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The Unsolved Murder of Lisa Ann Henderson

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Case File Overview 

On June 1st, 1979, 17-year-old Lisa Ann Henderson headed out around noon for an afternoon of adventure. She told her brother she was checking out a potential modeling job and then meeting a friend for lunch.  

When she left her family home located at 7929 S. 70th E. Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Lisa was wearing “a long, white flowered dress and heels.” She had two garment bags with her, likely containing outfits for the modeling appointment. 

Witnesses saw Lisa climb into a 1976-1977 maroon Chevrolet Monte Carlo. It had no hubcaps and damage to the driver’s side of the vehicle. The damage was extremely noticeable, with authorities saying, “it looked [like] someone took a hammer and beat [the car] to death.” An eyewitness said a very pale white male was behind the wheel of the Chevy. He was approximately 40 years old and had thinning, dark hair. 

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations created an aged progression composite sketch of the driver decades after Lisa’s murder. The original image shows the suspect at the time of Lisa’s murder. And the age progression to the left of the original captures the man as he might have looked in September of 2016.

Composite sketch of the man last seen with Lisa

Suspect in Lisa Henderson Murder
Source: Websleuths

When Lisa did not return home by 5:00PM, her family became very concerned. After contacting her friends and co-workers and learning no one had heard from Lisa all afternoon, they called the police and filed a missing persons report.

On June 11th, 1979, a road worker found Lisa’s body in Wagoner County, south of Highway 51 on Old Porter Road—27 miles away from her south Tulsa home. 

An autopsy later revealed Lisa’s cause of death was gunshot wounds. Also, her body was set on fire, possibly in an attempt to conceal any evidence that may have been left behind. 

Lisa’s murder remains unsolved. 

Case File Theories 

Unlike most murders where the victim’s significant other is the prime suspect, the police have stated Lisa did not have a boyfriend at the time of her death. This, however, has not caused a shortage of theories. There are two main persons of interest in Lisa’s case. 

Serial Killer 

Police think Lisa’s case could potentially be connected with Patricia Palmer’s murder, as both women placed ads in the Tulsa World newspaper. Lisa was seeking a modeling job whereas Patricia was looking to sell her wedding dress. Had a serial killer answered these unsuspecting women’s ads and then murdered them? 

Lisa’s mom, Gerri Henderson, is quite sure when Lisa was picked up from the house she was going to a modeling job. One of the big questions that remain is whether the ad in the newspaper led the murderer to Lisa or if she got onto the killer’s radar when she was spotted working at the mall. 

The police found out that a few months before Lisa’s murder she had been approached about a modeling job at the Woodland Hills Mall where she worked. A blonde-haired man who claimed he was from California and his older photographer friend asked Lisa if she would be interested in modeling for them. The authorities believe the two men contacted Lisa again. The investigators said, “We are looking at this ruse if it was to get her to model or whatever their intent was.” 

To complicate matters even further, the police told the media they felt Lisa was murdered by “someone who was mad at her for some reason or mad at her for a particular situation.” Nothing else is revealed to back up this statement. But it does call into question if a stranger murdering Lisa during a modeling ruse meets this criteria.

Moreover, the police think the location of the body is a key clue. Did someone murder Lisa and then dump her body somewhere they knew well? The investigators wondered, “Why that location? Why would they take her there and dump her out there? What is so significant about this area?” 

Although it is unclear if the ad led to Lisa’s murder or if she was targeted by a predator who saw her at the mall, it is probable a modeling job ruse played a role in her death. 

Neighbour

In 2015, a new theory about Lisa’s murder emerged in a Websleuth’s forum. Although it is always good practice to question things posted on open public forums, it is a compelling theory that needs to be considered. 

A man using the handle OOKinTulsa posted on the forum stating in 2010 he had contacted the police with information about a person of interest in Lisa’s case. The person in question lived only one street over from Lisa and she reportedly babysat this man’s nine-year-old stepdaughter who was subjected to regular verbal and physical abuse. It is thought that Lisa found out about the abuse and was murdered to ensure her silence. The person of interest also supposedly said to the forum poster in a threatening voice, “Lisa Henderson’s body should never have been found.” 

There are more details you can check out on the forum, but I am not sure what to think. When the poster brings up an elaborate cover-up perpetrated by the District Attorney’s office to protect the person in question, I start to doubt the entire story. But I am left wondering if there might be a kernel of truth to it all, and if perhaps this tip was somehow related to the “new information” described below.

New(ish) Information 

Three decades after the murder, new information apparently came to light that could help the investigation. The authorities were purposefully vague about the tip to help protect the integrity of the case. But investigators did say the information they received might lead to a break in the case. 

The police told reporters, “We had a call come in and we spoke to an individual [who] gave us some information that we didn’t know at the time. Our lab has been able to produce some things that have been beneficial.” 

Unfortunately, that tip came in years ago. And there has been little to no change in the case, publically at least. Whatever “beneficial” evidence was found has yet to lead to an arrest for Lisa’s murder.

What do you think happened to Lisa? 

When Lisa was murdered, she had a promising and bright life ahead of her. She was eager to start her senior year at Union High School and to see what the future would hold. Lisa’s positive outlook and lively personality impacted those around her. Lisa’s mom Gerri said Lisa “was one of those people that lit up a room when she walked in.” 

Lisa Henderson

Murder victim Lisa Henderson
Image source: NBC News

Lisa’s loved ones are still seeking justice, but realize closure is unlikely. Gerri explained, “I’ll never have closure, closure doesn’t come. I don’t even want closure, I just want the peace to know whoever is responsible will pay or already has paid.” 

Gerri heartbreakingly recalled all she lost when Lisa was killed. Lisa’s murderer took away “…a [high school] graduation, they took a college graduation, they took a wedding, they took away grandchildren.” In fact, Lisa’s mom feels as though she has lost almost everything: “I have lost a lot, I have lost my husband, I have lost my son. I am the last person here to be her avenger to say you cannot get by with this.”

Lisa’s mom is asking for the public’s assistance so Lisa’s murderer can be held accountable for their crimes. She is pleading for anyone with information about her daughter’s murder to please contact the police. Gerri asked, “Will they just please make that phone call? That’s all I want is for somebody to make that phone call with the right information to solve this case. I want that for my daughter, she deserves justice and she has had none.” 

There is a $15,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Lisa’s killer. If you have any information about Lisa’s murder please call Crime Stoppers at (918) 596-2677.

Interested in unsolved murders? Check out the murder of Gary and Stephanie Gillette and the slaying of Patricia Bovin.

Sources:

“A Mother’s Day Without a Daughter.”NBC News article. 

“Lisa Henderson.”Tulsa Police Department website. 

“Lisa Henderson.”Websleuths website. 

“Notorious Tulsa Cold Case Investigations.”Tulsa People article. 

“Searching for the Killer After 32 Years.”Fox 23 News article. 

“The Murder of Lisa Ann Henderson in Wagoner County, Oklahoma.”Documenting Reality article. 

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Published inUnsolved Murder Files

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5 Comments

  1. Bill Bill

    Once again, the situation is sad and makes us angry.

    A few thoughts come to mind.

    The first is how long the police think the body was left outside before discovery. If the killer killed her immediately and dumped her body in that location ten days before discovery, then the killer may have had no connection to the area. An immediate kill and dump could be anyone. If the killer kept her captive, he (or they or even she) had to have some connection to the area to have access to a place to keep a hostage. I understand the police keeping this information to themselves, but that’s a critical point.

    The second thought is where her body was burned. If the killer doused her in gasoline and burned her where the body was found, then anyone could have done the crime. If the killer had access to another location where he/they/she burned the body, then that again suggests a greater connection to the area. If the body was burned at the discovery location, then another question is why no one noticed a fire.

    The police statements seem to conflict. One statement suggests that two men, one of whom was possibly from California, met her at a mall and used a ruse to take her hostage. The other statement says that someone was mad at her for some reason. A random guy from California would have no reason to be mad at some teenaged girl in Tulsa, so the two statements seem contradictory. Maybe the police were putting out statements to try to draw the killer or killers to make an additional mistake. Either way, the statements taken together only muddy the waters.

    I’m skeptical of the accusation against the neighbor based on child abuse. There’s no reason for someone who dumps a body on a public road to think that no one should have found the body. Even on a road that isn’t traveled much, a body will eventually be found. If the police were right when they said that Lisa was killed by someone who knew her and was mad, then a neighbor makes more sense, but the rest of the claim doesn’t feel credible.

    The photographer ruse has been around for a long time.

    I’m an amateur photographer, and the model photography community has developed practices over the years to deal with this situation. In the late 70’s, we were in the last years of the sexual revolution, and maybe people really did think that doing a photo shoot and then having sex was just a fun extra for both model and photographer. Today, having sex with one’s model is considered unprofessional. We understand that things will sometimes happen between healthy adults, but sex before, during, or after a shoot is and should be rare. We’re there to get great images, not to have sex. A photographer who asks for sex will be ostracized from the community. A model who offers “extras” will also be removed from the community. We tell people where we are going and when we will return. Most models and some photographers have people who act as a call out who will begin investigating if they don’t hear from their friend within a certain period of time after a shoot.

    Personally, I won’t shoot with a minor unless a responsible adult representing the minor is there. (I sometimes feel that I need someone just to translate teenager talk into something I understand.) I’ve done workshops where a bunch of teenagers were there and I wasn’t entirely sure which kid came with which adult, but I don’t just meet a kid somewhere private to do a photo shoot. I think most photographers have similar practices. Granted, we don’t always like a parent’s presence when the parent is picking at her/his kid. I guess some photographers will do senior portraits at some public location without every parent being present. However, the days when photographers want to be alone with a teenager in a private place are long past. I wasn’t doing photography in the late 70’s, so I don’t know what the practices were at that time. Maybe the idea of a teenager going somewhere with a photographer wasn’t unusual back then.

    Even many adult models like to bring what they call “escorts” in North America (and “chaperones” in Europe). This practice is controversial because there have been problems. Some escorts, particularly mothers, will pick at their daughter models during the shoot. This picking will upset the daughter’s mood no matter how much the mother means well, and the result is bad photos. Other escorts will pester the photographer with “suggestions” that also break up the flow of the shoot. In other cases, escorts will wander off and pilfer from the photographer. In a few cases, escorts have tried to threaten or intimidate the photographer in order to rob the photographer.

    The other side of the coin is that photographers who strongly advertise a “no escorts” policy are seen by some models as photographers who might have bad intentions. Some models who never bring escorts still don’t shoot with photographers who have a strong “no escort” policy. Photographers who have this policy generally need good references to set the models’ minds at ease.

    Two of my models have brought escorts, and both escorts were great. As a photographer, I don’t like to enter a model’s personal space, but if there’s a wardrobe adjustment that the model can’t see based on my description, the escort can often see exactly what I’m seeing and fix the issue quickly. That she knows the escort makes the adjustment less stressful for all of us. One model brought a friend whose function I never fully understood. There were some communication issues associated with that visitor, but nothing bad happened during the photo shoot.

    This young lady was almost certainly killed by someone associated with the car that picked her up that day. Whether they used the photo shoot ruse or something else may not be certain. That no one reported the car in the area after that day might support the idea that a serial killer from another area killed her. If a neighbor had owned that color and model of car with the distinctive dents, the police should have been able to identify a suspect. A serial killer from somewhere else could travel around in that kind of car, but a local would have to find a way to get rid of the car. A local serial killer would go through a bunch of cars if he were getting a different one for each killing. A local person who was just mad at her might have killed her as his/her one and only victim and then traded the car somewhere out of the area.

    At forty years cold, I don’t think this one will be solved.

    • Christine Christine

      Hi Bill. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to share your insights. I agree with you about the mixed messages the authorities are sending. And I would not be surprised if they did know more than they were sharing. Your thoughts on the photographer and how photoshoots used to be handled shines a new light on the case. I loved the details you provided. Sadly, I also think Lisa was murdered by whoever picked her up. I am leaning towards it being someone she met at the mall, likely the photographer (but who knows if he was a real professional photographer…I doubt it). I also worry this case won’t be solved unless there is some kind of deathbed confession or someone who knows something finally comes forward. My heart aches for her family.

  2. J. Thomas J. Thomas

    Still the neighbor who lived one street over has not been interviewed. This is not right, since often in missing person’s or murder cases the police usually interview people locally, especially from the same neighborhood. I agree that Lisa Henderson was so brutally murdered that there is a strong possibility that the killer knew her. He may have murdered her either out of anger or fear that Lisa would expose something about him that could seriously affect/ruin his career.

    The step-daughter of this man did come forward, and she has since written an affidavit, and passed a polygraph of the brutality that she experienced as a child. Lisa was murdered when this girl was around age 9 years old, and Lisa was her favorite babysitter. The man continued to be violent towards her, including as a senior in high school duct taping her to a chair and brutally beating her. She survived and she was able to run away, get her GED, and eventually go to college. To this day she is still terrified of this man.

    For the Tulsa police to still not interview him knowing about this neighbor and his brutal/violent behavior towards his step daughter is just unconscionable. Again the step-daughter passed a very thorough/valid polygraph on her affidavit.

    • Christine Christine

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your insights into the case. If that is the case then the Tulsa Police truly did drop the ball. They should at least do an interview to clear him if nothing else.

      • J. Thomas J. Thomas

        It is the case truthfully, and yes the Tulsa police dropped the ball. I think OSBI and/or the FBI should pursue this case. The people involved in the murder of Lisa Henderson are no doubt much older now, and time is slipping away for the possibility of getting answers about her murder.

        The Tulsa police used excuses like this person would just “lawyer up” if they questioned him. I do not feel comfortable saying exactly what the “lab tested”, but it is circumstantial evidence that also put this neighbor on the radar.

        Science is continually improving for both traces of DNA, fingerprints, and other possible evidence found with her body even though it was burned beyond recognition.

        It is unfortunate that nowadays investigators often do not truly put boots on the ground to follow leads and interview people, instead the detectives think they can solve crimes from their office chairs and the internet.

        In talking to others who are retired detectives, it is basic forensic/police investigation 101 to interview someone, especially with the following factors:

        a) neighbor one street over in same subdivision
        b) contact with Lisa since she was his step-daughter’s (age 9 in 1979) favorite babysitter.
        c) very abusive/brutal to step-daughter who has written a notarized affidavit and passed a valid polygraph, where results were also analyzed by at least 2 other computerized verifications including one used by the military.
        d) important circumstantial evidence collected at the scene where her body was found putting this person on the radar.
        e) telling a third party that Lisa’s “body should never have been found”, and further threatening this person if they ever mentioned her name again.

        So again, YES it is very clear that the Tulsa police dropped the ball. Note, the Tulsa police have had this information for several years. I believe that Lisa’s mother Geraldine Henderson deserves some answers, and to not follow this lead is unconscionable. Evidently there are detectives in Tulsa who are more interested in retiring and just clocking their time, rather then solving a cold case from 1979.

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