On Oct. 3, 1997, a jogger found the body of 37-year-old Virginia “Ginny” Jillson in a clump of trees off Stanton Christiana Road in New Castle County, Delaware. Upon first glance, the jogger thought a car had hit her, but sadly, that was not the case.
Ginny wore a black T-shirt with a shiny logo, a denim jacket, black jeans, and white sneakers.
The autopsy found Ginny had died from multiple injuries to her head and body. In 1999, state police investigators acknowledged that Ginny had been “tortured and mutilated.” There were no signs of sexual assault. A 1999 article in The News Journal states that her body “had been drained entirely of blood.”
Her killer had removed her clothes and redressed her before disposing of her body. Police believe she was killed elsewhere.
A former neighbor of Ginny’s said she had seen Ginny with bruises and a broken arm, but she brushed off her injuries with excuses – she ran into something, for example.
Another neighbor said Ginny planned to go to Las Vegas or Wyoming, where her older son resided with his father.
Others told police that Ginny frequented areas associated with sex workers, although police never arrested her for prostitution.
For several years, Ginny lived in Baytown, Texas, with her second husband, Wayne Jillson.
Jillson died in a construction accident in May 1989, leaving Ginny devastated, and she was never the same again. She began using drugs, and her life spiraled downhill.
Ginny remained in Texas and was briefly jailed on forgery charges. In 1991, she moved back to Delaware and lived with one of her sisters, Mary Ellen MacCord.
Things were going well for Ginny. She had a job at Alex’s Seafood in the New Castle Farmer’s Market, and in 1995, she gave birth to her second son, whose father lived in the area.
She moved into an apartment at Greenfield Manor Apartments in Glasgow and remained there for four years until September 1997, when her landlord evicted her.
Ginny then stayed in various motels in Manor Park, where she was known to hang out. However, the police had no idea where she was residing at the time of her death. Her family said she was unemployed and planned to return to Texas.
State troopers spent about a week searching along U.S. 13 in Manor Park, attempting to uncover Ginny’s last movements and warned sex workers in the area to be cautious.
Investigators also contacted other law enforcement agencies to see if they had cases similar to Ginny’s murder. They reviewed two cases in which sex workers had been slain before Ginny.
Linda R. Moody Armstrong, 35, was found dead in a lot in the 1600 block of Bowers Street in Wilmington on Jan. 5, 1993. She was nude and had been stabbed. Police discovered her clothes nearby. Witnesses reported seeing her get into a pickup truck with two males at 14th and Claymont streets, a few blocks from Bowers Street.
The clothed body of Bonita D. Jones, 37, was found at a residential construction site off Delaware 9 near Mansion Park, a townhomes community in New Castle, on Nov. 11, 1994. She had been bludgeoned to death.
Then, in 1998, a horrific kidnapping and murder shifted the Jillson murder investigation to a particular suspect.
On April 20, 1998, Donald A. Flagg, then 40, smoked crack cocaine before heading to his job at Newark’s Chrysler Assembly Plant. As he drove his green Plymouth Duster down Otts Chapel Road at 3 p.m., he spotted 46-year-old Debra Puglisi working in the yard of her Arizona State Drive home.
Flagg parked his car nearby on Oklahoma State Drive, grabbed his pistol, and walked back to the Puglisi home. He entered the residence undetected through a side door and helped himself to a beer from the refrigerator.
Debra’s husband, Anthony J. “Nino” Puglisi, 50, arrived home at 3:45 p.m. and saw Debra working outside. He told her he was going to take a nap.
“I’m going in, make sure you shake me at 4:15 p.m.,” he said.
Nino entered the home, and Flagg killed him with a single shot to the forehead.
Flagg then dragged Nino’s body into the first-floor bedroom and closed the door. He chugged another beer and waited for Debra to finish her work outside.
Debra entered the home through the front door at 4 p.m., turned left, and entered the kitchen. As she began washing her hands in the sink, Flagg attacked her, punching Debra in the head. Then, he hogtied her with a rope he had found in the Puglisi home.
Flagg took Debra to the basement and sexually assaulted her. He then retrieved his car, backed it across the Puglisis’ landscaped front lawn, threw Debra, hogtied, into his trunk, and took her to his home.
Over the next five days, Flagg repeatedly sexually assaulted Debra. He kept her bound but did allow her to use the bathroom.
On Friday, April 24, 1998, Flagg left his home to work the evening shift at the Chrysler plant. He untied Debra, put handcuffs on her hands and feet, and then connected the rope to both sets of handcuffs.
After Flagg left, Debra freed herself by slipping her handcuffed arms under her feet and wriggling her way to a telephone in the small bedroom Flagg used as an office in his three-bedroom home. She called 911.
The city’s enhanced 911 system displayed callers’ addresses, which allowed police officers to trace the call and rescue Debra. She remained on the line with the dispatcher until they arrived.
Debra did not hear the shot that killed her husband due to construction work in the area of her home. She did not know Nino was dead until the day after; Flagg read her a newspaper report and forced her to watch the news on television about her husband’s murder.
Flagg was arrested at work and ultimately convicted of Anthony’s murder and Debra’s kidnapping and rape and received two life sentences plus 43 years for attacking Debra, according to early reports. Recent articles say he received eight life sentences. He is currently incarcerated at James T. Vaughn Correctional Center.
Debra recounted her tragic story on Investigation Discovery’s “Your Worst Nightmare: No End in Sight.” She also wrote “Shattered: Reclaiming a Life Torn Apart by Violence.” (affiliate link)
Investigators wondered if Flagg had also killed Ginny. They searched his house and found blood, but it did not belong to her. Therefore, they cleared him as a suspect in her murder, which remains unsolved.
Police also looked at possible links to the Armstrong and Jones murders and the 1992 murder of 32-year-old Charlotte E. Soto, who had been found shot to death along the shoulder of Route 9 near Dobbinsville, New Castle. But those cases also remain unsolved.
True Crime Diva’s Thoughts
I wonder what Ginny had been doing before her death. Where was she last seen? There is little information on her case. I found a few articles on Google and Newspapers.com, but nothing beyond 1999.
What I find interesting about Ginny’s murder is that the killer did not rape Ginny. The killer had removed her clothes, so it makes zero sense he or she did not sexually assault her. Maybe she knew her killer, and this was a revenge killing. The killer wanted it to look like a sex crime, perhaps. Could it have been a jealous female?
I’m also curious about the newspaper report stating her body had been drained of blood. What does this mean? How long had she been dead?
Did police question her children’s fathers? At the time of Ginny’s death, her youngest son was living with his father in the New Castle area. What is the father’s background? How long were he and Ginny together? Was he abusive?
Or did a drug dealer or possibly pissed-off John or pimp kill Ginny? One of Ginny’s neighbors said she had seen bruises on her, and Ginny brushed them off with an excuse. Who was abusing her? Her pimp? The father of her second son?
I think the customer or drug dealer theory fits more with her lifestyle; however, it could have also been a random killing.
I don’t believe her death is connected to the Armstrong and Jones murders.