Homicide cold case still unsolved in Butte

Julianne Stallman with Jennifer MacPhee a toddler.

It has been 23 years since a woman was brutally murdered at her Butte home. In that time, family members, friends and authorities have remained determined to find answers.

A suspect has yet to be identified.

Jennifer MacPhee remembers Nov. 29, 1994, like it was yesterday. It was the day her 41-year-old mother, Julianne Stallman, was stabbed to death around 3 p.m. at her home on California Avenue in Butte.

“You can’t imagine the pain and where your head takes you," MacPhee said. "It’s not a place to be.”

Butte Sheriff Ed Lester said he was a patrol officer on graveyard shift when the homicide occurred. He started to work on the case as a detective in 2004.

“It was a very violent attack with an edged weapon of some sort. Typically that kind of violence with a repeated injury means there was a lot of anger involved," Lester said.

MacPhee, who now lives in South Dakota, said her mother was coming back from a waitress shift the day she died.

MacPhee said her mother would waitress at Jacqueline's Restaurant, which is now an empty lot on Harrison Avenue.

It was one of many places she would waitress, according to MacPhee. She was like a friend to everyone in the community.

Lester believes Stallman's attacker could possibly be someone she knew.

“Somebody's out there, in my opinion, that either knows about what happened that day or they’re still out there now," Lester said.

MacPhee tells NBC Montana she has an idea of the killer's motives.

“Statistically speaking, murders and homicides of women are done because of sex, jealously and money. So it’s one of those," MacPhee said.

Butte resident Mary Obenhoff’s said her daughter, Misty, now living in Washington, has been best friends with MacPhee since the beginning. Obenhoff said both women have never stopped searching for answers and justice.

“Every time Jenny comes to Butte to go talk to the police, my daughter comes and goes with her. I don’t think Jenny’s ever went without my daughter. My daughter takes notes. They’ve got a binder full of information," Obenhoff said.

Lester said Butte police have assigned a primary investigator to the case, while the Montana Crime Lab is controlling the evidence.

Since it's an open investigation the crime lab was not able to provide any details on new leads.

Lester said he is not discouraged. He tells NBC Montana his goal before he leaves law enforcement is to solve the case.

“We haven’t gotten to where we want to be with it, and I'm sure the family is discouraged with the length of time that it’s taking, but I wouldn’t get discouraged. Jennifer drives this thing, and I don’t think anyone’s quitting," Lester said.

MacPhee said she’s looking for clues, especially from Butte, where her mother lived and worked.

MacPhee also believes Butte is where her mother’s killer still resides.

“This person is in your community. They shop at the grocery stores you shop at, they drive the streets that you drive, and they drink coffee at the coffee shops where you drink coffee. They’re there," MacPhee said.

If you know of any information, Lester asks that you call the department at 406-471-1120. It can be anonymous.

MacPhee has also set up a public Facebook group titled Justice for Julianne Stallman.

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