Episode 101: Monica Walker

January 8, 2024

When a teenage girl turns up dead on the side of the highway, police search high and low for her killer. But did they catch the right person? What really happened to Monica Walker?

Episode Media
Monica Denise Walker, age 12 and age 15 (Dayton Daily News)
Monica Walker’s home on Superior Avenue (Google Maps)
Monica’s usual route to school (L), Distance from Monica’s house to where her body was found (R) (Google Maps)
Billy King (L) and David Fox (R) (Daily News, Journal Herald)
Episode Sources
Episode Transcript

Welcome back to Bite-Sized Crime. This week I’m kicking off a new season of the podcast with a complicated case that is nearly five decades old. I spent days researching, digging into old newspaper articles and court documents, but even forty pages of notes later, I’m still not completely sure what happened to Monica Walker or who was responsible for her death. This episode discusses sensitive topics, so listener discretion is advised.

In 1978, fifteen-year-old Monica Denise Walker was a freshman at Colonel White High School in Dayton, Ohio. She sang in the school choir and was a member of the cheerleading squad. Her cheer adviser told the Dayton Daily News that Monica was a sweet, shy young lady. “ She seemed like a nice girl, full of life and fun. She was always smiling and happy.”

On the morning of Tuesday, November 14th, Monica woke up as usual and readied herself for school. Around 7:30, wearing a multicolored dress and a brown jacket, she left the house and set off on her usual walk, heading north up Euclid Avenue. But somewhere along the mile-and-a-half route from home to school, Monica Walker disappeared.

When she didn’t arrive at school that morning, her friends and teachers weren’t that concerned. It wasn’t unusual for teenagers to skip school, and this was well before the days of personal cell phones. If Monica wasn’t at school on Tuesday, she would probably be back on Wednesday.

Sadly, that wouldn’t be the case.

Around 9:00 that same morning, a motorist driving along the Aullwood Service Road spotted something unusual near the treeline. When they pulled over to take a closer look, they discovered the body of a young black girl. It appeared as though she had been shot in the face.

First responders from Butler Township arrived at the scene. A medic checked the girl for a pulse, but it was clear that she was already dead. However, the medic noted that her body was still warm. She hadn’t been there long.

Officers noticed that the girl’s brown jacket and colorful dress were stained with blood, but it didn’t appear that she had been in a fight; the blood had come from a single gunshot wound. Other than missing her shoes, the girl was fully dressed, suggesting that she hadn’t been sexually assaulted prior to her death. Officers looked around for a purse or anything that could give them her identity, but all they found was $31 in her dress pocket.

Then, they discovered something strange. When they rolled the girl over, they found a piece of paper under her body. Although it had rained the night before, the paper was dry. The officers bagged it as evidence, and the girl was taken to the coroner’s office for autopsy.

By that evening an identification was made and the family was notified. The girl in the woods was 15-year-old Monica Walker.

An autopsy showed that Monica had been shot in the face at close range by a small-caliber weapon. A spokesman for the Montgomery County coroner’s office told the Daily News that based on the amount of gunshot residue and the diameter of the debris burns on her face, “it was almost certain” that Monica’s killer had been less than a foot away from her. A black carbon-type substance found on the inside of Monica’s left hand indicated that she had tried to protect herself, raising her hand in front of her face as she was shot. The bullet had entered between her nose and left eye and had passed through her brain, exiting through the back of her head.

As the Walker family mourned the loss of their precious girl and prepared for her funeral, investigators were trying to piece together Monica’s last hours, hoping that someone had seen something.

Monica’s family told detectives that she had left the house for school around 7:30 on November 14th. A few minutes into the walk, Monica ran into a friend, Lisa Smith. The girls didn’t chat long, just said a brief hello and went their separate ways, but Lisa remembered that the conversation took place on Euclid Avenue, not far from Monica’s house. After that, no one else saw Monica along her usual route.

The next sightings of Monica – or at least someone who looked like her – were in the area near where her body was found. Several witnesses told detectives that they had seen a young black woman and a well-dressed white man together in a car on Aullwood Road around 8:30am. The road runs alongside Interstate 70 for a short distance before turning north along the Stillwater River. According to the witnesses, the man and the girl were in a light-colored car parked at one of the pullover spots overlooking the interstate.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Detective David Bouslog told the Daily News that they believed Monica had been picked up by the driver of the car just blocks from her house. “The girl was grabbed within a minute or two minutes after she left home.”

Detective Wally Wilson told the Daily News that he had driven the route from Monica’s house to Aullwood Road, and it had only taken 25 minutes in his police cruiser. If Monica got in someone’s car just after 7:30 and was next seen an hour later only ten miles away, where had she been in the time in between?

Police put out a call for a light-colored two-door car that they believed to be a late-model Monte Carlo. Immediately, they began getting calls from people saying they had seen the car in the area, but even more alarming were reports from other young women saying that a white man in a similar-looking car had attempted to abduct them too.

One 15-year-old girl told police that the day after Monica was killed, she was approached by a strange man who asked her if she wanted a ride. When he got out of his car and started coming towards her, she turned and ran. Luckily, several women nearby saw the altercation and scared the man away.

After multiple reports of similar incidents, police felt confident that the same man attempting to abduct girls and women in Dayton was responsible for Monica’s death. They released a composite sketch and a description of the suspect, stating that he was a white male in his 30s with medium-length, combed-back brown hair.

Monica’s friends and family believed that Monica must have been forced into the man’s vehicle. Her father Everett told the Daily News that Monica wouldn’t have gone willingly. “She was kind of shy. I don’t think she would get into the car with someone she didn’t know.” Her boyfriend Don agreed. “I know she wouldn’t have. She’s not that kind of person. (He) must have held a gun on her.”

On Saturday, November 18th, hundreds of mourners gathered at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Dayton to honor the life of Monica Walker. As Reverend Donald W. Thompson delivered the eulogy, he spoke about Monica’s impact on the community both before and after her death. “Not only did that bullet land on Monica, it landed on every parent in this city.”

Monica was laid to rest next to her great-grandmother, dozens of white and pink flowers adorning her grave. Her family and friends wept as they said goodbye.

As the days passed, investigators continued to search for answers. They interviewed Monica’s neighbors, classmates, and teachers, and they pored over the dozens of phone calls and tips they received every day.

Detective Wilson told the Daily News that they had received a lot of help from a man named David Fox. Fox was an officer with the Dayton Police Department but also worked as an electronics teacher at Colonel White High school. Fox told investigators that in the days following Monica’s death, he had spoken to some of his students, and they thought they knew who had killed her. However, Detective Wilson wouldn’t provide further details to the Daily News and said that the information from students was “pure speculation at this time.”

On November 25th, police served a search warrant at the home of another Dayton police officer: 31-year-old Billy King. King had been with the Dayton PD for four years, and for the most part, his record was clean. But in March of 1978, eight months before Monica’s death, King had been indicted on charges of kidnapping and attempted rape of a 20-year-old woman. He was eventually acquitted of all charges, but this incident may have been on detectives’ minds as they investigated Monica’s murder.

During their search of King’s apartment, investigators seized a .38 caliber Colt revolver, multiple items of clothing, a newspaper clipping from November 18th, and a white 1975 Ford Elite – a vehicle that looked extremely similar to a Monte Carlo.

But after the search, there was no arrest. Detective Bouslog told the Daily News that they were still investigating and that no charges had yet been filed. A source at the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office told the Daily News that investigators didn’t have enough evidence to move forward with the case. The car had been processed and had come back clean. Even though they had a gun, there was no bullet found near Monica’s body, so they didn’t really have much to test it against. Some of the items of clothing taken from his apartment had “some kind of stain” or spots of what could have been blood, but the closest they could get to a match was general blood type. Everything they had against Billy King was circumstantial at best.

Then there was the elephant in the room: Billy King was not white. Every witness up to that point had described the perpetrator as a well-groomed white man with medium-length brown hair that was combed back over his head. Billy King was a light-skinned black man with a mustache and close-cut hair with long sideburns.

But this fact didn’t seem to bother detectives at all. They had one piece of evidence that they felt proved King’s involvement: the small piece of paper found underneath Monica’s body.

When investigators had looked more closely at the paper, they discovered that it was a receipt for a rent deposit dated November 10, 1978 – just four days before Monica’s death. The receipt was made out to none other than Billy King.

On December 1st, Billy King was arrested and charged with the murder of Monica Walker. He was taken to the county jail and held on $100,000 bond. But within a few weeks, a judge determined that he was not a flight risk and lowered his bond to $10,000. By December 19th, King was free to go.

In January of 1979, a Montgomery County grand jury was convened to look at all the evidence in the case and determine if King would be indicted for murder.

Multiple students from Colonel White High School were called to testify before the grand jury. But if prosecutors hoped Monica’s friends would confirm a relationship between her and Billy King, they would be disappointed. The teens testified that they had never seen Monica and King together and had never even heard her mention his name. Only one young man said that Monica had told him she was seeing someone named Billy, “But she didn’t ever mention a last name, just Billy.” Another friend testified that she had seen a car like the 1975 Ford Elite at school before, but she didn’t recognize King in any of the photographs placed in front of her. If Monica had known Billy King, none of her friends knew anything about it.

But prosecutors weren’t solely relying on Monica’s friends. Three Dayton police officers were also called to testify: Melvin Dulin, R.A. Jackson, and David Fox. Jackson and Dulin would not speak to the Daily News about their testimonies, but David Fox said that the jury asked him if he had ever seen Monica and King together. He told them he hadn’t. “I’ve only seen Monica once or twice.”

In spite of these lukewarm testimonies, the grand jury must have been convinced by the evidence set forth by the prosecution: Billy King was indicted for murder on January 4, 1979. Two weeks later, he pleaded not guilty, and his trial was set for April.

Meanwhile, fellow officer David Fox was in a bit of hot water himself. In February, Fox was arrested and charged with contributing to the unruliness of a minor. According to news reports, a 17-year-old girl at Colonel White High School, where Fox was a teacher, alleged that he had gotten her pregnant and then paid for her to have an abortion. Aside from the criminal charges, Fox also faced an internal police investigation for violating civil service rules when he met with the girl while on duty.

Many in the community found it to be quite a coincidence that Fox was being charged for sexual conduct with a minor right after testifying against Billy King during grand jury proceedings. But Deputy Police Director Tyree Bloomfield told the Daily News, that the case “should stand by itself and not be confused with that of King. You shouldn’t draw inferences that there is a collage of facts here that intertwine.”

Whether or not David Fox was ever investigated in connection to Monica’s murder remains a mystery, and Billy King’s trial began in April of 1979.

The prosecution presented over 100 pieces of evidence and put 40 witnesses on the stand during the course of the trial. Prosecutor Dennis Langer told the jury that Monica Walker was killed in Billy King’s vehicle after being abducted off the street. And although the witnesses originally thought that King was white, “they will tell you it was an assumption, and they’ll tell you why they assumed it.”

The defense argued that Billy King was at home asleep on the morning of Monica’s murder. He had stayed up late working on a term paper for a class he was taking at Sinclair Community College. Also, King didn’t match the multiple descriptions of the white man witnesses said they had seen with Monica that day, and everyone had said that the car was a Chevrolet Monte Carlo, not a Ford Elite. Billy King was the victim of a frame job.

The parade of witnesses didn’t add much clarity to either side. Monica’s friend Lisa, who had seen her on Euclid Avenue on her way to school, couldn’t identify Billy King in the courtroom even as he sat across from her. A young car buff named Eric testified that he and his mother had seen a girl matching Monica’s description get into a car on Euclid Avenue, and he insisted that it was a 1974 Ford Elite. A teen named Pam said she saw Monica talking to someone in a white car, but she didn’t see who was inside. Not a single witness from Euclid Avenue could identify the driver of the white vehicle.

Witnesses who saw the car on Aullwood Road seemed to have gotten a slightly better look at the man in question. Dane Mutter and Mary Jane Dodson, county employees, said that they saw “a well-dressed man with a swarthy complexion standing behind a white car off of Aullwood Road.” They agreed that King looked similar to the man they saw, but their original statements to police differed and neither could positively identify him in court.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Deputy Gerald Goodpasture testified that the car he saw on Aullwood Road looked similar to King’s Ford Elite, and that the man he saw standing outside the vehicle looked “very similar” to King. But when the defense asked King to stand in front of Goodpasture in the courtroom and asked, “Is this the individual you saw on November 14th?” Goodpasture said no.

Several witnesses testified about King’s alibi. Linda Wortham, a fellow student at Sinclair Community College, told the jury that she called King on the night of November 14th and he told her that he hadn’t gone to work that day because he was sick and possibly hungover. King’s friend Gail Daveiga testified that she was actually on the phone with King at the time investigators believe Monica was murdered. He told her the same thing – he wasn’t going to work because he was feeling sick after going out drinking the night before, and he had to finish his term paper.

Although much of the testimony seemed to favor the defense, there were multiple witnesses who claimed to know about a relationship between Monica and Billy King. A neighbor of King’s, Bonnie Kinser, testified that in March of 1978, a young black girl who said her name was Monica approached her in the parking lot of the apartment complex and asked her for a match to light her cigarette. Bonnie said that Monica had asked her if she knew Billy King. “I said, no not really. She told me she was waiting for him to come home, and asked me what I thought of her staying at King’s apartment. I told her that as young as she was she didn’t have any business in Billy King’s apartment.” Bonnie testified that when she saw Monica’s picture on the news and heard that King was denying ever meeting her, she contacted the prosecutor’s office and told them what she remembered. However, on cross-examination, Bonnie admitted that she doesn’t usually remember people’s faces. A news manager from the local tv station testified that they hadn’t put a picture of Monica Walker on the news since the day she died, so Bonnie Kinser couldn’t have seen a picture when she said she did.

There was only one witness who testified to actually seeing Monica Walker and Billy King together. Cheryl Cruea, another of King’s neighbors, told the jury that she saw Monica at the apartment complex four different times in 1978. Once, Monica was sitting outside King’s apartment smoking a cigarette. She told Cheryl that she was waiting for King, and a short while later Cheryl heard the apartment door close. She later saw Monica and King walking towards his car in the parking lot and watched them drive away. The next day Monica was back in the parking lot, “sitting on a brick wall, or pacing back and forth.” The last time Cheryl saw Monica, the teen was walking down the road toward the apartment complex.

Other than a single witness stating she had seen them together, there was no definitive proof that Billy King had known Monica Walker. Prosecutors had a largely circumstantial case; even their physical evidence wasn’t as strong as they hoped.

The rent receipt was the most concrete piece of evidence they had. The medic who first arrived at the scene testified that when they had turned over Monica’s body, they discovered the piece of paper beneath her, still dry in spite of the wet grass. Connie Deal, an employee of the Robin Hood Apartments, testified that she had given King that receipt when he had come to look at an apartment on November 10th. He had shown up in a white Ford Elite, and – after looking at several available spaces – had filled out a rental application. He paid the $5 application fee and Connie wrote him a receipt. But when she tried to call King the next week to follow up on his application, she couldn’t reach him.

Prosecutors also brought up the fact that King’s car was “virtually spotless” when police seized it on November 25th. Corporal Roger Harris testified that “There wasn’t even any dirt under the wheel wells.” But the defense argued that King was obsessed with his car and cleaned it at least twice a week. Having a spotless car was not out of the ordinary for him.

There was also no evidence that a gun was ever fired in King’s vehicle. A chemist from the FBI’s lab testified that the elements usually found after the firing of a gun were not present in the Ford Elite. However, he did state that because the car had been cleaned before samples were taken, it was possible that the elements had been wiped away.

The gun was also a point of contention. A ballistics expert from the Dayton Police Department testified that Monica was “most probably” killed by a .38-caliber revolver like the one King owned. However, when the defense asked, “Can you swear under oath that (King’s gun) is the gun that killed Monica Walker?” the expert could not.

The clothes taken from King’s apartment were also tested in the lab, but because they had all been dry cleaned, the cleaning solution could have affected the test results. A single blood stain found inside the lapel of a sports coat matched Monica’s blood type, but this was well before DNA testing, and the experts couldn’t swear to a match.

In the third week of the trial, Billy King took the stand in his own defense. He told the jury that he didn’t know Monica Walker and he certainly hadn’t killed her. He didn’t know how a receipt with his name had ended up under her body, and he couldn’t explain the alleged blood on his jacket. He told the prosecutor, “I have to take your word for it that there was blood on my jacket. We can’t verify that. When we asked, we were told there wasn’t enough blood to make another test. I don’t have any idea how that blood got there. I wish I did. That’s not Monica Walker’s blood.”

King told the jury that he believed he was being framed. Melvin Dulin, his friend and fellow police officer, had testified earlier in the trial that he had heard a rumor that King was being framed by the Dayton Police Department, that someone in the department had killed Monica Walker in order to get rid of King. During his testimony, King agreed, saying, “I’ll tell you what Melvin Dulin told me. He said he’d heard [Monica] and the Dayton Police Department had a drug thing going and they had her [killed] to frame me.”

King’s defense attorney informed the jury that King had said the same thing during an earlier interview with police. When police asked him if there was anyone who would want to set him up for Monica’s murder, “He said the only person he could think of is the Dayton Police Department.”

In closing arguments, the prosecution painted King’s story as a fantasy. “Reasonable doubt is not imaginary doubt. That the Dayton police department framed King is a hallucination. Monica Walker knew her killer and he knew her… That young and cheerful girl is dead, dead and gone, gone forever. Her life was denied by a man you’ve seen here for four weeks, a man who feels no remorse for his destruction of human life.”

King’s defense attorney reminded the jury that it was the prosecution’s job to prove that King had killed Monica Walker, and they hadn’t done it. “The state has consciously ignored the fact that not one single shred of physical evidence was presented which could connect Billy King to Monica Walker. They ripped his car apart, they ripped his home apart, they took fingerprints, and they still did not find one shred of evidence.”

The jury deliberated for nearly 8 hours before finding Billy King not guilty of the murder of Monica Walker. Later, a juror spoke with the Daily News about the verdict, saying, “There just wasn’t enough evidence. It was just circumstantial. I don’t know what it would have taken (to convict him), but they didn’t have enough.”

After the verdict, Monica’s case was closed. Montgomery County Prosecutor James Brogan told the Daily News, “We don’t expect the case to be reopened… we felt the evidence pointed to one man.”

Deputy Inspector Konrad Munson agreed. “We feel that the guilty party was arrested and there is nothing we can gain from reopening an investigation. There was nothing that indicated the identity of another suspect.”

Billy King received back pay from the Dayton Police Department, then resigned from his position in May of 1979. A few days later, he pleaded guilty to a prior assault charge in Huntsville, Alabama, and was fined $50. After that, Billy King dropped off the radar.

But it wouldn’t be long before Monica’s case was back in the news.

In June of 1979, a teacher at Colonel White High School discovered a small tan purse in one of the building’s stairwells. The purse had Monica Walker’s name on the front and her social security card inside. Pictures of her friends were tucked into the pockets. It was the purse Monica had been carrying the day she was murdered, the one missing from the crime scene.

Detective Bouslog told the Daily News, “At this point, all we have is a purse and it doesn’t point to a suspect or anything, but I think it’s worth asking some questions about.”

In the weeks following the discovery of Monica’s purse, more of her personal items popped up in different locations at Colonel White High School. Her math textbook and cheer uniform were stuffed into an open locker, and her wallet had been placed in a locked room only used by school security and maintenance workers. Prosecutor James Brogan told the Daily News that they were all baffled by the recent developments. “We spent days searching for these things to help solve the murder. Now they turn up. It’s eerie… It clearly indicates that someone was withholding these things until after the trial and now has placed them somewhere where they could be found. [Actually,] this fits in nicely with all the other unique twists and turns of this case.”

Of course, the twists and turns weren’t over. Three months later, David Fox was convicted in the case of the 17-year-old girl he impregnated. He was sentenced to just six months in jail. After the verdict was read, Fox insisted that he was innocent, that he was being set up and he would appeal his conviction. “Anybody who would get six months for that would have to be framed.”

In the end, Monica Walker’s case sits on a shelf. Rumors swirl, and the truth seems to have flown away. I certainly have my own theories about what happened, but honestly, there are more questions than answers. Was Billy King wrongfully accused? Did his fellow police officers try to frame him for murder? Was David Fox involved in any way? And how did sweet, shy Monica Walker get wrapped up in this terrible mess? We may never know; we can only hope that justice will someday be served.