A Mother’s Resolve

The Debi Whitlock Case

On March 25, 1988, 32-year-old Debi Whitlock was murdered at her home in Modesto, California. Her throat was slit and her dead body sexually assaulted while her three-year-old daughter slept in a nearby bedroom. Initially, Harold Whitlock, Debi’s husband, was the chief suspect in his wife’s death. But he wasn’t charged and no arrests were made. For the next nine years Debi’s mother, Jacque MacDonald waged a determined but uphill battle to get justice for her daughter.

Jacque knew that the best chance to develop new investigative leads required keeping the case alive in the minds of the public. In order to do that she had to get the media involved. She reached out to programs such as America’s Most Wanted again and again without success. The frustration Jacque experienced could have caused her to give up, to accept that her daughter’s murder might never be solved. It could have, but it didn’t. If anything, she became even more determined.

As she fought to get Debi’s case the attention it deserved, Jacque realized there were probably other parents—she prefers to call them “walking wounded” rather than victims—who were going through the same things she was. To help others she created her own local radio and TV shows called The Victim’s Voice (http://www.mercedcountysmostwanted.org/victimsvoice.html). The show profiled unsolved homicide cases and included interviews with police officials and members of the victim’s family. Jacque felt it was very important to have a family member involved to give a face and voice to their deceased loved one.

Setting up and running her show took a lot of time. But Jacque didn’t let that interfere with her efforts to track down Debi’s killer. She learned what resources were available to her in the community. Among them were the Merced County Victim/Witness Program and Citizens Against Homicide (http://www.citizensagainsthomicide.org). Both proved invaluable to her in her struggle.

Not long afterward Jacque had something she’d long desired. A billboard was put up with Debi’s photo and a plea for help in finding her murderer. Eventually that billboard would pay huge dividends. After that America’s Most Wanted and other national shows picked up the story.

In 1997 Scott Avery Fizzell was arrested for Debi’s murder. The friend of Fizzell who gave the police the information that led to the arrest explained why he finally came forward. Debi’s photo on the billboard haunted him to the point he felt compelled to name the killer. On May 26, 1999 Fizzell pled guilty to the murder.

In addition to accomplishing what she’d set out to do, Jacque’s tenacity earned her the National Crime Victim’s Service Award from the United States attorney general. And in 2009 the story of Debi’s murder and Jacque’s quest was released in a book authored by Debi’s step-daughter, Angela Dove, titled No Room For Doubt (http://www.angeladove.com).

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