By Katherine Hamilton
Shirley Badger Trenner’s fascination for the new and exotic had always been obvious to those around her, whether it was owning one of the first microwaves, or trying new cuisines. Her interest in technology led her to work at a computer store in her retired years—but no one ever could’ve known she would be senselessly attacked and murdered while opening the store.
In 1985, Trenner was taken at 61-years-old from her friends and family when someone entered the store Learn-A-Bit About Computers in Palm Harbor, Florida, Pinellas County, attacked her and stole her car; the stolen vehicle turned up later At Courtney Campbell Causeway in Clearwater.
A witness was able to identify a suspect. According to the report, the suspect was a white male, mid 20s, 5’10 to 6-foot, 170lbs with dark hair and an orange t-shirt and jeans. There was not an excess of evidence besides a possible suspect—since then, the case had gotten colder and colder until a new detective was assigned to the case.
“He’s made more progress in six months than they’ve made in 32-years,” said Cynthia McCorkindale, daughter of Trenner.
McCorkindale was 28-years-old when she got the news about her mother. Now 32 years later, she is almost 61.
“I am the exact age my mother was when she died—I mean almost to the month. So that’s a very sobering thing to me when I think about that. I mean I’ve got some years left,” McCorkindale said.
Trenner’s family wasn’t necessarily a conventional one—she had four daughters and moved around quite a bit during their younger years.
“You know we just weren’t [a traditional] kind of family. We were more like the Simpsons than Leave it to Beaver—in some ways—or maybe Malcolm in the Middle. We were different and kind of eccentric really,” McCorkindale said.
Even though life could be rocky in their earlier years, they eventually settled as a family in Brookfield, Connecticut. There, her daughters learned how to be self-sufficient and had the opportunity to sail and fly in airplanes on the weekends with their step-father Fred.
Trenner moved down to Florida in her later years but swore, “I don’t want to be one of those retired people who sit at the pool and tell people about my most recent operation.”
“Our lives got happier as time passed,” McCorkindale said. “When we got older, she was definitely a good friend to us.”
They knew they could always call their mother and referred to her has “the hub”, or the place where they could all meet. McCorkindale said her mother was always one to leap into life without looking back, loved to try new things and fostered a sense of adventure in her daughters.
“In light of my mother’s penchant for the new and different, we never had a real Christmas tree because that was so messy. But the minute they came out—again in the 70’s— we had the aluminum Christmas tree, which was silver that you assembled. And then there was something called a color wheel that had a lightbulb behind it that you spun, plugged it in, and it had four colors that would reflect on the tree,” McCorkindale said. “Again, she loved convenience. I swear, I remember when polyester became popular, and she would pull it out of the dryer and go, ‘Look you don’t even have to iron it!”
Attention to Trenner’s case has greatly increased over the last year because of a letter McCorkindale sent to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office calling them to pay attention to her mother’s case.
“I said, ‘You know what, I don’t have 30 more years for this,”’ McCorkindale said. “All I ever wanted was for somebody, the sheriff’s department, to pay attention. And that just wasn’t happening, until now.”
Since then, PCSO has made a special cold case unit with two detectives. Their entire job is to spend their time looking into cold cases.
“They never have to go out on a fresh homicide,” McCorkindale said.
Overall, McCorkindale and her family is hoping for more advancement in the case.
“There’s rarely a day that goes by, even after 32-years, that I don’t think about my mother. I guess what I would say to someone who is just freshly experiencing it is—yeah it’s like having one of your appendages ripped off, like your arm or your leg ripped off your body, and then over time it subsides, but there’s always going to be—always—a part of you, a part of your thought process and brain space that is going to be there forever.”
If you have any information about the unsolved murder of Shirley Badger Trenner, please contact the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office at (727) 582-6200. You can also contact Crime Stoppers of Pinellas at 1-800-873-TIPS to remain anonymous and become eligible for awards up to $3,000. Cynthia McCorkindale also releases updates about her mother on justice4shirley.com.
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