Carmen Hope Van Huss was born on October 9, 1973, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Although her parents divorced when she was young and she had been raised primarily by an aunt and uncle, Carmen remained close to her parents and younger brother. Carmen attended Lawrence Central High School, where she struggled to keep up with her classes, and would eventually drop out, earning her GED instead. Carmen's family remembers her as a beautiful and lovable young woman. Family members frequently add that Carmen never caused any trouble, loved animals so much that she had dreams of becoming a veterinarian as a kid, and who later found a passion for drawing. To this day, Carmen's brother, who was only 15 when his sister was killed, holds onto a portfolio that was put together by his sister, including intricate drawings and sketches of "bodies, bold portraits of stylish women and bright colors and contrasting themes".
On the evening of March 22, 1993, Carmen would visit her grandmother in the hospital with her father and younger brother, before driving them back to their home at around 10:30 pm. According to her father, he had asked Carmen to spend the night at their home because it was already so late in the evening, and he worried about Carmen driving back to her north side apartment alone. Carmen reportedly declined, informing her father that she had to go home and wash her uniforms before she was scheduled to work a shift waitressing at a local Pizza Hut the following day.
According to police, neighbors later reported that they had heard Carmen return to her apartment around 11:00 pm with an unidentified man, and further explained that they had heard the pair laughing and talking as they walked up the building's stairs. Further statements made by neighbors indicated to police that Carmen was attacked by this unidentified man in her apartment between 1:00 am and 1:30 am, after hearing Carmen yell "Get off me! Get off me!", before hearing silence, and footsteps leaving the apartment at approximately 1:30 am. Unfortunately, no one would call the police after hearing this struggle, and would instead send in a noise complaint to the apartment's office, who would leave a note on her door the following morning.
On the afternoon of March 24, 1993, Carmen's father received a phone call from the Pizza Hut where his daughter worked, informing him that his usually hardworking and trustworthy daughter, had not shown up for her last two shifts. After making several attempts to call Carmen, he would make a trip to her apartment to make sure everything was alright. Instead, he would find the noise complaint on the apartment's unlocked door, and would eventually find Carmen, who had been sexually assaulted and stabbed several times, laying on the floor partially clothed just inside her apartment.
According to investigators, information gathered from the evidence found in her apartment, including the remnants of a fast-food meal and bottles of beer, have led them to believe that Carmen knew her killer. It has been confirmed that Carmen's ex-boyfriends had been interviewed soon after her death. One of the men was found to have been out of state at the time of her death, and both men were cleared by DNA testing.
DNA testing was completed early in the case; however, this testing would lead to no information. It was quickly revealed that the crime lab had sent the wrong samples to be tested after results showed investigators that the samples belonged to Carmen, not their unidentified male suspect.
In 2015, Detective Sargeant William Carter, who had previously shown an interest in Carmen's case, set up a GoFundMe to raise money to fund new DNA tests of evidence in her case. Although the fund's goal was to raise $996, this GoFundMe raised more than $1,200 in just over a day, giving the detective enough to pay for the DNA tests and add the remaining amount to the reward fund. After this, conflicting statements are made within the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department regarding the employment of Sgt. Carter, with rumors quickly spreading that he had been pulled off of Carmen's case.
Upon hearing that Sgt. Carter had been pulled off of Carmen's case, Carmen's family set up a petition to reinstate him, explaining in the petition that Sgt. Williams had been the most dedicated investigator in solving Carmen's case. After quickly receiving over 500 signatures on this petition and the widespread news coverage of this information, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department held a press conference to clarify their decision. In this press conference, officials explained that the removal of Sgt. Carter was not a result of his fundraising efforts but was instead due to the results found in a "review of assignments and procedures". During this press conference, it was further explained that Sgt. Carter was not a cold case investigator, and instead works in the Nuisance and Abatement Unit, and had been working on Carmen's case in his spare time for the previous 2 years. In the end, Sgt. Carted would be reassigned to Carmen's case, and the funds raised for the new DNA tests would, unfortunately, be returned to their donors.
There is currently a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual responsible for Carmen's death. If you have any information regarding the 1993 murder of Carmen Van Huss in Indianapolis, IN, please contact Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at (317) 262-TIPS.