The FBI has added a Texas man to its Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list for the 1983 strangulation murder of a 22-year-old woman in Austin.
A reward of up to $100,000 is being offered for information leading to the capture of Robert Francis Van Wisse. At the time of the murder of 22-year-old Laurie Stout, Van Wisse was a 19-year-old college student. He is now 51 and has been on the run for more than two decades.
“No matter how much time has passed,” said Special Agent Justin Noble, a member of the FBI’s Central Texas Violent Crimes Task Force in Austin who is investigating the case, “It’s important that we finally get justice for the victim and her family.”
Stout was married with a 1-year-old daughter at the time of her murder. She worked as a janitor at the University of Texas at Austin. On the night of the murder in September 1983, Van Wisse was in the building late registering for a course, according to a press release from the FBI.
Her body was found in a restroom the following morning. An autopsy showed that Stout had been sexually assaulted and strangled with a wire. Investigators found that Van Wisse was the last person seen in the building before the murder.
“He was initially ruled out as a suspect,because DNA and other tests were not as sophisticated then as they are today.” Noble said.
Stout’s murder case went cold for a decade, until the early 1990s, when an Austin Police Department detective submitted crime scene evidence for new DNA tests that took advantage of the latest technology.
“The results pointed directly to Van Wisse.” Noble said.
When Van Wisse found out he was being evaluated again as a suspect, officials say he fled. In 1996, Texas charged him with capital murder and in 1997, Van Wisse was charged federally with unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.
“He was a college student whose parents were both professionals,” Noble said. “He grew up going to the best schools and living in the nicest neighborhood. He had the future in front of him.” Noble added, “And yet it appears he murdered a young woman making minimum wage trying to support her family and young child.”
When Noble read the original arrest affidavit, he believed the killer had acted impulsively.
“But after studying the crime scene reports and autopsy.” he said. “The evidence clearly suggests that this was a premeditated act.”
Noble said that Van Wisse’s family owns multiple properties in Mexico and in Guatemala.
“He’s a smart guy and he’s bilingual.” Noble said about Van Wisse. “He could be anywhere.”
At a press conference held Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Austin, authorities said the publicity effort to capture Van Wisse will include a social media advertising campaign targeted to specific locations in the U.S. and abroad.
“We have also identified more than 30 individuals who have had close ties to Van Wisse.” Noble said, “And we are going to be in contact with all of them. Somebody knows something, and $100,000 is a lot of money.”
Noble stressed that anyone providing information to the FBI can remain anonymous.
“We need to catch this guy.” he said. “The victim and her family deserve nothing less. It doesn’t matter that the murder took place more than three decades ago—to the victim’s family, it was like it was yesterday.”
If you have information regarding Van Wisse, contact the local FBI office or the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or submit a tip on the FBI website.
The fugitive investigation is being conducted by FBI San Antonio’s Central Texas Violent Crimes Task Force, Austin Resident Agency Office; USMS; APD; DPS; and the Texas Rangers.