Jose Edward Ferreira Jr. was 16 when he said he killed Carrie Jopek. Now 50, he has finally confessed to a murder that has haunted the 13-year-old’s mother for 33 years, but comes as no surprise to his neighbors in Milwaukee.
“It was no secret around the neighborhood that he did it,” Robert Smith, who was 11 when Carrie went missing, told the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
Decades after her death, her killer, now 50, is finally facing a murder charge.
After she disappeared from a house party with other teens in 1982, a story began to circulate in the neighborhood, Smith, now 44, remembered. The rumor held that Ferreira and Jopek got into a fight on the back porch of the house. He hit her, and she fell off the porch and hit her head on a shovel. Panicked, he shoved her corpse under the porch and buried her later.
— WMC Action News 5 (@WMCActionNews5) October 16, 2015
Jose told a different story to his wife and local TV station WISN. On October 11, she went to police to tell them her husband confessed to the murder of Carrie Jopek, described to her as a runaway girl, when he was a teenager. Meanwhile, her husband had called the newsroom and a crisis counselor, and confessed to the murder himself.
In the initial story, reported by WISN, Ferreira said Jopek fell, broke her neck, and then he had sex with her before realizing she wasn’t unconscious, but dead. Now, Jose has appeared in court for the first time, facing a second-degree murder charge, and is being held in jail under $200,000 bail.
The night her daughter died still haunts Jopek’s mother, Carolyn Tousignant, the memories of that day still fresh in her mind.
“Now he’s gonna pay for what he did to her,” she said to WISN and the Tribune. “I’ve been praying for this day … I never put it out of my mind. Every time I watch ‘Cold Case’ or some other detective show, I would hope and pray one of these days we get the person who did that to Carrie.”
The day Carrie was killed, she had been suspended for roaming the halls at school and Carolyn decided not to pick her up, but let her walk home. She believes that her daughter purposely got suspended so she could attend that fateful house party. And she knows Jose, who she calls Junior, but doesn’t think he’s the only one who knew what happened to her daughter. His friends saw her die, too, she told WISN.
“They were drinking, they were all drinking Yukon Jack and smoking weed. They got scared, so they grabbed a dry cleaning bag, wrapped her up in that and dug a hole under the porch and buried her.”
In his sudden confession to murder, Jose didn’t mention friends being in the room at the time. He said he and Carrie went to the basement, where he thought they would “make out.” But Jopek didn’t want to, telling him “I don’t know if this is a good idea” before heading down the stairs. Ferreira said he wasn’t having it, and ordered her to the basement, the Associated Press reported.
— Talking Points Memo (@TPM) October 19, 2015
Then Jose said he shoved her down the stairs and saw her hit the railing and wall on her way down. Finding the girl unconscious at the bottom, he thought she was “knocked out” and considered that “an opportunity.” The next part of his story differs: he told a detective he groped her breasts, a crisis counselor that he “had his way with her,” and a WISN news director that he had sex with Jopek.
It wasn’t until he picked her up that he realized Carrie’s neck was broken and she had died from her fall down the stairs.
“She told me she wasn’t going to have sex until she got married,” her mom recalled. “She was 13 when she told me that. And I believed her. Such a pretty girl though, oh, my baby.”
He then hauled Carrie’s body through the basement to an exterior door, which led under the back porch. He dug a hole there, buried her, and several days later, returned to the spot to cry and apologize to her. A neighbor spotted him and the police paid Jose a visit, but he did as his brother ordered him and assured police he didn’t know what happened to Jopek.
“She spent two of her birthdays underneath that porch,” Tousignant cried.
Over a year later, he watched as a carpenter found Carrie’s remains while working on the porch. Thirty-three years later, he faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of her murder.
So, after all this time, why did he finally confess to Jopek’s murder? Her mother has an answer.
“Carrie was haunting him. She kept on until it worked. She was persistent, a very persistent child she was.”
[Photo Courtesy YouTube Screengrab]