Charges against a woman arrested in the brutal killing of a Kansas teenager found dead nearly 30 years ago have been dismissed, officials said.
Carolyn Heckert, of Smithville, Mo., was charged in October 2016 in the murder of Sarah DeLeon, who was last seen alive while leaving her boyfriend’s house at about 1 a.m. on December 29, 1989.
A train crew found the 19-year-old woman’s body stabbed numerous times and suffering head trauma along railroad tracks in Kansas City, authorities said.
Her black Mustang, which was found nearby, showed no signs of a struggle and no indication of sexual assault.
Heckert, a 48-year-old former realtor, was arrested after new DNA collection and testing technology led police to reopen the case in July 2014.
But the first-degree premeditated murder charge Heckert faced was dismissed after Judge Aaron Roberts ruled there was insufficient evidence to tie her to the unsolved crime, Wyandotte County prosecutors announced Friday.
Heckert’s attorney, John P. O’Conner, said his client was elated that the charge was dropped.
"The prosecution presented a lot on motive but had no physical evidence and no witness putting her at the scene," John Gromowsky, another lawyer for Heckert, told KCTV-TV.
In May 2016, investigators said they had identified a female suspect, who they believed may have been motivated by a romantic rivalry.
They did not reveal that person’s name at the time, but said the suspect had been involved in incidents involving the harassment and intimidation of romantic rivals.
Police also said at the time they believed there was a link between DeLeon’s murder and the unsolved 1994 killing of Missouri mother-of-two Diana Marie Ault.
Ault, 26, was shot to death in her Independence home near her two young children after she and her husband told police they had received threatening phone calls from a woman.
"We knew Sarah was harassed and a little bit bullied and we feel like that also ties into the connection with the Ault case, too," DeLeon’s brother, Matt DeLeon, told KBMC at the time.
The Ault case remains open.
The district attorney can file a murder charge again should new evidence arise in the DeLeon case, KCTV reported.
DeLeon’s brother told the station he felt the latest development was "just a roadblock."