Twenty-five years ago today, a security guard found the body of 17-year-old Tracey Kirkpatrick in a storage room at Aileen's Ladies Sportswear in the Westridge Shopping Center on the Golden Mile.
The Brunswick High School senior had been stabbed to death.
Her killer remains at large.
Tracey's murder is among the most well-known cold cases in Frederick, in part because of its brutality. She was stabbed multiple times in the chest and back sometime between 8 p.m., the time her manager stopped by, and 10:30 p.m., when an off-duty Frederick County sheriff's deputy moonlighting as a security guard found her.
The teenager never got the shot at life that she deserved. Tracey was a hard worker with aspirations, intent on going to a small college to study accounting and then law school.
No money was taken from the store. Tracey was not sexually assaulted. Police do not know if the crime was committed by someone who knew her or perhaps a drifter passing through the city. No one was ever charged in the case, according to Lt. Clark Pennington, Frederick Police Department spokesman and commander of the criminal investigation unit.
Police know the killer used a knife, but the murder weapon was not found, Pennington said.
“We're talking about a brutally heinous crime,” he said. “It was such a shocking case. She was and is a true victim.”
Every anniversary of Tracey's death is an opportunity to bring attention to unsolved murder cases, hers and others. Frederick police are still searching for killers in about a dozen cold cases.
Police do not know who shot and killed Lamont Ellis, 36, as he walked to his car in Mullinix Alley on Sept. 30, 2012, after a night out with friends.
Police are also still investigating the stabbing of a man who was found injured in July on Willowdale Drive. The man later died at the hospital.
The Kirkpatrick family will mourn Tracey's death quietly this year, her older sister Deonda Fitzpatrick said in a brief phone conversation with The Frederick News-Post earlier this week.
The family will honor Tracey with a candlelight vigil tonight at 7:30 at a tree planted in her memory at Brunswick High School.
“It's still on our minds,” Deonda Kirkpatrick said. “We still think about it. It's still there.”
Pennington said Frederick police are still working the case and still get tips. In February 2012, he and other members of the department went to Philadelphia to present the case to the Vidocq Society, an organization of elite criminal investigation experts.
Because the case is still under investigation, Pennington would not reveal the results of the Vidocq meeting. He said the department continues to meet with the Kirkpatrick family.
As technology improves, police have the opportunity to apply new science to old evidence, Pennington said.
“We have evidence in all our cases,” he said.
Police are going back, interviewing former officers who worked at the department to see if new clues can be uncovered, Pennington said; earlier this year, a representative from the department interviewed a former captain involved in the case who now lives in Florida.
“If there is a name listed in the file, we are interviewing them,” he said.
Deonda Kirkpatrick recently wrote a letter to Tracey. In it, she described making a photo collage with her sister as a Christmas gift for their parents last year. She realized how much Tracey still lives on. Tracey's compassionate heart and feisty attitude are reflected in her nieces and nephews, Deonda Kirkpatrick wrote, adding that "you have made yourself a part of everything and everyone in this family."
"You help us cope day-to-day in seeing your amazing attributes in this and the next generation."
Follow Courtney Mabeus on Twitter: @courtmabeus.