Tag Archives: Unsolved

The Unsolved Murders of the Jennings 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lake Bodom Murders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lizzie Borden Took An “Axe”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Disappearance of Timmothy Pitzen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Death of JonBenét Ramsey

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mysterious Death of Amanda Tusing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Snapchat Murders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Murder of Jeannette DePalma

            On August 7, 1972, Jeanette DePalma, who had turned 16 just days prior, was reported missing by her parents (Muscavage 2019). DePalma reportedly told her mother she was going to a friend’s house, but she never arrived (Lamare 2019). Six weeks later a dog brought a decomposing arm to an apartment complex on Wilson Road in Springfield, NJ. The arm would be linked to DePalma, and her remains were recovered on top of a rock formation in the Houdaille Quarry (Muscavage 2019). The rock formation she was found on was notably known as Devil’s Teeth (Lamare 2019).

            In the 1970s, the Jesus Movement was spreading across the country. Known also as Jesus Freaks, those in the Jesus Movement were evangelists urging people to follow Jesus and forsake what was essentially the elements of the Summer of Love (Eskridge 2019). DePalma was known to have been a devout Christian. With the lack of answer for her murder, theories began to quickly emerge that she was sacrificed in an occult ritual (Muscavage 2019). There have been reports that DePalma was found on what looked like a makeshift altar, surrounded by various occult symbols. Theories abound that there was a Satanic cult worshipping in the area at the time (Lamare 2019), which shouldn’t surprise as the Satanic Panic came about just a decade later. Another rumor that began to spread was that a cult known as The Witches was responsible. Kids were hearing stories just a couple years before DePalma was found that the cult was planning on killing a child on and by Halloween that year. The rumors differed on how the cult planned on killing a child – usually either ritual sacrifice or by poisoning (Lamare 2019).

            No official cause of death was ever determined for DePalma. By the time her remains were found, she had already decomposed a significant amount (Njspotlight 2015). Her clothes were examined by the FBI in 1973 and found that there were no foreign hairs in her clothing. It was noted that there were stains blouse, underwear, bra, and pants that could not be positively identified, though some think they could be blood or semen (Deak 2019).

 The case is filled with contradictions as well, even down to the officers who were at the scene not agreeing on what they saw there. While the rumors persist that there were signs of occult activity at the scene, only one of the responding officers said he saw those things. The other officer says the opposite – there was nothing occult at the scene at all. Another conflicting account was on the evidence. While the writers of the Weird United States series were initially told that they couldn’t see the case files of an active case. Another clerk told them that the files had gone missing after a flood from Hurricane Floyd in 1995. An investigator with the homicide unit, however, says the files were missing already when he was assigned to the unit in 1984. This has lead to some people believing that there is some kind of cover up occurring on this case (Njspotlight 2015).

            In 2019, the Union County Prosecutor’s office was sued by Ed Salzano in an effort to have the clothing DePalma was wearing at the time of her death tested for DNA. The lawsuit was lost however, as Salzano has no connection to the DePalma’s or the case outside of his own interest in the case. Salzano claims to have filed the lawsuit to open the case back up, not necessarily to actually get the investigation to test for DNA. According to him, there are people who were around when the death occurred that knew what had actually happened to DePalma, but are too scared to come forward (Deak 2019).

            It’s possible that we may never get answers as to what really happened to Jeannette DePalma. Could it have been a ritual sacrifice by Satanist? Anyone who knows the first thing about actual Satanism will tell you that’s not the case. Actual Satanists don’t actually have the crazy rituals mainstream media likes to act like they do. The same can be said for witchcraft practitioners. However, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that someone would want people to belief these things, or that someone thought they were practicing these things at the time of DePalma’s death. What matters is that a young girl died unexpectedly and with no explanation nearly fifty years later.

Muscavage, N. (2019, August 26). What happened to Springfield teen found dead near Watchung Reservation in 1972? Retrieved September 12, 2020, from https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/crime/jersey-mayhem/cold-cases/2019/08/23/nj-cold-case-jeannette-depalma-springfield-1972-watchung-reservation/1889140001/

Eskridge, L. (2019, October 31). ‘Jesus People’ – a movement born from the ‘Summer of Love’. Retrieved September 18, 2020, from https://theconversation.com/jesus-people-a-movement-born-from-the-summer-of-love-82421

Lamare, A. (2019, May 06). Who Killed Jeannette DePalma? New Details On The 1972 Unsolved Murder And The Satanic Rituals Surrounding Her Death. Retrieved September 19, 2020, from https://www.yourtango.com/2019324197/who-killed-jeanette-depalma-1972-unsolved-murder-satanic-rituals-surrounding-her-death

‘Death on the Devil’s Teeth’: Unsolved 1972 Murder of Teenage Girl: Video. (2015, July 20). Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.njspotlight.com/news/video/death-on-the-devils-teeth-unsolved-1972-murder-of-teenage-girl/

Deak, M. (2019, September 11). NJ unsolved murder: Judge denies DNA test on Jeannette DePalma’s clothes. Retrieved September 20, 2020, from https://www.mycentraljersey.com/story/news/local/courts/2019/09/09/nj-unsolved-murder-judge-denies-dna-test-jeannette-depalmas-clothes/2265134001/

The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders

            Lori Farmer, 8, Michelle Guse, 9, and Doris Milner, 10, were attending what was supposed to be a two week long camp when their young lives were so suddenly and brutally ended (D’Souza, 2018). In June 1977, Locus Grove, OK woke up to the horrific news of a murder at the Camp Scott Girl Scout Camp not far from them. Camp counselor Carla Wilhite was on her way to the showers at the camp at approximately 6 AM on June 13th when she came across the bodies of three of the campers, taken roughly 150 yards from their tents and into the path (girlscoutmurders.com). Milner was found on the path directly, while Guse and Farmer were found in their sleeping bags, zipped up, nearby. Reportedly, others at the camp had heard strange noises during the night but had likely written the sounds off as those made by the local wildlife (D’Souza 2018). By 7:30 that morning the investigation into the deaths of the young campers was started. The remaining campers were evacuated by 10 AM with no knowledge of what had occurred, only knowing that they were being sent home after only one night of camping. That was the last night Camp Scott was open. After the horrific events of June 13, 1977, the camp that had been open for approximately 50 years, Camp Scott permanently closed its doors (girlscoutmurders.com).

            When it all began, things seemed to be going fast. Within the first few days, the wooden floor from the tent the girls had been in, tent 7, was airlifted from the camp to be examined. It was reported that a tennis shoe print was found outside the tent as well as another inside the tent, and Mayes Country DA, Sid Wise, announced outrage that the information had been made available to the public. Specially trained dogs were flown in from Pennsylvania, known as the Wonder Dogs, after an arrest was made of a man who lived near the camp in his van. He was later released. A ranch not far from Camp Scott became a subject of investigation for a while after it was discovered that the ranch had been robbed around the time; the owner later passed a lie detector test. A name is even suggested, Gene Leroy Hart, who was on the loose after escaping the Mayes County jail four years before the murders (girlscoutmurders.com). Hart continued to be on the top of the suspect list, partially due to a single hair not belonging to the victims that was found. The hair was reportedly likely from someone of Native American descent, like Hart, who was Cherokee. Local Native American groups felt that Hart was being unfairly targeted due to his Cherokee ancestry and race became a factor in the case. Some believe that locals involved with the Native American groups may have actually helped Hart while he was on the run (D’Souza 2018). It is also worth noting that Hart wore a size 11 to 11.5 in shoes, and the shoe prints found by the crime scene were significantly smaller, at a size 9.5. While squeezing into a smaller shoe isn’t impossible, a shoe that much smaller is unlikely (Rebel 2020). More information is released to the public, fingerprints on the bodies, duct tape and cord, as well as a flashlight found at the scene. The Wonder Dogs, after finally arriving from Pennsylvania, traced the scent of the killer(s) passed the counselor’s tent (girlscoutmurders.com).

            On June 18th, it’s announced that a murder weapon was found by Sheriff Pete Weaver, however DA Wise and other agents claimed to have no idea what Weaver was referring to. The murder weapon is reported as a crow bar with fingerprints found on it, and the Wonder Dogs lead investigators to ponds on the same property of the robbed ranch, but lose the trail there. The next day it is announced by the trainer of the Wonder Dogs that they have found evidence in the case and expect a break any day. That same day, the public gets three different answers to possible suspects in the case. The FBI claims there are three suspects, DA Wise claims there are no suspects, and Sheriff Weaver claims there is one suspect in the case. DA Wise also publicly corrects Sheriff Weaver’s earlier statement and claims no murder weapon was found (girlscoutmurders.com).

            By the 20th, however, DA Wise turns around the claims that there are actually several suspects in the case and that they have a lot of evidence collected, including the earlier reported fingerprints on one of the bodies. The governor of Oklahoma, David Boren, offers the national guard’s help on the hunt for the killers on the 21st, and another suspect who was camping nearby when the murders happened is added to the suspects list. A media blackout is ordered by DA Wise on the 22nd, but not before word gets out that photos with three women in them have been found, some say at the camo ground while others claim in a cave approximately two miles from the camp ground. On the same day, the medical examiner declares that only one of the fingerprints found on the bodies is actually usable, as the other prints are too smudged (girlscoutmurders.com).

            On the 23rd the photos are announced as having been processed by suspect Gene Leroy Hart while he was at a reformatory. A full-scale hunt is launched after a man matching Hart’s description is seen nearby. The group that comes together the next day, made up of 200 law enforcement officers and 400 volunteers, are not supposed to have guns. Many do, and many arrests are made for drunken behavior and marijuana possession. Most of the officers involved leave the manhunt on the 26th. They try using heat seeking equipment, but the equipment fails, possibly due to weather conditions. After a $14,000 reward is put up, Hart’s mother comes forward claiming that the photographs were planted by Sheriff Weaver due to the stress to find a suspect, and that she was being continually harassed. Despite these claims, the FBI says there is evidence that Hart was in the area at the time of the murders (girlscoutmurders.com).

            July 6, 1977, the medical examiner’s report is released on the girls. The report indicates that, despite earlier reports, there are no fingerprints found on the bodies (girlscoutmurders.com). While Milner had been strangled to death, Guse and Farmer had been brutally beaten (D’Souza, 2018). OSBI Director Jeff Laird declares that there is a lot of evidence against Hart and that he would declare him guilty if he could. On the 29th, a security team hired to look after the camp claims to have seen someone in the woods and apparently found the shoes of the one of the victims, along with her socks, in a bag on the steps of the counselors’ cabin. The items were wet. October 10th, it is declared that they are still looking for Hart and that the hunt will remain on until he is found (girlscoutmurders.com).

            In late January of 1978, composite sketches of Hart are made available to the public along with a list of possible aliases he may have been using. Among the sketches are some showing what he may look like with long hair or glasses. Hart is apprehended on April 6th after eight OSBI agents storm a house 45 miles from Camp Scott. Hart is on trial from March 19, 1979 until March 30, 1979, and acquitted of the charges (girlscoutmurders.com). Ann Reed, investigative forensic chemist, examined the hair that supposedly connected Hart to the case and declared that, while they appeared identical, she couldn’t actually say definitively if the hair belonged to Hart. While the jury acquitted him of the murders, he was sentenced to 300 years in prison for other crimes, but died later in 1979 from a heart attack (D’Souza 2018). Why was Hart the only suspect so doggedly sought after? Was it underlying racism, due to him being Cherokee? It’s no secret that the United States has a major problem of system racism, and a man who isn’t white being framed for a crime he did not commit is hardly unheard of. Hart had a history of sex crimes, having raped women previously. Who would be an easier target to frame, in order to have someone pay for a crime, than someone that is known to the public to already be a convicted criminal? At the same time, the crimes that Hart committed were not just similar. He kidnapped two women and raped them before leaving them dead not far from where Camp Scott was. Knowing that, the suspicion of the OSBI seems slightly more founded. This knowledge does not change the noticeable tunnel vision investigators seemed to have on Hart (Rebel 2020).

            Chillingly, only a few months before the murders took place a counselor at the camp was left a message in a donut box after her belongings had been ransacked. The message, which at the time was thought to be a bad prank, made the promise to kill three campers (D’Souza, 2018). In 2008 and in 2018, DNA tests were conducted. The 2008 test was inconclusive and the tests from 2018 have had no public updates. Hopefully this lack of updates to the public means that something has happened with these tests (Rebel 2020). Hopefully someday soon, we will have answers to this horrific crime.

The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders. (n.d.). Retrieved September 06, 2020, from http://www.girlscoutmurders.com/index.html

D’Souza, B. (2018, February 19). 12 Facts to Know about the Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders That Remain Unsolved. Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://crimeola.com/oklahoma-girl-scout-murders-12-facts/

Rebel, A. (2020, June 08). The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders – did the OSBI get the right man? Retrieved September 07, 2020, from https://darkideas.net/the-oklahoma-girl-scout-murders-did-the-osbi-get-the-right-man/

The Doodler Murders

            If you aren’t from San Francisco, CA, chances are good you haven’t heard of the Doodler murders. The Doodler was active in San Francisco, CA in the 1974 to 1975 and mainly targeted gay men. He killed at least five people, but up to 14, in the short period of time he was known to be active and was never caught. With the arrest of the Golden State Killer in 2018, this case is among many being viewed as solvable through the same DNA process used by Golden State Killer investigators (Dowd 2019).

            It began on January 27, 1974, with the discovery of the first known victim: Gerald Cavanaugh (Dowd 2019). A call was made to police at approximately 1:30 AM by an unknown individual, possibly even the Doodler himself. The caller refused to identify himself, claiming that he felt it wouldn’t be important and that he simply felt it was his duty to report the body he found (Miller 2019). Cavanaugh was found at Ocean Beach, stabbed to death. Defensive wounds were found on him, indicating that he had fought back against whomever it was that took his life. Five short months later, the second victim was found at Spreckels Lake. Joseph Stevens, sometimes known as Jae, was a known drag queen, at the time described as a “female impersonator.” Just like Cavanaugh, Stevens had been stabbed to death. Klaus Christmann was found at Ocean Beach just like Cavanaugh a few weeks after Stevens (Dowd 2019), slashed across the throat three times and stabbed 15 (Green 2014). While Cavanaugh and Stevens were single, Christmann was married and had children. Frederick Capin was found on Ocean Beach in May 1975. Capin was a nurse and a Vietnam war veteran. The final confirmed victim, Harald Gullberg, was found in Lincoln Park in June 1975, apparently hidden in some bushes that were reminiscent of an igloo and he is believed to have been dead for at least two days before being found (Down 2019) The victims were notably all white (Miller 2019).

            What do we know about the victims? What could we learn from their lives that could lead us to the Doodler? Cavanaugh was 49-years old, balding, stood at approximately five feet, eight inches tall and weighed around 220 pounds. He was known to have been Catholic and was never married. Beyond these things, not much is known about this victim. Stevens was 27-years old and worked as a female impersonator at Finnochio’s for the summer. While Finnochio’s was once a popular bar, having been around since the 1930s, by the 1970s most of the LGBT+ crowd had moved on from the club due to hands off rules. By the time of his death, Stevens had actually moved away from his work as a female impersonator and headed in the direction of being a gay comedian. When he first took the stage eight years before his death, he was well received (Green 2014).

 Christmann, 31, was a German national who worked for Michelin. He was last seen at Bojangles and was found with a tube of makeup in his pocket, leading detectives to believe he had homosexual tendencies. Christmann was visiting San Francisco and had been staying with his friends, the Williams’s, for three months at the time of his death. His remains were returned to Bamberg, Germany for funeral services. Capin was 32 at the time of his death, and stood approximately six feet tall while weighing only 148 pounds. An obituary was run in Port Angeles, WA, where Capin’s sister lived, which talked about his time as a medical corpsman for the Navy. Capin had received a commendation medal during his time in Vietnam when he saved four men while under fire. Gullberg was the oldest of the Doodler’s victims at 66-years old and, according to the pathologist who examined him, was unhealthy and dying of portal cirrhosis. Gullberg was a Swedish sailor with both his arms tattooed and became a naturalized citizen on August 15, 1955. During his time as a sailor, he made stops around the world, including Boston, Yokohama, Liverpool, and Cuba (Green 2014).

            At the same time as the Doodler murders, there were other attacks on white, gay men occurring in the area at the time. Two of the victims even lived in the same apartment complex, though they were attacked at different times. Another victim that survived the attack was able to give police details that lead to the connections made between the assaults and the murders. Surviving victims were able to give enough of a description of their attacker to result in a sketch of the offender. The offender was described as a lanky black man around six feet tall, aged between 19 and 25-years old at the time of the attacks (Miller 2019). Investigators believed that he was upper-middle class with the education to match and an above average intelligence. He was supposedly quiet with a serious personality. A witness claimed the suspect told them he was studying commercial art, leading investigators to believe he was likely an art student. Surviving victims claimed he told them, “All you guys are alike,” likely meaning gay men (Green 2014).

            In 2019, an updated sketch of the Doodler was released and a call was made to the public for any information any may have. The sketch was what they believe the Doodler would look like today, based on a sketch made from two survivors. Along with the updated sketch, the audio file of a man calling in one of the victim’s remains to the police was also released. A reward of $100,000 was offered at the time (Miller 2019).

            How has this case gone unsolved all these years? The answer may be simple, if a bit upsetting: the murders occurred only a year after the American Psychiatric Association of Trustees declassified homosexuality as a mental illness. Gay men were viewed in a less-than-favorable light and were easy victims for an aspiring murderer. Just like with sex workers, gay men were seen as less desirable to society and therefore, easy pickings for a murderer. The killer was even seen, supposedly, at a local club, the Castro (Green 2014). He got the moniker of the Doodler because he was spotted many time drawing caricatures of club goers (Miller 2019). At the time, San Francisco was the place to be if you were gay. It was, essentially, a safe haven from the rest of the world, before the AIDs epidemic that would soon take over (Green 2014).

            At the times of the Doodler murders, gay men were not taken seriously as victims. Murders committed against gay men were common, and while there are five confirmed Doodler murders, there are others that could be attributed to him as well. However, many of those that are listed as possible Doodler murders may very well not be, given the high rate of crime against gay men at the time. The surviving victims were, understandably, scared to be outed as gay at the time and would not testify when a possible arrest was made. One survivor was supposedly a diplomat while another was some form of public figure. At the time, being gay would have destroyed their careers (Green 2014). As it stands, we may never get an answer to who committed the Doodler murders. He may not even be alive anymore, or, perhaps, he is in prison for something else entirely.

Dowd, K. (2019, February 06). Who was San Francisco’s Doodler killer, and why wasn’t he caught? Retrieved August 15, 2020, from https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/the-doodler-serial-killer-cold-case-unsolved-13014008.php

Miller, R. (2019, February 07). ‘The Doodler’ killed 5 gay men in 1970s San Francisco. Police just released new info on him. Retrieved August 16, 2020, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/02/06/san-francisco-doodler-serial-killer-cold-case-has-new-info-reward/2795825002/

Green, E. (2014, December 11). The Untold Story of the Doodler Murders. Retrieved August 16, 2020, from https://www.theawl.com/2014/12/the-untold-story-of-the-doodler-murders/