A Cold Case Heats Up

A Forgotten Confession Is Revived

After a 48 Hours broadcast in 1996, some women came forward as new witnesses and convinced Everett Doolittle, the head of a cold case unit reinvestigating the 1978 murder of waitress Maryls Wohlenhaus that Joe Ture was the killer.

But Doolittle didn't have enough to bring charges.

Another witness came forward after watching 48 Hours: Dave Hofstad. While Hofstad had been an investigator on the Diane Edwards case in 1981, Ture had told him that he had killed Maryls Wohlenhaus.

Hofstad reported Ture's admission to his superiors, but he was largely ignored as detectives focused on another suspect. But then, with Hofstad's testimony, Ture was charged and convicted of also killing Wohlenhaus.

Now the cold case investigators moved on to the Huling case. As they carefully went over the case, they realized that the original investigators may have missed evidence.

Right after the Huling murders, police had searched Ture's car and found women's names and addresses. They also had found a ski mask and a club. The club was wrapped in patterned leather; it turned out Alice Huling had sustained a bruise with that pattern. During that search, police also found a Hot Wheels Batmobile.

In 1996, Doolittle did what detectives failed to do almost 20 years earlier. He asked Bill Huling, the only member of his immediate family who had survived that night, if he had any Hot Wheels cars.

Said Doolittle: "His answer was, 'Why, did you find my Batmobile?' He said the last time he saw [the toy] it was on his kitchen table the night of the murder." This tied Ture to the crime and gave investigators enough evidence to charge him with the Huling killings.

In 1978, no one had asked 11-year-old Bill Huling about the toy car. In part because of this lapse, Ture stayed out of jail long enough to kill Wohlenhaus and Edwards, and to rape at least four women.

Investigators had also neglected to talk to Bill Huling about Ture's 1981 confession to the murders. He could have confirmed details that emerged in the confession.

In that confession, Ture said he had a blue jacket, blue jeans, a ski mask, stocking cap and a 12-gauge shotgun. He had seen a tan van in the backyard, he said. One of Huling's sisters had worked in a cafe, in Kimberly, Minn., he had also said. Ture described Alice Huling's bedroom as being on the main floor, between the kitchen and the living room. She was wearing a white pullover nightgown, he said.

Bill Huling confirmed that all of these details were accurate. "[It] had to be the person there," he said. "Because there was too much stuff in there; that was exactly right."

In December 1999, Ture was tried for the Huling murders. At Ture's trial, Bill Huling, now a Navy officer with a wife and two children, testified twice.

"It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be," he said after testifying. "I didn't think it was going to other me as much as it did."

Among those who attended the trial was Frances Wohlenhaus-Munday, Marlys Wohlenhaus' mother. She wanted to show solidarity with Bill Huling.

After a four-week trial, Ture was convicted and sentenced to four consecutive life sentences. He is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison.

"I chose to go on with my life, move on with my life and do the best I can do with what God gave me: another chance," said Huling after the trial.

Since March of this year, when 48 Hours aired its broadcast, Bill Huling has moved on with his life.

To review the initial details of this case, go to To Catch A Killer.

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  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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