Dawn Marie Birnbaum
(1976 - 1993)

Dawn Marie Birnbaum

Indiana, United States of America

PA, United States of America
March 23, 1993

This is a memorial website for Dawn Marie Birnbaum, a 17-year old runaway from the Elan School in Poland Spring, Maine, who was murdered by James Robert Cruz, Jr., on or about March 23, 1993. The webmaster is of no relation to Dawn or any member of her family, but she wanted Dawn to be remembered. The webmaster was a doctoral student in Education at Penn State when Dawn's body was found. She will never forget reading the headlines of the local paper about what was found on that cold March morning back in 1993. What happened to Dawn should serve as a cautionary tale to other teenagers.

Dawn Marie Birnbaum, according to research done by the webmaster, had originally been from Gary, Indiana, and had led a troubled life, running away many times from home and from foster homes. She had been a ward of the state of Indiana, and had been sent to the Elan School, a home for runaway and troubled teenagers, in Poland Spring, Maine.

On or about March 22, 1993, Dawn and other teens from the Elan School were taken to a nearby mall to watch a movie and left there. It appears no counselor or other chaperone was there to watch this group, though they knew Dawn was a flight risk. When the time came to pick up the group of teens, Dawn wasn't there. She had run away again, this time to a nearby truck stop, the Dysart trucking stop, where she had hitched a ride with a truck driver. She had wanted to hitchhike to California (apparently) to see a friend of hers, and she made some calls from a pay phone inside the truck stop. Lacking paper, she wrote the numbers she was calling on her hand. This would prove instrumental in tracing who she was and where she came from, as she had no identification when she was found.

Dawn hitched a ride with a long-distance trucker, James Robert Cruz, Jr., who worked for the New Century Trucking Company out of Waterford, Ohio. A married 36 year old truck driver with three children and an expectant pregnant wife at home, Cruz had sex with Dawn in the truck and transported her across state lines. He evidently feared being caught, because he strangled her to death with a length of nylon rope. She was found half-clothed, wearing a heavy sweater and socks, with her hands tied behind her and a length of rope still around her neck, in a snowbank off Route 550 and Route 26, Centre County, Pennsylvania, near the Milesburg, PA exit of Interstate 80, the major road that runs across Pennsylvania and across the country.

Dawn was identified through painstaking detective work on the part of PA state trooper William F. Madden, who unfortunately died in 2000 at age 49 from cancer. FBI Special Agent Randy Cohick also assisted in the investigation. The key factor in the investigation was matching fuel receipts from the Bestway Travel Plaza in Milesburg with fuel receipts from the Dysart plaza in Maine. There was one match: James Robert Cruz, Jr., who had bought fuel at both places.

Tire tracks found near Dawn's body indicated that she'd been dropped off there by someone in a tractor-trailer, and plaster casts were made of the tire tracks. The casts eventually matched those on a rig driven by Cruz, and a single hair found in the carpeting on the passenger side door matched that of the unidentified victim, who by then had been identified as Dawn Marie Birnbaum. Dawn's mother, Nancy Lindemann, was sent for, and visited the Mondock Funeral Home in Bellefonte, PA, where her daughter's body was being kept. When Steve Mondock, the funeral director, pulled the pink sheet back from Dawn's face, Mrs. Lindemann identified her and began to cry. When she learned that the people of Bellefonte, PA, who were outraged that a young woman had been brutally murdered and dumped on a snowbank in their midst, they "adopted" Dawn as one of their own, and arranged for a plot in their cemetery. Eerily enough, before they found out who she was, they decided to call her "Spring Dawn" because she was found in Spring Township at dawn.

Despite the prosecutor's call for the death penalty, James Robert Cruz, Jr. was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. He is presently incarcerated at Graterford State Prison north of Philadelphia.

Before Cruz was incarcerated, young women were constantly being found dead along area highways that Cruz traveled across Ohio and other states, in the same manner as Dawn Birnbaum. After his arrest, these deaths stopped. In the TV series "THE FBI FILES", the episode "A STRANGER IN TOWN" profiles the Dawn Marie Birnbaum case, and investigators still strongly feel that Cruz may be responsible for the deaths of at least 40 other women, though this has never been proven. However, it is definitely notable that after Dawn's disappearance and murder were solved, these other young women, of about Dawn's age, were no longer being killed.

On Dec. 4, 2008, Dawn's mother, Nancy Lindemann, died at age 55 at the Altoona Hospital. She is buried in Union Cemetery, Bellefonte, PA, beside her beloved daughter Dawn Marie, whom she loved so much and tried to help.

Rest in peace, Dawn!


If these newspaper links do not open up on their own, copy and paste the link into your browser):

"Jury Weighs Local Man's Case", THE VINDICATOR(June 14, 19994), at: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=-MxJAAAAIBAJ&sjid=AIUMAAAAIBAJ&pg=6131,8458998&dq=james+robert+cruz+jr&hl=en

Guest Book Wall (What is this?)

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Guest Book (100 entries)
How sorry I am ,for you, dear young lady-I hope you can now rest in peace and your spirit can fly among the stars and heavens-my heart is broken at the thought of this horrible thing that happened to you-you are surely an angel now and the memory of you will always live on-FOREVER AND EVER.
March 31st, 2016
I come here through the federal investigation files I watched this movie and this story for four months was a sad story the whole tragedy A small girl in(17)year old at the age of flowers. Kill at the hands of criminals knows on mercy is this man or animal does he believe he is man kill girl a small . This is the beautiful girl did he do something or made a mistakes he just want to help this girl lived in the whole life of tragedy. it's angel from heaven. it's nymph of paradise. She died during few hours this beautiful girl will not see anything in her life . (( dawn )) tragedy in our hearts we did not forget you never forget your sad story (( dawn)). We love you of our hearts to you. (( dawn)) rest in peace beside your mother . (( dawn)) God bless you take care of you . (( 24 year anniversary of the death of..dawn )). Condolences to the family of the (dawn) and her relatives and friend. Ali . Baton Rouge .la
Ali Al Ali (Guest)
March 25th, 2016
You were just a lost teenager, this isn't fair! Fly high honey. I'm so very sorry this happened to you. So full of life, gone far too soon. I'll never forget your smell as you walked by, your smile filled the room. You always made me smile & were a good friend, always up for a serious conversation, or a good laugh. We all miss you. You were loved by everyone. Such a beautiful soul, taken from us all. I'm saddened. **23 years today** I miss you. Love, Rod
Rod Footer (Friend from Elan School)
March 24th, 2016
I have just watched the programme about you. May you rest in peace. Xx
mary fisher
March 19th, 2016
So sorry for your tragic and early demise. I hope you're resting peacefully, now. Love from all in the state of Maine.
lois theriault (friend)
March 12th, 2016
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"May you rest in Eternal peace by your Mother's side...."
Nancy Rauch
April 25th, 2016
Kimberly spain
April 25th, 2016
"rip sweet lady :("
rayen ray
March 29th, 2016
"(dawn) rest in peace beside you your mother and God bless you in our hearts never forget you You beautiful angel. Ali Baton Rouge la"
Ali Al Ali
March 24th, 2016
"Dawn rest in peace beside you your mother and God bless you in our hearts never forget you you beautiful angel"
Ali Al Ali
March 24th, 2016
"RIP Dawn"
Kris Thamba
March 18th, 2016
"This story broke my heart. You are an angel Dawn and I hope you are at peace now up in Heaven!"
Elizabeth Wheeler
March 13th, 2016
"RIP beautiful Dawn. May your spirit soar."
Kellieb Murray
March 1st, 2016
"Just saw your story!Hope you are resting in peace now."
Journey Johnson
February 29th, 2016
"Just saw your story!Hope you are resting in peace now."
Journey Johnson
February 29th, 2016


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