BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — A man who has spent the last 38 years in Alabama prisons has been indicted for a murder that occurred in Massachusetts in 1980.
On Thursday, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office in Boston announced that Steven Fike, 60, had been indicted on charges of rape and murder in connection with the death of Wendy Dansereau, a 19-year-old who was found strangled at the Hotel Diplomat in Boston’s South End on March 18, 1980.
The indictment was delivered by a grand jury in Boston Wednesday.
In a statement released Thursday, Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins said Fike had been identified as a suspect after his genetic profile was matched with DNA that had been found at the crime scene.
Rollins said the case was part of her office’s new program, Project for Unsolved Suffolk Homicides, or PUSH, that reviews unsolved homicides.
“We may not be able to provide every family with the answers that we have found for Ms. Dansereau’s loved ones, but we can let every survivor of homicide know that we remember their loved one and we remain committed to solving their murder,’’ Rollins said in the statement. “We will continue to work on their behalf. And we will not rest. There is no statute of limitations on murder.’’
“A 22-year-old drifter”
Fike is currently serving a life sentence at Elmore Correctional Facility in Alabama for the murder of Patricia Ann Culp, a 20-year-old dancer at Sammy’s Go-Go Lounge in Birmingham, who was found dead along I-59 in Tuscaloosa County in on February 2, 1982. Court documents indicate that Culpa had sustained a blunt trauma to the head and a cut on her left wrist.
In an appeal filed in 1983 in the case, records stated that Fike had met Culpa at Sammy’s on January 29, 1982 and then went to the Highway Host Motel in Bessemer with her after she got off work.
“The two then had sex, he paid her $50 and they left,” the document stated “The last time the appellant (Fike) saw the deceased was when she dropped him off at Banks Lounge at approximately 6 a.m. At 2:10 p.m. the appellant caught a plane to Atlanta.”
In the document, a housekeeper at the hotel allegedly discovered blood in the room where Fike and Culpa had spent the night hours before.
On February 5, 1982, Fike was arrested in Decatur, Georgia. This was after a housekeeper at the hotel allegedly discovered blood in the room where Fike and Culpa had spent the night hours before.
Prior to Fike’s imprisonment in the Culpa case, his only other conviction was in 1980, when he pleaded guilty to grand larceny, receiving a one-year jail sentence.
Fike, who was described as “a 22-year-old drifter” in a story by the Montgomery Advertiser at the time of his arrest, was also the subject of a 1978 feature published in The Birmingham News about how he would hitchhike across the country to get to Alabama football games.
The only other information found on Fike was a court document from a parental rights case that stated Fike was once married, having exchanged vows in 1978, but had been separated from his wife since 1979. In 2001, he was granted a divorce.
Fike is up for parole on March 1, 2023.
A hard life ends
By her own family’s account, Dansereau’s death served as the end to a troubled life. An article that ran in the Boston Globe on March 20, 1980 — two days after Dansereau was found — provides a small window into what the young mother was like. According to the article, Dansereau and her five brothers and sister’s were taken from their home in Worcester, Massachusetts and into protective custody when she was 8 years old.
Dansereau’s father, William, told the Globe at the time that his wife had been institutionalized and, coupled with alcoholism, there were problems in the household.
“…When they took the kids to foster homes, I thought it would be the best thing,” William told the Globe.
However, the Globe article painted a picture of Desereau’s life that was very unhappy, “a mix of unhappy foster homes, drug experimentation, flirtations with prostitution and brushes with the law.” According to the Globe, Dansereau went through seven foster homes in 11 years.
“Being shuffled around was bad,” Danserau’s sister, Brenda Haslam, told the Globe. “She would run away when she got unhappy with the foster home. That’s when kids turn to prostitution.”
According Haslam, she last saw Dansereau a couple of days before she was found dead on a Tuesday. At the time, she left Haslam’s house to find public housing in Boston. She was supposed to return to Waterford, Connecticut that Monday, but never did.
“We expected her to end up some bad way, maybe a drug overdose or a suicide — like she got fed up with her life — but never a murder,” Haslam said.
The Globe piece stated that at the time, investigators had no leads in Dansereau’s death.
“We’ve come close to solving that one, but haven’t been able to,” Boston Homicide Detective Jack Spencer told the Globe in March 1981.
Following Fike’s indictment, Rollins said Dansereau’s family had waited nearly 40 years for answers into her death.
“Today, we have not only the advances in forensic testing necessary to identify her killer, but a team of dedicated professionals – including Boston Police Detective Jack Cronin and SCDAO Civilian Investigator Emily Wood – who have worked to find answers for Ms. Dansereau’s loved ones, especially her daughter, who was only four weeks old at the time of her mother’s death and has waited her entire life for accountability,” Rollins said.