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Saving Sigrid

Sigrid Stevenson was a Musician.

A teacher.

An artist.

A lover of nature. A wanderer. A dreamer.

A daughter, sister, classmate, student, friend.

A person.

And on September 4th, 1977, someone got away with her murder.


Speculation, theory and fact blurred.

The Trenton State College student's life morphed into campus legend.

And in time, Sigrid was, for the most part, forgotten.
 

Her killer was never caught.

And in 2002, Sigrid's world and mine collided.

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From Fiction Film
to
Finding Facts

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As a freshman at The College of New Jersey, I participated in a ghost tour that featured a sad story about a young woman killed on Kendall Hall's main stage. While the other tour tales seemed flimsy, this one featured multiple variations all with the same ending: an unsolved murder. But no one - student or teacher alike - could remember the victim's name or when it happened. With so little to work from and the internet still in nascent form, I was forced to put the story down. 

In 2005, a group of classmates and I were staring down graduation and needed a thesis film to complete our studies. One of them suggested a ghost story. I chimed in that I'd heard there really had been a mysterious death mere feet from where we sat. Our advisor said he did think it had happened over a break in the late 1970s and was worth looking at. I hit the library and discovered a 1978 report on crime in Trenton, and more importantly a name: Sigrid Stevenson.

Sigrid, I learned, was a talented pianist and aspiring music teacher from California. She had family ties to Princeton and liked Trenton State College (now TCNJ) for its music program, so she'd headed east, working multiple jobs to try and pay her own way. With only a year left before the completion of her Master's degree, she began to formulate where she wanted to go next and what she wanted to do. As she dreamed of big performance pieces and a city life, she decided to take a summer hiking trip  through New England and Canada. Despite traversing New York during the "Summer of Sam", the venture was uneventful. It was only when she returned to Ewing when things got complicated. Her landlord's family was on vacation at the Jersey Shore through Labor Day weekend and she was without a place to stay. Itching to get back to playing piano, Sigrid made the decision to crash in the basement of Kendall Hall on campus in to gain access to the main stage.

 

This sealed her fate.

At some point on September 4th, 1977, someone entered Kendall Hall and killed Sigrid mere feet from the instrument she loved so much. Despite searching the building and campus grounds, no weapon was found and no suspect ever named.

From the few files I could dig up on microfiche, I crafted a contemporary narrative inspired by the true events. The film, Estelle, was shot locally around Ewing, Princeton and Trenton, often in places I wouldn't discover had actual ties to Sigrid's real life until far later. Upon the film's rough cut completion, the Ewing police asked to see the project. 

I couldn't help but think that if I could start piecing together the narrative - which was often contradictory in the newspapers of the 1970s - that I might be able to help uncover some of the truth in what happened. It would require countless hours in libraries, long road trips, halting phone calls with complete strangers and a lot of logistical headaches. 

But it has been worth it. Because Sigrid, the person, is far more dynamic than any ghost story echo. She clearly wasn't perfect, and had her flaws - but she possessed kindness and curiosity and dreams that never seemed to make it into the stories written about her.

But the question that always gets asked is:

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Help Save Sigrid

To bring her justice, I've spoken with some of the world's greatest detectives, generations of cops, analysts, specialists, doctors, laywers, student journalists and professionals alike. 

Sigrid's story intrigued them all.


To preserve her memory, I've reached out to family friends  who offered insight into who Sigrid was growing up.

Classmates have given glimpses of her many facets at school.

People who were there in the last days of her life have shone a light on the events leading up to her passing.

I've tried to retrace her steps and to understand her mind.


Her story is as complicated as it is tragic. 

Sigrid's life shouldn't just be a tale to frighten freshmen.

And I don't plan on stopping until the truth comes out

and her long-delayed justice is delivered.

She deserves to get her voice back.

If you remember Sigrid, if you were on campus and have a tip or think you saw something, click the button below or email me at savesigrid(at)gmail.com. 

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