On a stone block wall above the football bleachers at Deer Park High School there’s a bronze plaque: “Troy Temar Memorial Press Box.” More than 17 years have passed since his July 3, 1999, murder at an abandoned farmhouse north of Loveland.

So why is he remembered among all the sad, stupid, hateful, drunken, drug addled, reckless, insanely cruel and extravagantly wasteful homicides that destroy families from the inside out like some radioactive soul poison?

The answer is that all murders are not created equal. We pretend they are, but they’re not. Bad people killed by worse people. Drug deals gone wrong. Gang wars. Drunks with blood in their alcohol. Most murder victims in cities have criminal records. A leading cause of murder is crime. 

And anyone who gets close enough to smell the bloodstains quickly finds out most murders are not “as seen on TV.” 

The first one I covered as a reporter was made for headlines: “The Craze Killing.” It had all the elements of a tabloid trial: older, wealthy man (last name Craze) killed by his younger wife and her boyfriend. It was made for TV. Until I got to court and saw them in person. The “wealthy” victim owned a glamorous junkyard. The boyfriend was a slob who barely had more teeth than fingers. The wife who helped beat her husband to death with a hammer while he slept was Rosanne Barr with more tattoos and less charm. It was nothing like Law & Order or Raymond Chandler. It was just tacky. Trashy. Tragically idiotic. 

Then along comes someone like Troy Temar.

“Popular athlete,” the plaque says. He was captain of his football team at Deer Park. Homecoming king in 1987. Track star. Sports nut. Fun, charming, handsome, friendly, a single guy at 30, living the dream life with his own remodeling business, dating a lot, playing softball with his friends, partying on the weekends. Life was good.

Until he met Theresa Voss.

In the late ‘90s, Terri was pretty. They worked for the same construction company. He worked on houses and she kept the books. Pretty soon she moved into Troy’s house and helped him keep the books for his own new company, Team R Construction. 

But beauty is not even suntan deep. She was embezzling from the company they worked for, and had done it before. She had already been married twice, and tried to kill her second husband. She stabbed him in the neck while he slept, narrowly missing his carotid artery. She was put in a psychiatric hospital, then got out and tried to hire someone to hurt him again. After the divorce, she dated another man, who woke up one night being attacked by an intruder with a hatchet. On the other side of a prison term, the hatchet man admitted that Terri supplied the weapon, unlocked the door and showed him a floor plan.

When Troy found out about her embezzlement he asked her to move out. He was already worried. In 1995, when he planned to go to his high school reunion without her, he got a severe rash on his face. When doctors said it was a topical irritation, he recalled waking one night, half dreaming that she was wiping a damp cloth across his face. 

In February of 1999, he woke up and found her standing over him with scissors. He told his friends he was scared of her. “She’s got a thing for the holidays,” he said. “If she hurts me it will be on a holiday.”

She finally agreed to move out on March 19. He came home the day before to find police waiting. She had accused him of domestic violence, even poking herself with a knitting needle to stain his shirt with blood. She eventually admitted she made it all up, but he spent the night in jail.

When he started seeing other women, things went sideways.

His last day alive was on the July 4 weekend. He was right: She had a thing for holidays. On July 3 he worked on a house, stopped at his favorite golf course to set up a tee time, bought some sweetcorn and decided to stay home for the evening. But sometime that night, she called him and he went out to meet her.

Firefighters and police, responding to a 911 call about a car fire, found his body the next morning, July 4, stuffed in the trunk of his brother’s Mustang at an abandoned farmhouse near the intersection of Turtle Creek Road and state Route 48. Someone had doused the car and his body with gas, laid a gasoline fuse through the grass and set off the fireworks.

Witnesses came forward who had heard a car horn at the farmhouse. A mother and daughter who got out to change drivers across the street late that night said they heard someone cry, “Help me, somebody help me please.” They were frightened and fled.

At the autopsy, Troy’s 190-pound body was burned so badly it weighed just 96 pounds. He had been shot twice through the upper left back and upper chest, nearly straight down. “He bled to death. Neither gunshot was immediately fatal,” says Major John Newsom, now retired, who was in charge of cold cases for the Warren County Sheriff’s Department.

Newsom and his cold-case team had previously closed other unsolved murders, including the Vickie Barton case from 1995. Her husband, a Springboro police officer, was finally charged and convicted in 2005. 

“As soon as the Barton case was over, I jumped on this one,” Newsom says. “I had read the case file and I could see there was lots of good work. I thought it was solvable.”

Most of the forensic evidence at the scene was destroyed by fire. So Newsom started fresh. He looked again at every suspect and motive. “I read every file, every report. Every photo. Every video. It took two months. I went to the crime scene.”

For two-and-a-half years he checked out suspects and theories—drugs, gambling, debts—but Troy was clean. It always came back to Theresa Voss. When Newsom assembled a painstaking timeline, her alibi did not add up. She claimed she was with Troy at French Park in Amberley and at Lunken Airport before she dropped him off and went home. Newsom drove to the places she claimed to be that night, with a stopwatch. The traffic varied, but the truth did not: Her story was impossible.

The evidence painted another picture.

She called Troy that night and somehow persuaded him to meet her at the farmhouse. “Maybe she threatened suicide,” Newsom says. “He was still concerned about her.” They argued. As he sat in his car or tried to get out, she stood near the driver’s side door and shot him, sometime between 10 and 11 p.m., then watched him bleed to death as he pleaded for help. The autopsy showed he was dead when his body was burned. But how did she get 190 pounds of dead body, heavier than a lifetime of grief, into the trunk by herself?

Terri’s brother Eric Hoerlein had a story, too, but it was full of holes. So Newsom brought him in. He edged his chair so close to Eric they were almost touching, without enough air for a lie to pass between them.

“Nobody has been held responsible,” he told Eric. “Your life is a wreck since this happened. Jail, debt, you’re a mess. Something is tearing you up inside. It’s time to let it go.”

Eric stared at the floor as Newsom kept the pressure on.

“Let’s walk through this together and you can let it go.”

Eric finally looked up and said, “I didn’t shoot him.”

It was the sound of a case finally slamming closed. 

Eric confessed that Terri called him that night “out of her mind,” to tell him Troy was dead. She told him she shot him in self-defense. He rushed over to help her move the body and burn the car to destroy evidence. He had provided the gun—a Glock .40 that matched the wounds to Troy—when she asked for a weapon to “scare somebody” a month before the murder. Newsom found bullet holes in a tree where Eric showed her how to use it.

A few hours after Eric’s confession, Newsom kept a promise. In his first interview of Terri he told her, “I’m going to get you.” When she was finally brought in under arrest on September 13, 2005, six years after the murder, he was waiting. “I was the first face she saw. I looked at her and said, ‘I told you I was going to get you and I got you.’ That was all I said.”

Eric’s confession and Newsom’s timeline convicted her of murder. Circumstantial evidence made the jury’s job easy. Eric testified that she gave him rubber gloves and slip-on shoes to handle Troy’s body. A detective saw her drive by the murder scene the day after Troy was killed. Phone records showed she called Troy 80 times between June 7 and July 3. But then the calls suddenly stopped. No calls on July 4 or July 5, although she insisted on July 6 that she didn’t know he was killed. She didn’t call him because she knew he was dead. She killed him. 

While awaiting trial in jail, she told the husband she married after Troy’s murder in recorded calls that she shot Troy and admitted, “I’m not innocent.”

She was sentenced to 33 years to life for aggravated murder. The end of October will mark her 10th year in prison. Newsom asked her in a letter to show some mercy to the Temar family and tell the whole story, but she didn’t respond.

The night Troy was murdered, she came to her parents’ home in Montgomery, went upstairs, washed her face and came down to paint her fingernails.

“She kills someone and comes home to paint her nails—that’s a pure sociopath,” Newsom says. “One of the worst I’ve seen.” And he’s seen a few in his years as a detective for Cincinnati Police and Warren County. 

Eric was sent to prison for five years. He said during his confession, “Terri knows exactly what she’s doing every minute of the day.” 

To close the case, Newsom had to get in the mind of the victim. He liked what he saw. Troy was a good man who loved his family. The Temars were “wonderful people,” very close. “I’d like to have known him,” he says.

In a culture where it often seems like “nobody has been held responsible,” a solved cold case has the satisfying clank of a cell door swinging shut. They are solved because detectives refuse to give up and keep working, pushing and digging to find justice for victims who have no voice.

Mystery writer Ross Macdonald called his detective Lew Archer, “A ghost from the present haunting a bloody moment in the past.”

Crimes like the murder of Troy Temar should haunt us all.