In a small Dodge County community, a big mystery is still brewing.
Six years ago, someone killed Laura Babe and set the crime scene on fire, making her death nearly impossible for police to solve.
They never found a weapon and there hasn’t been a tip in years. So, did someone pull off the perfect crime?
In fact, Laura’s case is the only unsolved murder in Horicon, and it has taken a toll on investigators and residents who remember that day like it was yesterday.
“I would never expect it,” Susan Hady, an area businesswoman, said. “I grew up in Milwaukee; you saw it, but never here.”
Except on Sept. 6, 2007 when Hady watched the aftermath of a murder unfold from her store window.
“It was just a lot, a lot of activity,” she said.
That year, Horicon police records show 211 Washington St. was the top spot cops were called to for drug and alcohol crimes. That night, a killer came and lit Laura’s apartment on fire, but it was clear that’s not how she died.
“She died from blunt-force trauma and that was apparent even in her charred remains,” said Horicon Police Chief Joseph Adamson, who met with Laura just weeks before her death.
The two talked about Laura’s troubled teenage son, the only one of her three children living with her. Adamson remembered she was sick, had surgery and wasn’t working. But he hasn’t figured out why someone seemingly targeted the 39-year-old divorcee.
“Motive is a challenging thing to assign right now,” Adamson said. “I can with a degree of certainty say it was a very personal crime.”
He interviewed hundreds of people, followed up on that unfamiliar, gold Ford Taurus neighbors saw, sketched a possible person of interest and tested the trace amount of DNA in Laura’s apartment.
“One of the other things that happened, which was of interest, was that her husband had gotten shot and killed during a home invasion,” Adamson said.
James Babe was a convicted burglar and registered sex offender who met Laura and married her while he was in prison. But, had he gotten away with her murder?
“When we hit the five-year mark, we reconvened the investigation team,” Adamson said.
In 2012, they distributed decks of cards to inmates depicting Wisconsin’s cold cases, like Laura’s. The program hasn’t produced any arrests. Maybe the new fliers honing in on Horicon’s Hispanic community would help?
Come 2013, Adamson still hasn’t had much luck, but buried deep in the 4,000-page case file is his hope Horicon’s mystery can be solved.
“Whether it’s the passage of time, pleas from the family, pleas from me -- that exists,” Adamson said. “And when that person gets past that tipping point and shares that information, this becomes a hot case, not a cold case.”
Adamson might be the one tasked with trying to crack this case, but he’s not the only one still looking for answers.
“Hopefully, this will help and maybe we’ll find that person,” Hady said.
We tried reaching out to Laura’s family members, but their phone numbers are disconnected. Even Horicon police have had little contact with them. But Adamson said the most important evidence could come from you. And he’s willing to pay cash to get it.
There’s a $10,000 reward still available if you can help police close this case.
If you know anything about Laura’s case, you can call Horicon’s crime tip line at 920-485-3559, and calls can be anonymous.