The list of tragic things that could happen to a child, whether by accident or not, is never-ending for parents.
What if the cause of your child’s de*ath was unknown? On August 7, 1996, for the family of 6-year-old Katherine Korzilius, this horror became a reality.
Katherine was found unconscious with a skull fracture, which ultimately led to her demise, only six houses away from her own home. What transpired is a mystery.
The beginning of a mystery
After a day of errands, including the purchase of a birthday present for her husband, Paul, Katherine’s mother, Nancy, arrived at their communal mailboxes at 4:00 p.m. with Katherine and her 9-year-old brother Chris in tow.
Katherine requested permission to walk home. Nancy concurred; “absolutely” was the final word she spoke to her daughter (3). Katherine’s route to her residence was only four houses away, and she was familiar with it. So, while Katherine drove the shorter route home, Nancy and Chris took the longer route.
Chris went looking for her when she failed to return home. He returned, informing his mother that he was unable to locate Katherine. At 4:15, only fifteen minutes had passed since leaving Katherine alive. They discovered her in the fetal position, unconscious but still breathing, on the opposite side of the dead end. Nancy instinctively picked up Katherine and drove the twenty-five minutes to Seton Medical Center, where Katherine died that evening.
The Crime Scene
No skid marks or debris were found near her body. Katherine’s residence was also in a quiet, low-traffic neighborhood. Despite this, the initial hypothesis involved a hit-and-run. None of the interviewed neighbors heard or saw anything; however, after the initial media frenzy, Chris reported that one of his friends claimed his mother called 911, but there is no record of this. Chris and Nancy’s account of the afternoon is the only one that has been provided.
Given the angle of impact, a car should have had ample time to stop before colliding with Katherine. As a result, the hit-and-run theory became less plausible, particularly following the release of the autopsy.
The skull of Katherine was fractured. There were no additional fractures or internal injuries consistent with an impact injury. On her shoulder, back, hip, elbows, knees, and hands she had small abrasions and bruises. The coroner concluded that she either jumped, fell, or was thrown from a moving vehicle.
The autopsy raised more questions than answers. Together, neighbors posted flyers offering a reward for information. Paul, the father of Katherine, is the business manager for Jon Bon Jovi, which added to the intrigue. However, despite the interest, there was insufficient evidence to focus the investigation.
Two theories emerged.
Theory (01)𑁋Katherine fell trying to car surf
Katherine attempted to hold onto the bumper of the family’s car for the ride home. There were only two places to hold onto the Chevrolet Suburban: the back door handle, which would have opened had she grabbed it, and a metal bar on top. Texans are aware that the metal would have likely burned her hands in the summer heat of Austin. In addition, she had a finger splint due to a broken left thumb (2). It would have been challenging to retain anything. In addition, no relevant fingerprints have ever been recorded on the mother’s car.
This theory assumes Nancy and Chris are partially responsible. Katherine should have been visible in Nancy’s rearview mirror. If true, either she allowed Katherine to ride in the trunk or she wasn’t paying attention. At age nine, Chris, who was in the car, would have participated in the cover-up.
Due to these factors, investigators, including a private investigator retained by the Korzilius family, rejected this theory. Amateur criminologists have suggested that the heat and splint could be the reason why she fell, not because she didn’t try. Her injuries were consistent with a fall rather than an impact, as her neighborhood cul-de-sac was curved. She was also discovered in the direction in which her mother drove, not the direction in which she would have walked.
Theory (02)𑁋Katherine was abducted
Katherine was abducted and then thrown from a moving car, fell out, or jumped out during an attempted abduction. This possibility was strengthened when a K-9 unit located her scent 30 yards from the mailboxes in an abandoned lot.
Nancy stated in her statement to the police that Katherine posed for her. Katherine’s hair was sleek, her shirt and shorts were straight, and she wore sandals.
This theory was refuted by the fact that the abduction would have occurred rapidly as a crime of opportunity in a secure neighborhood. However, safety is most likely an illusion.
The Lingering Questions
It could have been one of these theories, a hit-and-run, or Katherine could have simply fallen. According to the coroner’s report, scrapes on her hands, knees, and elbows were consistent with a fall. Head injuries are complicated. Could she have fallen and attempted to follow her mother’s vehicle?
All that is known is that the possibility that a little girl could die while walking one block seems wrong, unfair, and upsetting.
Katherine exemplified kindness and generosity by donating her organs. Her family sponsored a new mural in her elementary school cafeteria that reflected her passion for drawing (3). They remained close to their neighbors, even inviting them to Katherine’s upcoming seventh birthday party.