Remains Of Teen Girl Missing Since 1980 Found In Serial Killer’s Home

Theresa Caroline Fillingim, 17, went missing on May 16, 1980 in Tampa. Four decades later, advances in technology identified her body as a victim of serial killer Billy Mansfield, Jr.

In July 2022, Theresa Caroline Fillingim, pictured here smiling, was identified as a victim of serial killer Billy Mansfield, Jr. in 1980.

Theresa Caroline Fillingim, 17, went missing on May 16, 1980 in Tampa. Four decades later, advances in technology identified her body as a victim of serial killer Billy Mansfield, Jr.

Photo by: Hernando County Sheriff's Office

Hernando County Sheriff's Office

Back in 1980, a 17-year-old girl named Theresa Caroline Fillingim went missing from the Tampa, Florida area without a trace. After over four decades, her family finally got answers.

Margaret Johns, Fillingim’s older sister who she was living with at the time of her disappearance, filed a missing persons report after the teen girl never returned home on May 16, 1980.

In 1981, nearly a year after Fillingim went missing, Billy Mansfield, Jr. was caught and sent to prison for raping and strangling René Saling, a young mother of three, and dumping her dead body in a ditch near a campground where he and his brother were staying. While police were investigating that murder, they found four additional sets of human remains at Mansfield’s home. At the time, only two of the victims were identified; Elaine Ziegler, a 15-year-old girl from Ohio, and Sandra Jean Graham, a Tampa woman who went missing on April 17, 1980.

In July 2022, DNA confirmed that Fillingim was one of the other two people found buried at Mansfield’s home. Johns told WFLA this brings her some closure after waiting 42 years to find out what happened to her sister.

Johns told Fox 4 that her message to the serial killer would state, “How dare you cut her life short? How dare you? Who do you think you are doing that?” She also said, “The women are haunting him well. I hope they do.”

WFLA reported that knowing what happened to her sister did bring Margaret Johns some peace, but she regrets that her father, mother, and other sister passed away without ever knowing what happened to Theresa.

Ultimately, Johns hopes that this news can help encourage other people with missing family members to not give up hope. She said, “You never know what’s going to happen in your life that’s going to turn up something that you’ve been looking for forever.”

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