Convicted murderer pleads guilty to a second murder in Knox
Whipps had originally pleaded not guilty to the murder of Vincennes
University student Lisa McCracken. The murder happened in 1987 at
McCracken's off-campus apartment.
remained unsolved for 13 years, until random DNA testing in 2000 matched
Whipps' DNA to DNA found at the murder scene. At that time, Whipps was
already serving 89 years in prison for the 1995 murder of Jill Slater.
the death penalty in the McCracken case, but Monday's plea bargain
whittles his sentence down to 40 years more in prison.
family, the prosecutor, and the lead investigator say they're all
satisfied with this ending to the now 15 year old murder. Knox County
prosecutor John Sievers says, "There's a tremendous amount of
satisfaction both for the family and for law enforcement to hear an
individual admit that he did it. Even after a trial, and I've talked to
the victim's family, it's never quite closed even though their trials
come and they've been found guilty. Without a person taking
accountability for that, there's always a little bit lacking."
will be sentenced October 2nd. The 40 year sentence expected to be
imposed then will be served after his current 89 year prison term. Even
with good behavior, the soonest he could be released from prison is
Whipps will be 90 years old by then.
The small town of Vincennes, Indiana is known to many in the Tri-State
as the town where murders are rarely solved, but that reputation is now
19 year old Lisa McCracken was murdered October 13th, 1987. Thirteen
years later police announced DNA evidence found in McCracken's apartment
and on her body matched that of convicted murderer Jeffrey Whipps.
Whipps had been arrested in June of 1995, but not for McCracken's murder.
He was in prison convicted for the murder of another Vincennes teenager,
15 year old Jill Slater.
A recent DNA test by Indiana State Police linked both murders to Whipps.
He is currently serving 89 years for Slater's murder and awaiting trial
for the McCracken murder. If convicted, he could receive the death
Police say that leaves one unsolved murder in Vincennes. Kathleen
Westfall was 44 years old when she was murdered May 31, 1995. She was
reported missing after she didn't show up for work at Good Samaritan
Hospital. When police arrived at 8:15pm at her apartment on Bayou Street,
they found her beaten to death. An autopsy showed she suffered blunt
trauma to the head and upper body. She had been dead for several hours.
Police say Westfall was struck numerous times with what they call "a
smooth surfaced object." Her apartment showed no signs of forced entry,
so detectives believe she probably knew her attacker enough to let the
person into her home. There also weren't many signs of a struggle,
indicating the attacker may have caught her off guard when she wasn't
looking. Police say Westfall wasn't sexually assaulted, but wouldn't
comment on whether any items were stolen from her apartment.
When Westfall was murdered, Jeffrey Whipps had not yet been arrested for
either the Slater or McCracken murders. Westfall was murdered in May of
1995, Whipps was arrested 22 days later. Ironically, Westfall lived
directly across the street from Slater.
Indiana State Police Detective Gary Gilbert says Whipps was never
considered a suspect in the Westfall murder because the method of
killing was completely different from the Slater and McCracken murders.
Westfall was beaten, Slater and McCracken were stabbed and their two
crimes had many other striking similarities. The Indiana State Police
still actively investigate the Westfall case and hope they can soon add
it to their "Solved Cases."
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIANA
CAUSE NO. 42S00-9609-CR-623
JEFFREY ALLEN WHIPPS, Appellant (Defendant Below)
STATE OF INDIANA, Appellee (Plaintiff Below)
APPEAL FROM THE KNOX CIRCUIT COURT
The Honorable Murphy C. Land, Judge
Cause No. 42C01-9506-CF-034
SHEPARD, Chief Justice.
A jury found appellant Jeffrey A. Whipps guilty of
arson, a class B felony;
and sexual misconduct with a minor, a class C felony.
The trial court sentenced him to eighty-nine years in prison. We affirm.
The evidence at trial tended to prove that Whipps
left the residence of a friend at about 6 a.m. on June 17, 1995, and
entered a home some 150 feet away where a young child and a fifteen-year-
old babysitter were still asleep. Whipps had sex with the babysitter,
killed her with a stab wound to the center of her chest, and then set
the house a fire in two places.
The following day, the police called Whipps and said
they would like to talk to him. Two officers drove to the home where
Whipps lived with his mother. Whipps came out and sat in the back of the
In the course of this conversation, one of the
officers noticed that Whipps' left shoe had been burned. He told Whipps
he would like to sketch the sole of his shoe. Whipps removed the shoe
and handed it to the officer.
While sketching, the officer noticed what he thought
was blood on the shoe. He handed it to his superior officer. After
examining it, the senior officer stopped the interview and said it was
time to read Whipps his Miranda rights.
There was a brief tug of war over the shoe, which the
officers won. Whipps proceeded to give a statement (the first of three
denying involvement in the crime). The police apparently did not arrest
Whipps on this occasion, but they did keep his shoe. After holding a
hearing on Whipps' motion to suppress, the trial court permitted the
State to offer the shoe as evidence during Whipps' trial.
Whipps contends that the shoe should have been
excluded as the product of a seizure that violated the Fourth Amendment.
He notes the absence of a warrant and contends his passing of the shoe
We test questions of voluntariness by reviewing the
totality of the circumstances. Williams v. State, 611 N.E.2d 649 (Ind.
Ct. App. 1993), trans. denied. It is apparent that the trial court was
justified in viewing the circumstances under which Whipps handed the
officer his shoe as voluntary.
Having once received the shoe from suspect Whipps and
having observed it was burned and possibly bloody, the officers were
authorized to retain it. They had obtained access to the shoe lawfully
and its incriminating nature was immediately apparent. These two facts
authorized seizure of the shoe under the Fourth Amendment. Taylor v.
State, 659 N.E.2d 535, 538-39 (Ind. 1995). It was properly admitted as
Whipps also claims error in permitting the child who
was under charge of the babysitter to identify him in the courtroom.
Whipps did not object when the child identified him, however, and thus
has not preserved this issue for appeal. Clausen v. State, 622 N.E.2d
925 (Ind. 1993).
Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial
Dickson, Sullivan, Selby, and Boehm, JJ., concur.