COLD CASE #0
TRUMBULL — The man who found the body of Karla Elaine Storer in 1995 thought she was an old mannequin, thrown into the trash by a store.
A stripper and sometime prostitute, she was found in a pile of garbage in Stratford that was brought to the transfer station from a parking lot in Trumbull near what was then the Trumbull Shopping Center.
Storer, who went by the nickname “P.J.,” died of blunt force trauma to her head.
Trumbull Police Detective Sgt. Brian Weir took over Storer’s case in August 2016. With his average caseload throughout the year, he said, he hasn’t had the chance to fully dive into another full investigation of the old case, but hopes someone will come forward with answers now that more than 20 years has passed.
“She’s somebody,” Weir said, sitting in his office at the Trumbull police station recently, a pile of photos and files related to the case spread out on his desk. “She’s somebody’s child, she’s somebody’s family member.”
At the station, there are several boxes filled with information on Storer’s case. Weir said since taking over the lead on the case, he has only had the chance to sort through one box.
Before going back to interview witnesses or further investigate, Weir said, he wants to get through every box to have a complete understanding of the killing.
“There’s always a possibility there is somebody out there committing these kinds of crimes that hasn’t been caught — somebody who keeps getting away with it,” Weir said.
Storer, 28, of Bridgeport, was last seen around 12:30 a.m. July 23, 1995, near where she worked at the Brass Guitar strip club in the 200 block of Middle Street in Bridgeport. The strip club is no longer there.
When Storer wasn’t working at the strip club, Weir said, she would be in the area working as a prostitute.
Around 11 p.m. on July 23, 1995, Storer’s boyfriend reported her missing to Bridgeport police. The couple lived in the 800 block of Colorado Avenue. No immediate action was taken, which isn’t unusual, since she was an adult and hadn’t been missing more than a few hours.
On July 26, 1995, around 9 a.m., security at the Trumbull mall noticed a smell from a dumpster and called to have a company pick it up, take it to a transfer station in Stratford and return the emptied dumpster.
The next day, around 7:30 a.m., a dump truck took the dumpster and its contents to the Stratford transfer station.
“It went directly there,” Weir said. “No stops; there was nothing suspect there.”
When the driver dumped the items at the transfer station, he started to shuffle through the trash to look for loose change or valuables, the report says.
“He saw a foot,” Weir said. “He thought it was a mannequin. But then he pulled on the foot and discovered it wasn’t a mannequin, but a human foot attached to a body.”
Once the driver realized the body was real, he called Stratford police, Weir said. When Stratford police found out the dumpster came from Trumbull, the case was referred to Trumbull police.
In an attempt to identify the body, Trumbull police began to sift through missing persons reports in town and the surrounding areas.
A match to Storer
Two days after the body was found, on July 28, 1995, Storer was identified through dental records and X-rays.
The identification opened up the investigation for police — now they could visit her workplace and talk to friends and family.
At 10 a.m. Aug. 2, 1995 — less than a week after identifying Storer’s body — police found evidence of a crime about four-and-a-half blocks from the Brass Guitar in Bridgeport: blood in a parking garage off Lafayette Circle between Elm Street and Fairfield Avenue.
“DNA testing proved that the blood at the scene was probably that of Karla Storer based on samples of blood given by her biological parents,” Weir said.
He said the blood was found on the ground level of the garage in the northeast corner.
The usual suspects
As police started to ask around in the area of the Brass Guitar, an eyewitness said they saw Storer the night police said she was probably killed.
The eyewitness claimed to have seen Storer get into a vehicle with a white male who looked to be about 35 years old. Weir said the witness provided a good enough description for a sketch artist to create a guide.
The image gave the department some possible leads at the time and police found a couple of men who looked similar to the sketch. But ultimately, Weir said, those leads ended up being unsuccessful.
Investigators interviewed Storer’s co-workers and employers, the boyfriend who had reported her missing and anyone living in the area of the strip club where Storer was known to frequent. Weir said those interviews left police with more questions than answers.
“In areas like this, sometimes drugs are involved and we don’t get straight stories from people. And people’s stories will change every time we talk to them. It makes things more complicated to find answers,” Weir said.
Eventually, with all immediate leads exhausted, the case went cold and its paperwork shelved until 2016, when it was given to Weir.
But before Weir can move forward investigating Storer’s cold case, he said, he has some work to do, including checking with the state lab where evidence from the case was sent to see what they have available to be retested.
For now, Weir said, Storer’s case remains cold.
He hopes the department will be able to close it someday.
“I don’t know if someone has answers,” Weir said. “I like to think someone out there does and will come forward.”
Anyone with information about Storer’s case can call the Trumbull Police Department at 203-261-3665 and ask for the Detective Bureau. Anonymous tips can be submitted online at http://www.trumbull-ct.gov/PoliceTips.
An occasional series that looks at unsolved homicides, or cold cases, in Bridgeport, Fairfield and beyond.