When a murder is personal, how far would you go to see it solved?
MaryAnne McCullough, a retired criminologist and current podcast host says blue flowers represent friendship. So, when she frequently visits her childhood friend Krista Martin’s grave, she always brings a blue bouquet, and gives her investigative updates.
It’s been over 33 years since someone senselessly took Krista’s life. She was only 20 years old, living alone in her southwest Wichita, Kansas, apartment, when an assailant assaulted her, and bludgeoned the back of her head.
Krista’s case file quickly collected dust. Leads dried up, and the community seemed to have moved on.
MaryAnne refuses to let the world forget Krista.
Today, MaryAnne McCullough is the producer and host for her podcast Crime Scenes and Cupcakes, where she deep-dives into the unsolved cases that haunt Kansas. She’s a relentless advocate and answer-seeker for the cases she covers, skillfully using her criminologist and cadaver dog handler background. MaryAnne runs her successful boozy cupcake business when she’s not recording new episodes.
MaryAnne tells Uncovered that she believes in treating every victim’s story “with respect, integrity, and compassion.”
But her connection to Krista makes this case hit closer to home. It was quite some time before MaryAnne felt comfortable enough to share the personal side of their relationship.
Meet Krista Martin
MaryAnne and Krista were next-door neighbors-turned-best-friends. She tells Uncovered that even though she was the same age as Krista’s younger sister, MaryAnne had more in common with Krista.
“Krista was a very artistic soul — and eclectic — who wouldn’t get into trouble,” MaryAnne explains in her podcast episode dedicated to Krista’s case.
She shares how growing up, Krista was shy and introverted. She loved cats — especially the Siamese breed. The pair would often hang out after school and enjoy each other’s company.
“She would do anything for you — but you had to get to know her first,” MaryAnne recalls.
One of her fondest memories with Krista is when MaryAnne was just 14. MaryAnne was already an avid Stephen King reader and loved all things dark and mysterious, so when ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ first came out, Krista made sure the two were some of the first people to get tickets. MaryAnne shared with Uncovered that after they saw the movie, they went to the elementary school after and played hide and seek “scaring the tar out of each other.”
Krista was revered as different because of her tomboy style when dressing in a more feminine way was popular.
As a teenager at Campus High School, she often told MaryAnne how she felt like the black sheep in her family and at school. Even though she ran track for the school, MaryAnne details in her podcast that Krista still primarily kept to herself.
“I think we bonded over our oddness,” MaryAnne recalls.
Krista was known for smoking marijuana now and again, and one time, MaryAnne expressed wanting to try it.
“She got angry,” MaryAnne told Uncovered. “She told me I was too smart to do something so stupid. If I did, she would tell my parents and my brother. That has stuck with me and I have never tried any type of drugs.”
During that same time in high school, Krista’s parents divorced, and her mom remarried another man. This was a difficult time for her, considering MaryAnne remembers that her friend was closer to her father, who moved away after the divorce.
When MaryAnne left her hometown after high school, she says she “left a lot of things behind.” Unfortunately, one of those things she left behind was her friendship with Krista. Since there was no way to keep in constant contact, there was a lull in their relationship.
“I have a lot of guilt about that,” MaryAnne details in her podcast episode. “I do wonder if I hadn’t just walked out that door and just blew off and walked away…if I had maintained some sort of relationship…how many other things would’ve been different.”
In April of 1989, Krista had already graduated from high school and worked at Kansas Blue Print. In August, she moved into a unit within a home at 506 S. Osage Street. It wasn’t the greatest neighborhood, but she was determined to make it work.
Two weeks later, Krista was laid off because of financial cutbacks.
A week after Krista was let go from her job, the police made a strange visit to her unit.
Beverly Orth, the neighbor across the street, says between 3:00 and 4:00 am, she heard someone yelling and screaming. When she looked out of her window, Beverly says she saw two men — a shorter and taller man — and the shorter man asked the other, “Why did you have to hit her?” The taller man responded: “Because she’s a woman and deserved it.”
MaryAnne has been relentlessly looking for more information about that night but has come up empty. She wonders, Who are these guys? Did the police take their names? Did they talk to Krista? But, despite MaryAnne’s best efforts, she hasn’t gotten a hold of documentation that would note what happened.
A week later, Krista is seen out drinking with friends on Sunday, October 1, 1989, at a bar named Toto’s.
MaryAnne says she doesn’t know who the new circle of people would’ve been, which has left huge holes in her investigation.
Krista eventually leaves, but whether she leaves alone or with someone else is unclear.
The bar is the last time anyone ever sees Krista alive.
For an unknown reason, a male friend had been trying to contact Krista, but when he was unsuccessful, he decided to go to her apartment himself.
“It’s odd to me,” MaryAnne explains in her podcast. She thinks it would make more sense for a friend to try and catch up with Krista the following day, not at 1:00 am — unless they had reason or suspicion that something was wrong and she was in danger that needed to be handled immediately. The friend has been ruled out as a suspect.
He arrived around 1:00 am on October 2, 1989, to find her unit door slightly ajar with the lights off. When he turned the lights on, he made a grizzly discovery.
Krista was dead on her couch with a gash on her head. Investigators say she was hit once in the back of the head with a blunt object. They’re still unable to determine what the weapon could’ve been.
Reports about the scene are conflicting. Original reporting details that the offender didn’t sexually assault Krista, but MaryAnne notes that on the 20th anniversary of her case, journalists said that someone molested Krista.
If the newer reporting is accurate, it’s strange, considering she was found fully clothed. MaryAnne believes this means the killer either redressed her post-mortem — or she was alive after the assault, redressed herself, and the offender attacked her after.
There were signs of a struggle, and to that, MaryAnne says, “I hope she fought and I hope she fought hard — and I hope she got some licks in.”
The investigation into Krista’s case was slow, and MaryAnne says it hasn’t ever picked up steam.
A New Pursuit of Justice
MaryAnne says her friend’s unsolved case has driven her to find answers, telling Uncovered that she’s living and breathing Krista’s case daily.
In MaryAnne’s podcast episode, she talks about how for the 20th anniversary of her case, a local journalist was looking for people to share memories about Krista on a school alumni page. She says the responses were few and far between, with most people saying they didn’t even know Krista was in their grade.
“When I saw how few people held [Krista] in their memories, it really broke my heart in two.”
A painful moment like this burned a hotter fire for MaryAnne in her pursuit of justice.
From the beginning, investigators have said Krista’s case would be difficult to solve.
Mike McKenna, the original investigating officer, frequently told the media they “were a long way from solving the crime,”
MaryAnne is skeptical. In her podcast episode covering Krista’s case, she says, “My question to Mike McKenna, if you’re out there listening, is ‘Why?’ What is it about Krista Martin’s case that’s so difficult to solve over anyone else’s case?”
MaryAnne has one last question for the investigators: “Have you checked the DNA?”
There have been many advancements in forensics — we know these advancements solve cases daily. The public still doesn’t know if there was ever a rape kit processed for Krista, if fingernail clippings were taken, or if her clothing has been preserved. MaryAnne says the police department has not offered any additional information.
“I talk about her case every day,” MaryAnne concluded in her podcast episode. “I research her case every day. I’m working on information… I’m trying to get information, reaching out to people — I am breathing her case every day.”
Love this post? Meet the Author.
Andrea Cipriano is the Digital Content Specialist at Uncovered, where she writes for the twice-weekly true crime newsletter, The Citizen Detective. Andrea graduated with a Master of Arts in Forensic Psychology from John Jay College of Criminal Justice where she focused on researching and peeling back the criminal mind. Andrea believes that it’s never too late for justice.