The Strange and Sad Case of Teresita Basa – Unpleasant Dreams 17

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Did a murdered woman serve justice to her murderer from beyond the grave? It appears so and that is the subject of the Season Two premiere of Unpleasant Dreams!

Find the original article by EM Hilker that this podcast is based on HERE


Remibias Chua was called “Remy” by nearly everybody. She was a respiratory therapist at Edgewater hospital, and that day she was very, very tired. Health care is an exhausting industry at every level, and all she wanted was to close her eyes for a few short, blessed minutes. It wasn’t unheard of at the busy hospital for employees to take short naps in the employee lounge, and Remy intended to do just that. When she finally had the chance to lay down and begin to drift off to sweet slumber, something strange happened. Something was different. Wrong. The blood in her veins suddenly ran cold and tremory, and that’s when she realized that she wasn’t alone. She felt a thrill of fear as she opened her eyes. Fear, which then turned to shock. There was a woman there, middle-aged and quite pretty, standing before her. Watching her. Remy knew her. They worked in the same department, though never together. It was Teresita Basa, impossibly it was Teresita, watching her with large, luminous eyes. Teresita was dead, found murdered in her apartment weeks earlier. Her mouth moved as she watched the woman, but if Teresita spoke, Remy couldn’t hear her. The haunted, sad look on the dead woman’s face told her all she needed to know. Teresita was not at rest. She needed her help. Teresita had found a way to reach out to her. And Remy had no idea what to do.

Edgewater Hospital began its life under the care of Dr. Maurice Mazel as a high-end hospital with excellent practices. It was beautiful, offered its patients only the best, and was world renowned at one time. Frank Sinatra stayed there. Marilyn Monroe stayed there. By the time it closed in 2001, it had degraded considerably from what it once was. It lay empty for a number of years, but recently it has been turned into an elegant apartment complex and re-named the “Anderson Point Apartments.” At the time that Teresita Basa worked there as a respiratory therapist, ending with her death in 1977, it was nearing the end of its heyday but was still an active, productive place. Edgewater is important here, not as a scene of a crime, but as a place of connection. All the parts of our story had their beginning there, in this life or the next.

Teresita was only 47 years old at the time of her death. She lived alone in a modest one bedroom on the fifteenth floor in a Chicago highrise, and had a lovely circle of friends, a boyfriend, and a heart of gold. She was a very devout Catholic, and grew up in a wealthy family in the Philippines. She had come to America in 1960 to study her lifelong passion at Indiana University: music, and had chosen to stay. She was an accomplished pianist, and was a reserved, kind woman. Seemingly, everyone loved her.

It was a shock, then, on the evening of February 21st, 1977; Teresita’s neighbors had smelled smoke coming from her apartment, and grew alarmed when no one answered her door. Emergency services were summoned to the building. The source of the smoke, upon investigation, was clear: there, in the middle of the living room floor, lay a pile of… something, fabric, set ablaze and giving off thick black smoke. Teresita immediately did not seem to be home, but as the firefighters extinguished the blaze, they discovered a mattress, blackened and smoking and laying askew and slanted on the floor. It was on top of something unseen. They moved it, looking for an incendiary device, evidence, anything to help them understand how the fire started and, perhaps, more importantly, if there was something that would cause another fire to start. What they found, rather than the pile of clothes or the small piece of furniture they may have anticipated, was the naked body of a woman, lying prone and with her legs spread, and a butcher knife plunged deep into her chest. This wasn’t an unlikely accident or a moment of irresponsibility, it was a crime scene.

Around them, the apartment was a mess. It didn’t have the look of a place that simply wasn’t kept up well. The surfaces were clean, and the piles laying around didn’t have the look of things that had been sitting there for a long time. There weren’t layers of dust, the objects themselves were clean. It looked ransacked. Things were strewn about, dressers emptied, cupboard doors randomly opened.

The two detectives on the case, Joe Stachula and Lee Epplen, had very little to work with. Teresita had no enemies, and though she had been going through a rough patch with her boyfriend, he was quickly ruled out as a suspect. When all was said and done, they had only two real clues to work with: a note in her journal: “get theater tickets for AS,” and the knowledge that came from her autopsy: Teresita Basa was a virgin at the time of her death. She had not been sexually assaulted; the crime scene had been staged to throw the authorities off the scent. And the investigators had no leads aside from a scribbled line in a diary, which might not even be related to the crime. The detectives had a brutal murder, a staged sexual assault, and a robbery for a quiet woman who didn’t have an enemy in the world. What next?

Finding out “what next” would take 5 frustrating months, as the case grew colder and colder. Help came to investigators Joe Stachula and Lee Epplen from the least likely source they could imagine.

It was only the desperation of the situation – a woman murdered in her apartment, in a case that had gone cold in mere months – that led the detectives to take an odd tip they were given by another Chicago police department: a married couple had an interesting story to tell them. They were unusually vague on the specifics, but there were no leads. No suspects. The trail wasn’t going to get warmer. That poor dead woman wouldn’t get justice. They set up a meeting.

Dr Joe Chua, a surgical assistant in another Chicago Hospital, hadn’t known Teresita Basa personally, hadn’t even known she had been murdered. His wife, Remy, was aware of Teresita and her murder, but they they hadn’t been particularly close. Remy felt very uneasy and upset about their story, and so asked Joe to present things to the detectives. Remy and Teresita had been perfectly affable coworkers prior to her death, but habitually worked different shifts and rarely crossed paths. The two women had never sought out a close relationship.

Joe told the detective about his wife’s vision in the hospital lounge, which she was certain was not a dream. Further, Remy couldn’t understand what it was that Teresita needed. After that point, somehow, is when things became strange.

Sometime after, Remy was feeling peculiar one evening, and went to lay down in their bedroom. She had lost her job at the hospital recently and her husband was concerned for her, so he followed her into the bedroom moments later, and asked quietly if she was awake. She was, or perhaps she wasn’t, because she answered him, but in an odd voice and with a distinct Spanish accent that his wife didn’t have. She had told him that her name was Teresita Basa, and that she had been murdered. Her murderer was still free. Joe took a half hour to get his wife to snap out of her trance, which she had no memory of. Neither knew quite what to make of it.

Weeks later, the same thing happened, but this time she named her killer: Allan Showery, a respiratory technician at the hospital, whom Remy knew and feared. The Chuas were at a loss – they could hardly walk into a police station and make such an accusation. And so, they didn’t.

On the third and final time that Teresita talked to Dr. Chua, she told him the thing that would spur the Chuas to action, and would ultimately make all the difference in the case: Showery had stolen Teresita’s jewelry on the night he murdered her, and had given it to his girlfriend. Even better, it was very easily identifiable jewelry. Teresita’s father had bought that specific jewelry for her mother, a lovely gift from France. Teresita’s mother, in turn, had given it to her daughter. There were family members who were well aware of the jewelry and its provenance, and Teresita-Remy gave very precise information on the names and contact information of the family members who would be able to identify those pieces. She also offered the information, not publicly available, that Teresita’s sexual assault had been staged.

Allan Showery, 32, was on friendly terms with Teresita. He was a respiratory technician, and they lived in the same neighborhood, and she had hired him to do odd jobs on the side from time to time, for which she paid him generously. He had money problems, and she had a generous heart. Upon further questioning, their coworkers told the detectives that Teresita had remarked that she was expecting Showery at her apartment that evening. He had offered to fix her television, so she needed to stay in that night. Showery, under questioning, initially denied having been there at all, and offered his girlfriend as a witness as to his whereabouts, but quickly changed his story once he learned that there were multiple witnesses to his plans for the evening. He admitted to having been there earlier in the evening, but found he wasn’t able to fix her television, and then he left. That was it. He went home and had an entirely ordinary evening after that point.

His girlfriend, Yanka Kamluk, was also questioned, and was surprised to learn that he’d meant to fix anyone’s television at all; he didn’t have any background in electrical things. She had been delighted in late February to receive two belated Christmas presents from Showery, however, and she was happy to talk about them: a lovely jade pendant and a pearl cocktail ring. She loved them. In fact, she was wearing one of the pieces to the questioning. Resistant though she felt at the idea that she had been given stolen goods, she allowed her jewelry to be looked over by Teresita’s family. Imagine her horror, then, when they identified her lovely Christmas gifts as having belonged to Teresita. Faced with the evidence, Showery confessed to having killed Teresita as part of his plan to rob her. He then staged a sex crime, and pulled the mattress and some clothing over her remains, setting it on fire to destroy the evidence. Her generosity had led him to believe that she was wealthy. And so, his victim dead, he ransacked her apartment, with the hopes of finding a store of cash. He had not, but he stole the things of value he could find and the little cash she had on hand, and left without being seen.

The case went to court. There were charges of fraud on the part of the Chuas, with a suggestion that Remy and Showery hated one another and that that was the real motive behind this “ghost.” Also, Showery’s confession had been forced, but ultimately it was decided that however Remy had come by the information wasn’t relevant: what was relevant was what the evidence at hand led to Showery as the culprit.

In an odd twist, the jury was hung and the case was nearly declared a mistrial when Showery changed his plea to “guilty” with the full knowledge that he was on the cusp of being released. No one knows what changed his mind, but he was sentenced to 14 years in jail. After only four years served, he was released from prison and faded away into the wide world.

Teresita Basa, the kind woman whose only crimes were trust and generosity, was taken to be buried near the family home in the Philippines.

It’s strange, though. Teresita Basa is not the only woman to have solved her own murder posthumously. In 1897, Zona Heaster Shue (shoe) died suddenly. She was young, beautiful, and newly married. No one suspected the tragic figure of her grief-stricken young husband of having a role in her death, and so the murdered young woman took matters into her own hands: she appeared in the nights to her mother, much as Teresita originally had to Remy in the hospital lounge. Perhaps it’s because they weren’t close and the connection wasn’t strong, but Remy couldn’t hear Teresita.

Teresita did have connections to Remy, however, and perhaps that’s why she appeared to her rather than to someone who seemed like a more logical choice. They weren’t friends and they weren’t blood, but both had come to America from the Philippines and came to work as respiratory therapists. Both spoke Tagalog and English. They were both connected to Allan Showery through their work. Perhaps Remy was a little more spiritually sensitive to the other side than her other coworkers, or maybe Teresita reached out to another woman who also feared the man who killed her. We don’t and can’t know, but the idea that there was no connection between the two women is suspect, at best. There are connections beyond those of close friendship or love or blood ties.

Zona’s connection to her mother, however, was strong and bright. Zona told her the whole story, and her mother contacted the authorities. The pieces began to fall into place, then: the grieving husband’s close watch of his wife’s body, his insistence that no one touch her, that her neck remain covered up. Zona’s mother testified in court, and her testimony was backed up with evidence, including the recently discovered fact that Shue had a history of beaten or murdered wives in another town before changing his name, and he spent the rest of his short life in jail.

Did the women feel they couldn’t speak up t and invent spirits, or did they truly connect with the spirit world? It’s been so long; we don’t and can’t know the answer to that. The “spirits,” or the spirits, had the information, backed by evidence. There have been accusations that Remy acted out of spite, or was involved in the crime, or overheard something. Many have noted that Zona Heaster Shue’s mother hated her new husband and the rest was fantasy.

At the end of the day, we all live and die through connections. Through our bloodlines and love and correspondences through time and place. We are derivations of our ancestors, changed by time and place and circumstance, and perhaps some of those connections echo through time. Perhaps enough to bring the words of a murdered woman to the attention of those in a position to put her to rest.

In a sense, it almost doesn’t matter if it’s true. These two women, Teresita and Zona, lost their lives brutally, and to men they trusted. The murderers were convicted, and whether or not Remy Chua and Mary Jane Heaster truly connected with the spirit world, and the murdered women reached out to other women, the correct people were apprehended and jailed and the murdered women, one way or another, are at peace.


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