WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Cindy Taylor remembers the morning if September 14, 1988. She got a call from her mother who worked as a school teacher in Wichita. Her mother hung up abruptly and Cindy called back.
"The principal answered the phone and he said your mom can't talk right now. And I said 'what's going on?' And he said well we heard that they found a body and your mom thinks it might be Mike," said Cindy.
Michael Fowler's body was found half way in a ditch near 85th and N. Oliver. He was shot six times but investigators at the time said there wasn't much blood at the scene. His car was eventually found miles away with his keys and wallet still inside.
"I had to identify my brother. And it was my baby brother. Everything changed from that day on," said Cindy.
Cindy and her daughter, Holly Leeper keep Fowler's photos at the center of the home. Holly was just two-years-old when her uncle died but says still has memories of him.
"We're a very close family. We all love each other dearly. We're Catholics and we stick together," said Cindy.
She says Fowler was two days shy of turning 20 when he died and was working as a waiter at Old Chicago. But she believes he may have had a secret life. Just a month before he was murdered, Fowler was arrested for stripping cars and selling parts. Cindy says rumors swirled that Fowler was mixed up in an auto theft ring. She says it's possible that's what led to his murder.
"I do think that has something do to with it because of the fact that he was arrested a month prior. I think they wanted to shut him up," said Cindy.
Detective Aaron Miller with the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office says he can't comment on the motive since it's still an open investigation 31 years later. Det. Miller says he didn't know about the case until FactFinder12 started asking questions. Now, he says they've submitted decades old evidence for re-testing.
"I'm hoping that with the technology advances they'll be able to tell us things that maybe 31 years ago they weren't able to," said Miller.
Miller says he's currently going through hundreds of handwritten and typed notes on the case. He says there were suspects in the case at one point, but won't say who or whether they're still alive.
Fowler's niece says she's determined to get answers for her aging grandparents.
"Until you figure out exactly what happened when someone in your family is murdered it's like that book is never closed. There are all these different theories and things we know but there's so much we don't know," said Leeper.
Whether they get answers, Cindy will keep her brother's photo at the center of her home.
"It keeps him alive. It keeps the whole family alive. It's like we're still together," said Cindy.
She says the family is holding on to the chance that someone knows something.
"Think of my parents or of any parent out there. We need to get this solved. We need to find out who did this. Without that person coming forward it will never happen."
Anyone with information should contact the Sheriff's Office at 660-5300. Tips can be left anonymously.