In September 1986, The Oprah Winfrey Show began broadcasting across the United States. Top Gun, Stand By Me, and Crocodile Dundee topped the box office chart, while the love song from Top Gun, “Take My Breath Away,” hit number one on the Billboard list. Beloved shows like Cheers and Golden Girls made us laugh hysterically from the comfort of our homes.
The 80s was a great decade to be alive and young.
Tuesday, September 23, 1986, was the official first day of fall, and leaves on the trees turned red, yellow, orange, and brown in the small New England coastal town of Norwalk, Connecticut. On this same day, 11-year-old Kathleen Flynn attended the Ponus Ridge Middle School until school was dismissed at 2:40 p.m. Afterwards, she headed for the paved path through the woods next to her school to walk the short distance to her house. Kathleen never made it home. At 3:30 a.m. the following morning, the young girl was found dead. She had been raped and strangled.
When she was last seen walking into the woods, soccer and field hockey teams were practicing nearby at the school’s athletic fields, and hundreds of students and parents swarmed the school grounds.
Not one person saw or heard a thing, but the police received hundreds of tips.
The hottest lead came from a student, who told detectives he saw three men confront Kathleen in the woods. He provided a detailed description of two of them. Months later, detectives confronted the boy with their suspicions that the story was made up. He admitted the lie. The FBI was called in within days of the killing to compare the crime against a national database of violent crimes. Local detectives tracked down every known sex offender and determined their whereabouts on the afternoon of Sept. 23. In all, detectives interviewed about 50 men who were suspects, in the loosest sense of the word. Police in nearby Westchester, N.Y., forwarded a thick file on their sex offenders. It included details on men arrested for everything from rape to public urination (Pazniokas, 2000).
None of it led to an arrest. In 2000, authorities announced they had a suspect but did not release the person’s name. They also announced mitochondrial DNA testing of hairs found at the crime scene would be performed. It is unclear what the results were from that testing.
As far as I can tell, Kathleen’s parents, Jim and Esther Flynn, are still alive and reside in the same house they shared with Kathleen and their son, James.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
One thing that stands out to me is the boldness of the crime – committed with many people nearby in broad daylight. The killer was not worried about anyone finding them. He must have been one hell of a cocky asshole. Didn’t other kids who lived nearby walk this path? It is a wooded area, so he probably took her off the trail and into the woods where they could be hidden from view. If other children were walking this route, how did the killer grab Kathleen without being seen? Could she have known her killer?
Did the killer single Kathleen out, or was he waiting for any child to come along on the path? Did he live in the same neighborhood as Kathleen? Was there more than one killer?
Whoever killed her knew when school let out, so did he live in the area? Have a kid at the same school?
At the time of Kathleen’s murder, her father, James, owned a restaurant in Rowayton, CT called Cap’n Henry’s. Maybe the killer saw Kathleen there and stalked her. I read that Kathleen and her older brother, James, worked at the restaurant from time to time.
I also read that Kathleen normally did not walk through the woods on her way home from school, so why did she do so this time? And if she didn’t, and she was singled out, how did her killer know she would be walking that way? Maybe she was lured there somehow by her killer.
This case is very similar to the Michelle Norris case I published on February 23, 2016.
Source: Pazniokas, Mark. ‘Girl’s Death Leaves Only Questions, Grief.’ tribunedigital-thecourant. N.P., 2007. Web. 16 July 2015.