Saunders County Crimestoppers
A decade ago the mother of a murder victim asked a cold case investigator for a favor.
"Find out who it was before I died," said Dorothy Heese, mother of murder victim Mary Kay Heese.
A promise that couldn't be kept, because Dorothy died while the murder of her 17 year old daughter still remains unsolved after 45 years.
But maybe not much longer.
"We're pretty confident that we know the people who were involved in this," said Sheriff Kevin Stukenholtz, Saunders County.
Tests are underway that could bring arrests of one or more suspects in a murder that left a family asking why since 1969.
"Just have some answers who? Was it somebody we knew? Someone we didn't?" said Kathy Tull, Hesse's cousin.
In March 1969, the body of Wahoo junior Mary Kay Hesse was found in a ditch southeast of town. She had been stabbed more than a dozen times.
A farmer found Mary Kay's school books scattered on the road. Investigators believe someone tried to take her down the road to a secluded area known for partying called "The grove."
Investigators said the victim got out of a car and tried to run away, but footprint photos show someone caught her.
"It appears she tried to fight back," said Scott Tingelhoff, County Attorney.
After track practice, Mary Kay had been seen walking home.
"I don't think she would have gotten in a car with anyone she didn't know," said Dorothy Heese, mother.
That's why investigators believe someone known in the community murdered Mary Kay Heese in 1969.
"I think this is the closest we're ever been to being able to proceed with a criminal case," said Tingelhoff.
Her cousin is convinced the killer wasn't alone and others have lived nearly half a century with an awful secret.
"I hope his life has been as miserable or they're lives have been as miserable as they caused for this family," said Tull.
Careful not to tip their hand, authorities do show confidence they know who's involved in the murder, but after 45 years, proving it will take a little longer.