This week marked 20 years since the brutal murder of a teenage girl in Knoxville. After two decades, the victim's mother says she is still waiting to bury her daughter because part of her skull is locked away in Tennessee as evidence.
"I need to fight for Colleen. I am her voice," said May Martinez of Jacksonville, Fla., to WBIR's Gannett sister-station WTLV.
Martinez is the mother of Colleen Slemmer. Slemmer was murdered in Knoxville on Jan. 13, 1995, by Christa Pike and her boyfriend, Tadaryl Shipp. Pike was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. She is Tennessee's only female death row inmate.
Colleen Slemmer was a student at Job Corps in Knoxville when she met Pike and Shipp. Pike believed Slemmer was trying to steal Shipp and lured her into a violent trap.
"Christa Pike wanted a human sacrifice and my daughter was it," said Martinez. "They basically cut her over 300 times and carved a pentagram on her chest."
Pike bashed Slemmer's head with a chunk of asphalt and kept part of her skull as a trophy. That portion of Slemmer's skull is the missing piece that prevents Martinez from giving Colleen a proper burial.
Tennessee says it will not return the skull fragment until after Pike is executed. The chunk of skull is considered evidence in an open case. Pike's death sentence is currently being appealed in federal court.
"I think it's wrong. I think they should have taken a pictures, they could have made a mold," said Martinez.
At Martinez's Florida home, a pewter box contains the cremated remains of most of Colleen Slemmer's body. Martinez says she will not bury Colleen until she can bury all of her remains.
Martinez says Tennessee has returned other parts of Colleen through the years, sometimes without any warning.
"Over the years, Tennessee has mailed me body parts in a box not saying what is or anything like that and I just get body parts," said Martinez.
Now Martinez has to wait indefinitely for an unscheduled execution. When Tennessee finally closes the case against Pike, Martinez will hopefully be able to permanently close the box in her home and put her daughter to rest. But she says nothing will provide true closure.
"I don't think you ever have closure because her friends can't go see her and talk to her. I can't put flowers on a grave. There is nothing there. She is just in a box," said Martinez.
No execution date has been set for Christa Pike. During her time in prison, Pike has been convicted of attempting to murder a fellow inmate in 2001. She also attempted to escape from prison in March 2012.
Shipp, who was 17 at the time of the killing, also was convicted. He is serving a life sentence at the South Central Correction Center in Clifton, Tenn. He is eligible for parole in 2031.
WTLV Jacksonville: Mother wants murdered daughter's skull after two decades