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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 Tori Stafford

            On April 8, 2009, eight-year old Victoria “Tori” Stafford left Oliver Stephens Public School, in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, a little later than the rest of her classmates. She had run back inside to retrieve her butterfly earrings (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”). As she headed home, down Fyfe Avenue past the high school, the last video of her was taken. She was wearing a black Hannah Montana jacket with white fur lined hood over a green shirt, a denim skirt, and black and white shoes, carrying her purple and pink Bratz bag. She was walking with a young woman dressed in tight black jeans and a white puffy jacket (Blanco). The woman on the video was described as being aged 19-to-25-years old, standing at approximately five feet two inches tall and estimated to weight between 120 to 125 pounds. She had black hair held up in a ponytail (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”).

            Tori never made it home that day, and never any day after. No Amber alert was called, a choice criticized to this day. A member of the Oxford Community Police claimed an Amber alert was never called because they didn’t have what was required to call one. The video was released, showing Tori walking with the woman and not struggling. She seemed to be going with her of her own free will (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”). It would be revealed by her killer years later that Tori believed she was going to see a Shih Tzu puppy (DiManno). The search for Tori was one of the largest searches to ever occur in Ontario, including the Woodstock fire department sending out rescue boats to search for signs of her. A Facebook group, Find Victoria Stafford, was established and within just a few days, by April 11, 2009, the group was at 10,000 members. The little girl’s disappearance captured international media attention, ending up on America’s Most Wanted on April 15th . A vigil was held on April 12th in Woodstock at 8 PM; hundreds attended to show solidarity with her family. During the vigil, Tori’s mother, Tara McDonald, appealed for her daughter to contact her. The search was called off by investigators on April 13th, one constable stating the general feeling among investigators was that Tori was alive (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”).

            It was nine days after Tori was taken, on April 17th, that investigators reclassified the case as an abduction instead of a missing persons case. In a statement to the media, McDonald said she believed Tori was still alive. In the days that followed the case being reclassified, a composite sketch of the woman in the video was released as well as a video of a dark station wagon being driven on the street Tori was taken from (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”). The car was identified as a dark blue 2003 Honda Civic, with parts of it spray painted black (“‘I Believe Victoria Was Targeted’: Stafford’s Father”).

            Arrests were finally made in the case on May 20, 2009. 28-year old Michael Rafferty, and 18-year old Terri-Lynne McClintic, who had met that February at a pizza shop. Both were being charged with child abduction. Rafferty was being charged with Tori’s murder and McClintic was being charged as an accessory  (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”).  The two had come to the attention of investigators earlier, Rafferty being interviewed on May 15th. McClintic went to police on May 19th, where she confessed to what happened. She told investigators that Rafferty had raped and murdered Tori, though her assertion of who killed her has since changed (Blanco). She would later, during Rafferty’s trial in 2012, say that she was the one who killed Tori, not Rafferty (DiManno).

            On July 19th, a veteran investigator was out doing a search on his own when he came upon human remains, approximately 500 meters (1,640 feet) from Concession Number 6, east of Mount Forest, Ontario and approximately 130 km (80 miles)  from Toronto. Two days later, investigators announce that the remains were positively identified as those of Tori Stafford (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”). She was found naked from the waist down, wearing only a Hannah Montana t-shirt and her butterfly earrings. By the time she was found, her lower half had decomposed significantly. The autopsy would reveal that she had been beaten badly enough to cause damage to her ribs and liver, and the cause of death was determined to be a beating to the head with a claw hammer (Blanco). While on the stand as a witness during Rafferty’s trial, McClintic would reveal the horrific details of what happened to Tori.

            The day Tori was taken, McClintic found Rafferty waiting for her. He had told her he was planning on going to Guelph, Ontario, and wanted to know if she would come. Instead of going to Guelph, however, he parked the car in front of the Oliver Stephens Public School, and asked McClintic if she would “really do it.” At first, she wasn’t sure what he meant, which lead to him accusing her of being “all talk, no action.” She remembered months earlier, when he had asked her if she would kidnap someone for him. After becoming defensive, McClintic left the car with the intention of telling Rafferty she couldn’t find anyone. His specific instructions were to find a younger female, because younger people are easier to manipulate. McClintic found Tori, who was leaving the school grounds at approximately 3:30 PM. The two began to talk, Tori telling the young woman that she had a Shih Tzu at home. This opened the door for McClintic to lure her to the car, asking her if she wanted to see the Shih Tzu puppy she had in her car (DiManno).

            McClintic pushed Tori into the car when she leaned in to see the nonexistent puppy. Rafferty drove off to where Tori’s remains would be found 103 days later, stopping along the way for some Percocet’s and sending McClintic into a store for garbage bags and a hammer. As they drove, McClintic talked with Tori, calming the young girl and telling her nothing would happen to her and she would get to go home soon. Once they stopped, McClintic walked away from the car and looked out over the field at a silo, away from what was happening in the car. She didn’t want to see what he was doing, believing she was planning on raping the little girl. Unfortunately, that was exactly what happened. Rafferty stopped his assault long enough for McClintic to take Tori somewhere to go to the bathroom, where Tori asked her not to let him hurt her again. McClintic claims that after this, she began to beat Tori, kicking her. The attack was not motivated by anything happening to Tori, but by the rage McClintic felt about her own childhood. She believes she is the one who put the garbage bag over Tori’s head before beating her with the hammer and putting the rest of her body in the garbage bags. The two then buried her under a pile of rocks by a tree (DiManno).

            On April 30, 2010, McClintic plead guilty to first-degree murder (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”), though this would not be known to the public until the publication ban on the case was lifted in December 2010 (Blanco). McClintic apologized to Tori’s family and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. The Rafferty trial would wait nearly two more years before starting. It was decided that Rafferty wouldn’t be able to receive a fair trial in Woodstock, so the trial was moved to London, Ontario. The pre-trial hearings began on January 17, 2012, another publication ban automatically in effect. Rafferty was set to stay in the prisoner’s dock for security reason in February, and the judge decided to allow the jury to visit the site Tori’s remains were found to put the evidence they would see into context. The site was not being viewed as evidence. Rafferty plead not guilty to charges of kidnapping, sexual assault, and first-degree murder on February 29, 2012 (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”).

            The trial was heavily emotionally charged, including testimony from Tori’s teacher about her going back for her earrings, during which her teacher was crying, and an investigator involved in the case crying on the stand while describing the moment he found out Tori had been found dead. McClintic took the stand in mid-March 2012, where she changed her story of Rafferty raping and killing Tori to Rafferty raping Tori and her killing her. She told the court she would, “take the fall” if the evidence brought investigators to her. On the stand, she admitted that they made several stops after disposing of Tori’s remains, including a car wash where they washed and shampooed the car (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”). Despite the changes to her story about who killed Tori, her details of Tori’s rape remained the same. The place it happened, how it happened, even the detail of Rafferty washing his genitals with water from plastic bottles after has remained the same (Blanco).

            Rafferty’s defense argued that McClintic was the mastermind behind Tori’s abduction and Rafferty was the accessory. The story they told was that McClintic had a drug debt and had kidnapped Tori and offered as a sexual “gift” to Rafferty, who they said denied the “gift.” Their story didn’t work and Rafferty was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. A final detail that was given to the jury: Rafferty had a poster of Tori hidden in a kitchen draw (“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”). Evidence that never made it to trial, because it was determined not to be admissible, was the evidence found on Rafferty’s laptop. Searches relating to child pornography and rape, and videos; this shows that Rafferty had pedophilic tendencies. One of these searches was made the day before Tori was taken (Blanco).

            Tori’s father, Rodney Stafford, believed that Tori had been targeted after she went missing. It’s understandable why. Usually Tori would walk home with her 11-year old brother, Daryn, so her being alone was unusual. It appeared as if someone had been watching her. It’s possible that Tori was comfortable with McClintic because she had met her before, with her mother. McDonald had struggled with substance abuse at the time and had met McClintic on a couple occasions (“‘I Believe Victoria Was Targeted’: Stafford’s Father”). While we may never know if Tori did know McClintic, we know the horrible things that happened to her. She would have turned 20 in 2020.

DiManno, Rosie. “Tori Stafford Murder Trial: Terri-Lynne Mcclintic Describes Killing Little Girl”. Thestar.Com, 2012, https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2012/03/14/tori_stafford_murder_trial_terrilynne_mcclintic_describes_killing_little_girl.html.

“Timeline: Victoria ‘Tori’ Stafford Murder”. Global News, 2013, https://globalnews.ca/news/216561/timeline-victoria-tori-stafford-murder/.

Blanco, Juan. “Terri-Lynne Mcclintic | Murderpedia, The Encyclopedia Of Murderers”. Murderpedia.Org, https://murderpedia.org/female.M/m/mcclintic-terri-lynne.htm.

“‘I Believe Victoria Was Targeted’: Stafford’s Father”. CP24, 2009, https://www.cp24.com/i-believe-victoria-was-targeted-stafford-s-father-1.401610.

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.

Los Feliz Murder Mansion

               For over 50 years, the mansion at Glendower Place in Los Feliz, Los Angeles, California, has been left almost entirely untouched. Since the events of December 6, 1959, the home has gained a reputation well known among true crime enthusiasts and paranormal investigation groups across the country. The fact that the mansion remained essentially untouched for decades, with the exception of the new owners moving some items into the home, has spurred public imagination. Many claim the mansion is haunted, while others are obsessed with the things left in the home presumed to belong to the previous owners. The home was bought in 1960 by the Enriquez family, Emily and Julian, who’s son, Rudy, inherited the home in 1994 after his mother’s death. Rudy Enriquez died in 2015 and the mansion was  emptied of the long term contents and sold twice in 2016, in March for  $2.75 million and in July for $2.3 million on probate (“Los Feliz Murder Mansion”).

               In the years leading up to the murder-suicide that the mansion has become known for, the Perelson’s were in financial difficulty. Dr. Harold Perelson, cardiologist, had been in a long term legal battle with ex-business partner, Edward Shustack, who allegedly stole the device Perelson had been working on after offering to make it market-ready. Shustack had, reportedly, offered to partner with Perelson on a device he was working on that would allow syringes to be injected from small glass capsules, which would allow for safer injections and lower chances of contamination. The two were partnered for 11 years before Shustack allegedly betrayed Perelson and potentially cost him thousands of dollars, all of which Perelson had put into inventing the device.  Perelson sought $100,000 in damages, the equivalent of $1 million today, and sunk even more money into the two year long legal battle (Mahon). In the end, Perelson was rewarded less than half of what he sought, a measly $23, 956. On top of this painful blow to Perelson, two years before the murder-suicide his children were in a car accident when then-16-year old Judye Perelson was driving. He sued the other driver, but only received enough money in compensation to cover the children’s medical expenses. Reportedly, Judye wrote an aunt expressing that her parents were in a bind financially (Glick Kudler).

               While Perelson’s motivations are officially unknown, these financial woes may be part of why he took the actions he did on December 6, 1959. At approximately 4:30 AM, he got up and took a ball-peen hammer to his wife, Lillian’s, head (Glick Kudler). While the blow didn’t kill her, it made an inch-wide hole in her skull (Mahon). As she lay in bed, drowning in her own blood, Perelson went after 18-year old Judye in her bedroom. He struck her, but had missed and she woke up. It’s reported that she asked him not to kill her, to which he responded with “lay still” and “keep quiet”. Luckily for Judye, her younger siblings, Debby and Joel, woke up and distracted her father, allowing her time to escape. While he was telling his younger children that they were just having a nightmare, Judye managed to get outside and to a neighbor’s house. As the neighbors called an ambulance and the police, Perelson took Nembutal and 31 pills that could have been tranquilizers or possibly codeine and lay down with his wife. By the time the ambulance had arrived, the two were dead (Glick Kudler)

               The Perelson children were sent to live with an aunt on the east coast after the awful events, and the house was put on the market. It is known that the Enriquez bought it in 1960, but there are rumors that the house was rented for a time after the murder-suicide. The rumor states that another family lived in the home for a short while before fleeing the house on the anniversary of the events, claiming the tree and presents in the home were actually their’s and not the Perelson’s. This rumor also claims that the Perelson’s were Jewish, and therefor would not have celebrated Christmas (Glick Kudler). While it is known that Perelson was the child of Jewish immigrants, whether or not he and his family practiced the religion is debated.

               Why did Dr. Harold Perelson choose his actions that night? Perhaps it was the financial pressures he was reportedly under. Other proposed theories pointed to his mental health – he was known to have had multiple coronaries, which the family publicly said were stress related. Now it’s known that these coronaries were caused by suicide attempts using powerful drugs, and that Lillian Perelson had talked about having her husband committed for a time (Mahon). Whether or not this is related to what happened that night, it is proof that Perelson had a history of suicidal thoughts. It doesn’t point to the murder-suicide he committed that night in 1959, however. We will never truly know what his motivations were that night, but we are left to wonder. Perhaps he tried to give some form of an answer, as Dante’s Divine Comedy was found open on his bedside table when paramedics arrived, opened to the excerpt:

               “Midway upon the journey of life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost…” (Mahon)

“Los Feliz Murder Mansion”. Atlas Obscura, https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/los-feliz-murder-mansion.

Glick Kudler, Adrian. “The Real Story Behind LA’s Most Famous And Mysterious Murder House”. Curbed LA, 2015, https://la.curbed.com/2015/9/21/9920706/los-feliz-murder-house.

 Mahon, Chris. “Los Feliz Murder House: The Dream Home That Turned Into A Nightmare”. https://The-Line-Up.Com, 2019, https://the-line-up.com/los-feliz-murder-house.

The Lawson Family Murders

               In 1911, Charles Lawson married his wife, Fannie, and the two had eight children together. Their third child, William, died in 1920 at six from illness (Blanco). Six of their seven remaining children died in the horrific murders that became a spectacle in 1929. In later 1929, at Christmas time, Charles Lawson, 43, took his family for a studio photo, an unusual thing for people of their standing to do. Taking a family studio photo was akin to taking a sudden trip to someplace like Disney in modern times – it was expensive, and generally not done by people in the working class. He bought his family new clothes specifically for the occasion (Sutton). At the time, it was unknown as to why he was getting something so expensive done.

               The morning of December 25, 1929, Marie Lawson, 17, woke up early to make her family a Christmas cake. The cake would never be eaten and for years after that Christmas morning, it would be on display and protected under a glass cover after tourists stole raisins from the top of the cake (Sutton). The oldest son, Arthur, 16, was not home, as he had been allowed by Charles to walk to Walnut Cove with a friend to buy ammunition for a rabbit hunt, a popular past time (Spear).  While Arthur was away and Marie was making the infamous cake, the middle daughters, Carrie, 12, and Maybell, 7,  headed out to the home of their Aunt and Uncle, but the two would never arrive (Sutton).

               Charles Lawson was waiting outside by the tobacco barn, a 12-gauge shotgun in hand, and as his daughters passed by he shot them both. To ensure the two were dead, he bludgeoned them before hiding their remains in the barn. From there, he headed to the porch where his wife, Fannie, 37, was sitting. He shot her as well before heading inside where Marie had screamed and his two youngest sons, Raymond, 2, and James, 4, tried to hide. He shot Marie just as he shot his wife and other two daughters before hunting down his sons, bludgeoning them to death as well as their infant daughter, Mary Lou, who was only four months old. An autopsy would later reveal that Mary Lou’s cause of death a skull fracture. Charles maneuvered the bodies, laying them with rocks under their heads and arms across their chests (Sutton).

Following the murders, Charles took the family dogs, Sam and Queen, and retreated into the woods nearby the farm, where he reportedly washed the blood from his hands in a stream (Spear). While people had discovered the murders and were flocking to the scene, Charles was in the wood, pacing around a tree for what could have been hours. A gunshot was heard from the forest by those at the home, and soon after Charles body was found by the tree he had been pacing around (Sutton). In his pocket they found two letters, one saying, “Trouble can cause…” and the other, “Nobody to blame,” written on receipts from a tobacco auction. These letters gave no answers as to why Charles would massacre his family the way he did, leaving 16-year old Arthur alone. Some believe Charles allowed Arthur to leave because Arthur was likely the only one who could have stopped the massacre from continuing (Spear).

At the time, rabbit hunting was a popular past time, which would explain why the sound of gunshot wouldn’t necessarily be alarming in the area. The weather conditions were bitterly cold, the ground covered with deep snow (Spear). Winter is generally harder for people, especially when it is a particularly cold winter. Could the level of cold and snow around at the time have contributed to the actions Charles Lawson took those days? Nearly 100 years later, we likely will never truly know, but speculations abound. In the months leading up to the massacre, Charles was reportedly exhibiting erratic behavior. He had been to his doctor, Dr. C.J Helsabeck, for insomnia as well as severe headaches. Dr. Helsabeck would be in charge of the death inquiries, along with the brother to Sheriff John Taylor, Dr. Spottswood Taylor, who was home for the season from his internship at John Hopkins in Baltimore. The two removed Charles’ brain, which was noted as being smaller and having an underdeveloped central region. Dr. Taylor took the brain, which was preserved in formaldehyde, back to Baltimore for further examination. The current location of the brain, if it is still around somewhere, is unknown (Spear). Charles had also sustained a head injury while digging a ditch several months before he killed his family, which some claim changed him. Despite this, the examinations done on his brain showed no abnormalities (History).

Another speculation, though uncorroborated, is that Charles was a witness to something major. Organized crime has been suggested (Blanco), and it is known that at least one well known member of an organization visited the home after the murders occurred (Spear). This theory claims that Charles didn’t commit the murders or die by suicide. Instead, Charles was framed for the murders and set up after he was killed as well (Blanco).

In the 1990s, decades after Arthur Lawson unfortunately died in a car accident in 1945, the possible motivation behind the murders was finally revealed. Stella Lawson Boles, cousin of the Lawson children, published a book about the murders. She claimed that her mother and other Lawson women had been heard at the funeral discussing something that Fannie had come to them with concerns of before that Christmas – she was concerned that Charles and Marie may have been engaging in an incestuous relationship (Sutton). Not only had there been discussions among the Lawson women at the time, but Jettie Lawson, who died in 1928, had spoken about the possibility before her death. This points to the possibility that Fannie suspected an incestuous relationship long before the massacre (Blanco).  Furthermore, Marie’s friend, Ella May Johnson, came forward with a claim that Marie was pregnant at the time. She claimed that Marie confided in her that she was pregnant with her father’s child (Sutton). According to Ella May, Charles and Fannie knew that Marie was pregnant with Charles’ child at the time (Blanco). A neighbor, Sam Hill, also came forward with supposed knowledge of incest, though he claimed that Charles had forced himself upon his daughter, and threatened Marie, after she became pregnant, that “there would be some killing done” should anyone find out (Sutton). Despite these claims, however, there are no records showing a pregnancy in her autopsy (Spear).

Charles brother, Marion Lawson, opened the house as a tourist attraction shortly after the murders, claiming the money was going to Arthur to pay the mortgage on the farm. The cake Marie made that Christmas was put on display, a macabre reminder of what should have been a normal Christmas morning. After the raisin decorations on the cake began to be taken by tourists, the cake was protected with a glass cover (Blanco). The rooms were left as they were when the murders occurred – bloody and dirty – for the authenticity (Spear).

The family was buried in a mass grave, dug by family and friends, in seven caskets, despite there being eight victims. The youngest victim, four-month old Mary Lou, was buried in her mother’s casket, wrapped up in her mother’s arms (Spear).  

History, Unmasked. “Bloody Christmas Of 1929: The Lawson Family Massacre”. Unmasked History Magazine, 2019, https://unmaskedhistory.com/2019/12/22/bloody-christmas-of-1929-the-lawson-family-massacre/.

Sutton, Candace. “Lawson Family Christmas Day Massacre Photo Tells Secret Behind Slaughter”. Newscomau, 2016, https://www.news.com.au/news/secret-behind-photo-in-lawson-family-christmas-day-massacre-when-seven-people-died/news-story/080cd6dcee54a210d70098ca45dc3851.

Blanco, Juan. “Charles Davis Lawson | Murderpedia, The Encyclopedia Of Murderers”. Murderpedia.Org, https://murderpedia.org/male.L/l/lawson-charles-davis.htm.

Spear, Susie. “Lawson Family Murders: A Look Back After 90 Years”. Greensboro, 2019, https://greensboro.com/rockingham_now/lawson-family-murders-a-look-back-after-90-years/article_16aeaae1-5ded-57e8-bde0-35e0d3e69466.html. Accessed 22 Feb 2021.

The Seguin Murders

                On the morning of April 29, 1992, the body of Mary Ann “Polly” Seguin, 34, was found in the Sudbury River, in Southborough, MA. She had been bludgeoned to death by what was later determined to be an ax (Croteau). Her body had been wrapped in towels and linens before being left in the river (Globe). Her husband, Kenneth, 35, was found staggering around about a mile from where she was found by two fishermen, his wrists, ankles, and neck slashed in a manner that suggested a suicide attempt (“Divers Find Bodies Of Children Of Suspected Wife-Killer”).  Their two children, Danny, 7, and Amy, 5 were missing and it took no time at all for a search to begin (Croteau). The question was, what had happened to the Seguin family?

                Kenneth Seguin, a software marketing executive, was held at the Bridgewater State Hospital, the corrections psychiatric hospital, under suspicion of his wife’s murder. During the days following the discovery of her remains, his lawyer, Thomas Giblin, was his main go between with investigators and press. According to Giblin, Seguin was suffering memory lapses, severely depressed, and not in a state of mind to help search for his missing children. At the time, they claimed Seguin had no knowledge as to his children’s whereabouts or safety (Globe).

                Unfortunately, the town of Hopkinton, MA, where the family lived and had moved into a new $220,000 house just the weekend before the murders, got the answer to their questions on May 2, 1992. At 8 AM that day, divers recovered the remains of the two children from Beaver Pond in Franklin, MA (“Divers Find Bodies Of Children Of Suspected Wife-Killer”). It was determined that the children had been drugged with sleeping pills before having their throats, and in the case of Amy, her wrists, slashed and being hidden in Beaver Pond by their killer. The killer had used leaves, sticks, and other debris from the area to try and hide the remains of the two young children (Croteau).

                At the time that Seguin was eventually questioned, he made the claim that two men had broken into the house, attacked him and Mary Ann, and drugged the children. At first it would seem that the autopsies of the children agreed, as they had sleeping pills in their systems (Croteau). The truth eventually came to light. On April 28, 1992, Seguin took his children for a drive, during which he gave them the sleeping pills found in their systems. Once they fell asleep, he slit Danny’s throat and Amy’s throat and wrists. He hid their bodies in Beaver Pond before returning home, where he slept next to his wife for approximately two to three hours before taking an ax and killing her with one swift blow to the head. He disposed of her body in the Sudbury River before attempting suicide himself (“Executive Gets Life Term In Killing Of His Family (Published 1993)”).  

                Seguin’s lawyers argued that an insanity defense at trial. According to them he was under immense pressure at the time of the murders due to the death of his father-in-law, his failure to have the family’s dream home built in a timely manner, and pressure from work, that caused him to develop a delusion. He believed that the only way he could save his family was by killing them and himself, and reuniting in heaven once they were all dead. Assistant District Attorney David Meier disagreed, claiming the act was premeditated. Seguin had left an unusual, evasive but coherent, voicemail on his wife’s answering machine while he was taking the children away. He cleaned up after the crime, flipping the bloody mattress over (Croteau), and lying to the police with his continually inconsistent answers to questions (“Executive Gets Life Term In Killing Of His Family (Published 1993)”). He had also made anonymous calls to the children’s schools to inform them that the kids would not be attending the day they died (Croteau).

                To the surprise of everyone, the jury found him guilty on three counts of second-degree murder. Many felt that the verdict would either be first-degree murder or not guilty by reason of insanity, but the jurors felt that while he was mentally impaired at the time of the murders, he understood the actions he was taking were wrong. He was sentenced to life in prison with no hope for parole for 30 years (“Executive Gets Life Term In Killing Of His Family (Published 1993)”).

                Since the time of the murders and his conviction, Seguin has applied for parole on multiple occasions. Each time he has been denied. During his parole hearings, he has made several claims. He had planned suicide after killing his wife and children. Mary Ann had said she was going to leave him. He was depressed and having financial problems. Each claim fell on deaf ears, as the board decided his attempts to cover up the murders proved the act was premeditated (Croteau). It has been almost 30 years since the horrific murders happened, and it seems he will remain in prison for his crimes, regardless of what his state of mind was at the time. The facts remain, no matter what he claims: a 7-year-old and a 5-year-old died at the hands of someone who was meant to protect them, and a 34-year old died at the hands of someone who was supposed to love her.

“Divers Find Bodies Of Children Of Suspected Wife-Killer”. UPI, 1992, https://www.upi.com/Archives/1992/05/02/Divers-find-bodies-of-children-of-suspected-wife-killer/6780704779200/.

Globe, Boston. “MAN CHARGED WITH KILLING WIFE; 2 KIDS MISSING”. Orlandosentinel.Com, 1992, https://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/os-xpm-1992-05-03-9205030259-story.html.

“Executive Gets Life Term In Killing Of His Family (Published 1993)”. Nytimes.Com, 1993, https://www.nytimes.com/1993/02/07/us/executive-gets-life-term-in-killing-of-his-family.html.

Croteau, Scott. “Kenneth Seguin Denied Parole In Brutal Killings Of His Wife, 2 Children”. Masslive, 2017, https://www.masslive.com/news/2017/08/kenneth_seguin_denied_parole_i.html.

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.