“I can just remember the absolute devastation on her face and I instantly knew something was wrong,” said April Stone, Heidi Martin’s younger sister.
Stone was describing the day her mother told her that her sister was murdered.
“Why was this sixteen year old child found dead in the woods behind the school?,” said Stone. It’s a question that still puzzles her to this day.
On May 21st, 1984 the body of Heidi Martin was found in a brook behind the Hartland Elementary School. “Like all the teachers had to shut their shades because that was the embankment that they needed to take her body out of the woods. So everyone that was in school that day has very vivid memories of the scariness of this,” said Stone.
Stone said Martin would often go for a run as she did on May 20th, 1984, but this was the day she never came home. “The last time that any of us saw her… she left our house and the route that she took was a pretty normal route and again she was a kid she was 16 years old.”
Her autopsy showed multiple stab wounds to her heart. Reports also indicate that she drowned. Dirt, silt, and water were found in her throat and lungs. It’s unclear at what point of the attack she died.
“When you start thinking about sort of the circumference of how everything was, you know…to think about. To live here and to just literally do a jogging route that was a loop and to die so close to being home… so close to being safe,” said Stone.
During the investigation, police received a tip about an individual who witnessed the crime. It was 21-year-old Delbert Tallman, who was known to be on the autism spectrum. “At the time of my sister’s death, one of the roads that she sort of used for her loop was Martinsville Road, and Delbert Tallman was staying in the garage of a person who lived on that road. In the court case, he had admitted he was in the woods and that he had seen the crime occur. He heard the commotion and hid behind a tree and that he waited for the bad man to leave and that when the bad man left he ran up to my sister and that’s when he discovered that she was not alive and he got all freaked out and he ran out of the woods and this man hitchhiked,” said Stone.
Stone believes it would be impossible for her sisters killer to come out of the woods unscathed. She said, “There is no way anyone would have walked away from killing my sister without having some bruising or scratches… without being soaking wet, bloody and muddy….Delbert Tallman walked out of those woods and hitchhiked and the only thing he had was mud on his shoes.”
April Stone truly believes Delbert Tallman had nothing to do with the murder of her sister Heidi Martin. “When you have a vulnerable adult that has a low IQ and special needs… you’ve got to be careful because if you tell them that they did something a lot of times they’re going to agree with it. They interrogated him and but they reached out and they touched his hand we’re your friends Delbert were your friends you know tell us the truth and anytime he would try to tell them what was going on they would say no that’s not it… you killed her,” said Stone.
To this day, no DNA evidence of Tallman has ever been found on Heidi Martin. Stone said police were investigating several other murders at the time many of which were similar to her sisters. This unidentified individual is referred to as the Connecticut River Valley killer.
“There have been victims in the river valley that were also redressed. I don’t think their clothes weren’t put on backwards, but they were also redressed… the stab wounds, the location… all of that is very similar. A lot of questions are why is she not a part of the river valley killings? I am here to say that she is part of it.”
April says she has made it her mission to seek the truth. “I have always promised her… always promised her that I would fight until my last breath to find who did this and make sure that person pays,” said Stone.
If you have any information regarding this homicide please contact Captain Dunlap with the Vermont State Police Major Crime Unit.
Tips may also be submitted anonymously at vsp.vermont.gov/tipsubmit, or by clicking the Tip Submit image, or by texting keyword VTIPS to 274637 (CRIMES).