The Murder of Katie Froeschle

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Katarina Anne Froeschle was described as a happy, strong hardheaded woman who was close to her family, even talking on the phone with her mother every day. She graduated from Florida State University in 2002 from the College of Business in the department of Risk Management Insurance. Katie was just starting her life, she had been in a 4-year long relationship that had just ended and she was learning to live independently. Her first job out of college was working at a Florida Insurance company called Farm Bureau as an adjuster and it wouldn’t take long before this job would put her in a fatal position.

In 2004, Florida was hit by 4 hurricanes within 6 weeks - according to Forensic Files, the damage was more than 1 million dollars. Insurance companies were flooded with requests and were constantly sending adjusters out to asses the damages on properties. On Friday, November 12, 2004, Katie was one of the adjusters sent out. She was sent to a property to assess the damage and adjust a claim of roof damage to a house.

Katie was told no one would be present at the home, but because she was assessing damage on the outside of the property, she decided to go anyway. That was the last time anyone saw Katie. Later that night, after she had missed dinner plans with some friends and no one had heard from her, her family began to worry. One of her friends had a key to her apartment so she went by to check on things, everything seemed in order except for one thing. Katie was nowhere to be found. The friend expressed concerns to Katie’s parents and on Saturday morning, her parents reported her missing.

Police put out an all-points bulletin for Katie’s maroon car and contacted her employer to see where her last appointment had been. They found out that Katie had been sent to a home in Tampa Surfers Spring, at the time this area was considered extremely dangerous.

Katie had trouble finding the property so she called a coworker, this coworker gave her directions to the property and when she arrived Katie said that someone was walking towards her car so she felt that she was in the right place. Once Katie’s parents found out this information, the decision to take a drive to the property and start asking questions.

When they knocked on the door they were met by the renters of the property, Jason Funk and his girlfriend Pamala Hinse. They had just moved into the home three days before and told them that they didn’t see Katie because they hadn’t been at the home the day before and that, as far as they knew, there was no leak in the home.

The search was still a success however, they found Katie’s car parked only a mile away from the home with the keys still in the ignition. Her parents said they were scared, their first thought was that Katie was in the trunk, I couldn’t imagine. Investigators opened the trunk but Katie’s body was not in there.

They found skin cells on the steering wheel and they were able to get DNA from Katie and possibly the killers. They also found a white envelope in the driver’s side door. They knew now that Katie was not killed in the car however the killer must have driven it. They had reports that a white male had left the car in the lot, they said that the man had pulled up, opened the trunk, threw the keys in the car and walked away.

Investigators decided to search between the home and where the car had been dumped to see if they could get any more clues, and they did. They searched the shores of a nearby river and they saw something. A white bra floating in the water. Katie herself was found soon after, floating in the river 100 feet from the home she had been assessing. At the time that she was found she had been in the water approximately 30 hours. Because of how Katie was found, it is assumed that she had been sexually assaulted however a rape test kit came back as inconclusive.

Katie died by Blunt force injuries to the back of her head and not growing as originally assumed, however, they couldn’t be sure that Katie was actually dead when she had been put in the river. She had a very distinct mark on her head, sort of like a spiral, they felt that this could be matched to the injury. Investigators felt like the murder must have taken place at the home Katie had been assessing.

So they went back to speak with the tenants, Jason and Pamela.

In the Forensic File episode, Jason is interviewed and he said “You know, I’m kind of drawing a blank on my emotional state at the time but I know I wasn’t nearly as anxious as my girlfriend is - I’m more of a realist person. Whatever’s going to happen is out of my control out of her control. Just relax and let it take its course.”

He also said:

"If I had been home that day and not on my jet ski, who’s to say I couldn’t have prevented this from happening”.

Basically Jason and Pamala told investigators that they weren’t home, they had no idea what or if something had happened at the home.

At this point, Katie’s father Jeff decided to interview the owner of the home. The owner said that there was a leak and that he had called Katie out to the home to inspect it but Jeff felt a little off about him. Unfortunately for the investigation but fortunately for the landlord I suppose, he had a very strong alibi so they had to move on to new suspects.

They decided to check Katie’s credit card statements and they caught a break. Her credit card had been used at 4 locations, three denied the card but one transaction went through. The clerk said that the main had mentioned it was his girlfriend’s card - but here’s the kicker, instead of signing Katie’s name….this idiot signed his own.

And can you guess who it was?

Jason Funk.

My favorite quote from this episode came from an investigator, he said “we were almost shocked at his stupidity. I can’t even recollect what he was thinking or how he thought he could get away with something so obviously stupid”. Upon more inspection of the backyard of the home they found a firepit, inside they found bits of carpet and a belt that they assumed was Katies. When they got into the home, they found blood spatter in many places, including on the ceiling.

It is also stated that there were 19 Marijana plants in the home that Jason had been growing. They found one of Katie’s business cards hidden on a shelf in the kitchen, and after Jason had specifically stated he'd never met Katie, this was a huge break.

They decided to look for a possible murder weapon, and they found it. A motorcycle muffler that had been so sanitized that there were absolutely no fingerprints - these are like stainless steel, there should have been fingerprints. The bracket attached to the muffler matched perfectly with the injury on Katie's head.

While talking to Jason, they noticed that on his shoes there was blood spatter, it turned out to be human and later matched Katie's DNA. They tested the envelope and they found fingerprints that perfectly matched both Jason and Katies prints.

Prosecutors found that Jason had priors convictions for assault against women.

Jason had lost his job two days earlier and the couple had spent all their money on the security deposit for the home. They believe that Jason was the one who approached her car, but there’s no way to know how he got her into the home. In an article published by Claims Magazine in 2009, they make a few suggestions. Maybe Katie had to pee, or Jason offered her something to drink or maybe she realized the damage was worse than expected and decided to ask him to look inside. Jason was also surprised when Katie arrived, the landlord had not told him she would be coming, it could be possible she saw his plants and he didn’t want to be kicked out of the property, we’ll never know.

He dragged her body out the back door of the home and directly into the river, the area was secluded so he was protected with no way of neighbors seeing him doing this.

Jason plead guilty to avoid the death penalty and was convicted of murder, he was sentenced to life without parole.

Jason continues to deny his involvement in this case, this episode of Forensic Files came out in 2007, so 4 years after the murder and he still claims he has no idea - but the forensics obviously prove the exact opposite.

Now that we know Jason was the murderer, the quotes from the Forensic Files episode are much creepier:

“You know, I’m kind of drawing a blank on my emotional state at the time but I know I wasn’t nearly as anxious as my girlfriend is - I’m more of a realist person. Whatever’s going to happen is out of my control out of her control. Just relax and let it take its course.”

"If I had been home that day and not on my jet ski, who’s to say I couldn’t have prevented this from happening”

Most of the articles I have found about this case are now on Insurance related websites

Katie’s murder was a shock to more than just her family and friends, it shocked the entire adjuster community - they realized that they might need to brush up on their safety practices and falling off the roof might not be their biggest concern.

In one article I found which was published by the American Association of Public Insurance Adjusters in 2012, the author was shocked to find at the time of the murder there was no manual guiding adjusters on how to protect themselves.

The company that Katie had worked for hadn’t provided her with any training in self-defense or even things to be cautious about.

Her mother later stated that Katie wasn’t a naive woman and that she knew how to handle people but sometimes you let your guard down, and this truly could have happened to anyone. I just don’t think Katie really knew the dangers of the job.

After her death, Katies Family established a scholarship in her name for the College of Business at FSU - the are able to give 3 scholarships a year!

They also started a foundation in her name that helps grieving families in their time of need, although the website is now down so I am not sure it is still in action.

Resources:

1. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-katie-froeschle-story-a-safety-message-for-all-on-site-professionals-160245115.html

2. https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2005/03/24/53024.htm

3. https://www.propertycasualty360.com/2009/10/05/lessons-from-the-froeschle-murder/?slreturn=20200204141223

4. https://www.summitdaily.com/news/arrest-made-in-murder-of-ex-resident/

5. http://www.classcreator.com/St-Petersburg-FL-Lakewood-1998/class_custom7.cfm

6. https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2005/03/24/53024.htm

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