On September 27, 1966, someone broke into the Bricca's Cincinnati home and killed a husband, a wife, and their 4-year-old daughter. They were found the following day.
Now, 54 years later, the case has still never been solved.
BACKGROUND AND MURDER
Born in Barrington Hills, Illinois, Linda moved to Seattle with her family where she worked as a flight attendant. There, she met Gerald "Jerry" Bricca, and they married in 1961.
On June 6, 1962, they welcomed their first and only child into the world, a daughter named Deborah Anna Bricca. They moved to Cincinnati, Ohio in 1963.
Jerry was 28 and a hard-working chemical engineer. He often worked nights, weekends, and holidays with his company Monsanto, Co, while Linda stayed home with Debbie after her birth. In 1966, when Debbie was 4, she decided to start working again, and she got a job a part-time with the local veterinarian. She was 23 years old.
The family was well-liked by their neighbors. They often hosted get-togethers for the neighborhood, or backyard barbecues and holiday parties. They were a fairly well-to-do young couple, raising an adorable daughter. They were living the American Dream.
On Tuesday, September 27, 1966, neighbors started to get a little bit worried about the Bricca family. They noticed trash cans left on the curb, and a local paper left on the porch. Their cars were unmoved in the driveway and on the street. Slight concern grew to worry when their next door neighbor, Richard Meyer, tried to call them, but nobody answered. And worry turned to full-blown fear when he went over to the home and noticed the door was left ajar.
That night, Meyer went to another neighbor, Richard Janszen, and told them of his fear and the 2 decided to venture into the house together. Janszen, a WWII veteran, said he recognized the smell of death as soon as he opened the door.
Inside the house, they found Linda and Jerry on the floor of their bedroom, dead. The husband was between the wall and the bed, while the wife was face up across his body. Debbie was dead on her bedroom floor. They ran to call the police immediately.
Authorities arrived soon. They found that the doors of the home were closed, but unlocked. There was no sign of forced entry or struggle. They found the family's 2 dogs locked in a room, unharmed, and a 6.5 inch knife missing.
Jerry was fully clothed with a sock stuffed into his mouth. A piece of tape remained on his body, from an apparent bounding. Linda was in her nightgown, likely getting ready for bed. Debbie was in her nightgown. Jerry's wallet was on the bed, empty.
AUTOPSY AND INVESTIGATION
Jerry and Linda both had head wounds, that were penetrative, but not made by a knife. They were bound at some point during the ordeal, but the rope or tape was removed before the killer left. They had been stabbed in their chests and backs, some time between 10pm-6am. Jerry had 9 stab wounds, and Linda had 8. Linda was also raped.
Debbie had been stabbed 4 times, with such force that the knife went all the way through her tiny body. The coroner was unable to determine the sequence of the murders from the autopsy.
Detectives traced back through the last few days before their murder to try to determine what happened. Meyer's wife told police she had seen a suspicious man walking back and forth on their road before the murders.
After 400 interviews in the investigation, the police were still unable to find any viable suspects for the grisly murders of the young family.
Police did, however, believe that Linda and Jerry knew their killer. Because there was no sign of forced entry, they believe that the couple may have let the killer in. (Though if the doors weren't locked, he could have just walked in.) Additionally, the brutal stabbing of a 4-year-old is so horrific that while, sure, some people do kill 4-year-olds, police believed that he may have killed not for whatever reason he killed her parents, but because she may have recognized him.
The dogs were also a sign. The puppies were known to be aggressive would always bark at strangers, but because no barks were heard by neighbors (really, no suspicious sounds at all), they believed that the dogs may have been comfortable with him.
But a point to the contrary, there had been many murders over the 10 months before the Bricca family killings in Cincinnati. 4 women, 3 raped and strangled, the other stabbed, were unsolved at the time. Emogene Harrison, 56, was found dead in the basement of her apartment in December of 1965. Lois Dant, 57, was found dead in her apartment in April of 1966. Jeannette Messer, 56, was found dead in a park near Cincinnati's campus. Police believed one man was responsible for all 3 deaths.
Though that killer strangled, and only targeted older women, police believed because of the proximity that there was a chance that the same man was responsible. However, he was never identified. (Though I'm not convinced a man who strangled women in their 50s would be the same man to stab a 4-year-old to death.)
So, who killed the entire family? There are a lot of theories in the case, and honestly, I have no idea which to believe because the case is such a mystery. But I'll walk through some of them here.
The first theory is that the family was killed by a hitman. The dogs were unharmed, but not barking at all, meaning they could have been sedated, which is some professional-level murdering. He managed to stab 3 people to death without alerting the neighbors - no one made a loud enough sound to alert neighbors who lived within 20 feet of each other.
Now, why would a hitman kill a random family of 3? Neighbors had, apparently reported that she told them she knew some information about a drug case from back when she was a flight attendant. Perhaps she knew just enough information to be dangerous, and someone wanted to take her out because of it?
Sara's rating? 0/10, not likely. Hitmen, while murderers, are professional and succinct. Sure, the dogs not barking could be the sign of a hitman. But being stabbed 8 and 9 times, respectively? No. That seems way too messy for someone who is in it for the money. Also, Linda was raped. If looking at this murder as a business exchange, that is deeply unprofessional, and another way that you could be caught. Also - if you're killing a woman for having information, I can see why you might kill her husband... but her 4-year-old child? For what purpose?
Now, if you said that it was the drug-people who were in trouble and she knew about it instead of a hired hitman, some of this makes a bit more sense, but still seems like a complete stretch. But hitman? Nope.
Another theory is just a run-of-the mill robbery-turned-murder. The money in Jerry's wallet was taken. However, nothing else of value was taken from the home, so it seems pretty unlikely. Again, to kill not only 2 adults but a freaking kindergartener has to have some purpose. Just trying to get some extra money doesn't seem like a good enough reason. If you're a killer, it makes sense that while you're there, you might grab some cash. But if you're a robber, it doesn't make sense that while you're there, you just stab 3 people, including a kid.
The last theory, and what I think is probably the most likely out of these, is that the vet, Dr. Leininger, who Linda worked for was the killer. There were rumors that Linda was having an affair with him, and he became enraged when she wanted to break it off. The dogs make more sense here: either they were quiet because they'd met him before, or, he sedated them, which he would have the experience to do as a vet. He was known to the family so may have been let in voluntarily, which aligns to some of the thoughts the police had early in the case. Additionally, he committed suicide in 2004, which could be ENTIRELY unrelated, but could be a late sign of remorse.
I am certainly aligned to a theory that says someone who knew them did it, but I don't think it has to be the vet. One person on Reddit asked, "What person will stab a 4-year-old child multiple times, yet can't bring himself to hurt a dog?" Which is a good point. Meaning that either the killer planned to kill Debbie, or Debbie saw him and he worried she'd be a witness (really, whether she knew him or not).
It is also bizarre that they were tied up, bound, and gagged, but were untied before the killer left. And how did he get 2 adults tied up? Threatening Debbie, perhaps? That could be why they were quiet, as well, in fear that retaliating would result in the death of their daughter. But how does someone with just a knife subdue 2 adults so easily?
But the dogs are still weird to me. If they were unfamiliar with the person, they should have barked. Even if they were sedated, they couldn't be sedated immediately upon entering, right?
I don't know, man. The cold, calculating nature of the crime screams anger or serial killer, not just some one-off spree kill. But the details just don't line up. The only person who seems like a possible suspect is the vet, and all he did was have a rumored affair with Linda. Even if he was angry and dejected, murdering her entire family seems like overkill. Perhaps it was someone else Linda had crossed paths with who was unstable and angered that she didn't smile back or something?
This story really is a mystery with a lot of insane and contradictory elements. At this point, 54 years later, all anyone can really do is theorize and wonder what happened to this sweet family.