Posted by: Josh Hinkle | May 26, 2009

Murder She Heard

The Hinkles hit Fredericksburg

The Hinkles hit Fredericksburg

From the backseat of the Lincoln Town Car, I heard the shaky, little voice peep, “What’s on your mind?” Murder was not the topic I had intended to discuss with my grandmother on her first visit to my new home in the Texas Hill Country. Granny and Buddy (the name my younger brother had adopted for my grandfather and offered for mass consumption years ago) were both nearing their 80s but still made regular trips from Oklahoma to visit their eldest grandson. Buddy’s insistence on taking charge usually propelled these ventures forward. But the past few years, I insisted on getting behind the wheel when they came. You can only sit in the passenger seat for so long, coasting past the same landmark for the fourth time in a row at a reduced speed before you realize perhaps it’s time for Buddy to “enjoy the scenery” instead.

Earlier, Granny mentioned her appointment for a new hearing aid a few days before the trip. Had that appointment been earlier, maybe I wouldn’t have a sore throat. Town Cars are known for their smooth, quiet rides, but theirs did nothing for Granny’s curiosity. A glance in the rearview mirror revealed a woman’s expectation of answers, despite her ears’ lack of cooperation. As I drove the boat-of-a-car into Fredericksburg, my mind drifted to a story from the same town just a few days before. Murder might not be the answer Granny wanted, but it was the answer she got.

Linda Muegge

Linda Muegge

I understand Linda Muegge was a phenomenal cook. Observing the stockpile of stories from two years before, I heard her pastor talk about the gourmet meals she prepared for families in need. Following up on the two-year anniversary of her death, I met her neighbor, who told me his initial thought when first noticing the fire next door was her gas cooking stove had caused the accident. Arson to cover up Muegge’s murder never crossed his mind or most of those in Fredericksburg. Speaking with the police chief, I found, in his 36 years on the force, the town had only five murders. Muegge’s was the only one still unsolved.

Police initially thought Muegge was the fire’s victim, as well. Days later, the medical examiner’s autopsy revealed her death came before the blaze. The cause was blunt force to her head and neck, most likely from strangulation. Police were able to rule out the husband she recently divorced and the man she had just started seeing. It seemed Muegge had no enemies. Then, two years later, police released strange, new details (view a slideshow from the crime scene below).

A few years before her death, Muegge called police to report a man she knew only as “Frank.” The file says a friend had introduced the two, but Frank quickly made her feel uncomfortable. She never told friends or family about the man, but she felt it was important enough to enlist the help of police. They never tracked down Frank, because Muegge didn’t know his last name.

Then just a few months before her death, she made another call to police. Someone had shot her sheep dead right outside of her house. Police never found the shooter, but neighbors said the incident definitely startled Muegge. Police haven’t said the previous reports are connected to her death, but they hope releasing the information might make someone remember something. The fire destroyed most evidence, and there are no suspects (watch Chief Paul Oestreich detail Muegge’s problems below).

One last hope led police to the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit, where agents work to construct suspect profiles based on little evidence and the nature of the crime. However, this effort brought Muegge’s case no closer to closure.

Muegge's sister built home on old site

Muegge's sister built home on old site

My purpose in telling the story on KXAN became a way to shed new light on an old file. Fredericksburg’s only cold case could slowly warm, as the chief says he received some new tips after the report aired. But over the years, he received hundreds of tips, none of which led to the killer. Perhaps someone seeing my story might make a connection with these fresh details.

Waiting in silence for a response from Granny, I turned my head slightly for a moment to look at her. Unsure my message made its way to the back seat, I searched her face for some sign. I don’t think she heard a word. She smiled and began staring out the window with Buddy as we passed a peach orchard. Slightly annoyed at the thought of repeating the story again later while also laughing inside at the situation, I settled on the satisfaction of knowing Granny probably had no worthy information for Fredericksburg police. Maybe I would pick a different story for my second take. Something a little more cheerful. After all, it was their vacation.

(Park on Muegge’s street and take a Flipcam trip to the crime scene below)

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Responses

  1. Great work, you’re an amazing story-teller.

  2. Thanks for the nice comment! I enjoy putting the posts together.


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