A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Five years later, community, investigators still look for answers in killings of Bill and Peggy Stephenson

By Mark Hansel
NKyTribune managing editor

Years have passed since one of the most tragic days in Boone County history that still seems too horrible to comprehend.

On May 29, 2011, William “Bill” Stephenson failed to open the Trucker’s Chapel he oversaw at the T A Truck Stop in Florence.

Bill and Peggy (2)

Bill and Peggy Stephenson were killed in their Oakbrook condo in Boone County five years ago. Despite gathering DNA evidence from the scene, investigators have not yet been able to identify the killer.

Stephenson prayed with truckers in the makeshift trailer-church and presided over a Sunday service inside the truck stop for drivers whose life on the road kept them from attending mass at their regular place of worship.

The Trucker’s Chapel was a labor of love for Bill Stephenson and it was unusual for him not to be there. Bill and his wife Peggy Stephenson also did not show up for services at Union Baptist Church, where he was a deacon and she played the organ for 42 years.

A family member went to check on the couple knowing that something had to be wrong.

Nothing, however, could have prepared him for the grisly scene that confronted him when he went into their Oakbrook condo. The Stephensons, both 74 at the time, and one of the most beloved and admired couples in Boone County, had been murdered.

Today marks the five-year anniversary of those homicides, which remain unsolved. Investigators and members of the community are still searching for the answer to not only who killed the couple, but why.

Police have been tight-lipped about the case, but Beth Stephenson Victor, Bill and Peggy’s, daughter said the family still holds out hope that they will someday have the answers to those questions.

“(Investigators) are still getting tips that need to be looked into,” she said. “There are things that only the killer would know and they don’t want to reveal them, which I understand.”

A pamphlet distributed by the Trucker's Chapel at the TA Truck Stop in Florence provides contacts for anyone with news regarding the killings of Bill and Peggy Stephenson.

A pamphlet distributed by the Trucker’s Chapel at the TA Truck Stop in Florence provides investigators’ contact information for anyone with tips about the killings of Bill and Peggy Stephenson.

Investigators continue to work the case every day

Boone County Sheriff’s office spokesman Tom Scheben said Detective Coy Cox, the lead investigator, is involved in some aspect of the case every day.

“Since he has been assigned to the cold case unit of our Criminal Investigation Division – and taking this case with him since he was one of the leads on it – Cox has reviewed the entire file making notes along the way of areas he wants to revisit,” Scheben said. “He has conducted numerous interviews and consulted with lab technicians on evidence.  By his own admission, at the end of the day it might not get him any closer to the killer or killers but he learns something new every day.

“Some of those leads prove promising, at least at first light, and some seem somewhat useless but they are all pieces of a large puzzle…a puzzle Cox intends on completing.”

The sheriff’s department has shared some information, including that DNA belonging to the killer was recovered from the crime scene, and at times it appeared the case was close to being solved.

Early on, investigators provided photos of people they wanted to talk to, but all were eventually interviewed and ruled out as suspects. They have also sought assistance from the FBI, as well as retired homicide detectives in analyzing crime scene evidence, but that help has not yielded the results they had hoped for.

Misconceptions, wide potential suspect pool present challenges

There is also a misconception among some in the public that the crime has been solved, or that the killer is already behind bars, but that is just not true.

The Trucker's Chapel Ministry that Bill Stephenson operated inside a truck stop in Florence. Larry Stone, shown here, now operates the ministry.

The Trucker’s Chapel Ministry that Bill Stephenson operated inside a trailer at the TA Truck Stop in Florence. Larry Stone, shown here, now operates the ministry.

In 2013, Charles “Steve” Stephenson, Bill and Peggy’s nephew, was convicted of killing an Aurora woman by beating her to death with a skillet and a pepper grinder in 2011. The brutal nature of that crime, and the family connection, led many to speculate that he also killed the Stephensons.

Scheben said, however, that the DNA recovered from the crime scene is not a match, and Steve Stephenson has been eliminated as a suspect.

The Stephensons were always willing to offer help to those down on their luck, or in need of assistance. Bill Stephenson also delivered food and clothing to eastern Kentucky on the weekends.

They were so beloved in the community, the Kentucky Senate passed a resolution in their honor after their deaths, recognizing their tragic passing.

While the couple opened their hearts to everyone, Victor said that compassion did not include welcoming strangers into their home.

Still, the transient nature of visitors to the truck stop ministry and the compassion the Stephensons showed for everyone they encountered, has created a large, and difficult to identify, pool of potential suspects.

Trucker’s Chapel serves as reminder of couple’s compassion

The Trucker’s Chapel continues to serve as a legacy to the compassion the Stephensons showed for others.

Larry Stone, who now runs the truckstop ministry, recently had pamphlets printed that include a passage about the Stephenson killings and investigators’ contact information.

“In memory of them, we felt like we needed to get more information out,” Stone said. “Bill and Peggy were such loving and helpful people and maybe by handing it out here, we can reach someone who remembers something.”

Victor said, while it is painful to relive that tragic day, it’s important to keep the story in the public eye.

She holds out hope that someone who knows something, or remembers something from that day, will come forward with the crucial piece of information that will help find the killer.

The Stephenson family, which includes Beth’s brothers, Doug and Tom Stephenson, will have a get-together today, which includes a visit to the cemetery to pay respect to their parents, just as they do every year. They long for the day when that visit will include the peace of mind that comes from knowing their parent’s killer has been brought to justice.

So does Scheben, who said the sheriff’s department will continue to do whatever is necessary to solve the case.

“While Cox is the main investigator he is the first one to say this is a team effort,” Scheben said. “Whenever he needs assistance of any kind, Sheriff (Michael) Helmig ensures he has the resources available to accomplish the task at hand.  Between the two of them – Cox doggedly investigating and Helmig paving the way – I believe we’ll be able to provide the Stephenson family with closure one day.”

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Boone County Sheriff’s office at 859-334-8496, or to send an email to StephensonTip@BooneCountyKy.org .

Contact Mark Hansel at mark.hansel@nkytrib.com

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  1. Beth Stephenson-Victor says:

    Thank you Mark. Very nicely done.

  2. Tom Scheben says:

    Top quality reporting…as usual.

  3. Kevin Mcguigan says:

    Have there been any new leads on this case. I was wondering how I might be able to help.

  4. Markus says:

    The DNA didn’t match Charles’s DNA. So that means he is not a suspect? It’s likely he was involved, so maybe there was another person with him throwing off the suspicion from him. The article, of course, does not mention if there was an insurance from the couple he may have wanted to be a part of but was denied. Maybe the couple had a good amount of CASH with them and Charles wanted it but he was denied. The article also didn’t mention the detectives searching for fingerprints throughout the house, just DNA. Fingerprints can be roughly dated, placing ant suspect in that town or if they far away that day or two. Detectives “do all the possibly can” to solve murder cases, but it appears not. According to both cases, in Indiana and Kentucky, Charles must be a suspect still, and more investigation must be done on him. Then again, detectives have been known to be callus when it comes to being questioned and many times they choose to ignore reason and evidence so they are not seen as having been wrong, and that is very, very evil, because sometimes innocent people go to prison, or guilty people are set loose.

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