Mystery Remains Over Four Decades After The Murder Of Oklahoma College Student

Tracey Neilson was brutally murdered on her 21st birthday back in 1981. With preserved and discovered evidence, investigators hope they will still solve the case.

On Jan. 5, 1981, Tracey Neilson, pictured here, was murdered on her 21st birthday. Her case remains unsolved.

Tracey Neilson, a young wife and mother, was brutally murdered on her 21st birthday back in 1981. With preserved and discovered evidence, investigators hope they will still solve the case.

Photo by: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation

Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation

On Jan. 5, 1981, Tracey Neilson was murdered on her 21st birthday. She was a student at Oklahoma State University, and her husband, Jeff Neilson, was a medical student at the University of Oklahoma. They had been married for five months. Tracey was apparently killed in the apartment they shared in Jamestown Square in Moore, Oklahoma. According to PEOPLE, investigators ruled Jeff out as a suspect early in the investigation.

KFOR shared that Tracey spent the last morning of her life running errands, then she was placed at home just before noon. Multiple friends and family members tried to call to wish her a happy birthday that day, but nobody heard from her after noon.

Jeff said he spent the day in classes, then came home with a birthday card and perfume for his wife. He got home around 5 p.m. to find his wife’s dead body lying across their bed. She had multiple stab wounds. It did not appear that Tracey had been sexually assaulted, according to PEOPLE, and there weren’t any signs of forced entry into the home.

The Moore Police Department responded to the scene and began the investigation, then the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation started assisting them the next day. Despite appeals to the public for help and a thorough investigation that spanned over four decades with thousands of leads followed, the case is still cold.

In 2015, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation shared previously unreleased information about a cable ticket book, according to KFOR. The last ticket in the book showed an appointment at Tracey’s apartment at 11:51 a.m. on the day she died. Given that nobody heard from her after that approximate time, that appears to be a significant clue. However, in the corner of the book where an employee’s name should be, there are only three letters, and investigators weren’t able to figure out the owner of the ticket book. The repairman has yet to be identified.

A keychain with the victim’s name, Tracey, was missing from the crime scene, reported the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. Detectives think the killer may have taken it as a “trophy”.

“People’s relationships change over time. If anyone, a former girlfriend or ex-wife, might recognize it and knew that it was taken from a crime scene, it could provide the lead we need,” Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Francia Thompson told PEOPLE.

One other strong piece of evidence collected at the scene is a latent fingerprint that hasn’t been identified. Matching latent fingerprints was extremely difficult in the early 1980s, and it was even more so when there was no clear suspect. After learning more about the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which can scan a national database for latent fingerprints, from Jeff Neilson’s family and the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, the Oklahoma Legislature agreed to purchase it, reported KFOR. It was dedicated to Tracey.

Despite the fact that the case is unsolved, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Neilson’s sister, Cindy Young, told KOCO 5 that they won’t give up on finding justice for Tracey. “Our lives were totally changed that day,” she said. “We miss her. My daughter, her name’s Tracey. I named her after her. She was a great sister. I can’t even really tell you how much I loved her.”

If you have any information about Tracey’s murder, you might help solve this tragic case. The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation asks that you call 800-522-8017 or write to with any information you may have.

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