The death of a Columbus woman, whose body was found eight months ago in a southwestern Shelby County farm field, is being investigated as a homicide.

Nicolle R. Olmstead, 33, was reported missing to the Columbus Police Department on July 12 after last being seen in the city July 1, Shelby County Sheriff’s Department deputies said last year.

Remains found in a Shelby County farm field Aug. 1 were identified a month later by a University of Indianapolis forensic anthropologist as being those of Olmstead, but Shelby County investigators have revealed nothing more publicly in the aftermath of the Columbus woman’s death.

Shelby County Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Darren Chandler said the department is not releasing details about the Olmstead case because they do not wish to reveal anything only the suspect might know.

Story continues below gallery

Click here to purchase photos from this gallery

A family member said Nicolle Olmstead’s body was found in a farm field off Interstate 65 near the State Road 252 overpass, just north of the Bartholomew County line in Shelby County.

Chandler said investigators do not know where Olmstead was killed, but they do not believe it was in the field where she was found.

“We are not going to release any further information,” Chandler said when asked about Olmstead being a homicide victim.

Circumstances of death

Olmstead’s ex-husband, Richard Olmstead, said he needed her death certificate to apply for benefits for one of her children and requested that document from Shelby County. In late February when the document arrived, almost six months after Nicolle Olmstead’s body was identified, Richard Olmstead learned that his child’s mother had been killed. The death certificate for Nicolle Olmstead, listing her death as a homicide, was signed by Shelby County Coroner Robbie Stonebraker.The manner of death on the death certificate indicated Olmstead died of blunt force trauma with bilateral arm fractures.

Richard Olmstead and his sister, Shelly Olmstead Medlock, said they believe the description means Nicolle Olmstead had been beaten around her head and upper extremities before she died.

When Shelby County investigators announced Sept. 1 they had identified the body of Nicolle Olmstead, they declined to reveal the cause and manner of death, saying the case was still under investigation.

They also declined to reveal the specific location where Nicolle Olmstead was found, other than it was in a farm field, or how her remains were discovered.

The family learned from the death certificate that DNA and dental records from Omstead’s incarcerations at the Bartholomew County Jail were used to identify her remains. Her date of death on the certificate is Aug. 1, which is when her body was found in Shelby County, the document states.

“We’ve been kept in the dark,” Medlock said of the investigation by Shelby County detectives.

Higher-profile cases

During the past few months, Medlock and her brother said they watched as Columbus police started a large search immediately after Indianapolis resident Jackie Watts went missing near the Flat Rock River in Columbus on March 4. The body of Watts, formerly of Columbus, was found the next day on a sandbar in the river.They have also noticed that the reward fund for suspects in the Feb. 13 slayings of two Delphi, Indiana, girls on a hiking trail has grown to $230,000 in an effort to seek tips nationwide.

However, there was no massive search for Nicolle Olmstead, nor was there any reward fund launched, her family said.

Her ex-husband and former sister-in-law said that’s probably because Nicolle Olmstead had drug abuse and mental health issues, and had been in and out of jail numerous times in Bartholomew County before her disappearance.

Nicolle Olmstead was known by Columbus police and Bartholomew County sheriff’s deputies as an individual who would wander through the city seeking car rides from strangers. At times, she would reportedly jump into people’s stopped vehicles, fiddle with their radios and ask the driver to take her to various locations in the city.

Family members said she was often trying to get a ride to her mother’s home in Shelbyville.

Margaret VanArsdale said that while her daughter was often trying to get to Shelbyville, she would never stay long once she arrived.

“I begged her to stay,” VanArsdale said. “I tried quite a few times.”

Hope for justice

Medlock said family members want justice, despite how others might view her circumstances before Olmstead’s death.“This can be solved,” Medlock said of the homicide case. “Someone knows something about this. Everybody knows everybody in this town.”

Medlock first met Nicolle Olmstead, whom she knew as “Nikki,” when she moved from Maryland to Columbus in 2001 to be closer to family.

“She was a great person,” Medlock said. “But she had a bad life overall.”

Nicolle Olmstead’s social media postings said she graduated from Columbus North High School in 2000. She had been married and divorced twice.

Medlock said she hit it off with Nicolle Olmstead after agreeing to take her in as a roommate. It was through that relationship that Nicolle met Richard Olmstead and began their relationship, which culminated in a 2003 marriage. The couple was married until 2007, when Nicolle Olmstead’s drug addiction and erratic behavior began taking its toll, her ex-husband said.

During that time period, she had worked at a thrift store and as a certified nursing assistant at local retirement communities before a downward spiral began with prescription pills, her ex-husband said.

When Nicolle Olmstead wasn’t on the prescription pills, she was “right in the head,” Medlock said. “But we did have problems with her. She was really short-tempered at times.”

One of the last times Medlock saw Nicolle Olmstead was in January 2016, when she came upon her at a gas station at 17th Street and Central Avenue in Columbus and asked her to get into her car because it was cold outside and Olmstead didn’t have a jacket.

“She was homeless. She wanted me to take her to a laundromat at 25th and Taylor streets,” Medlock said.

Family members said they believe she was living out of the laundromat, but was occasionally allowed into family member homes to take a shower and eat.

“She was always asking for a ride to Shelbyville,” Medlock said, which was where family members lived.

Drug addictions

Her ex-husband and former sister-in-law said they believe mental health issues led to Nicolle Olmstead’s drug addiction to methamphetamine, nerve pills and pain pills.“I would have done anything to deter her from that path and get her on the path she needed to be on,” said her former husband, who said he last spoke to Nicolle face-to-face in 2012.

Nicolle Olmstead’s extended family had begun turning her away from their homes because of her erratic behavior, he said.

Her ex-husband has since learned that the final four drug screens Nicolle Olmstead had at the Bartholomew County Jail after arrests showed she was clean — with no drugs in her system.

However, they have no toxicology results from the autopsy to show what, if any, drugs were in her system when her remains were found, they said.

The last place Nicolle Olmstead was seen in public before her disappearance was in Heflen Park, a county park near Taylorsville, Medlock said.

Talking with people who had seen Nicolle Olmstead at Heflen, her ex-husband and former sister-in-law have learned that she had been at the campground with a man described as being in his 60s, who had a camper. The park has had a number of homeless people living there in tents, Medlock said.

On the day Nicolle Olmstead disappeared, she was described by campground residents as being mad about something and walking out of the campground, trying to find a ride, her ex-husband said.

Medlock and Richard Olmstead theorize that Nicolle Olmstead had sought a ride to a family member’s home in Shelbyville from someone in the Heflen Park area, they said.

Nicolle Olmstead’s body was found in a farm field off Interstate 65 near the State Road 252 overpass, which is in Shelby County, Medlock said.

“If someone did kill her, she needs justice,” her ex-husband said.

Nicolle Olmstead had four children, two boys and two girls, ranging in age from 12 to 17.

“She was a mother. She was someone’s daughter,” Richard Olmstead said.

“We want investigators to know this won’t be forgotten,” Medlock said.

Have a tip?

Investigators are asking for anyone with information concerning the death of Nicolle Olmstead to contact Detective Sgt. Darren Chandler at 317-392-6412 or Detective LaShawn Tyler at 812-376-2661. Anonymous tips can also be placed through the Shelby County Prosecutors TIP Line at 317-398-CALL.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at or (812) 379-5631.