Rosemary Hansan recalls with uncanny detail the night 43 years ago when her sister was murdered.
Helen Julia Hansan, a 25-year-old bartender and waitress, had just left her younger sister’s apartment near 43rd and Broadway in Wesport a little after 12:30 p.m. May 21, 1974, when she was killed.
Helen Hansan’s body was found near 40th and Westport Road. The woman her sister described as smart and funny had been stabbed 27 times.
“She was so outgoing,” Rosemary Hansan said.
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The sisters had spent a portion of the evening speaking with the friend of a neighbor who lived upstairs from Rosemary’s apartment.
The friend was a new acquaintance to the neighbor, said Rosemary, who was 24 at the time. She and Helen spoke with him for a while before Helen made her way on foot for a night on the town in Westport.
The man soon made overtures to Rosemary that she rebuffed.
She remembers him getting on a bicycle and riding the direction her sister walked.
“And he says to me, ‘I’ll just go see what’s going on with your sister,’ ” the 67-year-old Hansan said recently from her home north of San Francisco.
Rosemary has long suspected the man on the bicycle as the culprit in Helen’s death.
“I think he had some mental issues going on,” she said.
Police thought at the time that they might have a suspect in Helen’s death in December 1977 when Beverly Wortmann was stabbed 19 times and had her throat cut in her apartment at 1610 Valentine Road. She was 24, a suburban newspaper reporter and the daughter of a Mission Hills physician.
Police tried to link the suspect to the deaths of Wortmann, Helen and 15-year-old Tonya Wagner, but to no avail.
Rosemary said authorities ruled out the man on the bicycle as a suspect. She, however, remains convinced that he stabbed Helen.
“He came to my apartment the day after my sister’s murder,” Rosemary said. “He told me the police ransacked his home but they didn’t find anything. That was the last time I saw him.”
Rosemary moved from the area after her sister’s death. Another sister with area ties, 69-year-old Veronica Muff of Prairie Village, died in November.
Rosemary returned for the funeral. She left with reminders of Helen’s fate.
Helen’s death dominated the pages of The Kansas City Star for weeks in 1974. In a photo that received considerable public backlash, the paper published a photo of her body.
Rosemary recently found the photo in Muff’s belongings.
“I found that very unfortunate,” Rosemary said. “Now, I have to relive that night all over again.”
Also in Muff’s possession were detailed notes of the case. Rosemary says detectives told Muff that they had lost evidence. She wonders if modern technology would’ve helped solve the 43-year-old cold case.
“Guess we may never know,” Rosemary said.
Name: Helen Julia Hansan of Kansas City
Circumstances of the crime: Stabbed to death at 40th and Westport Road in May 1974.
Suspect information: Police thought they might have a suspect in December 1977 when Beverly Wortmann was stabbed 19 times and had her throat cut in her apartment at 1610 Valentine Road. Police tried to link the suspect to the deaths of Wortmann, Hansan and 15-year-old Tonya Wagner, but to no avail.
Anyone with information is asked to call: Kansas City Police Department’s Cold Case Squad at 816-234-5136.