Zeta Cauley. Indianapolis, Indiana.


Indiana Unsolved: Zeta Cauley, 72, apparently surprised burglars who tied her up, gagged her and left her to die

The crime:

On Monday, Feb. 19, 1974, after neighbors hadn't seen her for a few days, Zeta M. Cauley, 72, was found tied up on the floor in her living room. An autopsy later determined she had asphyxiated.

Police found evidence someone — or more than one person — had broken into the back door of her house in the 6100 block of Shelbyville Road. Several newspapers lay rolled up on her front porch, indicating she had been dead, or at least tied up, for several days — possibly since the previous Thursday, Feb. 14, Valentine's Day in 1974.

It appeared Cauley had come in through the front door. She had parked her car in her detached garage; groceries were inside and her car keys on the trunk. Police could not determine for certain whether anything had been stolen.

The victim:

Zeta Cauley had never married and did not appear to have any immediate family in Indianapolis. A brief death noticed listed only cousins, some of whom apparently lived in Chicago and New York.

No photo of her was used with several newspaper stories right after her death and her case file does not include a portrait, ID photo or even a snapshot of her.

One acquaintance at the time told a reporter there were rumors Cauley had money at her home, but other neighbors and acquaintances said she kept little cash because she had been burglarized a few years before.

One acquaintance described Cauley as a "real nice lady who was always helping people."

Cauley regularly attended Nativity Catholic Church, 7225 Southeastern Ave., and friends said Cauley often gave generously to fellow church members who were having money problems.

Cauley was retired from Detroit Diesel Allison, where she had worked for 20 years, according to news stories right after her death.

Her home sat on about 6 acres of farmland, and she raised sheep and chickens.

Where does the case stand?

Sgt. David Ellison, head of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department's Cold Case Unit, is delving back into the case, having evidence collected at the time analyzed and retested with more sophisticated scientific scrutiny.

One key piece: a blue denim "railroad-style cap" found near Cauley's body. Investigators at the time believed, and Ellison concurs, it was not Cauley's and that one of her attackers likely dropped it.

The cap is distinctive — rather poofy, compared to a baseball cap, with triangular denim sections sewn together with the points coming together at the top and the bases forming the circumference of the cap. Two of those sections have small pockets that appear to be the tiny inner "coin" pockets set into the larger right hand pockets of many jeans. The cap has a front brim, slightly narrower than a baseball cap.

If you know something:

Anyone who knows anything about the case, especially if they know someone who wore a cap like the one found near Cauley's body, is asked to call Ellison at (317) 327-3426.

Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana. 317-262-8477.

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