New evidence in an Oklahoma cold case could potentially change the timeline of the death of 18-year-old Brittany Phillips, a college freshman found dead in her Tulsa apartment in 2004.
As CrimeOnline previously reported, Phillips returned home to Oklahoma in 2004 to attend Tulsa Community College’s downtown campus, after attending Eckerd College in Florida on a full Chemistry scholarship.
Her mother, Dr. Maggie Zingman, said Phillips found an apartment at 61st and Mingo, a mile away from her former high school and in an area that she felt safe in.
Shortly after moving in, Brittany was raped and killed inside the apartment and investigators believe she was killed on September 27, 2004. Investigators said it appeared as if someone broke into the residence but so far, the killer remains elusive.
While investigators collected DNA at the crime scene and thousands of people were tested, they failed to find a match to DNA found at the scene.
The new evidence, which was discovered by Brittany’s father last month, showed that a birthday card Brittany mailed to him in 2004 was postmarked on September 29, 2004, two days after Brittany was said to have died.
The key piece of information could possibly change the timeline in connection with Brittany’s murder.
“It could be that Brittany sent it, meaning that her timeline is wrong on her death because the police have said consistently for 18 years that she died sometime between September 27th that Monday night, and I had talked to her around 9 p.m. so they assume it’s after 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. the next morning on the 28th,” Zingman told 2 News.
Dr. Zingman is urging anyone who could have mailed the card on her daughter’s behalf to speak up, as the potential timeline change could lead to more answers in the case.
Crime scene investigator and Atlanta’s Cold Case Investigative Research Institute founder, Sheryl McCollum, told CrimeOnline that the postmarked mail “absolutely changed the timeline,” whether it be through the time of Brittany’s death, her last movements, or additional witnesses.
“It either one, changes Brittany’s date of death, or two, adds witnesses that mailed it for her, or three, adds the victim’s movements and meetings before her murder.”
“We are asking [if] anyone that mailed this envelope for Brittany to please come forward. We have not released size, color, writing, nor where that was mailed from. It’s still a viable new piece of evidence that in no way has been compromised.”
Forensic expert and host of the “Shattered Souls” podcast, Karen Smith, touched on the victim’s state of decomposition at the time investigators found her. Since the temperatures were in the 80s when police said she died, this could have actually sped up the timeline of the time of death.
“She was a bit decomposed as evidenced by the description,” she explained. “It was hot, so that’s going to speed it up. The identifiable food in her stomach has me asking questions about the postmortem interval as well as fading rigor mortis.”
“Maybe someone was with her when she ate her last meal, which will help with the postmortem timeline determination.”
McCollum added that testing Brittany’s clothing and bedding through Othram could also likely provide more evidence in the case.
Othram is a private laboratory that breaks through “previously impenetrable forensic DNA barriers” by extracting DNA that can’t be obtained through traditional investigative methods. It has helped crack answers in multiple, previously-unsolved cold cases.
For additional information about Brittany Phillips, listen to McCollum’s new “Zone 7” episode, which takes a deep dive into the case.
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[Feature Photo via Dr. Maggie Zingman]