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Closure for family in 42-year-old cold case linked to serial killer who lived in Hernando County

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Posted at 6:32 PM, Jul 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 05:40:59-04

HERNANDO COUNTY, Fla. — Margaret Johns waited more than 40 years to find out what happened to her little sister Theresa.

“She didn’t have a chance to start her life at all. Or do anything. Or accomplish anything,” said Johns.

Theresa Fillingim was 17 and living in Tampa in 1980 when she disappeared.

“Her disappearance and my son’s birth four years later and the subsequent disappearance of a kid two blocks from my house that stepped off their bus and was never heard from again prompted me to leave the state and not raise my son in Florida,” said Johns.

It took decades but Margaret found out last year her sister’s remains were those found at a Spring Hill home where convicted serial killer Billy Mansfield Jr. once lived.

“How do I feel today? I’m glad it’s over with. It’s been 42 years. My family had to live with it. My dad would ask me what do I think happened,” said Johns.

Detective George Loydgren handles cold cases for the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office.

He said the technology just didn’t exist to identify Theresa when her remains were first discovered.

“You are going back to 1981. You couldn’t spell DNA in 1981,” Loydgren said.

He said not only is DNA technology now key in solving cases like this but also advances in genealogy.

Theresa’s remains were at different labs around the country.

Now they are all back in Hernando County and her sister can make final arrangements.

“It’s sad in a sense that you are going somebody the sad news that their loved one is deceased. But it’s positive and happy for me because I’m instrumental in bringing her sister home to her,” said Loydgren.

Mansfield is in a California prison for killing five women.

Investigators said they found four bodies buried at the family’s home in Spring Hill.

They were back there looking for more evidence two years ago after Mansfield’s brother was arrested on drug charges.

Theresa’s sister wants to thank the Hernando Sheriff’s office for never giving up and remind everyone to be careful.

“There is evil that lives out there and people get snatched all the time. And kids…they take it a little bit more seriously now than they used to in the old days. But it still happens,” said Johns.

The case is still not closed. One of the four women found at Mansfield’s home still hasn’t been identified. But investigators hope she will be very soon.