PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Who killed Jamie Stickle?
It's a mystery that has haunted her family, friends and veteran homicide detectives for 17 years.
Jamie's body was found in her jeep, which had been set on fire outside her apartment on the North Side, on Feb. 8, 2002.
"They said she wasn't shot, she wasn't stabbed, but there was a lot of blood. And then they said that she was burned so bad they couldn't tell if it was a fractured skull or exactly what it was," says Jamie's mother, Marge Walls.
Joe Meyers was one of the detectives who investigated Jamie's murder.
WEB EXTRA: A LOOK BACK FROM THE DAY JAMIE STICKLE'S JEEP WAS FOUND IN 2002
He has since retired from Pittsburgh Police and now works with Carnegie Mellon University Police, but he says Jamie's death has never left him.
"I've thought about it many, many times. My only hope is that she was unconscious and died before she could wake up and feel the pain," says Meyers.
Jamie was a popular bartender in Pittsburgh's gay community.
Those who knew her say the manner of her death was so inconsistent with how she lived her life. Friends and co-workers say she was jovial, charitable and highly regarded in the community. In fact, they say nobody would have wished any kind of violence on Jamie.
But that clearly was not the case on the night she died.
WEB EXTRA: CITY COUNCIL DECLARES IT JAMIE STICKLE DAY IN HER MEMORY
After leaving her job at Sidekicks in Downtown Pittsburgh, Jamie headed for Pegasus, then on to Liberty Saloon, but she was turned away when she tried to go to the after-hours club upstairs due to intoxication.
So she headed for her car to go home, which was parked tightly in Phil's Parking Lot.
Sidekicks owner Scott Noxon happened by.
"She was sort of stuck in and it was like, 'OK, back up left and right,' and I got her out of the lot and we waved, and I said, 'I'll see you tomorrow,'" says Noxon.
But a little more than an hour later, firefighters were trying to douse Jamie's burning jeep in the lot behind Warhola Scrap Yard near the Heinz plant.
WEB EXTRA: VIGIL HELD A YEAR AFTER JAMIE STICKLE'S DEATH
Jamie lived in an apartment upstairs.
Detective Meyers says, "There was evidence that she had initially been assaulted at the front door of her apartment. We had her blood on the door itself, we had several strands of her hair, and some objects that she had in her hand, we're assuming she had in her hand, were found on the doorstop. It appears she got out of her truck, was able to make it to the door, was trying to get into her apartment and was assaulted at the door."
In addition to the door, detectives also found blood on the pavement and on the jeep's door handle.
"There was evidence that she had been dragged, probably unconscious, from the initial point of the assault at the front door, back to the jeep and placed in the jeep and was still alive when the jeep was set on fire," says Meyers.
The fire was so consuming that first responders didn't realize Jamie was in the car until the flames were out.
WEB EXTRA: A LOOK BACK AT COVERAGE FROM THE 3RD ANNIVERSARY OF JAMIE STICKLE'S DEATH
The medical examiner didn't have much to work with.
"They declared, because of the condition of her body after the fire, they were unable to say it was a homicide. It was ruled as undetermined," says Meyers.
Jamie and her longtime girlfriend were coming out of a turbulent breakup.
Jamie's ex was one of the first people police questioned.
"She was with her parents ... She was able to account for her whereabouts and she was pretty quickly eliminated as a suspect," says Meyers.
But try as they might, no other solid suspect was emerging, and as time passed, angst in the gay community rose.
Money was raised for a reward to solve Jamie's murder, which remains unclaimed today, and then rumors started to swirl.
"I believe she was targeted. There was someone there waiting for her," said former local bar owner Chuck Honse.
A theory Detective Meyers thinks might be right on target.
"My personal theory is that there was someone within the gay community that [Jamie] had a problem with and there was some, we'll call it outside, or out of the area, people who were brought in to assault Jamie," says Meyers.
In other words, Detective Meyers thinks Jamie's murder was a hired hit.
But whoever did it left no evidence behind to connect them to the crime.
So, 17 years later, police wait for someone to either slip up and talk, or for someone to have the courage to come forward.
A hope shared by Jamie's mom, Marge, "I just miss her so much and I go to her grave almost every day and talk to her, and I just wish that whoever did this will come forward with some kind of information because every day it goes through my mind of how she died."
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