Amy Hooper had to get to a manager’s meeting. She loved her job at Bermans Leather in Westland Mall. She was never late and never missed a day of work. So on the morning of Monday, March 9, 1992, the plastic, pink carryall that held her makeup and hairbrushes lay open on the bedroom floor, ready for use. The electric blanket on the pull-out sofa she used as a bed was still on. Her hair dryer was plugged in. She already had taken a shower. And then someone killed her. Someone stabbed her and cracked her skull.
Her killer laid Amy’s naked body face up on the hardwood floor of her Lincoln Village apartment, then left what might have been a message. The killer took a wood-and-leather medallion — a heart painted in the colors of the African flag and a symbol known to represent the Rastafarian and black cultures — and loosely bound her hands with it. It might have been the killer’s, or it could have been something Amy had lying around. It might mean nothing and simply could have been handy. Detectives don’t know, but they always have thought it could be a key to the case. Chris Floyd was a Franklin County deputy sheriff on patrol back then and was first officer on the scene. The position of the body struck a chord. “She was displayed. It wasn’t as if she fell that way,” said Floyd, now a homicide detective with the sheriff’s office. “My first thought was, ‘This is to make a statement.’ ”
Amy and a girlfriend had rented the western Franklin County apartment on Feb. 17. Even Amy’s mother hadn’t visited yet because the girls were still getting the place together. Detectives developed a theory early: Amy was a young white girl who almost exclusively dated black men. It was 1992, a less-tolerant, less-forgiving time. Someone, detectives surmised, didn’t care for her choice in men. There were several potential suspects — former boyfriends, old friends, former co-workers, neighborhood sex offenders. None panned out. Amy’s boyfriend at the time, a Bowling Green State University student, was cleared. Her roommate passed a lie-detector test. No one, it seemed, had a logical reason to hurt her. She dated a lot of men, had a lot of friends and partied at a West Side bar called Coconuts. But she didn’t use drugs and didn’t run her mouth, said J.C. “Chuck” Clark, the cold-case detective at the Franklin County sheriff’s office. “She wasn’t causing any trouble for anyone,” he said. “She hung out, worked hard and did her job.”
When Amy Hooper was born, her sisters were 8 and almost 10. There was no shortage of mothering in that household. “She was kind of spoiled,” her mother, 70-year-old Joy Long, said recently. “The girls played with her like she was a baby doll.” Not too many weeks ago, just as the sun was setting, Joy went down to the basement of her Grove City home to dig up some old scrapbooks and photo albums. She told her husband, Jerry, she would just be a minute. By the time Jerry went to bed, David Letterman was about to sign off for the night and Joy was still sifting through dusty memories.
The next afternoon, she spread the snapshots across the coffee table: Amy on her first bicycle, a red Schwinn; in her favorite blue Alligator sweater, which she would have worn to the third grade every day if her mother had allowed it; in her Westland High School marching-band uniform; in a gymnastics tutu; with her perfectly feathered ’80s hair on prom night.
Police investigate the crime scene in this March 9, 1992 footage provided by WBNS-10TV.
“I still think about her every day,” Joy said. She pointed to the 2009 calendar hanging on the kitchen wall. “Right there in November, you’ll see. It’s written in: Amy’s birthday. She’s still a huge part of our family, of our life.” The weekend before Amy was killed, she had borrowed her mom’s car to visit her boyfriend in Bowling Green. He gave her a diamond ring that weekend; it was on her left hand when she died. Amy returned to Columbus and hung out with friends on Sunday night. On Monday, Joy was getting ready for her job teaching third-graders at Harmon Elementary in the South-Western school district. Amy stopped by about 6:30 a.m. to return the car. The two chatted as Joy applied her own makeup in the bathroom; Amy said she had a meeting at work later that morning. She told everyone goodbye, and then borrowed her sister’s car for the day. About 3:30 p.m., Joy was gathering mail at school when the secretary said there was a call. It was, Joy thinks, someone from Bermans.
“Amy hadn’t showed up for work,” Joy said. “I just knew there was something — that something serious had happened.” She called Amy’s dad, whom she had recently divorced, and they agreed to meet at Amy’s apartment. Amy wasn’t answering her phone. They didn’t try the door. Joy waited at the complex’s office while the maintenance man and Amy’s father went into the apartment. Hollis Hooper returned to tell Joy what he had found. “There is this hole in your life and nothing left to fill it,” Joy said. “I couldn’t imagine that there was anybody in this world that hated Amy that much that they wanted to kill her. I just couldn’t.” Her mother has her own theory, that Amy — always trusting, always friendly, young and naive — simply left her front door unlocked and became easy prey.
The detectives think differently. There was a lot of rage in the crime, a lot of brutality. It was, detective Clark says, personal. He thinks Amy knew her attacker, that she could have let the person in. There were no signs of a struggle, although crime-scene photos show that the phone cord might have been ripped from the wall. Over the next several weeks, a few women on the West Side told authorities they had received weird phone calls. “It was bizarre, and we don’t know if there was ever any real connection,” Clark said. “But people would get calls and a man would say, ‘Remember Amy Hooper? You’re gonna end up just like that.’ ” Nothing ever came of them. Tips came from as far away as Oklahoma and Texas. Nothing paid off. Clark thinks the case still is solvable. “Several people knew about this, I’m sure of that,” he said. “For whatever reason, they haven’t come forward. Amy Hooper deserves justice.” DNA evidence from the scene exists. Clark needs only a name to match it.