A case from 1988 was finally solved over two decades later due to the latest evidence and a flood of testimonies from relatives of those who were involved. Investigation Discovery’s documentary ‘On the Case of Paula Zahn: The Doorbell Rang’ is a documentary about the murder of teenager Theresa Burns and how the authorities finally identified Phillip Geans, the culprit. So, we’ve got the answer if you’re thinking about what went down in this case.
How Did Theresa Burns Die?
Theresa Joann Burns was born in September 1971 in South Bend, Indiana. When she died in her death, she resided within Mishawaka, located in St. Joseph County, Indiana, as did her family. The teenager was an incoming sophomore student of Mishawaka High School, and on the morning of her passing, she was allowed to go back home to change clothes. However, there was a sad twist: Theresa’s story abruptly ended shortly after.
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On January 11, 1988, Theresa went home and was on the phone with her boyfriend. She planned to return to school following that. The boyfriend heard her doorbell ringing around the time they had ended their phone conversation, approximately 11:30 am. Her older brother Steve returned home the following evening. He found the teenager lying on the ground in a bloody pool and naked. Theresa was shot six times in the face and head using the use of a .22-caliber weapon.
Who Killed Theresa Burns?
Authorities didn’t have much to draw from back in 1988. However, no seminal evidence was found upon analysis when they took samples to test an assault kit. In 1988, Phillip Geans, the best friend of Theresa, was considered a person of interest. He was just 18 years old. His friends admitted that they were in love with Theresa and would like to be her girlfriend. But, without concrete proof, the case did not progress much, becoming a cold case.
In 2013, police reopened the investigation, but this time the police discovered an unintentional break in the investigation. Phillip was detained in December 2013 after his parents gave him a firearm to the police because they did not want him to be able to keep the gun. The gun was tested and was later proven to be the weapon used in the murder of Theresa. In later testimony, it was revealed that Phillip and his friend, James Lewis, obtained the .22-caliber revolver from a family member’s grandmother’s residence in 1987.
While the investigation continued, several witnesses came forward with claims that pointed fingers toward Phillip. Three witnesses claimed that Phillip presented them with a gun at a dinner party just months after the killing. Authorities believed it was the gun used in the murder. Tom Doty, a friend, said that Phillip and another person had discussed playing Russian roulette using it at the moment of his death.
A former Phillip’s lover, Corinne Hartwig, said Phillip admitted to murdering Theresa with a stolen gun. She also said Phillip was known to talk about Theresa often throughout the week. James added that Phillip admitted to the killing a couple of years after the committed incident. Two inmates who were together with Phillip in prison have admitted that Phillip had admitted to raping and killing Theresa.
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Where is Phillip Geans Today?
The prosecution also called attention to Phillip’s criminal record. Phillip had multiple felony and misdemeanor charges, most of which were violent crimes. In September 2015, when he was 45, Phillip was found guilty of murdering Theresa. In his sentencing, Phillip maintained that he was innocent and said that he had been struck repeatedly on that day of the murder and could not wake up. However, Phillip was sentenced to a maximum of sixty years of prison. The records show that he is imprisoned at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, LaPorte County. The most likely date for which Phillip’s release date is in 2044.