Debbie Groseclose was murdered by Ronald Rickman and Phillip Britt almost 40 years ago in Memphis, Tennessee, at the request of Deborah Groseclose’s husband, William ‘Bill’ Groseclose. The decade’s old murder case will air on ID’s Suspicion this Friday night. Family members say they always suspected that William Groseclose had something to do with Debbie’s death. Authorities deduced that the greedy husband did it for the insurance money. On this week’s Suspicion episode titled “A Sister’s Suspicion,” Debbie Groseclose’s sister, Rebecca Easley, will take viewers back to that hot summer day in Memphis when her sister’s dead body was found in the trunk. Some of the detectives who never forgot the case will most likely make an appearance.
Suspicion: “A Sister’s Suspicion”
When a Memphis nurse and mother fails to show up for her shift at the local hospital, her distraught husband calls to report his wife missing. But when police learn that the missing nurse had a stalker, and her body is later found decomposed in the back of her car, the investigation returns to her house, where the victim’s husband is under a cloud of suspicion.
Hot Summer Murder In Memphis
Suspicion begins in June 1977, when 24-year-old Deborah Groseclose, also known as Debbie, is found dead in her car trunk. She had been reported missing after the hospital notified her husband, William Groseclose, that Debbie never arrived for her shift, where she worked as a nurse.
William ‘Bill’ Groseclose told investigators that the last time he saw his wife she was sleeping in their bedroom. He left the residence that morning and came back to discover that she was gone.
To get some background on their marriage, police detectives asked Bill Groseclose if they were happy. He readily admitted that there were problems. But, they were trying to work it out. Tennessee court records give an even better description of the facts in the case.
“At the time of Deborah Groseclose’s murder in the summer of 1977, she and Groseclose had been married for approximately two or three years and resided in the Frayser neighborhood of Memphis. Deborah was twenty-four years old and employed as a receptionist in a medical clinic.
“Groseclose was twenty-nine years old and employed as a recruiter for the United States Navy. The Grosecloses had one son named Nathan who was almost one year old. Additionally, Deborah had a six-year-old daughter from a prior marriage named Tonya Foley, who was visiting her father in Mississippi.”
“The Grosecloses had been experiencing marital difficulties punctuated by brief separations. Accordingly, Deborah had sought marriage counseling and, indeed, met with her marriage counselor on the evening of Tuesday, June 28, 1977, the day before her murder.”
After receiving a description of her vehicle, Memphis, Tennessee, cops busied themselves trying to find it and her. Police were also alerted to an incident that occurred just the day before when Debbie was followed and chased by a bearded stranger.
In fact, the strange man had followed her on another occasion. He was a white male and appeared to be the biker type. A composite sketch was released to the public, which led to a man with an alibi. The case went cold until a neighbor reported seeing a different car at the Groseclose’s house on the day Debbie went missing.
According to Suspicion, when pressed about this, William Groseclose admitted that a man named Phillip Britt was at the home that day. Police ran the plates and quickly determined that the car belonged to another man, who later told police that he knew who killed Deborah Groseclose.
The biker, Donnie Tatum, stated that his close friends, Ronnie Rickman and Phillip Britt, borrowed his vehicle to abduct the woman and kill her. Tatum then dropped another bombshell. Rickman and Britt did it for the victim’s husband, William Groseclose.
All three were eventually arrested and found guilty. Phillip Britt was sentenced to life in prison. Ronald Eugene Rickman and William Groseclose were given the death penalty. However, the death penalty for Groseclose and Rickman was thrown out 20 years later and reduced to life in prison. They are all now eligible for parole.
William Groseclose’s grown son and Debbie Groseclose’s oldest daughter still remember their mother and are saddened by her death. Debbie’s daughter was only 6-years-old when her mother died. Her son was just a baby.
Hearing about the gruesome details of Debbie Groseclose’s death is what makes Debbie’s sister, Rebecca Easley, so emotional.
Here are some other details that might be aired on Investigation Discovery’s Suspicion.
- An autopsy report confirmed that her sister was still alive in the trunk of that car after she was raped, choked, and stabbed.
- Deborah Groseclose died from being stuffed into the back of the trunk with no air and hot temperatures, which reached over 100 degrees, making her literally bake like a roast.
- Debbie screamed for help, but help didn’t arrive in time.
- Her car was eventually found in the library parking lot.
- Ronald Rickman and Phillip Michael Britt were only paid $150-$200 for the hit.
- The family wrote a book about the case. “Murder in Memphis: The True Story of a Family’s Quest for Justice,” by Dorris D. Porch and Rebecca Easley
- William Groseclose died in prison of natural causes in 2016, according to The Commercial Appeal.
- When Debbie was attacked in her bedroom, she initially screamed for her husband. She was shocked and horrified when the killers told her that it was her husband who hired them, according to Paula Zahn’s coverage of the case.
Tune into Suspicion this Friday at 10/9 p.m. Central on Investigation Discovery (ID). Now, read the sad story of Skylar Neese.
[Featured Image by Gary Gardiner/AP Images]