Cold Case: Children pick up mission to solve mom’s murder
New advances could bring clues
WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - After a mother of three was murdered in 1999, it became their grandmother’s mission to bring the killer to justice. In 2021, she died passing the torch and her mission to the children left behind.
As Dana Hupher’s twin daughters sort through pictures of their mother. Like for many of us, the photos serve as a timeline, forever documenting school picture days, awkward teen years, and for some like Dana, missteps.
“She just got in with the wrong crowd. She was into drugs,” Dana’s daughter, Lacey Liniger, said. “I think she just wanted to fit in wherever she went, you know? And I think that’s where she felt like she fit in the most.”
Considering Dana’s struggles, her mother (the children’s grandmother) decided she would raise Dana’s three children. Sadly, it was a decision made permanent alongside a set of Wichita railroad tracks on an unseasonably chilly summer night in June 1999.
“She was in jail and she got out of jail,” Lacey explained. “We could never find her, and it was a couple of days later there was a knock at the door, telling us that she was murdered.”
Wichita Police Detective Robert Chisholm wasn’t originally assigned the case but is now investigating it in an effort by Wichita Police to close aging unsolved homicides.
“She (Dana Hupfer) had multiple trauma to her, to her head and is partially clothed. She’s laying there by the tracks,” Detective Chisholm said.
“Everywhere on her body,” Casey Hupfer added. “I think she was hit her head like 57 times by a 2x4.”
Dana’s twin daughters were just eight years old in 1999. Their brother was just seven months. They say their grandmother never stopped fighting for answers in Dana’s murder, and that she was always honest with them about what had happened. Now, they’re learning a lot more. Their grandmother died last year, leaving them to carry on the search for justice in their mother’s case. She also left them the ammunition to do it.
“She literally kept everything for us. She would write down if she called the police department, she would call or she’d write down if she talked to a detective, what the detective said. Just so that way we have, you know, everything we need for when hopefully we do find justice,” Liniger explained.
A lot has changed at the corner of W. 10th Street and N. Water Street where Dana was found in 1999. A walking trail now runs along what was once railroad tracks. And while much has changed, some things remain as they did that day: Most importantly, evidence collected that night and saved. There are three boxes of evidence that detectives are working with the Sedgwick County Forensic Science Center to learn if advances in technology can help them finally solve this case.
“Maybe we can relook at evidence. See if we can get different results or results that they weren’t able to give us then maybe they can now,” Detective Chisholm said.
In addition to forensic evidence, detectives are re-examining the more than 50 recorded interviews conducted through the course of the investigation, hoping one of those three boxes contains the answer to the questions Dana’s children have had for the last 23 years.
“I would want her to know that we are fighting every day,” Lacey said. “I just want to know who did it so I can sleep better at night. So I have justice. So everybody in our family has justice. And I hope that they don’t sleep at night is what I hope because of what they did.”
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