I intend to try something new with Daily Dread, posting each link as a new post with a photo à la the old Unsolved in the News blog. Two caveats: (1) I’ll have to purge the posts more often before they become unwieldy and (2) if posting this way turns out to be an unexpectedly onerous pain in the ass I intend to revert to the old-school method posthaste.

If anyone has any vociferous opinions about either format please feel free to be snippy and/or pedantic in the comments. It’s all for you, Damien!

UPDATE: I feel like the individual postings required undue scrolling past oh-so-many missing white women; let’s try a single post per week with thumbnails—we’ll get this right eventually.

DAILY DREAD: Where All The (Missin’) White Women at?


Texas woman claims to be missing Bradley sister, disappeared 18 years ago

Illinois man found guilty in teen’s 1992 strangulation death

AS SEEN ON DISAPPEARED: Decade passes since disappearance of Tracy Ocasio

Candlelight Vigil To Mark 25Th Anniversary Of Teen’s Unsolved Murder

Cold case murder revisited

A rape victim helped police catch Bobby Joe Long; she sat front row at his execution

‘This Is A Homicide’: Pennsylvania Family Wants Daughter’s Suicide Case Reopened

Double homicide unsolved for 13 years

Fulton native’s killer won’t stand trial

Going inside the crime lab for a 25-year-old cold case

NEW LONGREAD: Paige Renkoski still missing from Michigan 30 years later

NEW LONGREAD: Ted Bundy possible suspect in ’69 parkway murders, author claims



33 years since her disappearance, father of Kimberly Moreau clings to new tip

Who murdered 12-year-old Rosa Sandoval?

Suicide rulings questioned in Jackson County

One year later | The search for justice in Ebby Steppach case continues

Mother accused of murdering her two children could walk free

Man arrested in ‘brutal’ 1986 murder of woman slain in her Florida apartment

Man who went to help stranded motorist still missing 20 years later

AS SEEN ON DISAPPEARED: Mother still searching for daughter 9 years later

Detectives file warrant for possible new evidence in Roxanne Paltauf cold case

Reward offered for info 1993 disappearance with same suspect as Abilene murder

NEW LONGREAD: Family shares memories of four sisters killed in arson fire

NEW LONGREAD: East Brunswick cold case: Who killed 16-year-old Betty Jean Belt in 1975?

NEW LONGREAD: The Princeton Place Killer



The strange case of Jesokah Adkens

Troopers request help in solving 1977 murder

Attacks on Dallas trans women may be connected

New quest to track down Lisa Hession’s killer

Judge dismisses suit over mysterious death of college student turned police informant

Forever Loved: 25 years since Sandy Sollie disappeared

Kebab shop owner suspected of disposing of schoolgirl Charlene Downes

Special Report: Answers for Rosemary

NEW LONGREAD: Inside the time capsule bedroom of teen missing since 1988 

VINTAGE LONGREAD: Mass murder shocked Kitchener  (part 1 + part 2 + part 3)



Special Report: Disappearance of Michelle Crawford nearly 20 years later

Family hopes increasing reward will help solve teen’s murder in Fairfield Township

Deidre Week’s family hopeful after break in similar cold case

10 years later, murder of Monroe County girl remains unsolved

Kimberly Norwood still missing 30 years later

After three years, Taos woman still missing

NEW LONGREAD: The Strange Disappearance of Tammy Grogan

Simpsonville Sued Over Evidence Destruction in 1984 Rape-Homicide

Is investigation of 1966 murder dead? Maybe, maybe not

PODCAST Episode: The Julie Stanton story

Person of interest in Huisentruit case to return to Iowa



Penn State students’ documentary aims to shine a light on 1987 State College killing

Police suspect personal motive in pregnant woman’s murder 27 years ago

Crews search home for evidence connected to 2006 disappearance of Teresa Butler

Will Iceland’s Most Notorious Missing Person Case Be Reopened?

NEW LONGREAD: A Jury Could Have Stopped Suspected Serial Killer in 1973

COMPLETE 8-PART VIDEO SERIES: What happened to the Jeff Davis 8?

NEW LONGREAD: Chilling details revealed in cold case murder of Joanne Chatfield





Justice Story: Connecticut serial kid killer never charged

25 years later, convicted murderer maintains innocence (plus related vintage LONGREAD)

NEW LONGREAD: What happened to Angel? (plus possibly overlapping vintage LONGREAD)

NEW LONGREAD: Untold story of Veronica Knight, murdered by monsters

NEW LONGREAD: Perpetrator of Wendy Sewell’s 1973 murder has never been caught

VINTAGE LONGREAD: New Zealand’s most enduring missing persons cases




Strangler case stayed cold

She never came back | Somebody killed 6-year-old Peaches in 1980

Police still baffled by two teenagers found dead in pylon of bridge with eerie history

Family of Stillwater woman missing for 30 years won’t give up hope

Couple’s Bodies Exhumed to Help Push Cold Case Forward

Chief to child killer: ‘We’re going to get you. So come forward now and ask for mercy.’

NEW LONGREAD: Five years and too few answers in Chillicothe missing women cases


NEW LONGREAD: Daughter searches for answers after trooper disappears in 1972 



16 years after Greer bank triple murder, investigators not closer to answers

Cigarette butt leads to arrest in Angie Dodge murder case

Cold Case Files: “The Last Block”

Fresno County Cold Case: Who killed Alma Pena?

Woman has been missing in Hawaiian forest for 8 days as massive search continues

Victim’s sister says man being paroled for 1975 murder at NC State may be innocent

Man Charged in Murder of Canadian Couple in Pompano Beach Home

NEW LONGREAD AS SEEN ON DISAPPEARED:  Macin Smith Case Focused on Parents

NEWish LONGREAD: These unsolved murders still haunt the Four Corners

VINTAGE LONGREAD: The Mystery of Douglas Legg




Revealed: victims of ‘crossbow massacre’ that killed five

Caldwell man arrested as suspect in the 1996 rape, murder of Angie Dodge

Durham County Reopens Unsolved 1980 Teen’s Murder

Hayward man arrested for 1974 cold case murder already in custody 

Unborn baby cut from womb of missing 19-year-old Chicago woman

Julie Valentine’ mother charged in second baby’s death, sheriff says

Myra Lewis case frustrates sheriff 5 years after toddler’s disappearance

Searching for Hannah

Health care worker charged with 11 more murders of elderly women in Dallas area

NEW LONGREAD: Family speaks about 4 murdered in 1997 ahead of killer’s execution

VINTAGE LONGREAD: A Mysterious Lake George Tragedy (part 1 + part 2)



Roswell police are still searching for clues in the 1988 murder of an 8-year-old boy

Cold case: Family wants answers to teen’s murder

UNSOLVED: The 1969 strangulation of Pearle Bartley

A slain professor, two naked men and a suicide: “One of the strangest cases”

911 call reporting New Braunfels baby missing released 8 years into investigation

Suspect in Grisly Sword Killing Confesses to 6 Other Murders

A 20-Year-Old’s Death Was Ruled a Suicide — But Family Says She Was Murdered


After 2009 disappearance, family of Hattie Brown suffers a decade of pain

NEW LONGREAD: Who killed Kevin Martin?

VINTAGE LONGREAD: After 3 Decades, New Evidence Could Solve Missing NH Teen Case



4 men have gone missing in West Michigan in less than 2 years

Fate of Central Texas girl abducted 30 years ago remains a mystery

What do investigators need to solve Ellabeth Lodermeier’s cold case?

Man Who Worked with Traveling Carnival Allegedly Murdered Three Women 

NEW LONGREAD: Old freezer in warehouse reveals terrifying secret

Elmore County mother and son have been missing for 2 years

AS SEEN ON UNSOLVED MYSTERIES:  Search Continues In 1986 Cold Case 

Who killed a Jefferson Parish school teacher and her boyfriend?

American Airlines pilot arrested at Louisville airport, charged in 2015 triple homicide

VINTAGE LONGREAD: Playing with Fire



A dismembered body, a love child and the Klan: The wildest SF cold case you’ve never heard of

NEW LONGREAD: MAYBERRY TEXAS (Article + 5 Part Video Series)


Crossbow murder mystery deepens as two more bodies are found

AS SEEN IN Gladiator Days:  The story of the ‘Most Dangerous Man in Nevada’

Tammy Jo Alexander’s message from beyond the grave (plus web extra!)

Father fights to find answers 18 years after student nurse vanished on a trip 

Could solved cold case unravel Harmeier homicide? (plus ancillary article)

VINTAGE LONGREAD: The grisliest Nashville murder you’ve probably never heard of

Aside  —  Posted: May 14, 2019 in Uncategorized

Consider This Your Trigger Warning

This story begins at the midpoint of disgust and despair.

I had just finished watching Leaving Neverland, the Michael Jackson exposé-cum-negligent parenting how-to manual.
If you haven’t watched it, don’t—let me summarize it for you.
Terrible women pimp out their underage sons for fame, reap no legal or financial consequences. The end.

In lieu of brain bleach I then decided to finish off the evening with a viewing of Disney’s Peter Pan (in full at link)—still in keeping with a Neverland theme
but oh-so-anodyne even my carnage-obsessed brain couldn’t finagle any sinister implications from it.
Or so I thought.

And then I saw this image:

Something about a Saint Bernard tied in the yard sparked a memory—a memory of murder.

The Saint Bernard’s name was Kelly.

The date was June 11th, 1973 and she belonged to the Smith family of Wilton Manors, Florida—mother Linda, age thirty-one, and children Billy, fourteen, Christopher, eleven, Robin, nine, and Susan, seven.

It was 12:30am when Billy Smith arrived home from his girlfriend’s house and walked past Kelly tied in the yard of the modest pink bungalow at 1 NE 26th Court.
Seconds later he came barreling out of the residence, sprinting, he will later say, with no particular destination in mind.
Two blocks away, as if by fate, he spotted a police car.

“I’m glad to find a policeman when I really need one.” Billy Smith to the Wilton Manors patrolman, Fort Lauderdale News, June 11th, 1974

Inside the Smith residence Billy’s mother and three siblings had been slaughtered.
Linda lay crumpled in a pool of blood at the foot of a black leather sofa, Christopher sprawled a few feet away on the living room carpet.
Robin was found in his bedroom, lower body on the bed, upper torso off, dangling near the floor.
Karen, struck down mid-flight, reposed in a crimson puddle in her bedroom doorway.

Photos of Christopher and Kelly are unavailable in the archives

Only one gun, a .38 caliber revolver, had been used in the murder. Autopsies will later reveal the deceased family members, with one exception, had been shot in the head once;
Christopher had been shot in the head twice.
All four victims had been repeatedly stabbed with four separate steak knives, the family’s own, left behind at the scene.
All four victims’ throats had been slashed and all were fully clothed,
with no indication of sexual assault. Linda had sustained the most brutal attack—the medical examiner detected nineteen separate stab wounds—and she alone had been beaten,
her upper lip split, contusions abounding.

“In the case of the mother and Robin it’s impossible to determine which caused death—the throats being cut or the gunshot wounds. But Christopher and Karen were definitely killed by the gunshot wounds.” Dr. G K. Mann, Broward County Medical Examiner, Fort Lauderdale News, June 13th, 1973

Detectives attempted to reconstruct the crime using the blood spatter as a blueprint. Linda had been attacked while sitting on the sofa, investigators surmised,
with Christopher seated nearby snacking on two food containers—coleslaw and chocolate ice cream—which remained open on the coffee table.
Investigators believed Karen had emerged from her room during the initial assault and was spinning around to flee when the assailant gunned her down mid-pivot.
The position of Robin’s body indicated he had been attacked while sleeping and never regained consciousness.

“The facts in this case are strange, very strange.” Wilton Manors Police Chief Ray Saxon, Fort Lauderdale News, June 14th, 1973

Nothing had been stolen during the crime and none of the doors or windows exhibited evidence of forced entry.
Upon arriving at the scene Wilton Manor detectives noted a circumstance which greatly narrowed the suspect list:
Kelly the Saint Bernard, a gift from Linda’s ex-boyfriend Larry Bland, was protective of the family.
To gain access to the residence the killer or killers had almost certainly been escorted by a family member past the 130lb Cujo-doppelgänger.
The Smith family had been murdered by someone they knew.

“I can’t understand it; that dog would attack a stranger if he tried to get in the house.” Ex-boyfriend Larry Bland, Fort Lauderdale News, June 12th, 1973

Attractive, free-wheeling, friendly, outgoing; these are the adjectives her friends will use when describing Linda Smith in the Florida press.
Wilton Manors law enforcement had a more pejorative take: they called the recent murder victim, a single mother supporting four children, a party girl.
Admittedly, the forty-eight hours before Linda’s death had been somewhat of a whirlwind.
The festivities began, inauspiciously enough, when she offered a ride to a pair of hitchhiking British soldiers.

“Linda trusted everyone. She would pick up a hitchhiker and give him a ride and not think anything of it.” Rita Crippen, former Smith family neighbor, Orlando Sentinel, June 13th, 1974

Servicemen on leave are always a festive bunch and the Brits and Linda apparently hit it off;
she brought the pair directly home to meet her three youngest children and then bundled everyone into the car for a day of sun and fun at the beach.
A full-service hostess, that evening she served everyone frozen dinners and then took the soldiers out partying ‘til dawn.
On the following day—the family’s last—she blew off her part-time job at Johnson’s florist,
telling her boss she was “too tired” to work.
Linda subsequently spent the afternoon with ex-boyfriend Larry Bland, whose new wife—married on the rebound after Linda dumped him—had recently filed for divorce.
Wilton Manors detectives will later report they’d located two men who’d had sex with Linda within twenty-four hours of her death but the identity of these paramours has never been publicized.

“It had to be somebody who wanted to kill the whole family—if somebody wanted to kill her all they had to do was take her out on a date.” Larry Bland, Fort Lauderdale News, June 12th 1973

Neighbors on NE 26th Court will later report the Smith residence, usually a cacophony of merrymaking and basso-profundo dog barking, was unusually quiet the night of June 11th.
Larry Bland told detectives he’d dropped Linda home by 4pm and the coroner will later determine the Smiths died between 6 and 8pm.
Marie Seneca, living directly across the street, saw only two unfamiliar vehicles in the hours before the Smith family was slain; a brown sedan in the late afternoon, presumably driven by Larry Bland,
and a green Mustang a few hours later.
Although the Smith home was eerily silent she did recall one out-of-the-usual disturbance that night:
a series of irregularly timed explosions which began shortly after 8pm.

“We were barbecuing our dinner when we heard the noise; we didn’t hear any screams but I remarked to my husband that it was a terrible thing to shoot firecrackers off in the house.” Neighbor Marie Seneca, Pensacola New Journal, June 13th, 1973

Christopher’s Scoutmaster looks like modern day child-catcher / shanda for the goyim Stephen Miller

The investigation into the Smith family murders was flawed from the start. Crime scene protocol was laissez-faire in the 1970s and the Wilton Manors Police Department lacked experience in homicide investigations.
Detectives allowed a local ambulance crew to remove the Smiths’ bodies before photos were taken or the scene properly processed.
Twelve hours passed before the Wilton Manors brass, realizing they were out of their depth,
called in the Broward County Sherriff’s Office—only then were evidence technicians dispatched to the (now badly-compromised) crime scene.

[Fun fact: The Wilton Manors Police Department is famous not for its investigatory prowess but for its hiring practices—serial killer Gerard Schaeffer had been a patrolman, his high-profile arrest occurring just months before the Smith family was slain.]

The process of elimination began. Billy Smith, Larry Bland and the British soldiers all had reliable witnesses placing them elsewhere at the time of the crime.
Swiftly dismissed from suspicion was Linda’s ex-husband William Smith,
a seaman stationed in San Diego; biological father of the three younger children and adoptive father of Billy,
Smith traveled to Florida to assume custody of his surviving son—no word on whether he also assumed custody of Kelly the Saint Bernard but I like to believe.
One by one the men in Linda Smith’s life were crossed off the suspect list until only one name remained: Robert Kerwin Nash.

Linda’s ex-Husband at left, Robert Kerwin Nash at right

The very first mention of Robert Nash in the newspaper archives appears on March 8th, 1950: thirty-four-year-old Robert Kerwin Nash, transient,
was arrested for shooting Mary Ann Nelson in the arm during a Chicago robbery.
During interrogation Nash further confessed to knocking over a candy store, telegraph office, and several doctors’ and dentists’ offices in Los Angeles.
Armed robbery, felonious assault, aggravated grand theft:
throughout his life Nash racked up over forty arrests and spent more than fifteen years in such infamous correctional institutions as Joliet, Folsom and Sing Sing.
Crime was the driving force in Nash’s existence; he’d been married five times but his wives were just bit players—crime was and ever would be the name in lights on the marquee.

At the time of the Smith murders Robert Nash was fifty-eight years old; he sported a thick toupée which made him look younger but also ridiculous.
After his latest release from prison he’d reinvented himself as a sea captain, chartering pleasure cruises for down-at-the-heels tourists. Linda occasionally worked on Nash’s boat, described by investigators as a “floating bordello.”
The Smith children knew Nash tangentially as Captain Bob, their mother’s boss,
but the length and familiarity of the relationship between Robert Nash and Linda Smith has never been specified by law enforcement.

“We are missing one vital element in the case. Without it (the murder weapon) we have no case even though we have narrowed it down to this one suspect. We are convinced based on the proof we have, but the state attorney can’t effect the arrest as long as one element is missing.” Broward County Sherriff Edward Stack, Fort Lauderdale News, June 11th, 1974

Investigators could find no direct evidence tying Nash to the Smith murders but circumstantial evidence was plentiful:

  • He drove a green Mustang, a vehicle of the same color and model witnessed by neighbor Marie Seneca at the Smith home the night of the crime
  • He claimed he’d spent the evening of the murders drinking at Big Daddy’s Lounge—located within walking distance of the Smith residence—but no witnesses recalled seeing him there
  • He told detectives he hadn’t seen Linda for months but technicians found his fingerprint on the Smiths’ bathroom sink
  • According to his wife, Captain Bob arrived home the night of the murders with a large bloody gash across his hand
  • A convicted felon, Nash was barred from owning firearms but investigators were able to confirm he took possession of a .38 revolver—the caliber of weapon used in the slayings—in the late 1960s
    “This man is no amateur. He’s got a long record and he’s smart—he’s got that weapon stashed in a place we’ll never find it. And even though we have his fingerprint in the house we have no witness putting him there at the time of the murders.” Broward County Sherriff Edward Stack, Fort Lauderdale News, June 11th, 1974

    Captain Bob could read the writing on the interrogation room wall—after a single police interview he hotfooted out of Florida leaving no forwarding address.
    His wife Eileen, witness to the bloody gash, could read the writing as well (it spelled out G-U-I-L-T-Y)—and she immediately filed for divorce.
    Eventually investigators were able to track Nash to Washington DC where he was working as a barber near the Pentagon.
    With no new evidence forthcoming the Smith murder investigation stalled, four years passed, and Nash kept his head down but the lull couldn’t last.
    There was one constant in Captain Bob’s life, as reliable as the tide: his criminality always outweighed his good judgment.

    Queens, New York, 1977. Thirty-three-year-old Patricia Nash Danahy couldn’t believe her eyes; there on her doorstep stood Robert Kerwin Nash, the deadbeat dad who’d abandoned her at the age of four.
    Although they had shared only a handful of interactions over the decades Patricia, a waitress with a ten-year old daughter, invited Nash into her home;
    it was a decision she would live—just barely—to regret.
    Once inside Captain Bob spun a well-practiced tale of woe, citing an urgent need of capital to purchase a Fort Lauderdale condominium; he requested a small favor—could he insure her life for 100K and use the policy as mortgage collateral?
    Patricia Nash Danahy was not a financial adviser;
    she was a restaurant server and single mother hungry for paternal love and attention—the plan seemed reasonable to her and she agreed.

    Like human decency, an affinity for delayed gratification was entirely absent from Captain Bob’s wheelhouse.
    Just a few months later, on May 22nd, 1978 Patricia Danahy was found slumped in her car in a parking lot in Glen Oaks NY, two .38 caliber bullets in her skull.
    Miraculously, Patricia survived; after waking up from a week-long coma, permanently paralyzed on her left side, Patricia told investigators Captain Bob was the triggerman—he’d shown up in NY unexpectedly,
    she said, and asked for a loan.
    When she could muster only a few hundred dollars Nash pulled out a gun and attempted to cash in the 100K policy on an expedited schedule.

    A nationwide manhunt, ironically, found Captain Bob already behind bars—after shooting his daughter Nash hopped a flight to Miami where poorly-made luggage led to his undoing.
    As skycaps loaded Nash’s bags into the cargo hold his suitcase popped open and out tumbled two firearms: a shotgun and a .38 caliber handgun.
    Upon deplaning Captain Bob was arrested and held on weapons possession charges;
    the revolver in Nash’s suitcase was quickly linked to Patricia Danahy’s shooting and Florida detectives soon managed to link the weapon to an additional crime—but it wasn’t the Smith family murders.

    “It’s a damn shame to live that long and be that nice and die like that. He should’ve been able to die in peace.” Captain Gypsy Rhule on his friend Ray Hitchcock, Fort Lauderdale News, March 14th, 1978

    Seven months earlier, March 7th, 1978. Ray Hitchcock, age seventy-two, was found hogtied with jumper cables and viciously stabbed in his Fort Lauderdale apartment.
    A sea captain and onetime Robert Nash business partner, Captain Ray’s knife wounds followed a familiar pattern;
    like Linda Smith, murdered four years before,
    his throat had been slashed and he’d been stabbed nineteen times.
    Ray Hitchcock had been a man of modest means; his assailant ransacked his small apartment but only one item appeared to be missing—a .38 caliber revolver, later identified as the gun used in Patricia Danahy’s shooting.

    OVERLAPPING MURDER: Back in Wilton Manors the Smith murder house had become an infamous local landmark, dubbed 666 Andrews Avenue by local teens, AKA Satan’s winter residence.
    Although aware of the murders the Summerhill-Childers family moved into 1 NE 26th Court, convinced the home’s extensive interior remodeling had banished any miasma.
    Pray their rental deposit was refundable; five years after the Smith murders Joyce Summerhill, age twenty-seven, vanished while walking to Big Daddy’s Lounge,
    the same establishment Captain Bob—now safely behind bars—had claimed to be visiting while Linda and her children were murdered.
    One week later, on July 6th, 1978 Joyce’s body was found in underbrush behind an abandoned house approximately six blocks from Satan’s winter residence. Her slaying remains unsolved.

    “I wouldn’t have lived there if you paid me.” Joyce Summerhill’s ex-boyfriend Darrell Lapointe on the murder house, Fort Lauderdale News, July 8th, 1978

    Joyce Summerhill isn’t the only 666 Andrews Avenue resident denied justice; despite compelling evidence of his guilt Robert Kerwin Nash was never tried for murdering Ray Hitchcock or the Smith family.
    The gun used in the Smith murders has never been located and although investigators could place Nash in Florida at the time of the Hitchcock slaying
    they were confident his sentence in the Patricia Danahy shooting would be a de facto life sentence.
    They were right: on December 6th, 1979 Robert Nash was convicted of attempted murder and weapons possession in a New York courtroom; citing his “forty-year life of crime,”
    Judge George Balbach doled out eight and twenty-five year sentences, the terms to be served concurrently.
    Seven years later, on November 22nd, 1986 Captain Bob Nash died in a New York prison, forever evading punishment for his worst misdeeds.

    The address of 1 NE 26th Court has been changed but Satan’s winter residence abides.

    Joyce Summerhill’s brother looks like Angry Patton Oswalt

    Leaving Neverland, Peter Pan and a forty-year-old family murder—it was a circuitous journey but the theme of parental responsibility resonates.
    Wilton Manors detectives blamed Linda Smith for the choices which led to the deaths of her children and I was enraged—nay, apoplectic—at the Leaving Neverland  mothers for failing to protect their sons.
    Four decades after the Smith murders the appropriate amount of assigned maternal blame for victimized offspring is still a topic of debate, regardless of whether it should be.
    I’m not here to judge Linda Smith’s parenting choices, regardless of whether I agree with them.
    I’m just grateful for the chance to memorialize a murdered family, especially Christopher Jay, Robin Timothy and Karen Smith. Just like Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, they never got a chance to grow up.


    NEW LONGREAD: Where is Lanessa Roosa?

    NEW LONGREAD: Investigators describe brutal 1984 killing that put Donnie Johnson on death row

    Investigating One Fatal Shooting, a Florida Sleuth Dies in Another

    Cleashindra Hall’s family continues search after 25 years

    Appalachian Unsolved: How a father of 7’s killing spurred creation of the TBI

    Conviction thrown out in the rape and murder of 12-year-old Josette Wright

    Hundreds of bodies, one nurse: Serial killer rattles Germany


    DA’s Resignation Could Change Course Of Cold Case Murder Investigation

    CRIME HUNTER: The agony of a missing child


    NEW LONGREAD: Dawn Mozino’s disappearance 30 years ago still haunts Main Line

    Unsolved 1985 murder of TV director leads to arrest of NC auto repair shop worker

    Case of double murder, vehicle arson still cold after 38 years

    NEW LONGREAD: Late-night shortcut put 18-year-old lifeguard Tracy Kundinger in killer’s path

    ‘Show up’: Tanya Brooks sparks call to action 10 years after her death

    Lemmon Valley cold case mystery remains unsolved for 36 years

    30 years after Dauphin County teen’s disappearance, case remains unsolved

    Kentucky man disappears night of snowstorm, family suspects murder

    Whiston boys’ 1980 murder: Police investigation ‘lacked thoroughness’

    Bones found along Snake River confirmed to be missing Grangeville woman Shawnta Pankey

    Inside the Evidence: Who killed Tammy Jo Alexander?

    Mother stabbed countless times; Investigators re-examine 19-year-old cold case


    Double murder at Asian restaurant in 2001 remains unsolved


    Kathleen Harris, who disappeared 20 years ago may have been pregnant, friends reveal

    The Justice Files: Composite of suspect in Rosie Tapia murder goes viral

    Decades Old Cold Case Gets New Life, to Feature on TV Show

    Cold case murder of Laralee Spear, 15, perplexes detectives 25 years later

    UNSOLVED: The 2013 murder of Jillian Berrios

    Family mourning on the 20th anniversary of unsolved East AL double murder


    Crista Bramlitt murder: 22 years later, DNA leads police to an arrest

    NEW LONGREAD: Missing millions and the murder of grocery heiress Marjorie Jackson

    FULL VIDEO SERIES: Who killed Adrienne?

    Fiery death of man at Shamokin area party site remains a mystery 25 years later

    1989 mystery: The murders of Dale and Janet Anderson

    Brother: Samuel Little killed my sister

    40 years later, a mother continues to search for son snatched after birth

    Moms of Ocala Couple Want Justice After Homicides, Fire

    Missing couple case: Two years later, sheriff’s lieutenant says he believes it is ‘solvable’

    38 years later: What happened to Tammy Mahoney? Teen missing from Oneida since 1981

    SPECIAL REPORT: Inside the 1983 Kilgore KFC massacre (part 1 + part 2, mismarked as part 1 but trust me)


    NEW LONGREAD: The Murder of Alice Ryan (part 1 + part 2 + part 3 + part 4 + part 5)

    1939 murder of Hardin County sheriff’s deputy James Reddicks remains a mystery

    Search continues for 2 missing Chicago pregnant women as due dates pass

    New DNA Evidence IDs Victim, Killer In 1982 Lake Tahoe Area Murder

    52-year-old murder solved in Seattle

    Family still searching for answers 4 years after disappearance of Kandice Singbeil

    Andrew Kinsman was fascinated by serial killers before he became Bruce McArthur’s 8th victim

    Looking For Linda’s Killer (part 1, previously posted + part 2)

    Missing for four years: the Leah Harding case (part 1 + part 2 + part 3)



    NEW LONGREAD: Police identify killer in 47-year-old cold case murder of ISU student

    NEW LONGREAD (with new forensic information): 5 years later, murders of Lake Oconee couple continue to confound

    NEW LONGREAD: Classmate remembers KC homeless woman believed to be victim of alleged serial killer

    NEW LONGREAD: Who Killed Sally van Hecke?

    NEW LONGREAD: Greenville police chief announces arrest in high-profile cold case killing

    Cold Case: Cops Say Maryland Man Staged 1985 Murder of His Wife as Burglary

    Questions continue to linger 1 year after teacher’s murder in Aliquippa

    Four weeks after her headless torso was fished from the Pacific Ocean the Toni Goman Feminist Rape Crisis Center opened in Columbus, Ohio;
    like its namesake, the crisis center’s existence would be cut short by violence two decades later.

    Southern California, November 2nd, 1973. The three Palisades High School students couldn’t believe their eyes.
    Gale Cruse, James Levesque and Liz Taylor—no, not that Liz Taylor—had pulled over to change a flat tire on the Pacific Coast Highway and spotted an object bobbing in the surf at Castle Rock Beach.
    Closer inspection revealed a decapitated human corpse, arms, breasts, and legs amputated.
    The trio had skipped school hoping for an adventure but happening upon the aftermath of a mutilation murder was not the Beach Boys-brand of fun in the sun they had anticipated.

    “[Finding the body was] frightening. How evil and how ugly and how sad. Who the heck would do something like this?” James Levesque, Palisadian Post, August 10th, 2017

    Upon arriving at the scene LAPD officers discovered a human leg at the water’s edge with a single blue platform shoe, size 6B, placed nearby; a blue purse, devoid of identification, had been discarded on the shore.
    A search of the nearby waterway unearthed a matching shoe but no signs of the corpse’s missing appendages.
    Detectives were unable to synch the decedents’ particulars with any existing missing persons report and a canvass of local stores revealed the shoes were not available for sale in California;
    surmising the victim hailed from out of town,
    the LAPD staged a press conference pleading for tips with the blue accessories featured front and center.
    It’s unclear if this development was prompted by the publicity, but two days later a missing persons report was filed by the traveling companion of twenty-eight year old Ohio State University student Toni Goman.

    “Toni was a special cousin. She always made everything more fun.” Vicki Amos Murray, Palisadian Post, August 10th, 2017

    Adopted by maternal relatives at birth, Toni Elinor Goman was a divorcée, a single-mother of an 8-year old son and a campus radical.
    A quintessential ’70s feminist, she loved strolling through the forest topless while reciting poetry and agitating with her fellow Ohio State University students to demolish gender norms.
    A member of the Women’s Action Coalition, Toni had been instrumental in creating and fostering a faction of the group which eventually became Women Against Rape (WAR), an organization dedicated to ending sexual violence.
    During Thanksgiving break she’d traveled west in anticipation of a possible relocation to Southern California after graduation.

    “Regardless of age, race, social class, lifestyle or achievement all women share a single status: that of being potential targets of violence.” From Freeing Our Lives, the Women Against Rape manifesto, 1978

    With no fingers for fingerprinting and no teeth for dental matching authorities relied on the torso’s scars and moles for comparison—eventually the medical examiner was able to confirm the remains found at Castle Rock Beach belonged to Toni Goman, who had been stabbed to death prior to dismemberment.
    The friend she had been traveling with—an (unnamed) male Ohio State University Student with a prior assault and battery conviction—claimed he’d dropped Toni off at a low-rent Beverly Hills hotel and when he returned for her a few days later she had vanished.

    Southern California in the 1970s was a dismemberment wonderland.
    The handiwork of mutilation-enthusiasts Edmund Kemper, Patrick Keaney and Randy Kraft left the landscape literally littered with body parts—-here’s a part, there’s a part, everywhere a part-part.
    In the six months preceding the discovery of Toni’s remains hacked limbs and torsos belonging to a total of six different victims were discovered strewn throughout the area;
    LAPD cadets were scouring Santa Ynez canyon for the missing appendages of one of these victims—a male teenager—when a searcher discovered a jawbone which later proved to belong to Toni.
    Despite an extensive search her upper skull, three missing limbs and amputated breasts have never been recovered.

    LAPD cadets search Santa Ynez canyon

    Toni Goman’s murder has never been forensically linked to any of the West Coast mutilation slaying of the era
    but there was speculation in the press dismemberment devotee Richard Lawrence Marquette was responsible—at the time of Toni’s death he was out on parole for a 1961 dismemberment slaying and he would later return to prison for two Oregon mutilation murders in the mid-70s.
    (Valuable lesson for parole boards everywhere: when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.)

    Richard Lawrence Marquette

    Personally, although the crimes have never been linked in the media I’ve always pondered a connection between Toni’s murder and that of seventeen-year old runaway Taunye Moore. Five months after Toni’s death, on April 9th, 1974
    Taunye’s dismembered corpse was found packed into three trash bags dumped behind a Los Angeles motel;
    in addition to the proximities in location, time frame and modus operandi Taunye and Toni were both from Ohio—Taunye’s hometown Mount Gilead was just an hour’s drive from Ohio State.
    A coincidence, probably, but an intriguing one nonetheless.

    [“Taunye’s killer most likely had] a pathological hatred of women.” Morrow County Prosecuting Attorney Charles Howland, Galion Inquirer, April 22, 2009

    Taunye Moore

    Unfortunately, in the newspapers at least, Toni’s murder got lost in the serial slayings’ maelstrom—no new investigatory developments were forthcoming and her name quickly slipped from the headlines.
    Her spirit lived on at Ohio State University, however;
    the Toni Goman Feminist Rape Crisis Center, named in her honor, provided a 24-hour hotline and self-defense workshops for OSU students and members of the community at large.
    The center prevailed for twenty-one years,
    weathering the budget cutbacks and personality conflicts endemic in outreach work but in 1995 an act of violence sparked a chain of events that would destroy the organization—a rapist broke into the WAR office and sexually assaulted the volunteer manning the hotline phones.

    “There are many factors leading to this dilemma (rape), not the least of which is the apparent unwillingness of the potential victim to take the minimum precautions when interacting socially.” From the preface of a 1973 sexual assault report conducted by the Columbus Police Department’s Planning and Research Department (hereinafter the WTF Files), quoted in the Ohio State Lantern, October 22nd, 1974

    Women Against Rape self-defense class, 1973

    “The ‘pill,’ so available and freely used in our society, has undoubtedly developed a somewhat lackadaisical attitude in many females to being the victim of rape.” The WTF Files (Helpful hint for misogynists: calling women “females” is a tell)

    Feminism can be hard to get right; navigating situations in which the choices of individual women could potentially endanger all women can be treacherous.
    The victim of the rape center attack subsequently opted not to report the crime, and this decision tore Women Against Rape asunder.
    One faction of WAR felt the victim had a moral responsibility to protect other potential victims in the community by alerting law enforcement,
    and other members of WAR felt obligated to respect the victim’s wishes irrespective of any further harm the perpetrator might inflict on other women.
    A contentious meeting (dubbed the “WAR wake” by participants) was convened but the two factions were unable to reconcile their differences; in mid-1995 the Toni Goman Feminist Rape Crisis Center was disbanded,
    twenty-one years of community anti-rape outreach demolished by, of all things, a sexual assault.

    “There are three deaths: the first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.” Author and neuroscientist David Eagleman, Metamorphosis, 2009

    The tale of Toni Goman and WAR’s eponymously-named crisis center is awash with irony: an anti-violence advocate slain in a crime of unimaginable violence, an anti-rape advocacy center destroyed by rape.
    It’s ridiculous, I know, but I almost feel like the frequent mention of Toni’s name in conjunction with the center was keeping her alive, somehow increasing the likelihood her murder would someday be solved.
    Viewed from this perspective the attack at the WAR office was an attack on Toni herself, the closure of the center effectively erasing her name from future discourse.

    1977 OSU Rape is Violence rally

    Despite her early death and personal hardships outreach performed in Toni’s name helped hundreds of women over two decades, almost the same number of years she spent on this earth. I am reminded of the final stanza of the poem “May Poles:*

    Let’s regard her lasting spark
    And tell the tyrants of the dark
    Who has left the greater mark

    Toni Goman was so resilient it took two separate crimes of violence separated by two decades and two thousand miles to kill her. And that is a legacy that would make any feminist proud.

    1972 OSU Bridal Fair Protest

    * written by died-by-suicide poet Rachel Wetzsteon about her friend, fellow died-by-suicide poet Sarah Hannah


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    03-06- 2019

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    10 years later: Who killed Eric Birnbaum?
    ‘He’s a sociopath’: How serial killer Samuel Little was linked to 1981 local homicide
    ‘Girl in the Closet,’ accused of sexual assault of 14-year-old girl (related vintage interactive)


    I always knew Facebook was evil and I never thought twice about selective newspaper coverage until the 2016 election. These may seem to be two discrete issues—one boast, one admission—but both play a role in my obsession
    with famed dog breeder and unfamous missing person Ercilia Anita Maria Elrod Shelton Le Ny.

    Nothing in this story makes sense, none of the numbers add up and all of the details are either contradictory or unclear. That said, leading with the bleeding never goes out of style:
    let’s start with the tale’s only documented act of violence—intergenerational fisticuffs—and we’ll follow the trail as best we can from there.


    At Your Throat or at Your Feet

    June 10th, 1964. To call the article tawdry would be an understatement; it begins with a joke about murdered civil rights workers and races cheerily downhill from there.
    According to the New York Daily News  seventy-year old New Orleans socialite Geraldine de la Parra Elrod was visiting the home of her daughter Countess Ercilia Le Ny when she was physically assaulted by Guenter Behr,
    her daughter’s twenty five-year old live-in boyfriend.
    The Countess, as the Daily News  noted with glee,
    owned not only the elevator-equipped duplex at 130 East 72nd Street in which the assault allegedly took place but the entire apartment building, located in the most desirable neighborhood in Manhattan.

    “I watched my daughter being wrapped around the fingers of this arrogant man who will not go out and work; he orders the servants and even myself around as if we were part of his possessions. I could take it no more. I told my daughter she was sinking to the lowest level with this man. He was not for her.” Geraldine de la Parra Elrod, New York Daily News, June 28th, 1964

    Both Ercilia and Guenter Behr denied a physical altercation had taken place and the disposition of the assault charges, apparently deemed unworthy of Daily News  coverage, has never been publicized.

    Through a Glass Sparkly

    Piecing together the narrative of Ercilia’s life from the available sources is like reconstructing a mosaic—some of the tiles are missing or cracked leaving some aspects of the image indistinct.
    The only child of newspaper executive Samuel Floyd Elrod and his Spanish-born second wife, Ercilia was swaddled in luxury from conception.
    I can find no definitive record of her birth, oddly,
    and her age varies widely in media accounts of her disappearance—but she was enrolled in Wright High School in 1941 and matriculated at Newcombe College, Tulane’s sister school, in 1942.
    Assuming she graduated from high school at the age of seventeen Ercilia would’ve been forty years old in 1964, fifteen years older than Guenter Behr and sixty years old when she vanished.

    A saucy Ercilia standing center in dark dress, 1938

    “Miss Ercell (sic) Elrod performed a Spanish skit at a tea for the Fleur de Lis chapter of the Delphian Society.” New Orleans Times-Picayune, November 3rd, 1935

    From her first mention at the (estimated) age of ten Ercilia was rarely absent from the Times-Picayune‘s society pages—performing an exhibition of Mexican dances at the 1938 Spring Fiesta,
    attending charity functions and soirees,
    hosting luncheons and cocktail parties at the Elrod home at 4725 Carondelet Street in NOLA.
    Her first marriage, to La Vega Robert Shelton, sparked a flurry of coverage in 1943;
    the couple’s divorce three years later, however, was relegated to a two-line legal notice in the McComb, Mississippi Enterprise-Journal.
    Divorce in the 1940s was a societal taboo; performing the distasteful deed in a neighboring state was common haute société  publicity dodge.


    Ercilia’s buoyant social life seemed unscathed by her marital misadventure; readopting her maiden name the Picayune chronicled her post-divorce travels—to San Francisco, Miami, Cuba, and the “European continent.”
    In 1950 she was again ready to wed, this time to Yves Joseph Le Ny of Hennebont, France;
    unable to wear a white dress as a divorcée or obtain a religious ceremony she was married at the Elrod family home in a blue taffeta gown with a local judge officiating.


    For Ercilia the second time was not the charm; according to the legal notices in the Biloxi Daily Herald  she and Yves Le Ny divorced one year later, on September 15th, 1951.
    I have no desire to cast aspersions but truth is an essential component of true crime: her adoption of the title “’Countess” is, as far as I can tell, puffery.
    There is no record of royal lineage for Yves Joseph Le Ny and his aristocratic status is not mentioned in the couple’s marriage announcement or divorce decree, which lists Mr. Le Ny’s employer as the Berlitz School of Languages.
    Ercilia apparently began calling herself Countess Le Ny in the early 1960s,
    approximately ten years after the dissolution of her marriage;
    the Daily News elder abuse article is, to the best of my knowledge, the first time the title is employed in print.

    Who Let the Dogs in?

    Ercilia had bad luck with men but good luck with investments; in addition to the apartment building on East 72nd street she owned a 99-acre estate at 280 Miller Park Road in Hunterdon County New Jersey, purchased in 1959.
    There Ercilia—a lifelong canine enthusiast—founded Querencia Kennels, breeding and showing champion terriers.
    Escorting numerous Querencia dogs to victory in the ring Guenter Behr became a well-known show handler,
    most notably capturing the Best Terrier award at Westminster in 1962 with Airedale Querencia’s Suerte Brava.


    “I kept breeding Airedales and I couldn’t bear to sell the pups so before I knew it I had forty-five dogs.”
    Ercilia Elrod Le Ny, New York Times, May 24th, 1973

    Everyone who knew her agreed: it was Ercilia’s dogs, not her romantic partners, who were the genuine love of her life.

    The First Thing We Do, let’s Kill all the . . . .

    Ercilia’s early life can be traced through the Picayune-Times  society pages but in the mid-1960s another avenue of investigation unfurls—civil court records.
    Shortly before Samuel Elrod died in 1961 the deed of the family home and several rental properties at 4212-14 Saint Charles Avenue were placed in Ercilia’s name.
    Samuel Elrod had a son from his first marriage who predeceased him, leaving two grandchildren—after the Guenter Behr assault Geraldine attempted to rescind this property transfer,
    claiming it had been implemented for the sole purpose of defrauding Samuel Elrod’s grandchildren.


    The legal technicalities are irrelevant but a trove of family scandals was elicited during the course of the proceedings, three separate cases litigated over a fifteen-year span.
    Samuel Elrod, as it turns out, might have been a bigamist—his divorce from his first wife wasn’t granted until 1924 but Geraldine, in her sworn testimony,
    asserted she and Samuel had wed in Cuba in 1922.
    Conversely, it’s possible the 1922 marriage never took place, rendering Ercilia illegitimate—no record of the 1922 marriage could be located.
    Although the couple did legally wed in Mississippi four years before Samuel’s death Geraldine’s evolving testimony on her marital status paints her as an unreliable narrator at best.

    “We have, from the evidence before us, no way of telling whether Mrs. [Geraldine] Elrod was lying then or is lying now.” The judicial equivalent of a serious burn, Succession v. Elrod  (1971)


    The disclosure of the Elrods’ peculiarly-timed marriage(s) wasn’t the litigation’s only sordid revelation;
    Ercilia, questioned under oath, revealed a long-term affair with a married Columbian coffee-grower who showered her with cash, sometimes as much as 4K a month.
    Ercilia refused to name her benefactor, citing his diplomatic immunity, and it’s unclear whether this dalliance, or the disclosure thereof, played a role in her subsequent disappearance.
    Ercilia ultimately lost both the sole rights to the litigated properties and a related suit regarding her attorneys’ fees; Geraldine died in 1973, her rift with her daughter unmended.


    No Accounting for the Countess

    Time passes. Ercilia lost in court, appeared regularly in the Times-Picayune  society pages and continued to show and breed champion dogs.
    At some point—the exact date is uncertain, but by 1984 he had a new, much-younger wife—her affaire d’amour with Guenter Behr went kaput.
    No man, no problem: we’re not privy to her innermost thoughts on the matter but Ercilia’s dedication to living a festive and philanthropic life—as evinced by her presence at charity functions galore—apparently did not wane.
    Ercilia Elrod Shelton Le Ny continued to enjoy the archetypal existence of a wealthy, well-bred woman of a certain age until Friday, August 9th, 1985.

    Guenter Behr in the rearview mirror, 1977 

    As was her custom, Ercilia intended to spend the weekend at her apartment in Manhattan.
    She fed her dogs, checked in with her kennel staff, packed her favorite Airedale Rudy into her 1981 Lincoln Continental and vanished off the face of the earth.

    Although some contradictory information has been published these are—or at least appear to be—the relevant evidentiary events in the period after Ercilia’s disappearance:

  • When she failed to return home her dog-sitter Elizabeth Mazyk contacted authorities
  • A few days after she vanished Ercilia’s Lincoln was found in Westchester County, New York, immaculately clean and devoid of fingerprints
  • Later that week a credit card receipt arrived at the New Jersey estate for gas purchased in the Bronx; Ercilia’s signature on the sales slip appears to have been forged
  • Investigators learn two plane tickets to Caracas, Venezuela had been purchased in Ercilia’s name shortly after her disappearance; only one ticket was used and the passenger—flying sans chien—deplaned in Miami
  • Detectives entered the Manhattan duplex to search for clues and found the residence neat and orderly; when they returned months later Ercilia’s possessions had been boxed and bagged by persons unknown

    “There is no direct evidence of foul play but since she walked away leaving a considerable amount of property and money common sense tells you that something untoward happened to her.” Lieutenant Robert Davis, NYPD Missing Persons Unit, Huntingdon County Democrat, August 11th, 1987 (reprinted in 2012)


    Investigation Destination Unknown

    As is often the case with missing persons the investigation into Ercilia’s disappearance was hobbled by jurisdictional issues—her primary residence was in New Jersey,
    her intended destination in Manhattan and her car was found abandoned Downstate.
    Whether by design or default the Hunterdon County Sheriff’s Office took the lead, creating friction with the infamously territorial NYPD.
    Hunterdon County Sheriff Warren Peterson acknowledged the animosity, later lamenting to the Bridgewater Courier News, “New York Police haven’t been the most cooperative in all of this.”

    “My personal feeling is she’s disappeared permanently.” Hunterdon County Sheriff Warren Peterson, Bridgewater Courier News, July 11th, 1988


    Mickey Easterling Brings the Glamour, also the Bacon

    The leading lady had exited the stage but the daily upkeep at her New Jersey estate and Querencia Kennels did not cease with Ercilia’s disappearance.
    Since she was simply missing, not deceased, her bank accounts were frozen and none of her properties or possessions could be sold.
    American Kennel Club rescue groups stepped in to rehome Ercilia’s dogs and her childhood friend Marycathyrn “Mickey” Easterling, legendary New Orleans bon vivant,
    stepped up and paid the 85K mortgage on the New Jersey estate.

    “She loved those dogs too much to ever leave them like this. None of us have any idea what happened to her but we could never carry out her wishes for what they would get at a sheriff’s sale.” Mickey Easterling, Bridgewater Courier News, July 11th, 1988

    Mickey Easterling,

    Triumph of the Will

    Ercilia’s missing . . . who’s got the will? According to Mickey Easterling several variations of Ercilla’s final testament had been drafted, including at least one version bequeathing her entire estate to Guenter Behr.
    Plot twist: he may have manhandled her mother and possibly her heart but Guenter Behr made no attempt to benefit from Ercilia’s disappearance.
    In truth, Geraldine Elrod’s spirited perjury in Succession of Elrod  cast a shadow on the 1964 assault allegations—although ex-boyfriends are always statistically viable suspects in this case, at least,
    Guenter Behr appears to be a Teutonic MacGuffin.

    The side-eye from the judge on the left is everything, 1975

    Rumors of a more recent version notwithstanding, the will ultimately probated was drafted by an attorney named Irving Soloway and signed by Ercilia in 1978.
    She had no children, no siblings, and her only blood relatives were the half-niece and -nephew allied with Geraldine in Succession of Elrod—they were, not surprisingly, disinherited.
    An animal-lover to the end,
    Ercilia bequeathed the entirety of her estate to a trust for the comfort and care of her beloved terriers.

    “I am not convinced Ercilia had her last will with Mr. Soloway; they were not on the friendliest of terms.” Mickey Easterling, Bridgewater Courier News, November 17th, 1990

    Mickey Easterling attending her own funeral in style, 2014

    After(math) Not Adding Up

    “It’s a story made for the magazine rack at the grocery store checkout lane: money, romance, royalty, mystery.”
    Bridgewater Courier News  on the Le Ny case, July 11th, 1988

    Women go missing—even, on rare occasions, wealthy women. Ercilia’s disappearance was within the realm of possibility but what happened next was not.
    Not a single story was written about her disappearance in the New York papers or the Picayune-Times—not an article, not an item, not a word.
    Media attention can be capricious but there is one inviolate rule: when a rich white lady goes missing attention must be paid.

    From the Picayune-Times  exactly one month before her disappearance,

    To recap: the Daily News  featured Guenter Behr’s 1964 battery arrest, the Picayune covered her every pirouette since childhood and the New York Times  printed twelve years of Querencia Kennel victories plus a quarter-page Style Section puff piece in 1973.
    Ercilia’s conventionally charmed life had been saturated with media coverage and yet her disappearance—the most newsworthy aspect of her biography—somehow rated nary a mention.

    The investigation into Ercilia’s disappearance will receive no first-class reportage despite her fist-class life; instead the case garnered scattershot accounts from three Hunterdon County newspapers,
    a total of seven articles in all— four stories in the Bridgewater Courier News,
    two in the Hunterdon County Democrat  and a single piece in the Hunterdon County Observer.
    Adding insult to injury not only is the coverage paltry but much of the reported information is erroneous—the name of Ercilia’s second husband,
    her age, her New York address, the lengths of her marriages and the acreage of her New Jersey estate are all listed incorrectly.

    Querencia stud circa 1975

    Confession: I am not averse to conspiratorial thinking; sometimes powerful people are, in fact, working together towards nefarious ends.
    If Ercilia vanished from a backwater I could (grudgingly) believe a shady lawyer, police chief, and the town’s only newspaper owner colluded to steal her fortune—disappearing her,
    eliminating publicity, and probating a bogus or outdated will.
    Admittedly, such an occurrence would be bizarre and unlikely but it could, theoretically, happen.
    A media blackout on a wealthy woman’s abduction in Manhattan would be an impossibility—three daily newspapers, multiple law enforcement agencies,
    in New York City there are too many working parts, too many opportunities for leaks and pointed questions.
    Yet somehow, here we are.

    Can’t Buy Me Love


    For comparison purposes here are four fellow heiresses who vanished within the same general time frame:

    All of these women received copious publicity not only in their local newspapers but in national publications;
    books have been written, documentaries filmed and in the case of gender-fluidity pioneer Cam Lyman Robert Stack himself weighed in on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries.

    Guenter Behr, Tarnbreck Cassius and two plaid jackets from Satan’s atelier, 1977

    But Ercilia—just as wealthy, the circumstances of her disappearance equally mysterious—-garnered naught but a handful of poorly-fact checked articles in second-tier media outlets.
    In investigations, especially missing persons cases, media attention can be vital:
    an Airedale terrier running loose in the Bronx,
    a human-sized parcel carried out of Ercilia’s duplex—we’ll never know if anyone saw these things because they’re not, in and of themselves, incriminating.
    Witnesses won’t come forward with information if they’re unaware a crime has been committed.

    It’s the ultimate irony: Ercilia’s disappearance had everything—missing wills, orphaned show-dogs, high-dollar real estate, spurious claims of royalty—everything except the one thing it needed most: publicity.

    Not the Record We Want but the Record We Have

    Although I can’t explain how we ended up with such a paucity of information within the Huntingdon County articles lurk two facts and one incidence of trial testimony which almost certainly hold great import,
    and might even be the key(s) necessary to unlock mystery of Ercilia’s disappearance.

    First:    One of the tenants residing at 130 East 72nd Street, Louis Laurie, attempted to claim partial ownership of the building. It’s unclear if his claim had merit or ultimately prevailed.

    Second:    New Jersey allows a declaration of death after five years of absence. Ercilia was declared deceased on November 30th, 1990 and during the hearing NYPD Detective Constance Montonaro testified
    the Le Ny investigation would likely be closed
    as a declaration of death would make it difficult to question Louis Laurie about his ownership claim on the building.

    Everything about Detective Montonaro’s reported testimony is so ludicrous I can only assume the Bridgewater Courier  journalist misunderstood or misheard her.
    Louis Laurie would have the same legal right to be questioned—-or to refuse to be questioned, if he so chose—irrespective of whether the NYPD was investigating Ercilia’s death or disappearance.
    Criminal investigations are not closed because of “difficulty” in questioning witnesses; jabber-jaws might facilitate prosecution but they are not a prerequisite.

    Third:    An unnamed employee of Querencia Kennels received a letter purporting to be from Ercilia in 1988, three years after she vanished.
    Although the handwriting was believed to be genuine Judge Bernhard proceeded to issue the 1990 finding of death since the note—the contents of which were not revealed—could have been written prior to her disappearance.
    What did the note say, and if Ercilia didn’t send the note who did and why?

    Even amidst the misreporting it’s obvious Ercilia didn’t voluntarily abandon her fortune and pets to live penniless on the streets of Miami, panhandling and performing Spanish skits and Mexican folk dances for cash.
    (“Will Breed Dogs For Food” is a cardboard sign you’ll never see brandished on skid row.)
    It’s also clear she wasn’t slain in a random act of violence since elements of staging—the plane ticket purchase most glaringly—were manifest throughout the crime.
    That a conspiracy existed is undeniable but it’s impossible to assess which anomalies—the press inattention, the law enforcement jurisdictional feud—were manufactured and which were dumb luck.
    Who was in cahoots with whom, and who stood to gain the most from Ercilia’s disappearance?

    I don’t know the answer to any of these questions and the New Jersey press didn’t seem interested in finding out.

     From a modern perspective it looks like Guenter Behr is goosing that bitch while Roger Ailes looks on approvingly, 1977

    Not with a Bang but a Whimper

    When Ercilia Elrod Le Ny departed her home on August 9th, 1985 she owned a mansion on ninety-nine acres of prime New Jersey real estate and an Upper East Side apartment building valued at 7.5 million dollars in 1990—plus whatever stocks, jewelry, and liquid assets she had inherited or accrued throughout her not-especially long but fabulous life.

    In December of 1996, nearly twelve years after her disappearance attorney Irving Soloway settled her estate with a 100K donation to the Hunterdon County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals,
    an organization unmentioned in the decedent’s will.

    The sole directive of Ercilia’s final will and testament was that her cherished pets—ultimately charity cases rehomed with strangers—continue to live lives of canine luxury.
    I have no idea where her assets went or why it took so long to probate an uncontested will but—coincidentally or not—by the time her estate was settled every single one of her dogs was dead.

    Anti-Social Media

    That was then, this is now.

    As I have previously noted on this very blog I’d rather have a public pap-smear than a Facebook page.
    Smarmy dopamine peddler Mark Zuckerberg hooked the unwashed masses on likes and fake news but my brain chemistry is strictly off-limits.

    During the course of my deep-dive into Ercilia’s disappearance, however, I stumbled upon this:


    If Ercilia Elrod Le Ny was still alive she’d be approximately ninety-three years old, a not impossible feat; that a woman of such advanced years would create a Facebook page is unlikely but not inconceivable.

    I hesitated for a moment; was it possible Ercilia had  sashayed away from her money,
    possessions and pets thirty-three years ago?
    I pondered—perhaps publishing this post without creating a Facebook account and reaching out to Ercilia—or the person posing as Ercilia online—would be ill-advised.

    And then I reconsidered.

    If Ercilia eloped to begin life anew she certainly wouldn’t create a Facebook page in the name she’d abandoned millions of dollars and her precious pups to jettison.
    She had no family to speak of and her disappearance received virtually no publicity—who was even aware she was missing?

    Reliably, my paranoia blossomed—and this image popped unbidden into my mind.

    You rang?

    Clear as day I pictured the person behind the Facebook page dolled up like Jame Gumb in Silence of the Lambs, draped in the blue taffeta wedding dress from Ercilia’s second wedding,
    fingers and earlobes dripping with the Elrod family jewels.
    Propped next to not-really-Ercilia in my fevered imagination lolled the taxidermized remains of an AKC-Champion Airedale terrier, Rudy beside his mistress in death as in life.

    Ercilia’s killer is still out there. I did not create a Facebook page.

    Still not as scary as a Russian troll farm

    BOY CRAZY: Three Dead in Ohio

    Posted: January 20, 2019 in Uncategorized

    The 1970s were an ugly decade to grow up in.

    The divorce rate skyrocketed, the economy tanked and pretty much everyone, regardless of political affiliation, was pissed off about Nixon.
    The miasma of misery wasn’t limited to social issues—aesthetically the 1970s were the fatal collision between advances in synthetic fibers and a generation of designers primed on LSD.
    The color scheme looked like the Pantone color chart had been kicked in the stomach,
    the resultant vomit scooped into a dirty bucket then swirled and splattered onto AstroTurf.

    1974 Amityville crime scene photo: 12-year old Marc Defeo’s blood is on the bed but it’s the wallpaper that gives me nightmares

    Our Halloween candy bristled with razor blades, the entire decade was awash in avocado-marigold plaids and the only thing uglier than our super-flammable wardrobes were the the national crime statistics.
    My peers and I felt a sense of of aggrieved vulnerability, as if we’d been cheated out of the halcyon upbringing guaranteed to suburban youth of yore.
    Deprived of the luxury of faceless boogeymen we were the first generation raised with the mental image of Charles Manson creepy-crawling across our shag-carpeted living rooms,
    Helter Skelter in his heart.
    The cavalcade of horrors on the nightly news served as a constant reminder our privileged existence as nice kids from nice towns conferred no guarantee of safe passage to adulthood;
    if anything our coddled upbringings made us more attractive prey, human veal calves for carnivorous strangers with high-fructose candy.

    One nice kid from a nice town who never made it home was twelve-year-old Brad Lee Bellino of Boardman, Ohio.

    8am, April 4th, 1972. The carting industry is no place for the faint of heart. When Varie Brothers waste disposal employee Paul Smith peered into the dumpster behind Isaly’s Dairy at 263 Boardman-Canfield Road he was prepared for any manner of maggot-animated refuse but not for the horror his eyes beheld—two child-sized, sneaker-clad feet.

    Brushing aside the detritus revealed a small corpse positioned on its side, feet angled upward, a tan belt cinched tightly around its neck.
    Brad Bellino’s red, white and blue striped jeans were pulled down below his hips, his shirt hiked up to his armpits.
    The slain boy’s tee-shirt, imprinted with a cartoon image of Satan, featured a popular 1970s slogan grimly ironic in context: The Devil Made Me Do It.

    An autopsy will reveal Brad had been sodomized and strangled. The belt around his throat—size-small JC Penney-brand, not his own—bears teeth marks indicating possible usage as a gag or restraining device.
    Semen is recovered from the fifth-grader’s jeans.
    At a press conference Mahoning County Coroner Dr. David Belinky gives voice to the obvious: “The Bellino boy’s death is the act of a degenerate.”

    Brad was last verifiably seen at 7pm on Friday, March 31st, four days before the discovery of his body.
    The opportunity for his disappearance arose only due to a confluence of events:
    Boardman Middle School was closed for the Easter holiday and Brad spent Thursday night at the home of his friend Donald Templeman.
    His mother Elissa Bellino, a buyer for Lane Bryant, had given him permission to stay Friday night as well.

    Unaware his wife had sanctioned an extension of the sleepover,
    Brad’s father Joseph, a steel mill employee, spoke with him by phone and instructed his son to return home.
    Donald’s parents usually provided transportation between the two residences—the Templemans lived at 733 Teakwood Drive, two miles from the Bellinos at 61 McClurg Road—but Mrs. Templeman was shopping and Mr. Templeman was sick in bed with the flu.
    Brad therefore departed on foot;
    although he did have a prior of history of hitchhiking—a not uncommon practice in the 1970s—it’s unclear if he did so on this occasion.

    And just like that the patrolman on the left changed his name to Officer PTSD

    Back at the Bellino residence Brad’s father had gone out for the evening and his mother, unaware he had been ordered home, assumed her son was spending the night with the Templemans.
    It was only the following day the Bellinos realized the youngest of their four children was missing—Brad’s disappearance was reported to the Boardman Police Department on Saturday, April 1st, at 3:20pm.

    Dr. Belinky will later estimate Brad’s time of death at 9pm Saturday, twenty-six hours after he began his journey homeward.
    Although unverified—the identity of the witnesses and reliability of these encounters has never been made public—the Youngstown Vindicator  reported several alleged sightings of Brad the day after  his departure from the Templeman residence. He was reportedly seen:

  • At 11am at a Dairy Queen in the neighboring town of North Lima
  • Playing ball at the Southern Park Mall at 2:30pm (he and Donald were there the previous day so this sighting is likely erroneous)
  • Thumbing a ride at an undisclosed location at 4:20pm, one hour after the filing of his missing person’s report
  • It’s possible all these witnesses were mistaken—false sightings of missing children are not infrequent,
    and a twelve-year-old gadding around town twenty-four hours after being ordered home seems an unlikely sequence of events.
    That said, anything is possible; the precise path Brad Bellino traveled to his trash-strewn tomb remains a mystery.

    For most locals, irrespective of the horrific details—the photo of his dumpstered legs is seared forever on the town’s collective consciousness—the most alarming aspect of Brad’s death was not its abnormality but its familiarity:
    his was not the first sexually-tinged child murder in Boardman in the 1970s.
    Eighteen months earlier, on December 3rd, 1970, fifteeen-year old Thomas Baird was found in an industrial plant parking lot at 4040 Lake Park Road, his skull crushed and his clothing torn from his body.

    Thomas had last been seen at 8pm exiting his home at 825 Afton Avenue; at 10pm his friends happened upon his crumpled form a mile and half away,
    beaten so badly he was unrecognizable.
    Described in the Youngstown Vindicator  as a “good guy” with “no known enemies,”
    the Boardman High freshman lingered in the hospital ten days before succumbing to his multiple skull fractures—he briefly regained consciousness but trauma had erased all memory of his assailant.

    Although the modus operandi in the Baird and Bellino homicides differed in many details the rarity of juvenile murders prompted Boardman detectives to investigate a possible connection between the cases;
    no firm link could be established, and it appeared the two murders were aberrant occurrences . . . until two and a half years later when the next boy disappeared.

    Not only were the 1970s ugly but the ads were weird as hell: looking at you, Isaly’s!

    From birth, David Evans had to fight. Born with a birth defect resulting in a malformed left hand minus two fingers,
    he endured major eye surgery at the age of six and a daily regimen of insulin injections after being diagnosed as diabetic at the age of ten.
    Nothing slowed him down.

    A straight-A student at Boardman Middle School, David was an avid athlete despite his tiny stature: 4’10” and 80 lbs. at the age of fourteen.
    At 6pm on January 17th, 1975 his father Peter saw him one block from the family residence at 208 Ridgewood Drive.
    Stopping briefly to chat, David informed his father he was returning home after visiting Boardman Lake.
    Although he was only moments from his front door David never arrived.

    Thong underpants pig sells ham by the hour

    An intensive search of the area produced only a single clue, unearthed by his mother Gracia at 11:30pm:
    David’s red knit cap, discarded in a roadside ditch one hundred feet from the spot where his father last saw him.
    To the Boardman Police Department’s credit,
    despite the laissez-faire missing child protocol of the era an abduction investigation was launched without delay—David had left behind his medication, wallet and glasses.
    He clearly hadn’t anticipated being gone for long.

    As the hours passed the Boardman Police Department’s probe took on a special urgency: as David himself was fully aware, he was due for his next insulin injection at 7:30am.
    Without it he would lapse into a coma—likely by 5pm, according to his pediatrician—and then die.
    As the critical time period slipped away his loved ones clung to hope and battled despair.


    Six days later, January 23rd, 5:15pm.
    Realtor Hugh Parks was retrieving his car in a Market Street parking lot when a flash of color in nearby shrubbery caught his eye—closer inspection revealed a denim-clad knee protruding from a snow bank.
    Fifteen blocks from home, David Evans’ remains had surfaced less than half a mile from Brad Bellino’s dumpsite.

    Fully clad in the blue plaid jacket, maroon sweatshirt, tan boots and jeans in which he’d last been seen,
    David was positioned on his back, hands laid flat on his chest.
    With one leg straight and the other bent,
    his clothing pooled at his neck as if he’d been dragged into the bushes by his feet.

    This was a devastating time for the Evans family, soon made worse by Mahoning County Coroner Dr. Nathan Belinky.
    Dr. Nathan Belinky—not be confused with his brother Dr. David Belinky, of Bellino autopsy and “degenerate” quote fame—insisted, to the consternation of the grieving family and the Boardman Police,
    no crime had been committed: David Evans, he declared, had died a natural death from diabetes.
    The post-mortem report—later criticized as a “comedy of errors” by David’s parents—seemed to indicate otherwise.

     The still-missing Boardman residents referenced are presumably Joanne Coughlin and John Robek 

    Admittedly, David’s remains bore no overt indicia of sexual assault and his blood sugar at death was, as the autopsy report noted, “extraordinarily high.”
    But his body also exhibited injuries which seemed to indicate foul play:
    a broken left wrist was detected, as were abrasions under his chin, right eye and left ear.
    David also had an inexplicable wound in his back, three inches above his belt line: the puncture, measuring one-inch in diameter, was perfectly round and no corresponding hole existed in his clothing.
    A lack of bleeding at the wound site and dearth of swelling around the fractured bone seemed to indicate David’s most severe injuries had been suffered post-mortem—a finding hard to reconcile with a natural death resulting from diabetes.

    David’s remains, when discovered, were frozen solid, precluding an accurate determination of time of death.
    He had not, however, expired immediately after his final sighting on Ridgewood Drive—although the comestibles ingested have never been publicized,
    David died with a full stomach.
    He’d eaten a small sandwich at home at 4pm, and the human digestive tract empties within four hours:
    at some point after his disappearance he had apparently consumed a large meal.

    Dr. Belinky was resolute: despite these anomalous circumstances no crime had been committed.
    The boy had simply dropped his hat, obtained a mystery meal, walked fifteen blocks, crawled into shrubbery in a random parking lot and perished.
    Then his corpse subsequently reanimated, sustaining a perfectly round puncture wound and snapping a wrist bone.
    Understandably, the Evanses were outraged at the assertion their son’s death was undeserving of investigation;
    unwilling to accept the Coroner’s findings David’s parents were not shy about airing their frustration in the media.

    In a stunningly classless move even by 1970s standards—and this, remember, was the decade of pet rocks,
    tube tops, and high heels for men—Dr. Belinky penned an angry screed published in the Youngstown Vindicator suggesting the Evans family was too blinded by grief to accept his perfectly reasonable autopsy findings.
    At this juncture David’s parents attempted to call in the FBI but, citing a lack of jurisdiction, the Bureau demurred.

    Not only does the Boardman boy killer own one of these models but inside there be trophies

    [Beep Beep: Sometimes it takes decades to arrive but the karma bus always pulls into the station—in 1993 Dr. Nathan Belinky was sentenced to six months in jail pursuant to a drugs-for-sex scheme. Crooked public officials abusing their power in Mahoning County is a timeless issue: in 2014 Dr. Belinky’s son Mark Belinky, a Probate Court judge, pleaded guilty to 4th-degree felony corruption charges. One can only hope David Evans’ parents lived long enough to savor that double-shot of piping-hot schadenfreude.]

    Dr. Belinky’s certification of natural death would impede criminal prosecution but the Boardman Police Department nevertheless persisted.
    Chief of Police Grant Hess, according to the Vindicator, disagreed with the Coroner’s determination of no foul play; David had been abducted by a predator, the Chief believed,
    who then panicked when the boy lapsed into a diabetic coma—and in his haste to dump the body the assailant inflicted post-mortem injuries on the remains.
    Prior to David’s disappearance the Evans family had been inundated with hang-up phone calls—Boardman PD had been investigating this harassment even before David’s missing person’s report was filed.
    Citing the inconsistencies in David’s autopsy and several additional factors law enforcement opened a homicide investigation which continues to this day.

    Nope, not too phallic

    Thomas Baird in 1970, Brad Bellino in 1972 and David Evans in 1975—three dead boys in a five year span,
    all their murders (or one-maybe murder, allegedly) yet unavenged.

    More than four decades have passed, both global aesthetics and the national crime statistics have improved dramatically,
    and forensic science has surpassed the wildest imaginations of 1970s crime buffs.
    The DNA sample from Brad Bellino’s Bicentennial red-white-and-blue-jeans has long been entered into CODIS,
    and with the capabilities of familial DNA it’s almost certain his assailant will one day be identified—and maybe,
    if the perpetrator is still alive, he’ll have a tale to tell about David Evans and Thomas Baird as well.

    Butch Defeo’s Amityville bedroom: if he blamed his decorator instead of Satan he’d be out on parole today

    On a personal note, my true crime research has made me realize my childhood fears of stranger danger were overblown.
    Though rare, there have been sexually-motivated child murders since time immemorial—the increased awareness of the 1970s was simply an after-effect of more nationalized media and a corresponding uptick in all categories of violence.
    We’re a homicidal species: children have been found butchered in dumpsters since the dawn of trash collection,
    and sad to say their broken bodies will continue to turn up in the waste disposal systems of the future.
    Child murders will always be with us, but there’s been one major improvement since the 1970s: at least the slaughtered innocents of today are bleeding out into non-clashing plaids and natural fabrics.

    Lori Heimer’s Goldendoodle sits with an ear cocked for his mistresses’s screams

    Thirty years later the identity of wealthy housewife Judy Nesbitt‘s false rape accuser remains a mystery
    If only Tammy Zywicki had known the highway good Samaritan was planning to falsely accuse her of rape
    Donna O’Steen‘s attacker cut her phone lines and crept into her home with one goal: falsely accusing her of rape
    Lori Heimer‘s remote location and low-risk lifestyle couldn’t save her from false accusations of rape
    No one knows what happened to missing club owner Marsha Ferber after her 1988 disappearance but her loved ones fear she’s been falsely accused of rape
    And let’s wrap this up with one for the kiddies: Shannon Sherrill was only six years old but you’re never too young to worry about the life-altering effects of false accusations of rape

    The township of Henryville is inextricably linked to two things: fried chicken and dead boys.

    First, the poultry:

    For weak sisters uninterested in murder Henryville—a municipality of less than two thousand souls boasting only a single (perpetually blinking) stoplight—is best known as the birthplace of crispy chicken magnate Harland D. Sanders.

    I had always assumed Colonel Sanders was a fictional advertising construct like Betty Crocker or Aunt Jemima but the Colonel—an honorary title bestowed by the state of Kentucky,
    unrelated to military rank—was not only a real person but a fascinating one.

    A failed attorney with a sideline in bootlegging, the Colonel endured a string of catastrophic business ventures before establishing the Kentucky Fried empire in his mid-sixties.
    In perhaps his most famous escapade he shot business rival Matt Stewart during a 1931 gun battle, forever cementing his ranking as the most badass of fast food mascots.
    (Clowns may be inherently scary but Ronald McDonald has never, to my knowledge at least, busted a cap in Hamburglar’s ass.)

    Matt Stewart survived his injuries and the Colonel—the Teflon Don of his day—managed to avoid prosecution thanks to an affirmative self defense claim and Stewart’s community-wide reputation for belligerence.

    The Chicken King laying in state (obscure poultry pun intended)

    Now the dead boys:

    During the three year period from 1974 to 1977 the township of Henryville—so sparsely populated it lacks a police force and relies instead on the Indiana State Police—experienced three still-unsolved homicides involving young male victims.


    NAME: Richard Lee Sweeney

    AGE: 8

    DATE OF DISAPPEARANCE: April 28th, 1974

    Youngest victim Richard Lee Sweeney was the first to die,
    departing his home at 16311 Pixley Knob Road shortly after midday to “play,”
    a common pastime for free-range children in the 1970s.

    When the Henryville Elementary student failed to return his parents contacted law enforcement and a search commenced;
    at 6pm Indiana State Policeman John Booher discovered Richard’s fully-clothed body on the second floor of the nearby Blue Lick Auction barn,
    buried beneath stacks of boxes,
    rags and old clothing.

    An autopsy would later determine Richard was killed approximately three hours after leaving home;
    he’d been sexually assaulted, strangled,
    and had asphyxiated on his own vomit
    due to a too-tight gag.
    His hands had been bound behind his back but the binding used has never been publicized.

    [Live and Learn: the Blue Lick Auction Barn wasn’t a traditional farm building full of hay bales and livestock;
    it was primarily used for swap meets. One local described it as “ a giant yard sale or hillbilly pawn store.”]


    NAME: Jeffrey Allen Burkett

    AGE: 15

    DATE OF DISAPPEARANCE: June 9th, 1977

    High school junior Jeffrey Allen Burkett was small
    for his age,
    weighing one hundred pounds and standing only a single inch over five feet tall.
    There is some debate about the 11th grader’s final sighting;
    some sources report Jeffrey was last spotted entering a black pickup truck on Blue Lick Road,
    while others place his final sighting at a Henryville High drivers’ education class.

    Jeffrey failed to return home that evening;
    at 10am the following morning, June 10th,
    his brother contacted the Indiana State Police and filed a missing person’s report.
    At 3:45pm Jeffrey’s body was discovered—by either a motorcycle rider or trail bikers, depending on the source—approximately thirty yards inside the Clark State Forest.
    Located eight miles from Henryville High
    Jeffrey was found face down, fully clothed,
    his hands arched above his head and his wrists bound together with wire.

    The medical examiner will later conclude Jeffrey has been beaten, sexually assaulted and throttled;
    his skull is fractured but strangulation is assessed as his primary cause of death.
    Although these details are uncorroborated the local rumor mill alleges Jeffrey exhibited extensive self-defense wounds and his remains showed evidence of having been dragged some distance through the forest.

    “Most of the people are afraid for their children; people are just scared to death. They’re scared to let their kids out alone. The’re scared to let them out in bunches.” Gas station attendant David Roby on the esprit de Henryville, Louisville Courier Journal, October 16th, 1977


    NAME: Donald Michael Abell

    AGE: 19

    DATE OF DISAPPEARANCE: September 27th, 1977

    A mere four months after Jeffrey Burkett’s death fellow Henryville High student Donald Abell completed his morning classes at 10:58am;
    telling friends he intended to walk downtown the fifth-year senior then exited the building and vanished.
    Two weeks later—-at 1pm on October 9th—his fully-clothed remains were discovered by a group of walnut hunters splayed at the bottom of a 27-foot ravine.

    An autopsy will later determine Donald had been
    beaten to death,
    his massive skull fracture incompatible with an
    accidental fall.
    Unlike the previous two victims Donald’s body bore no evidence of sexual assault or strangulation,
    and although this information does not appear in the press local gossip alleges Donald’s hands were bound and his 1970’s-style platform shoes were missing.

    Like Jeffrey Burkett Donald’s body was found almost 10 miles from Henryville High,
    indicating he’d likely been driven, dead or alive,
    to his dumpsite.
    Although they attended the same school Donald Abell—a fifth year senior completing academic requirements for graduation—and 10th grader Jeffrey Burkett were reportedly not close friends.

    The three dead boys were not the only victims of the killer or killers in their midst;
    in the 1970s Henryville High had an open campus policy which allowed students to leave the premises during the day.
    Although it managed to survive Jeffrey Burkett’s death an additional slaying was deemed a bridge too far—Henryville’s open campus policy was killed by the administration shortly after third victim Donald Abell.

    “I know they’re probably investigating it and all but it’s got me very upset to think there’s evidently some nut running loose in this community.” Farmer Jerry Able, Louisville Courier Journal, June 16th, 1977


    In the whispers of townsfolk and nether-reaches of cyberspace the Sweeney-Burkett-Abell slayings—often referred to as the Henryville Forestry Murders though only one victim, Jeffrey Burkett,
    was found in Clark State Forest—-are believed to be the work of a single assailant or pair of assailants working in tandem.
    Investigators from the Indiana State Police, however, have always maintained the murders are,
    despite victimological similarities and geographical proximity, the handiwork of three separate slayers.

    “The general public is going to believe we’ve got a ghoul stalking the woods snatching up kids but I feel we’re dealing with distinctly separate murders. I’ll tell you this much; if we find enough evidence to prosecute you won’t need a telephone to find out about it—you’ll hear me hollering.” Indiana Police Sergeant Guy Schroeder, Louisville Courier Journal, January 24th, 1979

    There’s been speculation through the years the local gentry is purposely stonewalling law enforcement to protect one of their own—a common trope in small town cold cases—but the Indiana State Police investigation,
    as chronicled in the media, appears comprehensive.
    Although Detective David Markowski recently described the remaining physical evidence as “scant,”
    the probe into the boys’ murders has been periodically reopened as technology has improved.
    Two highly-publicized top-to-bottom reinvestigations were undertaken in 1983 and 1999, and the inquiry into the murders remains ongoing.

    “[I’m] ninety-nine percent sure I know who did it. I’ve just got that little bit of doubt.” Albert Sweeney, father of first victim Richard Lee Sweeney, Louisville Courier Journal, February 25th, 1996

    Interestingly, Albert and Juanita Sweeney—parents of youngest victim Richard Lee Sweeney—believe they know the identity of their son’s killer.
    As Mrs. Sweeney told to the Courier Journal, in 1998 she confronted this person with her suspicions;
    the suspect then “ran and hid,” confirming the Sweeneys’ belief in his guilt.
    Whether the Sweeneys’ person of interest is among the many (alleged) suspects implicated on various cyber-crime boards is unknown, however;
    and it’s unclear if the Sweeneys believe this man is also responsible for the subsequent slayings of Donald Abell and Jeffrey Burkett.
    (The identity of the Sweeneys’ person of interest is shielded in the media as he has not been officially implicated by law enforcement.)


    I first became interested in the Henryville murders via a true crime post on the Southern Indiana News and Tribune’s Jefferson City forum.
    The thread no longer exists, unfortunately, although the first page endures on the Wayback Machine.
    Like a Topix thread with folksy grammar and an extra dash of vitriol the posts were informative but undeniably libelous:
    aspersions were cast, reputations besmirched and family names dragged through the mud.
    It was, needless to say, riveting.

    In order to avoid legal jeopardy I have opted to provide pseudonyms for the (alleged) persons of interest fingered on various message boards; for inveterate snoops the participants’ true names can be found here, a sad shadow of the once mighty thread I privately dubbed Libel-palooza.

    1) In the 1970s Clark State Forest was home to a boys’ correctional facility known as the Henryville Youth Camp.
    In 1979 Dr. Kenneth Heinz, tasked with providing medical care for the incarcerated youngsters,
    pleaded guilty to a single count of child molestation and surrendered his medical license.
    Although Dr. Heinz did not murder his victim(s)—believed to be numerous despite his single plea of guilt—many crime board posters believe his pedophilia makes him an obvious suspect in the Sweeney-Burkett-Abell slayings.

    2) The Burkett family reportedly believes the slayer to be Mr. Starmousse, a then-resident of nearby Russell Springs, Kentucky.
    Mr. Starmousse—whose father sported hooks-for-hands, an irresistible detail—is mentioned on virtually every message board as person of interest in all three murders.
    As the story is told by a purported Burkett family relation, shortly after the final slaying the entire Starmousse clan decamped for Florida, presumably to hinder the Indiana State Police investigation.
    Mr. Starmousse’s motive for the murders is never revealed, however, and it’s unclear if he possesses the predilection for child rape exhibited in the Sweeney-Burkett slayings.

    3) Two then-teenaged sons of a local doctor—Dr. Bus, not handsy Dr. Heinz of the boys’ reformatory—came under considerable scrutiny on the deleted News and Tribune  thread.
    The Bus boys appear to have been something of a local scourge, protected by their father’s social status;
    but as is the case with Mr. Starmousse their specific motivation for the murders is never established and a history of paraphilia, if one exists, is never mentioned.
    At least as chronicled on the deleted thread the Bus boys were local bullies and mischief-makers;
    in many ways they seem to be simply default suspects, implicated by their prior bad acts in the community.

    [The Doctor Who Couldn’t Prescribe Straight: I make no claim of a connection but a Dr. Kenneth Heinz was indicted for trafficking morphine last year and his biographical details correspond with those of the disgraced youth camp physician.
    I can’t help but wonder if the doctor managed to finagle the resuscitation of his medical license—stranger things have happened, especially in the freewheelin’ 1970s.]

    Personally, I’m far from certain all three Sweeney-Burkett-Abell slayings are connected.
    While the murders of Richard Sweeney and Jeffrey Burkett exhibit a certain similitude—both were rape-strangulations perpetrated against bound male victims—Donald Abell’s slaying bears little resemblance to the first two homicides.
    (Although it is certainly possible Donald’s slaying was an ancillary crime, committed because he knew too much about the Sweeney-Burkett murders.)
    Without further information or a forensic link, however, the Indiana State Police supposition of three separate killers is probably the safest tack for investigation;
    even bucolic burgs like Henryville have no shortage of perverts and bad actors
    and I’ve always suspected the separate killers theory might be supported by hold-back evidence to which the public (and internet commentariat) isn’t privy.

    “Somebody knows and may die knowing but we won’t let them forget.” Indiana State Police Detective Dallas Meyer, Louisville Courier Journal, July 21st, 1983

    He May Be Heavy But He Ain’t My Brother: Never trust the internet. Arguably the most infamous series of solved crimes in Henryville history were perpetrated by a multifarious criminal named Charles Sweeney,
    currently serving 60 years in prison for the 1991 murder of business associate Danny Guthrie.
    Sweeney’s lawbreaking extravaganza involved a twice-buried corpse,
    marijuana plants, a bogus bingo game at the Sellersburg Moose Lodge
    and a bomb planted under the car of a Clark County police detective.
    As Judge Cale Bradford noted during one of Sweeney’s appeals, “This case has more parts than a Rocky movie.”

    Numerous crime-board posters have alleged Chuck Sweeney is the brother of unsolved homicide victim Richard Lee Sweeney but this is not the case.
    Richard Sweeney’s father is named Albert and Chuck Sweeney’s full name is Charles Sweeney Jr.,
    indicating his father’s name is Charles.
    Sweeney is a fairly common name in Henryville, however, so a more attenuated relationship between Charles Sweeney and Richard Lee Sweeney is certainly possible.


    He had no known ties to Henryville but I am utterly incapable of ending a blog post about fried chicken and dead boys without mentioning the most notorious connoisseur of both commodities:
    serial killer John Wayne Gacy.

    In the late 1960s Gacy, a Kentucky Fried Chicken University alumnus, began managing a trio of KFC franchises owned by his father-in-law in Waterloo, Iowa.
    Gacy reportedly delighted in delivering takeout dressed as Harland Sanders, shouting “Colonel John Gacy’s here!” as he made a grand entrance in a white suit and string tie, his meaty arms laden with buckets of KFC.

    [Birds of a Feather: I doubt John Wayne Gacy and I would’ve agree on much but we—and all sentient beings with one or more operational taste buds—agree on one thing: Original Recipe is not only the best recipe but the only  recipe.]

    A Kentucky Fried loyalist to the end, Gacy enjoyed a bucket of the Colonel’s finest—Original Recipe, of course—as the final meal before his May 9th, 1994 date with the executioner’s needle.

    I hope that bastard didn’t even have time to lick his fingers.

    John Wayne Gacy in Colonel cosplay; you don’t want to know what he had for dessert