If you’re driving in Olympia on Martin Way East near Dirty Dave’s Pizza Parlor you will see a billboard that depicts Karen Bodine. The sign asks the reader to reach out if you know anything regarding her death.
Karlee Bodine, who is Karen’s oldest daughter and is responsible for erecting the sign, knows it is a longshot that anyone will call — her mother was killed nearly 14 years ago — but she can’t help but try.
Karen Bodine was found dead on the side of Little Rock Road Southwest in January of 2007, according to a news report from The Olympian. No arrests were ever made in the slaying of the 37-year-old woman and the manner of death was reported as strangulation. The police investigation has long since gone cold.
To add insult to injury, Karlee felt like her mother’s death was reported as if she was being judged on her worst day. It was inaccurately reported that she was homeless, an unflattering mugshot ran with the story and while Karen Bodine did struggle with drug abuse, Karlee said the report only gave people a reason not to care about her death.
“It really victim shamed her, and it made people not care about the case,” Karlee Bodine said.
Karlee Bodine was in high school when her mother was killed, and since then, has tried to develop ways to raise awareness around her case with hope that someone with relevant information will come forward.
Her billboard which was put up last Tuesday is the product of just one of her efforts to keep her mother’s case in Olympia citizens’ peripheral vision.
But in recent years Karlee Bodine realized she isn’t just looking for someone locally who might have information, she is also reaching out to true-crime fanatics who might take an interest in the case and help crack it.
“The term ‘armchair detective’ is really catching on and people are really interested in that type of stuff,” Karlee Bodine said. “Especially if it is a local case or someone they might have known, something that really draws them in.”
Admittedly, Karlee Bodine is an avid consumer of true-crime content — and she was a fan of true-crime long before her mother’s death.
“I mean who doesn’t watch Dateline?” she remarked in her interview with The Chronicle about the true-crime series that has been running on NBC since 1992.
Karlee Bodine said that her ultimate goal — aside from the case getting cracked — is that she can cultivate an online community that has substantial interest in her mother’s case and is willing to put forth the same level of effort to find an answer.
What that answer is, Karlee Bodine does not know. But a wave of interest in true-crime TV shows and podcasts has her believing that she can create something similar around her mother’s case.
“Sometimes it is the craziest things that crack cases, like ‘so-and-so said this at the bar,’” Bodine said. “It’s not usually law enforcement, law enforcement will find out about it, but it’s not usually law enforcement who ends up cracking a case.”
Karlee Bodine said she was inspired by the Netflix true-crime documentary “Don’t F*** With Cats,” which follows a host of non-law enforcement individuals that create a Facebook group dedicated to finding the identity of a man who brutally murdered cats in online videos.
Ultimately, (spoiler alert) the group was able to assist law enforcement in finding the culprit, who was arrested in Germany.
Karlee Bodine made a Facebook page of her own titled “Justice For Karen Bodine: My Mother’s Unsolved Homicide Investigation” where there are currently over 1,000 people following the page.
In an effort to attract the widest range of people, Karlee Bodine tries to raise awareness for her mother’s case online, via her Facebook page, but also locally, like through her billboard.
As of now, Karlee Bodine says the billboard is only about a quarter of the way paid and costs about $6,000. She fundraises for the sign payments through Venmo and on her Facebook page, but even if she doesn’t come up with the funds, she will pay it off herself.
“I’m determined, I will find a way,” she said.