Who killed Debra Rentschler? 18-year-old found dead in Farmington snowbank on Christmas 42 years ago

Rentschler last seen getting into car

Debra Rentschler (WDIV)

FARMINGTON, Mich. – The family of an 18-year-old woman found strangled to death on Christmas morning in Farmington 42 years ago is still waiting for justice.

Debra Rentschler was killed and her nude body was left in a parking lot snowbank. Someone discovered her body at 8 a.m. on Dec. 25, 1980, in the area of Drake Road and Grand River Avenue.

“She was found right in this general area, face down . . . Three quarters of her body covered by snow, and, you know, visible injuries to her knees, elbows and again the marks on her neck,” then-Commander of Farmington Public Safety Frank Demers said in 2013.

Just hours earlier Rentschler was seen getting into a car at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Seward in Detroit.

According to the April 2, 1981, edition of the Farmington Observer, police immediately treated the case as a homicide even though an initial autopsy listed her death as natural causes.

Her body was exhumed in 1981 and a second autopsy was conducted. The second autopsy found the cause of death was strangulation.

“The results of the second autopsy have confirmed what we have believed all along,” Robert Seifert told the Farmington Observer in 1981. “We were never able to accept the logic of the first finding, wherein an apparently healthy 18-year-old woman is found naked and dead 40 miles and four hours after last having been seen due to ‘natural causes.’”

Previous story: Women in picture could help close Farmington’s only unsolved murder

Could a photograph help solve the murder case?

Debra Rentschler (WDIV)

Investigators released a photo of Rentschler (shown in the center) and two other women in 2013, hoping someone could identify the women she was with.

The photo was taken the summer before Rentschler was murdered. The women were not suspects. Police said they were Rentschler’s friends and they might know whose car she got into the night she died.

Rentschler’s brother, Dave Rentschler, told Local 4 in 2013 that he spoke to his sister just before she died. She had called the house to let their grandparents know that she was coming for Christmas the next day.

“She was a very fun, outgoing person. Very nice, sometimes too trusting with people. I always told her before, ‘Debbie please be careful of who you hang with,’” Dave Rentschler said in 2013.

“I want to see justice. I want to see whoever did this, have to pay for it and not see another family go through what we have,” her sister, Amy Rentschler, said in 2013.

Anyone with any information can leave an anonymous tip with Crime Stoppers at 1-800-SPEAK-UP or call the city of Farmington Public Safety Department at 248-474-4700.

Read: Michigan cold case coverage

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About the Author:

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