartbreaking.

Bill Comeans (@BillComeans) | Twitter

William Comeans – Ohio Attorney General

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Facebook page: In Memory of William (Bill) Comeans (membership required)

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A video slideshow made by Bill’s sister Kathleen

BC’s Find-A-Grave page

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