In 1981, a 13-year-old boy named Timothy Buss se*xually ass*aulted and mur*dered 5-year-old Tara Sue Hoffman. Sentenced in adult court to a term of 25 years, Buss served 12 ½ years before being paroled in 1993. Three years later, Buss s*exually ass*aulted and murd*ered a 10-year-old boy.
Timothy Buss kidnapped and se*xually ass*aulted 5-year-old Tara Sue Hoffman on May 21, 1981, on the east side of Bradley, Illinois, as she skipped down the road from her home to the home of Allen Smith to play with a friend.
Tara had a great day at school. She and other kindergarteners enjoyed a day of fun at a local skating rink to honor them for perfect attendance. She was happy and all smiles when she arrived home that day.
At about 2:00 p.m. Tara’s mother phoned Mrs. Smith requesting that she send Tara home. Her brother, Richard, brought home a turtle that he wanted to give to her. Mrs. Hoffman learned Tara left their home sometime before she called.
Mrs. Hoffman drove to the Smith home to search for her daughter. As Mrs. Smith promised, Tara was not inside.
Tara’s mother then walked around the neighborhood looking for Tara. No one had seen Tara. Mrs. Hoffman called the police at about 5:00 p.m. to report her daughter missing. By this time, several families joined in the search for the little girl but did not have any luck.
Tara’s Body Found in Landfill
At 7:15 p.m. 13-year-old Timothy Buss found Tara’s body lying in a landfill about 2 ½ blocks from the Smith home. Timothy lifted her body from the landfill and called another searcher to help him move it. Anthony Coffman felt sick at the sight of Tata’s dead body.
Tara was nude from the waist down, and her shirt was pulled underneath her armpits. Her face was covered in blood and a stick protruded from her arm. He ordered Buss to lay her body back down and stay there while he went and got the police.
Buss Talked to Police
Police secured the scene and hauled Coffman and Buss to the station for questioning. David Buss, Timothy’s dad, arrived at the station a short time later.
Buss told detectives he did not attend school that day since his class was going on a field trip. He described his day to the detectives, claiming he helped Jerry Beattie wash his car early in the morning, then watched TV until about 2:30 when he went to his friend Gary Clough’s home. They sat around and talked, Buss, claimed.
He returned home at 3:00 p.m. and his grandmother picked him up and his brother and sister and drove them to her mobile home. The children played softball, Buss claimed, until 6:30 when his grandmother drove him to his aunt’s house. Buss said he then went to Allen Smith’s house and learned that Tara was missing.
At the landfill, he observed an arm sticking out from underneath pieces of rubber. When he moved the foam rubber, he saw Tara’s body. At this point, he felt her throat for a pulse, then called Anthony Coffman.
The officer interviewing Buss, Officer Bergen, had been told by Clough’s mother that he relocated to Florida to live with his father. She was sure Buss was referring to the same Gary Clough, so phoned his mother again to confirm his whereabouts. She knew Clough had left for Florida weeks before Tara went missing, or at least those claims were made by his mother.
Officer Bergen confirmed Buss’s story with him. At this time, Bergen noticed scratches on Buss’s face and a reddish-brown stain on his pants. Officers asked Buss to remove his clothing to leave at the station for processing, then sent him home with his father.
A Strange Call
While Bergen interviewed Buss at the station, a call came in from Judith Wilkins who wanted to tell police about a strange experience she had the night before. A young boy knocked on her door at about 2:30 p.m. on May 21 asking to borrow her children’s wooden wagon to carry trash to the dump. He wore clothing matching the clothes Buss wore at the station. Mrs. Wilkins agreed to let him borrow the wagon.
Mrs. Wilkins explained to officers the boy was sweating profusely. He did return the wagon later in the evening.
Officers visited Mrs. Wilkins’ home to retrieve the wagon. They requested she come to the station to provide a statement which she gladly did.
She saw Buss at the station and immediately recognized him as the boy who borrowed her wagon, although she did not tell officers as much. She did, however, identify Buss as the person who borrowed the wagon later in the day during a police lineup.
Buss Charged with Mur*der
A week later, on May 28, police charged Timothy Buss with Tara’s mur*der.
Other people came forward alerting police that they had witnessed Buss near the landfill the day Tara’s body was found.
Forensic evidence eventually discovered traces of blood consistent with Tara’s. They also found a partial handprint matching Buss’s on the wooden wagon. The stain on his pants was determined to be blood consistent with Tara’s blood type.
An autopsy determined Tara died from blunt force trauma to the head. The stick had been jabbed into her arms after she died. The autopsy also determined that Tara had been se*xually as*saulted.
Buss Convicted of Murd*er
A jury convicted Buss of Tara’s murd*er based on the circumstantial evidence gathered and sentenced him to a term of 25 years in pr*ison. He spent the first five years incarcerated at a juvenile facility, then was transferred to adult p*rison at the age of 18.
While in pr*ison, Buss bragged about raping and murde*ring Tara to other inmates. Anyone who would listen heard the horrific details of the day Tara died. He was extremely proud of his crime.
Buss Made Parole
After serving 12 ½ years in pri*son, Buss made parole and was released from pr*ison in 1993.
Se*xual As*sault & Mur*der of Christopher Meyer
On August 7, 1995, 10-year-old Christopher Meyer rode his bike home from a local park and community center where he had played with his friends after school. Along the way, Timothy Buss kidnapped the young boy, se*xually mutilated him, and stabbed him more than 50 times. His body was found in a shallow grave in a local state park eight days later on August 15, 1995.
At the community center, witnesses saw a distinctive-looking car like the one Buss drove. Other witnesses testified that they saw Christopher walk to Buss’s car while it was at the community center and watched it follow him as he walked home. Some witnesses claimed they watched Buss talk to the boy during the same time period, even perfectly describing his appearance and the vehicle.
Buss maintained his innocence, claiming that someone who looked like him and drove the same type of car had k*illed Timmy. DNA proved this ‘other man’ did not exist and Buss was the kil*ler.
Buss Sentenced to Life in Pr*ison
Buss was convicted of Christopher’s mu*rder and sentenced to death. It took the jury less than four hours to return their verdict. The State of Illinois later commuted his death sentence to life in pr*ison.