When Karen Marchioni called 911 at 11:09 am on October 8, 2001, the 41-year-old was in a fight for her life. Unfortunately, it was a fight she couldn’t win. By the time police officers arrived at her Framingham, Massachusetts, home, Karen was barely clinging to life. They found her locked inside her bathroom, lying on the floor in a large pool of blood. She had been stabbed multiple times in her face, neck, and chest.

First responders did everything they could to stabilize Karen, and she was then airlifted to the University of Massachusetts Medical Center in Worcester. Doctors there fought to save her life, but she was too severely wounded. Two hours after she arrived at the hospital, she was pronounced de*ad.

Detectives from the Massachusetts State Police had the difficult task of notifying Karen’s family that she had been ki*lled. They were stunned by the violent a*ttack and had no idea who could have wanted to hurt Karen. Her mother, Carol Marchioni, told reporters that the crime was incomprehensible. “Karen was the most non-violent person and had been since the day she was born…I don’t think Karen has ever hurt anyone in her life.”

Karen’s 41st birthday was only two days ago, when she was kil*led. A party was thrown for her by her parents for her birthday, and Carol made Karen’s favorite meals for dinner: eggplant parmigiana and spinach lasagna. They had no idea that Karen would die at this family dinner.

The day after Karen’s birthday, her mother and one of her sisters came over for a short visit. Karen’s sister brought her some late birthday gifts. They left Karen in a good mood and she didn’t show any signs of being worried about anything. She was d*ead in less than 24 hours.

It was hard for detectives to put together exactly what had happened on the day Karen was kil*led. There were no signs that her house had been broken into, but it was clear that there had been a fight. Following the att*ack, Karen was able to get the phone and lock herself in her bathroom. She quickly called 911 and said she had been stabbed, but she went out of consciousness before she could say anything else.

Karen’s mu*rder was Framingham’s first in more than a year. The city was thought to be safe and violent crimes were rare. Karen had gone to Framingham North High School and graduated in 1978. She had lived in Framingham her whole life. She had been married twice, but both ended in divorce. When she died, she was not married to anyone.

Steven Case, Karen’s first husband, lived right next door, and the two were friendly. Jennifer, their 14-year-old daughter, was mostly cared for by Steven, but Karen saw her a few times a week and was very close with her. Steven said that Karen had had problems with drugs in the past, but he also said that she had been doing much better in the months before she died.

Steven was the one who had to tell Jennifer that her mother had died. Jenn wasn’t sure what to think because she was a freshman in high school at the time. She couldn’t understand why someone would want to hurt her mom, and she even asked her dad if he was sure she hadn’t overdosed by accident. It took months for the full truth of what was happening to sink in.

Karen had fibromyalgia, which hurt her ability to work and probably made her more dependent on painkillers. It looked like her drug use reached its peak in May 2001, when she was arrested for making a fake prescription for painkillers. It looked like her arrest made her want to get help, so she started going to church regularly and trying to change her life. Steven thought she would be able to get better. “She was a fighter and she looked like she was winning the fight,” he told a reporter. She had a chance, but she was ki*lled before she could do it.

When Karen married Steven Henderson in October 2000, it was only for a month because they weren’t happy together. Henderson was violent, according to her family and friends. Police said they were called to the house six times in the year before she was k*illed. Henderson was finally found guilty of assault and battery on Karen and went to jail for a while. A month before Karen was ki*lled, he was arrested again for breaking the restraining order she had made against him. Henderson had a perfect excuse for not being at the mu*rder scene: he was still in jail when Karen was k*illed, even though he had a violent past.

Detectives said that they hadn’t made much progress in the case two weeks after the mu*rder. They looked all over Karen’s neighborhood but couldn’t find anyone who had seen or heard anything strange on the day of the mur*der. Somehow, the k*iller got into and out of Karen’s house during the day without anyone noticing.

The local news media did not report on Karen’s de*ath, which was sad. A few articles were written about the murd*er right after it happened, but the case stopped getting attention when it became clear that police had no leads. Karen’s family did everything they could to keep people aware that her murd*er had not been solved, but the case quickly went cold.

In July 2005, the police said they had a person they thought had ki*lled Karen. It wasn’t clear what Aaron Sutton, a 33-year-old homeless man wanted for kidnapping and trying to k*ill his girlfriend, had to do with Karen. Reporters were told by Framingham Police Lt. Vincent Alfano, “He’s a prime suspect; he’s dangerous.” People think he’s dangerous and armed. He was never arrested for Karen’s m*urder, though, because they didn’t have any proof that he was involved with the crime.

Looking back on it as an adult, Jennifer wondered if the reason investigators had never solved the case had something to do with the fact that they viewed her mother as a drug addict. She said that, despite her problems, Karen was a fantastic mother and a wonderful person. “It’s more important that I feel that authorities care, and I feel that they are not trying. I just wonder if they didn’t try because she had substance abuse issues.”

As of August 2022, Karen’s murd*er remains unsolved. In 2018, a spokesperson for the Middlesex District Attorney’s office stated that they had recently submitted evidence from the case for new forensic testing; if anything new was learned from the results it has not been released to the public.

Karen Marchioni was 41 years old when she was brutally murd*ered in 2001. She was a devoted mother and animal lover; in 1986, she founded the Framingham Animal Shelter and continued doing volunteer work until her d*eath. Although investigators named a suspect in 2005, more than 15 years have passed since then and no new developments have been reported. If you have any information about Karen’s mu*rder, please contact the Framingham Police Department at 508–872–1212 or the Middlesex State Police at 781–897–6600.

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