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Police Try To Unravel Murder of Reclusive Woman

September 26, 1986

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) _ A convenience store clerk was held Friday in the mutilation murder of a woman whose death was described in a handwritten list of instructions that police seized from his home three years ago, authorities said.

Robert E. Lee, 31, appeared Friday in Monroe Superior Court for an initial hearing. He was arrested Thursday on a preliminary charge of murder in the death of Ellen Sears Marks, whose headless and handless body was found near the shack made of packing crates in which she had lived for two years.

At the hearing, Judge Ken Todd declared Lee indigent and ordered a public defender to represent him in court. Lee is being held without bond in Monroe County Jail.

Evidence in the case includes a detailed list of instructions for a killing, police said.

The plans, which did not refer to Ms. Marks, were seized after an informant tipped police in 1983, said Prosecutor Ron Waicukauski. No arrest was made at the time because there was no evidence of a crime, he said.

A search of Lee’s home this week turned up at least 10 knives and a hatchet, police Capt. Keith Eads said.

The body of Ms. Marks, 30, was found Sunday half-buried near the 10-by-10- foot shack, police said. She had been stabbed numerous times in the chest, said Monroe County Coroner Dennis L. Troy.

Ms. Marks, a former graduate student at Indiana University, did volunteer work for a soup kitchen, said David Irwin of the Monroe County United Ministries. The group donates space for the soup kitchen in a building a few blocks from the vacant lot where the body was found, Irwin said.

Ms. Marks was last seen by neighbors Sept. 17, and could have been killed anytime between then and the day her body was found, Troy said.

Technicians from the Crane Naval Depot used a heat-sensing device in an effort to find the missing body parts.

People who knew Ms. Marks called her reclusive and self-sufficient.

″She told us from time to time that she just wanted to get out and see how poor people survived and lived, and that’s what she did,″ said a neighbor, Robert J. Parks.

Another neighbor described her as free-spirited, a woman who played flutes she carved from wood and grew her own vegetables.

Delphia Stephenson, 60, said residents in the neighborhood of mostly older, inexpensive homes on Bloomington’s northwestside often saw Ms. Marks.

″She went down in the woods all the time, down by the railroad tracks, and meditated,″ Mrs. Stephenson said. ″She’d take a piece of paper and write things down.″

There were signs Friday that others in the area were tiring of onlookers drawn by the sight of investigators at the overgrown lot.

A notice fastened to the bright yellow police barricade tape surrounding the lot said: ″Who is sicker, the murderer or you spectators? Go Home.″

Police said evidence that pointed to Lee included a trail of blood leading from the wooded lot to a back door at the rooming house where the suspect lived, less than one block away.

Police said they kept Lee’s one-page, handwritten instructions which read, in part:

″Girl or woman must be abducted or killed in a relatively isolated zone. If killed, corpse is to be immediately moved to a place of shelter that is well-screened and not traveled normally (woods, abandoned building).″

The instructions also said the head, arms and legs of the victim should be cut off.

Indiana University records showed Ms. Marks received an undergraduate degree at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and was enrolled as a graduate student in English at Indiana from 1978-80 but never completed requirements for a master’s degree.

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