On the morning of September 12, 1977, 20 year-old Ann Harmeier left her home in Cambridge City, IN to drive back to Indiana University's Bloomington campus, where she was a student deeply involved in the school's drama program. Ann did not arrive in class that day, and her mother grew concerned when she didn't receive an expected phone call from Ann that night.
Ann's rust-colored Plymouth LeMans was discovered parked along IN State Road 37 in Morgan County near Martinsville, IN, locked, and with a dead battery. The emergency flashers had been on before the battery died, and later examination found the car's thermostat to be malfunctioning. Ann and her purse were missing. There don't appear to be any reports of signs of struggle in or around the vehicle.
Extensive searches of the immediate area and a missing persons' campaign throughout Central and Southern Indiana, even reaching the national news media, took place over the next several weeks, but to no avail. On October 18, 1977, a farmer beginning his harvest discovered Ann's remains in a cornfield roughly 4 miles from where her car was left. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a garotte made from her own clothing and personal belongings.
Multiple suspects were considered, including IU students, area residents, and men later convicted of similar murders believed to have been in the area at the time. One of these was Steven Judy, who was arrested and convicted for the murder of a Morgan County woman and her 3 children in 1979 and confessed to several others before his execution in 1980. Several of these women were also killed with a garotte improvised from their own personal items. However, Judy denied any involvement in Ann's murder, and law enforcement records indicate that he would have been incarcerated elsewhere at the time of her disappearance.
Another was Jeffrey Hand, who, in 1980, was shot and killed by police in Howard County, IN while attempting to abduct a woman from her car. In 2019, Hand was linked by DNA to the 1972 murder of an Indiana State University student. It is unclear whether any DNA evidence has been or could be recovered from the existing evidence in Ann's case for comparison.
Ann Harmeier was an only child. Her father had died when she was 4, and her mother passed away in 1983. The memory of Ann's life and the injustice of her unsolved murder are kept alive by friends and family, who have occasionally clashed with authorities over the withholding of information concerning Ann's case. Indiana State Police have maintained that the investigation is active and could be jeopardized by prematurely releasing additional details; this week, in advance of the 44th anniversary of her disappearance, ISP issued an appeal for members of the public to come forward with any information about the case.