TULSA, Okla. — In June 1985, Kathy Wilhoit had two little girls; then, someone killed her inside her apartment.
A suspected killer went to prison until an expert witness cleared him. Now, her daughters are looking for answers.
“I call them mom and dad.”
Kristin Zarn is talking about the adoptive parents who raised her and her little sister.
As she got older, she started asking about her birth parents.
“They told us when we were very little that we called him Daddy Greg and that he was away working,” said Zarn.
She believed her dad would return one day but knew she would never see her mother.
“When we were really little, they just told us that she got beat up very badly and went to heaven,” said Zarn.
Someone brutally murdered her mother, Kathy Wilhoit, on June 1st, 1985. Kristin, then 14-months, and her 4-month-old sister were in their cribs.
“We were found the next day. Neighbors heard us crying and called the police,” said Zarn.
After 17 months of investigating, police believed they had their suspect.
“At that time, we were told she was beaten up and went to heaven, and people thought Daddy Greg did it,” said Zarn.
Greg Wilhoit was convicted of killing his wife, and investigators closed the case. Greg spent the next five years on Oklahoma’s death row until experts proved the bite mark used to convict him was not his.
Kristin was seven then.
“I remember walking through the house and getting to the den. And I saw him sitting there. And at first, I was confused. And it took me a second, then I recognized him. And I ran to him screaming and hugging him,” she said.
Reunited with the father she hadn’t seen since she was a toddler, Kristin built a relationship with her dad.
“I was always happy to spend time with him. We shared a love for movies, so we went to the movies all the time,” she said.
Greg used his conviction and prison experience to inspire others.
“Witness to Innocence, it’s an anti-death penalty group. And he was very involved in that. And he went all around the nation giving speeches at colleges,” she said.
Greg Wilhoit died in 2014. Kristin said now the focus should be on the mother she never really got to know.
“People kind of forgot about her and wanting to get justice for her and find out what happened,” she said.
Investigators told 2 News they haven’t forgotten, but the Tulsa police cold case unit has a big problem.
“They had gotten rid of the evidence. State law requires them to maintain it for a certain period of time. And of course, him being exonerated on it, they went ahead and destroyed the evidence or got rid of the evidence,” said Eddie Majors, Tulsa Police investigator.
Investigators said finding the real killer, in this case, hinges on someone coming forward.
“Not only tell us but be very correct in telling us what happened. Like they knew this guy, or whoever it was who did it, this is the reason they did it,” said Majors.
Until then, Kristin wonders what could have been, “What was she like? Would we have gotten along? Would she have liked me and who I’ve become?”
Anyone with information about Katherine Wilhoit’s murder, contact the Tulsa police at 918-798-TIPS.
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