Heather Church was a teen girl who went missing in 1991 while babysitting one of her younger siblings. After AFIS matched his fingerprints to those found at the crime scene, Robert Browne was found guilty of her murder.
Authorities tried to find Heather Church when she went missing from her Black Forest, Colorado, home in September 1991. The case was turned on its head after two years of frenzied searching when the teen’s remains were recovered around 30 miles from her home. When confronted with a homicide, the police accelerated their investigation until a fingerprint led them right to the killer.
‘Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda: Who Took Heather?‘ on Investigation Discovery takes the spectator through the brutal murder and the subsequent investigation that led to the apprehension of the offender. If you’re intrigued by this case and want to know where Heather’s killer is right now, we’ve got you covered.
Heather Church’s Death: How Did She Die?
Heather Church was a free-spirited schoolgirl who lived with her family in Black Forest, El Paso County, Colorado, at the time of the incident. The 13-year-old grew up with three other siblings with whom she had a close relationship. During her captivity, she was actually watching her younger brother, Sage.
Heather’s loved ones described her as a sweet and vibrant young girl who adored dolls and enjoyed playing the violin. It was a tragic day when a crime motivated by hatred ripped away such a lovely life for all time.
Heather was babysitting her 5-year-old brother, Sage, when she vanished from the face of the world on September 17, 1991. Her family was filled with anxiety and enlisted the help of the police, who did not leave any stone unturned in their inquiry.
Authorities collaborated with local residents to assemble enormous search parties and even sat through hundreds of interviews, but the missing girl remained unfound. Heather’s family and police officers wished for her safe return for two years as the search for her continued.
But fate was not on the Church family’s side; in 1993, authorities discovered a human skull roughly 30 miles from Heather’s home. When the skull was positively identified as Heather’s, the case was upgraded to homicide, and a full investigation was launched.
Unfortunately, no cause of death was ever determined, despite the fact that investigators assumed Heather was killed by a single strike to the head, according to the episode.
Who Killed Heather Church and Why?
Heather Church’s disappearance was initially investigated slowly because investigators had few clues to follow. They conducted multiple interviews in order to compile a lengthy suspect list, but the investigation that followed cleared one name after another, leaving officers back at square one. Furthermore, Heather’s family was known in their town to be fairly nice, and they couldn’t think of anyone who would want to hurt them.
Heather’s father divorced her mother a few months before her abduction, according to the episode. He became a key person of interest in the eyes of the law as a result of this, albeit he was later cleared of all charges.
Despite their attempts, police officials were able to recover a foreign fingerprint from a Church house windowsill that did not belong to any of Heather’s relatives.
Even after running the fingerprint through the FBI and the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, police were unable to find a match. So, in a last-ditch effort, the police added more officers to the case and sent Heather’s fingerprint to 52 other jurisdictions in the hopes of finding a match.
Surprisingly, their efforts paid off when the print was identified as belonging to Robert Charles Browne, who lived approximately half a mile from the victim’s home.
When questioned, Robert claimed that he had never visited the Church family and that he was not engaged in the murder. He even went so far as to say the fingerprint was a mistake and that he was completely innocent.
However, because the cops had a piece of incriminating forensic evidence linking Robert to the crime, he was apprehended and charged with murder.
What Has Happened to Robert Charles Browne and Where Is He Now?
Once in court, Robert Charles Browne stunned everyone by pleading guilty to Heather Church’s first-degree murder. In 1995, he was condemned to life in jail without the possibility of release as a result of his actions.
Robert pleaded guilty to the November 1987 murder of 15-year-old Rocio Delpilar Sperry in July 2006, while still jailed.
Furthermore, Robert alleged in a letter that he murdered 48 people in nine states between 1970 and 1995. Despite the fact that the letter included a hand-drawn map of multiple states and a death count, Robert was never charged with any of the killings. Instead, he is still detained at the Limon Correctional Facility in Lincoln County, Colorado, with no prospect of parole.