Authorities believe that 24-year-old Christine Walker arrived at the family’s farm home around 4pm on Saturday, 19 December, 1959, and was raped and shot by intruders. Her husband Cliff, 25, then arrived, and was shot to death. Their three-year-old son Jimmie was also shot, and Debbie, a month shy of her second birthday, was shot and drowned in a bathtub. News stories at the time noted that there were gifts around the Christmas tree.
Physical evidence left at the scene included a bloody cowboy boot, a cellophane strip from a Kools Cigarette wrapper, and a fingerprint on the bathtub faucet handle.
A serial killer named Emmett Monroe Spencer subsequently confessed to the murders, but the confession was discredited by Sarasota County Sheriff Ross Boyer, who labelled Spencer a pathological liar. Spencer’s confession was “determined to be cleverly constructed from real murders written up in newspapers and true-crime novels that he liked to read.” In 1994, a female bartender in Stroudsburg claimed that one of her customers had boasted of killing the Walker family; this tip was never verified.
Police never identified a motive, and 587 people were suspects at one time or another. The case remains open.