Derby Wagner-Richardson's Body Was Found in the Trunk of Her Car — What Happened? (EXCLUSIVE CLIP)

After filing for a temporary restraining order Derby said, "It doesn't really matter. He's going to kill me anyway."

Jennifer Tisdale - Author

Apr. 19 2024, Published 1:43 p.m. ET

The Murder Accountability Project studied data provided by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report and came to a shocking conclusion. They found that "nearly 340,000 cases of homicide and non-negligent manslaughter went unsolved from 1965 to 2022," per Project: Cold Case. The cases they solved are tracked in an interesting way. A cold case is filed as "cleared" in the year it was solved versus the year the murder took place.

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The state of Wisconsin has a 78 percent clearance rate and in 2023, Derby Wagner-Richardson was added to their list of closed cold cases. In March 1987, her body was discovered in the trunk of her car. Unfortunately, an arrest wouldn't be made for another 37 years. What happened to Derby Wagner-Richardson? Her story is being told in an episode of Oxygen's Cold Justice. Keep scrolling for an exclusive clip obtained by Distractify.

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What happened to Derby Wagner-Richardson? Her murder went unsolved for nearly 40 years.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Derby and her husband Fred Wagner-Richardson had a tumultuous marriage. This led to Derby filing for divorce in December 1986. The proceedings were made even more difficult by the fact that they owned a fair amount of property together in Racine, Wisc., where they lived. Dividing everything up would take some time.

To make matters more complicated, they shared two daughters which meant they had to agree to custody terms. On Jan. 21, 1987, Fred assaulted Derby in front of their kids while they were meeting to exchange the children. Darby immediately filed a temporary restraining order against Fred, who was convicted of battery later in the year.

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During a particularly cantankerous meeting with their attorneys on March 21, 1987, Derby left feeling rattled and told her attorney she thought her life was in danger. Her lawyer agreed and requested police protection for the frightened mother but unfortunately, that would prove to be useless. Derby's body was discovered in the early hours of the next morning, locked in the trunk of her car. It would be another 37 years before police arrested Fred.

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'Cold Justice' host Kelly Siegler spoke with a victim witness specialist from the Racine County District Attorney's Office.

In an exclusive clip, Cold Justice host Kelly Siegler speaks with Barb Smith who worked for the Racine County District Attorney's Office as a victim witness specialist. Siegler was particularly interested in Smith's work during the 1980s, when Derby was a victim of domestic abuse and then homicide. "We worked with victims throughout the court process," Smith explained. She recalled working with Derby when she filed her temporary restraining order.

"That was back before domestic violence cases were a mandatory arrest policy," said Smith. This mean that police immediately stepped in and decided whether or not they felt the alleged abuser should be arrested. In 1987, victims had to physically go to a police station and sign the criminal complaints. When Derby came in to report her battery, the process of obtaining a temporary restraining order was separate.

Siegler pointed out that temporary restraining orders are basically useless and all they manage to do is "piss the person off more." Smith added that something they always told the victims was "this is the most dangerous time for you." The restraining order is what usually escalates the existing violence. Smith said as Derby was leaving she said, "It doesn't really matter. He's going to kill me anyway."

For more on this story, tune into Cold Justice on Oxygen on April 19, 2024, at 8:00 p.m.

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