Police find possible connection between murdered teen, suspect

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by Renee Murphy

WHAS11.com

Posted on March 4, 2013 at 7:19 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 5 at 6:12 AM

CLARKSVILLE, Ind. (WHAS11) --There's new information about a sexual assault and murder in Clarksville, Ind.  A 17-year-old was strangled over the weekend and we now know the possible connection between the victim and the 49-year-old suspect.  He was the boyfriend of her neighbor.

"I'm sorry," Richard Hooten, the murder suspect, said as he walked into court Monday afternoon when asked what he wanted to say to the victim's family.

“You can't see pictures of a 17-year-old that shows she's been the victim of a rape and a murder and not have an affection,” Clark County Prosecutor Steve Stewart said.

Hooten faces charges of murder, rape, criminal deviant conduct, sexual battery, criminal confinement and strangulation for the death of 17-year-old Tara Willenborg.

“There is no question our victim suffered a horrible death that she was 17-years-old and there was no real prior relationship between them at the time this happened,” Stewart said.

But court filings Monday show the possible connection between Hooten and Willenborg. Willenborg's fiance says the teen sold Hooten alcohol Friday night in Clarksville.

Her body was found early Saturday morning in the bedroom of her apartment that she shared with her fiance.

Hooten was the boyfriend of Willenborg's neighbor at the Cambridge Square Apartments.

“It is a heinous crime and it's my job to see that justice is served in the case,” Stewart said.

A pastor at St. Luke’s United Church of Christ Jennifer Mills-Knutsen had this to say about Willenborg.

“We would always talk and she would do anything in her power to avoid violence. So, that makes it just especially hard to have her meet that kind of end,” Mills-Knutsen said.

Mills-Knutsen is speaking on behalf of Willenborg's family. They were members of the church. Willenborg was confirmed in the church in 2009.

“She made her promises before God that day and we all gathered around and her and put our hands around her head and shoulders and promised her God would be with her wherever she went. So, we are holding on to that right now and remembering that,” Mills-Knutsen said.

Willenborg had just gotten her GED, was an artist, a baker, was loved by so many and had a passion for animals. She would have turned 18-years-old Sunday, March 10.

Before Hooten’s arrest on Saturday he was wanted for failing to register as a sex offender and for meth drug charges.

When we asked prosecutors why no one was able to find Hooten for the sex offender registry he said it was unclear why he couldn’t be located.

Hooten will be back in court this week when prosecutors present the rest of their evidence against the suspect.

Court filings also show Hooten admitted to killing Willenborg.

The visitation for Willenborg will be at Chapman Funeral Home in Clarksville from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday and after 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at St. Luke's United Church of Christ.

The family is requesting expressions of sympathy take the form of contributions to the Jeffersonville Animal Protection Association.

Online condolences can be made at chapmanfuneralhome.net.
 

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