Case of missing woman caught in homicide investigation

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Dan Plutchak | May 7, 2014

JANESVILLE -- Mary Coulthard is the kind of person who would give you the shirt off her back, family members say, making her disappearance a week ago even more troubling to those close to her.

How could a 75-year-old woman known to take evening walks near her Main Street apartment downtown simply disappear?

That mystery deepened quickly Monday when police discovered the body of Britney Cross, a 21-year-old Edgerton woman, near the Rock River just south of the Memorial Street Bridge. She died from blunt trauma to the head, and police are investigating her death as a homicide.

Clayton J. Courtney, 28, described as Cross's boyfriend, is the lone suspect in her death, police said  during a Tuesday news conference.

Investigators have spent the week trying to piece together details of Coulthard's disappearance, Cross's death and a stabbing that left a Janesville man hospitalized to see if they are connected.

Coulthard's brother said Monday that detectives told him they don't believe the stabbing and homicide cases are related to his sister. Jerry Quincy, who said he talked to his sister a week earlier, spent Monday evening down by the Rock River where earlier that day a body had been discovered.

Coulthard was the kind of person who liked to help people, Quincy said, although he said he wasn't quite sure if that was a smart thing to do, I light of the recent developments.

"She was a very kind person," Quincy said. "If you didn't have something, she would get it for you. That's the kind of person she was."

Police first were called about Coulthard's disappearance the morning of May 3.

Officers soon discovered a water bottle they believe was used by Coulthard on the Milwaukee Street Bridge, as well as other personal items south of the bridge on the shore.

Authorities began a ground and water search in the Janesville area and the aerial search along the river to the Illinois state line, according to a police news release.

Twist in the case

Sunday evening, while investigators were searching for clues in the Coulthard case, officers were called to a residence on Pontiac Drive to break up a fight.

When police arrived, they discovered a 28-year-old man who had been stabbed several times. He was transported to Mercy Hospital in Janesville for treatment of the stab wounds, one of which was described by doctors as near fatal.

A 32-year-old woman also was at the residence, as were two small children sleeping at the time. None of them were injured.

The assailant, police say, was Courtney who fled as police arrived.

He was captured after a short pursuit and transported to Mercy Hospital complaining of an ankle injury.

At the hospital, police photographed Courtney, who smiled eerily into the camera with a mud-splashed face. On his neck is at tattoo that read "pure hate."

As investigators dug into the case, the learned that prior to the fight, Courtney attempted to set a vehicle on fire while it was parked in the attached garage. Police say he also damaged cabinets in the kitchen.

But what really raised investigators concern was learning that Courtney allegedly said, "I've already killed three people tonight. We are all going to die."

He also made threats to harm the unborn child of the female co-tenant. Investigators then began piecing together Courtney's movements throughout the evening.

They learned he might have been in the area of the Memorial Street Bridge drinking and doing drugs with a female friend under the bridge. Police haven't indicated yet if they believe that woman was Cross.

When police began their search of the area Monday, they discovered Cross's body behind the former Schuler Furniture store near Traxler Park.

The discovery only added another twist and meant Coulthard still was considered missing.

I believe she's going to come home soon," Quincy said. "That's what were' all hoping."


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