Sunday dinners with the family were a staple at the home of Carl and Jessie Stabb in Wampsville, New York.
Two of their daughters told Dateline those dinners were some of their fondest memories growing up, a tradition that continues with their own families.
“Mom always cooked and it was just a time for all of us to be together,” Joan Bodah said. “I’ll never forget that feeling.”
Joan is one of 10 children born to her parents, Carl and Jessie. The couple met and got married when they were just teenagers, and were about to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary in 1993.
But they never got the chance.
In May of 1993, Carl and Jessie’s children were grown with families of their own, and the couple took on a new role. The role of grandparents. And there were plenty of grandchildren to care for.
“I’m not even sure how many there were at the time,” Joan said laughing. “But mom was always happy to babysit. She was always taking care of somebody.”
Both Joan and her sister, Pat, still remember the last day they spent with their parents. It was a warm, sunny Sunday, which also happened to be Mother’s Day.
“It was a beautiful day… sunny and nice out,” Joan said. “The kids were swimming in the pool. We spent time with Mom and Dad. It was a good day.”
Joan said she spoke to her mother the next day on the phone at least three times, maybe more. The last time was around 8:30 p.m. that evening.
“I called and asked her to pick up diapers for my baby,” Joan said, adding that her parents would be taking their weekly trip to the store the following day. “Little did I know that was the last time I would ever speak to her.”
Just hours later, the family’s matriarch – and the patriarch – were gone.
It was Carl and Jessie’s son, Tom Stabb, who had been living in the home at the time, who found their bodies in the living room.
Troopers in Oneida, New York received a call at 10:24 p.m. on May 10, from Tom Stabb, who stated that his parents were bleeding and not moving. Troopers, Madison County sheriff’s deputies, and fire and rescue personnel responded to the home on South Court Street.
Carl and Jessie Stabb had been shot to death, Investigator Timothy Dougherty confirmed to Dateline. Dougherty is the Troop D Major Crimes Unit lead investigator on the case. The gun used in the killings has never been recovered.
Dougherty told Dateline that the scene at the Wampsville home “suggests while they were sitting in their living room, someone shot through the window from outside.”
“They were just watching TV, having a relaxing night, not bothering anyone,” Joan said. “And somebody just shoots them. Somebody took their lives and left us kids with a big hole in our hearts.”
According to New York State Police investigators, the double homicide was not believed to be a random killing.
“Although we cannot be certain, we do not believe this was a random shooting and believe the Stabbs were targeted,” Dougherty said.
Their family remains in disbelief that anyone would target their parents and just want to know who would do such a thing – and why.
Many potential suspects have been interviewed over the years, but no arrests have been made. Dougherty told Dateline that there is currently a person of interest in the case, but no further details were provided due to the ongoing investigation.
Joan and her sister Pat told Dateline that there were so many people in and out of the house and on the property, the shooter could have been anyone. They explained that their father, who worked multiple jobs, often sold and bought furs and produce from their small hobby farm.
“But I don’t believe there’s anyone who would have a reason to kill them,” Joan said. “Mom would give the shirt off her back. She was caring and kind. Dad was, well, Dad. He was reliable and always there for you.”
The sisters fear their parents have been forgotten and that no one really cares because they were older when they were killed.
“It just feels like no one cares,” Joan said. “But their lives mattered too. They mattered to us.”
They are confident there is someone who knows something that could help solve the case.
“Somebody got away with murder, you know what I’m saying?” Joan said. “I don’t know how someone can live with this. It’s bound to come out eventually.”
Joan, and her siblings, have built lives of their own and continue to hold Sunday dinners. But there are two very important people who are missing from the table. Their parents.
Their grief is especially hard on Mother’s Day.
“Instead of celebrating our mother, we’re grieving her death,” Joan said. “And it doesn’t get any easier.”
Nearly three decades have passed since the murders, but the family continues to plead with the public for information to solve the case and to finally let their parents rest in peace.
“We’d just like to know who did this and why,” Pat told Dateline. “It’s time to finally know the truth.”
For now, the children and grandchildren of Carl and Jessie Stabb try to remember the good times. Sunny days on the porch. And of course, Sunday dinners.
“We’re not giving up – Mom and Dad wouldn’t want us to give up,” Joan said. “They didn’t deserve to die like that. I know somebody out there knows something. It’s time to open your mouth and say something. At the very least, our parents deserve the truth.”
Anyone with information that may help solve Carl and Jessie’s case is asked to call New York State Police Troop D headquarters at (315) 366-6000.