Sheila Wysocki: How A Stay-At-Home Mom Helped Solve Her Friend’s Murder

Sheila Wysocki, once a stay-at-home mom in Nashville, turned to private investigation to help find the person responsible for her friend’s death. Yet, instead of hiring a professional, Wysocki trained herself and became a investigator, leading to crack an almost 30-year-old unsolved murder case.

People reports that in 2004, Wysocki was a content mother of two children, living an idyllic life in the Nashville suburbs, when she saw a “ghost” appear at the edge of bed. Upon looking closer, Wysocki realized that she was looking into the face of her late friend, Angela Samota, who was raped and murdered in 1984. Samota’s case was never solved, that is until Wysocki decided to get involved.

“I know it sounds crazy. I promise you that it sounds crazy to me.”

Wysocki couldn’t explain it, but she was overcome with a feeling that it was time to solve her friend’s murder. She called authorities in Dallas, Texas, where the crime took place, seeking information and updates. The detectives dismissed her. She refused to give up, and over the course of four years, she made over 700 calls and continuously pressured detectives to find Samota’s case evidence files, which apparently had somehow gotten lost.

During the time police were brushing her off, Wysocki obtained her private investigator’s license, and trained to not only help solve her friend’s case, but other unsolved cases as well.

Eventually, detectives found Somata’s case evidence, which contained DNA from the killer. DNA testing wasn’t available in the 1980s, but with today’s technology, detectives determined that the DNA found on Samota belonged to Donald Andrew Bess, a serial rapist who had been linked to other crimes.

Bess, now 61, entered Samota’s off-campus condo, raped her, then stabbed her 18 times in the chest, after he asked to use her restroom and phone. Samota was a sophomore at Southern Methodist University.

After Bess was found guilty of aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping, and murder, his younger brother, Charles, begged jurors to spare his life, citing a trouble childhood for Bess’s actions. His brother also indicated that Bess was now in poor health and not a threat to anyone.

“I’d much rather him die of natural causes in prison. He’s not a threat to anybody. He needs to be locked up, but killing him, how is that going to help anybody?”

Charles also stated that his older brother was the protector of his three younger siblings, and often took beating from their father and humiliation from their stepmother.

“He was my best friend, my protector. He wouldn’t let anyone bother or pick on me.”

Less than an hour later, however, jurors decided that Bess should be sentenced to death.

Wysocki remembered Angie being the type of person that always stood up for others, including herself despite their vast differences. Wysocki, the daughter of a working mother, was attending SMU on a scholarship, while battling dyslexia. Samota came from a wealthy family, and was one of the only females to major in computer engineering. Regardless, the two became close friends. Wysocki still remembers her huge smile and big heart.

“She was full of life. She had a very big personality, happy and always smiling.”

Thinking back to crime, Wysocki remembered that the crime scene was so gruesome that police initially thought the killer had ripped Samora’s heart out of her body. The experience changed Wysocki in unimaginable ways.

“It totally changed what I thought, how I thought and where I was going. It was kind of a fog at that time. I didn’t have a clear path.”

The fog let to Wysocki following the detective’s every move as they tried to solve the case. Yet, when Wysocki met her husband and moved to Tennessee, she forced herself to move on.

“I thought I needed to move on with my life, and I did. I just thought it’s going to be solved. Someone is going to solve it.”

Yet years went by and Somata’s case was placed on the back burner, even as technology advanced and DNA testing was introduced in 1995. In 2004, it all changed when Samota’s “ghost” visited Wysocki.

“I was sitting at my bed and at the end of my bed, as you and I are sitting here, I saw my roommate. I saw her smiling, I saw what she was wearing. As crazy as it sounds, I know what I saw, and I knew it was time. And Angie always came to me whenever there was a problem.”

Sheila Wysocki continues to work as a private investigator. Most of her clients are the mothers of victims, who’ve “been beaten down by the system.”

[Photo by the Texas Department of Corrections]