Each year, college students flock to the campus of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale to begin their journey into adulthood and pursue higher education. Unfortunately, in the 1970’s two women’s journeys were cut short in brutally violent deaths. Other women were victims of rape. The predator in the area resumed his vicious crimes in the early 1980’s. It would be many decades, however, before the truth about the perpetrator was revealed and the family members left behind found peace. This is the story of The SIUC Murders.
Theresa Clark was born May 23rd, 1952 in Cook County Illinois. In 1975, Theresa was a graduate student at SIUC studying speech pathology. She was focused on her studies and not dating anyone at the time. Her roommates returned from a visit home on January 27th, 1975 to find their apartment in disarray and Theresa murdered. The room mates noted blood smeared on the walls and bathroom door before discovering Theresa’s body in the bathtub. Theresa had died a bloody and violent death.
The investigators canvassed the Ambassador Apartments and spoke to several neighbors. Neighbors said that the evening before they heard screaming between 8:30 and 9:30 pm and saw a white man in the area (Spiller, 2003). Her roommates told investigators that there was a neighbor who came to use the phone in the past and was stumbling drunk. The investigation seemed to point to someone who lived in the area and maybe even the same apartment complex.
The autopsy of Theresa Clark revealed stab wounds in the back that penetrated her lungs and liver, causing massive hemorrhaging (Spiller, 2003). Additionally, her throat was cut, her breasts had been mutilated, and an injury to the head caused brain hemorrhaging (Spiller, 2003). Her body showed defensive wounds to her hands and evidence of rape trauma. The evidence showed that while she was still alive, she was placed in the tub in scalding hot water (Spiller, 2003). Her death was violent and horrifying.
The police received numerous leads and reports of suspicious people, but none of these panned out. One suspect was eventually arrested for parole violations and questioned in regard to the case. This man was identified as a local who had harassed women asking them about their bowel movements, asking for anal sex, and asking women to defecate on him (Spiller, 2003). There was no evidence that linked him to Theresa’s murder, so he was eliminated as a suspect.
Another tip led authorities to John Paul Phillips, a 21-year-old who lived in Ambassador Apartments. Phillips had attempted to return a knife to a local department store, and when police questioned him about the knife he stated that he used it to skin a deer and broke the tip when sticking it into a bedpost (Spiller, 2003). The police took the knife and sent it to the lab. The investigation led nowhere, however, and the case soon grew cold.
Kathleen McSharry was born September 14th, 1951, in Cook County, Illinois. She was a student at Western Illinois University, but transferred at the end of the 1975-1976 school year to SIUC and was taking summer classes at the University (Echols & Frank, 2009). Her roommates returned home, just as Theresa Clark’s the previous year, and found Kathleen murdered in her bedroom. She was stabbed several times in the back and chest, her throat was slashed, and she had been sexually assaulted (Echols & Frank, 2009).
The murder was so similar to that of Theresa Clark that authorities felt they were likely victims of the same perpetrator. Neighbors reported hearing dogs barking early in the morning but stated they did not see anyone or anything. Some suspects were identified but were quickly eliminated. This case went cold just like that of Theresa Clark. Authorities were growing frustrated as the community grew nervous about the crimes in the area.
John Paul Phillips
John Paul Phillips was born in May of 1953 and grew up with his parents and sister in Carbondale. When he and his sister were very young, their mother had a nervous breakdown and spent years in a mental health facility and then passed away (Binder, 2001). Phillips later told a psychiatrist that his mother sexually abused him as a child, but his father and sister are not sure if this was a truthful statement. His sister Paula describes John Paul as a mischievous little boy that did not get into any serious trouble as a child (Binder, 2001). However, once he hit high school, he began to use drugs and dropped out of school. After being in the Marines for just a few months, he returned to Carbondale to work for his father (Binder, 2001).
Three weeks after the murder of Kathleen McSharry, John Paul Phillips went to the Little Grassy Lake area and confronted a couple he claimed owed him money. He was highly intoxicated with alcohol and morphine, giving him the courage to whip out a pistol on the couple (Spiller, 2003). He robbed and handcuffed the man to a tree before pistol whipping him into unconsciousness. He then took the woman and forced her to get in his truck, remove her clothes, and ingest drugs and alcohol. Phillips drove around with the woman a while and returned to the campsite where the man was screaming. Phillips exited the vehicle to address the man, and the woman took the opportunity to run from the vehicle and immediately sought help (Spiller, 2003).
John Paul Phillips was arrested and charged with one count attempted murder, one count aggravated kidnapping, one count armed robbery, and two counts of aggravated battery (Spiller, 2003). A plea deal was arranged which dropped the attempted murder charge and Phillips was sentenced to two 3-10-year sentences and two 7-24-year sentences, which would all be concurrent (Spiller, 2003). Phillips was housed at Menard prison in Chester, Illinois.
Susan Schumake was born July 5th, 1960 in Cook County, Illinois. On August 17th, 1981, SIUC student Susan Schumake was preparing for her senior year at the University and was working at a local radio station on campus. After leaving a meeting at the radio station on August 17th, Susan Schumake disappeared. Her roommate reported her missing the following day and the search efforts began. The officers believed she took a shortcut from the radio station known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The path was searched late on the night of the 18th and revealed some trampled weeds. Under closer inspection of the area of trampled weeds, the police found the nude deceased body of Susan Schumake.
Susan’s autopsy revealed superficial abrasions and bruises on her thighs, hands, knees and stomach (Spiller, 2003). She had brain hemorrhaging, but the cause of death was officially strangulation. Hairs that did not belong to Susan were also found and presumed to be that of the killer. She, too, had died a brutal death.
Investigators soon learned that John Paul Phillips had recently been released from prison and was working at the communications building in close proximity to the radio station (Spiller, 2003). He instantly became their prime suspect. He had a shaky alibi and was found to have scratches to his arms. John Paul willingly gave hair samples for comparison. To the surprise of the investigators, the hairs found on Susan’s body did not match John Paul Phillips. Although he was still suspected of the crime, no evidence tied him to the crime and the hairs would certainly provide reasonable doubt to a jury.
Police found evidence that led to another suspect in the crime. Her backpack was found along with a red bag that did not belong to Susan. Inside the red bag was a medication bottle with the name Daniel Woloson on it (Forensic Files, 2008). Daniel Woloson was twenty-one and was a recent prison parolee for burglary. He was working on campus as a handyman at the time of Susan’s murder. He was cooperative with the investigators and provided an alibi. He provided hair samples, but then quickly disappeared. The hair samples, however, did not match those found on Susan’s body.
On November 11th, 1981, another body was found three miles east of Elkville, Illinois. The female body was nude with long brown hair and submerged in water. Her autopsy revealed head wounds from blunt force trauma, signs of possible rape, and the cause of death was determined to be strangulation. The victim was quickly identified as Joan Wetherall. (Spiller)
The investigation into Joan’s death revealed that she was last seen the night before around 11:30pm-12:30 am leaving a club with a friend. The female friend told investigators that they left at the same time, walking in separate directions (Spiller, 2003). Joan was known as independent and her family did not believe she would have gotten into a vehicle with anyone or went home with anyone. Joan’s clothing and identification were found a few weeks later at Crab Orchard Lake, but nothing was found that pointed to a suspect (Spiller, 2003).
SIUC Student Abducted & Raped
On December 26th, 1981, an SIUC student was leaving her apartment when she was abducted in her own vehicle at knife point. The man forced her in the car, knocked the glasses off her face, and ordered the woman not to look at him. He bound her hands and put a mask over her head. He eventually placed her in the trunk of the vehicle. Eventually, he took her out of the car in an unknown location and forced her to remove her clothing.
The woman was raped, but described her assailant as being somewhat gentle during the assault (Spiller, 2003). After the rape, he was apologetic and agreed to take her back to her apartment. He kept her blindfolded and returned her to the parking lot of her apartment. When she removed the blindfold, he was gone. She reported the assault despite fear that the police would not believe her story. She had a rape kit completed. There were no suspects in the assault.
Abduction Gone Wrong
On January 8th, 1982, a Carterville woman was walking to the bank. It was warm enough outside for her to walk despite it being January in Southern Illinois. A tan pickup truck drove past her and then around the block and stopped near her. He asked her where someone lived, but she couldn’t help him. He grabbed her from behind with his hand covering her mouth and threatening her with a knife (Spiller, 2003).
As he was attempting to force her into his truck, her quick thinking rescued her. She quickly hit him as hard as she could between the legs, giving her time to break free and run (Spiller, 2003). She instantly sought help and described the man, his vehicle, and the attempted abduction. The police quickly located the truck and the assailant. It was John Paul Phillips.
John Paul Phillips was arrested for the attempted abduction. He was identified by the woman in Carterville as well as the woman who was abducted and raped in December. In his truck they found duct tape, rope, a rifle, a buck knife, rubber gloves, and marijuana (Spiller, 2003). John Paul Phillips was tried for the abduction and found guilty. He was sentenced to 45 years in prison and returned to Menard (Spiller, 2003).
John Paul Phillips liked to brag about his crimes and felt he was smarter than law enforcement. He told a fellow inmate at Menard all about how much smarter he was than authorities. In fact, he told Tom Mocaby, the inmate, that the rapes and abductions that landed him in prison were nothing compared to his other crimes.
He provided detailed information that only the killer would know, implicating himself in the murders of Theresa Clark, Kathleen McSharry, and Joan Wetherall. He lived next to Theresa Clark and Kathleen McSharry at the times of their deaths. He told his cellmate in detail how much he enjoyed watching the fear in the victims’ eyes as he killed them. He described the details of the crimes in such great detail that the inmate reported the crimes to authorities after he was released from prison.
This evidence gave probable cause for police to search a vehicle that once belonged to John Paul Phillips. They found several hairs in the trunk and backseat of the car that were determined to belong to Joan Wetherall. In October of 1986 John Paul Phillips went on trial in Massac County for the murder of Joan Wetherall. The former cellmate provided testimony about the jailhouse confession. This evidence, combined with the forensic evidence found in his vehicle, was enough for the jury to find John Paul Phillips guilty of murder.
At his sentencing hearing, the jury heard testimony about the rapes and abductions, Phillips’ criminal history, and the probability that he was the murderer of Theresa Clark and Kathleen McSharry. As Tom Mocaby was testifying, John Paul Phillips attempted to attack him with a small pipe and then with his hands. The father of Phillips stood and applauded his son’s efforts to attack the witness (Spiller, 2003). John Paul Phillips was sentenced to death.
John Paul Phillips died of heart attack on death row on November 2nd, 1993 (Echols & Frank). He was forty years old. Even with Phillips’ death, the story didn’t end. The murders of Kathleen McSharry, Theresa Clark, and Susan Schumake remained open.
(Above: John Paul Phillips)
When the murders occurred in the seventies and eighties, DNA testing was not available. However, by the year 2000, the family of Susan Schumake had successfully rallied to get evidence tested including DNA found under her fingernails and in her vagina. On October 31st, 2001, John Paul Phillips’ body was exhumed, and DNA taken from his right femur (Echols & Frank). By 2002 it was determined that John Paul Philips was not the murderer of Susan Schumake. DNA testing was attempted in the case of Kathleen McSharry as well, but the samples were too small and unusable.
With the devastating blow to the case eliminating their prime suspect, investigators took another look at the Susan Schumake case. They remembered Daniel Woloson, who was now living in Michigan. They located Daniel Woloson and asked for DNA samples. Woloson refused and the court system did not find cause for a warrant (Forensic Files, 2008). The hair on file from the original investigation was not suitable enough to provide enough DNA.
Michigan State Police assisted in the investigation and provided surveillance of Daniel Woloson. Police learned that Daniel had recently sold his car and tracked it down. Inside the car, they found cigarette butts. The cigarette butts were tested for DNA evidence. The DNA found on the cigarette butts matched the DNA left at the murder scene in 1981 (Forensic Files, 2008). Upon arrest, an additional DNA sample was taken and again matched those of the murder scene.
Daniel Woloson was charged with the murder of Susan Schumake on September 23rd, 2004 (Murderpedia). He plead non-guilty but was found guilty of first-degree murder in March of 2006. He was sentenced to forty years in prison. He is currently in IDOC custody at the Centralia Correctional Facility in Centralia, IL.
(Above: Daniel Woloson, IDOC)
Closing the Cold Cases
In 2007, investigators learned of a new DNA technology called MiniFiler PCR Amplification Kit (Echols & Frank). Using the DNA samples from Kathleen McSharry’s fingernails and the femur exhumed from John Paul Phillips, the testing was performed in 2008. This technique allows smaller samples to be amplified and provide reliable DNA evidence. On February 8th, 2008, the DNA results came back. The DNA was consistent with John Paul Phillips in the murder of Kathleen McSharry (Echols & Frank).
Given the testimony of the cellmate, the DNA evidence, and the similarities between the murders of Theresa Clark and Kathleen McSharry, the Carbondale Police Department officially closed both murder cases with the perpetrator identified as the now deceased John Paul Phillips. Finally, after decades of suspicions, the families finally had answers. John Paul Phillips was a serial killer responsible for the deaths of at least three women.
The murders of Theresa Clark, Kathleen McSharry, Susan Schumake, and Joan Wetherall rocked the college community of Carbondale. While a serial killer preyed on female students, he wasn’t the only monster in Carbondale. Advancements in forensics would eventually lead to the truth and the conviction of Daniel Woloson. John Paul Philips was a monster who died at the young age of forty but was later proven to be a serial killer. There is now a pedestrian overpass named in Susan Schumake’s honor at SIUC. The families and friends of these women will never forget the beautiful women who lost their lives and the pain that was inflicted by these monsters. For that reason, there is no happy ending.
Spiller, H. (2003) Murder in the Heartland: Book One; Turner Publishing Company. Available for purchase at: https://www.amazon.com/Murder-Heartland-Book-Harry-Spiller/dp/1596527978/ref=sr_1_fkmr1_1?dchild=1&keywords=spiller%2C+murder+inthe+heartland&qid=1614654851&sr=8-1-fkmr1
Echols, P. & Frank, W. (2009) The John Paul Phillips Case: Resolution of a 31-Year-Old Homicide Using MiniSTR Technology; Retrieved at: John_Paul_Phillips_Case.pdf (murderpedia.org)
Murderpedia (Retrieved 2021) John Paul PHILLIPS; Retrieved at: John Paul Phillips | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
Daniel M. WOLOSON; Retrieved at: Daniel Woloson | Murderpedia, the encyclopedia of murderers
Find A Grave (Retrieved 2021) Kathleen Theresa McSharry; Retrieved at: Kathleen Theresa McSharry (1951-1976) - Find A Grave Memorial
Theresa Marie Clark; Retrieved at: Theresa Marie Clark (1952-1975) - Find A Grave Memorial
Susan Kathleen Schumake; Retrieved at: Susan Kathleen Schumake (1960-1981) - Find A Grave Memorial
Bonnie’s Blog of Crime (2006) Update: Susan Schumake murder “Daniel Woloson convicted; sentenced to 40 years in prison; Retrieved at: Susan Schumake | Bonnie's Blog of Crime (wordpress.com)
Binder (2001) Phillips: a troubled young man; Southern Illinoisan; Sunday October 28th, 2001. Page 7. Retrieved at: Southern Illinoisan from Carbondale, Illinois on October 28, 2001 · Page 7 (newspapers.com)
Forensic Files (2008) Smoking Out a Killer; Season 12 Episode 30; Retrieved at: Medical Detectives (Forensic Files) - Season 12, Ep 30: Smoking Out A Killer - YouTube
People V. Phillips (1989) The People of The State of Illinois V. John Paul Phillips; Retrieved at: People v. Phillips :: 1989 :: Supreme Court of Illinois Decisions :: Illinois Case Law :: Illinois Law :: US Law :: Justia
IDOC (Retrieved 2021) Daniel M. Woloson; Retrieved at: Offenders (illinois.gov)