GREENVILLE — July 27, 1967 was a normal day for 24-yr-old Carole Mae Brinkman. Carole reported to work on time at G.C. Murphy’s, a department store in Greenville. She attended a going away party for a colleague, which she’d helped organize, and later gave another co-worker a ride home. She then reported for work at her second job at the Speedway, a drive-in theater located just south of the county fairgrounds. Carole worked as a cashier in the drive-in’s ticket booth.
At about 10:20 p.m. Carole’s co-worker in the theater’s projection room received a phone call, but could only hear what he described as “mumbling” at the other end. He immediately went to check on Carole, but found her mortally wounded, a bullet having pierced her throat. Carole was still alive when the co-worker arrived, as she was able to unlock the booth in order to let him in, but she was pronounced DOA at nearby Wayne Hospital a few minutes later.
Local police, highway patrolmen, Darke County Sheriff’s deputies, and investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation worked on the case, but were never able to identify a serious suspect. Nor was the murder weapon ever found, despite extensive police and volunteer searches, utilizing metal detectors supplied by the Dayton Power and Light Co. There were only nine cars at the drive-in at the time of the shooting, all of which were searched. Roadblocks were set up nearby, but to no avail. There were no indications of robbery at the scene.
The bullet that killed Carole was a .22 that could have come from either a handgun or a rifle. It passed through the front of her neck and exited from the back, severing her carotid artery.
News accounts at the time described Carole as a “nice, quiet, happy girl” who was planning a trip through Africa and the Middle East with her parents at the time of her death – a trip that, sadly, had initially been scheduled to begin the following day, but had been rescheduled. She reportedly had no enemies to speak of, nor anyone who might have wanted to cause her harm.
Information about Carole on the internet is sparse, despite the online world’s well-known obsession with unsolved cases. Several years ago a genealogy blogger stumbled across an old roll of undeveloped film belonging to Carole’s family, and eventually returned it to them via the Darke County Sheriff’s Office. The photos were apparently innocuous: just family shots, probably taken around Christmas. The roll came from an old family camera that had changed hands over the intervening years, eventually ending up on eBay.
Who shot Carole Brinkman? And if not robbery, then what was the motive?
Tips and leads still come in even 50 years later, according to Darke County Sheriff Chief Deputy Mark Whittaker, who inherited the case after a colleague retired. But so far none have borne fruit.
“They come in,” said Whittaker. “I sit down and I talk to them. But a lot of times it comes back to the same two or three rumors that’ve always been out there, things we’ve never been able to confirm or dispel.”
In the end, Carole Mae Brinkman’s death remains a mystery.
“We don’t know what happened to her,” Whittaker said. “We don’t know if it was an accidental shooting… a stray bullet that no one ever knew that they had fired. There were no similar homicides prior to her murder and no similar homicides since. We just don’t know.”
Carole Mae’s killer, whether by accident or design, would likely be at least in their 70s, assuming he or she is alive at all. Unlike many unsolved mysteries, there may be no one still living who holds the answers to the questions surrounding Carole Mae’s death.
Carole’s parents have passed away, her mother as recently as 2009. Their remains are interred alongside their daughter’s, beneath a large stone in Neave Township’s Oak Grove cemetery.
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