Today’s story addresses just how far someone can go for their dreams, but as you’ll see, there is such as a thing as too far and unforgivably wretched in the story of Blaine Norris, and Randi and Brian Trimble.
East Pennsboro Township is a suburb of Pennsylvania’s state capitol, Harrisburg. Located just across the Susquehanna River from the city, Enola is a quaint town just off highway 15 in Cumberland County. The Enola Rail Yard has been in operation since 1905 and until the 50’s was the world’s largest freight yard. The town was founded around the rail yard, and urban legend says that the town was named intentionally to spell “Alone” backwards so people wouldn’t settle there.
Within this stereotypical small town is quiet neighborhood with a small ranch house. The neighborhood was that perfect place to settle down and start a family with low crime and friendly neighbors.
Randi Peck was born in Norfolk, VA. Her mother, Nancy, took her daughter and left an abusive relationship, vowing Randi would never witness abuse again. Raising Randi as a single mother meant working two jobs to provide for her child. But, she worked hard to give Randi a happy and healthy childhood.
Randi loved music and dancing. From singing along with musicals to playing the flute through high school, she was the drum major for three years in High School. Her mother taught her to benefits of hard work and saving, traits that pushed Randi to excel in her passions.
After putting herself through college to earn Bachelor’s and Masters degrees in Speech and Language Pathology from Bloomsburg University, Randi worked two jobs in order to save for a future. Randi saved as much money as possible to buy a home at just 25 years old in 1999. On September 9, 2000, she married Brian Trimble after dating for 5 years.
Brian was a mild-mannered and easy-going computer tech, pretty much a “typical geek” who loved tech gadgets and horror movies. Sadly, Brian was handed a terrible diagnosis when his doctor told him he had Multiple Sclerosis (MS). For those unaware, MS is a disease of the central nervous system where the immune system attacked the nerves between your brain and the rest of your body. This painful disease often often affects mobility, vision and speech as well as rare occurrences of seizures.
The diagnosis was devastating to the couple. As Brian tried to continue life at the same pace and ways as before his knowledge of the disease, Randi became protective of both Brian and his health. She wanted him to take care of himself and live within his restrictions as his doctor told him to. This wedge between then only continued to grow.
A best friend and a movie
Brian worked in IT for a health insurance provider. Almost the moment he met his work colleague Blaine Norris, the two were best friends: two peas in a pod. The friends had a similar love for horror movies. Blaine’s life-long dream was to be a director, Brian wanted to be a cinematographer. He already owned photographer and video equipment, ready to start his professional cinematic debut. As they would sit at work, the two would spin tales and dreams until they decided to make it more official and write a screenplay together.
The screenplay resulted in “Through Hike: A Ghost Story” being born. A “through hike” is when someone hikes the entire length of a trail from end to end in a single trip. The movie was a similar concept to the Blair Witch project, taking place on the Appalachian Trail. The official description of the film is as follows:
As friends hike through an abandoned coal mining town, they inadvertently release the spirit of a murderer who has been trapped for 150 years. The spirit relentlessly stalks the group of friends.
In the beginning, the film had an investor. Excited to impress this investor, the two gathered the cast and did a photoshoot for official headshots. When the investor received these headshots, they immediately pulled funding for the film citing concerns of quality. As passionate as Brian was about photography, he was still just a hobbyist.
Once funding was pulled, Blaine and Brian decided to fund the movie themselves. Brian went to Randi and asked to remove $5,000 from their personal savings account to put toward the film. Randi refused. Due to Brian’s health concerns and their dreams of having a baby, Randi thought it would be an inappropriate use of their nest egg.
Blaine took it upon himself to fund the movie. He sold his house, maxed out his credit cards and did whatever he needed to get the money to create their masterpiece.
Finally, the big day was coming. From August 2-7 of 2002, the movie was going to start filming on location along the Appalachian Trail. The entire crew and cast would camp and hike along the trail for all the necessary shots. As the cinematographer, Brian planned to spend a week on the trail with everyone else against his doctor’s recommendations. Randi was livid and told him he couldn’t go. With his disease, the trip would be difficult enough in addition to no access to medical care if something would happen. He did stay home, but their relationship was already on a downward slope.
When Brian told Blaine he would not be making the trip, Blaine asked if he could at least borrow Brian’s cameras and recording equipment, but again Randi said “no” because of the sheer price of all that equipment. Thousands of dollars of cameras, microphones and more that could be damaged, lost or destroyed.
Blaine was incredibly upset by this, but refused to let it stop him. He purchased all new equipment so shooting would continue on schedule. The first day of production was riddled with technical difficulties in both audio and video, but the cast and crew continued on.
The weeklong shooting was filled with long hours and grueling physical labor as they filmed and hiked along the trail. Blaine extended himself even further, watching dailies into the night and surviving on minimal sleep. He had also mentioned to cast members that things at home weren’t going well. While he didn’t mention being $20,000 in debt, he did note that his relationship with his wife, Wendy, was on the rocks.
The final scene shot was a vicious stabbing scene accomplished by stabbing a watermelon.
When Blaine returned home from filming, he found that his wife had taken their young son, Mason, and left. In addition to financial disagreements, she also thought he was cheating on her with one of the actresses of the film. While this proved untrue, it was just one of many issues the couple had.
Coworkers noticed a change in the friendship between Brian and Blaine around the time of filming, and Blaine seemed to have trouble returning to a regular job after feeling like a rockstar as he directed his own film. He went from being in charge and having importance to a 9-5. Additionally, he was struggling to edit the film.
Brian and Blaine reconnected and made amends, their friendship and creative partnership returning to normal.
A tragic turn
On January 10, 2003, Brian had dinner with a friend while his wife, Randi, was at work. When he returned home, he found Randi on the garage floor covered in blood with an extension cord around her neck. He immediately called 911. Brian told police he had called out to her and got no response, but he did not touch the body.
The house had been ransacked, and the first officers on the scene thought it had been a robbery gone wrong. But as Detective Joe Landis entered the crime scene and started to look around, he knew it was staged. He was a seasoned detective who had seen many burglaries, and this did not match what would have happened in that situation.
Upon examination of the body, the initial attack was strangulation but it was ineffective. The killer then used a fillet knife to stab her 27 times. This type of brutal overkill is a sign of a personal killing rather than a robbery gone wrong. The knife was found in the garage near the body.
Immediately, Brian was at the top of the suspect list, but he had a solid alibi. Investigators interviewed friends and family but weren’t able to find any obvious suspects. They decided to keep an eye on Brian as they continued to dig for more information.
Brian wasn’t acting like a grieving husband. He immediately moved, took a leave of absence from work and changed his appearance. He spent their savings on things like a big screen TV, and he started dating again soon after Randi’s murder.
To try to find more details, police would stop by to see him from time to time. Coworkers mentioned that the day after these visits, he would be in and out of the office and acted rather odd.
In a second official interview, Detective Landis asked Brian to recount the night again. This time, Brian said that when he got home and saw Randi on the floor, he went to her to see if she was okay and then touched her to find a pulse. This inconsistency raised a red flag and police approached District Attorney Skip Ebert for a warrant to tap Brian’s phone and search his computer history.
They found a document Brian sent to Blaine called “How to Commit a Murder” which moved both men to the top of the suspect list. Blaine’s alibi for the crime was that he was out to dinner with his girlfriend. Police viewed CCTV and found his story didn’t match, so they brought him in for a second interview on March 29, 2004.
During this interview, they asked if he thought Brian could have killed his wife. Blaine told them “he could never kill someone.” The part that followed was a first for Detective Landis: Blaine told him, “I could kill someone if I had to.”
This moved Blaine from a person of interest into being a prime suspect. They started tearing his alibi apart. His plans were to meet his girlfriend for dinner at 7:30 but they didn’t actually meet up until after 9 that night.
Soon after, the police received a letter in the mail. Starting with “I am Randi Trimble’s killer,” the letter also said “since the police haven’t talked to me, I know they’re barking up the wrong tree” and was signed by “Trooper.” While intended to redirect them, investigators saw right through it and new they were on the right track.
The called Brian back in, but this time used a different approach. They told him, “we know you didn’t kill her, but you know who did.” Brian told them Blaine killed her, and then asked if they death penalty was off the table before talking any further. Once they agreed he wouldn’t be charged with the death penalty, Brian told them everything.
He had hired Blaine to kill Randi with promise of $20,000 from the life insurance payout. Prior to the crime, he walked Blaine through the house and discussed what would happen.
She avoided strangulation by getting her hand between the cord and her throat and struggled against Blaine. That’s when he took out the knife and started to stab her. Before she passed, Randi said a prayer.
Brian was immediately arrested but Blaine was still free. A warrant was issued to search his apartment, finding a receipt for a local store to purchase latex gloves, black sweatpants and a dark hoodie. In his credit card history was a knife matching the murder weapon.
Both men accepted plea deals. For their full cooperation, they received life sentences instead of the death penalty.
Randi’s mother, Nancy, can never fill the hole in her life of her daughter, but she has used this experience to create Randi’s House of Angels. In October 2011, Nancy started the non-profit organization in tribute of Randi to help children and families either exposed to or victims of domestic abuse. The organization also holds Randi’s Race: a 5K Run/Walk for Hope and Courage which has raised over $423,000 over the years.
For more information or to support this organization, visit https://randishouseofangels.org/.
Researched by Mo from The Squonk & The Hag