Every March and April, dozens of cities across the southern portion of North America are inundated with college students. Excited to take a break from studying, they fill their days with beaches, bikinis, and booze. Tragically, some of these young people also fall victim to murders and mysterious disappearances.
10 Sarah Ann Ottens
In 1973, the University of Iowa dorm where Sarah Ann Ottens lived was almost empty because most students had departed for the spring break holiday. Sarah had stayed on campus to make a little extra money as a waitress. She intended to go home to visit her family in Illinois later in the week. Until then, she had the key to a friend’s dorm room and would sometimes stay there instead of her own room.
Just before midnight on March 13, the 20-year-old nursing student was found suffocated and beaten in her friend’s room. She had evidently been washed because there was blood in the sink. The students assigned to the dorm room had left for the holiday. Sarah’s body was discovered by the only other student staying on the floor that week.
Eventually, police arrested 20-year-old James Hall, a part-time student who was African American. Based on hair, blood, and fingerprint evidence found at the scene and on Hall’s attire, he was convicted and given a 50-year sentence.
However, the trial was marred from the outset. Racist statements were allegedly made at the grand jury proceedings. Then some jury members were accused of consuming alcohol during the deliberations before they rendered their verdict. Ultimately, Hall’s conviction was overturned on appeal because it was found that the prosecution had withheld evidence.
Hall was released, and Sarah’s murder reverted to unsolved status. Ten years later, Hall was convicted of strangling a 31-year-old woman. No one else was ever charged in Sarah’s death.