70-year-old Robert Honsch thought he had got away with double-murder. He is a man who after killing his wife and allegedly also his teenage daughter, he dumped their bodies 40 miles apart and then went on to create himself a new life, marrying again and living comfortably in Dalton, Ohio for the past 22 years. In a case which echoes that of John List who murdered his entire family in New Jersey in 1971 before starting a new life with a new family before he was finally caught and brought to justice in 1989, Honsch clearly had no intention of serving his punishment for taking the lives of two people he was supposed to love.
On 28 September 1995, the body of a teenage girl was found in New Britain, Connecticut. Shot in the head, she had been left in the doorway of a music store in the city’s shopping area, wrapped in plastic bags and a sleeping bag. giving the appearance at first glance that she was one of the many homeless sleeping in a doorway trying to stay protected and warm. Just one week later the body of a woman was found 40 miles away in Tolland State Forest in Massachusetts. She had also died from gunshot wounds. Both victims had no identification on them and all efforts to identify them failed, leaving them nameless and their killer or killers on the loose with little hope that justice would prevail.
For 16 years no new information could be gained about the two bodies that had been found back in 1995. Descriptions, photographs of the clothing they were found wearing and artists impressions of their faces were released to the public in attempts to find their identities, however, no calls came in and their details did not match anyone on the missing person’s database.
In January 2011, police released details that they believed the two bodies were mother and daughter which had been established through forensic testing. This discovery prompted the question that their murders were linked and may have been carried out by the same killer, however, they still had no names for who they were. It was a surprise call made to the New York State Police in 2014 which led to the breakthrough in this cold case and the arrest of Robert Honsch.
In June 2014, a relative contacted police to report that Marcia Honsch and her daughter Elizabeth Honsch were missing and to voice their concerns that Marcia’s husband and Elizabeth’s father, Robert Honsch, may have been responsible for their disappearance. They explained the family had been looking for the mother and daughter since they went missing in 1995. The caller told police that Robert Honsch had told them he, Marcia and Elizabeth were moving to Australia to start a new life.
New York State Police discovered news articles regarding the two unidentified bodies found in 1995 alongside images of Elizabeth Honsch released in an effort to identify her. When they contacted police in New Britain it became clear that the missing people’s report and the unidentified victims were the same people.
In 1995 Robert Honsch was living with his wife and teenage daughter in Brewster, New York. Although the couple had separated years earlier they had recently rekindled their relationship and moved back in together. Little is currently known about Honsch’s immediate movements after his wife and daughter disappeared but by the time of his arrest in 2014, he had married again and had three young children and was living in Dalton, Ohio under the name Robert Tyree.
Robert Honsch was arrested at his home in Ohio in June 2014 on charges of being a fugitive from justice. When questioned about the murders of his previous wife and daughter, he denied any knowledge of their deaths. He told detectives he suffered from memory problems and could not remember many events from his past including that his wife and daughter had gone missing or that he had told his wife’s family they were moving to Australia. He was charged with murder in both cases and due to the bodies being found in different districts he went on trial last month first for the murder of his wife, 53-year-old Marcia Honsch in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Limited evidence regarding his daughter’s murder was also heard with details of forensic evidence of Honsch’s palm prints being found on the plastic bags that were found wrapped around her body. Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner Dr. James R. Gill also testified telling the court that Elizabeth had been shot in the head with evidence showing “the muzzle was pressed against the skin” when she was shot. On 12 June 2017, the jury returned a guilty verdict and Robert Honsch is now looking at a sentence of life behind bars. Now that this first trial has concluded, Robert Honsch will face a second trial, this time for the murder of his 16-year-old daughter Elizabeth Honsch which will take place in Connecticut.
“For so long these two had to go nameless. He didn’t even allow them the dignity of having their own identity. They were known as Jane Does.”
Convicted of one murder and due to face trial for a second murder, Robert Honsch’s plans to build a new life and live out his days completely free of responsibility for his actions have come to an end. Although he is still to face this second trial, his conviction for his wife’s murder does make it more likely he will also be convicted of the murder of his daughter. The joint work of police forces in New York, New Britain, and Massachusetts have allowed two unidentified murder victims to now be named and provided the justice they and their families deserve after 22 years.