EDGEWATER — In August 1977, Chicago Police detectives Joseph Stachula and Lee Epplen were six months deep into a frustratingly fruitless investigation to uncover the murderer of Teresita Basa, a respiratory therapist at Edgewater Hospital.
On Feb. 21 of that year, she'd died after a series of horrible acts: stabbed through her chest with a kitchen knife and set on fire under a pile of burning clothes and a mattress. She was stripped of her clothes and posed to look as if she'd been raped, though medical officials determined she hadn't been.
The case would end at one of history's most bizarre crossroads of police work and the paranormal, using Basa's own "voice from the grave" — as heard through the body of a co-worker supposedly possessed by her spirit — to help solve her own murder.
Linze Rice on the mysteries surrounding Teresita Bassa's murder.
On Sept. 24 and 25, Chicago for Chicagoans will conduct a walking tour of Edgewater's spectral past, including Basa's story at the defunct hospital.
But what exactly happened to Basa depends on whom, or what, you believe.
That night Basa died she had been in her home and received at least two phone calls in the evening: one around 7:10 p.m. from a friend to talk about selling a pair of tickets for an upcoming event, and another at 7:30 p.m. lasting about 20 minutes, the Tribune reported.
Around 8:40 p.m., firefighters responded to a call of a fire on the 15th floor of Basa's apartment at 2740 N. Pine Grove Ave. in Lincoln Park, where they found her mortally wounded body.
Neighbors had alerted a maintenance worker, who called 911 after smelling smoke. He let firefighters into Basa's apartment using a passkey.
The home appeared to have been ransacked.
Police had few clues as weeks about the killer after weeks of interviewing family and friends.
According to the Tribune, one of the few things investigators discovered, though put little stock in right away, was a handwritten note from Basa's journal: "Get tickets for A.S."
By August, the lukewarm case had a hot tip from Evanston Police. Did Chicago know anything about an Edgewater Hospital respiratory technician named Allan Showery?
Connecting the initials from Basa's note and the name from Evanston Police, Chicago detectives were put in touch with Evanston residents Jose and Remibias Chua.
Jose, a doctor, told Statchula his wife had become possessed by someone claiming to be Teresita Basa on three separate occasions, complete with details on how Basa was killed and by whom.
The doctor told police he didn't know Basa and was not aware of her murder until his wife's possession. Not wanting to look "foolish," the doctor said he had waited to talk to police, thinking he could avoid having to explain his strange story.
He told police the voice coming from his wife, who had been acting increasingly unlike her normal self in the months after the murder, told him Showery had come to repair Basa's television but ended up stabbing her and robbing her of jewelry before setting the fire and fleeing.
Investigators went to Showery's apartment, where he first denied killing Basa, though two items of her jewelry — a pearl ring and jade pendant — were found among his girlfriend's possessions.
The girlfriend told police Showery had given the jewelry to her as a late Christmas gift. The pieces were confirmed to belong to Basa by friends and members of her family.
Confronted with the information, police said Showery changed his story.
Showery knew Basa from work, and knowing Showery was in a tough financial spot, she had tipped him generously for helping her with errands and other tasks, according to reports.
He admitted going to visit Basa the night of her death, rendering her unconscious, staging a sexual assault and stealing what little he could find before igniting the fire.
Police booked him.
Showery's trial was dubbed the "Voice From The Grave" trial, centering on Remy Chua's testimony that Basa spoke of her death "through my lips," the Tribune reported.
The prosecution presented 13 witnesses over four days to a jury of eight men and four women, though interestingly, the Chuas testified as witnesses for the defense.
Evidence gathered as a result of the mysterious voice's information pointed to Showery's guilt, the state argued.
However, by the fifth day of the trial, Showery said he'd only confessed to the crime two years earlier after police had fed him information and threatened to arrest him and his pregnant girlfriend on murder charges, according to the Tribune.
He contended he had dinner with his girlfriend on the night of the murder before drinking and playing darts with a neighbor around 7:30 p.m.
Showery's trial ended on Jan. 26, 1979, in a mistrial with a deadlocked jury.
A month later, nearly two years after Basa's murder, Showery pleaded guilty to the killing while awaiting a new trial against the advice of his lawyers, who urged him not to take a gamble with another jury.
He was sentenced to a total of 14 years for the murder, robbery and arson.
He was paroled from Stateville Correctional Center near Joliet in July 1983.
Though Showery served time for Basa's murder, questions about the case linger.
For example, Remy Chua and Showery weren't strangers: Both worked in the same department at Edgewater Hospital with Basa.
Chua suspected Showery of making complaints about her quality of work at the hospital, Showery's defense had argued.
Just one day before Chua's first possession, Chua admitted she believed Showery had made a prank phone call to her.
Her psychic symptoms started within hours of discovering she'd lost her job.
Stachula himself expressed skepticism when it came to how Chua obtained her information about Showery and his alleged involvement, but believed, "Nonetheless, everything here is completely true."
Those who have followed and written about the case over the years have offered their own theories, ranging from a possible subconscious fear or aversion Chua may have had of Showery, or Chua witnessing or overhearing Showery talk about his involvement but not knowing how to express the information.
Others have held the story up as shining proof of paranormal phenomena.
The Chuas gave their version of events by way of a book titled, "A Voice From The Grave," written by friend Carol Mercado. In 1980, they told the Tribune they believed their "mission was now accomplished."
The story has since appeared in countless television roundups of unsolved or paranormal crimes, and in 1996 it was made into a movie by the same "Voice From The Grave" Name.
Author Ray Johnson wrote in February he had tried to track down Showery, now in his 70s, and found his native New York to be the last known place he had lived.
Did Showery kill Basa? Why did he confess so near to walking free, and what of the coincidental timing of Remy Chua's psychic abilities and her own bizarre run-ins with Showery?
"All of us want to believe in life after death," Jose Chua said after the trial.
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