How Michigan State students, police solved the cold case murder of 16-year-old Kimberly Louiselle

Kimberly Louiselle found dead 41 years ago in Livingston County

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. – The family of 16-year-old Kimberly Louiselle finally has answers 41 years after the teen was found murdered in Livingston County.

Kimberly Louiselle loved poetry and loved spending time with her sisters. She was on her way home on March 20, 1982, when she went missing. It would be more than three weeks before her body was found near the Island Lake Recreation Area in Livingston County.

Police said DNA links Charles David Shaw to Kimberly Louiselle’s case. Shaw died in 1983. He had previously been named as the killer in the murder case of 19-year-old Christina Lynn Castiglione. Police said he is also a suspect in a third murder, which, if confirmed, would make him a serial killer.

What happened to Kimberly Louiselle?

Every detail of what happened in the last few weeks of her life is still a mystery.

What we do know, is that on March 20, 1982, Kimberly Louiselle left her boyfriend’s home and called her mom from a gas station payphone to tell her she was on her way home.

She decided to hitchhike, it was something she had done before. She started in the area of 8 Mile and Inkster roads. She got a ride to the area of 8 Mile and Merriman roads in Livonia. At around 6:30 p.m., she made at least four phone calls trying to find a ride the rest of the way home.

She didn’t make it home, and she wasn’t seen alive again.

Her family searched for her, tracked down her friends, but couldn’t find any trace of her. She was reported missing to the Green Oak Township Police Department the next day.

Kimberly Louiselle’s mother said police kept asking her about her daughter being a runaway. “She was not a runaway, she was on her way home, she said she was on her way home,” Joanna Louiselle said.

The days turned into weeks. Then her body was found.

On April 14, 1982, Kimberly Louiselle’s body was found behind a park and ride in the Island Lake Recreation Area near Grand River Avenue and Kensington Road -- just five miles from her home.

She was found nude and had been sexually assaulted, beaten, and strangled. Her personal belongings were not located. An autopsy revealed that even though she had been missing for more than three weeks, she had only been dead for four to five days.

Renewed interest in the case

Kimberly Louiselle’s sister, Cindy Arthurs, dedicated herself to helping track down her sister’s killer.

“About 15 years ago, I just started googling her name to see if I could find anything on her and I found two really, really old articles that didn’t have the right information,” Cindy Arthurs said. “That kind of upset me that I couldn’t find any information on it. It was like she just didn’t exist. So, that was where I started because I wanted to correct the wrong information ... and then it just went from there.”

Cindy Arthurs started a Facebook page to share information about the case, posted flyers, and tracked down her sister’s friends -- she became a pseudo detective.

The case got a new set of eyes when Michigan State University students taking part in a cold case internship with Michigan State Police took interest. The students sifted through boxes of evidence and files -- and there was a name that caught their eye. Charles David Shaw.

Back in 1983, someone had tipped police that Shaw had lived in the area where Kimberly Louiselle lived. They said he had recently destroyed his apartment and they thought it was suspicious. Police took note, but never tracked Shaw down.

Local 4 recently spoke with the Michigan State University students who took part in this cold case internship, hear from them in the video player below:

Genetic DNA links Shaw to 1983 murder

Earlier this year, Livingston County cold case investigators announced Shaw as the suspect in the 1983 murder of 19-year-old Christina Castiglione.

Castiglione, 19, lived with her mother and father in Redford Township at the time of her disappearance. She was last seen between 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. on March 19, 1983, walking westbound on 5 Mile Road near Lola Park in Redford Township.

Her mother reported her missing on March 21, 1983. Her body was found on March 29, 1983, in the Oak Grove State Game Area on Faussett Road in Deerfield Township. Police were able to obtain DNA from Castiglione’s body

In March 2022, investigators applied and received grant funding through Season of Justice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding DNA testing on unsolved cold case homicides. In May of last year, the DNA evidence was sent to Othram Lab in Texas, the company behind DNA Solves.

Othram used the genealogical profile to identify leads in the case and turned that evidence over to investigators. Investigators said through that work and cooperation from the suspect’s family, they were able to “identify beyond a reasonable doubt” who the killer was.

“The cooperation of the Shaw family during the investigation was paramount to identifying Charles Shaw as the person responsible for the homicide of Christina Castiglione,” Livingston County investigators said in a press release.

---> Advanced DNA analysis helped solve a Livingston County cold case and it doesn’t stop there

Charles David Shaw (Livingston County Sheriff's Office)

Investigators focus on Shaw as suspect in Louiselle’s murder

Investigators began focusing on Shaw as the suspect in Kimberly Louiselle’s murder.

They created maps of areas where he was known to spend time -- like where he lived and where he worked -- and they discovered that those locations surrounded Kimberly Louiselle’s location.

Investigators did a property audit on all the property and all the evidence that they had in the case. The students, and detectives, took that evidence to the Michigan State Police Crime Lab and asked for it to be retested.

They were hoping for a miracle. Then, four months later, they got a hit -- one sperm cell was found. The DNA had been among the evidence for 40 years, and had gone unnoticed. The cell was uploaded into the system and linked to Shaw.

Investigators believe Shaw kidnapped Kimberly Louiselle while she was walking. Police said they are 100% confident that Charles David Shaw is responsible for the death of Kimberly Louiselle.

Shaw was found dead in Detroit on Nov. 27, 1983. The medical examiner’s report lists his death as accidental sexual asphyxiation.

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.