Marlys Wohlenhaus was found murdered in an Afton, Minnesota, farmhouse almost 40 years ago. Her story, which took years to solve, will appear on an episode of Motives and Murders: Cracking the Case on Investigation Discovery. Marlys Wohlenhaus was bludgeoned to death with a hammer by serial killer Joseph Donald Ture, also known as Joe Ture.Authorities say Ture was also responsible for the murders of Alice Huling and her three children. Today, Joseph Donald Ture is life in a Minnesota correctional facility. On the Motives and Murders: Cracking the Case episode, which is titled "Why Isn't She Smiling," Minnesota law enforcement investigators and the victim's mother will discuss her murder.
Motives and Murders will begin its story with the death of Marlys Wohlenhaus, who was found lying unresponsive in her home in 1979. It was Marlys' mother who found her body. Medics came and transported the 18-year-old victim to a nearby hospital, where she later died.
The young woman's mother was stricken with grief as she tried to understand who would want to hurt her daughter. The farmhouse was located in a secluded and rural area of Afton. By all accounts, it was supposed to be a safe place nestled in the countryside. However, the gruesome murder mystery robbed residents of their peace.
Police interviewed a number of suspects but had little with which to charge anyone. The case went cold for years until detectives re-opened it in the 1990s and discovered a link between Marlys Wohlenhaus' murder and the Huling killings of 1978. In the Huling's case, Alice Huling, a mother of four, was shot to death in her Minnesota home after an intruder appeared.Along with Alice Huling, the gunman shot and killed three of her children. The surviving child, Bill Huling, who was just 11-years-old at the time, played dead until he was able to escape from the home on foot to find help at a neighbor's house miles away.
Police finally got a break in the case when an inmate claimed that Joseph Donald Ture (Joe Ture) confessed to the murders and signed a confession. Investigators say that the motive in both murder cases was sex.
Investigators learned that Joe Ture had seen Marlys Wohlenhaus at the diner where she worked. It was then that he targeted her for rape. He killed Marlys after she refused to have sex with him when he showed up at the farmhouse that fateful day. In the Hulings murder case, Joe Ture was said to have had a fixation on one of Alice Huling's daughters.
Joe Ture was also convicted of the murder of Diane Edwards and the rape and kidnapping of another victim.
Marlys Wohlenhaus was a beautiful and happy young woman who had the spirit of a butterfly. What most people remember about her was that she was always smiling. According to JSTOR, the quote found below was one of Marlys' favorite things to say to friends and family members who failed to smile.
"If you see someone without a smile, give them yours."Her death was a dark ending for someone who served as a beacon of light to others. Minnesota Supreme Court records describes the circumstances of her death this way.
"At about 3:30 p.m. on May 8, 1979, Marlys Wohlenhaus was found by her mother in a downstairs room of their Afton home covered in blood with her head "bashed in." She had several star-shaped cuts on her scalp and her skull was fractured. The injuries caused uncontrollable bleeding and severe brain injury. Wohlenhaus was hospitalized and underwent emergency surgery, but the next day she was taken off a respirator and pronounced dead."During the investigation, the autopsy report indicated that Marlys Wholenhaus had fought for her life, Minnesota court records showed the following.
- An autopsy report found broken fingers and bruises on both hands.
- One neighbor saw a car fishtail out of Wohlenhaus's driveway on the day Wohlenhaus was assaulted.
- Marlys Wohlenhaus' friend testified that on the night before Wohlenhaus' murder, Marlys appeared upset upon seeing a man sitting in the back of the restaurant. The blonde-haired man (who fit Joseph Ture's description) followed the two women on a motorcycle after they left the restaurant.
[Featured Image by Minnesota Dept. of Corrections]