Category Archives: Unsolved

The Unsolved Murders of the Jennings 8

            On May 20, 2005, retiree Jerry Jackson was fishing from a bridge over the Grand Marais Canal on the outskirts of Jennings, Louisiana when he saw the outline of a human body in the water. At first, he remembered seeing reports of mannequins being stolen and assumed that was what he was seeing. What changed his mind was a simple fact: mannequins generally don’t attract insects. Jackson immediately called authorities to the bridge, which was quickly inundated with over a dozen investigators and law enforcement agents (Brown).  Loretta Lynn Chaisson Lewis, 28-years old, was pulled from the canal shortly after (Ott), wearing a white short-sleeved blouse, blue jeans, and blue underwear. Unfortunately, Lewis’s remains were heavily decayed and no evidence was found of injury beyond some blood under her scalp. She was identified through her fingerprints (Brown).

            Lewis was the first of eight known sex workers who’s remains would be found on the outskirts of Jennings, Louisiana from 2005 to 2009. That June, the remains of Ernestine Marie Daniels Patterson, 30, were found in another canal, south of Jennings (Ott). Two men were briefly taken into custody in relation to her murder, Byron Chad Jones and Lawrence Nixon. Nixon was related to another victim, Laconia “Muggy” Brown. Jones and Nixon were charged with second degree murder in the case of Ernestine Patterson, but the charges were dropped. Several witnesses were known to have implicated a specific crime scene, but authorities failed to examine the scene for more than a year after Patterson’s murder. When they finally investigated the scene, they reported no evidence of blood was found on the scene. It is likely that the lack of proper investigative work relating to the crime scene investigation contributed to the case against Jones and Nixon falling apart (Brown).

            In mid-March of 2007, 21-year old Kristen Gary Lopez was found in a canal outside Jennings, just as the two previous victims were (Ott). Frankie Richard, a 58-year old ex-oil worker and strip-club owner known to work as a pimp in Jennings (Brown), and his niece Hannah Conner were arrested in relation to the case, but as before the charges were dropped. The lack of evidence in the case led to their release. Witnesses would later claim to have seen Lopez in a truck the day she disappeared. This would likely have not been unusual, considering the work she did, but the truck in question was bough by a chief investigator from an inmate known to have been friend with one of the victims. By the time these witnesses came forward, the truck had been washed and resold, making it impossible to get any evidence from the vehicle. The investigator in question was removed from the case and fined, but placed in charge of the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s office evidence. Sergeant Jesse Ewing became aware of the truck when two inmates told him, on tape, what they knew about the truck. Ewing sent the tape to the local FBI office, which then relayed the information to the taskforce supervisors. Soon after, Ewing lost his job (Ott).

            Four more known sex workers were found in or near Jennings between the discovery of Lopez’s remains and the formation of a task force in December of 2008. Whitney Dubois, 26, Laconia “Muggy” Brown, 23, Crystal Shay Benoit Zeno, 24, and Brittney Gary 17, were all found with virtually no signs of trauma. Most of their remains were heavily decomposed by the time they were found and the coroner marked the deaths as possible asphyxiation (Ott). Of the victims up to this point, Patterson and Brown were the only ones with a discernable cause of death: their throats had been slit. All the victims were known to have lived in poverty and struggled with mental illnesses, and all had ties to each other (Group) and law enforcement. Several of the victims were known police informants, Brown even being interrogated by investigators in 2005 in relation to Patterson’s murder. She reportedly saw Lewis, the first victim, floating in the Grand Marais Canal before Jackson found her. Lopez was also interviewed by detectives, in 2006. Her mother, Melissa Daigle, believes Lopez knew what was going on. Victim’s Lopez and Gary were cousins, and Gary lived with Benoit in South Jennings before her 2008 murder. The victims all worked from the Boudreaux Inn, a well known inn in Jennings that was central to the drug and sex trade in the area. Not only did the victims all work from this hotel, all but Patterson were known to have worked or been associated with Frankie Richard (Brown).

            The taskforce formed in December 2008 was formed of Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies (Ott). At the time, seven of the eventual eight victims were already dead and a reward of $35,000 was being offered for information leading to the arrest of the perpetrator. When the taskforce was formed, the reward was increased to $85, 000. From the moment the taskforce was formed, the focus was put into the theory of a serial killer (Brown)(Group). Unfortunately, the taskforce’s formation was not enough to prevent another death and in August of 2009, Necole Guillory, 26, was spotted off I-10 near Acadia Parish (Ott). The investigators had been warned by other Jennings sex workers at the end of 2008 that they believed Guillory was possibly in danger of being the next victim. Guillory was the mother of four children, who lived with other family members, and was known to have been paranoid. Before her death, she was noted as having been hesitant of going out alone, and a witness supports the claim that she was scared of someone and likely knew who killed the other victims. Guillory had the same ties to the other victims, and had even been seen by Patterson’s father right before her death. He was possibly one of the last people to see her alive. Her mother had filed a missing persons report on August 19, 2009, the same day she would be found. Like other victims, Guillory had seemingly known what was happening in Jennings. She frequently told family that police were responsible for the murders, but would not name who was involved out of fear. Brown’s sister, Gail, had a similar story about her sister, who reportedly told her family that she was investigating a murder with an officer. The officer had told her she would receive $500 to tell him what happened, and Gail Brown believed this officer killed her sister. A witness would later claim that Brown, like Guillory, seemed to know she was going to die. She had told the witness before her death that three officers were going to kill her (Brown).

            In fall of 2009, Sheriff Edward’s of the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office acknowledged publicly that a serial killer may have been operating in the area. However, Ethan Brown’s investigation brought this into question (Ott). According to FBI criminal profilers, serial killers usually aren’t visibly connected to their victims. Many times, the victims have little to do with each other. In retrospect, it is clear that the local law enforcement was heavily corrupted and often operated questionably. The crime rate in the area says much about this, as there were nearly 20 unsolved murders in the small area since the 1990s as of 2014, when Brown wrote his Medium article. This is an abnormally low clearance, unacceptable in most normal Sheriff’s Departments across the country, and an abnormally high murder rate for an area so small (Brown). Ethan Brown, a New Orleans-based writer and author of the book, Murder in the Bayou: Who Killed the Women Known as the Jeff Davis 8?, came to know about the case from an article in the New York Times detailing the frustrations of family members of the victims. In mid-2011, he began investigating the murders after heading to Jennings himself. He held extensive interviews with family members, known suspects, and even members of the taskforce. He was able to examine public records and uncovered evidence that pointed away from the serial killer theory being pushed by local law enforcement. He began to theorize that the killings were a complex cover-up, orchestrated by authorities. The victims knew each other well, had similar life stories, and relatives claimed many of the victims had seemed abnormally frightened or anxious before their disappearances. He learned in his interviews that family members believed the victims couldn’t rely on police protection, despite working with police as informants (Ott).

            A member of the sheriff’s office, David Barry, was pointed to by multiple witnesses. He was known by witnesses to have taken his wife and gone around the south side looking for sex workers, whom they would drug with spiked drinks and bring home to a sex room in their house. Barry died in 2010 and was only sat down for one interview, no charges ever being brought against him. Frankie Richard remained a suspect for many following the case, as he was known to have had sexual relationships with multiple victims (Ott).

            After Brown published his article on Medium, he got a deal for a book, which would be published in 2016. A contact told Brown during this time that they had heard, more than once, that he would never get the book out. Understandably, Brown was hesitant to continue investigating in Jennings for some time after. In the end, his book was published and dropped a major bombshell: then Louisiana Congressman Charles Boustany owned a hotel in Jennings with a less-than-respectable reputation. He was known to have had sex with three of the Jennings Eight victims at this hotel. Boustany sued Brown and his publisher for defamation, but dropped the charges in December of 2016 after he lost the senate election (Ott).

            To this day, the case of the Jennings Eight, also referred to at the Jeff Davis Eight, remains unsolved. What happened to these eight women will remain only known to the perpetrators until such a time as the case is solved. Is there a serial killer out there that was operating around Jennings, Louisiana from 2005 to 2009? Was it a police cover-up? Did the victims know something that resulted in their deaths? Did Lawrence and Dixon have something to do with the murders? Or perhaps Frankie Richard? Until further notice, the answers will remain unknown.

Group, Rebel. “Unsolved Jeff Davis 8 Case Blamed On Unknown Serial Killer–But The Solution Is Closer To Home”. Prnewswire.Com, 2019, https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/unsolved-jeff-davis-8-case-blamed-on-unknown-serial-killerbut-the-solution-is-closer-to-home-300946446.html

Brown, Ethan. “Who Killed The Jeff Davis 8?”. Medium, 2014, https://medium.com/matter/who-killed-the-jeff-davis-8-d1b813e13581#.f5oc6bevp.

Ott, Tim. “Jeff Davis 8: The True Story Of The ‘Murder In The Bayou’ Killings”. Biography, 2020, https://www.biography.com/news/murder-in-the-bayou-jeff-davis-8-true-story.

Bureau of Investigation, Federal. “MURDER VICTIMS | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”. Federal Bureau Of Investigation, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/murder-victims?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=5dc2f92522fae1accb396a6945367315de05008e-1622430899-0-AROSuL8tOYs1HvgQJsO-WPsk_nCqYAisYqOQwUTy_MpEf30pah1CQ7p3mM0Puu5G_W-w15K7XFrHYc9oB9wwtanhm8TkGTdckn5eUSyHMzc4JYZ6Yfu3_DXIy0PpI4JQVQY-eRfeca2iObszqSx8bgvtK6_WmqFN6V783mKCGaB7Ypo8v0X3mDqRZPIU56vlTiT4pFUfYoZHhwnCJ6sXnkGK6Qb3B-iivvz7Q9bW4MZlzPiVN_uFTawf5TmtAH5cM14kFhvoDG45gZmjP4j8wPEQlmuf0dItEVV2m66F35_kbs0bPZjbk9CwedXMKuOsla-RczgvRLQTKRaJavr247L4BOWcUI43QE2RP4AYVQLTJXtwO1F3V1K3B6Ft-pY2dLJ9ZcnaKqO18gRPgoMLp6SlwpooNb1LKo-mac5_vQ0zwcR50JiSz4LTmpNyn-ftQCh1qGauDHevEhrPuWBbNxoUBi0jJBrj_Z3E7UtgIdFQO7I3sbZzQjIqQXagBZss3w.

Natalee Holloway: 16 Years Missing

               Natalee Holloway was 18 in May of 2005, freshly graduated from high school and getting ready to attend the University of Alabama on a full academic scholarship to study pre-med. She was the oldest child of Dave Holloway and Beth (Holloway) Twitty, who divorced in 1993. Natalee lived primarily with her younger brother, Matthew, and her mother, Beth. She was an honors student, member of the school dance team, and part of the American Field Service, which was aimed at helping exchange student acclimate to the life and culture of the United States. Her uncle, Paul Reynolds, described her as naïve, and she was known to attend church regularly. She was a young woman of routine (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). By all accounts, the 18-year old from Birmingham, Alabama would not have disappeared the way that she did. The blonde haired, blue eyed young woman, standing at only five feet four inches tall and weighing in at approximately 110 pounds (“NATALEE ANN HOLLOWAY | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”), should have been at the Holiday Inn on May 30, 2005, when the rest of her classmates were gathering to depart for home. Instead, she was nowhere to be found.

               Natalee Holloway was one of 124 senior’s from Mountain Brook High School on a trip to Aruba to celebrate graduating high school. The group traveled to Aruba on May 26, 2005, along with seven chaperones and the intention to depart on May 30, 2005 (Ott).  On the final night of their stay, a large group of the seniors went to Carlos ‘N Charlie’s Nightclub in Oranjestad, Aruba, which closed at one AM. The group split at the time, some heaving back to the Holiday Inn they were staying in while others went out to various other bars. The last time Natalee was seen was at one-thirty AM on May 30, 2005, wearing a multicolored halter top, black flip flops, and a blue denim skirt. She was in a silver Honda with three men later identified as Joran van der Sloot, 17, Deepak Kalpoe, 21, and Satish Kalpoe, 18 (“NATALEE ANN HOLLOWAY | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”). It is reported by some that Natalee had met van der Sloot at the hotel casino. Van der Sloot is a Dutch national, who was living at nearby Noord, Aruba at the time of Natalee’s disappearance. He was spotted dancing and drinking with Natalee at the bar before it closed that night (Ott).

               In the morning, as the rest of the seniors gathered to leave Aruba, it was apparent that Natalee was not among her peers. Her belongings were still in her room and a chaperone was quick to alert her mother to the situation (“NATALEE ANN HOLLOWAY | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”)(Ott). Beth Twitty and her husband, Jug, flew to Aruba that night with some family friends to begin the search for her missing child.  They question anyone that might have seen Natalee, which eventually led them to Joran van der Sloot. When questioned by the group, he admitted to leaving the bar with Natalee as well as the Kalpoe brothers, but claimed they dropped Natalee off at the Holiday inn after they went shark-watching at a nearby lighthouse, called the California Lighthouse (Ott) (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). Van der Sloot led the group back to the Holiday Inn to point out a security guard he claimed he saw help Natalee into the hotel, but was unable to locate the man he was supposedly looking for (Ott). He reportedly claimed that she had fallen and hit her head when they dropped her off (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021).

               The first local search team was organized on June 1, 2005, made up of approximately 100 tourists and locals, which later expanded to include Aruban police, 3 F-16 fighter planes from the Netherlands, volunteers from Texas, and the Dutch Marines (Ott). On June 5th, the first of many unfruitful arrests in the case were made. Two former security guards, who had been employed at a hotel closed for renovations (Ott), were arrested after van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers claimed they saw a guard approach Natalee after they dropped her off. The two were released within two weeks, on June 18th. One of the former guards told investigators that one of the Kalpoe brothers had talked to him while he was in custody, claiming he was told that the three had lied and the brothers had left Natalee on the beach with van der Sloot instead of taking her to the Holiday Inn. Van der Sloot’s home was searched following this, leading to the seizure of computers, cameras, and two vehicles. The beach was also searched again (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021).  Paulus van der Sloot was also arrested, along with a DJ for party boats, but both were released (Ott).       

               Van der Sloot and the Kalpoe brothers were arrested on June 9th, an arrest made partially due to the pressure coming down on Chiefe Gerold Dompig from family and friends of Natalee. The Kalpoe brothers officially changed their story at this time, claiming to have dropped Natalee and van der Sloot off at the Fisherman’s Hut, a spot near the beach that was between the Holiday Inn and the Marriott hotel (Ott) (CNN.com – Aruban police seek�suspect’s shoes – Aug 1, 2005, 2005). On the 4th of July, 2005, a judge orders the Kalpoe brothers to be released, while van der Sloot was ot held for a further 60 days (Ott).

               Hope came on July 17th, when a strand of Duct tape was found on Aruba’s northeast coast with hair strands on it. Unfortunately, this proves to be a false hope, as the DNA from the hair did not match Natalee. Reports came in alter in July, on the 26th, that a young man and an older man were seen around the pond next to the Marriott Hotel, behaving suspiciously (Ott) (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). Other reports say that it was the three main suspects that were spotted. Investigators began to drain the pond to investigate, hoping to find evidence of Natalee or the sneaker van der Sloot was notably missing, but stopped draining on July 30th (Ott).  The missing shoe has been a noted unusual bit of the mystery, even mentioned by van der Sloot spoke with Fox News in March 2006; the shoe is a size 14 sneaker, brand new and in blue and white (Ott) (CNN.com – Aruban police seek�suspect’s shoes – Aug 1, 2005, 2005). Van der Sloot claims he lost the shoe that night while at the beach with Natalee (CNN.com – Aruban police seek�suspect’s shoes – Aug 1, 2005, 2005).

               In late August of 2005, the Kalpoe brothers were again arrested, and a week later, both brothers and van der Sloot were released on the condition that they would remain available to investigators. A civil suit was filed against in van der Sloot and his father in mid-February 2006, claiming that van der Sloot has, “malicious, wanton and willful disregard of the rights, safety and well-being” of Natalee Holloway. The suit also claimed that Paulus van der Sloot had enabled Joran’s behavior. In August of that year, the suit was dismissed (Ott).  Van der Sloot notably spoke about the case often during the time he could freely travel, seeming to enjoy the “fame” the case had brought him. He notably was also quick to anger when questioned about the case by others (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). Knowing this, it should be no surprise that van der Sloot appeared on Fox news in early March 2006, where he spoke about his side of the story. He detailed drinking with Natalee at the Carlos ‘N Charlie’s Nightclub before leaving her on the beach that night. The interview aired over three days (Ott).

               After a failed wrongful death suit was filed against the Kalpoe brothers in 2006, they along with can der Sloot were arrested again in late November 2007. Van der Sloot was taken into custody at the school he attended in the Netherlands and the Kalpoe brothers were taken in in Aruba, under the pretense of new evidence coming to light. Unfortunately, the evidence was not enough and they were all released in early December 2007. Meanwhile, the investigation continued as an American research vessel and a remote-operated vehicle spotted what could have been a human skull in a fish trap in Aruba. Divers were sent down, but nothing relevant was found in the trap (Ott).

               A private investigator, Tim Miller, was hired by Dave Holloway in 2008 to continue the investigation. During this time, a man came forward, calling himself Marcos, claiming that drug runners had been hired to dispose of Natalee’s remains at sea. According to Marcos, these drug runners had actually taken her remains to Nicaragua, where they disposed of them in a hidden place that he could find. In hopes that this might be the lead he needed, Miller headed to Nicaragua to meet with Marcos. He offered to use a GPS tracker to find the supposed hiding place, and Miller reportedly received a phone call from Marcos claiming he had found her remains. Marcos told him to call Holloway and inform him that he had found her, which Miller didn’t do as he didn’t want to give Holloway false hope. In his call, Marcos claimed to have found her body wrapped up and badly decomposed, needing to transport her in two ice chests. Marcos never returned with her supposed remains, and has never been seen nor heard from again (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021).

               Van der Sloot continues to be the prime suspect in the case. In early 2008, he was caught on hidden camera footage by Dutch reported Peter R. de Vries. On video, he’s heard claiming Natalee collapsed suddenly on the beach and he had a friend dispose of her remains at sea when he couldn’t revive her (Ott). He claimed that he had sex with Natalee that night, and afterwards she began to shake violently and collapse (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021). Later, he claimed that he was lying in the hidden camera footage (Ott). Two years later, in early 2010, Paulus van der Sloot died suddenly from a heart attack (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021), and Joran van der Sloot, possible desperate for money following his father’s death, emailed Beth Twitty’s lawyer, John Q. Kelly. In the email he offered to reveal where Natalee was buried, in exchange for $25,000 up front and a further $225,000 after. An agreement was struck and the information was sent to the FBI (Ott).

               On May 10, 2010, nearly five years to the day that Natalee disappeared, Kelly headed to Aruba with $10,000 to meet van der Sloot in Aruba. He was lead to a house, where van der Sloot claimed his gather had buried Natalee in the foundation. With the information in hand, a further $15,000 was transferred to van der Sloot’s account in the Netherlands, with the understanding that he would turn himself in the next day. Instead of turning himself in, van der Sloot travels to Peru with the money to engage in a poker tournament (Ott). This would prove to be his downfall.

               On May 30, 2010, five years to the day of Natalee’s disappearance, van der Sloot murdered 21-year old Stephany Flores in his hotel room in Lima, Peru. The body wasn’t immediately discovered, as he left instructions for housekeeping not to disturb his girlfriend. She was found beaten to death in the room. He was arrested on June 3, 2010, in Vina Del Mar, Chile. He was found in a taxi, hair cut and dyed red as if he was trying to disguise him. While being held in the high-security Castro Castro Prison, he was indicted in the United States for wire fraud and extortion as part of an investigation into the $25, 000 he got from Twitty and her lawyer. When questioned as to why he wasn’t arrested after the wire payment, investigators said they didn’t have enough evidence. Unfortunately, this allowed van der Sloot to murder Flores (Ott).

               At trial in January 2012, van der Sloot plead guilty to the murder of Stephany Flores.  His defense lawyers claim it was his mental state to blame, as he was under extreme stress from the continued investigation into Natalee Holloway’s disappearance. The prosecution had another view: he had murdered Flores for the same motivation that so many others have had, money. Flores had won during the poker tournament he had traveled to Peru for. The next day, on January 12, 2012, Natalee Holloway is officially declared dead at Dave Holloway’s request. Beth Twitty was against this, as she still hopes to bring her daughter home alive. Van der Sloot was sentenced to 28 years in prison and ordered to pay $75,000 to the Flores family in reparations for her death. While this seemed a sign of hope for Natalee’s family, it was crushed when it was learned that he would not be extradited until after his sentence was fulfilled (Ott).

               Oxygen aired the series, The Disappearance of Natalee Holloway, in 2017. A man named John Lucwick came forward claiming that van der Sloot paid him $1,500 to dispose of Natalee’s remains. He claimed that most of her bones were crushed, but her skull was doused in gasoline and burned to get rid of any evidence still on the skull. Ludwick claimed that van der Sloot told him Natalee had died after having a bad reaction to some drugs he had slipped her. Unfortunately, Ludwick was fatally stabbed in March 2018, after allegedly attempting to kidnap and ex-girlfriend he was apparently stalking at knife point. During the duration of filming for the series, remains were found, but were identified as not being Natalee Holloway (Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online, 2021).

               Officially, the Natalee Holloway case remains unsolved. Most believe that Joran van der Sloot is responsible for whatever happened to Natalee Holloway in the very early morning of May 30, 2005. It is possible we will never get an official answer, unless van der Sloot finally tells the truth about what happened that night or Natalee’s remains are finally found. It has been nearly 16 years now, and her family is still searching for answers. If you believe you may have information relating to Natalee Holloway’s disappearance, please contact your local FBI office (“NATALEE ANN HOLLOWAY | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”).

“NATALEE ANN HOLLOWAY | Federal Bureau Of Investigation”. Federal Bureau Of Investigation, https://www.fbi.gov/wanted/seeking-info/natalee-ann-holloway.

Cnn.com. 2005. CNN.com – Aruban police seek�suspect’s shoes – Aug 1, 2005. [online] Available at: <https://www.cnn.com/2005/LAW/08/01/aruba.missing/index.html&gt; [Accessed 17 May 2021].

E! Online. 2021. Photos from Untangling the Disappearance of Natalee Holloway – E! Online. [online] Available at: <https://www.eonline.com/photos/28082/untangling-the-disappearance-of-natalee-holloway> [Accessed 17 May 2021].

Ott, Tim. “Natalee Holloway: A Complete Timeline Of Her Disappearance In Aruba And Unsolved Case”. Biography, 2021, https://www.biography.com/news/natalle-holloway-murder-timeline.

The Tragedy of Sid and Nancy

               On the morning of October 12, 1978, employees at the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan were called up to room 100. The initial reports called in by other guests at 7:30 AM about the room were in concern: a woman could be heard moaning presumably in pain from the room. At 10 AM, the inhabitant of the room called down for help himself (“Sid And Nancy: A Punk Rock Murder Mystery”). The occupant was ex-bassist of the broken up Sex Pistols, Sid Vicious. Upon investigating the call, workers find 20-year old Nancy Spungen dead from a single stab wound to the abdomen in the bathroom, clothed only in her underwear, and Vicious wandering the hall in an apparent drug induced haze. At the time, he was wailing that he had killed Spungen (“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”).

               Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen came from different, yet somehow similar, backgrounds. Vicious was born to a single mother, Anne Beverly, who struggled with substance abuse just as her son would later in life (“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”). He spent time in Ibiza, Kent, and London throughout his childhood and was used by his mother to smuggle marijuana between Spain and England. At 16, Vicious was kicked out by his mother (Maloney). Vicious played the drums for Souixsie, the Banshees, and Flowers of Romance before joining the Sex Pistols as their bassist in 1977, despite not knowing how to play the bass. By the mid-1970s, Sid Vicious was a fixture of the punk scene in Londo (“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”).

               Spungen was born in Philadelphia, PA, and reportedly suffered some form of brain trauma at birth. She is said to have been incredibly intelligent, but also a violent child. In one noted instance, she allegedly attempted to kill a babysitter with a pair of scissors (Maloney). Some sources report that she graduated high school at 16-years old (Shelton), while others report that she was expelled from school and diagnosed with schizophrenia at 15-years old (Maloney). Regardless, she is known to have attended the University of Colorado for a time, before either dropping out (Shelton) or being expelled after being arrested. She was arrested for possession of stolen property and either dealing to or buying marijuana from an undercover police officer (“Sid And Nancy: A Punk Rock Murder Mystery”)(Shelton). At the age of 17, Nancy Spungen ran away from home and to New York City, where she found work as a sex worker (“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”)(“Sid And Nancy: A Punk Rock Murder Mystery”). She found her way to London in early 1977 and became a well-known groupie, though she was unliked by many other groupies of the time. She was known to have been loud and obnoxious, only tolerated by the musicians because of her ability to obtain drugs for them. She met Vicious after her initial attempt at gaining Sex Pistols front man Johnny Rotten’s attention and being spurned. She turned her eyes to Vicious, and their lives were set from there(“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”).

               The two quickly became inseparable. Where Sid went, Nancy followed, and if Nancy was there, Sid was never far behind. Compared to Nancy, who was more experienced in both sex and drugs and was known for her loud behavior, Sid was shy. He seemed interested in what she knew about the world, while she was looking for the kind of affection he offered her. They moved into a loft in West London together, where they could fall further and further into their substance abuse. Their relationship was a frustration to the rest of the band and their management. Spungen’s behavior and personality was grating to the other members of the band, to the extent that they banned her from their US tour in 1978. The band’s management even admitted to trying to have her “kidnapped” and sent back to New York City at one point, which was impossible to do thanks to the inseparable nature of the couple. During the tour in 1978, Vicious’s behavior was even more erratic than before, likely in retaliation for Spungen’s banning from the tour. He went as far as breaking his bass over a fan’s head during this time, and the band broke up during the tour. After the band broke up, Vicious went on a spree that ended with an overdose that landed him in a hospital in Queens, New York City. Spungen reunited with him after his discharge and the two moved to Paris, France, to take part in a mockumentary on the Sex Pistols, The Great Rock ‘N’ Roll Swindle. Spungen’s presence turned out to be detrimental to the production, as the two rarely left their room, Spungen faking a suicide attempt on one of the rare occasions Vicious did go to set (“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”).

               Eventually, this turbulent and dependent relationship was likely destined to end in tragedy. The end began in August of 1978, when the couple moved into Manhattan’s Chelsea Hotel. From room 100, Spungen acted as Vicious new manager and the two lived in the world they had made for themselves. Just two short months later on October 11, 1978, they would host a party. Vicious reportedly took Tuinal, a known powerful barbiturate mix, in a high dose. The 30 or so pills caused Vicious to spend most of the party in a drug-induced stupor, nearly comatose while various people filtered through the party. By the morning, his life would be over as he knew it (“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”).

               On the morning of October 12, 1978, Sid Vicious found the woman he loved dead on their bathroom floor. When police arrived, Vicious was in a stupor still from the Tuinal he took the night before and confessed to killing Spungen, but later redacted this statement. He gave multiple stories about what happened that night. He said they had fought that night and, while he had stabbed her, he hadn’t meant to kill her. Later, he claimed she actually fell on his knife before finally saying he couldn’t remember the night at all. The knife used to kill Spungen was found to be identical the the “007” flip knife Vicious owned, bought down on 42nd street (Shelton). Vicious was released on bail the same day and attempted suicide, using broken shards of a lightbulb (“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”)(Shelton). He was taken in to Bellevue hospital for observation after his attempt, where he attempted to jump out one of the hospital windows. According to witnesses, he was saying, “I want to be with my Nancy” (Shelton).

               In the months leading up to Sid Vicious’s deaths, he did interviews and partied. During one such interview he talked about Spungen’s death and how he felt it was meant to happen. According to Vicious, Spungen had spoken about how she would die before 21 many times. In the same interview, Vicious talked about wanting to be “under the ground,” a statement that likely gives insight into his mental state at the time. In December of 1978, Vicious got in a fight with Todd Smith, the brother of Patti Smith, and ended up spending 55 days in Riker’s prison for detox (Shelton).  In February of 1979, Vicious was released from Riker’s and decided to throw a celebration. It was meant to be a celebration of his freedom, but in the end it was more of a going away party. Vicious sent his mother to get the heroin he wanted for his celebration, and on February 2, 1979, Sid Vicious was found dead from a heroin overdose (“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”).

               Anne Beverly claimed that she found a letter from Vicious after his death, stating, “We had a death pact, and I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me by my baby. Goodbye.” Debbie Spungen, Nancy’s mother, also received a letter from Vicious after her daughter’s death that spoke of a death pact between the two. According to the letter, the two had planned to due in each other’s arms, Vicious promising Spungen he would kill himself if anything ever happened to her (Maloney). Beverly claimed that Spungen’s death was actually suicide, and Vicious’s death was the completion of their pact, and she isn’t the only one who feels this was part of the story. Howie Pyro, Vicious’s friend and the guitarist for D Generation, has also spoken about the death pact. He believes that Spungen stabbed herself, though not necessarily in a suicide attempt. As she had faked a suicide attempt before for Vicious’s attention, he has stated he believes she stabbed herself in an attempt to get his attention again. Unfortunately, if this is the case, Vicious was far too drugged to have come to her aid (“Sid And Nancy: A Punk Rock Murder Mystery”).

               There are more theories about what actually happened that night. The obvious one is that Vicious did kill Spungen, though whether by accident or on purpose is up for debate. Other theories state that Spungen was a victim of a robbery gone wrong, possibly from drug dealers. A friend noted that large amounts of money were missing from room 100 after the party that fateful night, but this has never been confirmed by investigators. Phil Strongman proposes in his book, Pretty Vacant: A History of Punk, that Rockets Redglare was the killer (Shelton). Strongman isn’t the only person who believes this, despite the fact that Redglare insisted until the day he died in 2001 that he was not involved in Spungen’s death. Redglare sometimes worked as Vicious’s bodyguard and was known to have gotten the couple drugs on occasion. The theory goes that he was at the party that night and Spungen asked him to get more drugs and he found the couple unconscious when he returned. At the time, Vicious had a lot of money coming in from royalties related to a cover of Frank Sinatra’s My Way he had released, which could have been tempting to take when the couple were both out cold. Those who believe Redglare was involved believe he had decided to take some of this money and gotten into a fight with Spungen when she woke up during the burglary, resulting in her death. Redglare blamed another dealer, known only as “Michael,” who was never followed up on, and maintained his innocence from both the murder and the burglary until his death (“Sid And Nancy: A Punk Rock Murder Mystery”). Those who believe Vicious wasn’t the killer point to his physical state at the time, wandering in a drug-induced stupor. They believe he couldn’t have possibly killed Nancy Spungen (“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”).

               After Sid Vicious’s death, the investigation into Nancy Spungen’s death was dropped by investigators as they believed he was the killer. To this day, many in the punk scene believe he was set up and that someone else, perhaps even an officer, was holding the knife the night Spungen died (Shelton). At the time of his death, Sid Vicious was 22-years old, and Nancy Spungen was only 20 at the time she died. Spungen’s family did not give Anne Beverly permission to spread her son’s ashes on Spungen’s grace, but some claim she did so anyway. Others claim she dropped his urn in a Heathrow terminal, where his ashes were sent into the air vents and throughout the terminal (Maloney).

               Officially, the story of Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen is a tragedy with a mysterious end. It is likely that we will never have answers as to what really happened that night in room 100. Those who were there either won’t talk, can’t remember, or are no longer able to talk. Sid and Nancy will always be remembered as one of great couples of the punk scene in the 1970s. They will always be remembered in romanticized songs and movies, viewed as an almost Romeo & Juliet style romance. Perhaps they even saw themselves as such. What will always be remembered is their whirlwind romance and the haunting words, “I want to be with my Nancy.”

“Sid Vicious And Nancy Spungen: Their Turbulent And Tragic Love Story”. Biography, 2020, https://www.biography.com/news/sid-vicious-nancy-spungen-love-murder.

Shelton, Jacob. “Did Sid Vicious Kill Nancy Spungen? Everything We Know…”. Groovy History, 2020, https://groovyhistory.com/did-sid-vicious-kill-nancy-spungen-sex-pistols.

Maloney, Alison. “How Death Pact Of Sid And Nancy Led To Overdoses, Suicide & Murder In Hotel Room”. The US Sun, 2021, https://www.the-sun.com/entertainment/tv/2537924/sid-vicious-nancy-spungen-sex-pistols-murder/.

“Sid And Nancy: A Punk Rock Murder Mystery”. Crime+Investigation UK, https://www.crimeandinvestigation.co.uk/article/sid-and-nancy-a-punk-rock-murder-mystery.

The Deaths of the Yuba County Five

               It started as a trip to a collegiate basketball game. The five men, often referred to as “boys” by family and friends, were set to play their own basketball game for the recreation center they frequented. The group was excited for the upcoming game they would play in, which was part of the reason their families were alarmed when they had not arrived home the morning after the collegiate game. On February 24, 1978, the story of the Yuba Country Five began, and the nightmare of their families did as well (Rossen).

               The basketball game, which was at California State University, Chico, ended at approximately 10 PM that night. Jack Madruga, 30, had driven the group in his 1969 turquoise and white Mercury Montego, a car which would be forever associated with this case (Gorney). Madruga was an army veteran, having served in Vietnam, and was particularly close to William “Bill” Sterling, 28. The youngest of the group was Jackie Guett, 24, and the oldest was Theodore “Ted” Weiher, 32, who were as close as Sterling and Madruga.  The final member of the group was Gary Mathias, 25, who had also served in the army, but was discharged after drug issues while stationed in Germany and diagnosed with schizophrenia. Mathias left his medication, which he took regularly, behind that night, leading to the belief that he had planned on being home in time to take the next dose. The last time we are sure the five were seen was at a Behr’s Market, where they stopped for junk food on the way home from the game. From there, they drove east, despite that their homes were south of the store (Rossen).

               It was their parents that raised the alarm when they didn’t arrive home by the next morning. While Mathias was known to occasionally stay out late with friends, the other four were home-bodies with fairly regular schedules (Gorney). They were, for lack of a better word, predictable. The four not being home by morning was extremely unusual for them. Despite the families alerting authorities to the missing men, the abandoned car was not found until February 28th. The car still had gas in the tank, and most of the junk food had been eaten except half of a candy bar. The keys were not in the car and a window was left rolled down. Authorities theorized that the car had gotten stuck in the snow and for some reason, the five men who should have been able to get the car out chose to abandon it. According to Madruga’s mother, the Mercury Montego was Madruga’s prized possession and he wouldn’t have driven it somewhere it could have been damaged. The rolled down window also struck her as odd, both leading her to believe that the five had been forced to drive up the mountain (Rossen).

               After news broke of the disappearance, a witness came forward. Joseph Schons, 55, had been on the mountain the night the five men disappeared. According to his story, he had been driving up the mountain to see if the conditions were okay to bring his wife and child up at a later time when his car got stuck in a snowdrift. While trying to free his car, he suffered a minor heart attack (Rossen).  Schons claimed that, while resting in his car after his heart attack, he heard a whistling outside. When he left the car, he spotted five men and what appeared to be a woman with a baby in car headlights, and he heard them talking. He called to them for help only for the headlights to turn off and the talking to stop (Gorney). Schons also claimed to have seen two cars, one of which was a pickup truck, and the group get into one of the cars and drive away (Rae).  Early the next morning, Schons felt well enough to attempt to get help and left his car, heading for a lodge nearby. Along the way, he spotted the Mercury Montego, but at the time thought nothing of it. The car was 70 miles from the basketball game the group had attended. It was on the road that Schons reported he saw it on that the car was found, also called in by a park ranger (Rossen). The car was in the Plumas State Forest, just past Elke Retreat and sitting at elevation 4, 500 feet. Another witness, a woman who owned a store about an hour from the abandoned car, reported seeing five men in a red pickup truck. Two of the men stayed in the truck while two more bought food and one more made a phone call from a phone booth. This is not confirmed to have been the Yuba County Five (“The Haunting Case Of The Mathias Group (Yuba County Five) — Strangeoutdoors.Com”).

               In early June of 1978, motorcyclists came upon an abandoned forest service trailer 19 miles from the abandoned car with a broken window and an unusual, and thoroughly disgusting, scent permeating the area. Authorities were immediately called and inside, Weiher’s remains were found. Weiher had been draped in sheets, eight in total, in a manner that seemed almost ritualistic (Rae). His leather boots were missing from his body, his feet badly frost bitten, and he was emaciated. He had lost approximately 80 to 100 pounds, nearly halving his weight at the time he disappeared (Gorney). It was estimated, based on the growth of his beard and other factors in his autopsy, that he had been living in the trailer for eight to 13 weeks before his death (Rossen). What was unusual was that the trailer was filled with C-rations, only 36 of which were eaten, and freeze-dried meals (“The Haunting Case Of The Mathias Group (Yuba County Five) — Strangeoutdoors.Com”). The opened C-rations, which were military rations, had been opened with an Army P38 can opener, which only Mathias and Madruga would have known how to use from their time in the army. Weiher’s nickel ring, which his name engraved, his gold necklace, his wallet, and a Waltham watch missing crystals were all found on a table in the trailer. The watch was unfamiliar to the families (Gorney).  To add to the unusual discovery, there was a propane tank that could have been turned on and would have heated the trailer, as well as matches and plenty of material to start a fire to keep warm. Yet, none of these items had been used (Rossen).

               A day later, Madruga’s and Sterling’s remains were found 11 miles from the car (Gorney), on the opposite side of the road from the trailer containing Weiher’s remains and approximately 4.5 miles from the trailer. Authorities believed that their bodies had simply given up on them as the remaining members of the group continued on. The keys to the Mercury Montego were found on Madruga (Rossen). Madruga was found near a stream, having been dragged about 10 feet by animals that were scavenging his remains, lying face up and with his watch wrapped in his right hand. Sterling was not far, in a wooded area, scattered across a 50 foot area. All that was left of his remains were his bones (Gorney).

               Huett’s remains were found two days later, unfortunately by his father, Jack. Jack Huett found his son’s spine, and soon other bones were found in the area. His levi’s were found, along with his ripple-soled “Get Theres” shoes. The next day, his skull was found approximately 100 yards downhill from where the rest of his remains had been found by an assistant sheriff. The Huett family dentist was able to identify Huett through his dental records (Gorney). Mathias body has never been found, though his shoes were found in the trailer with Weiher’s body, leading to the belief that he may have taken the shoes, which would have been better for the terrain (Rae).

               Northwest of the trailer by a quarter mile, three wool blankets from the forest service were found along with a two-cell flashlight. The flashlight was turned off and rusted, but how long it had been there was unable to be determined (Gorney). Schons had claimed to have seen flashlights outside his car while he was still waiting for help to come, though this story is questionable due to his condition at the time (Rae).  Several more tips have been called in in the years since the five disappeared, but none have panned out beyond Schons’ statement. The families even turned to psychics, who predicted things such as the five had been kidnapped and were being held in either Nevada or Arizona, or that they had been murdered. According to the psychic, the five had been killed in a red house, possibly stained wood or brick, that was two stories and in Oroville, numbered either 4723 or 4753. This home was searched for, but it was found to not exist at all (Rae). Weiher’s sister-in-law has her own theory: the five saw something, whether they knew it or not, at the basketball game that night that prompted someone to follow them, or chase them, into the mountains (Rossen).

               The Yuba County Five are remembered by their families. Ted Weiher, who had an intellectual disability, was known to have worked as a janitor and at a snack bar for a period of time before his family urged him to quit due to worry about the stress. Jackie Huett, while not diagnosed with any disabilities, was frequently described as being “slow” by those around him. Bill Sterling was known to be a generous person, often volunteering at mental institutions doing things such as reading to patients. He was known to be a man of his faith, often bringing the Bible with him to the institutions. Just like Weiher, Sterling was known to be intellectually disabled. Jack Madruga was known to be a good friend, and was the only one of the five who could drive. He was also known to be disabled. Gary Mathias was doing well after struggling for a few years with his schizophrenia and had been working for his step-father, Bob, part-time as a gardener at his landscaping business. The five were all part of the Gate Way Project, a project in Yuba County for people with disabilities, and played basketball for the Special Olympics together. On the night they disappeared, none of them were dressed for the weather, which was likely part of their unfortunate fate (Rae).

Rossen, Jake. “‘Bizarre As Hell’: The Disappearance Of The Yuba County Five”. Mentalfloss.Com, 2018, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/532063/bizarre-hell-disappearance-yuba-county-five.

Gorney, Cynthia. “5 ‘Boys’ Who Never Come Back”. 5 ‘Boys’ Who Never Come Back, 1978, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/lifestyle/1978/07/06/5-boys-who-never-come-back/f8b30b11-baeb-4351-89f3-26456a76a4fb/. Accessed 4 Apr 2021.

Rae, Kendall. The Bizarre Disappearance Of The Yuba County 5. Youtube.Com, 2019.

“The Haunting Case Of The Mathias Group (Yuba County Five) — Strangeoutdoors.Com”. Strangeoutdoors.Com, 2017, https://www.strangeoutdoors.com/mysterious-stories-blog/2017/12/7/mathias-group-from-yuba-city.

The Lake Bodom Murders

          In the 2016 film, “Lake Bodom”, a group of teenagers set out to recreate a gruesome unsolved murder by camping in the site it occurred and recreating the night as it was known. While the movie is fiction, the crime they were recreating is unfortunately very, very real (Grey). The murders, known as both the Lake Bodom murders and the Bodominjärvi Murders (“Lake Bodom Murders”), were horrific and remain unsolved.

          The murders occurred on June 5, 1960, at Lake Bodom, near Espoo, Finland. The group of four was composed of two 15-year olds, Maila Björklund and Anja Mäki, and two 18-year olds, Nils Gustafsson and Seppo Boisman. Reportedly, the two young men were dating the two 15-year old girls. What started as a normal camping trip became a nightmare by early morning hours, as three of the four campers were murdered somewhere between four AM and six AM. The single survivor was Gustafsson, who was found unconscious lying on top of the tent with a concussion and fractured jaw (Grey). The bodies were found by Risto Siren at 11 AM, who raised the alarm on the situation. Investigators arrived around noon (“Lake Bodom Murders”).

          The tent was torn from the attack, the three teenage victims bludgeoned and stabbed to death inside. The attack likely occurred from the outside of the tent, explaining the damage done to it. The killer likely never entered the tent at all (“Lake Bodom Murders”). Several objects were taken from the scene, including the murder weapons and the keys to the teenagers’ motorcycles, though the motorcycles were still at the scene (Grey). Among the missing items was also the wallets of the victims and their clothes (“Lake Bodom Murders”). While one murder weapon has been identified as likely being a knife, the weapon that caused the bludgeoning damage is unidentified and neither weapon was ever found. Unfortunately, the initial investigation was botched during efforts to retrieve the missing objects, many of which were never retrieved (Grey).

          The investigators that handled the case were not on the scene until six hours later, and the scene was never cordoned off as it should have been. Soldiers were called in to help search for the missing items, helping to find the clothing missing from the victims as well as Gustafsson’s missing shoes some ways away from the scene. While this was helpful in finding some of the missing items, it lead to contamination of the evidence (Grey).

          An unidentified blond man was seen leaving the scene of the murders by birdwatchers that morning, but who this man was has never been officially identified (Grey). A local fisherman also reported seeing a blond man near the scene, but due to the description being so vague, neither account was followed up on (“Lake Bodom Murders”). There have been other suspects, however. A man who ran a kiosk for camping, who reportedly hated campers and was known to throw rocks at campers and break peoples’ tents, Karl (also named as Valdemar (Eckmeier)) Gyllström, was one of the first suspects. Some of the witnesses identified him as the blond man seen that morning, and Gyllström had reportedly confessed to the murders on several occasions over the years in varying states of inebriation (Grey). According to a neighbor to whom he had confessed, he disposed of the murder weapons by throwing them into a well, which he had filled not long after the murder. Police did investigate the well (“Lake Bodom Murders”). Gyllström was never linked to the crime with evidence and investigators have stated they felt he was an unstable individual and that his confessions couldn’t be taken seriously (Grey). His wife gave an alibi for the night of the murders, but redacted her story on her death bed (“Lake Bodom Murders”). Gyllström died in 1969, drowning in Lake Bodom in what many felt was a suicide due to guilt for the murders (Grey). Officially, Gyllström was never charged and never named officially as a suspect.

          Hans Assmann, a former Nazi and rumored to have once been a KGB agent (Grey), though there is no evidence to prove this (Eckmeier), is another suspect that many point to. Assmann lived near the lake and, on the morning of June 6th, was at a hospital in Helsinki covered in red-strained clothing and with dirty nails. Doctors at the hospital identified the red stained as blood, and later one of the doctors, Dr. Jorma Palo, would write books about Assmann possibly being the killer (Grey). At the hospital, Assmann was reportedly acting suspiciously, aggressively, and anxiously, and even tried to use a fake name (Eckmeier). Assmann was found by one detective to possibly be connected to the murder of Kyllikki Saari in 1953. Despite these things, investigators never seriously investigated Assmann, reportedly because he had an alibi for that night. Some believe his political connections are actually why he was never investigated (Grey). Assman is also suspected in other murders, including a young girl who was run over and two girls who were out camping just like the Lake Bodom victims (Eckmeier).

          Over 40 years after the horrific murders occurred, investigators arrested survivor, Nils Gustafsson. It was a shocking turn of events. New evidence, including DNA and bloodstain analysis, reportedly pointed to Gustafsson, as well as a witness who apparently came forward after 40 painful years of silence (Grey). This witness, however came forward for a television interview, but would not speak with police and the account was not taken as being 100% reliable (“Lake Bodom Murders”). Gustafsson’s trial commenced in August of 2005, where a life sentence was on the table. The prosecution argued that his target that night had been his girlfriend, Maila Björkland, and that the other two victims were murdered to get rid of any witnesses. His injuries that night, according to the prosecution, were due to a fight with Boisman that night and that some had been self-inflicted to deflect suspicion. The story argued by the prosecution also included a half-mile long hike to hide Gustafsson’s shoes as well as the clothing of the victims. This, the defense argued, made no sense when the severity of Gustafsson’s injuries were taken into account. He was too injured to commit the murders, or hike so far (Grey). Unfortunately for Gustafsson, he was initially sentenced, but a year later was acquitted of the charges brought against him (“Lake Bodom Murders”) and received pay from the government for the time he spent in prison during the trial and the emotional damage he sustained during the proceedings (Grey).

          As of now, the case has remained open and unsolved since Gustafsson’s acquittal in 2005 (“Lake Bodom Murders”). Most likely, this case that still divides residents of Finland to this day, will forever remain unsolved.

Grey, Orrin. “Lake Bodom Murders: 60 Years Later, Finland’S Infamous Killings Remain A Mystery”. Https://The-Line-Up.Com, 2020, https://the-line-up.com/lake-bodom-murders.

“Lake Bodom Murders”. Unsolved Crimes, https://solvedandunsolvedcrimes.wordpress.com/2019/08/11/lake-bodom-murders-1960/.

Eckmeier, Allison. “True Crime: Lake Bodom Murders”. Medium, 2017, https://medium.com/@allisoneckmeier/true-crime-lake-bodom-murders-c9070a197de9.

Lizzie Borden Took An “Axe”

            If you grew up in the United States, or at least in Massachusetts, you’ve probably heard the old rhyme. Even if you don’t know the story of Lizzie Borden, at some point in time, probably on the school yard or in a classroom, you’ve most likely joined in.

Lizzie Borden took an axe,
And gave her mother forty whacks,
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one

            The rhyme may change a bit, depending on who you’ve heard it from, but the overall theme is still there, though the facts aren’t quite right.

            The murders occurred on August 4, 1892, in Fall River, MA. Andrew and Abby Borden, the wealthy parents of the now infamous Lizzie Borden, were found separately in their home. Andrew had been attacked so viciously that his face appeared to have nearly been split in half. Abby was found upstairs, dead from a similar attack, and later determined to have been murdered first (History.com Editors 2010). Lizzie raised the alarm, calling for the family maid, Bridget “Maggie” Sullivan, whom had just finished washing the outside windows and laid down. Lizzie had found her father, beaten nearly beyond recognition, on their living room couch. Authorities were quickly alerted, and approximately a half an hour after they arrived and began to investigate, Abby Borden was found. Abby, Lizzie’s step-mother, was found upstairs by a neighbor who had come to comfort Lizzie. Her body was cold, which lead to the belief that she had been killed first, since Andrew was still warm (Linder). We know now, more than a century later, that the rooms in the house had different microclimates that could have explained this. The room Abby was in was several degrees different in temperature from the room Andrew was murdered in, and could have caused Abby’s blood to coagulate faster. The initial estimate of the time window was made based more on the blood coagulation than anything else, and we now know that instead of one-to-two hours, the time window could have been as small as 15-20 minutes (Lizzie Borden: The Curious Life And Death Of…).

            It was reported at the time that, while the murder was gruesome, there was no signs of a struggle in the room where Andrew was found. Supposedly a man who worked for Andrew Borden, referred to as a “Portuguese laborer” at the time, was seen visiting the residence the morning of the murder to get his pay. It was believed that Andrew had told the man he couldn’t pay him at the time and to return another time, leading to the murder. Newspapers reported that medical evidence suggested a tall man had attacked Abby Borden from behind, placing suspicion in the man who visited that morning (Linder).

            It didn’t take long for suspicion to fall on Lizzie Borden, who was 33-years old at the time. Only two days after the murders, a clerk at the local drug store S.R. Smith’s, Eli Bence, came forward with information: Lizzie had been at the shop the day before the killings looking to buy prussic acid, also known as cyanide. Lizzie claimed to have little knowledge of her step-mother’s whereabouts after 9 AM, at which time she claimed Abby went upstairs to fix the pillows. She also gave the investigators a story about looking for lead sinkers for a fishing trip in the barn in the backyard during the short period of time Andrew Borden was murdered in. This was considered unlikely, however, as the barn was dusty inside and there were no signs that anyone had been inside recently. It didn’t take long for the intruder theory to be brought into question and for a “leading physician” to speak out. He claimed that the hacking action the Borden’s were subjected to was a sign of a woman who was acting without consciousness (Linder).

At the same time, the Boston Herald began to report on the murder. While the family insisted that Lizzie had a good relationship with Abby, the Herald reported that they frequently fought and hadn’t been speaking for some time. Strangely, while the Herald seemed to be pointing suspicion her way, the writers there seemed to also feel that she was above reproach as she had no history of being unkind in a deliberate manner. Despite this, Lizzie seemed the most likely suspect. Bridget Sullivan was outside washing the windows and her sister, Emma Borden, was not even at the home at the time of the murder. On August 9th, Lizzie, Bridget, and a house guest, John Morse, were questioned in front of the local magistrate Josiah Blaisdell by District Attorney Hosea Knowlton (Linder). Morse had a seemingly strong alibi – he was visiting relatives fairly far from the Borden residence and left early that morning, traveling on a horse car with six priests. The driver of the car was questioned, but couldn’t remember Morse despite remembering the priests. Morse’s relatives confirmed, however, that he was visiting them at the time (Lizzie Borden: The Curious Life And Death Of…). Lizzie did so poorly on examination that, two days later after the inquest ended, she was arrested by Police Chief Hilliard. She was taken from Fall River to Taunton, approximately eight miles north of her home town. While she plead “not guilty,” after her preliminary hearing on August 22nd Judge Blaisdell found it likely that she was guilty and she was ordered to appear in front of a grand jury.  (Linder). It is worth noting that Lizzie was under the influence of a double dose of morphine during the inquest, which could explain why she had conflicting answers during her four-hour examination (Lizzie Borden: The Curious Life And Death Of…).

The trial was a spectacle. It convened in November and initially the jury was reluctant to bring an indictment, but were reconvened when new testimony was to be given. Family friend Alice Russel, who had stayed with the Borden sisters in the days following the murders, testified that she had seen Lizzie burning a blue dress, which Lizzie claimed was due to the dress being covered in paint. Bridget had testified earlier that Lizzie had worn a blue dress the morning the deaths occurred, and these testimonies combined resulted in an indictment being brought down upon Lizzie Borden. The trial began on June 5, 1893, Lizzie represented by a team of lawyers including Andrew Jennings and George Robinson, who was once the governor of Massachusetts. Representing the state was District Attorney Knowlton and Thomas Moody, who undoubtedly had a case ahead of them proving a woman was capable of such a crime in the Victorian Era (Linder).

The trial began with a show: Moody exposed the skulls of Andrew and Abby Borden accidentally while giving his opening speech, which reportedly caused Lizzie to go “into a feint” which is illustrated in one of the most famous images from the trial (Linder). A hatchet found in the basement, with the handle broken off, was presented as the possible murder weapon by the prosecution. The defense argued that without a handle, the hatchet could not be used as a weapon, and the handle was never found. The hatcher was also sent to Harvard University for analysis, along with a hair on it, but nothing came of it. The hair was from a cow, and when the remaining wood on the hatchet was soaked for blood evidence none was found. One of the judges, as it was a three-judge affair, found Lizzie’s testimony from her inquest was inadmissible, as her attorney wasn’t present at the time she was questioned. Despite this set back, the prosecution was sure they could still win with the testimony from Alice Russel on seeing Lizzie burn the dress. That is, until the defense put Emma Borden on the stand, where she testified that she had told Lizzie to burn an old raggedy dress (Lizzie Borden: The Curious Life And Death Of…).

             In total, the trial lasted three weeks. The famous rhyme came to life during those three weeks, and largely framed the case for the public despite the falsities in it. The morning of the final day, Lizzie wept, along with some men in the crowd and possibly even the judges, as she was found not guilty. While the upper class of Fall River seemed relieved that she was acquitted, the working class felt that she had gotten away with murder. Indeed, over a century later most people still believe she got away with the crime (Lizzie Borden: The Curious Life And Death Of…). The question remains: what really happened to Abby and Andrew Borden?

            Andrew was known to be a shrewd businessman and was not over well-liked. One speculation is that one of his business contacts could be responsible. Others who feel that Lizzie truly is the murderer have theories of her motives: money, freedom, and hatred. Andrew was a traditional Victorian man and had a great amount of control over Lizzie and Emma, who were both unmarried. He had no known will, meaning Abby would get his fortune should he die before her, and it was known that Lizzie and Emma both wanted to live a more lavish life that they did have the money for. They likely feared Abby getting all of his money if he were to die. After the trial was over, the sisters moved to a house in an area they had desired for some time and lived the lavish life they had wanted (Lizzie Borden: The Curious Life And Death Of…).

            There have been other speculations as well, over the years. In recent years people became aware of an unusual thing: on the morning of the murders, the front door was locked from the inside. The door had three locks on it, and usually two of the three locks were left unlocked for Andrew to come home for his morning nap, but on the day of the murders the door was locked. Bridget testified that she remembered hearing Lizzie laughing at her from the stairs as she struggled with the locks, and she was seen leaving the house that night with an unidentified bundle. She was never questioned on this and what the bundle was is unknown. Some believe Bridget may have been involved in the murder, but this is not provable (Lizzie Borden: The Curious Life And Death Of…).

Over a hundred years later, we likely will never know if Lizzie really did commit the murders, or if it was an intruder. What remains is the rhyme we’ve all come to know, and the spectacle left behind still revisited on a regular basis.

History.com Editors. “Lizzie Borden’s Parents Found Dead”. HISTORY, 2010, https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/borden-parents-found-dead.

Linder, Douglas. “Lizzie Borden”. Famous-Trials.Com, https://famous-trials.com/lizzieborden.

“Lizzie Borden: The Curious Life And Death Of…”. Smithsonian Channel, 2020.

The Disappearance of Timmothy Pitzen

            On May 11, 2011, 6-year old Timmothy Pitzen was picked up early from school by his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen (Helling). Timmothy is described as having been a happy and energetic child, who loved to play. At the time of these events, his parents, Amy and Jim Pitzen, were going through a rough patch, but Jim was blindsided by what occurred. Jim dropped his son off that morning, reminding the young boy he loved him and to be good. Timmothy had been at school less than an hour when Amy showed up and signed him out under the pretense that there was a family emergency (Sparling, and Motsinger). Less than a week later, on May 14, 2011, Amy was found dead in the Rockford Inn motel by an employee. It was determined that Amy had died by suicide, her wrists and neck having reportedly self-inflicted slashing wounds on them. The note Amy left claimed that Timmothy was safe and with people who would take care of him, but that no one would ever be able to find him. In the 10 years since his disappearance, there has been little found out about Timmoty Pitzen’s whereabouts and his family still holds out hope (Helling).

            We have some information available on what Amy and Timmothy were doing during the three days before Amy’s body was found. After picking Timmothy up from school, the two enjoyed some time at the Brookfield Park Zoo, Key Lime Cove resort, and Kalahari resort. The Kalahari resort, located in Wisconsin Wells, was the last place the two were seen together. Amy, who was 43 at the time of her death and Timmothy’s disappearance, is known to have purchased a pen, paper, and envelopes at a Family Dollar in Winnebago, Illinois the day she died. At 11:15 PM, Amy checked in to the Rockford Inn she would be found in, without young Timmothy. A phone call Amy made on May 13th narrows down the last known location of Timmothy. He was with her the I-88 and I-39 corridors northwest of the Dixon/Rock Falls/Sterling area, approximately 5 miles northwest of Sterling, Illinois near Route 40 (NBC Chicago).

            Amy’s car, a 2004 Ford Expedition SUV, was found abandoned in a parking lot by investigators on the day she was found. Concerningly, the car was dirty and had what was either long grass or weeds stuck underneath it. There was also a large, alarming blood stain that matched Timmothy, but family members seem to believe this is actually from a nosebleed Timmothy had suffered before his disappearance. It is worth noting that the knife used in Amy’s death only had her blood on it. The clothing she was seen wearing in security footage, Timmothy’s Spider-Man backpack, her cellphone, and her I-Pass are all missing, not being present in the hotel room or her car. Her I-Pass records were checked and showed two trips to the area Timmothy’s disappeared, once on February 18, 2011 and again on March 20, 2011, neither of which family members could explain (NBC Chicago).

            According to Jim Pitzen, Amy had a history of suicidal tendencies; she was on medication for depression and had survived a suicide attempt in the past. Right before Amy seemingly whisked Timmothy away to an unknown location, she and Jim had a fight about Amy going on a cruise with a friend and leaving them behind. Due to her history of mental health issues and three previous divorces, some speculate that Amy’s behavior may have stemmed from a fear that she would lose custody of Timmothy if she and Jim were to divorce (Sparling, and Motsinger).

            Investigators discovered a secret email account Amy Fry-Pitzen, separate from the account she and her husband, Jim Pitzen, both had access to. The account was mostly spam emails, and unfortunately deleted emails could not be retrieved from the account as Yahoo apparently didn’t keep those kinds of records. In 2014, a woman came forward from Rocktown, Illinois claiming to have seen a young man that looked like the age-progressed image released by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The image was made to show what Timmothy would look like at 9-years old, but it is not known who the boy that was seen was (NBC Chicago).

            Shockingly, Amy’s cellphone was turned in to investigators in 2013. The woman who turned it in had apparently found it on the side of the road in 2011 and kept it on a shelf until her brother needed a new phone. A family member recognized one of the names on the list when the phone was turned on, but unfortunately nothing seems to have come from this discovery. Another tip came in in 2015, again relating to the age-progressed photos, that a boy in Florida looked like the photos. The boy reportedly didn’t attend school and the family moved into the Florida neighborhood around Timmothy’s disappearance and had license plates from the Midwest. In the end, however, the boy was not Timmothy Pitzen (Sparling, and Motsinger).

            A young man, estimated at the time to be 14-years old, briefly brought hope to those following the case after her appeared wandering the streets in Newport, Kentucky and told police he was Timmothy Pitzen. The young man claimed he had escaped his kidnappers, who were in Ohio (Sparling, and Motsinger). The young man was identified through DNA as, not Timmothy Pitzen, but instead as Brian Rini, 24, not 14. On October 31, 2019, Rini was found competent to stand trial for the deception after his mental stability was called into question. He is known to have an extensive criminal history going back to age 13 and wouldn’t let police take his fingerprints or DNA when he first appeared (Sewell).

            It has been nearly an entire decade since the Pitzen family last saw Timmothy, who would be 16-years old now. The family has gone far too long without answers and many are holding out hope that someday, Timmothy may find his way home. For now, the answer still remains: where is Timmothy Pitzen, and what happened during those days he was alone with his mother?

 Helling, Steve. “HLN Special Examines Case Of Timmothy Pitzen, Missing Boy Whose Mom Wrote Taunting Suicide Note”. PEOPLE.Com, 2020, https://people.com/crime/timmothy-pitzen-hln-special-examines-case-missing-boy/. Accessed 9 Jan 2021.

NBC Chicago. “Timmothy Pitzen Case: What We Know So Far”. NBC Chicago, 2019, https://www.nbcchicago.com/news/national-international/everything-we-know-about-the-timmothy-pitzen-case/81170/. Accessed 9 Jan 2021.

Sparling, Hannah, and Carol Motsinger. Cincinnati.Com, 2019, https://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2019/04/04/timmothy-pitzen-bizarre-backstory-his-disappearance/3364096002/. Accessed 9 Jan 2020.

Sewell, Dan. “Plea Agreement Reached For Ohio Man Who Claimed To Be Missing Timmothy Pitzen From Aurora”. Chicagotribune.Com, 2020, https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/aurora-beacon-news/ct-timmothy-pitzen-case-aurora-20200107-ruyfc3xs5vd47bgdh67bi7exd4-story.html. Accessed 7 Jan 2021.

The Death of JonBenét Ramsey

            JonBenét Ramsey was 6-years old at the time of her unexpected death on December 26, 1996. She was the daughter of John and Patsy Ramsey, and younger sister of Burke Ramsey. John ran the computer systems company Access Graphics, which was later absorbed by Lockheed Martin. Patsy was a previous beauty queen, which was why she so excitedly got JonBenét involved in the child beauty pageant world (Mack, 2020). JonBenét was well known, thanks to her mother, and her death caused a media frenzy.  

            That morning, the Ramsey’s woke up to get ready for the day and Patsy found an unusually long ransom note on the staircase. The note was nearly three pages long and full of superfluous language that is unusual for a ransom note. According to the note, the group who kidnapped JonBenét was a “small foreign faction.” The note claimed she was in their possession and safe, but that they would require the Ramsey’s to follow their instructions in order for JonBenét to live to see 1997. The kidnappers asked for $118,000, $100,000 in $100 bills and $18,000 in $20 bills. They were instructed to put the money in a brown paper bag and wait for a phone call between eight and 10 AM the next day, and to rest well as the delivery would apparently be exhausting. The letter writer claimed that, should they not follow their instructions to a T, JonBenét would be immediately executed and the family would never get her remains for a proper burial. The men reportedly watching her apparently did not like John Ramsey, as warned by the letter writer. They were instructed not to interact with the police or to tell anyone what was happening, including stray dogs and bank authorities. If anyone was contacted or the money was marked in some way, JonBenét would die. The writer signed off the letter, S.B.C.T (CNN 2006).

            Despite what the letter said, Patsy Ramsey immediately called both the police and family friends to assist in the search for her younger daughter. By six that morning the police had arrived; reportedly they found no evidence of forced entry upon their arrival. Mistakes were made, however, in preserving he crime scene. While JonBenét’s room was closed off, the rest of the house was open for friends and family to go through, resulting in the crime scene being contaminated. By one that afternoon, the family was understandably getting agitated and an officer suggested that John Ramsey search the house with a family friend to look for any possible evidence. The two immediately headed to search the basement, where they made the brutal discovery of JonBenét’s dead body. She was found with duct tape over her mouth and white cord wrapped around her neck and wrists in a makeshift garret with part of a paintbrush, and some reports say she was found with a white blanket over her torso (Crime Museum 2020).  John brought her body upstairs, where he removed the duct tape from her mouth and, according to some, covered her body with the white blanket against the officers’ orders. This contaminated her remains, compromising any evidence that may have come her. For many, this was seen as extremely suspicious and fueled rumors that JonBenét was being abused by her parents (Mack 2020).

            JonBenét’s cause of death was determined to be asphyxiation from strangulation and a small fracture was present on her skull. While it is believed that she was likely sexually assaulted before or after her death, no seminal evidence was found but her genitals had been wiped clean. There was, however, drops of blood found on her underwear. She had pineapple in her stomach that must have been eaten that night, and while Patsy and John didn’t remember giving her any, a bowl was found in the kitchen with pineapple and Burke’s fingerprints on it. It is worth noting here that, while fingerprints can tell us someone was there, we cannot attach a timetable to fingerprint evidence the way we can other pieces of evidence, so the time that Burke got the pineapple can’t be determined. The Ramsey’s maintain that Burke was asleep in his room the entire night (Crime Museum 2020).         

            The case gained national attention. The family quickly came under suspicion, and their behavior unfortunately fueled much of the suspicion. The initial interviews with the immediate family members of JonBenét were delayed, allowing time for a story to be developed should they have been involved in the crime.  Many believed, and some still do, that the ransom note was staged, partially due to the unusual length of the note. It was determined that the stationary used belonged to Patsy, as did the pen used to write it. Handwriting samples were taken from each family member, but the results remain murky. While some believe that Patsy Ramsey had to have been the writer, others believe the handwriting analysis was inconclusive or entirely exonerated her. The note drew more suspicion to the family when it was learned that the amount asked was the exact amount that he received in a bonus that year. The family was fairly reluctant to work with the police during the investigation, later stating that they were hesitant to work with police out of fear that they would be framed just to have the case solved (Crime Museum 2020). The paint brush used in the makeshift garret was from Patsy’s art kit. Some theorize that Patsy, either from jealousy over JonBenét’s success in beauty pageants or anger over the fact that she was a chronic bed wetter, may have lost her cool and smashed her head into a hard surface. Burke was enough older and bigger than his younger sister and would have been able to overpower her, and if he had accidentally killed his sister, it would explain the somewhat unusual behavior of his parents (Mack 2020). The Ramsey’s refused to submit to more interviews in January of 1998 unless they could view the evidence police had collected (Research 2020). In 1999, a Colorado grand jury voted to indict the Ramsey’s on child endangerment and obstruction of a murder investigation charges, but the case was never prosecuted. The prosecutor felt the evidence in the case did not sufficiently meet the reasonable doubt standard and chose not to go through with the case (Crime Museum 2020). Patsy Ramsey died of ovarian cancer in 2006, never knowing who killed her daughter (Research 2020). CBS aired a special in 2016, The Case of JonBenét Ramsey, which led many to believe that Burke was the one that killed his sister. He brought a $750 million defamation suit against CBS that was settled out of court in 2019 (Crime Museum 2020).

            Some theorize that the killer was an intruder, who’s footsteps were disguised by the rugs in the house. A boot print that could not be linked to any of the family members was found next to her bed, leading to the belief that she was likely taken from her bed. When the basement was searched and investigated, a broke window was found that is thought to have been an entry point for an intruder. On top of that, the blood drops in her underwear belong to an unknown male, not the men in her family (Crime Museum 2020). Gary Oliva was arrested in Boulder, Colorado on drug charges in 2000.  Oliva was a known sexual predator, but DNA cleared him of the Ramsey murder. He continued to terrorize Boulder after his release until he was arrested again on two counts of exploitation of a minor, specifically child pornography. In 2006, school teacher John Karr confessed to the murder while in Thailand. While his confession was vivid and horrific, it became quickly clear that it was nothing more than fantasy concocted based on what information available to the public. Karr was not the killer, though he was a pedophile obsessed with JonBenét (Mack 2020). He claimed that her death was an accident, caused after he drugged. His claims were discarded when it was learned that there were no signs of drugs in her system at the time of her death and his DNA was found not to match the DNA from her underwear, which was added to CODIS in 2003 (Crime Museum 2020). The Santa that worked the Ramsey party the night before the murder has also been suggested by some, but was never formally accused of the murder. He claimed to have a special relationship with JonBenét, referring to her as his “special friend.” He had a tube of gold glitter that she gave him as a gift, which is presumed to have been mixed into his ashes when he passed away in 2002 (Mack 2020).

            In 2006, a new district attorney, Mary Lacy, was appointed to the case. DA Lacy made a public apology to the Ramsey’s in 2008 when she was profiling the DNA evidence. The case was officially reopened in 2010, with a focus on DNA evidence this time. The DNA evidence was sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation with hopes that newer, stronger methods would yield better results in 2016 (Crime Museum 2020). As of now, no new evidence has been made public. JonBenét’s death still remains a mystery, and the noise surrounding her murder has only made it harder for investigators to figure out what happened. The trial by media the family had to endure convinced many that they must have been at fault, while the evidence points towards the actions of an intruder in the household on the night of her murder. As it stands, only the evidence that may someday come from the DNA sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation may finally give the family and the public the answers being looked for since 1996.

Crime Museum. 2020. Jonbenét Ramsey – Crime Museum. [online] Available at: <https://www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/cold-cases/jonbenet-ramsey/&gt; [Accessed 24 December 2020].

Research, C., 2020. Jonbenet Ramsey Murder Fast Facts. [online] CNN. Available at: <https://www.cnn.com/2013/08/29/us/jonbenet-ramsey-murder-fast-facts/index.html&gt; [Accessed 26 December 2020].

Mack, E., 2020. Jonbenét Ramsey’S Death Is Still An Unsolved Mystery. [online] Rare. Available at: <https://rare.us/people/jonbenet-ramsey/&gt; [Accessed 26 December 2020].

“CNN.Com – Text Of 1996 Jonbenet Ransom Note – Aug 17, 2006”. Cnn.Com, 2006, https://www.cnn.com/2006/LAW/08/16/ramsey.ransom.note/.

The Mysterious Death of Amanda Tusing

            Amanda Tusing left her fiancé of three months (News 2007), Matt Ervin’s, house at 11:30 PM on Junge 14, 2000. It was storming outside, the night darkened by the clouds and rain on the road as the 20-year old drove from Jonesbro, AR towards her home in Dell, AR. When Tusing had not called Ervin to let him know she was home by 1:30 AM, the search for Amanda Tusing began (Jones 2017).

            Ervin contacted Tusing’s mother, Susan Tusing, hoping she had heard from her daughter. Upon finding out that Tusing had never made it home, Ervin left from his home heading the same way that Tusing would have headed. From Dell, AR, Tusing’s father, Ed, and twin brother, Andy, both headed in the direction leading to Ervin’s house in hopes that one of them would find Tusing (Jones 2017). Tusing was not found, but her car, a 1992 black Pontiac Grand Am (News 2007), was found west of Monette, AR, on highway 18 AR (Jones 2017), and five miles east of St. Francis Bridge (News 2007). Her keys were still in the ignition, her wallet and cell phone were on her seat (Jones 2017), the windshield wipers were half up and her favorite radio station was playing (News 2007).

            Tusing remained missing for a couple more days, until Father’s Day, June 18, 2000. In Big Bay Ditch, just north of Lake City, AR, off of AR Highway 135, Tusing’s remains were found (Jones 2017). She was found west of her car, despite the fact that she had been heading east (News 2007).  An investigation into her death was opened, lead by Sheriff Jack McCann and veteran officer Gary Etter. The case has been a frustration since day one, with the massive rains the night of her murder washing away crucial evidence. Ervin was questioned at the time, but was cleared after passing three polygraph tests. Frustration mounted, understandably, as there was no physical evidence and no obvious motives or suspects (Jones 2017).

            The autopsy of Tusing didn’t help much. The only injury found on her was a bruise on the back of her head, otherwise there were no injuries. There were no signs of sexual assault and the cause of death was sited as drowning (Jones 2017). However, investigators believe she was dead before ending up in Big Bay Ditch, as water was found in her nasal passages, but not in her lungs. Those that believe she died before ending up in the water believe she was suffocated, not drowned (News 2007).

            Evidence has come in over the years. Names were brought to investigators in 2003, though those names have not been made public (Kait8 2003). In 2007, an anonymous individual came to the sheriff’s department and reported a conversation they heard that pertained to the murder of Amanda Tusing. Etter believes that talking with known criminals could open the case up, as he believes criminals talk to each other and that the killer could have talked to someone. Susan Tusing, however, thinks differently. Susan believes that Tusing’s car was their best clue to what happened to her. She’s said before that she thinks it could have been a member of law enforcement, who pulled Tusing over, or someone pretending to be an officer (News 2007). When investigators were asked, in 2003, if the evidence that came with the names brought to them ruled out or implicated any members of law enforcement, the answer given was that they were almost certain the murderer is not an officer. That said, the possibility had not been entirely dismissed as of 2003 (Kait8 2003).

            As of 2020, the murder of Amanda Tusing has not been solved. Suspects have not been named, little evidence has been found, and her official cause of death has been placed as drowning. Matt Ervin was cleared back in 2000, and has not been brought back in as a suspect. The Tusing family has not gotten answers in the 20 years since Amanda Tusing died. They have laid her to rest, but no answers have been found. All the evidence available, thanks in part to the storm raging the night of the murder, is the water in her nasal passages, the bruise on the back of her head, and the state her car was left in. Hopefully, someday soon, the Tusing family will have answers and finally be able to find some level of peace.

Jones, J., 2017. Why Mandy? A Case Of A Murder Without Motive Part II – AY Magazine. [online] AY Magazine. Available at: <https://www.aymag.com/why-mandy-the-case-of-a-murder-without-motive-part-2/&gt; [Accessed 13 November 2020].

News, A., 2007. New Clue In Unsolved Midwest Murder. [online] ABC News. Available at: <https://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=3288735&page=1&gt; [Accessed 14 November 2020].

 https://www.kait8.com. 2003. New Details In Tusing Murder Case. [online] Available at: <https://www.kait8.com/story/1374330/new-details-in-tusing-murder-case/&gt; [Accessed 15 November 2020].

The Snapchat Murders

            In 2017, teenagers Liberty German, 14, and Abigail Williams, 13, best of friends, met an unexpected and horrific end in Delphi, Indiana. German was able to catch their possible killer on video on her Snapchat, including possible audio of him, yet the case remains unsolved. What happened to two young girls that night in 2017?

            German and Williams did everything together – volleyball, softball, saxophone, social media. Everything, they were seemingly inseparable. On February 13, 2017, they once again were doing something together: taking a walk on the Delphi Historic Trail and posting on Snapchat. German’s older sister, Kelsi, had dropped the two off at the trail, which they were familiar with and was not far from home, around 1:30 PM and her father, Derrick, was to pick them up around 3:15 PM. Shortly before their estimated time of death, they posted pictures of a bridge on Snapchat. The same bridge, the Monon Bridge (Shapiro 2020) appears in a video found on German’s phone. The video features a man walking towards them, wearing a blue jacket, jeans, a brown hoodie, and a hat, with his head down. He speaks in the video, in a manner that reportedly sounds like an order,

            “Guys, down the hill” (Harding 2019).

            When German’s father arrived to pick the girls up, he attempted to call German’s phone. When there was no answer and no contact by 4 PM, he attempted to contact other friends and relatives that the girls could have gone to. By 5: 30 PM, the Carroll County Sheriff’s department was alerted to the missing teenagers. The initial worry was they had gotten lost or hurt, or perhaps both, and couldn’t find their way out. To family and friends, that seemed the most likely explanation for their sudden disappearance. Neither girl was known to be anything but good kids, and they wouldn’t have just taken off without notice. During the search of the area the ensued, when police began to search the river with flashlights, Williams’s mother, Anna, remembers telling them “We are not looking for bodies, we are looking for two grounded little girls” (Harding 2019). The search was officially suspended at midnight, due to the apparent lack of evidence of foul play, but the families continued searching through the night (Townsend 2019).

            Unfortunately for the German and Williams families, Valentine’s Day 2017 was not an occasion full of love. It was the day they received the worst possible news – the girls had been found, dead, by the trail (Harding 2019). A single shoe had been found, and not far from the shoe, the girls were found as well (Townsend 2019). The area their remains were recovered from was a significant distance, several hundred yards, from the Monon Bridge, where they had posted their Snapchats from the day before. The details of how the girls were found have not been released, as well as what their cause of death is. Why? One simple reason – if no one knows how they died, then only the killer knows (Shapiro 2020). Investigators can use this information to their advantage in cases of possible false-confessions.

            Soon after the girls were found, the grainy images of the main suspect, the man on the bridge, were released to the public. Along with the images, the audio clip of the man talking was released as well. Hopefully, if this man is the killer, someone recognizes him from either the photos or his voice. Since it has been three long years since the images and the audio were released, some believe that someone out there absolutely knows who the killer is and is staying quiet for some reason. It’s possible that someone knows and is too scared to come forward, or has been threatened by the killer. In 2019, a sketch of another suspect was released as well (Shapiro 2020).  That January the arrest of a sex offender, who’s social media evidently seemed to be a chronicle of his crime, caught the attention of people interested in the case. The new sketch was released a few months later along with more audio from German’s phone that could help lead to the killer. In an interview, Indiana State Police Superintendent Douglas Carter seemingly spoke directly to the killer. He believes the killer must be nearby – perhaps living or working there, or perhaps someone who regularly visits the small town. Carter believes it is likely that the killer or someone close to them has been interviewed at some point in relation to the murders – they just need to be found (Townsend 2019).

            Three years and over 40,000 tips that lead nowhere later, the girls have been laid to rest while their families still search for answers. The audio and images are available online for people to view, and hopefully someday, someone who knows something will come forward. Hopefully, someday the families can at least get the comfort of knowing whoever did this is not out there, possibly hurting other children. Until then, the case will remain unsolved, and the evidence is out there that could lead to the killer’s arrest.

Harding, N. (2019, September 29). Why have police not found man who teens filmed before their murder? Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/10008017/snapchat-murder-mystery-teens-girls/

Shapiro, E. (2020, February 13). ‘Epitome of evil’: Delphi double murder still a mystery 3 years later. Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://abcnews.go.com/US/epitome-evil-delphi-double-murder-mystery-years/story?id=68297146

Townsend, C. (2019, May 30). The Delphi Snapchat Murders: Who Killed Abby Williams & Libby German? Retrieved October 19, 2020, from https://www.investigationdiscovery.com/crimefeed/id-shows/still-a-mystery/still-a-mystery-delphi-snapchat-murders-abby-williams-libby-german