04/20/2018

Tracking Down a Killer: Detective closing in on cold case
10 years later: No answers in Gaston cold case
Questions surround mysterious murder of Pontiac woman 8 years ago
Kellen McElwee’s disappearance still a mystery 10 years later
FBI, police continue search for answers in deaths of 3 Lumberton women
Michigan man believes his 1960 Lincoln may be Jimmy Hoffa’s ‘death car’
The mystery of the Lost Boys: Part 2 (Part 1 posted last week)

04/19/2018

Rhoden Family Members Ask Public For Information On Still-Unsolved Murders
‘Lot farther along than anyone imagined,’ chief says about cold-case homicide of Barbara Miller
Tips sought in cold case search for missing Bedford County siblings
Texas Rangers double reward for info on 1991 murder of Kathy Page
‘We don’t know why he left:’ Teen has been missing for 2 years
Family of teen found murdered in Fairfield fighting for justice six years later
THE DELAY: After an 11-year-old Navajo girl was kidnapped her family and friends sprang into action to find her
On February 11, 2017 the 110-foot Destination disappeared off the coast of Alaska with its six-man crew

04/18/2018

Where is Josh Miller?
30 years later, mystery remains in missing Leavenworth County teen’s case
Unsolved Mystery: Did sex-slaver guru murder pregnant woman?
Delphi homicides: Could broader DNA database help catch teens’ killer?
Missing and murdered: 5 Miami County crimes that grabbed headlines
39-year search for missing Michigan teen could end in Georgia grave
Family, friends of woman found dismembered in Brooklyn park demand NYPD catch killer
CULTS, SATANISM: Shock evidence in murdered cabbie’s inquest

04/17/2018

Who killed Dickie Kratzer? 1981 Evansville hit-and-run remains unsolved
Missing Missouri Woman Kidnapped, Police Believe
#UNSOLVED: WOMAN STABBED TO DEATH IN PINE VALLEY HOME
Searching for Answers: Missing Brandon Helms
Police believe mysterious phone call is key in man’s minivan murder
Passersby may have clues to Peachland, B.C., man’s mysterious death
THE GRISLY MURDER LEFT OUT OF WILD WILD COUNTRY
Death in Ice Valley: BBC podcast on Isdal Woman

04/16/2018

Garrett woman recalls her story of stopping a serial killer
Jason Knapp, Central York grad missing for 20 years, remembered during memorial service
Police looking for break on two-year anniversary of Canadian teen’s disappearance
No arrests for murder of young Jacksonville family after four months
THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE VANISHING PADDLER
Killer Connection: America is Haunted by 100,000 Missing Persons and 40,000 Sets of Human Remains
The Phantom Menace (vintage longread about the Texarkana Moonlight Murders)

04/15/2018

Keddie murders revisited: New evidence discovered links living suspect to grizzly scene (alas, there are no bears)
“It’s like she just disappeared off the earth:” Birmingham mom of 2 missing 4 years
Haunting scene pics from ‘Slender Man’ stabbing released
THE GHOSTS OF 808 EAST LEWIS STREET
Death and the Maidens: the unsolved murders of Patricia and Barbara Grimes
Portrait of a Serial Killer: the murder of 10-year-old Jessica Guzman led Bronx detectives to New York’s most twisted killer since Son of Sam

04/14/2018

I-Team: Seeking Justice for Gail and Tamara; A Family’s Search for Answers
CRIME: Police continue 6-year search for missing Rocky Mount woman
Documentary recounts Ignacio woman’s mysterious death
Ray Gricar mystery: New investigator takes over 13-year-old cold case
Podcaster petitioning DA to bring cold case to grand jury
Never Solved, a College Dorm Arson Fire Has Become One Man’s Obsession
3 years later, family implores public to keep looking for missing Provo student
Losing ‘Letta: a 6-part series on the 1982 murder of 12-year-old Carmeletta Green

04/13/2018

The mystery of the Lost Boys: Part 1
Dancer’s murder remains unsolved, clues found in her car, fresh set of eyes could be key
County Police Revisit Cold Case of Missing Bethesda Woman
Nicole Silvers hasn’t been seen since the early morning hours of April 9, 2014
Car linked to Rachel Cooke case impounded for forensic analysis
Bizarre twist in death of Belgian backpacker half-eaten by lizard on Thailand island
Mystery Of Deaths Unsolved: 35-year-old Murder Case Still Open, Still A Mystery

04/12/2018

30 Years Later: The Colonial Parkway Murders — Part 2 (Part 1 posted earlier in the week)
Chester County woman still missing a year later
Police in Washington state reveal new details in 1987 murder of young Victoria couple
Coroner reaches open conclusion for death of man with sock in mouth
Jane Doe no more: Miami County sheriff IDs cold case victim 37 years later
Preview 7 Investigates: The disappearance of Krista Sypher
Police to announce ‘new developments’ in Madison County woman’s 2010 disappearance
Franklin County Sheriff’s Office still investigating Heather Hodges disappearance
Missing Unity woman’s burned SUV found near Twin Lakes Park, state police say

04/11/2018

Lumby man revisits 50-year-old cold case
30 years later, Saanich couple’s killing back in the spotlight
Macin Smith still missing — with no hot leads — more than 2.5 years later
58 years later, Drew Kivell still hopes to solve his father’s murder
Murdered? Or missing? Police once believed someone killed Henrietta Millek
What happened to Margaret Douglas? Wadsworth authorities investigate
Woman’s Dismembered, Naked Body Is Found in N.Y.C. Park

04/10/2018

Robin Abrams was fired by the Will County Sheriff’s Department—she filed a federal lawsuit and vanished
30 Years Later: The Colonial Parkway Murders
Woman says Phoenix ‘Canal Killer’ murdered her sister in 1992, now she’s taking action
Profiling the three young women whose deaths are being re-investigated
Baltimore detective turns to FBI, public for help finding Molly Macauley’s murderer
COLD CASE: 45 years later — tips still come in for missing Ingrid Bauer
Menomonee Falls woman’s disappearance in 1988 remains mystery

04/09/2018

Beyond ‘Satanic Panic’: Agent has theory on 30-year mystery of missing Kansas teen
Two decades later, the sting of Gorham teen’s unsolved slaying endures
Rocky Mount proved to be the end of the line for a teenager who got off the bus at the wrong stop four decades ago
After 3 Decades, New Evidence Could Solve Missing NH Teen Case
For 16 years, Billerica woman’s disappearance has haunted her family
Susan Marable still missing 27 years after seen getting into maroon pick-up truck

04/08/2018

Nearly 9 years later: What happened to Marsha Brantley?
Sketch released of woman whose severed head found near Lake Houston
She vanished 18 months ago with no leads. Now, a volunteer cop has a troubling theory about what happened to her
Tragic tales, but hope for the future at the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women
Possible break in 1971 Orange County double murder
Who Was Stella Walsh? The murder of an Olympic champion and the autopsy that shook a city
The Murder House: a mysterious mansion hidden in the hills of Los Angeles remains frozen in time
Two mysterious deaths and rumors of satanism have created widespread hysteria in Childress, a town that fears it is . . . Possessed by the Devil (harder-to-read version with photos)

04/07/2018

Overkill: Murder in Toronto-the-Good
PULASKI COUNTY’S MOST NOTORIOUS: Unsolved murders
‘Justice for a child.’ Will Lakewood girl’s killer ever be caught?
30 years later in Fort Wayne: Where is April Marie Tinsley’s killer
Suspected Murrysville serial killer subject of crime sleuth’s book
Family Awaits DNA Test in Cold Case
New clues sought 2 years after woman’s body found dismembered
7 years after Albany woman’s death ruled suicide, family isn’t convinced

04/06/2018

Aaron Dragonetti’s curious disappearance
Decades-old murder mystery back before public
Marissa Koziel’s Killer Must Be Caught, Friend Says
28 Murders Still Unsolved In Morris County
The CDC researcher who mysteriously vanished in February has been found dead
Missing for 20 years: Central York graduate Jason Knapp legally declared dead
Amid the unrest that engulfed D.C. following the killing of Dr. Martin Luther King, 15-year-old Vincent Lawson vanished

04/05/2018

Forty years ago, 14 gay men were brutally killed in Toronto; half of those cases are still unsolved
30 years later: April Marie Tinsley’s killing remains unsolved
New tips rekindling 34-year-old Despard disappearance case
Nassau Homicide Commander: Tips still coming in on 1986 Yeshiva dorm murder
Why CDC Scientist’s Mysterious Disappearance Isn’t Like Other Missing-Persons Cases
Tanner Sharp Case: 8 years later
The Ice-Cold Case: two crusading reporters and their private investigators still can’t crack a notorious KC crime
Couple’s 1983 Murders Still Unsolved

04/04/2018

An empty chair: the disappearance of Wesleyan student Tricia Reitler
$15,000 and ‘speechless:’ Allison Bevers endows pig sale to fund Missy Bevers investigation
Family finds peace despite 40-year-old unsolved murder
Not defined by the end: Who was Carrie Singer?
A young mother and crack addict went missing 24 years ago: Felecia, where are you?
Decades after her mother’s disappearance, daughter strives for simple, happy life
Texas Rangers report offers new details about Houston serial killer’s final admissions

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I believe this to be an authentically senseless chain of correspondences but in the jingle-jangle morning of that summer it made as much sense as anything else did. —– Joan Didion, The White Album

Kimberly Riggsbee

Do you ever wonder if your brain is seeing connections that don’t actually exist?

Durham County, North Carolina; at approximately 2pm on October 7th, 1993 a motorist came upon a grisly scene at the side of Redwood Road near Falls Lake:
a small blue pickup truck idling at the edge of the highway, its driver covered in blood.
Kimberly Walker Riggsbee, age twenty-two, had been shot in the head, hand and shoulder; her cellphone—a relatively pricey item in 1993—lay beside her on the passenger’s seat.

Riggsbee crime scene

Nothing appeared to have been stolen and no overt sexual assault had been attempted; the paltry clues present at the crime scene provided no hints as to the killer’s motive or identity.
Kimberly’s decision to pull to the side of the road was also inexplicable:
“She may have stopped to talk to somebody,” Durham County Deputy Tom Mellown later speculated on WRAL.
“It may have been somebody she knew that she flagged down.”
Although the investigation was briefly reopened in 2010 no new leads were forthcoming; Kimberly’s murder remains unsolved.

Riggsbee crime scene rear view

8pm, December 27th, 2007. Fourteen years later and approximately one hundred miles away thirty-seven year old Beverly Honeycutt departed her mother’s house en route to her home in Sampson County.
Three hours later, alarmed by his failure to reach her by phone,
a friend went to the Honeycutt residence at 214 Mathis Street and found Beverly crumpled on her back steps—she’d been shot in the face.
Law enforcement has never revealed the type of firearm used in either the Honeycutt or Riggsbee homicides,
and as is the case with Kimberly’s murder,
the motive for Beverly’s still-unsolved slaying and the identity of her killer remain a mystery.

Beverly Honeycutt

At first glance these crimes seem to have only superficial similarities; two women gunned down more than a decade apart in a hundred-mile swath of North Carolina.
But further investigation has revealed Kimberly and Beverly had one peculiar trait in common;
the soon-to-be murdered women—mothers of young children both—had endured the recent accidental death of their romantic partner.

Honeycutt crime scene

Three months before Kimberly’s death her husband Donnie Riggsbee had died in a motorcycle mishap at the age of twenty-six—the couple’s daughter, barely a year old at her mother’s murder, was now orphaned.
And Beverly Honeycutt was also in mourning when she was slain;
her long haul-trucker boyfriend had been killed in a traffic accident a mere three weeks before her death—a gold chain her fiancé been wearing during the crash was found near her body at the crime scene.
Beverly’s children were ages ten and two when she was slain.

Street view of the Honeycutt home

I keep telling myself this odd parallel is simply a coincidence; fatal automotive accidents are plentiful as are cold case murders—it’s a mathematical certainty
some homicide victims will be slain while in the process of grieving a loved one killed in a crash.
Yet even as my rational mind deems the situation happenstance
the part of my brain steeped in crime fiction persists in spinning elaborate scenarios linking the Riggsbee and Honeycutt cases to a single shooter.

Beverly Honeycutt

Maybe the assailant perused the obituaries, my irrational mind insists, hunting for vulnerable grief-stricken women to date—and when Kimberly and Beverly rejected his advances he shot them.
Or maybe the perpetrator came into contact with both women while working at the coroner’s office or in some other death-adjacent job, I muse;
after becoming smitten he began to stalk both women with fatal results.
Or what if—bucking the statistical trend—the killer was female? Perhaps an angel of death who lost her soulmate in a car crash shot the victims to spare them the barren existence she now endures.
These scenarios are preposterous but they bubble to my mind’s surface, always trying to tie the murders into a neat, Hollywood-friendly package.

Christmas decorations displayed in the Honeycutt side yard at the time of the crime

These repeated mental attempts to link the Riggsbee and Honeycutt slayings, I am aware,
are almost certainly a form of true-crime pareidolia—a phenomenon which causes the human brain to see patterns where no patterns exist, desperate to impose order on random images.
In grossly simplistic terms, the brain conjures nonexistent patterns because it wants the comfort of knowing what’s coming next; suspense is an excruciating sensation, as cold-case victims’ loved ones will attest.

Regardless of whether Kimberly and Beverly were slain by a single shooter or separate assailants hopefully this will be the year the Riggsbee and Honeycutt families obtain justice;
and as they wait for a break in the case(s) I will continue to scour the web for additional bereaved women gunned down in North Carolina.
Twice might be a coincidence but three times is a pattern—and if detectives need advice I have some novel ideas for investigation.

Bullet hole in the Riggsbee crime scene

04/02/2018

Internet sleuths, DNA link John Doe to Northern New Mexico
Missing Woman Case Approaching 25th Anniversary
Misfiled case of Carey Mae Parker remains under investigation 27 years later
CRIME HUNTER: Death far from home
Tips still come in on 30-year-old slaying
Family marks four years since disappearance of mother, son
Cold-case team working to solve 1972 murder of Huntley girl
Lynne Harper murder still affects Lawson 56 years later

04/01/2018

Rio Grande City double murder case remains unsolved after 2 years
3 years after Nocona teen’s disappearance, friends and family pray and remain hope-filled
Billboard bashes police, DA for probe of Wilkes-Barre woman’s death
Grand jury in infamous Shannon Paulk disappearance likely to have term extended
Investigators challenged to find woman’s killer 30 years later
Search continues in Jennifer Powers case
Death of city woman leaves tangled trail

03/31/2018

Chicago crime television show films in Northwest Indiana to shine spotlight on 16-year-old Hobart teen’s unsolved murder
‘I know she’s there:’ 10 years after Stacy Peterson’s disappearance, sister seeks public’s help to find remains
One year later, still no sign of Holly Crider
Missing and Murdered: Finding Cleo
Police still seek answers in Isabel Celis case one year after shocking revelation
Angel of Death: Vickie Dawn Jackson won praise from her supervisors—until the day she snapped and started killing her friends and neighbors
Forever Young: the unsolved murder of New Wave legend Peter Ivers

03/30/2018

Denise Pflum mystery continues 32 years later
10 years later and still no arrest in the Brittany Zimmermann murder
35 Years Later & Still No Answers In Woman’s Death
Mystery of what happened to pregnant Bianca Green continues after 7 years
The Latest: Police say man bound, stabbed missing teens
Read the full 2009 Highway of Tears series: Vanishing Point

03/29/2018

The Sunday Murders: Police investigate similarities between three women’s deaths
Private investigator says case of missing Littlefield couple ‘is a homicide’
Still no answers in mysterious death of Robin Pope
Bodies recovered from mine believed to be missing Eureka couple
Body found during search for missing woman in Prefumo Canyon
Madison County Sheriff’s Office: Jennifer Powers case is not cold, still actively investigating
Hannah Upp disappears for weeks at a time, forgetting her sense of self. Can she still be found?

03/28/2018

‘It’s not just a kidnapping case; it’s a murder case’ — sister of slain Brooklyn mom still searching for truth
Beverly Potts vanished 67 years ago, and the mystery remains unsolved
COLD CASE: Megan Garner still missing after 27 years
Jesse Wilson case: Skeletal remains ID’d as boy who vanished in 2016
Home health care nurse arrested for murder could be serial killer: cops
No closure for family of missing postal worker
The mysterious case of Sharon Drover
Friends and family celebrate birthday of homicide victim Sally McNelly

03/27/2018

2 Streator children’s murders remain unsolved
Three years later, Greensboro police still trying to solve killing of mother, son
‘Some Days It Feels Like Yesterday:’ Brutal Derry Murder Still Unsolved 11 Years Later
Brampton couple’s true-crime podcast leads to reopening of Indiana cold case
Where did Granger Taylor go? New documentary probes mysterious disappearance
46 years after mother’s disappearance, Apsley family yearns for answers
Missing For 15 Years: Search Continues For Melinda Wall McGhee
Family of missing man not giving up hope after a decade of searching

03/26/2018

Mother Still Haunted by Disappearance of Daughter in 1991
Cold case: Fate of missing man haunts his family
Texas volunteers find severed head at lake, police say
Community organizes search for 2 missing women
Unsolved murder of Norfolk schoolgirl remains a mystery 25-years on
Unsolved cases haunt retired police

03/25/2018

Bizarre ‘branding iron’ clue in prostitute torture murder
Bossier Parish mom, son left cryptic goodbye notes. Are they hiding or dead?
FBI to offer reward for woman who went missing 20 years ago
Unsolved murder case of ‘window-box tomb’ was one of Hong Kong’s most grisly
Aliza Sherman’s killer on the loose five years after her murder
Private Investigator determined to find missing teen
Jerika Binks: Family still searching for answers and missing woman

03/24/2018

In West Brookfield, Rumors Fill The Void Of Information About Local Family’s Murder
Investigators Say Missing Iowa Family Found Dead in Mexico
Double Homicide Unsolved After 4 Years
37 years later, Kelly Cook murder remains unsolved
PBSO hopes social-media blitzes crack Randi Gorenberg, Cynthia Moffett cold-case murders
Where is Jenna Van Gelderen?
Olmsted Falls couple deals with the 25th anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance
27th anniversary for the disappearance of Michael Dunahee

03/23/2018

16 years later: Rebecca family’s murders remain unsolved
Newton Sheriff’s Office seeks public’s help in solving mystery of girl’s death
Memories flood back on Branson’s murder anniversary
Reading the signs: as Taos woman’s disappearance nears 2-year mark, a father still hopes
TRAGICALLY LOST IN JOSHUA TREE’S WILD INTERIOR
After 48 years, Jane Doe has a name
The Oakland County Child Killer Case Presentation April 4th

03/22/2018

Yesterday’s Crimes: The Zodiac Killer DNA Profile That Never Was
Crime Stoppers Cold Case: Seeking new information in the 1984 murder of Janet Newman
Search and rescue group reviews records for clues in unsolved disappearance of B.C. plane
Sign depicting missing woman stabbed
What really happened to Marianne Schuett?
A Tale of 2 Men and 1 Murder Confession
‘It doesn’t make sense:’ The mysterious death of Kristy Kelley

03/21/2018

After 51 years, police recover remains believed to be of missing Cutchogue woman
5 were killed with an ax near Millstadt. 144 years later, the crimes remain unsolved
Police need help solving 2013 murder of 20-year-old Hot Springs woman
14 years later, Vermont State Police investigate active leads in Brianna Maitland disappearance
Family of woman killed by crossbow 20 years ago still seeking justice
Tip in Mesa 11-year-old’s disappearance shows up on dollar bill in Wisconsin
Mystery of missing N.B. teen haunts family, eludes police for three decades
State Police still investigating 38-year-old cold case
Michigan woman remains committed to finding sister missing for more than 40 years

03/20/2018

58 from PA who went missing as children more than 5 years ago
Who is John Vansice? Arizona man remains a ‘person of interest’ in Jodi Huisentruit case, police say
DNA tech brings new light to 28-year-old Arkansas murder
Mother of Franklin County man missing since 2013 says she’ll ‘never give up hope’
Wooden cross nailed to tree at site where Allison Foy died
CRIME HUNTER: Are truckers more likely to be serial killers?
Killer’s path long, gory: Wayne Garrison’s own grandmother told of his cruelty

03/19/2018

Family at dead end searching for information on missing daughter Krystie Stuart
Case of missing New Brunswick teen remains a mystery more than 30 years later
28 years missing: The Millbrook twins’ family still searching for answers
Police renew push for tips on anniversary of teen Karen Caughlin’s 1974 death
Who Killed Shelley Connors?
WHERE IS KATHERINA RICHTER?
Buried: Three-part Carey Mae Parker Podcast

03/18/2018

Throwback longreads about still-missing children:

Weckler kidnapping 70 years ago: girl’s May Day disappearance remains mystery
18 YEARS LATER: THE HAUNTING CASE OF TERESA DEAN
Vanishing Act: Six years after the fact, the disappearance of nine-year-old Christian Ferguson remains a mystery
25 years later, Leigh Occhi case remains a mystery
10 years pass, Jaquilla Scales still missing
Buddy Myers: The little boy who vanished without a trace
Little girl lost: Remembering Katie Worsky after 25 years (companion piece:
Glenn Barker:Serial killer or convenient scapegoat?)

03/17/2018

Report: Police serve search warrant connected to Jodi Huisentruit cold case
National network shining light on more than 40-year Visalia cold case
Betteridge’s law of headlines: Was One Man Responsible for Killing JonBenét, Black Dahlia & More?
CAR BELONGING TO DECAPITATED WOMAN FOUND IN CALIFORNIA
An update in Natalee Holloway’s death saga
Psychics tell family where they’ll find missing Royal Lakes woman
Family hopes drone will help find answers in whereabouts of Desirea Ferris
50-year search for justice: retired detective carries on the quest for the killer of Alice Lee

03/16/2018

Where is Brandy Hall, Episode one: A Detective’s Last Case
Search for missing women rescheduled
Montreal: Gone, but not forgotten
Another potential clue found in Holly Cantrell’s disappearance
Pulaski County’s Most Notorious: Murders
DPS increases reward for 2003 cold case murder of Cynthia Palacio
Jupiter teen, killed 28 years ago, to ‘speak’ via social media
Suzette Langlois’ daughters, police reflect on new details surrounding murder investigation
The ‘Keeper’ Of JonBenét Ramsey’s Tricycle Has A Documentary Ready To Rock

03/15/2018

Attempted kidnapper who was fatally stabbed claims he disposed of Natalee Holloway’s body
47 years later, brother of murdered college student still wants justice
Straw hat could be key to solving 1970 murder of Brinks security guard
20 years after Sabrina Aisenberg vanished her parents hope she could be on her way home
Grosse Pointe woman: My mom was killed in a cover-up and I’ll prove it
Bones found in Buckeye awaiting DNA analysis, could clear speculation about Jesse Wilson
The CDC says its missing researcher wasn’t denied a promotion. Police say otherwise.
Searching for Bethany Part 2 (From last week: Part 1)
Jennifer Odom: After 25 years, a mother’s grief and questions remain (Related: photo gallery)

03/14/2018

FBI offers $15K reward for missing teen boy who saw father killed
Baltimore-bound USS Cyclops vanished 100 years ago. Its fate remains a mystery
Sense of Mystery Deepens Over Slaying of Family
How 1,600 People Went Missing from Our Public Lands Without a Trace
Double Murder Still Unsolved After 28 Years
DEAD WRONG: A BOTCHED POLICE INVESTIGATION AND A PROBABLE WRONGFUL CONVICTION SHED LIGHT ON THE MURDERS OF DOZENS OF WOMEN IN NOVA SCOTIA

03/13/2018

The Unsolved Murder of the Mysterious Ida Lowry
Young kids rarely vanish. But it’s happened in Kansas at least six times since 1977
Detectives seek new leads in Clark Co. cold case: ‘She remains missing to this day’
Cousin’s disappearance fuels bus driver’s passion to find the missing
Muncie father continues search for daughter, 4 years after her disappearance
Memorial stone planned for long-missing Mary Lands
RCMP Historical Homicide Unit races against time to solve Alberta cold cases

03/12/2018

‘You think about it every day:’ 13 years since Bianca Piper disappeared
COLD CASE: Witnesses sought in killing of Knox artist who died within walking distance of home
He killed 3 people in SC with a hatchet – and there may be more victims, sheriff says
Appalachian Unsolved: Cross-country trip ends in Canadian’s mysterious death in Knoxville
CRIME HUNTER: Cops closing in on cold case killers
North Carolina man arrested for 1986 slaying of 15-year-old Tracy Gilpin

03/11/2018

Colleen Cason: New focus heats up Ventura cold case
Family pleads to find Marilyn Wallman’s killer four decades after disappearance
$25,000 Reward Offered for Model and Actress Who Vanished in Los Angeles
Jenkins and Lawrence say DNA evidence exonerates them in Meagher murder case
Still no sign of retired Dallas firefighter one year later
The 1983 slaying of Susan Shearin Clary, a case that continues to haunt the Roanoke Valley
Frozen in fear: Friend of Edmonton victim fears killer four decades later

03/10/2018

Hope I’m wrong but I had an epiphany about the EAR/ONS Shrinky-Dink Killer the other day; police are going to identify him and show up at his house . . . forty-eight hours after he dies peacefully in his sleep.

Sun City woman survived rape by serial killer in 1976. She wants you to help find him
New investigation of decade-old Oklahoma cold case identifies a suspect
$3K reward offered for hero in case of missing Andrews woman
Police suspect sketch from Sioux Lookout raises eyebrows in Sudbury
Severed hand mystery takes SHOCK TWIST as cops discover 54 human fists buried in SNOW
Could new national DNA database provide a break in one of Alberta’s most gruesome cold cases?

03/09/2018

Unsolved 1990 Clarkston homicide case reopened
New focus on the 28-year-old Amy Mihaljevic murder case that haunts Bay Village
Man’s mysterious abduction unsolved 5 weeks later
Tree in Lucas Hernandez photo connected to case from decades earlier
Searching for Bethany
Search for Ryan Shtuka goes on
Mysterious witness cracks shocking CQ murder cold case open
Police Say They’re Getting Close to Arrest in Murder of 93-year-old Sioux Falls Grandmother

03/08/2018

The macabre story of Vladimir Messer
New clues emerge in case of Metro Detroit nurse murdered while jogging
Arson killing 7 family members still unsolved, still haunts loved ones
Still no leads three years after Atascocita couple brutally murdered during home robbery
Finding Cleo: CBC podcast solves decades-old mystery of Saskatchewan girl lost in Sixties Scoop
$10,000 reward offered in East Bay cold case murder of house sitter during home invasion robbery
‘I believe they’ll find him’: Woman spent her life trying to solve mystery of husband’s 1956 disappearance

03/07/2018

SC boy was sexually assaulted and strangled. 29 years later, his killing is unsolved
Family continues to search two months after their parents disappear from Arizona
State Police seeking info on 1973 ‘Double Initial’ murder victim Wanda Lee Walkowicz, 11
An Exclusive Extract From ‘I’ll Be Gone In The Dark’ By Michelle McNamara
Man questioned in 2013 missing persons case released from prison
Parents of Annie McCann, found dead in Baltimore of ‘Bactine poisoning,’ press Gov. Hogan to intervene
Man believes discovery of woman’s remains solves decades-long family mystery

03/06/2018

Mystery of Michigan family slaughtered in their log cabin in 1968 remains unsolved
TWISTED TROPHY: Cops release shock photo of suspected victim of alleged serial killer Bruce McArthur
VSP Pursuing New Leads in Alicia Showalter Reynolds Homicide
Springfield officer recalls conversations with daughter after father’s disappearance
On the evening of Feb. 2, 1990, Pam Felkins was abducted from the Crossroads Video store in Greenbrier
Walker County detectives say they won’t give up on 37-year-old murder mystery
Police, family ask the public for help in the 14-year-old missing persons case of teenager Brianna Maitland
Convicted Killer Charged With 1986 Double Homicide Of East Bay Women

Brett Cantor was murdered twice, first by the person who stabbed him to death and then by the conspiracy theorists who hijacked his slaying in an attempt to exonerate O.J. Simpson. To date, both crimes remain unpunished.

On July 30th, 1993 Brett Cantor, age twenty-five, was found murdered in his West Hollywood apartment;
his throat had been slashed and he’d been stabbed repeatedly in the torso.
An A&R executive at Chrysalis Music Group, Brett was a well-known tastemaker in the Los Angeles music scene;
an early backer of the band Rage Against the Machine,
he had also helped Jane’s Addiction obtain its debut recording contract.
Although he’d been sober for years Brett was a fixture of Hollywood nightlife; he owned ten percent of a nightclub called Dragonfly, then located at 6510 Santa Monica Boulevard,
and he was last seen leaving another Hollywood hotspot, Club 434, in the early morning hours the day of his murder.

The LAPD has been tight-lipped about the crime; Brett’s state of dress, the presence or absence of ransacking or theft at the scene, his time of death
and the precise circumstances surrounding his body’s discovery all remain a mystery.

“That’s when I met Brett Cantor, the Pied Piper of People, aka the Mayor of Dragonfly. He co-owned the club as well. Brett had blue-blue eyes and short, platinum, shaved hair. He was lovely. Funny as fuck.” Rose McGowan, Brave (2018)

According to her recent autobiography, actress Rose McGowan was dating Brett at the time of his death.
As recollected in Brave, the couple met at Dragonfly shortly before the murder,
and Rose credits Brett’s support with helping her flee an abusive relationship and overcome an eating disorder.
After Brett’s death Rose began dating his brother Cliff Cantor, who succumbed to an accidental overdose in 2014.

“[Brett will] always have a piece of my heart. The case is still unsolved but I have been trying for years to remedy that.” Rose McGowan, Brave (2018)

Enter the Juiceman: one year later, on June 12th, 1994 O.J. Simpson’s ex-wife and her friend Ronald Goldman were stabbed to death in Brentwood,
an exclusive enclave approximately thirty-minutes from West Hollywood.
Desperate for additional murders which could conceivably be connected—thereby elevating the crime from a textbook domestic homicide—O.J. Simpson’s legal team petitioned to view the evidence in Brett’s case;
Judge Lance Ito granted the request.
Although there is no evidence Brett knew either victim
Ron Goldman had once worked at Dragonfly part-time and Nicole Simpson had frequented the club on several occasions; from these tenuous connections a plague of conspiracy theories were loosed upon the world.

“O.J. defense is trying to establish a serial killer; me and my brother have the same friends and none have ever heard of [Nicole] Simpson or Goldman—we don’t venture very far from Hollywood.” Cliff Cantor, New York Magazine, September 25th, 1994

In search of more information about the Cantor case I checked several O.J.-didn’t-do-it books out of the library—unbelievably, even the basic details provided about Brett’s murder were incorrect:

O.J. Is Innocent and I Can Prove It: The Shocking Truth about the Murders incorrectly identifies Brett as the manager of Dragonfly
• In If I Did It O.J. Simpson identifies Brett as a “Mezzaluna waiter”
• In Trial of the Century: Obstruction of Justice : Viewpoint of a Trial author Loretta Justice incorrectly claims Brett—who “ran” the dragonfly—died at the age of twenty-four
• In his book When the Husband is the Suspect disbarred attorney F. Lee Bailey claims Brett and Ron were “friends”—despite a marked absence of evidence they’d ever met

This photo is a staple of conspiracy sites; Brett is usually misidentified as the man with the ramrod posture and checked shirt (he’s actually center-left in the baseball cap)

[Note: after careful reflection I’ve opted not to link directly to any conspiracy sites—I’d prefer not to draw the lunatic fringe to my doorstep.]

Although there are innumerable variations Brett’s (fictitious) role in the O.J.-didn’t-do-it canon generally falls into three categories:

1) Both Brett and Ron Goldman were Jewish, thus making a Klassic Krazy Konspiracy inevitable. Actual cut-and-pasted title: “The Jews Framed O.J. Simpson and Staged a Race Trial To Cover it Up.” I won’t dignify this with any serious commentary but let’s just say I doubt the Zionist Illuminati were working hand-in-glove with Mark ‘Der Fuhrer’ Fuhrman.

Michael Nigg

2) The drug-related conspiracy theory: this variant alleges Joey Ippolito—a major Los Angeles cocaine dealer with Mafia ties—ordered the murders of Brett Cantor, Ron Goldman and Nicole Simpson because they either a) owed him money for drugs or b) were in the process of setting up a rival drug distribution network operating out of Mezzaluna restaurant. In this version of events the murder of Ron’s friend, one-time Mezzaluna waiter Michael Nigg—which occurred sixteen months after the Brentwood murders while he was employed at a different restaurant —is also related to Ippolito’s cocaine empire.

3) The most recent iteration—the ATV connection—now with more celebrities: in 1985 Michael Jackson purchased the ATV catalog—which includes licensing rights to the music of Elvis Presley and the Beatles—for $47.5 million; approximately two years after Brett’s death, in 1995, Jackson merged ATV with the Sony corporation. This latest conspiracy theory alleges Brett was murdered by O.J. attorney Robert Kardashian—father of the eponymously-named reality show clan—in a bidding war over ATV. Bonus lunacy alert: according to this theory Michael Jackson’s 1994 marriage to Lisa Marie Presley was a condition of the merger in order to quell rumors about his sexuality. (Why are you laughing?)

That ship had already sailed

“Brett’s name brought up as a pawn for the O.J. defense as a way to get O.J. off kind of interrupts the healing process. If anywhere there was a connection I would probably pay for half the investigation [myself].” Cliff Cantor, Philadelphia Inquirer, October 5th, 1994

Thanks to the dated archives of cyberspace you can actually track the distortion of truth;
conspiracy theories evolve exactly like the child’s game “Telephone,” the stories veering further and further from truth with each retelling.
The negligible ties in the initial reportage—Brett owned ten percent of a nightclub where Nicole Simpson liked to dance and Ron Goldman briefly worked—became ever more intimate.
Today it is gospel truth that Brett, sole owner of the Dragonfly, was best friends with Ron Goldman and the secret boyfriend of Nicole Simpson.
Pointing out the lack of proof for these claims is futile—insistence on fact-based evidence simply identifies you as part of the cover-up.

It’s not quite Roslynn Carter shaking hands with John Wayne Gacy, but it’s still pretty awkward in hindsight

Interestingly, one aspect of conspiracy theories I’d never before appreciated is their reliance on ignorance.
To someone who’s never worked at a nightclub it seems reasonable a ten-percent owner would know every short-term part-time employee—it isn’t.
To someone who’s never worked in the music industry it seems plausible a twenty-five year old A&R rep—whose sole function is to spot new talent and promote fledgling bands—would be involved with the ATV catalog.
In reality, anything involving publishing would be handled by an entirely different department,
mainly staffed by lawyers and MBAs.
(And for the record, there is no evidence Brett Cantor or Chrysalis ever had any involvement with or interest in acquiring the ATV catalog in the 1990s or at any time thereafter.)

“The story on Brett is that he was given a Colombian necktie, his tongue pulled out through his throat.” Los Angeles mixologist Tobin Shea, LA Magazine, December 28th, 2012. (This rumor is indisputably false, as so-called “Columbian neckties” are anatomically impossible.)

Ironically, although Brett had no personal ties to the Brentwood victims he does have an attenuated connection with O.J. Simpson.
Paul Cantor, Brett’s father, was also in the music business and in the 1960s he managed singer Dionne Warwick,
godmother of Simpson’s oldest daughter Arnell and onetime paramour of white Bronco copilot Al Cowlings.

As everyone knows, idiocy is rampant on the internet and fact-checking conspiracies is like shoveling shit against the (metaphorical) tide.
But being encoded and bounced off a satellite doesn’t render falsehoods in cyberspace meaningless; these bogus online rumors matter—irrespective of the renewed pain of the Cantor family—because someday the LAPD may find the actual person who stabbed Brett.
And when that happens the defendant’s lawyer is going to use the conspiracy angle to muddy the waters at trial—and as we saw with O.J., toss enough effluvia at even an airtight case and eventually something may stick.

[If you click through to the video Brett is interviewed at 3:58]

“At his funeral they played ‘Wish You Were Here’ by Pink Floyd and I can honestly say I wish Brett were still here. He deserved to have a full life; he deserved to keep shining.” Rose McGowan, Brave (2018)

Injecting O.J. Simpson into Brett’s murder isn’t only harmful to a theoretical future prosecution; it’s also harmful to objective truth.
Truth always matters; America is in crisis because we’ve lost sight of objective truth—a glut of lies and conspiratorial thinking has left us vulnerable to constant manipulation.
Truth matters and Brent’s murder matters—his death was a tragedy, not a footnote in an Infowars thread about a millionaire football player who used his fame and cash to subvert justice.

It’s not a conspiracy, and it isn’t even a coincidence: truth is dead, and so is Brett Cantor.


 
11:15am, December 25th, 1975. Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Decker strode up the walkway and swung open the door of their widowed daughter’s split-level ranch house in East Vincent Township, Pennsylvania.
The tree was trimmed, the halls were decked and “Silent Night” played softly on the radio.

Moments later Mr. Decker bolted outside, sprinting for a neighbor’s house. “They’re all dead in here,” he screamed. “They’re all dead!”

Upon arriving at the scene Pennsylvania State Police investigators discovered Judith Saneck, age 34, sprawled on the living room floor next to a pile of unopened Christmas gifts;
her boyfriend of one month, Nicholas Foresta, age 48, lay face-up at her side,
a .38 caliber revolver clutched in his right hand.
The bodies of Mrs. Saneck’s three children—Michael, age 12, Joleen, 9, and Joselyn, 7—were found in their respective beds. Every occupant of the house had been shot once in the head.

The Sanecks

“The house was neat as a pin. It appeared to be a typical Christmas eve—the kids were in bed waiting for Santa Claus.” Pennsylvania State Police Detective Henry Wells, Philadelphia Inquirer, December 27th, 1975

Investigators deemed the crime a murder-suicide immediately.
The ambulance crew removed the bodies without delay; no photos were taken and no efforts expended to preserve the sanctity of the crime scene.
Even in the immediate aftermath of the bodies’ discovery, however, a murder-suicide ruling was problematic at best;
only one vehicle—a “luxury car” belonging to Nicholas Foresta—was parked outside the Saneck residence on Hoffecker Road. Judith Saneck’s white Plymouth Satellite was missing.

“That’s the way it looks (murder-suicide); now we have to prove it.” Pennsylvania State Trooper Edward Gallen (street name: Officer Confirmation Bias), Camden News, December 26th, 1975

Problems with the murder-suicide theory failed to abate: the Saneck-Foresta autopsies, performed by Dr. Halbert Fillinger of the Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office,
did little to bolster law enforcement’s chosen narrative.
Dr. Fillinger determined Nicholas and the Sanecks had all died at roughly the same time,
between midnight and 2am on December 25th;
none of the bodies bore any defensive injuries and all five victims had a single cranial bullet wound.
The Saneck’s injuries were clearly homicidal in nature, but Nicholas Foresta’s cause of death was less clear-cut.
He’d been shot once in the right posterior occipital region of his skull—the back of his head, in layman’s terms—with the bullet exiting over his left eye.
An unlikely, but still theoretically possible, suicide injury—although the force of the bullet should’ve pushed him face-forward and lividity indicated he’d been positioned on his back.
Much to the dismay of Chester County authorities, Dr. Fillinger listed Nicholas Foresta’s cause of death as “undetermined.”

“Hal’s a capable guy but Dr. Fillinger’s involvement was to perform the autopsy; he’s a medical doctor not a policeman.” Chester County District Attorney William Lamb, apparently unaware forensic pathologists are trained to utilize medical evidence in criminal investigations. Philadelphia Inquirer, February 4th, 1977

The mystery of Judith’s missing Plymouth Satellite was solved within twenty-four hours; the car was found in a mall parking lot in the nearby town of Devon, approximately seven miles from the Saneck residence.
The car was determined to be in perfect working condition but one inexplicable item—a large tree branch denuded of bark—was discovered inside.
As is the case with many of the anomalies still to come, the precise role the tree limb played in the Saneck-Foresta murders remains unresolved.

Judith Saneck had only recently reentered the dating scene—eight years earlier her husband Joe succumbed to leukemia, leaving her with two small children and pregnant with a third.
Judith had last been definitively seen on the afternoon of December 23rd when she’d stopped by a neighbor’s home to borrow cinnamon for a holiday cookie recipe—during the conversation she mentioned buying electric hairdryers for her children as Christmas gifts.
Judith’s demeanor, according to her neighbor, appeared normal.

The Ziegler family

[Odd coincidence: the Saneck murders weren’t the only Christmas family slaying that year; the Ziegler family murders—still chugging along in the Florida court system four decades later—occurred on December 24th, 1975.]

Like Judith Saneck, Nicholas Foresta had three children with a deceased spouse;
he had remarried shortly after the death of his first wife, however, and was recently separated from his second.
He resided with his two youngest sons in the nearby borough of Phoenixville,
where he was a longtime employee of the town’s eponymously named steel mill.
Nicholas’s background lacked any red flags signaling an imminent murder-suicide; he had no history of domestic violence and he and Judith were dating only casually.

“Nobody believes he was responsible for this; he had no health problems, no money problems. He loved children. He never owned a gun and I don’t think he knew how to shoot one.” Nicholas’s brother David Foresta, Philadelphia Inquirer, December 27th, 1975

A canvas of Devon mall employees unearthed an Open Hearth waitress who recalled serving a couple resembling the Saneck-Forestas on the evening of December 23rd.
Nicholas and Judith had probably argued over dinner, investigators speculated, and subsequently opted to abandon her car in the parking lot and drive home together.
The next day, investigators believed, still angry after twenty-four hours of holiday togetherness, Nicholas retrieved a .38 caliber revolver—purchased by Judith for home protection six months earlier—and proceeded to shoot each and every Saneck, then himself.
A classic case of murder suicide, Chester County authorities insisted; case closed.

“We made a complete neighborhood check and we are still treating it as a murder-suicide.” Chester County District Attorney William Lamb, The Mercury, December 27th, 1975

Not so fast. Over the next few months a steady drumbeat of odd facts and crime scene details leaked to the press;
initially Chester County authorities rebutted the majority of these revelations but faced with additional corroboration would ultimately attest to their veracity.
The following information would eventually be confirmed:

• The gun, empty when found, had a five bullet capacity but seven shots had been fired—five into victims, one into a living room wall and one into the house’s exterior

• Six of these bullets were linked to the crime scene weapon but the caliber and origin of the exterior wall ammunition has never been publicized

• Nicholas Foresta’s fingerprints weren’t found on the murder weapon; the only prints on the gun belonged to a responding officer

• Authorities performed a gunshot residue test on Nicholas’s hands but refused to release the results

• Money—mostly tens and ones—was found scattered in the Saneck yard

• A screen had been removed from a second floor window

• Several spent bullet cartridges were found in a downstairs wastepaper basket

Members of Nicholas Foresta’s family, adamant he lacked both the motivation and wherewithal to commit homicide, were certain these peculiar incidentals indicated he and the Sanecks had been slain by an intruder.
Interestingly, a Hoffecker road neighbor told a Mercury  reporter Judith had complained of a prowler,
and also revealed the Saneck home had once been burgled.
Unhappy with the official inquiry, the Forestas hired a private investigator—ex-police officer Joseph Shepsko—to look into the case.
Although he will later proclaim the timing coincidental,
Chester County District Attorney Lamb responded by petitioning (successfully) for the revocation of Shepsko’s private investigator’s license.

“One shot did exit the house but there was nothing unusual about that.” District Attorney William Lamb goosing the laws of physics, The Sentinel, January 12th 1976

Eventually the media outcry reached a crescendo;
hoping to assuage community concerns about a possible killer in their midst the Chester County District Attorney’s Office staged a press conference.
Debuting a new—although hardly improved—theory of the crime,
District Attorney Lamb amended the Saneck-Forestas times of death by twenty-four hours, pathologist’s findings notwithstanding.
This revision served to work out a kink in the accepted chronology of the Saneck-Forestas’ last days:
Nicholas and Judith had (presumably) visited the Devon Open Hearth restaurant on the night of the 23rd,
yet Dr. Fillinger had fixed their times of death in the wee hours of December 25th.
This left an entire day during which the Sanecks were not seen and Judith inexplicably failed to retrieve her car from the mall (if she had in fact abandoned it there).

DA Lamb block quote

The revised time of death, however, was inconsequential compared to the press conference’s bombshell reveal:
Judith Saneck, District Attorney Lamb now alleged, had engineered the murder of her children as part of a suicide pact.
The supporting evidence proffered for this potentially slanderous claim?
The word of God, specifically a passage Judith had underlined in her Bible: “For I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Timothy verse 4)
At some point the grieving widow had also written an (undated) letter to her husband Joe stating she longed to be with him. Hardly a solid foundation for a conspiracy to commit homicide charge, to say the least.

[Quandary: if you form a death pact with your current boyfriend so you can be with your deceased husband what happens to your boyfriend in the afterlife post-suicide? Is he an eternal third wheel?]

Not unexpectedly, the Chester County District Attorney’s press conference failed to quell community furor.
The Evening Phoenix, Nicholas Foresta’s hometown newspaper,
published a scathing six-part exposé on the botched investigation, taking particular umbrage at the unilaterally-revised time of death.
Seven separate witnesses, as the Evening Phoenix reported, had encountered Nicholas Foresta shopping in the company of an unidentified woman on December 24th,
a point at which authorities now deemed him to be deceased.
The newspaper’s staff, incidentally, was able to vouch for the reliability of one of these witnesses: Wayne D. Jones, Nicholas’s close friend, the Evening Phoenix’s advertising manager.

“All evidence was reviewed in the case and without a shadow of a doubt it points to murder-suicide.” District Attorney William Lamb, The Sentinel, January 12th, 1976

Some things are inevitable: snow melts in springtime, time passes and eventually questions about the family massacre on Hoffecker Road were packed away like tree ornaments and tinsel in the waning days of Yule.
Michael, Joleen and Joselyn, three children dead in their beds on Christmas eve, presents unopened, faded into memory.
I don’t know who wielded the gun in the house that night,
and without access to the forensic tests—-the Holy Grails of homicide-—the triggerman’s true identity will likely forever remain a mystery.

In some ways the Saneck-Foresta case may lack a conclusion but it does offer a moral, unpalatable though it may be:
every Christmas story needs a Grinch or Scrooge (or stonewalling district attorney) but not every holiday narrative is entitled to a happy ending.

Sometimes Santa’s sack is full of bullets, and it doesn’t matter if you were good all year.

 (Wise men take note: pulling the trigger at that angle and ending up with a left-brow exit wound would truly be a Christmas miracle.)

“You are going to know I’m not guilty when you get the next one.” Condemned inmate James Albert Findley’s protestation of innocence en route to death row. Cincinnati Enquirer, November 4th, 1971

James Findley, age twenty-nine, had been sentenced to death for the mutilation murder of high school junior Cheryl Segal, age sixteen.
On October 17th, 1970 Cheryl and her best friend Karen Bulvanker were socializing at Cincinnati’s Firefly Café when they accepted a ride home from Findley, a friend of a friend.
Karen, who was dropped off first, asked Cheryl to phone her when she arrived home—when the call failed to materialize she contacted Cheryl’s mother, who contacted the police.

Eighteen hours later horseback riders discovered Cheryl’s body twenty-three miles from the Firefly Café,
buried under a blanket of leaves on the banks of Gregory Creek.
Shot once in the left temple, her left nipple had been excised and a large Z etched into the flesh of her torso.
Although Cheryl was found nude her postmortem revealed no evidence of rape;
her clothing was later discovered scattered on nearby roadways as if tossed from the window of a moving car.

Cheryl Segal

Findley was arrested the next day,
the evidence against him overwhelming:
a dried smear of Cheryl’s type blood was on his jacket,
the tires of his Plymouth convertible matched tracks near her dumpsite,
and a .25 caliber revolver tucked into the car’s visor had fired the bullet retrieved from her brain.
Findley had recently purchased the gun
from the owner of the Firefly Café—Karen Bulvanker had spotted it in his car the night of the murder.

Findley, a member of the Iron Horseman motorcycle club,
was no stranger to the justice system;
as a juvenile he’d spent four years incarcerated in Ohio’s Boys’ Industrial School and he’d served five years in an adult penitentiary for burglary.
All told, he’d been arrested five times, mostly for property
and drug crimes—the most serious charges he had ever faced, assault with a deadly weapon, had been dropped before trial.

Findley was the last person seen with Cheryl Segal; she’d been slain with his gun and his vehicle had been present at the crime scene.
Findley’s failure to dispose of the murder weapon or take measures to avoid detection may have been shortsightedness—the idiocy of criminals never fails to astound—or it might have had,
as he would later claim, a less damning explanation.
When arrested the morning after her body was found Findley told investigators he had no idea Cheryl was dead.

After dropping off Karen Bulvanker, Findley told detectives, he and Cheryl had made a quick stop at the home of his brother-in-law Dennis Smith, a fellow Iron Horseman.
Smith had asked to borrow his car, Findley claimed, and after Smith promised to drop Cheryl at home Findley agreed.
According to Findley, his gun had been in the car’s sun visor when he’d turned the vehicle over to Smith;
the blood smear on his jacket, Findley’s lawyer would later theorize,
must’ve been secondary transfer via traces of blood Smith left on the front seat.

[Caveat: one recent web source claims Findley retained possession of Cheryl’s excised flesh as a trophy; this allegation is contradicted by contemporaneous media coverage.]

At his capital murder trial Findley took the stand in his own defense and implicated his brother-in-law;
subpoenaed to appear as a witness, Dennis Smith denied he’d seen Findley or Cheryl on the night in question and proffered an alibi supported by two fellow Iron Horsemen.
Unmoved by Findley’s testimony the jury returned with a conviction after three hours and subsequently sentenced him to death.
Decrying his innocence, en route to death row Findley warned prison guards Cheryl’s killer would strike again: “You are going to know I’m not guilty when you get the next one.”

[SEGUEThis is the Zodiac Seeking: although he was an Ohio native Findley had lived in the Bay Area during the Zodiac killer’s reign and an FBI investigation into his status as a possible suspect unearthed some intriguing circumstances—not only had Cheryl Segal’s torso been carved with a letter Z but she’d been slain almost one year to the day after final confirmed Zodiac victim Paul Stine. And the parallels didn’t end there: ten months after Paul Stine’s death two murders occurred which at the time were considered possible Zodiac slayings: Brenda Vance and Janice Smith were found bludgeoned to death in San Francisco in August, 1970—like Cheryl Segal, Janice Smith’s left nipple had been excised.

Despite a thorough investigation, however, no hard evidence emerged tying Findley to the Zodiac slayings—and confirmed Zodiac correspondence continued until 1974, three years after Findley’s confinement on death row. Eventually the two bludgeonings in San Francisco were determined to have no connection to the Zodiac murders: Stanley Nelson was convicted of murdering Brenda Vance and Janice Smith in 1973, along with a third victim, Jacqueline Truss.]

October 19th, 1971; Cheryll Spegal’s tenth birthday would be her last day.
Exactly one year and one day after Cheryl Segal’s murder the Highland Heights fifth-grader left home at 6:25am to walk to the bus stop;
though located over the state border in Kentucky Cheryll’s residence at 78 Rose Avenue was only eight miles from the Firefly Café where the similarly-named Cheryl Segal embarked on her final journey home.


A thick fog blanketed the area and the sun had not yet risen when Cheryll began her journey,
hampering visibility; although her older brothers Mickey,
then age thirteen, and Mark, then eleven,
had departed just five minutes earlier they neither heard nor witnessed anything amiss.
The bus stop was less than two blocks
from the Spegal residence but Cheryll never boarded the bus,
never made it to school, never returned home on that day or any other.
For nearly two weeks her whereabouts remained a mystery—but on November 1st
a truck driver named Gayle Gaines espied Cheryll’s submerged remains in a creek in rural Pendleton County,
twenty-three miles from Highland Heights.

Nude and dumped in approximately one foot of water,
Cheryll’s body was positioned face-down in the muck of the creek bed,
seven large stones stacked neatly upon her back.
She had been stabbed and mutilated—the wounds on her back aligned in a precise circular pattern—and she had been sexually assaulted with instruments.
The plaid jumper, gold blouse and brown oxfords she wore when last seen have never been located; forty-six years later Cheryll Spegal’s murder remains unsolved.

The names Cheryl Segal and Cheryll Spegal differ by only two letters;
despite residing on opposite sides of the state line both lived in the same general area
and their mutilation murders were separated by exactly one year and one day.
At the time, journalists from the Cincinnati Enquirer  speculated Cheryll Spegal had been the “next one” James Findley had prophesied as he was transported to death row;
is it possible that despite the jury’s verdict Findley was innocent of the crime for which he’d been condemned?

Map of the Cheryll Spegal recovery site

SLAYING SIMILARITIES:

Both victims were young females
Attempts had been made to cover both bodies
Both victims were discarded in or near a creek
Both victims were mutilated and dumped nude
Both Cheryl and Cheryll had been disposed of approximately twenty-three miles from the locus they encountered their killer

Spegal creek dumpsite

A closer look, however, reveals more inconsistencies than uniformity:

SLAYING DISSIMILARITIES:

Cheryl was a teenager/Cheryll was a child
Cheryl had been shot/Cheryll was stabbed
Cheryl had not been sexually assaulted/Cheryll had been raped with implements
Cheryl had been discarded on a creek bank/Cheryll was submerged in water
Cheryl’s body had been buried in leaves/Cheryll’s body had been camouflaged with stones
Cheryl’s clothes were scattered around town/Cheryll’s clothing was never located
The mutilation of their bodies was markedly different (a letter Z vs. a circular pattern)

Certainly, serial killers don’t always commit identical slayings—the fact that the Segal/Spegal murders aren’t cookie-cutter crimes isn’t conclusive evidence of a lack of connection.
Today we have the luxury of scientific certainty via DNA evidence
but in the forensic-free 1970s juries were largely reliant on their intuition and common sense:
Findley’s alibi implicating his brother-in-law, while theoretically possible, was undeniably farfetched.
It’s unclear if the Cincinnati Enquirer’s speculation about a Segal/Spegal connection
engendered any law enforcement interest;
authorities have never revealed whether Dennis Smith was investigated as a possible suspect in Cheryll Spegal’s slaying, and the current status of the physical evidence in both the Segal and Spegal murders is unknown.

Ironically, despite the passage of four decades determining a link between the Segal and Spegal murders is now more critical than ever before.
Spoiler alert: James Findley evaded execution courtesy of Fuhrman v. Georgia  and after forty-six years in prison he’s currently eligible for supervised release.
The board rebuffed his first attempt at parole—possibly because he continues to deny his guilt—but Findley’s next hearing, scheduled for 2018, inches ever closer.

I have no special insight into James Findley’s guilt in Cheryl Segal’s slaying; the jury who heard his trial testimony believed he was lying and I respect their assessment—but with the glut of DNA exonerations the fallibility of juries, particularly those bereft of forensic evidence, is no longer in dispute.
So instead of insight I will leave you with a prediction:
if Findley did in fact murder Cheryl Segal yet still manages to obtain parole
I foresee additional mutilation murders in his future.
To paraphrase his assertion as he was led off to death row: we’ll know he was guilty when he gets the next one.

The murder of Lora Morris has everything: a note secreted in a coffin, a mysterious map, a Soldier of Fortune  hitman and four vanished individuals now presumed dead.
The only thing missing is a solution—and a narrative that makes sense.

Coherence is for lightweights; let’s live dangerously and start at the end.

On August 5th, 1994 the body of twenty-two year old murder victim Lora Lynn Morris was disinterred from her eternal resting place in a Chillicothe cemetery.
From her coffin a taskforce comprised of Ohio and Indiana officials plucked a small black jewelry box,
its jaunty pink ribbon discolored from thirteen years in the grave.
Inside the box was a handwritten note and several waterlogged photographs.

“We can say at this time that the letter was written by Lora Morris’s mother Trudy Snedegar. It is in her handwriting and discusses more than one subject. The box also contained three photographs.” Hancock County Detective Donnie Munden, Greenfield Daily Reporter, October 18th, 1994

Law enforcement officer Donnie Munden and murder victim Lora Snedegar Morris; you’ll see their names again, but this isn’t really their story.
The main characters of this story—notice I fail to use the word “protagonists”—-are the pair’s respective fathers, John W. Munden and Stephen Cabe Snedegar.


Captain John W. Munden (retired)—Sergeant Munden in 1981, the year the Snedegar and Munden stories intertwine—was an employee of the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department in Greenfield, Indiana.

Steve Snedegar’s background is harder to pin down.
His past is murky—there are rumors of drug running and work as an FBI informant but in 1981 he is a wealthy businessman in the waste-oil industry.
Steve and his wife Trudy are preparing to relocate to Florida and looking to unload the family business,
J&S Oil Service Company.
A tentative deal is struck with two prospective buyers named Tony—Tony Lambert and Tony McCullough—but at the last moment the financing falls through and hard feelings abound.

Captain John Munden, right, at the Snedegar gravesite

Despite the failure of the sale Steve and Trudy depart for Florida midsummer leaving their daughter Lora at their Greenfield home.
Lora is recently divorced from high school classmate Bryce Morris—the couple has a daughter Brandy, age three, who is spending the summer with her father.
On August 10th Trudy Snedegar arrived in Indiana unannounced; Lora and another daughter—the Snedegars have a total of four children—fetch their mother from the airport and take her out for dinner.
At 11pm Trudy and Lora return home and shortly thereafter Trudy retires to the master bedroom of the family residence at 73 Shadeland Drive.
Trudy will later tell detectives the last time she sees her daughter Lora is wearing a long white tee-shirt and lounging on the sofa watching television.
Lora Lynn Morris will never be seen alive again.

Trudy will later tell detectives she awakened at approximately 6am the following morning; Lora’s car is outside, her purse and belongings are present in the home and the patio door is ajar.
Alarmed, Trudy contacts the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and Sergeant John W. Munden is dispatched to the scene. The stage is now set.

Sergeant Munden will later claim he was certain Lora was off on a lark until he learned she left her purse behind:
”I made the remark to Trudy, ‘I believe a woman’s pocketbook is like a minister’s Bible—they don’t go anyplace without it,’” Munden later tells an Orlando Sentinel  reporter.
A check of the family phone records reveals Lora spoke with her ex-husband Bryce Morris twice after Trudy had allegedly gone to bed—once just after 11pm and once shortly before midnight.
Bryce’s account of the content of these conversations has never been publicized.

A Short Compendium of Leads that Went Nowhere:

• On August 12th, two days after Lora’s disappearance Trudy Snedegar received a phone call from an unknown man (possibly a Keenen Ivory Wayans fan) who vowed, “I’m going to get you, sucker.”

• The next day, August 13th Trudy received a phone call from a woman sobbing and making “sexual innuendos;” the call was taped—Trudy, Steve, and Bryce Morris all agree the sobbing woman is Lora

• Psychics? Oh, there were several, although you don’t need to think about them again because their information failed to impact the investigation

• Requisite wild card: a former classmate of Lora and Bryce Morris was a rapist on the run from the FBI; Ricky Dean Akers would ultimately be eliminated from suspicion in Lora’s murder but his Kiss Army photo merits inclusion

I want to rock and roll all night/and die in an FBI gun-fight on my last day


Three Investigative Anomalies that Don’t Mean Anything Unless They Do:

In a criminal investigation the line between unconventional and untoward can be difficult to discern, especially with evolving law-enforcement ethical standards and the passage of three decades.
The Greenfield Daily Reporter  and Orlando Sentinel  provide the information; you decide.

• The Snedegar family paid for their own lie detector tests instead of using a police polygrapher

• Steve Snedegar gave the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department 10K cash to protect his family; according to Sergeant Munden’s Orlando Sentinel  interview, “We used a lot of that money to watch Steve.” (A lot? But not all?)

• A long-haul truck driver was certain he’d given a ride to a hitchhiking Lora Morris, a sighting discounted by her family. Sergeant Munden traveled to Lake Charles, Louisiana on the Snedegar family’s dime to convince the trucker to withdraw the sighting (and threatened to charge the trucker with bigamy on an unrelated matter)

Back to the Action Whether You Like it or Not (AKA Hey, Where’d Everybody Go?)

As the search for his daughter’s body dragged on Steve Snedegar,
then forty-one,
became convinced Lora’s disappearance was related to the failed sale of the family oil-recycling business;
prospective buyers Tony McCullough and Tony Lambert became the focus of his suspicion and wrath.

As delineated in this epic Orlando Sentinel  interview,
Hancock County lawman John Munden claimed Steve—a private pilot—devised a plan to lure Tony Lambert to New Orleans to persuade him to reveal the truth about Lora’s fate.
Approximately one month after Lora’s disappearance Tony Lambert traveled to Louisiana to discuss a possible joint Snedegar waste-oil venture and has never been seen alive again.
Steve claims Lambert left their meeting unscathed;
law enforcement will later hear rumors the two men took a sightseeing flight over the Gulf of Mexico and Steve deplaned alone.
.
The next Snedegar family associate to meet a mysterious end is (was?) Charles Darwin Smith,
described as being in his early 20s at the time of his 1982 disappearance.
Chuck Smith had once worked as a truck driver for J&S Oil, the Snedegar family business, but his employment had been terminated for reasons unknown.

Chuck—then employed at a Kocolene Service Station in Greenfield—told Trudy Snedegar he’d had an odd encounter with Lora the day before she vanished.
On the afternoon of August 9th, Chuck said,
Lora, a frequent customer, stopped by to purchase gas in the company of a scraggly-haired, heavily-tattooed man—according to Chuck, she appeared terrified.
For reasons that remain unclear,
Trudy allegedly suggested Smith keep this information hush-hush—word of the Kocolene encounter eventually leaked to law enforcement, however.

By the time the scraggly-haired stranger story reached the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department Chuck Smith was no longer employed at the Greenfield service station.
According to Sergeant Munden, at this juncture Trudy Snedegar became frantic to obtain Chuck’s unlisted phone number,
claiming she had a job opportunity for him.
The second time Trudy stopped by the station to badger Munden the sergeant acquiesced to her demands,
sealing Chuck’s fate and providing us with the true-crime quote of the day:

“Dumb-ass me gives the number out.” John Munden, Hancock Sheriff’s Department; Orlando Sentinel, March 27th, 1994

A few days later Chuck Smith received a phone call from a man who identified himself as John Rogers, proprietor of the John Rogers Trucking Company in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Rogers said he’d received Chuck’s contact information from Steve Snedegar—he was calling to offer Chuck steady employment and a complimentary bus ticket to Tennessee, he claimed.
On March 28th Chuck’s father-in-law dropped him at the bus depot
en route to his new job at a company investigators would soon learn does not exist;
Charles Darwin Smith has never been seen again.

When detectives visited the bus station they learned the ticket seller’s name was John Rogers; the purchaser had likely noted the employee’s ID tag, investigators theorized,
and repurposed the name for the nonexistent trucking company.
When questioned, Steve Snedegar denied he’d given Chuck Smith’s information to anyone,
and apparently law enforcement attempts to tie the Snedegars to Chuck’s disappearance ended there.
Make of it what you will,
but detectives have never revealed the physical description of the person who purchased Chuck Smith’s ticket to nowhere, and Tony Lambert and Charles Darwin Smith have never been entered into NamUs,
the federal missing persons database.

I should further mention, while on the subject of missing persons, the existence of an additional vanished Snedegar associate: James A. Wilkes, Steve’s right-hand man at J&S Oil.
Wilkes hasn’t been seen since the mid-1980s,
but no missing persons report has ever been filed and he too is absent from NamUs.
The only publically-available information regarding James A. Wilkes —aside from the fact that he is missing—is his approximate birth year, 1952, and his last place of residence: Charlottesville, Indiana.
As is the case with Charles Darwin Smith, photos of James A. Wilkes are not available in the Greenfield Daily Reporter’s archives.

Many are Lost but One is Found

Beware the ides of April: on April 15th, 1982 a farmhand tilling a cornfield approximately twelve miles from the Snedegar residence spotted something odd amid the stalks.
At first glance he thought it was a deer carcass; it was not.
Badly decomposed, Lora Morris had been shot three times in the head with a .25 caliber revolver; her body— clad in a white tee-shirt and denim cutoff shorts—was found face up with her legs apart and her arms crossed.
Scattered shell casings were present at the scene leading Sergeant John Munden to tell the Greenfield Daily Reporter, “It’s my belief she was killed in the field.”

Although the medical examiner will determine Lora had been killed shortly after her disappearance it’s not entirely certain her body was present in the cornfield the entire eight months she was missing.
The landowner was adamant her body hadn’t been visible when the field was harvested in late October/early November,
and there is also the matter of the sobbing “sexual innuendo” phone call placed—allegedly by Lora—three days after her disappearance.
It’s possible her parents and ex-husband misidentified her voice and the farmer and his thresher somehow managed to miss her body;
these are only minor mysteries in the scheme of things, and there will be more to come.

Water Finds its Level, or Steve and Trudy Snedegar in Florida

Don’t fret; not everyone in this story manages to evade a happy ending.
Three years after Lora’s death Indiana businessman Tony McCullough—partner of missing person Tony Lambert and onetime prospective buyer of J&S Oil—received a phone call from a man named Gary Stafford.
Stafford, a self-described hitman who plied his trade in Soldier of Fortune  magazine, told McCullough he’d been hired by a Florida man seeking to avenge his daughter’s death.
Stafford had accepted a 5K payment for McCullough’s murder, he claimed,
with 20K due upon completion of the contract.
Magnanimous (or possibly just lazy), he offered to allow McCullough to live for a onetime payment of 10K.

In what is perhaps the sole instance of rational decision-making exhibited in this story McCullough immediately contacted law enforcement;
Stafford was ultimately arrested for extortion and sentenced to two years in prison.
Stafford refused to identify the Florida man with the murdered daughter who hired him, however,
and everyone moved on;
well, everyone except Lora’s mother Trudy—she was the next Snedegar intimate to drop from sight.

Although the impetus for both decisions is unclear, Trudy and Steve had divorced in 1983 but continued to live together in Astor, Florida.
Sometime during the summer of 1986—the specific date is uncertain—Trudy told her daughter Brenda
Steve had awoken her the last five consecutive nights by jamming a gun against her head and threatening to pull the trigger.
Brenda, visiting her parents in Florida, was apparently unfazed by this information;
and so was Trudy, apparently, since after five nights of terror she and Steve hit the town for an evening of country-western dancing.

Investigators believe the night of boot-scootin’ was Trudy’s last; although the genesis of this information is unclear,
investigators will subsequently hear rumors Steve and an associate took a plastic-wrapped body for a one-way boat ride on the Ocklawaha River a few days later.
The earthly remains of Trudy Snedegar, age forty-nine at the time of her disappearance, have never been located.

The day after Trudy’s disappearance Steve—after spending the morning sobbing in his office—led his visiting daughter Brenda to his Mercedes parked in his driveway.
Inside the trunk were stacks upon stacks of cash—one million dollars’ worth, he claimed.
Steve told his daughter Brenda to retrieve the cash if he is arrested but he is not arrested—and the cash, like Trudy, Tony Lambert, Chuck Smith and John A. Wilkes, is never seen again.

The investigation into Trudy’s disappearance is stunted from the onset;
when asked about his wife’s whereabouts Steve alleges Trudy left him,
and for reasons I cannot fathom none of the couple’s three children—Brenda included—bothered to report their mother missing for nearly a year.
When now-Captain John Munden learns Trudy left behind her purse, however,
he is certain she is sending him a message—no woman voluntarily goes missing without taking her purse,
he told Trudy when her daughter Lora vanished.
Trudy’s rationale for sending smoke signals with her accessories
instead of fleeing the second, third, fourth or fifth consecutive night Steve woke her at gunpoint is,
as are so many aspects of this story, incomprehensible.

1988: The Hancock County Sherriff’s Department’s Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very-Bad Year

In the interest of brevity I will spare you the details of the five-way officer sex tape and the deputy murder-suicide that many residents felt was a (cleverly-staged) deputy murder-murder;
let us simply say a plague of scandals descended upon the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and an investigation by the local prosecutor’s office followed.
At this time we will trouble ourselves only with the specific travails of Captain John Munden,
longtime lead detective on the Lora Morris murder investigation.

Captain John Munden, as it happens, had entered into the bounds of matrimony with the wife of a murder victim whose slaying was being investigated by . . . Captain John Munden.
Optics aside, marrying the wife of a murder victim is not a crime,
and failing to solve the murder of your wife’s first husband is not a crime.
Peddling drugs, however, is a crime, and when Captain Munden’s wife Nieves Lindner Munden was busted selling cocaine he opted to retire from the force.
(For legal reasons I should note the investigation found no evidence Captain Munden was aware of or participated in his wife’s criminal activity, for which she served a brief prison sentence.)

The mantle of the Lora Morris murder investigation now passes to Captain Munden’s son Donnie Munden,
also a Hancock County detective, although John Munden remains an active participant despite his retirement.

Cancer Comes for the King, Does Not Miss

In 1989 a law enforcement official in the Snedegars’ adopted hometown of Astor, Florida learned Steve was dying of cancer.
Lake County Sheriff’s Detective Lynn Wagner—tasked with the investigation into Trudy’s disappearance—arranged to meet with him for coffee.
During their conversation Steve—citing a disinclination to die in prison—promised to leave a post-mortem confession tying up the loose ends in the assorted crimes after his death.
Malignant melanoma felled the Snedegar patriarch the following year—no written confession was ever located,
but a large bonfire was spotted behind his home in the days after Steve’s death.
Many investigators believe the timing was not coincidental.

Not every scrap of paper in the Snedegar home was incinerated in the post-funeral pyre;
while Steve’s children were packing up his belongings they discovered a map in Lora’s funeral guestbook—a large X marked a spot near the family’s Astor home.
Certain they’d discovered the gravesite of Trudy Snedegar—or John A. Wilkes, or Tony Lambert, or hell, maybe even Chuck Smith—Lake County officials launched an intensive dig of the Snedegar property.

They found nothing.

Home Again, Home Again Jiggity Jig (AKA Ain’t No Fit Like a Retrofit)

The last gasp of the Lora Morris murder investigation transpired in August, 1994;
although the explanation for his tardy notification is unknown, William “Buck” Estes, a Snedegar family friend, informed investigators he’d concealed a note in Lora’s coffin at Trudy Snedegar’s behest.
Hancock County detectives disinterred Lora’s remains but have never revealed the contents of Trudy’s last note to her daughter.

Into this information void steps retired lawman John Munden;
the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office has been stingy with the facts but the case’s first and forever detective has been generous with his opinions—he provided both his theory of the crime
and his confidence therein to an Orlando Sentinel  reporter.

“If Trudy were alive I could get a warrant for her arrest today.” John Munden, Orlando Sentinel, March 27th, 1994

Are you ready? Strap in tight, ‘cause there will be reaching aplenty.

According to the elder Munden’s theory of the crime(s), Trudy accidentally shot Lora three-times in the head during an argument,
possibly because Lora was considering reuniting with her ex-husband Bryce.
Trudy then dumped her daughter’s body (despite the scattered shell casings at the scene and the detective’s earlier avowal Lora had been shot in the cornfield).

Trudy then engineered the disappearance of Chuck Smith,
likely to impede investigators’ ability to identify the scraggly-haired man from the Kocolene sighting
the day before Lora’s murder.
(Trudy’s reason for sending a man to threaten her daughter twenty-four hours before an accidental shooting is not addressed.)

For his part, Steve Snedegar killed Tony Lambert and hired the Soldier of Fortune  hitman to kill Tony McCullough because he mistakenly believed one or both Tonys killed Lora;
he later murdered Trudy when he realized she was the one who had actually murdered their daughter.
(The disappearance of John A. Wilkes is also attributed to Steve, although the details and motive remain hazy.)

Do you feel let down? Did you want a more fact-based conclusion, possibly garnished with an indictment or two?
Perhaps you’re unable to reconcile Trudy as the villain of the story?
Steve Snedegar had to have known he was being set up to take the fall in the Chuck Smith disappearance;
why would it take him five years to decide Trudy was (allegedly) responsible for Lora’s murder?
And more importantly, where are the remains of the four missing players?
If you feel disappointed by the end of this story imagine how the families of Chuck Smith, John A. Wilkes,
and Tony Lambert feel.

Although the unfairness of the situation struck me only in hindsight, the four victims who were never found aren’t the only missing persons in this story—Lora Morris’s remains were located but she’s still essentially absent.
I don’t know if it’s a failure on the part of the Greenfield Daily Reporter or a result of the Snedegar code of omertà but we know not a single thing about her.
Not one sibling or friend or relative has recalled her love of life or uncanny ability to light up a room.
When she was missing none of her nearest and dearest noted her happy-go-lucky nature
or proclivity for lending the very shirt off her back.
Stories about unidentified human remains aside,
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a victim in a high-profile murder case portrayed with such a dearth of human detail.

Regardless of who killed her, Lora didn’t get to see her daughter grow up, her slayer was never punished and her voice was eliminated from the media accounts of her murder. Lora Lynn Morris was cheated.

The murder of Lora Morris has everything: a note secreted in a coffin, a mysterious map, a Soldier of Fortune  hitman and four vanished individuals now presumed dead. The only thing missing is a solution—and a narrative that gives any sense of Lora Morris.

Unsolved Maybe-Murders and Definite-Murders in Triplicate

 
The unexpected twists in the Becker family slayings didn’t end when the main suspect was acquitted
Although they’re generally referred to as the Friendly murders I suspect the victims found them decidedly less so
An intrepid amateur sleuth tackles the long-unsolved slayings of three Indiana businessmen
In 1966 three young women went to the beach and disappeared in a cloud of speculation
A beautifully-photographed thirty-year retrospective on the Oklahoma Girl Scout murders, Johnny Cash‘s personal true crime obsession
The missing Klein brothers are the American version of the Beaumont children minus publicity
Confession: at the first mention of these missing boy spelunkers the British horror movie The Descent  begins playing on a loop in my subconscious

And last but couldn’t be further from least: even though this blogpost has been brought to us by the number three we’re ending on a double. North Carolina’s Shipman-Glass-Shumate murders have been far too exhaustively examined to be contained in a single link (for dilettantes + for obsessives—you know who you are)

The Klein brothers: and then there was one

Clinton Hill Brooklyn; January 17th, 1947.

New York is a tough town, as the autopsy results of eighteen-year old Anthony Trabasso attest.
His skull and right hip are fractured and internal injuries abound,
but the Pratt University freshman’s least-grave injuries are his showiest: the letters N-A-Z-I, five inches high, have been sliced into his chest above a four-inch swastika;
the letter “A,” significance unknown, has been etched into the flesh of his abdomen.
The wounds are not deep but they are fresh,
still weeping blood when he was discovered—barefoot and clad in underpants and blue striped pajamas—crumpled on a sidewalk half a block from his Ryerson Street rooming house.

A search of Anthony’s ransacked living quarters revealed National Socialist graffiti in a more conventional medium:
NAZIS AT PRATT had been painted on a wall above his bed,
his mattress pushed off its box spring into the middle of the room.
The slogans NAZIS AT PRATT HELP ME and HITLER SUPRESSES MASSES had been scrawled onto a notebook and large piece of tissue paper, respectively.
Anthony’s landlord would later tell investigators she’d passed by his apartment in the wee hours; his radio was playing softly and she noted no sign of disturbance or Wehrmacht operatives.


The child of Poughkeepsie tavern owners,
Anthony told his family he was enjoying his studies at Pratt though he mentioned some friction with his classmates,
most of whom were returning veterans on the GI Bill.
NYPD detectives could find only one associate with information which might explain the Nazi trappings of Anthony’s demise:
longtime friend Norma Elwell informed investigators she and Anthony had attended a YMCA dance
six weeks before his death
and during intermission he’d shared a strange tale about a recent squabble with a Third Reich sympathizer.

According to Anthony
his National Socialist encounter
had begun in Grand Central Station.
While walking through the concourse he witnessed an elderly gentleman who appeared to be blind stumble and fall.
Rushing to the man’s aid,
Anthony ushered him into a taxi and accepted his offer to share the fare to Brooklyn.
The two made idle chitchat until Anthony noticed his new acquaintance was wearing a swastika ring;
World War II had ended less than two years before
and at the time Nazi jewelry was not simply a fashion faux pas—it was treasonous.

When asked about the ring the elderly gentleman deflected Anthony’s questions and instead began to mock him for his good intentions, implying only weaklings and fools offer to help others without remuneration.
Eventually the man smiled and revealed he’d been conning Anthony all along:
“I’m not even blind, sucker,” he reportedly said.
Although it’s unclear exactly why the codger was trolling—for the 1940s version of lulz,
I suppose—Anthony was incensed by the ruse and the oldster’s unpatriotic accessories.
After directing the driver to pull to the side of the road Anthony ejected the aging trickster from the vehicle.
As the cab motored off the old man swore he would one day make Anthony pay for his rudeness.

Is it just me or is headline-writing a lost art?

Although I only recently learned his name I first heard the rough details of Anthony’s death from a former Pratt student in the 1980s; informed of my interest in true crime
a friend of a friend mentioned rumors of an unsolved Nazi mutilation murder near the school’s Brooklyn campus.
In the pre-internet era it was nearly impossible to verify this sort of urban legend—the former Pratt student remembered neither Anthony’s name nor the year of his death
and sifting through microfiche without a timeframe is a pointless endeavor.

Despite the passage of decades and scarcity of specifics the Pratt Nazi murder lodged in my brain;
and a few weeks ago while compiling You Must Dismember This I encountered a crime so similar I was taken aback:
on May 3rd, 1940—six and a half years before Anthony’s death—an employee of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad noticed a foul stench emanating from the rail yard in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania.
Subsequent investigation revealed three corpses rotting in three separate rail cars.
The trio of remains had been beheaded and two had been dismembered.
The victims’ severed heads had been taken from the scene but the hewn limbs were scattered nearby.

Corpse placement at McKees Rock Railyard

In addition to appendage excision one of the bodies had undergone further mutilation; the letters N-A-Z-I—the “Z” inverted—was carved in five inch-tall letters across the chest of one of the torsos,
and it was this flourish that called to mind the murdered Pratt student of urban legend lore.
The railway victim with the chest mutilation would eventually be identified as James David Nicholson, age twenty-nine,
a convicted burglar and sometime male hustler.
The remains of his two unfortunate fellow-travelers have never been identified.

Though discovered in Pennsylvania the McKees Rock railyard victims are usually attributed to the Cleveland Torso Killer,
an unapprehended serial killer who murdered and mutilated a dozen victims in the late 1930s.
Also called The Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run,
the Torso Killer preyed upon alcoholics and down-and-outers of both sexes;
his whereabouts after 1940 are unknown although some crime writers believe him to be responsible for several subsequent high-profile mutilation murders including the slaying of the Black Dahlia.


Certain the murders of the Pratt student
and James Nicholson must be linked,
I began scouring the internet for more information
about the student’s slaying.
The alumnus I’d spoken with said the Pratt victim’s ghost was rumored to haunt the school’s campus
and thus I assumed his identity would be easily ascertained;
I was wrong.
After googling infinite versions of “Pratt-student-Nazi-murder” I finally found the information I sought
tucked away in a subscription-only archive;
I also learned why I’d had such difficulty unearthing Anthony’s identity—the former Pratt alumnus had omitted one important detail.

Broken hips are far more common in impact injuries than assaults,
the pathologist who performed Anthony’s autopsy
informed the detectives on his case;
investigators therefore began to theorize Anthony had not been beaten but instead pushed from a roof or window.
Further investigation unearthed a single set of rooftop footprints leading from Anthony’s residence
to the building abutting the sidewalk where his unconscious body was found. Anthony had died barefoot and the soles of his feet were covered with the same black soot blanketing local rooftops.
Detectives also discovered a bloody etching implement in Anthony’s back yard, located directly beneath his window.

Anthony, investigators determined, had staged his own murder.
Feeling marginalized by his World War II veteran classmates, detectives theorized,
the depressed commercial arts major had fashioned a suicide scenario making it appear he’d been slain by Nazi sympathizers in a bid to gain the GIs respect.
He’d planted the (probably bogus) background story of the angry Grand Central Nazi with his friend Norma Elwell,
and the night of his death he ransacked his room, carved the National Socialist messages into his own flesh
and then clambered across several rooftops before jumping to his death.
Although his parents and some detectives remained skeptical Anthony’s death was ruled a suicide,
and the physical evidence seems to support the official verdict.

Although it’s possible Anthony had read about the mutilation of James David Nicholson—both N-A-Z-I torso carvings measured five inches tall,
an unlikely yet still theoretically possible coincidence—their deaths were not linked.
I don’t know where the Cleveland Torso Killer went after 1940 but he wasn’t filleting art students on Pratt’s Brooklyn campus.

Today’s blog post doesn’t have a moral but it does have a theme: disappointment. I’m disappointed I failed to discover a heretofore unknown crime of the Cleveland Torso Killer.
I’m disappointed Anthony Trabasso felt compelled to take his own life—he possessed an epic flair for the dramatic, and the world always needs more fearless creative types.
Furthermore, on a related note,
Nazis are having a resurgence in America at the moment and this also disappoints me.
A few weeks ago we were reliving the civil unrest of the 1970s and now we’re rehashing the merits of World War II.
2017 is destined to be a time-lapse montage of all the unpleasant events of US history, apparently.
Not only does this disappoint me but it frightens me as well.
I suppose I should start looking for blog topics relating to the Civil War as that’s clearly the next cataclysm on the agenda.

“What kind of man is the sock strangler? What dark secret lies deeply embedded in the twisted web of his psyche and compels him to murder again and again? What turns him on?” Fort Lauderdale News, August 30th, 1973 

7am, July 14th, 1973. A man walking his dog past a heavily-wooded yard in Fort Lauderdale noticed a scattered trail of women’s clothing:
following the garments into the underbrush he came upon the body of Jonina Kelpien, age forty-two.
Clad only in her bra, Jonina, an Iceland native, had been garroted from behind with a gold men’s knee sock;
she had also been raped.
Her white Cadillac, the interior flecked with blood, was parked nearby;
in the car’s back seat her cocker spaniel Sponge waited unharmed.

When detectives arrived at the Kelpien residence at 34 Pelican Isle—approximately one mile from the crime scene—they discovered Jonina’s key in the door but the inside chain lock fastened;
she’d been locked out of the house.
Rousing her husband Theodore from sleep, investigators learned he’d last spoken to his wife on the phone at 10pm the previous evening;
during the conversation they’d argued about her drinking.
Detectives later determined Jonina visited with friends in the Icelandic expat community into the wee hours,
and was last spotted at 3am at a nearby convenience store.

Eleven days later, ten blocks from the Kelpien crime scene:
shortly after 9pm a twenty-five year old secretary reentered her apartment after doing a load of laundry.
While groping for a lamp in the dark she encountered an intruder—fighting like a wildcat and screaming like a banshee, she managed to drive the man out her front door.
The assailant—who had entered via a jimmied-open back window—left his would-be murder weapon behind:
a men’s gold knee-length stretch sock.
Although it appeared identical to the sock used in the Kelpien murder the crime lab determined the items weren’t a matched set—slight compositional differences existed in the fabric.

The Kelpien home

August 3rd, just outside Fort Lauderdale:
one week after the secretary’s attack seventeen-year old Teresa Ann Williams crept into North Miami General Hospital after visiting hours to meet her newborn nephew;
she then dropped her boyfriend at his home around 11:30pm and vanished.
Four days later men hunting land crabs in a marshy area in Hollywood discovered her body,
nude from the waist down.
Her advanced state of decomposition precluded a definitive determination of rape
but her cause of death was readily apparent: she’d been strangled with a men’s maroon knee-length stretch sock.

The medical examiner determined Teresa had been slain shortly after she was last seen.
Her car, a white two-door Comet, was eventually located parked at an apartment complex near her dumpsite;
none of the building residents recognized Teresa’s photo,
and she had no known connection to anyone who lived in the area.
In her car authorities found a dozen eggs, indicating she had likely stopped at a store after dropping off her boyfriend.

Next to die was Hollywood-resident Marisue Curtis, age sixteen.
A recent transplant from Upstate New York, August 28th was her first day of South Broward High school—that evening her stepfather Stanley took her out for a soda to celebrate the occasion.
As they returned home around 9pm
Marisue chanced upon some friends outside the Curtis residence at 901 South Surf Road;
assuring her stepfather she’d be upstairs directly
she accompanied her friends to a nearby convenience store and then disappeared.

The following morning Marisue’s nude corpse was found by a fisherman at a construction site six miles from her home.
Attached to two concrete blocks,
her body had been placed underwater just off the shore of the Intercostal Waterway;
her clothing and bathing suit were found nearby.
She had been raped and strangled; a black men’s knee sock was knotted around her neck.
The building site’s security guard heard screams in the area at approximately 10pm but failed to contact authorities.

[Unimportant but interesting detail: security at the construction site was provided by Wackenhut, the CIA-affiliated company that played a prominent role in the Octopus conspiracy theory. Digging into the crime archives is like playing Six Degrees of Separation with murder victims instead of Kevin Bacon costars.]

Marisue’s stepfather Stanley Curtis, an attorney, wrote an open letter to the strangler

The Curtis family was devastated by Marisue’s death:
“How does something like this happen,” her sister Debbie Cantwell asked a reporter from the Fort Lauderdale News.
“She wasn’t a tramp. I can’t understand it—something like this doesn’t happen to good kids.”
Florida was experiencing a homicide spike at the time,
but even amidst the daily carnage the upper-middle class backgrounds of the sock victims focused substantial media attention on the slayings.
Dubbing the perpetrator the “Gold Sock Strangler”—“Gold-Maroon-Black Sock Strangler” would’ve been more precise—newspapers abounded with speculation about the killer’s identity and the significance of his chosen murder weapon.

“Perhaps his mother wore gold panties or some other gold-colored undergarment . . . . All right, let’s consider the material of those socks. Men’s stretch socks, weren’t they? Smooth, nylon, silky? Perhaps the smooth softness of the socks reminds the murderer of an undergarment; there is a connection there—the socks mean something to him.” Psychiatrist Dr. Raymond R. Killinger, Fort Lauderdale News, August 30th, 1973

A connection between the sock slayings seemed obvious to the press and area residents,
but in a Fort Lauderdale News  interview
a spokesperson for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department denied the murders were linked.
Homicide Bureau Chief Sergeant Jerry Meltzer acknowledged superficial similarities between the Hollywood victims—Teresa Ann Williams and Marisue Curtis—but he was adamant
the two crimes in his jurisdiction [the Kelpien murder and the secretary attack] were unrelated:

“The victims didn’t come from the same social strata. And I’m not convinced Mrs. Kelpien was raped; in the attack on the secretary I’m convinced the woman walked back into her apartment and surprised a burglar.” Sergeant Jerry Meltzer, Fort Lauderdale News, August 31st, 1973

Apparently law enforcement was so obsessed with quelling community panic investigators were willing to undermine a medical examiner’s findings
and pretend run-of-the-mill burglars arrived equipped with one extra knee sock.
The Fort Lauderdale Police Department’s message was clear: there is nothing to worry about, average citizen.
These attacks are personal cause crimes, and as long as you don’t pal around with homicidal maniacs you’ll be fine.

Although Marisue Curtis was the final victim strangled with a men’s sock the ligature homicides in the area continued.
Six weeks after Marisue’s death Vermont nurse Susan Mickelsen, age twenty-three,
arrived in Fort Lauderdale for a week’s vacation.
On November 20th her body was found in her room at the Fair Winds Motel—she’d been garroted with an item variously described as a woman’s sock, pantyhose, or nylon stocking.
Her assailant had placed an open Bible and a pillow over her face;
clad in a housecoat pushed above her waist, it’s unclear if Susan had been raped—the media reports regarding her autopsy are inconsistent.

Ten weeks later, February 6th, 1974.
When Ann Raub Newman failed to appear at her desk at 9:30am her coworkers immediately presumed disaster;
the thirty-two year old office manager was unfailingly prompt and responsible.
At 10am they went to her Hollywood apartment and found her dead in bed, nude from the waist down—a pillow had been placed over her face and a brightly-colored silk scarf knotted tightly around her neck.
Ann’s killer left two fingerprints behind:
one on the window screen he’d removed to gain entry and one on her bedroom doorjamb.
An autopsy revealed Ann had been sexually assaulted;
the crime lab subsequently determined her assailant was a B-blood type secretor.

Acting on a tip, detectives were able to match the fingerprints at the Raub Newman crime scene to nineteen-year old construction worker Gary Jay Matus.
Matus—like Marisue Curtis a recent transplant from Upstate New York—had been arrested the previous summer for prowling.
Like Ann’s assailant Matus was a B-type secretor,
a fairly rare attribute shared by only ten percent of the population.
Matus was arrested on February 8th while driving down State Road A1A—his car, interestingly enough, was a gold-colored Cadillac.

When questioned by police Matus did the classic dance of guilt, inching himself ever closer and closer to the crime scene.
First he claimed he’d never been in Ann’s neighborhood;
when detectives noted his stepbrother lived nearby Matus conceded he may have been in the neighborhood but had certainly never been to the Raub Newman residence.
When confronted with his fingerprint on the removed window screen Matus pivoted,
now claiming he actually had been outside Ann’s apartment but only at the behest of a friend
(named either Steve or Roy, his companion’s identity as changeable as the details of Matus’s story).

According to Matus he’d been enjoying a beverage at a local bar when he met Steve/Roy,
a friendly stranger who suggested they cap off the evening with a burglary.
Matus had accompanied Steve/Roy to Ann Raub Newman’s apartment, he admitted,
and had then helped remove the window screen—but he had never been inside the crime scene, he insisted.
When detectives cited his fingerprint on the bedroom doorjamb Matus adopted his final stance, a tale he would cling to through two trials:
he had entered Ann’s apartment with Steve/Roy the evening before the murder,
he now admitted, but no one was home at the time.
In a twist you almost certainly saw coming, investigators were never able to locate the elusive bar-hopping burglar who answered to the name of Steve/Roy.

At his first trial Matus was the sole witness and the jury split nine for conviction, three for acquittal—his imaginary-codefendant-ate-my-homework alibi was surprisingly effective.
At his second trial, however, luck failed him;
after five hours’ deliberation Matus was convicted of rape and second degree murder.
Sentenced to one-hundred and sixty five years in prison,
Matus’s projected release date is in 2034 at the ripe old age of seventy-nine.

Gary Jay Matus (left) and a court bailiff


Predictably, although the Fort Lauderdale Police Department initially denied the sock crimes were linked
investigators changed their tune after Matus’s arrest—although he was never tried for the sock slayings or the murder of Susan Mickelsen he was identified as the Gold Sock Killer in the press,
and investigation into the other strangulations seems to have ceased after his conviction.
Jonina Kelpien’s husband and Marisue Curtis’s stepfather attended every day of both Matus trials,
so certain were they of his guilt in the sock slayings.

Assessing guilt in the pre-forensic science era lacks the certitude of DNA evidence,
but Gary Jay Matus is almost certainly guilty of Ann Raub Newman’s murder—the imaginary coconspirator is a common guilt-deflection trope and the likelihood Ann had experienced multiple break-ins—-first by a burglar and then by a rapist/murderer—within the span of a few hours is infinitesimal.
Ann had been slain at approximately 7:30am and Matus had arrived at his job—scheduled to start at 7:45am—thirty minutes late that morning; the evidence against him is circumstantial but substantial.

However I’m far less certain is Matus the Gold Sock Strangler—the secretary who survived her attack was unable to identify him in a lineup,
and authorities have never revealed the blood grouping of the semen recovered at the sock crime scenes,
an omission I find suspicious at best.
Law enforcement obviously wanted the public to believe the local serial killer was behind bars, but the case against Matus for the sock attacks is less than overwhelming.

Ironically, the crime I find most similar to the Raub Newman slaying is the Susan Mickelsen murder—both victims were attacked in bed,
nightclothes pushed up, naked from the waist down, a post-mortem pillow covering their faces—but it’s unclear if the Mickelsen murder is related to the sock crimes.
Approximately ten percent of homicides are committed via strangulation;
while not the most commonplace murder method there’s no statistical imperative indicating every contemporaneous ligature strangulation was committed by the same offender.
The male knee socks transported to the scene are atypical enough to qualify as a signature, but Susan’s killer murdered her with an item of her own hosiery.


There is only a single factor which indicates Matus’s guilt in the sock murders but it’s persuasive:
Matus was a construction worker by trade,
and he was employed at the building site where Marisue Curtis’s body was found.
And Marisue, coincidentally, was the only sock victim whose corpse was concealed; the remains of both Jonina and Teresa were openly discarded.
Attaching the cement blocks and dragging Marisue into the water must’ve been a time-consuming task;
an assailant without ties to the crime scene had no incentive to hide her body.
And the odds of two murderers with a penchant for ligature strangulation frequenting the same jobsite seem astronomical, even in the homicidal wonderland of 1970s Florida.

Of course, astronomical odds don’t equate with impossibility; for example, what are the chances two high-profile murderers would patronize the same drinking establishment?
Matus was a regular at the Button, an infamous Fort Lauderdale dive bar;
and when Son of Sam David Berkowitz visited his stepfather in Boynton Beach he was a frequent customer as well.
When a Fort Lauderdale News  reporter mentioned the unlikeliness of this coincidence to longtime Button employee Bill Penna the barkeep seemed unimpressed:
“I think half the people who come around here are insane,” he replied.
I never knew the Son of Sam had Florida ties, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

Spring Break at the Button in the 1970s; I spent an hour playing Where’s Waldo?  looking for serial killers in the crowd.