21 years since mother’s body found by her children; still no arrests

Imagine 21 years going by and there being no justice for your murdered loved one. Sunday will mark that heartbreaking reality for the family of Mary Petersen,35, whose body was found by her two young children at their home on Oak Landings Drive.

The children were five and 8-years-old when they found her strangled to death. Petersen’s car was not even at the house at the time, it was found somewhere else.

For Petersen’s mother, Frances Futrill, time has not healed her wounds. She just wants justice.

News4JAX was there for a press conference in 2004, which is when the family of Mary Petersen marked two years since her murder. Futrill begged for answers, all those years ago.

“In those few short hours, who could’ve done this to my precious child,” Futrill asked.

Fast forward two decades later, Futrill said she never imagined we’d still be here asking the same questions.

“She was just a kind, considerate, compassionate,” Futrill said. “You just wonder how somebody could take your hands and do this to a wonderful girl like that? I just can’t figure out how he could do it to her.”

Exactly who ‘he’ is has never been determined.

A new family now lives in the home in the quiet subdivision, but one thing that has never changed is Futrill’s pursuit of justice.

“While she was going through her divorce, Mary Petersen had moved back in with her parents,” she said. “But on the day she was murdered, she returned to the home just off Fort Caroline Road to get some clothes and had planned to go back to her mom’s. Tragically, she changed her mind, called her mother, and said she’d decided to stay. It was the last time the two would ever speak.”

“The last thing she said was, ‘I love you too, Mother. And see you tomorrow,” Futrill said. “I regret going that night so bad.”

Futrill says even 21 years later, people still tell her they’ve never forgotten about Mary.

Just this week, Futrill found someone had left flowers at her grave.

While some days are harder than others, Futrill has pictures of her beloved daughter, a Care Bear from the Justice Coalition made from Mary’s clothing and memories she’ll forever cherish.

Futrill said no matter what, she’s not giving up hope.

“I’ll never giving up looking for it, hoping for it, wishing for it. Every day of my life,” she said. “21 years I’ve wished and hoped and prayed and looked for it. But I’m not going to give up.”

Police have had a number of persons of interest over the years, but there still have been no arrests.

Futrill tells me the last time she heard from detectives in the case was last year, but she does not know who or if anyone is actively working on Mary’s case. She wants to know what’s the missing piece that the police still need to identify the killer.

Anyone with information about the 2002 murder of Mary Petersen is asked to call JSO. Crimestoppers can be reached at 866-845-TIPS.

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