Details of Disappearance
Eric was last seen in New Albany, Indiana on January 15, 1992. His wife, Melissa Kay Humbert, said she last saw him when he left their home in the 1800 block of Ekin Avenue that morning so he could go to work. He never returned home.
Later that day, Eric played a game of basketball with friends, then left with a coworker, Jonathan Whitesides. Whitesides stated Eric dropped him off at a house on Buck Creek Road in Floyd Knobs, on the outskirts of New Albany. Whitesides had been house-sitting there. He was the last person known to have seen Eric before his disappearance. A photo of him is posted with this case summary.
Eric's Chevrolet Chevette with the Indiana license plate number 22B 8867 was found in an alley in Louisville, Kentucky in late February 1992 and towed to the city's impound lot. It wasn't until mid-April that police realized the car belonged to a missing person and noticed there was human blood under the hood, on the top of the engine.
Once police had Eric's car, they realized that Whitesides's story about being dropped off in New Albany could not have been true. When they confronted Whitesides about this, he admitted that Eric was dead. He stated he had been having an affair with Melissa since September 1991. (By the time of his arrest, he and Melissa had been living together at least a month.) He described Eric as an abusive husband and said Eric's treatment of Melissa made him angry.
Whitesides said he and Eric were working on Eric's car at the Buck Creek Road house. The car's hood was up, and then Eric attacked him with a knife, accusing him of the affair. Whitesides said that during the struggle, Eric accidentally stabbed himself in the throat and died. Whitesides said he then dumped the body in the Ohio River.
The pattern of blood spray under the hood of Eric's car was a medium to high velocity, which suggested the injury had been caused by a gun rather than a knife. When police investigated further, they found a small hole in the car's firewall, under the windshield wiper. Inside the hole were bullet fragments.
Police also found traces of human matter, identified as brain tissue, on the car's manifold, with particles of gunpowder and a green fiber embedded in the tissue. DNA testing proved the human tissue was Eric's, and he was wearing a green hat the day of his disappearance. The evidence suggested he had been shot in the head from behind, rather than stabbed during a struggle. Whitesides was arrested and charged with murder.
At his trial in February 1993, Whitesides maintained that the killing was self-defense and that he disposed of Eric's body because he panicked. After deliberating only 35 minutes, the jury convicted him of murder. At the sentencing, Whitesides acknowledged he had "made a lot of mistakes" and said he was "sorry for what happened to Eric."
He was sentenced to fifty years in prison, out of a maximum of sixty years. In 2010, seventeen years into his sentence, he was paroled.
Eric worked as a technician for the U.S. Geological Survey at the time of his disappearance. He left behind an infant son. His body has never been found, but foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.