Dawn Marie Van Meter
20 Years Old

February 28, 1962 to August 25, 1982

Dawn was a kind and caring young woman. She was very trusting and I guess her trust was betrayed and she met with a violent death. She was 20 and 1/2 years old and celebrating her last night of work before she was to leave for her third year at Ball State University. She was an accounting major. She was very excited about returning to school. She and three friends had rented a small house off campus for the coming year. Most of her summer was spent working and making purchases for the house.

Dawn enjoyed needlework. I have two of her pieces framed and hanging in our home. In high school, Dawn was a member of the concert band. She played the clarinet. In her senior year of high school, she was to be marking in the band as a flag carrier. This was never carried out because just prior to starting school that year, she was stricken with mononucleosis and she had to curtail strenuous activity.

Dawn was a thoughtful daughter and came home many times in addition to the normal college breaks. She was not a "payback" person. If someone hurt her feelings, she would always be ready to forgive them. I remember her saying to me once after a particular young man had not treated her nicely, "I'll call him back because I can't do what he did - I'm better than that."

Dawn has been greatly missed by her father and I and also her two sisters - one older and one younger. She has four nephews and one niece that will never know their "Aunt Dawn."

Her kindergarten teacher said, "Dawn is my Mary Sunshine - she's always smiling".

I know that she is smiling down at us from her place in heaven and helping us to live our lives with her.


Dawn and a co-worker went to a motel lounge in a neighboring town to celebrate Dawn's last night at work. While at the lounge, they met Johnny Shipper. They apparently socialized with him and I'm told that Dawn danced with this young man. We can only recreate in our minds what really happened. Dawn and her friend drove separately and Dawn's friend left ahead of her. Mr. Shipper was out on bail at the time and awaiting trial for rape - he was also wanted in the next county for assault and battery on a young woman. He had been out of prison a year or so where he was incarcerated for rape. A psychiatrist said at the end of his prison term - he was released early - that he had no deviate sexual tendencies. In the rape case pending he had offered to walk the young woman to her car and then pushed her over to the passenger side and got in and drove off with her. This is what is believed happened with Dawn. Her car was found the next morning parked at the motel in a different area and had sand on the tires and wheel wells. She was found in the lagoon at Marquette Park at Lake Michigan in the Miller Section of Gary, Indiana. The police were sure Mr. Shipper was the murderer, but the prosecutor of Lake County, Jack Crawford, felt there was not enough evidence to convict.

Mr. Shipper served 14 of 28 years for the rape and was set free in January, 1997. We have been advised that he has died of a heart attack sometime around June 1, 1999. We have moved from the area and were on an extended vacation at that time.

Mr. Shipper always picked a young blonde as his victim.

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