Deadly Ride

After 30 Years, A Suspect Is Charged In Coed's Murder

Extra: Unraveling a murder mystery 04:26

This story originally aired on Nov. 26, 2005.

Jane Mixer was a law student, remembered as being brilliant and passionate. In 1969, she was murdered, her body left in a remote cemetery. For years, some suspected she was the victim of a serial killer.

But as 48 Hours correspondent Maureen Maher reports, a fresh look at old evidence led investigators to a suspect.

Jane Mixer was murdered in Ann Arbor, Michigan in March 1969. She was 23 - about the same age her niece, Maggie Nelson, was when she resolved to learn all she could about the aunt she never knew.

"Jane was many things I wanted to be - driven, disobedient, brilliant, independent. And I also knew that she died horribly," says Maggie.

Maggie says she didn't feel she could ask anyone in her family for details about Jane's murder but says the case has haunted her.

Maggie's mother, Barbara, Jane's older sister by two years, admits there was a pall of silence. "We didn't talk about what had happened to Jane," says Barbara. "One, it was painful. And it seemed almost lurid to think about it or talk about it."

But Maggie felt compelled to unravel the mystery surrounding Jane. She went to the public library and pored over old newspaper reports, finally learning the details of her aunt's death.

Back home, she dug up some of Jane's diaries and began to read.

Maggie discovered that Jane was high school valedictorian and, over the objections of school officials, had given a fiery graduation speech calling for social justice. She went on to the University of Michigan and was committed to changing the world.

Maggie also tracked down Phil Weitzman, one of the people closest to Jane in 1969, when she was one of just 37 female law students in a class of 420.

"Whatever she got involved in, she was extremely passionate about," remembers Phil.

And she was passionate about Phil. Early that spring, Phil says, they were ready to announce their engagement. "Jane said that she wanted to go home and talk with her parents, and felt that she could convince them that this was a good thing."

Jane planned to go home first, with Phil following a few days later. So she posted a note on a college ride board, looking for a lift from Ann Arbor to her home in Muskegon.

Phil says no one thought anything of it, because everyone did it in those days. He says Jane found a ride with a man named David Johnson.

"We talked on the telephone and I thought she should come with Phil," her sister Barbara recalls. "She told me that she thought it would work out better if they came independently, and I said it wasn't right and she said, 'Trust me.' And those are the last two words she ever said."

Jane had told her parents she would be leaving Ann Arbor around 6 p.m. and was expecting to arrive by 9:30 p.m. that evening.

As time ticked by and Jane didn't show up, her father grew concerned. Finally, around 11 p.m., he simply couldn't wait around anymore, and Maggie says he set out looking for her in his car, driving around for several hours.

Sometime that night, Jane Mixer was killed.