Thriller Thursday: Personal Tragedy

On January 22, 1986, my sister’s best friend, Amy Jo Harris, was murdered in Greenwood, Indiana. She was fifteen. This is Amy’s story, as told by my sister, Beth.

Amy Jo Harris in 1986.

She was a year ahead of Amy in school, and the two met when Beth was a sophomore. Their personalities meshed well – both dealt with issues with their parents (Beth lived with her mother, and they didn’t get along at the time) and shared a huge love of Prince. In fact, my only memory of Amy is from shortly before we moved to Iowa, and she and Beth were visiting. I can still see them lounging in the backyard, listening to Prince and tanning. To this day, I always think of Beth and Amy when I hear Prince.

Beth remembers Amy as very gregarious, pretty, well-liked, smart and athletic. Amy was popular, and for all the right reasons. She genuinely cared about everyone and went out of her way for her friends.

She was aware that my mom and I didn’t get a long and she always supported and encouraged me. Whatever I needed, she was there.  I had a part-time job at a pizza place that was a few miles from her house and she knew I was upset at work one night, so she walked there, brought me a stuffed bunny, with a sweet note attached to its arm, encouraging me to keep my head up. –Beth

Amy struggled with her parents divorce and lived with her mother and sister, but she’s remembered by her friends as a happy, positive person, drug free and never in trouble.

January 23rd, 1986 started out as a typical cold winter morning for my sister. Then Amy’s mother called wanting to know if she’d seen or spoken to her daughter. Amy hadn’t come home the day before, but her mother assumed she spent the night at friend’s.

The field where Amy's body was found.

I knew when I got off the phone with Jan that Amy was dead. I’m not sure how I knew, but I just did. –Beth

After school, Beth received the call she’d been dreading. Amy’s body had been found in a cornfield by a farmer walking his dog in Center Grove, just a few miles west of Greenwood. Dressed in running shorts, tennis shoes, and a gray sweatshirt, she’d been raped and strangled to death. A plaid jacket was placed over her head in an attempt to hide the body.

Her friends at Greenwood High School were in shock. Still a relatively small town in 1986, the Indianapolis suburb had a low murder rate. Things like that didn’t happen in Greenwood, especially to someone like Amy.

The police questioned all the students, including my sister, and a suspect soon emerged. Gary Monday, a classmate of Amy’s. Trusted by his friends, he was into fast cars and cruising. All of the students defended Gary – he might have been odd, but there were no signs he was capable of something as heinous as murder.

Still, circumstantial evidence quickly mounted against him. Amy had mentioned to friends a guy in a silver Camero was following her. Gary drove a Camero painted with silver primer, and the night her body was found, he asked a friend to paint the car. That friend remembers Gary acting panicked. Gary also arrived late to school on the morning of January 22 and many said he acted strangely.

Gary Monday.

Then the hard facts started coming in. On the morning of the 22nd, neighbors saw a man matching Gary’s description carrying Amy over his shoulder from her home and placing her inside a silver Chevy Camero. Plaster casts taken in the field where Amy’s body was found matched the tires on Monday’s Camero, and his tennis shoes matched the prints found at the scene.

Gary Monday was arrested on January 25 at Greenwood High School. His denials didn’t last long. His story? His interlude with Amy had been planned, the two having agreed to meet on the morning of the 22nd after Amy’s mother left for work. He claimed Amy wanted to be dropped off away from school, that she didn’t want to be seen with him. He got angry, they argued, she fell back and hit her head on the doorknob. Monday said he panicked when she started yelling for help. To quiet her, he held a pillow over her face and accidentally suffocated her.

Monday hiding his face from cameras on his way into the courthouse.

I don’t buy it. Amy had no interest in losing her virginity, and she wasn’t the type of girl to make such a rash decision, especially on the morning before school. Her mother worked a lot and Amy had free reign, so finding privacy wasn’t likely an issue. Gary Monday showed up before school and raped and murdered the girl he’d been spying on. He was charged with first degree murder.

His plea deal avoided a trial, and he’s now in the Miami Correctional Facility until at least 2023. Monday has stated he was given bad advice by his attorney and has tried to have his appeal taken on pro bono but so far, no prisoner’s rights groups are interested. He’s serving consecutive terms: forty years for the murder and twenty-eight for the rape.

Loved in life and mourned in death, over 1,000 people attended her viewing, which was standing room only. And now, twenty-six years later, the aftermath is still felt among Amy’s family and friends. Today would have been her forty-second birthday, and she is still missed every day by her mother Jan, Beth, and countless other friends and family.

Have you lost a loved one to murder or know of anyone who has? How did you cope? Do grief counseling groups help?

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About Stacy Green

Stacy Green is the best selling author of psychological thrillers and mystery with a dash of romance. As a stay at home mom, she's blessed with making writing a full-time career. She lives in Iowa with her supportive husband, daughter, and their three fur-babies.
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57 Responses to Thriller Thursday: Personal Tragedy

  1. donnagalanti says:

    Stacy, a truly sad and horrific tale. I am sure this has touched your family and friends in many ways, and continues to do so decades later. Something like this is never forgotten, nor a young girl with her whole life ahead of her. How can we really know people and what they are capable of, like what Gary did? Who could have predicted that?

    • Stacy Green says:

      Yes, it is. It’s actually one of my earliest clear memories. I remember my brother calling to Iowa (we’d already moved out here) and crying. It’s one of the only times I remember him crying. Can’t even imagine what my sister and Amy’s family have gone through.

      And you know what, that’s the scariest thing about people – no matter how much we study them, they can’t be predicted.

      • donnagalanti says:

        How awful for them. And I know how something liek that can haunt a family and a town. My cousin was unpredictable and mentally ill. Our family tried to get her help but she was paranoid and thought someone was after her and her 9 year old son. One night she took a shotgun and killed him, then herself, in my aunt and uncle’s house. We knew she thought she was protecting her son, but it didnt make the loss any less horrific or agonizing. I will never forget going to that double funeral and seeing my little cousin so peaceful, like he was asleep. My son now plays with his wooden train tracks set. He is 9 now too. My little cousin would be 30 now. Senseless tragedy is terribly sad.

      • Stacy Green says:

        Wow, Donna. That’s heartbreaking. I think you’ve shared that story, and it’s still awful. A funeral for a child has to be one of the most horrible things to witness. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. talhea says:

    This story really hits home for me. One of my daughters is exactly the same age as Amy, and looked a lot like her back then. Also it’s a reminder that violence like this is nothing new. More attention now because of the explosion of media, but bad things have happened as long as man has inhabited the planet. And will continue. Poignant story, Stacy.
    PD

    • Stacy Green says:

      Wow, I’m sure it does. No, violence isn’t anything new. But there was a time when you felt safe letting your kids walk down the street. Now the worst is always a possibility, no matter where you live. Thank you so much.

  3. I wish that had been fiction rather than fact. How unfortunate and sad for everyone involved to carry that memory forever. Well written!

    • Stacy Green says:

      Thank you. I have to give my sister credit for the writing. I really just transcribed the information she sent me. Yes, it’s so sad. Hard to believe all the time that’s passed.

  4. That’s a terrible story, very tragic.

    My mother had a cousin in Connecticut. Her daughter’s former boyfriend turned on her after the break-up, broke into the house one night. He murdered the mother, nearly killed her son, and raped her daughter and held her hostage until the police took him down. He got thrown into prison for the rest of his life.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Wow. That’s just awful, especially to involve her children. I don’t understand the kind of rage these people can have. I hope he’s getting his just treatment in prison. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Just…wow. I can’t even imagine someone that close to me being murdered. It was hard enough to lose a best friend by natural causes. Losing someone who was murdered has to be hard to cope with.

    • Stacy Green says:

      I can’t, either. I was only nine at the time, and while I knew it was serious, I didn’t fully grasp it until I got older. I’m sorry about your friend – loss is never easy, no matter the circumstance.

  6. Bobby says:

    thanks stacy after all thease years it seems just like yesterday she truly was an angel looking back at her picture and now myself at 41 really comes to light what a waist all that was hope her lil sis and mom are ok people i run into from that time that knew her never fail to mention her tell your sis Bobby said hello and as far as monday goes he’ll defintly be put where he belongs after 2023

    • Stacy Green says:

      Wow, hi there. I’m sure it does seem like yesterday to all of you. Things like that never really dim. I will let Beth know you said hello, and thanks for stopping by. I think her mom and sister are doing much better with the addition of Conner. He’s been a big light in their lives.

  7. Bill says:

    I did not know Amy, but I was only a freshmen, but somethings are impossible to forget. Needless to say, when Gary Monday once told me in Middle School he was going to kill me, I didn’t think anything of it at the time. A few years later … Does anyone else ever remember a high school cafeteria ever being so quiet you could hear a pin drop? RIP Amy Harris.

    • Stacy Green says:

      I can only imagine, Bill. It’s got to be one of those times you knew exactly where you were when you heard the news. And that is just … creepy as hell. Must have really hit hard for you when you heard about Amy. Thanks so much for stopping by. And yes, RIP Amy.

  8. Years ago, some folks from our church were called away for a “family emergency.” It wasn’t until they returned that we found out the wife’s mother had been murdered in her home down in Florida. I didn’t even know her, but her tragedy had such an impact on me as I watched the family struggle in the wake of this loss. And it had a ripple effect, like someone droping a huge stone in a pool of water. The sadness and anger spread from family to friends, and then to their family and friends, and so on. Pretty soon, people in a sleepy little one-stop-sign town in nowhere Ohio started locking their doors because they were afraid of what happened hundreds of miles away.

    Because we are all connected.

    My heart goes out to Amy’s family, and to all those that have mourned her loss. I know many lives were forever changed that day. Thank you, and your sister, for sharing Amy’s story. Now we will all remember her as well.

    Laura Ritchie

    • Stacy Green says:

      How awful! Losing a parent is bad enough, but to have them ripped away like that. Can’t even fathom. And I’m sure it did have a ripple effect, especially in your church community. Tight knit groups like that always feel the bulk of the pain, even more so years ago when more people attended and in a small town. We are all connected, that’s very true.

      Thank you so much for sharing your story and your kind comment.

  9. Karen Rought says:

    This is a beautiful and tragic story. Please thank your sister for sharing. Did the court buy his story, or did they charge him according to something closer to your beliefs (that he showed up unannounced, raped, and killed her)?

    • Stacy Green says:

      I will, and thank you. I’m not sure what the court said, honestly, but it’s always been my understanding they didn’t but it. He was sentenced separately for the rape and murder.

  10. Wow. Wow, Stacy.

    My favorite English teacher was murdered a few years into his retirement. How did I cope? I’d tell you more about his murder, but I plan to write a ficitionalized story about it. His murder was never solved.

  11. Catie Rhodes says:

    What a powerful story. It’s one of those things that I am sure people who knew Amy and her family couldn’t believe was happening. What a horror show to be raped and murdered by a classmate, someone she likely trusted. I can only imagine the terror of her last moments. Thanks for sharing such a deeply personal story.

    I can’t believe that guy will actually be eligible for parole…

    As to your question, I have never lost anyone close in such a tragic way. I sat here for a few minutes trying to decide if I even knew someone in passing who had met such a tragic end, but I don’t. I guess I am lucky.

    Great post. 😀

    • Stacy Green says:

      She did trust him, far as I know. They always thought he showed up unannounced, made a move on her, she refused. Then he attacked. I remember hearing at the time they weren’t sure if he meant to kill her or was just trying to keep her silent. The terror she went through is just sickening.

      He will be, but hopefully he’ll stay where he belongs.

      You are very lucky. And thank you.

  12. What a touching story and tribute, Stacy. You and your sister can help many by sharing this story. I see so much of Gaven de Becker’s book, “The Gift of Fear,” here—being followed, someone she knew, her instincts warning her of his stalking… I’m so sorry this happened. Thanks for bringing necessary light to a dark and scary topic.

  13. Coleen Patrick says:

    Thank you for sharing Stacy. I can’t even imagine. It’s one thing to lose someone to disease or accident, but for their life to be taken by another? There must be so much anger in addition to the grief. My heart goes out to her family.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Yes, I’ve lost two brothers to accidents and cancer, and that was bad enough. I can’t imagine the anger and grief at losing someone to murder. I don’t know how a person continues after that. Thanks for stopping by.

  14. Julie Glover says:

    While I knew fellow students in high school who died, none of them was murdered. I can’t imagine the horror of this event. Just reading her story brings tears to my eyes. I’m so sorry for your sister’s loss; I’m sure it still aches when she thinks about her friend taken too soon. You do her honor with this post about her tragedy and justice applied to the killer.

    • Stacy Green says:

      I had a fellow high school student die, too. In a car accident. That was bad enough. Thank you so much for your kind words. It’s still hard for my sister to think about, and I appreciate your thoughts.

  15. Adriana Ryan says:

    This is so heartbreaking, Stacy. I can’t imagine the pain and horror of losing a daughter, especially in such a violent and senseless manner. Monday sounds like he was a classic violent sexual predator, and his behavior escalated from stalking. It’s terribly sad. 😦

    • Stacy Green says:

      I can’t, either. Her mother had a hard time of it for a long time, but her grandchild has been a major blessing. You’re right, I think that’s exactly what he was. Thankfully he’s behind bars. Thanks for stopping by.

  16. K.B. Owen says:

    Oh, Stacy, how terrible. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    I’ve been fortunate enough in my life (so far) to never have been directly affected by a murder or rape, and I hope I never will. It’s a scary thought to contemplate, especially once you have kids. And most of the time, from what I understand, it’s someone known to the victim.

    It is good to listen to your instincts, but in the teenage years, that can be nearly impossible. My son (then in 8th grade) was robbed of his brand-new iPod birthday gift along a wooded path as he walked home from school. He saw these older high school kids at the far end of the path as he approached the woods, and he told me afterward that he felt something funny about them, and had been tempted not to go onto the path, but he felt silly (how else was he going to get home, he figured), ignored the feeling, and went on. Despite his attempts to get away, they threatened to beat him up, then grabbed it, and ran.

    Even an incident like that, minor as it was by comparison with the tragedy Amy suffered, made me feel sick and afraid, and took awhile to get over (esp. with court hearings my son had testify at against these big guys). I cannot begin to imagine how her family, your sister, and the community all felt when this happened.

    • Stacy Green says:

      You’re very lucky. And yes, once you have kids, it’s awful. I watch so many crime shows and read suspense, and I’m always horrified by what could happen to my child. I just don’t know how someone recovers from a loss like.

      Your poor son. It’s funny how our instincts are often squashed by pride, but at that age, I can’t blame him. At least he didn’t get beat up, but I’m sure it scared you all. That sort of thing can escalate.

      Thanks so much for your comment and for sharing your story.

  17. Jenny Hansen says:

    One of my very good friends from church lost her daughter to a murderer who was never caught. She received extremely good counseling and is (mostly) happy these days but i still see it back up on her and the wound is always there, especially knowing that the murderer will likely never be caught.

    Stories like this make me so, so sad.

    • Stacy Green says:

      That’s terrible. Losing her would be bad enough, but to live knowing her murdered never paid for it … just awful. And there are so many walking around free. I’m glad your friend received counseling, but I’m sure the wound will always be there. So sad. Thank you for sharing your story.

  18. Amber West says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Stacy. How absolutely tragic.

    A young girl I had known for years (the cousin of good friends who would hang out with us) was murdered. Her boyfriend, a police officer, shot her in their apartment, then himself. It’s been about 6 or 7 years now, but it still seems unreal.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Yes, it is, and you’re welcome. Your story is so sad. He must have been really screwed up to do something like that, and how awful for both families, especially his. So sad.

      Thanks for sharing with us.

  19. Oh my, this is so sad. That poor girl. And her family.
    I had a best friend that was raped and left for dead when we were in junior high. Luckily she was not dead, and survived it. But the experience changed her forever. It’s awful when something so violent touches our lives. And the effects are felt by so many around the victim.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Your poor best friend. I’ve no doubt it changed her. Can’t fathom having to recover from something like that. Learning to trust would be incredibly difficult.

      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m so glad Amy’s story was heard by so many:)

  20. beverlydiehl says:

    Stacy, thanks for sharing. Beth, (I have a sister Beth, too, small world!) I am so very sorry you lost your friend. Sometimes I wish I knew what was going on in a killer’s mind when s/he does something like this – and other times, I am glad I don’t know.

    It’s good though, never to forget the victims and their families. RIP, Amy.

    • Stacy Green says:

      You’re welcome. And it is a small world:)

      Like you, a big part of me would love to truly understand a killer’s mind. But I’m afraid his thoughts would either be too terrifying or too empty to stomach.

      Thanks for your comment.

  21. OMG, Stacy, this is so close to a tragedy that occurred the summer between middle school and high school. What my small town went through echoed through me as I read this. At least in Amy’s case, it sounds like her rapist/murderer received a punishment to fit the crime. Not so, for my classmate, one of the three walked completely free for taking police to her body (the others served less than 20 years each).

    This is a moving post and tribute to Amy. So, so sorry for your loss of Amy.

    • Stacy Green says:

      It’s always especially hard when something like this happens in a small community. In your case, that’s lousy justice. All three should have served life, period. I don’t understand how a person can be paroled for murder. I don’t care how good their behavior is. If you commit first degree murder and take someone’s life away, you forfeit yours, period.

      Thank you so much for your comment.

      • All three also raped her, repeatedly. So yes, lousy justice is an understatement. Her case actually brought the death penalty debate back to the table but we’ll just leave it at I’m on the fence about that. None were paroled, the sentencing was just that bad, and the one who took the police to her body was offered a plea deal…”supposedly too high to be held accountable.” Talk about a slap in the face to my classmate’s parents.

        ‘Kay, I’m jumping off my soapbox so not to hijack your blog 🙂

      • Stacy Green says:

        Hijack away! And that’s infuriating. One of them got off entirely for showing where the body is? Just wrong. Death is too good for people like that. So sorry about your friend.

  22. Wow. I don’t even know what to say. I’m very sorry your family lost someone so close to them in such an awful way.

    Thankfully, I’ve never lost someone I love to an intentional murder. (The drunk driver who killed my best friend years ago is currently serving 25 years for second degree murder and other charges, but that’s different.) I come from a very small town and I know how suicide or a tragic accident turns things on their head. I can’t even imagine what a murder would do.

    I have to say I agree completely with what you say above. Anyone who commits first degree murder should be locked up for life. (I know it’s not a popular view, but I actually support the death penalty in certain cases like serial killers.)

    • Stacy Green says:

      There isn’t really much you can say in these matters. It’s been harder my sister, and even worse, Amy’s service was held in the same place as our grandfather’s and other family members. Made things extra hard for her.

      Being killed by a drunk driver is damn near as bad as murder. Talk about senseless. I’m glad the driver is serving time for it, as he should be. The driver who killed my oldest brother in 2006 wasn’t drunk but made a major error. Still didn’t get any charges pressed against him.

      Honestly, I support the death penalty in a lot of cases as well. My only hesitation is when there is conflicting DNA evidence (especially in cases 10 years older or more) and the amount of money the appeals cost taxpayers. And sometimes, death’s too good for them. Like child killers. No one suffers worse in prison than they do, and they deserve every second of it. Harsh, I know.

      Thanks for stopping by, Marcy.

  23. joylene says:

    So very sad. My heart goes out to the parents. Even after all these years, I know the pain is horrendous. Recently, our granddaughter received a ride from a boy she knew. He dropped her off at her mum’s office. A few weeks later, he was arrested for murdering 4 teenage girls. They suspect there are more. We came very close to being a statistic. I shutter to think of how those other families are coping.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Oh, Joylene! That’s terrifying. Your poor granddaughter. I can’t even imagine the feeling of hearing the news about her friend killing those girls. Talk about the bottom dropping out of your stomach. Thank God she wasn’t a statistic.

      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story.

  24. DM Yates says:

    This story just breaks my heart. There are so many stories like this. I am so glad they found the person. So traumatic for the victim and her loved ones.

    • Stacy Green says:

      It is really heartbreaking, and yes, there are way too many stories like it out there. The one consolation is that Amy’s killer was caught. So many aren’t, and that would be unbearable.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  25. Kevin morey says:

    Stacy, I really can’t tell you how much your recanting of the events of that transpired that chilly January day brings back memories I had long forgotten. I was one of Amy’s classmates, sitting behind her in algebra and science classes. I remember her as an intelligent, attractive, popular girl. I was also friends with Gary through my stepsister who had known him for many years. I don’t know what went through his head that day, I don’t think any of us ever will. I know many have proclaimed he should have faced capitol punishment, and maybe they’re right. But I think having to live with the guilt of what he did sitting in his cell day after day may be worse than death. I can only hope Amy is in a better place. I know a worse one waits for Gary.

    • Stacy Green says:

      Hi, there. I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how terrible it must have been for all of you. I was about nine at the time, and I remember Beth and our older brother being just devastated. It’s a senseless, horrible tragedy, and I’m glad Amy is still remembered for the sweet person she was. As for Gary, I tend to agree. It’s easy to say an eye for an eye, but in cases like his, death is too easy. I’d rather see him rot in prison for a long time, with no sense of freedom, than to get an easy out.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment. Sorry for the delay in approving – I’ve been traveling.

      • Donna (Dugger) Ervin says:

        I know its a year after your last comment, however for some reason I was thinking about Amy and Gary today. I too was in class with both of them and can remember very vividly the horrific day at school when they arrested Gary and we all found out that our friend was no longer going to be at school with us because she had been killed by someone else who a lot of us were also friends with. I had decided today to look Gary up to find out if he was still in prison or if he had been released when I came across this feed. Reading this really brought back a lot of memories. Thank you for sharing Stacy.

      • Stacy Green says:

        Thanks for stopping by, Donna. I’m sure you feel the loss of Amy every day, as all of her classmates dod. Thankfully Gary is still in prison. And you are very welcome.

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