Family retells story of 1984 murder ahead of inmate's execution

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Posted at 9:24 PM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-04 08:47:32-04

"She just embraced life and she was robbed of that by that monster," says Debbie Carlson, mother of Vicki Lynne.

Photos of 8-year-old Vicki Lynne Hoskinson captured national attention in 1984.

"I don't think that there wasn't anything that she couldn't have done," says Debbie.

Vicki's mother, Debbie, and father, George, invited us into their Tucson home. They showed us photo albums — the way they remember their little girl.

"What year was that?" asks reporter.

"She was four years old; that was in 1980," responds Carlson.

It also reminds them of what their family lost on September 17, 1984. What was supposed to be a joyous moment, turned into an unthinkable crime.

"Vicki's last words to me, as she was riding back out, was 'I love you' and she was — the smile on her face — she was so excited that we trusted her to go," says Carlson.

It was the first time Debbie ever let Vicki go anywhere by herself. She was riding her pink bike on her way to mail a birthday card to her aunt the day of her disappearance. The path there was through the neighborhood. It was a route Vicki rode to-and-from school every day and just a few blocks away from her home. Vicki's bike was ultimately found by her older sister at Pocito Place and Root Lane in Flowing Wells, Arizona.

"I knew, I just had that sick pit in my stomach," says Debbie.

Flowing Wells is just outside of Tucson. Child abduction just didn’t happen in that rural tight-knit community. The Pima County Sheriff's Office set up a task force of local and federal agencies.

"We set up a command base at a local elementary school, Homer Davis Elementary School, and began to canvass the entire neighborhood. We went house, to house, to house," says Chief Deputy Richard Kastigar, PCSO.

ABC15 sat down with Chief Deputy Richard Kastigar. The case was personal for him as he was working as the public information officer at the time. He was just 29-years-old and a father himself.

"I was talking to the members of the press, but in my mind at the time, I was really talking to the community," says Chief Deputy Kastigar.

Now at 66, Kastigar takes us inside the investigation.

"We had the evidence of an individual who interacted with Frank, after Vicki Lynne's abduction, and what he told us about the bloody clothes and the bloodied hands," says Chief Deputy Kastigar.

Atwood was also spotted in the area acting strangely by multiple people, including a teacher at the local elementary school who memorized his license plate and called 911.

"Atwood knocked Vicki Lynne off of her bicycle with his car and there was very clear evidence of paint transfer, from his vehicle to her bicycle and vice-versa," says Chief Deputy Kastigar.

That car is how Atwood was found and arrested in Texas. Investigators learned he had a history of convictions of crimes against children — Vicki's being the most gruesome. Her remains were later found in the desert, about 20 miles from where she went missing.

"The minute he touched her; he chose his destiny," says Carlson.

In 1987, Atwood was convicted of murdering the child. Court documents show at his sentencing, he told the court: "I'm telling you from my heart, I'm innocent of this crime."

"Atwood continues to claim he's innocent. Do you believe that, or do you think he's guilty?" asks reporter.

"I have no doubt in my mind that he committed this crime. None whatsoever," says Chief Deputy Kastigar.

Atwood has been on death row now for 35 years and his appeals have all failed. He is scheduled to be executed next week, giving Vicki's family some closure.

"He took something from us that he wasn't going to take anymore. He tried to destroy our family, but he didn't win," says Carlson.

There are still many questions about what happened that dreadful day.

Although, we do know Vicki made it to the mailbox to send her aunt a birthday card, which is something the family still holds on to.

"We miss her, and we love her beyond the comprehension of the word," says Carlson.

Atwood was unanimously denied clemency on May 24. He is scheduled to be executed on June 8, 2022.