On December 3, 2002, 13-year-old Kacie Woody was kidnapped from her small-town Arkansas home and sexually assaulted and murdered in a local storage unit by Dave Fuller, a California man posing as a teenager to befriend Kacie in an online chat room, where he obtained her trust, along with her phone number and home address.
In 2002, Kacie Woody was a responsible and popular 13-year-old middle school student living in a small town in Arkansas with her dad and two older brothers. Her mom had been killed in a car accident six years earlier. Her dad was a police patrol officer who worked nights, which meant Kacie would sometimes be left home alone, although various family members helped watch out for Kacie.
Kacie was very interested in boys. She had recently started meeting them in various online chat rooms. During the summer and fall of 2002, she met and developed a strong online tie to two of these “boys,” Scott, 14, from Georgia, and Dave, from California, who claimed to be 17.
Friends and family members were concerned that Kacie was overly trusting and that she was giving out her personal information to strangers online. On December 3, 2002, a friend of Kacie’s got a school guidance counselor involved in cautioning Kacie to be more careful.
That same night, Kacie was home alone while her father worked a night shift. When Dave called, she was busy chatting online with her boyfriend, Scott. She and Dave had developed a strong friendship centered around the “fact” that both had a family member who had become the victim of a terrible car crash. Kacie was giving Scott all the details of her phone conversation with Dave when she suddenly stopped responding to Scott’s messages. Scott thought this was odd as she was still logged in online. He became increasingly worried and tried calling and emailing one of her friends, but with no success.
Meanwhile, Kacie’s brother and her brother’s friend came home and found that Kacie was missing. Her dad rushed home and discovered that Kacie’s coats and shoes were still there, despite the freezing temperature outside. Even more alarming was the discovery of her broken glasses. It was clear that Kacie had been kidnapped from home. Law enforcement followed various leads to track down who this Dave was and who could have taken her.
Police soon learned that a 47-year-old San Diego man named Dave Fuller had recently rented a motel room, a van, and a storage unit, all in the area near Kacie’s home. Fuller’s phone number had made multiple calls to Kacie’s house. As a result of their quick investigation, law enforcement officers found the storage unit on December 4, 2002, but just as they arrived, they heard a single gunshot ring out from inside.
This is the story of Kacie’s kidnapping and murder.
Tragedy Strikes in the Kacie family
Kacie Rene Woody was born on October 17, 1989, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to Rick and Kristie Woody. She had two older brothers, Austin and Timothy, who were both local young athletes. Kacie was a good girl and popular with her friends.
The tight-knit Woody family was struck by tragedy when Kacie was only 7 years old. The whole family was traveling to one of Kacie’s brother’s ballgames in their car. Rick was driving, with Kristie in the front passenger seat and the three kids in the back, when a horse suddenly bolted in front of their car on Highway 287 in Conway County, Arkansas. The front of the car suffered the worst impact. Rick survived the crash with broken ribs, but Kristie, 38, died from her injuries.
Kristie’s death took an enormous toll on the entire family, particularly young Kacie, who had been very close to her mom. Her mom’s untimely death also forced Kacie to grow up early and take on many household responsibilities, such as laundry and cooking, that many kids her age weren’t yet handling.
Kacie’s Online Dating
The trouble started in 2002 when Kacie was 13 years old. The Woody family lived on Griggers Lane, a small dead-end street in the tiny town of Holland in central Arkansas, about 30 miles north of Little Rock. Rick worked as a police officer in the nearby town of Greenbrier. He was a patrol officer and would often work nights.
Kacie’s older brother Tim, 19, was taking classes and still living at home. One of Tim’s friends, Eric, 19, was also temporarily living in the Woody home. The two young men were often home in the evening and could help keep an eye on Kacie. This helped put Rick’s mind at ease about working the late shift. Also, Kacie’s Aunt Teresa (her deceased mom’s sister) lived next door. However, even with all these precautions and family members helping, there were times when young Kacie would be left home alone at night.
Kacie has been described as sunny and bubbly, bright and cheerful. In keeping with her personality, her favorite color was yellow. Starting in the fall of 2002, she was in the seventh grade at Greenbrier Middle School. According to findagrave.com, Kacie was active in the band and choir and was a member of the Gifted and Talented Program at school.
Like many girls her age, Kacie was thinking about boys a lot. This was normal. What worried her friends, though, was how Kacie was going about meeting boys. Kacie was communicating with boys in online chat rooms. People who cared about her were concerned that these “boys” were strangers to her and that Kacie was way too trusting. Her friends and family disapproved of Kacie giving out her phone number, or even worse, her address, to people she’d just met online.
Kacie Meets Two New “Boys” Online
In May 2002, Kacie met a boy named Scott in an online chat room. Chat rooms were a popular outlet at this time, and Kacie, living in a tiny town, found them to be an exciting yet harmless pastime. Scott was 14 years old and lived in Alpharetta, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta. His online name was Tazz2999. Kacie’s was modelbehavior63. Police would later determine that Scott was actually who he claimed to be.
However, in the summer of 2002, Kacie met another “boy” online, Dave, in a Christian chat room meant for youths. Dave claimed he was 17 years old and said he lived in San Diego. His photo showed him to be a good-looking teen with long wavy hair. Dave and Kacie quickly transitioned from online chatting to trading numbers and talking on the phone. Their friendship developed, and they began confiding in each other. The subject of Kacie’s mom’s death was central to this relationship. Kacie typically didn’t like discussing the matter, but she found Dave sympathetic and told him that her mom had been killed in a car accident. Dave mentioned that his aunt, who lived in Arkansas, had also been in a car accident and was in a coma and would likely die from her injuries. This shared bond of tragedy brought the two close together.
Kacie was open with her family and friends about her online activities, but her friends had mixed feelings, including about Dave. One of Kacie’s friends, Samantha, had also interacted with Dave, and she was suspicious of him. She questioned whether he was indeed a teenager. He used words like “groovy” and “wicked,” which seemed to date him as an older man.
Family Concerns About Kacie
At first, Kacie’s dad was okay with Kacie being in touch with Dave. After all, the online chatting and the phone calls were all taking place from the safety of their own home. Kacie wasn’t meeting any of these chat room boys in person. But Rick changed his mind when he discovered that Dave had told Kacie that he had turned 18. Rick told Kacie that she needed to stop communicating with Dave. Kacie, however, didn’t stop. She believed it was an innocent, supportive friendship. There had initially been some romantic connection between Kacie and Dave, but Kacie ended any thoughts of romance due to her blossoming online relationship with Scott.
At some point, Dave told Kacie that he might be coming to Arkansas to see his aunt before she died. It’s unclear whether Kacie and Dave left open the possibility of seeing each other, but they didn’t have any concrete plans. One friend later said Kacie did not want to meet Dave in person.
On around October 3, 2002, Kacie and Scott officially became girlfriend-boyfriend. Scott knew of Kacie’s ongoing friendship with Dave, and he seemed to approve. Scott and Dave even spoke to each other on the phone in a friendly manner.
Help Attempts for Kacie
On December 2, 2002, Kacie argued with Samantha due to a simple misunderstanding between the girls. Sam had seen a photo of Scott hanging in Kacie’s locker and remarked that Scott was “hot.” Kacie misheard and thought Sam had insulted her boyfriend by calling him “fat.”
Meanwhile, Sam was unsettled by the fact that Kacie had this photo in her locker. It could only mean one thing: Scott had sent it to her in the mail, which meant that Kacie had given Scott her home address so soon after meeting him. Sam also continued to be nervous about Kacie’s phone relationship with Dave.
The next day, December 3, 2002, Sam decided to get an adult involved in Kacie’s online dating. Sam told a school counselor named Dianna Kellar that the girls were having an argument and that Kacie was handing out her personal information to strangers online.
Kacie Sensed That Danger Was Awaiting Her That Night.
Mrs. Kellar helped patch things up between the two girls and spoke to Kacie about Sam’s concerns. According to Cathy Frye’s article, “Evil at the door,” published in arkansasonline.com: “As the girls left that morning, Mrs. Kellar asked Kacie about the matter. Kacie assured the counselor she had only shared her number with people her dad approved. But Sam knew this wasn’t true.” Later that day, Mrs. Kellar brought Kacie back into her office, reemphasizing the dangers of giving out her personal information to strangers.
At the end of the school day, Kacie asked multiple girls whether she could spend the night at their house that night. All of them said no, as they weren’t allowed to have sleepovers on a school night. Per Frye’s article: “Kacie didn’t explain why she wanted to sleep elsewhere that night. She just didn’t want to go home. The refusals didn’t upset her. She laughed – that goofy, honking guffaw for which she was known – and headed to where her bus waited, its engine thrumming. Before boarding, she hugged all of her friends.”
To this day, it needs to be clarified why Kacie asked multiple friends for a sleepover. Some have theorized that she somehow sensed that danger was awaiting her that night.
Kacie Home Alone
Kacie was home alone on the night of December 3, 2002. Her father, Rick, was out working a patrol shift, her brother Tim was studying at the library, and Tim’s friend Eric was attending an evening class. Rick had almost called in sick that night as he was suffering from a sinus infection, but he decided to go in anyway and try to make it through his shift, which ended at 2 a.m. Aunt Teresa wasn’t home either. She was out in nearby Conway at her own daughter’s basketball game.
It was rainy and freezing that night, with temperatures down in the 30s. The dead-end street was dark. Kacie was snug at home in her night clothes, a comfy pair of blue sweatpants and a gray sweatshirt she liked to wear as pajamas. The doors to the house were unlocked, as they often were.
At 7 p.m., Rick called and checked in with Kacie. She was home and doing fine. She said that she was practicing her saxophone.
Later that evening, Kacie was on the computer, as she often was, chatting online with Scott. Kacie went into great detail with Scott about the day’s happenings, including Mrs. Kellar’s warnings about conversing with strangers and how they could be an 80-year-old rapist posing as a young person. Kacie was seated at the computer in a front room of the house, lit up in the window, clearly visible to anyone who might be outside.
Call From Dave
Dave called while Kacie was chatting online with Scott. Through instant messages, Kacie kept Scott aware of precisely what was happening in her phone conversation with Dave, giving a blow-by-blow of all the details, including that Dave had called to say that his aunt was on the verge of death.
Kacie and Scott continued the rapid-fire messaging until 9:41 p.m. when Kacie suddenly stopped responding. He asked if she was okay. She was still logged in, but she was no longer responding. Scott found this to be unsettling and highly unusual for Kacie. He became increasingly worried that something was wrong. With more and more urgency, Scott kept messaging, asking if she was okay, but Kacie never responded. At 10:15 p.m., Scott called Kacie’s home phone number, but there was no answer.
At about 10:45 p.m., Scott emailed one of Kacie’s best friends, Jessica, but because of the lateness of the hour on a school night, Jessica saw the email the next day.
Meanwhile, Tim’s friend Eric had gotten back to the Woody home at about 10:15 p.m. He watched television while doing laundry, all the while assuming that Kacie was already in bed asleep. He had no idea that anything was amiss.
Kacie Was Missing
At 11:30 p.m., however, Eric walked past Kacie’s room and noticed that she wasn’t there. Tim arrived home a few minutes after that. Concerned, at 11:40 p.m., they called Rick, who told them to check with Aunt Teresa and Kacie’s friends, but they needed to find out where Kacie was.
Rick notified the local sheriff’s department that Kacie was missing and then rushed home. He found that Kacie’s two coats were still home, along with her tennis shoes and boots. He knew she would never have left the house voluntarily without her coat or shoes. Law enforcement immediately took Kacie’s disappearance seriously, both because her father was a police officer and because of the weather conditions.
Alarmingly, Kacie’s prescription eyeglasses were discovered at home and tossed aside underneath a pile of towels on a chair. They were bent and ruined, with one of the lenses popped out. Also, the rug by the front door was all crumpled up, as though there had been a scuffle by the door.
The only things that were missing were Kacie and her pajamas.
It was clear from the beginning that Kacie had been kidnapped from her home.
Rick noticed that a call from Georgia had come into their home phone at 10:15 p.m. He also found the lengthy instant message conversation between modelbehavior63 and Tazz2999 on the computer. With Kacie still logged in, Rick could read their entire conversation. He messaged whoever this Tazz2999 was, seeking information. It was Scott, who told Rick that Kacie had been on the phone that night with Dave, but the only information Scott could give about Dave was his first name and that he lived in San Diego.
Kacie is Still Missing
Despite everyone’s best efforts and desperate searching, Kacie still hadn’t turned up by the following day. No one had heard from her. Federal agents got involved in the physical search for Kacie and in the hunt for clues, including on the family’s computer. Law enforcement sought to track information about Dave from his computer username and any information they could glean from Kacie’s friends. They needed to find out who this Dave from San Diego was. Dave had told Kacie his full name was Dave Fagen, but this turned out to be one of his many lies.
Law enforcement tried various angles. One was to look for any suspicious travelers in the area, which gave them a lead to Dave Fuller, courtesy of using his credit card to rent a room at the Motel 6 in Conway. Fuller had arrived there on December 2, the day before Kacie went missing. They also discovered that this same credit card had been used to rent a silver Dodge Caravan. The phone number associated with this rental came back to Dave Fuller and, significantly, had also been used to make multiple calls to Woody’s house.
According to an article by Faith Karimi on CNN.com, relating to another recent murder case: “Catfishing is a form of online deception in which people use fake photos and identities to create a fictional persona. They do it for various reasons, including to target potential love interests or people they’re trying to befriend. Other catfishers can be child predators trying to gain the trust of a minor.”
Tracking Fuller’s credit card activity, law enforcement discovered that Fuller had recently rented a storage unit in nearby Conway.
The Storage Locker
Law enforcement rushed to the storage facility, hoping to find Kacie alive. However, as they approached the storage facility sometime between 5 and 6 p.m. on December 4, 2002, a gunshot rang out from inside. A SWAT team was now necessary, and once they arrived, the police could enter the storage locker. According to sources, it was unlocked, and the minivan was inside with its engine running.
Any hopes of finding Kacie alive were dashed when police found her body in the back of the minivan. She had died from a single gunshot wound to the head. Law enforcement believed that she had been dead for hours. Her body was bound, and she had been sexually assaulted. Although the autopsy couldn’t reveal a time of death, the belief was that Fuller had rendered her unconscious with chloroform when he kidnapped her and that Kacie may have been unconscious throughout her entire ordeal.
Police believed that Fuller was planning to escape the area in the van that night. Their quick investigation had foiled his plan. Police also discovered that Fuller had left the storage locker at one point that morning to visit a convenience store.
Dave Fuller’s Disturbing Past
Police descended on Fuller’s apartment in La Mesa, an area of San Diego, California, searching for evidence about the murder and Dave Fuller’s past. Fuller was born on January 18, 1955, at 47 years old.
Law enforcement searched his apartment, taking his computer and other evidence, including photos of Kacie they found there. Authorities suspected that Fuller may have tried to kidnap other children before, given the level of detail and planning that went into the crime. According to an article, “Arkansas girl, 13, killer found dead in California,” by The Associated Press, on recordnet.com: “It’s doubtful this was [Fuller’s] first time,’ Conway police Maj. Mark Elsinger said. ‘There weren’t a lot of missteps made or sloppiness on his part. There was some planning done here.’”
According to an article on latimes.com, “Kidnap Suspect Kills Girl, 13, Self,” by Tony Perry: “Neighbors said that Fuller left home last week without giving a reason or location. Conway Police Maj. Mark Elsinger said Fuller went to Arkansas ‘on a scouting mission. There appeared to be a lot of planning in this. You don’t just arrive from Sand Diego.’”
Police believed Fuller had visited Arkansas at least once that fall as he planned to kidnap Kacie.
His Life had been Spiraling Downward
Although Fuller had been married for almost 20 years, had served in the Navy, and had, until recently, been employed as a car salesman, his life had been spiraling downward in the months leading up to Kacie’s murder. His wife Sally complained that he was on the computer too much. She called 911 in January 2002, accusing Fuller of domestic violence, but the case wasn’t pursued, reportedly because of a lack of evidence. She filed for divorce in July 2002. Fuller moved from the family home to the apartment in La Mesa, where he lived for about three months. His kids, an 11-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter, mostly lived with their mom. In September 2002, just three months before the murder, Fuller was fired for visiting pornography sites on his computer at work.
Authorities suspected Fuller may have used the internet and attempted to lure other girls using the phony Dave Fagen. Still, they couldn’t find any prior convictions relating to such attempts.
Police also discovered that Fuller had purchased the gun just months before the murder.
Kacie Woody’s case received much media attention. Journalist Cathy Frye wrote a four-part series of articles that were published in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Investigation Discovery ran a documentary called “Man with a Van,” featuring Kacie’s story and warning people about trusting strangers on the internet. Her story has also been the subject of many podcasts.
Kacie’s family started the Kacie Woody Foundation to honor her memory. They travel around the United States, teaching people about the dangers lurking on the internet.