It was a shocking and heinous crime that rocked the sleepy town of Germantown, Wisconsin. It took years for police to track down the killer of a young woman that was stabbed nearly 50 times and left to die on the side of the road like trash.
The case of the murder of Theresa Wesolowski all started with a frantic 911 call. And it ended with the revelation of an unexpected killer.
On the balmy morning of May 28, 1999, a 911 call was received from someone alarmed at seeing a woman lying on the side of the road. When authorities arrived, they found blood in the street and on the grass. The victim, who was later identified as 22-year-old Theresa Wesolowski, was lying face down on the ground next to her car. She’d been stabbed multiple times on the front of her body and in her neck and back, and there was blood on her hands. Evidence at the scene indicated she’d been stabbed in different locations — the street, the grass, and against the car.
The sheer brutality of the scene led authorities to believe that her killer was furiously enraged during the attack. “I do believe there was rage in this case,” Michael Yogurst, a detective with the Germantown Police Department, said at the time.
Tire marks suggested that another car had been present in front of Wesolowski’s and had quickly sped away. Investigators found money left behind in Theresa’s purse, so robbery as a motive was quickly ruled out. No murder weapon was found at the scene. The coroner’s report said she had been stabbed 47 times!
Wesolowski’s parents were shocked when authorities notified them. All of her loved ones said that Theresa was well-liked by everyone who knew her, and no one could think of any reason why anyone would want to hurt her, especially in such a violent manner. The results of the autopsy also showed that, due to the lack of defensive wounds, Wesolowski was likely taken by surprise. The autopsy also suggested that the assailant, after a frontal assault, held her face pressed into the ground and stabbed her in the neck and back many more times.
Prior to the discovery of her body, the last time anyone saw Wesolowski, she was leaving her second job at a box factory at around 11 at night. Police received a tip that workers at a local Department of Public Works, near the box factory, had seen a man who arrived covered in blood. He asked to use a bathroom to clean up and then left promptly. Police had a sketch artist create a likeness of the suspect and released it to the public.
A Boyfriend and an Alibi
After interviewing friends and family, police discovered that Wesolowski had a boyfriend named “Charlie” with who she “argued frequently.” This raised their hackles, given that rage seemed involved in her brutal slaying.
Police brought Charlie in. He seemed nervous during questioning, but he had an alibi for the time of the murder, which his mother backed up. So, investigators turned elsewhere.
Since the murder was so close to where she worked, as was the Public Utility where the bloody man was seen, the police turned their sites back to Wesolowski’s workplace. One of her co-workers who described himself as a “close friend” of hers – Mark Libecki – said she seemed off and like she was having a bad day the day before she was found dead.
Others at the factory reported seeing Wesolowski arguing with another co-worker, Isaac Alvarez, at her car before leaving that night. This piqued police’s interest, as Alvarez was known for carrying a knife at all times. But during his police interview, Isaac maintained his innocence, and the results of a polygraph test were inconclusive.
Police moved on to their next suspect, a man named Jerry Kirkpatrick, who worked as a delivery person at the sandwich shop where Wesolowski worked her other job. He had pursued her romantically, but Wesolowski wasn’t interested. Wesolowski’s friends were especially suspicious because they thought the police sketch of the blood-covered man at the factory resembled Kirkpatrick.
However, Kirkpatrick ended up having a solid alibi as well.
Weeks turned to months, and the case grew cold. It became very tough on her family and friends because police insisted her murder was not some random act but that her killer was someone well-known to her. But with little evidence, police were no closer to finding out who that was, and Wesolowski’s inner circle began to turn on themselves, each suspecting that their loved one’s killer was among them.
A Vigil and a Break in the Case
Years went by, and there were still no answers. The case was only kept alive by Wesolowski’s family, who held an annual graveside vigil on the anniversary of her death. It was at one of those vigils in 2005 that progress was finally made. The family noticed flower arrangements had been left at her grave, but no one knew who had left them. It was the police’s first clue, perhaps that someone was feeling guilty for Theresa’s death.
That same year, a new type of DNA testing became available. Thanks to Y-STR DNA testing, researchers were now able to find trace amounts of male DNA in large amounts of female DNA. The process has been described as “finding a single grain of salt in a bag of sugar.”
The new type of test was the break investigators needed.
Using the technique on the blood from Wesolowski’s hands, DNA analysts were able to extract male DNA from it. Circling back to men even vaguely related to Wesolowski and the case, they got an unexpected match – Mark Libecki, Wesolowski’s friend from the box factory!
Libecki’s co-workers painted a picture of him as a quiet, likable divorced man who liked to show off pictures of his daughters. However, it turns out the Libecki was living a lie. He was neither married nor had any children. In reality, he lived with his parents in a mobile home in the poor rural part of town, and authorities theorized that he lied about his life in an attempt to fit in better with his co-workers.
“He had this pretend life,” Detective Yogurst said.
As the investigation into Libecki deepened, police learned that he had asked another female co-worker what he could do to get Theresa to “like him more.” This proved to investigators that he did have feelings for her and provided unrequited love as a motive for the rage-filled killing. The case against him continued to mount — his shoes were a match to the type that left the bloody footprints found at the crime scene, and the tires and type of car he drove matched the acceleration marks on the road.
When Libecki was finally called in for questioning, he at first denied being anywhere near Theresa that night. But when pressed with the DNA evidence, he said he might have hugged Theresa that night and that he and another co-worker – Tommy Thompson – were all in his car doing drugs when she got into a tussle in the back seat with Thompson, and he stabbed her and threatened to kill Libecki if he did not keep his mouth shut about it.
Thompson had died three years before the case against Libecki was being made, so there was no way to corroborate his story. However, friends and family say it made no sense. Theresa had never been involved with any kind of drugs. She rarely even drank alcohol.
Police were still convinced they had their killer in Mark Libecki. They managed to track down the car he’d been driving at the time of the murder and had it taken completely apart – and found traces of blood beneath the perforated leather of the seats. Testing showed the blood was Wesolowski’s, and officials charged Libecki with her murder.
Although he maintained his innocence and claimed it was Thompson who did it, authorities believe Libecki had been lonely and built up a relationship with Wesolowski in his mind. On the night of the murder, he’d finally made his move, and when he was rebuked by Wesolowski, he flew into a rage and brutally murdered her.
“He was a monster that night,” Kim Skorlinski, a special agent with the Wisconsin Department Of Justice, told the local press.
Libecki was convicted of Wesolowski’s murder. A judge sentenced him to 30 years in prison without the chance of parole.