Welcome to the hundredth post in the Old Crime is New Again blog! Last week, I reported the case of Corey Parker, a young Florida coed murdered by an obsessive stalker. This week, we look at the death of Lori Ann Auker, a young Pennsylvania mother killed by her ex-husband. It took sophisticated technology—and her cat—to solve her murder.
Lori Ann Auker
Lori Ann Auker was only 19 but she had a child and an ex-husband. She told friends and coworkers that her ex, Robert “Bob” Auker was stalking her. This became significant on May 24, 1989. That day, Lori Ann didn’t show up for work at a pet shop in the Susquehanna Valley Mall. Her parents found her 1976 Pontiac Le Mans in the mall parking lot and alarmed, reported her missing to police.
Three weeks later, on June 12, a woman walking along a dirt road to her grandparents’ house discovered a body. Despite severe decomposition, dental records identified the body as that of Lori Ann Auker.
Ex-husband Robert Auker was naturally a suspect. For one thing, he had a shaky alibi. Also, witnesses saw him meticulously scrubbing his 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity on the evening of May 24. He traded in the car three days later. And if that weren’t enough to raise suspicions, Auker took out an accidental death and dismemberment policy on Lori Ann. He took out the policy even though the couple been divorced for six months. But police lacked hard evidence to link him to Lori Ann’s death.
Who Killed Lori Ann Auker?
In 1989, video surveillance cameras were not nearly as ubiquitous as they are today. But one place that did have cameras was bank Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). And it was a bank ATM camera that captured a telling image. It was Auker’s Celebrity pulling in front of Lori Ann as she tried to walk from her car to her job. When his car drove away, Lori Ann was gone.
Unfortunately, in 1989, surveillance cameras recorded their images on video tape, recording over old images with new ones. The tape in this ATM was almost worn out. But with help from NASA, they had enhanced images to work with. Unfortunately, the license plate was still not readable. But automotive experts identified the car in the picture as the back end of a 1983 or 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity.
Even though Auker had sold the car immediately after the murder, investigators tracked it down. They were able to locate the car and prove it was the car in the bank ATM video.
Technicians also recovered several hairs that were “similar” to Lori Ann’s (decomposition prevented establishing an exact match). Moreover, three cat hairs found in the Celebrity’s trunk proved to be an exact match for Lori Ann’s cat.
Robert Donald Auker went on trial on October 26, 1995. The video of Lori Ann disappearing into his car destroyed his alibi. The cat hairs proved Lori Ann’s body had been in his trunk. And a forensic entomologist testified that insect activity on the body proved death had occurred very close to May 24, the day Lori Ann disappeared.
The jury found Auker guilty of murder. He was sentenced to death for murder plus a consecutive sentence of ten to twenty years for kidnapping. On July 31, 1996, an appeals court vacated the death sentence, but Robert Auker will spend the rest of his life in prison. He currently (2022) resides in State Correctional Institute Phoenix in Collegeville, Pennsylvania.
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