KS Cold Cases: John Waller

Updated: May. 1, 2022 at 9:58 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - John Waller was an avid cyclist, an engineer, and Laura Atkinson’s little brother.

“My entire memory of my life, he is right there,” Laura said. “He knew what he loved and he did it. He was an adventurous, outdoorsy, independent, hands-on guy who just...he attacked life.”

In June 2019, Laura, who lives out of state, was planning a visit to Topeka.

“I had texted John to make sure he was going to be in town (since) he traveled a lot, and there was just no answer; then Father’s Day went by and my dad didn’t hear from John and that’s when we knew. We knew something was wrong,” she said.

The family also learned John, age 36, wasn’t showing up for his job as an engineer for the Kansas Department of Transportation. June 17, 2019, officers checked on John at his home in the 700 block of SW Wayne.

Sgt. Jason Schumacher leads the Topeka Police homicide unit.

“Mr. Waller was located at his residence. It was very apparent that he was deceased at that time and that the crime had probably occurred within a couple weeks before he was actually located,” he said.

Schumacher says investigators talked to people throughout the neighborhood, as well as coworkers, family, and friends.

“He didn’t really lead a lifestyle that you would think would lead to something like this,” Schumacher said. “He was just in his home and it happened to him.”

He says the crime occurring up to two weeks before John’s body was found brings added challenge.

“We have to go back through a lot more details, film from the area, speaking to different people about a greater amount of time, rather than being able to say that it happened the night before or just at the time of the call,” he said.

Still, Schumacher is confident the information is out there.

“We need someone to come forward, to help us piece some of the evidence that we have together, piece some of the witness accounts together,” he said.

John’s case is among those included in the Kansas Dept. of Corrections and Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s “Cold Case Deck.” The special deck of playing cards - each card featuring an unsolved murder or missing persons case - will be distributed in the state’s prisons and jails, in hopes inmates might come forward with new information.

“If there’s any way that could prevent another family from going through what we’re going through - another sibling talking about their loved one’s cold case in an interview - I can promise you that it’s one of the most positive outcomes there could be,” Laura said. “What I know now is that it could happen to absolutely anyone.”

While her family waits for answers, Laura holds on to the lessons John left behind.

“He was just a really kind person,” she said. “He had such an impact.”

Anyone with information about what happened to John Waller should call 1-800-KS-CRIME, or Shawnee Co. Crime Stoppers, 785-234-0007. Crime Stoppers and the family are offering an enhanced reward for information leading to an arrest in this case.

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