For the past year, the mother of a boy who was murdered in Franklin caught quick glimpses of her son in the faces of the children she helps at work.
When a child flinches when he’s getting his blood pressure taken or smiles when talking to the doctor, Christina Dickus sometime saw a quick flash of her son Blake.
Eight years have passed since 10-year-old Blake Dickus and his stepmother, Chynna Dickus, were found dead in their Franklin home. Christina Dickus tries not to think about the details of the murder, but her memories of Blake haven’t faded. She remembers gazing into his big brown eyes, his childish smirks and how generous and helpful he was, even as a young boy.
For the past year, she’s been working in a Center Grove area pediatrician’s office, and those brief moments that remind her of Blake have been a good thing. After eight years, she still struggles daily knowing that whoever committed the murders hasn’t been found, so those little glimpses help get her through each day.
“Just little winks from God and Blake,” she said.
On July 24, 2006, Stephen “Sean” Dickus came home from work to find his wife, Chynna, and son, Blake, dead in their home in Franklin’s Branigin Woods subdivision. Both had been stabbed multiple times, and Blake had died of blunt force trauma to the head and asphyxia, according to an autopsy report.
Since then, police have filled a room at the police department with transcripts of interviews and reports from the investigation; but all of the information has never pinpointed one suspect who could be arrested, said Sgt. John Borges, who was police chief at the time of the murders. More than 40 binders are filled with statements, interviews, lab results and police reports. Hundreds of pieces of evidence are kept in the police department property room, even things that seem unconnected to the crime, just in case they would link a person to the murders, Borges said.
Police still get a few tips per year and follow up, but after eight years, many of the tips are repeats of angles the department already has thoroughly investigated, Borges said. Detectives leaf through the case a few times per year and predominantly focus on combing through the first 30 days of the investigation to review the details and consider whether there are questions that haven’t been asked or people that they missed talking to, he said.
Unfortunately, in the hundreds of tips they’ve gotten since the murders, the four investigators who work the case haven’t received any information that’s led them to a particular suspect, he said.
Borges is confident someone has that information, whether it’s a witness who saw something that day or a neighbor, friend or family member of the killer who knows but hasn’t spoken up. That person needs to step forward and talk to police, to get closure for the Dickus family, he said.
“We always felt this is a local event, that there are people in this community that know what happened. It’s always our attempt and desire to find that individual that just won’t feel comfortable coming forward and getting them to realize they want closure and we want this done,” Borges said.
Last year, the city established a crime tip reward fund and offered up to $25,000 for any information that helps solve the Dickus case. Students at Franklin Community High School produced a short public service announcement about the case, which aired at local theaters and was posted to YouTube.
And the annual memorial car show will take place again for a fifth year.
Those local efforts to help raise awareness about the case have been so important because she couldn’t do it on her own, Christina Dickus said. In the past she tried to help pass out fliers for the car show but couldn’t get through retelling the details of the case to shop owners and residents who didn’t know anything about her son and the grisly murders, she said.
“You know it’s coming every year. I just go day by day. I have a hard time committing to plans because I never know how I’m going to feel. I still have my Blake days,” Christina Dickus said.
“It’s not just a story. It’s my son.”
Reminding people of the murders is important, because after eight years new people have come to the community who might not know anything about it, Christina Dickus said. Even though they weren’t here when the murder happened, they can still help just by paying attention in the community, she said. A new resident may be able to notice something odd in the city that police or other people might have overlooked, she said.
Putting the case in the public spotlight around the anniversary also helps police because it could cause a noticeable change in behavior for someone who is responsible or knows key information, Borges said. Trying to hold back details about a gruesome murder has to weigh on a person’s conscience, and that could cause changes, such as irritability, anxiety, depression or substance abuse, he said.
Christina Dickus wants justice for Blake and Chynna. Although she thinks the person responsible has likely fled far away from Franklin, someone else knows, and they should reach out and help police close this case, she said.
“This monster. This person. I can’t even imagine,” Christina Dickus said. “How can they live with themselves?”