The text from the article is transcribed below. You can also access this article via the following options:
Few Clues, Fewer Answers
By Douglas Haberman
The exact publish date of this article is currently unknown.
In the nearly four months since Cal Poly Pomona student Christina Burmeister, 20, was slain, her family has waited for a breakthrough in the perplexing case.
None has come, so the Cerritos family has hired private investigator Thomas Martin, president of Martin Investigative Services in Anaheim.
“We felt this was a last-ditch effort that we need to do for our daughter,” Rosi Burmeister said in an interview in Anaheim with her husband, Cliff, daughter, Elizabeth, and Martin.
“The cops are no closer to solving this case than they were in the beginning,” said Martin, a former Drug Enforcement Administration supervisory special agent.
Little is known about what happened that night. Someone used Christina’s ATM card to withdraw $400 from a bank branch in Montclair about midnight Aug. 17, less than 90 minutes after Christina left her family’s home to go to a fraternity house in Pomona. Her body was found in her new pickup truck on Highway 39 north of Azusa about 9:30 a.m., the next day. Her throat had been slit.
“There have been no clues that have led us to what we think are worthy suspects,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Det. Phil Guzman, who is investigating the case. Detectives have rarely seen a murder with so little helpful evidence, he said.
“This is an unusual case,” Guzman said.
Martin isn’t accusing sheriff’s investigators of incompetence or inaction, he said. He hasn’t turned up any new evidence either since he began looking into Christina’s death in late October.
“This is not one that’s going to be very easy,” he said.
The family and Martin said they are hoping that more publicity about four rewards posted in the case, totaling $65,000, might draw someone out who can shed light on the slaying.
“It boggles my mind that nobody has come forward,” Martin said.
Guzman is similarly surprised.
“I would’ve thought $65,000 would’ve been well worth it for most people,” he said. “Somebody who knows what happened – that’s the call we’re waiting for.”
Christina Burmeister was a gregarious young woman, brimming with energy and surrounded by friends, her family said. She was extremely active in the Chi Omega sorority and the Greek system at Cal Poly, following in the tradition of her sister, Elizabeth, who is six years older.
Christina, who was 5 foot 10 and weighed 115 pounds, was working toward a bachelor’s degree in apparel merchandising and marketing. She had a part-time job at a Nordstrom in Santa Ana. But she was also an avid reader who had been pondering her future in a journal she’d kept for several years, Rosi Burmeister said.
Journalism had long appealed to her, as well as fashion, and she was weighing the two careers at the time of her death, her mother said. Both her parents are pharmacists, the family is comfortable financially and Christina wanted to earn enough money to enjoy a similar lifestyle, Rosi Burmeister said.
“She was a young woman who was determined to be successful,” she said.
There was yet another side to her. Since she was a young girl, Christina had danced in the Danube-Swabian Folk Dance Group in Los Angeles, a focal point for ethnic German immigrants in Southern California, like Rosi Burmeister, and their families. Through the group, Christina made friends across the country.
Christina’s journal also revealed that she dearly loved her parents and sister, something she wasn’t inclined top say out loud very often.
“She had a strong sense of family – even if she didn’t always let us know that,” Rosi Burmeister said.
Life seemed to hold unlimited possibilities for Christina. Until Aug. 17.
Christina left the family’s Cerritos home at 10:30 p.m. that night to make the half-hour drive to a meeting at a fraternity house in Pomona, promising to be home in two hours. She and other sorority members were going to discuss the upcoming sorority rush, the family said. The Sigma Nu fraternity house in Pomona is near Hold Boulevard and Garey Avenue, a neighborhood known for drug dealing and prostitution. Christina originally planned to park in a safer location and have someone pick her up and take her to the fraternity house, Det. Guzman said. But after she left her house she phone one of the sorority members and said she was just going to drive straight to the meeting.
She never showed up.
At 11:54 p.m., a young woman in a hooded sweatshirt pulled low over her face used Christina’s ATM card at a Washington Mutual branch in Montclair, several miles east of the fraternity house. She withdrew $400 in about one minute in three separate withdrawals.
Christina apparently had been abducted and forced to provide her bank card’s personal identification number, but no one other than the abductors seems to know when, where or how it happened. It’s also unclear how she was held against her will.
“I can’t imagine she wouldn’t try to get away if she had a chance,” Rosi Burmeister said.
Sheriff’s detectives at first didn’t reveal the gender of the person at the ATM, allowing the news media to say it was a man, even when a sketch was released based on the help of a witness. Guzman said this ruse helped investigators weed out tipsters offering gad information about the case, “America’s Most Wanted” made the public revelation on Dec. 8 that the person is believed to be a woman.
About 9:30 a.m. on Aug.18, a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy on routine patrol out of the San Dimas sheriff’s station found Burmeister dead in her new blue Chevrolet S-10 Extreme pickup. Her tennis shoes were off her feet. She had not been sexually molested, Guzman said.
By that time, the family was already in a panic even though they didn’t know Christina’s fate. She wasn’t home and uncharacteristically wasn’t answering calls to her cell phone or pager. Her sorority friends told Rosi she hadn’t shown up at the fraternity house. When Rosi, who shared the Washington Mutual bank account with Christina, checked on it by phone she discovered the three withdrawals.
“I just knew there was something drastically wrong,” she said. “She did $20 to $40 at a time.”
Because the account had an overdraft limit of $400 and only $60 in the account at the time, the criminals got about as much as they were going to get, the family said.
The afternoon of Aug. 18, Elizabeth Burmeister, 27, grew impatient as the family waited to hear what had happened to her sister. She drove with her uncle to the Montclair branch of Washington Mutual, where the $400 had been withdrawn. Almost as soon as she got out of the car, she saw a compact disc case lying in bushes and recognized as Christina’s. It had a sticker on it that said “Crispie’s.” Crispie was one of Christina’s nicknames.
“My gut feeling is she threw it out of the truck – like a bread crumb trail,” Elizabeth said.
By then Rosi had filed a missing person’s report, and soon after that sheriff’s detectives tracked down the family by calling the dealer of the pickup, which still had only paper license plates, to identify the purchaser.
LEFT WITH SPECULATION
Christina’s ATM card, credit cards, identification, purse, cell phone and pager have never been found, the family said. There were no further attempts to use her ATM card and no attempts to use her credit cards, they said. All the signs point to experienced criminals rather than novices, Guzman said.
“These are dangerous people,” he said.
While leads are few, “there is evidence that we are not revealing at this point” so as not to compromise the investigation, Guzman said.
“We’re not holding anything back that’s going to help the public identify the suspects,” he said.
The family, detectives and now the private investigator, Martin, are left speculating about why her abductors killed Christina. They almost certainly killed her after the ATM withdrawals, Guzman said, because otherwise they wouldn’t know whether the PIN that Christina gave them was the right one.
“Once they had the money, they could’ve just left” the scene and left Christina behind, he said.
“The minute you start to apply FBI 101 to this case is when you start getting in trouble.” Martin said.
One witness at the ATM location said he saw a man watching from the bushes while the woman withdrew the money, Guzman said.
The belief is that one or two men drove Christina into the mountain (one to drive and possibly another to hold her down) in her truck and that the woman followed in another car to take them down the mountain. But there is no evidence at all of a third person, Guzman said.
A fisherman spotted the truck about 5:30 a.m. in a turnout by Morris Reservoir, about four miles from the base of the mountain, he said. But the fisherman didn’t see the body inside and didn’t have any reason to suspect foul play, Guzman said.
Now the family is left hoping the $65,000 in reward money will spur someone who knows something to contact sheriff’s detectives at (323) 890-5500 or Martin at his toll-free number (800) 660-1848.
“Our lives will never be the same,” Rosi Burmeister said.
She is angry that the killer or killers are free and wants them caught, convicted and sentenced to death, she said.
“Ultimately,” she said, “we want to have some justice.”