Time to kill
Babysitter from hell
Young mums don’t often walk off and abandon their kids, their home and their family. But, in February 2009, Heather Strong finished her shift as a waitress at the Iron Skillet – a truckstop restaurant in Reddick, Florida – and vanished.
The pretty 26-year-old was separated from her husband, unemployed Josh Fulgham, and worked hard to support their two children.
Had she just had enough? It wasn’t Josh, but Heather’s cousin who lived nearly 600 miles away in Mississippi, who reported her missing.
In echoes of the 2014 film Gone Girl, police took in Josh, 33, for questioning.
Balding and scruffy, he slouched on a chair in the interview room, seemingly unconcerned about his wife’s disappearance.
He claimed she’d dropped the kids with him and gone off to work, carrying a large duffel bag and wheeling a suitcase.
Yet, why had weeks passed without him trying to contact his children’s mum?
Wasn’t he concerned?
‘I don’t need her,’ he said. ‘I’m not looking for her – you are.’
His blasé explanation didn’t add up. Heather had unclaimed pay cheques waiting for her at the Iron Skillet.
And there was more. Josh had been using Heather’s debit card.
Police arrested him on fraud charges while they delved deeper into the mystery.
Josh was a nasty piece of work. In January, a month before Heather disappeared, he’d been charged with assaulting her.
He’d shacked up with brunette Emilia Carr, 24, who babysat the kids and was now pregnant with his baby.
The pair, who had known each other for years, were hardly love’s young dream.
They liked to park up at a lake with a 12-pack of beer and have sex in the back of the car.
They’d had a threesome with a male friend of Emilia’s and filmed it, hoping to flog their DIY porn.
After relentless questioning, Josh cracked – to a degree.
Without admitting to killing Heather, he agreed to show them where she was.
Directing police to Emilia’s house, he pointed out a shabby mobile home at the back.
After poking through a pile of rubbish with a stick, police found Heather’s decomposing body outside the mobile home.
But how had she died?
Neither Josh nor Emilia would admit it – instead, they blamed each other.
Police enlisted the help of Josh’s sister to speak to Emilia and secretly record their conversation.
‘Tell me what happened that night,’ Josh’s sister said. ‘Tell me your version.’
Emilia eventually described how Josh had taped Heather to a chair and put a bag over her head. ‘We tried to snap her neck. That didn’t work.’
Then they suffocated her. ‘I figured it would be quick and painless,’ she said.
Police pieced together the night from the conflicting testimonies. Josh had lured Heather to Emilia’s place, saying he had found a stash of money. Then, when she refused to sign papers giving him custody of the children, the evil duo set upon her.
For Josh, it wasn’t so much about love for his children, as money. If Heather had moved to another area, which she planned to do, he’d have had to cough up financially.
He was also jealous about a new relationship Heather had started.
Meanwhile, Emilia’s baby bump grew under her orange and white jail-issue jumpsuit. She gave birth in custody.
She and Josh were both convicted of kidnap and murder at the Marion County Judicial Centre.
The sentences, decided by the jury, sparked controversy. In December 2010, Emilia was sentenced to death by lethal injection, becoming the youngest woman on death row, but Josh was given life in prison.
It was felt Emilia was the mastermind, playing the ‘poor me’ card. Her IQ was 125, while Josh’s was 81.
But the law in Florida changed in 2016, requiring that all death penalties had to be passed by a unanimous jury.
Because Emilia’s death sentence was an 8-4 vote, it was commuted to life in prison. And that means life – the state of Florida has no parole.
Josh, who claimed to want custody of his and Heather’s children – now adopted – will never see them again.
They’re better off without work-shy, cheating, violent Josh – but not without their mum.
Heather worked all the hours she could to support them.
Hopefully, they will have that support from their new parents. But their devoted mum will never see them grow up.
Watch The Babysitter’s Secret episode of Sex, Lies & Murder, Wednesday 19 September at 9pm
Left: Heavily pregnant Emilia (also above) is questioned by police. Right: Josh Fulgham
Hard-working Heather mysteriously disappeared