After discovering the basic facts behind Amanda Van Scyoc’s shocking homicide, even the most casual of observers is no doubt left with more questions than answers. In this post, we’ll review what few clues exist and the possible leads law enforcement may have missed or failed to follow up on.
- The last person to admit to seeing Amanda alive was her mother, Linda Warner. Warner also stated that later in the day, she had attempted to call Amanda at the residence they shared with her husband, John Warner, but received no answer. Amanda’s stepfather told police he had been home all day, but no witnesses were available to verify his whereabouts. If John Warner was really home all day, as he reportedly told police, why didn’t he answer the phone when Linda called?
- Despite the odd circumstances surrounding her daughter’s disappearance, Linda Warner told police the reason her parents did not report Amanda missing was because it would have been a violation of her probation, and they did not want to risk getting her in trouble. That seems quite plausible. However, Linda has also been quite vocal about her belief that Amanda’s murder happened as a direct result of her brief stint as a narcotics informant. If Linda truly believed that was the case, why didn’t she inform police after the first day or two her daughter didn’t return home? Why didn’t she bother calling them until four days later, when the local news announced that a body matching the description of her daughter had been found?
- Amanda’s purse and other personal effects were found in a police search of the home she shared with Linda and John Warner. Where did her mother think she had gone without those items? And under what exact circumstances did she think Amanda would’ve been able to survive without clothes, money, or identification?
- The Warrick County Sheriff’s Department denies Amanda’s death had anything to do with her informant status, in part because Amanda was such a terrible informant as to be virtually useless to them. She had apparently gone around telling all her friends about her work with police, possibly to avoid being put into a situation where she’d be forced to inform on them. Although she had phoned in some information to the police, absolutely none of her so-called tips resulted in any arrests. However, Amanda had previously testified against her ex-boyfriend in a robbery trial, and the theory that her murder was retribution for cooperation with prosecutors must be considered.
- What, if anything, can we learn from the physical evidence in the case? Everything
about the discovery of Amanda’s body was odd, beginning with where she was found. It was a well-known place for drug activity, and it seems as though Amanda was familiar with the area…which would seem to indicate that it would be the last place for anyone to leave Amanda’s body if they didn’t want her found. In another unusual turn, police had received a call about suspicious activity at the same location earlier that day, but responding officers hadn’t spotted anything out of the ordinary. They were forced to return a few hours later though, after deer hunters reported the discovery of a body. This leads to some interesting questions: Is it possible that the first phone call police received that day was actually meant to direct them to Amanda’s body? Had a witness accidentally stumbled upon something horrible and unexpected? Or was the Amanda’s killer also someone who cared about her and wanted her body found?
- Amanda was found nude but wrapped in a carpet. Where did the carpet come from? Was it new, indicating a recent purchase, or had it come from someone’s house? Was it searched for fiber evidence? Why did the killer (presumably) remove Amanda’s clothes but then conceal her body within a rolled up carpet? Was there evidence of sexual assault? Were Amanda’s clothes ever found? If so, were they found at the same location or had they been dumped elsewhere?
- An autopsy revealed Amanda had been strangled to death. Forensic psychologist Helinä Häkkänen has found that “in a high percentage of cases, the offender and the victim have a family relationship.” She also cites prevous studies which show “the most frequent motives for homicidal strangulation have been rape , sexual jealousy, and personal rivalry.” Also, strangulation is an extremely up-close, personal method of murder, and it would be fairly safe to assume Amanda struggled with her attacker. Did she have anyone’s DNA under her fingernails? Were any of her relatives or known associates searched for defensive wounds?
- Amanda’s autopsy further revealed the presence of John Warner’s DNA on her corpse. When asked about the possibility of a sexual relationship with his stepdaughter, Warner initially denied it. However, when confronted with the DNA evidence, he admitted having sex with his barely-legal stepdaughter but claimed the “relationship” was consensual. Amanda had not only turned 18 just a few months before her death, but she’d also recently been incarcerated, bringing into question just when this supposed consensual relationship developed and whether it existed at all. Amanda over-shared with her friends about becoming a police informant. Did she ever mention to them about being involved in some kind of forbidden relationship? Was there anyone at all who could back up John Warner’s claim that his sex with Amanda was consensual? Might that have something to do with why she was found without any clothing?
- Police do not believe Amanda was killed where she was found. Instead, they believe her corpse was kept somewhere for about three days then brought to the rural location where she was later found. If they’re correct, that means the killer probably stored Amanda’s body at home or somewhere he/she was familiar with before eventually disposing of her. Was Amanda’s body checked for fiber evidence? A lack of fibers foreign to her usual environment (her home) would seem to indicate that she did not go elsewhere between the time she died and when her body was dumped. Alternatively, the presence of foreign fibers could lead to another location. Lastly, the Warners lived in a trailer at the time of Amanda’s death. If John did kill Amanda, it would’ve been difficult for him to conceal her decomposing body on the premises without Linda knowing anything about it.
- It’s been 20 years since Amanda died. So long after the fact, does it really matter who killed her? Unequivocally, yes. Although John Warner, the person many consider to be the main suspect in Amanda’s case, died in an auto accident several years ago, in the state of Indiana, if a second party assisted in the commission or concealment of a homicide, they are still eligible for prosecution even if the murderer himself is not. Most importantly, even though justice is sought in the victim’s name, it’s actually Amanda’s family who continue suffer. That suffering can only be made worse when no one is ever punished for her death. Amanda’s father, stepmother, and siblings deserve justice. They deserve to know who is responsible for her death. All these years later, they’re still waiting.
If you have any information about the murder of Amanda Van Scyoc, please contact:
Indiana State Police: Evansville Division
1-812-867-2079 or 1-800-852-3970
For a list of sources used for this entry, please see Part One.
Amanda Van Scyoc was just eighteen in the fall of 2001, but she’d already experienced a great deal in her short life. The Boonville teen had fallen in a with a criminal element, been implicated in an auto theft, wound up on probation, become a narcotics informant, and testified in court against ex-boyfriend Chad Leroy Goodwin, resulting in a robbery conviction. Still, Amanda was young. She had the rest of her life to make amends for her mistakes.
But someone had other plans.
According to her mother, Linda Warner, Amanda was last seen alive on the morning of November 9th. She told police Amanda had a second interview at WalMart later on that day, despite already being employed at Schnuck’s grocery store. (It’s unclear whether police ever verified this information with the retailer.) Warner further claimed that, after making sure Amanda was awake and preparing for the appointment, she then left for work, leaving her daughter alone in the residence they shared with her husband, John.
A few hours later, Linda reportedly called home to make sure Amanda had actually gone to the interview, but no one answered the telephone. Seemingly satisfied by this lack of a response, she hung up without speaking to anyone, even though Amanda’s stepfather was allegedly home at the time.
Hours passed and Amanda didn’t come home. Then days passed and she still didn’t come home. At the time, John and Linda discussed notifying police but decided against it. After all, they said, they didn’t want to do anything to endanger Amanda’s probation. So they remained silent, even though Linda claimed her daughter had received threats in connection with her work as a police informant. “She had spoken of those to us. She was really scared at times to come home, she had said get your gun and keep it close and lock the doors.”
However, police would later recover clues that would bring all of the couple’s statements into question.
On November 13th, two deer hunters discovered Amanda’s body in nearby Yankeetown. She had been strangled to death, her nude body wrapped in a carpet and tossed in a rural area locally regarded as a “drug hotspot.” Amanda was known to have frequented the location, but Indiana State Police detective Marvin Heilman cast doubt on the theory that’s where she was killed. “We believe she was killed four to five days before she was found and that location of the crime we haven’t been able to pinpoint. She was not killed where she was found.”
At the time her body was discovered, all of Amanda’s belongings, including her purse, were still at the home she shared with her mother and stepfather. After an autopsy revealed the presence of John Warner’s bodily fluid on her corpse, he eventually admitted to having sex with his then-barely legal stepdaughter but claimed their “relationship” had been consensual. Although he denied knowing anything about the teen’s death, both his wife Linda and Amanda’s father, Brad Van Scyoc, stated they had been told by police that Warner had failed his polygraph test.
Despite the evidence, Linda Warner publicly defended her husband John’s innocence. The couple stayed together until his death in an automobile accident in 2004, when his car crossed the center line and struck another vehicle.
No one was ever charged in connection with Amanda’s murder. Her case remains officially unsolved.
Anyone with information about this case is encouraged to contact:
Indiana State Police: Evansville Division
1-812-867-2079 or 1-800-852-3970
November 9, 2001: Amanda Van Scyoc, 18, was reportedly last seen alive by her mother, Linda Warner, shortly before the elder woman left for work. Four days later, Amanda’s nude body was found by deer hunters near the Ohio River. An autopsy later revealed both that she’d been strangled to death at least three days prior to her body being found and, according to multiple news reports, semen belonging to her stepfather was collected from her remains. Despite this, no one was ever charged in connection with her death and the case is still officially listed as unsolved.
For more about Amanda’s murder, check in again later this week for the full case write-up. In the meantime, anyone with information is encouraged to contact:
Indiana State Police
District Investigative Commander
19411 Highway 41 North
Evansville, IN 47725
1-812-867-2079 or 1-800-852-3970
Name: Joseph Weldon Brown
Known Aliases: (none)
Date of Birth: November 24, 1954
Claim to Infamy: Brown murdered Evansville resident Ginger Gasaway when she broke up with him and demanded the return of her car. After killing her, he dismembered her body with a reciprocating saw and discarded it in pieces around Posey, Gibson, and Warrick counties. While serving his life sentence for Gasaway’s murder, Brown confessed to killing thirteen others. Although some of the details he provided were able to be corroborated, no additional bodies were found to verify his claims. In 2011, he strangled another inmate to death at Miami Correctional Facility at Bunker Hill.
Indiana Connection: A native of Cynthiana, Brown was no stranger to Indiana law enforcement long before he murdered Ginger Gasaway. In 1977, he kidnapped, robbed, and assaulted a friend in Owensville. He had served 18 years of a life sentence for that crime when he was released to kill again.
Current Status: Serving life without the possibility of parole at the Westville Control Unit
Random Disturbing Fact: When the saw blade he was using to dismember Gasaway’s body broke, Brown walked into Home Depot splattered with blood and gore and calmly demanded an exchange. It was given to him, no questions asked.