VANWISSE, ROBERT FRANCIS
Suspect in 1983 murder still on the loose
AUSTIN -- More than three decades after a brutal murder in South Austin, police say they knowwho did it but the suspect is still not in custody.
Austin police Cpl. Angel Polansky sat behind a box of old case files, pictures and newspaperclippings as she recalled details of a case that dates back nearly 32 years. She said the items inthe box are only half the information investigators have compiled over the years.
This case, daily, we talk about, Polansky said. The case is solved, but we're not going togive up until we find him.
In September 1983, employees at a South Austin office building got to work and discovered22-year-old Laurie Stout in the men's restroom. She had been sexually assaulted, strangled andsuffocated, Polansky said.
Stout owned a cleaning business with her husband and she had been working the night shedied.
Police say they know who killed Laurie Stout in aSouth Austin office building in September 1983, but cannot locate him in Mexico.
It was awful. She had a 1-year-old daughter at the time and was married, so I think it justmade it worse knowing that she had a little girl, Polansky said.
It happened at an office building on South First Street near U.S. Highway 290, which is nowhoused by the Austin Regional Clinic. In the 1980s, the University of Texas had offices there.
There were UT students signing up for classes and they were open late. So there were manypeople coming in and out of the building, Polansky said.
One of those students was 18-year-old Robert VanWisse. Police found his fingerprints at thescene.
These fingerprints are in locations that are, that are pretty damning, Polansky said.
Polansky said a lab technician misread the DNA and ruled out VanWisse. It wasn't until 1992 thatanother investigator realized the mistake. Police believe VanWisse, a Mexican national, left thecountry.
When she went to go look for him, to talk to him, he was gone, Polansky said. We've neverheard from him since.
Polansky took over the case in 2010.
We went back and we were able to get familial DNA that connects VanWisse to this case, whichsolidifies it, Polansky said.
The next challenge would be finding him and getting Mexican law enforcement to extradite.
It's a long cumbersome process. It can take months to years, said U.S. Marshals SupervisoryDeputy Hector Gomez.
Gomez said VanWisse initially faced the death penalty but investigators had to lessen the chargeif they wanted him back.
Mexico does not recognize capital murder as punishment, Gomez said. They are very up frontabout not agreeing to even consider extraditing any national, any Mexican national that has capitalmurder as the charge -- that has death or the possibility of life without parole.
VanWisse is now charged with first-degree murder which carries up to a life sentence. The FBIand the U.S. Marshals are working to find him.
It took three years for that provisional warrant to get signed, but it's signed now and it'snot going away, Polansky said.
Now she is worried about the time lost.
We don't want him to hurt anybody. I hope he hasn't done it to anybody else. That's ourconcern. That we need to find him and stop, stop him, Polansky said. I know there's so manyskeptics out there that say we'll never find him. I'm an optimist.
Nearly 32 years later it hasn't been easy. Investigators only have one picture of VanWisse at 18years old.
I'm sure he's going by another name, Polansky said. We have no other photos of him, so he isgoing to look a lot different. So, yeah, that's an obvious problem.
Still, Polansky is hopeful justice will be served.
I feel like we're right there. Like, I really do feel like any night I'll get a phone call thatwe have him, Polansky said. I know it sounds funny, but I do. I feel like any night, I'll getthat phone call, 'Get on a plane. We've got him.'
VanWisse's family members still live in the Austin area, but police say they have not beencooperative in the investigation.
Message from Executive Director Laura A. Ahearn: Parents for Megan's Law andthe Crime Victims Center provides advocacy, counseling and other valuable support services to childand adult victims of sexual assault and to all victims of violent crime. Please visit ourwebsite at www.parentsformeganslaw.org for news, information and resources in yourcommunity.