Real Name: Kathryn Jean Bonderson
Location: New Rockford, North Dakota
Date: October 25, 1987
Details: At around 2 am on October 25, 1987, 35 year old nurse Kathy Bonderson had an argument with her husband Robert about their teenage son who had not come home. Robert had done a cursory search for him, but was unsuccessful. Kathy was angry because she was late for work at the convalescent hospital. She went out to search for their son.
A few minutes later at 2:30 am, her son noticed his mother's car drive by him while he was parked with his girlfriend near a bridge. He ducked out of sight so that she would not notice him. He saw another vehicle following his mother's car; this was believed to be the last time Kathy was seen alive.
One hour later, her 1974 Ford Torino was found engulfed in flames on a gravel road north of town near a railroad track; her body was inside on the front passenger side. After firefighters put out the fire, Kathy's body was removed and an investigation into the crash began.
Sheriff Ed Allmaras believed that the fire started from the front of the car. He believed that Kathy, for some unknown reason, swerved to the right as she approached the railroad crossing and went over the exposed tracks. Then, the car went into the ditch and caught fire, with Kathy being thrown into the passenger side.
Allmaras believed that Kathy Bonderson had been the victim of a tragic accident, but several clues found at the scene suggested otherwise, and state highway patrolman William Byram believed that something was odd about the crash. He learned that her car keys were found virtually undamaged on the floorboard of the car, even though the car's interior had melted.
Byram found no tire tracks that showed that Kathy had veered off the side of the road. He believed that the marks on the tracks that Allmaras thought were from Kathy's car were actually from the firetrucks.
The next day, Byram and fire marshal Curt Fogel inspected Kathy's car. The two noticed that the car was totally burned, but found no structural damage from the impact. They also found that there was still twelve gallons of gasoline in the car. There was also no damage to the fuel line. Fogel soon concluded that the fire had started in several different areas. He believed that the fire was not an accident, but instead an intentional act.
Three weeks later, Byram requested that Kathy's body be exhumed for a new autopsy. At first, Allmaras objected, but Byram threatened to get a court order, so Allmaras let the body be exhumed. The autopsy suggested that Kathy was killed before the fire was ignited, because there was no carbon monoxide in her lungs.
Tests conducted on Kathy's clothing and the vehicle's carpeting revealed that each contained traces of gasoline, supporting the theory of arson. Furthermore, several days after the incident, a gasoline can was found near the scene.
However, Allmaras, refused to change the status on the case from "accident" to "homicide", claiming that there was no evidence that it was a murder. Byram, however, believed that Kathy's death was not an accident, based on the facts in the case and the evidence found at the scene. He believes that somebody murdered Kathy and then set her body on fire to make it look like an accident. However, no suspects in Kathy's death have ever been publicly identified and the case remains open.
Suspects: None known
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the November 10, 1991 episode.
Results: Solved. In November of 2005, cold case investigators re-opened the case and a new autopsy performed proved that Kathy had definitely been murdered. It was discovered that there were injuries to her neck and throat that were not consistent with the accident. It is believed that these injuries were the cause of her death.
In February of 2006, authorities discovered that Kathy's husband Robert was living in Thermopolis, Wyoming. After talking to the police, he vanished, leaving behind his bank and credit cards. In April of 2006, authorities discovered that Robert had taken his own life in a remote cabin in the Montana mountains. Police later concluded that had Robert been alive, that he would have been arrested for Kathy's murder, and that he is definitely responsible for her death.
During the investigations over the years, it was discovered that Robert had started dating another woman a few months prior to Kathy's death. Also, he had taken a $50,000 life insurance policy out on Kathy just two months prior to her death. It was also discovered that their son, Jamie, who had seen his mother's car driving by him on the night of her death, had stated that his father was the one driving the car. His girlfriend confirmed this, as she had written about it in her diary. Investigators now believe that Kathy was killed at her home and placed in her car. They believe that Robert drove her to the railroad tracks and set her car on fire. The case is now considered closed.
Sheriff Ed Allmaras passed away in 1997.
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