Mother of missing Wisconsin 13-year-old Jayme Closs was the ‘family angel’ relatives say
Headless murder mystery – why the ‘Bolney Torso’ killing is still unsolved 27 years later
Decades old Illinois Jane Doe Case linked to Columbus
Regina Bos still missing 18 years after vanishing in Nebraska
AS SEEN ON UNSOLVED MYSTERIES: Following leads on the cold case of Jeremy Bright
AS SEEN ON DISAPPEARED: Susan Walsh took on a strip club ring, then disappeared
Reward Increased for Information into Jocelyn Sarabia’s Murder
How an unlikely family history website transformed cold-case investigations
Pennsylvania Man Who Murdered Wife, Stepdaughter Could Be Serial Killer: Police
INCOGNITO WINDOW REQUIRED FOR ADBLOCK USERS: Las Vegas boy’s kidnapping case remains open, 40 years later
NEW LONGREAD: 10 terrifying murders committed on Halloween night
VINTAGE LONGREAD: The Brittney Wood case, a twisted tale of perversion still unfolding


911 call log reveals new details in disappearance of Jayme Closs, deaths of her parents
Georgia woman arrested, charged with kidnapping in Sabrina Long’s 1991 disappearance
Still No Answers Two Decades After Disappearance Of Crystal Marler
Genealogists are building family tree for unidentified Thousand Oaks murder victim
Victim in unsolved 20-year-old Baton Rouge rape recognizes suspect at wedding reception
New lead in kidnapping of Christopher Abeyta
Kids playing in the Kansas woods stumble across remains of long-missing Army veteran Ashley Meiss
‘I cry all the time’: weepy serial killer Paul Bernardo denied parole after 25 years in prison
LONGREAD: Police May Have Solved the 1999 Cold-Case Murder of Kassie Federer
LONGREAD: Police say it’s unlikely they’ll ever find 12-year-old Kirkland Lake murder victim Katherine May Wilson
LONGREAD: Mysterious 1982 death, new accuser become part of probe into convicted pedophile and ex-NOPD cop
LONGREAD: Women’s disappearances in 1979 were eerily similar
(plus tangentially-related LONGREAD: Pocatello girl remembered 23 years after one of Idaho’s most horrific crimes)


Killer never brought to justice in 1955 slaying of Lucile Bacher
Darla Kustra vanished, leaving only severed foot behind
Grisly dismemberment murder of Bolton’s Morris Conte remains unsolved
Cops begin excavating in Bowmanville teen Noreen Greenley’s 1963 disappearance
Sixteen years later, police continue to work leads in Marie Fleury murder case
Lydia Hemperly’s 44-year-old cold case still unsolved
Who killed Joseph Poulin, Tery Giles and Linda Plummer? 1986 triple-fatal arson case remains unsolved
Who killed Emily Courchesne? A year after slaying in remote Bay Area farmhouse, family still seeks answers
Case may be cold, but search for Stephanie Crane continues
Candlelight vigil to be held 10 years after Amber McFarland’s disappearance
HELL AND GONE: Podcast features Rebekah Gould cold case
Poorly-titled multipart LONGREAD and podcast about a series of mysterious aquatic deaths: THE RIVER


29 years later, killing of Acie and Carolyn Worthy still unsolved
Police trace 911 call after Wisconsin Jayme Closs girl goes missing, parents found dead
Nanette Krentel slaying to be examined by TV show People Magazine Investigates
Search for leads in local girl Shelia Renae Finch’s 1989 abduction, murder never ends
FBI works with Elizabethton students to identify Bible Belt Strangler
In Volusia cold case, Anne Parianos, slain 13 years ago, likely knew attacker
Springfield police say they’re still trying to solve 9-year-old Shirley Jane Rose’s 1975 kidnapping, murder
Mendoland’s Oldest Mystery: Clyda Dulaney’s Murder (with a cameo by the Family Manson)


Missing Wisconsin teen Jayme Closs in danger, not a runaway, sheriff says
Tip campaign in unsolved killing of 10-year-old Holly Piirainen to be held Sunday in Sturbridge
Nearly 20 years after high-profile murder, police break Kassie Federer case
Mysterious killing of Manitoba teen Kerrie Ann Brown explored in CBC podcast
Missing Pieces, a FOX 5 DC True Crime podcast: Missing Bethesda woman Alison Thresher
Investigating death of AJ Hadsell, police search for evidence on her stepfather’s Playstation
NEW LONGREAD: A day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park ended in a grisly death
VINTAGE LONGREAD: Twenty years later, Auburn police re-explore mysterious death of college student Candice Fenton


Jayme Closs, 13, missing after parents shot dead in Barron, Wisconsin
The search for Ketie Jones’ killer continues two years after her death
Kate Bushell, Lyn Bryant and Helen Fleet – how three horrific murders could be linked
DPS Offers Increased Reward, Seeks Leads in Rena Rincones’ 1994 Disappearance
LONGREAD: How Genetic Sleuthing Helped a Kidnapped Girl Recover Her Identity
The Roxlyn Bowie mystery: Part I + Part II
Making a Murderer’: With Season 2 about to drop, what we know from Season 1


Jodi Huisentruit Case: A chance encounter with John Vansice and a lasting memory
No suspects in 1978 murder of South Carolina mother Norma Lanyon Jackson
MONSTER CITY: New tome on Pat Postiglione, world’s greatest cold case detective
Spruce Grove teacher’s murder a priority file for police, 7 years after her death
Billboard seeks public’s help in identifying 1976 Jane Doe, Grundy County’s only cold case
New information in Tammy Call cold case could lead detectives to her killer
LONGREAD: What happened to Robert Bee Junior? (Part 1 + Part 2)
LONGREAD: The story behind a horrific Midtown murder that took a dozen years to solve (Part 1 + Part 2)

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


Phoenix Coldon Vanished 7 Years Ago — her SUV Was Found Running with Purse, Shoes and Glasses Inside
Metro’s Most Wanted – The unsolved murder of Debbie Simpson
New clues could lead to developments in 1977 unsolved murder case
Community group hoping reward leads to clues in Carina Saunders dismemberment murder
Podcaster aims to ‘rattle loose a secret’ in murder of Mary Jo Templeton
Daughter of missing pregnant woman still seeking answers
Transgender woman’s killing is one of few unsolved hate crimes in Washington County
‘Cookin Up Justice’ With Brevard Sheriff Wayne Ivey Highlights 25-Year Old Cold Case
Man cleared as suspect more than 10 years after wife, daughter murdered on hiking trail
Crystal Rogers: Detectives provide inside look at investigation
NEW LONGREAD: The Love Story that Upended the Texas Prison System


LONGREAD: 50 years after Michigan family’s massacre in cottage, investigators put rumors to rest
Woman Missing for 8 Years After Getting Bus to NYC to Find Twin
Idaho girl disappeared 25 years ago today
New Hampshire unsolved case file: Who killed Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Miller?
‘He took her’; Family of Arieanna Day still waiting for answers on her disappearance
36 years later, still no conviction in Alaska mass murder
Man arrested 43 years after death of Carol Jean Pierce of Sturgeon Bay
State police in Westmoreland County send out new call for info in girl’s 1967 murder
This Week in True-Crime Podcasts: Bear Brook, Unobscured, and More


Skeleton of Strangled Boy Abandoned by an Interstate May Finally Be Identified — and Killer Found
Christian Ferguson’s mother celebrates her missing son’s birthday with a candlelight vigil
Last seen taking the bus, her mutilated body was found in an Aussie playground
Family hopes billboard will jumpstart Amanda Jones disappearance cold case
NEW LONGREAD: On the Trail of Missing American Indian Women
NEW LONGREAD: The Aftermath of a Police Officer’s Murder Conviction in Rocky Ford
VINTAGE LONGREAD: Sheryl Ann Tillinghast’s Case Still Open 44 Years Later
VINTAGE LONGREAD: 48 years later, memory of a Leota Camp’s brutal death lingers


Podcast re-examines Johnsburg teen’s 2002 disappearance
New Clues Found in Asha Degree’s 1990 Disappearance
Mother feels cold case investigation into deaths of 2 boys has hit ‘dead end’
Friends and detectives plead for answers in cold case murder of Louisville mother Tiffany Thompson
LONGREAD: Who Killed Sherry Edgell?
LONGREAD: Who killed Delia Adriano?

This documentary about the execution of serial killer Elroy Chester is magic: it features the malapropisms “legal injection” and “escape goat;” a woman giggling maniacally while discussing her boyfriend’s murder; and a homicidal rapist who walks into a stranger’s house announcing, “”I bet you wish you’d locked the door.”

VIDEO: Killing Time (2013)


Parabon Comin’: Arrest made in Kathryn Crigler, Betty Jones 1990 cold case
Odessa serial killer Michael Eugene Sharp topic of TV program
Cold Case Files: Princeton grandmother murdered in her own bed in 1996
Couple admit to killing 20 women after police discover them transporting dismembered body parts in stroller
“We just got to find her body,” Family still searching 5 years after Molly Miller’s disappearance
Sister of Mikelle Biggs speaks about her disappearance
Dead Man Talking is the Railroad Killer true crime podcast that will have you hooked
LONGREAD: Does Bakersfield have a Secret Serial Killer?
LONGREAD: Who killed Pam DeVizzio?


A Death at Twilight: Chapter four (Chapters one + two + three, previously posted)
Vigil for missing North Yarmouth woman turns into memorial service
Five years later, Sudbury woman’s murder remains unsolved
LONGREAD: One of Forsyth County’s oldest unsolved homicides remains a secret 47 years later
LONGREAD: Piecing together the portrait of serial killer Timothy Ray Burkhart
LONGREAD: Notorious crimes in Indianapolis-area history


Case of University of Cincinnati student found dead in West Chester creek gets new attention 40 years later
Theresa Ann Davidson-Murphy still missing on 19th anniversary of her disappearance
Search for Dana Bruce reaches 10 years
In 1981, a pre-teen went missing in Ottawa. He has never been found
Six years later, mom believes children thought dead in Bedford County fire are still alive
Ex-Marine Andrew Urdiales Sentenced to Death for California Serial Killings
Jessica Earl: Missing woman with Louisiana ties featured on new podcast episode
A Mystery Killer with ‘Duck Feet’ Shot Two Men in the Head Over Two Days in Chicago
Family relieved by arrest 11 years after Gwinnett woman found in swamp
NEW LONGREAD: A true story of murder and the 1925 lynching of Robert Marshall (part 1 + part 2)
1998 LONGREAD: The Vanishing of Kristine Kupka (plus coda)


AS SEEN ON UNSOLVED MYSTERIES: Kerstetter disappearance, missing platinum still an open case
Fear grips Clearwater neighborhood after elderly couple’s double murder
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office make arrest in girl’s 37-year-old homicide
AS SEEN ON DISAPPEARED: Ex-deputy suspected in disappearances of two Collier men responds to lawsuit
East Bay Family Seeks Help Solving Daughter’s Year-Old Unsolved Murder
Four years after Detroit Lakes woman’s sudden disappearance, sheriff’s office issues call for public’s help
Jeanne Melville’s death still a mystery almost 50 years later
LONGREAD: Lansing’s Most Infamous Cases
LONGREAD: Woman holds out hope for sister who vanished in 1972

Two things: although it’s not mentioned in the article this serial killer drove a gnarly van—I always called him the Jeepers Creepers killer.

Police chief: ‘violent serial rapist and murderer’ killed Greenville woman in 1990, committed multiple other murders, rapes across US

Also, it irks me to no end when journalists and police departments credit “a Virginia lab” for breaking a cold case. The Virginia lab has a name, Parabon, and I’m sure they’d like some credit and publicity for their hard work. We need to make “Parabon” the “Omar’s comin'” of UNSUB nation.


Sheriff’s Office: Serial Killer responsible for 1998 murders of mother and daughter is dead
Suspect Identified in 1985 Murder of Virginia Vincent
Baby Lisa’s parents speak on the 7th anniversary of their daughter’s disappearance
‘Nobody worked her case hard enough:’ After 51 years, N.C. family continues to search for the truth
Family members desperate for answers in five-year-old pair of murders
New evidence surfaces in decades old Orange Socks murder case
Mystery deepens as search teams find no sign of missing elementary school teacher Kristin Westra
Quarry search over Renee and Andrew MacRae disappearance
OSBI: Fast-food restaurant employees may hold keys to solving cold case
LONGREAD Janice Lynn Foiles: An unsolved crime of icy passion
Questions Remain One Year After Mother, Daughter Murdered While Sleeping
Man charged in 1986 rape, murder of Marietta mom and teen daughter


Remains Of Former Pea Ridge Police Officer Cerilla Doyle Found In Iowa
Search Continues for April Andrews, Teen Who Went Missing Over 10 Years Ago
Search crews in Smokies find body of missing hiker Susan Clements
LONGREAD Lost in the Great Smokies: Mystery surrounds disappearances over the past 40 years
Victim in 20-year cold case may be linked to known serial killer Scott Kimball
Podcast ‘Bear Brook’ Explores How N.H. Cold Case Will Forever Change Murder Investigations
Orthodox Jew murdered in suspected serial killing in Chicago
Investigators release new plea for help in Short family murders
INTERACTIVE: Three Rivers, Two Mysteries
LONGREAD 1985 Maurin Murders: How a Detective Led the Charge in Closing a Notorious Pair of Cold Case Homicides


New push underway to find Hillsboro mother and child who disappeared 13 years ago
Three years, no leads in Megan Foglesong case
Cold Case: Homicide Of 15-Year-Old Found In Hudson Valley in 1970 Remains Mystery
Leslie Conrad’s daughters want justice for Lower Wolfville woman’s 2006 murder
SCSO investigating Debora Howard’s 1976 disappearance
Skeletal Remains Found In Colorado Mountains Believed To Be Beverly English, Missing Since 1980
DNA evidence links man to cold case from 1973
LONGREAD Nine Blocks From Home: Who Killed Tiesha Sargeant?
LONGREAD From the archives: Search in Smokies for lost boy Dennis Martin produces lessons for future searches


33 years later, DNA identifies Kentucky Jane Doe
11 years on, search continues to bring closure in Agnes Kennedy’s murder
Search Teams Uncover Clues In Cold Case Murder Of Beverly England
Detectives who handled triple, quadruple homicides still hopeful they will be solved
Farmington police revisiting Carla Helmer’s 1992 cold case homicide
Mystery deepens over mom who vanished while hiking with daughter in Smoky Mountains
Unsolved: Mother and daughter killed in Fremont in 2004
Merced cold case has $75,000 reward for information in couple’s 2006 murder
A Death at Twilight: Chapter three (Chapters one and two previously posted)


Cold case: Wheelchair-bound millionaire convicted 35 years later in stabbing death of former Ohio woman
Unsolved mystery of Kellisue Ackernecht’s disappearance now 10 years old
Family, friends of murdered teen Elaine Nix still looking for answers 19 years later
30 years later, investigators say there’s new developments, still hope in Paul Girard’s unsolved murder
Mother pleads for information about 20-year-old daughter’s murder
Car of Putnam County couple who have been missing since May found in Fentress County
Unfound: Upper Burrell woman searches for missing daughter Brianna Hughes, solace
NEW LONGREAD: Who is the Somerton Man? The clues that could provide an answer
VINTAGE LONGREAD: Back to Brooklyn House of Evil


3-PART LONGREAD Two decades later: an exclusive look at the Freeman-Bible investigation
Tylenol Murders Remain Unsolved After 36 Years
Tulsa family hoping daughter comes home after she went missing at bachelorette party 34 years ago
Son vows to keep looking for mother’s killer in 32 year old San Diego cold case
Unidentified Human Remains: The Boy Under the Billboard
JonBenet Ramsey case files subject of Boulder court battle in $750M defamation suit
LONGREAD Ghost blimp’s enduring mystery: How did crew vanish before Bay Area crash?

Not to brag but I’m really good at evading Adblock-block; I use google cache or search the newspaper’s Twitter account since most tweet-links (for whatever reason) remain unrestricted. Sometimes I fail; this is one of those times. You may need to open an incognito window: Some Q-C Missing Remain Unfound


AS SEEN ON SENSING MURDER: Could Patricia Neufeld’s 1978 Murder Be Linked To Golden State Killer?
Unsolved case: No trace of Diane Wolf 19 years after she went missing
You may not have heard of these 6 unsolved Central Florida cold cases
‘Someone may be familiar with his gait’: Police seek mystery man in Kristina Ward video
AS SEEN ON UNSOLVED MYSTERIES: Denise Horvath-Allan still pursues answers in son’s disappearance 30 years ago
Search Warrant in Jodi Huisentruit Disappearance Sealed for Another Year
Death of woman found in trunk renews attention on unsolved Clackamas County case
Clues to whereabouts of three Fort Worth girls missing since 1974 elude family, volunteers
NEW EAR/ONS LONGREAD: Unsolved Mystery?
VINTAGE LONGREAD: Who killed Janett Christman?


Delphi murders: Libby’s sister, at Ball State now, does ‘anything to keep the story alive’
FBI joins new search in 1980 cold case connected to love triangle
SCSO seeking information in Debora Howard’s 42-year-old missing persons case
‘Extremely Personal’: Retired Principal Allegedly Murdered at Mom’s Home by Jealous Estranged Husband
New Hampshire unsolved case file: Who killed Lynne Brennan?
The ‘Accused’ podcast now out in book form
2 years later, detectives still seeking clues in Keeshae Jacobs’ disappearance
A year later, family of missing Middletown woman Chelsey Coe still searching for answers
LONGREAD: 20 years and still no motive for Bethlehem’s Lookout murders
LONGREAD: Girl’s 1968 Christmas Eve murder still haunts downtown YMCA


LONGREAD Adams County unsolved cases: These four mysteries remain active decades later
LONGREAD Unsolved homicide: The search continues for Edna Laughman’s killer
LONGREAD SPECIAL REPORT: Journey to justice for Christina Muse
Making a Murderer Will Return for Part 2 Next Month on Netflix
4 Unsolved Miami Valley Murder Mysteries
New Clue Emerges in Mysterious and Gruesome Deaths of 2 NYC Neighbors
El Dorado missing persons case still unsolved after nearly 30 years
Denise Johnson’s unsolved 1997 murder pushes reporter to search for leads in new podcast
Convicted hitman charged with murder in 2007 disappearance of B.C. teen Katelyn Noble
15 years later, not giving up finding Justice for Jone Knapton
Four years later, Bath Co. family still searching for missing daughter


LONGREAD: 9 unsolved multiple homicides in Montana
Target 2 Investigates Amber Wilde case at 20 years
8 unsolved murders in the Miami Valley
After 40 years, Suwannee County has suspect in missing persons case
Cold Case: Lutricia Steele
New Search Launched in Beverly England’s 1980 Disappearance
Five Years, No Answers: Miami Gardens Family Seeks Justice in 12-Year-Old’s Death
True Crime Podcast ‘Dr. Death’ Examines the Tale of a Maniacal Dallas Surgeon
Marion County deputies ask for help to solve Patricia Sofia’s 13-year-old unsolved homicide
‘My Heart Tears Apart’: Mother Continues Desperate Search Two Years After Elaine Park’s Disappearance
L.A. Baseball-Bat Killings Suspect May Be Linked to Disappearances of Relatives


Cold case of Osteen girl abducted from bus stop unsolved 40 years later
Dail Dinwiddie: 26 Years Later, Her Disappearance Remains a Mystery
Search for clues continues in 1984 Virginia State Trooper cold case murder
Missing persons of Acadiana: Do you know anything about these cold cases?
A Death at Twilight: Chapter two (Chapter one previously posted)
Where’s Ben? 12 years later, few answers to Ashland man’s disappearance (part one + part two + part 3)


LONGREAD: Remembering Julia Mae
2001 Cold Case: Murder of Linda Smith
Police hope to generate leads on 20th anniversary of Agnieszka Ziemlewski’s murder
LONGREAD: Serra slaying haunted city; cops never gave up
Registered Sex Offender Charged With Murder In 2014 Slaying Of Simsbury Jogger Melissa Millan
One year later, no sign of Alexis Scott
LONGREAD: How familial DNA trapped a murderer for the first time
Clues sought for missing Miamisburg woman after year of police probe


Sunken cars can hold tragic secrets in Florida’s waterways
Lisa Chandler missing 11 years
New leads in case of man missing since 1985, Victoria police say
Police Are Looking For A Connection In The Beating Deaths Of Men Sleeping Outside In LA, Santa Monica
Police Have Suspect In 2014 Killing Of Insurance Executive Stabbed While Jogging In Simsbury
LONGREAD Mother, brother looking for answers 25 years after pregnant Mississippi teen disappears
LONGREAD THE DISAPPEARED: Police on Long Island wrote off missing immigrant teens as runaways
LONGREAD Tony Jones was hitchhiking around Australia when he vanished; despite a creepy tip-off, the case remains unsolved


1986 Killing of Virginia Duclos Bruce in Hamden Remains Unsolved
DNA and genetic genealogy used to ID suspect in “NorCal Rapist” case
8 years later: Paige Johnson’s mother still hopes for answers in daughter’s disappearance
The deadly shooting of Jessica Downey and Evans Johnson remains unsolved
LONGREAD The Night Watchman | the Unsolved Murder of Plano Police Officer Green Wesley Rye
LONGREAD A Lonely Road: The mysterious death of Brittany Martel
Mother Stays Hopeful on Anniversary of Daughter Mary Opitz’s 1981 Disappearance
Hope Revives 1955 Case of Missing Tot Freddie Holmes


TARA CALICO LONGREAD: 30 Years Later and Still No Justice
Stearns County sheriff says Wetterling case ‘went off the rails’ at the start
New Hampshire unsolved case file: Who killed Laura Kempton?
Three missing girls. A family’s hopes. And this week, a long-awaited dive into a lake.
LISTEN: First podcast episode of ‘Who Killed Tommy?’ available now
‘This could be your daughter, your wife’: How Jennifer Teague’s disappearance shook Ottawa
Convicted killer, already facing death penalty, admits slaying two girls in Illinois in 2005
Newly released autopsy reports show the 2016 unsolved massacre of Rhoden family was methodical, vicious
AS SEEN ON DISAPPEARED: Cash award for tips leading to Clinton Nelson, missing for 12 years
DNA leads to arrest in 30-year-old rape and murder of Colorado Springs resident Mary Lynn Vialpando
LONGREAD: 50 of the Strangest Unsolved Mysteries from Each State


Six serial killers who left deep scars on Wisconsin
Authorities taking new approach to solving 1978 murder of Menasha’s Dawn Schnetzer
Where’s Sandy Rea? Shawnee case still unsolved 34 years later
Mad or bad? The riddle of Australian convicted child killer Keli Lane
Jury: Gypsy Hill killer guilty
AS SEEN ON SENSING MURDER: Man living in Manatee County arrested for 1999 cold case murder in Sarasota
Runningbird, Wanner disappearances remain among Red Deer’s unsolved cases
Missing in Indian Country part II: Lawmakers seek answers for why Native American women vanish (Part I previously posted)

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


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


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,
died 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 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 (misspelling intentional) 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 (no)good 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

Mysterious Arkansan Murders and Maybe-Murders

From the December 12th, 1996 Madison County Record (which somebody fogot to proofread)

Famed West Memphis Three chroncicler Mara Levitt advocates digging deep for the solution to Linda Edward’s disappearance: So Open the Grave
What Happened to Paty? Seven years later law student Patricia Guardado’s inexplicable death continues to confound
If anything good ever happens at a cabin in the woods I’ve yet to hear about it: The Mysterious Death of Janie Ward
The murder of Highland Valley Methodist’s choir director was ungodly out-of-tune: Who killed Jim Sjodin?
The second part of this Michael Whitely exposé on the epic life and death of Billie Jean Phillips features one of the most iconic opening lines in true crime: Billie Jean Phillips rode life like a sexual Jet Ski
Part I: Meth and murder in Madison County
Part II: Who killed Billie Jean?

“I know a girl from a lonely street / Cold as ice cream but still as sweet” —- Blondie (1979)

[Note: all quotes courtesy of the Arizona Republic.]
She contained multitudes.

At home she was Laurie Jeanie Wardein, a record store clerk too timid to drive a car and still living with her mother at the age of twenty-six.
At science fiction conventions she was Tempest, an elf who frolicked with fellow fantasy nerds in an Elfquest fan club called Silverwood Holt.
After dark she was Cortina Bandolero, an artist who wrote punk band reviews for the Phoenix New Times and never missed a midnight Rocky Horror screening.
All were snuffed out in the early hours of June 10th, 1985.

“She spent a lot of time alone. She just didn’t know how special she was.” Laurie’s mother Elsie Wardein, September 15th, 1985

At 9:15am the Phoenix Police Department received a phone call summoning investigators to 815 East Bethany Home Road. The Wardeins lived in unit A-119 of the Place Three Apartments,
a first floor rental located across from the pool next to the laundry room.
Elsie Wardein had returned from an overnight nursing shift and discovered her daughter crumpled on the floor of her blood-spattered bedroom, stabbed repeatedly in the neck, chest and stomach.
The precise number of stab wounds, indicia of sexual assault and Laurie’s state of dress when slain have never been publicized.

“When Laurie died I died with her. Cortina died. Tempest died. Everyone died.” Elsie Wardein, September 15th, 1985

Laurie had spent her final evening enjoying dinner and a movie with a male friend who dropped her home at 1am;
according to a newspaper article published shortly after the crime investigators do not consider this person,
who they declined to name, a suspect in her slaying.
The night of the murder tenants socialized poolside into the wee hours and the Wardeins’ next-door neighbor returned home at 11pm—no one noted any strangers in the complex or signs of disturbance.
Nothing had been stolen during the commission of the crime and although a window was ajar the scene lacked overt evidence of forced entry.

Crime scene exterior present day

“You have a young lady who was a very gifted artist and very active in the Greek Orthodox Church and we can’t give her family any closure on why this happened.” Phoenix Detective Bob Brunansky on the aspect of the case he finds most troubling, June 3rd, 2005

Investigators reportedly have a person of interest in Laurie’s slaying but have refused to share any identifying details;
a recent Arizona Republic  article speculates she may have been killed by someone she “went on a date with
but it’s unclear if this refers to a previous romantic partner
or if her final companion—the male friend who last saw her alive—has come under renewed scrutiny.
Thirty-three years after her death Laurie Wardein’s murder remains unsolved; her mother Elsie passed away in 2015 never knowing the identity of her daughter’s killer.

“We don’t want to jeopardize our investigation. We let anything out and this guy—or girl—could make up some kind of fantasy story we would have to disprove.” Phoenix Police Department spokesman on his rationale for declining to identify the person of interest, September 15th, 1985

Self portrait as elf

Ever since I first read about her murder in a 2005 cold case retrospective I’ve felt a kinship with Laurie Wardein.
Although she was a decade older and dwelt on the opposite side of the country she and I were living a parallel existence:
in 1985 I too worked in a record store and frequented hardcore shows and fantasy conventions.
Every year when Comic-Con rolls around I think of Laurie and all the things she’s missed in the last thirty plus years;
our nerdy subculture grew into a financial and cultural juggernaut and she didn’t live to see it.
Punk rock became mainstreamed and monetized and she didn’t live to see it.
She didn’t even live to see the defining moment in geek culture, the birth of the almighty world wide web in 1990.

Cover art by Cortina Bandolero

“Woman’s Alter Ego Unmasked by Murder.” Arizona Republic headline, January 16th, 1989

While reading the 1980’s-era coverage of her death I was struck by the salacious spin the media cast on Laurie’s affinity for science fiction—as if a running around a hotel convention center in a leotard and elf ears
was comparable to performing live sex shows or working as a dominatrix.
We live in a world where someone can repeatedly stab a 26-year old woman in the throat forever ending her life and her art and spend not a single day in jail.
Laurie missed all the technological marvels of the last three decades but there’s a good chance her killer didn’t.

No wonder so many people are eager to retreat into fantasy.


Unsolved mystery: why didn’t the show feature a pool-related episode? Robert Stack certainly had the gams for it.

The crime news was underwhelming today so please enjoy these vintage longreads about murders and maybe-murders from the annals of Unsolved Mysteries.

Never mind the strychnine—the existence of wax museums in modern times is a mystery in and of itself (D Magazine, 1986)
I’ve never seen the episode with Kristie Lee’s slaying but wikipedia says it exists and I want to believe (Sun Sentinel, 1996)
Some things need to be seen to be believed: the 1980s skater fashions exhibited in his segment are more confounding than Chad Maurer’s death (Los Angeles Times, 1992)
The very definition of mystery: I’ve reread this 4-part article about Matthew Flores’ murder twice and still have no idea who killed him (Providence Journal, 1994)
Ending on double: the newer Amy Wroe Bechtel article has more recent information but the older article has better prose styling so I suggest you read both (Runners World Magazine, 1998 + 2016)

Let me tell you something you already know: Donald Trump lies about everything.

Now let me tell you something you might not know: his inaugural wife, Ivana Trump née Zelnícková was neither an alternate nor a full-fledged member of the Czechoslovakian ski team at the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics.

I speculate you may not know this because I did not know this and I consider myself well informed.
As a consumer of mass media in 1980s NYC it was impossible to avoid Trump-brand™ propaganda and many publications—including the vaunted New York Times—described Ivana Trump as a former Olympian.
I assumed someone, somewhere had fact-checked this easily-verifiable assertion. I was wrong.

Spy Magazine über alles

Backstory: I cannot remember how Ivana Trump became a topic of conversation and even if I could recall it would have no bearing on this blogpost.
Suffice it to say I was lunching with friends and Ivana was mentioned and I cited her Olympic credentials.
“No, no, no,” my friend interjected, “Ivana’s Olympic career has been completely debunked.”

Embarrassed at having been hoodwinked and curious if other Trump-related lies still simmered in my subconscious
I recently undertook an exhaustive investigation of all Ivana-era Trump coverage and happened upon a startling circumstance.

On their first date: Stolen Valor Olympian and Portrait of the Fascist as a Young Man

Throughout the years both Donald and Ivana Trump have maintained they first met at the 1976 Montréal Olympics but this is, as is par for the course, untrue;
although Czech-born Ivana was a Montréal resident in the mid-70s the couple’s first encounter actually occurred in Manhattan, at then-hotspot Maxwell’s Plum.
Now to the interesting bit: one of the people present at the table during the Trumps’ initial meeting—-Canadian model Donna Maureen Andrade—would be murdered a few months after the Trumps’ introduction,
her slaying still unsolved. Courtesy of the November 24th, 1993 Montréal Gazette:

[Caveat: since the crimes discussed herein occurred in Montréal the majority of newspaper articles are en Français and sometimes the translations provided by Google seem a little . . . nonsensical. I’m almost certainly missing some nuances, so please pardonnez-moi.]

The first body was found in the parlor, just inside the front door. On February 2nd, 1977 a relative’s noontime visit to Montréal’s Manoir Haddon Hall, 2150 Sherbrooke Street, set the stage for a homicide investigation;
29-year old Antonio Sorgente, discovered in the front room, hadn’t died alone—detectives found a second decedent, 31-year old fashion designer Robert Theodore Thompson, Teddy to intimates,
sprawled on the bedroom floor wreathed in a halo of blood.
On the bed reposed the final victim, mannequin célèbre Donna Andrade, age 29; all three had been shot once in the head.

The three and a half room apartment where the murders transpired was rented by Donna Andrade but the superintendent reported Teddy Thompson, her romantic partner, was ever-present.
Manoir Haddon Hall is a luxury building in an exclusive neighborhood—the adjective “stately” is a common descriptor—yet the Andrade-Thompson-Sorgente slayings aren’t the residence’s only macabre association.
A Satanic horror movie variously known as The Pyx, La Lannule and The Hooker Cult Murders had been filmed at the location, the building’s edifice visible in several exterior shots.

[The Montréal Gazette reports the film was in production during the 1977 triple slaying but according to IMDB The Pyx was released in 1973—apparently the New York Times isn’t the only media organization with a laissez-faire attitude toward fact-checking.]

The summer of 1977 was a lawless time in Montréal, the crime rate skyrocketing as the local police staged a slowdown amid a pension negotiation stalemate.
Predictably, the law enforcement dispute hampered the investigation into the Andrade-Thompson-Sorgente slayings;
the evening before the bodies’ discovery a woman in an adjacent apartment thought she heard gunfire at approximately 11:30pm; when she peered down the hallway nothing seemed amiss, however,
and afraid of wasting overburdened law enforcement resources she failed to notify authorities.

Although unnamed, the Andrade-Thompson-Sorgente murders are the West End triple slaying referenced

Improbably, the triple murder’s posh location and Donna Andrade’s high-profile career weren’t the most noteworthy aspects of the Manoir Haddon Hall slayings;
two of the victims, Donna and Teddy Thompson, had been involved in another homicide a mere two and a half years earlier.

5:20am, July 25th 1974; another luxury apartment, another frantic phone call to police.
In an eerie foreshadowing of future events Montréal investigators arrived at 1250 St. Mathieu Street and found Donna Andrade and Teddy Thompson at a homicide scene.
This time, however, only the third person present in the residence was slain—Diane Juteau, age 25, Teddy Thompson’s wife and mother of his three small children.
Diane had been shot through the left eye with .357 Magnum, the bullet travelling at a slight upward trajectory and lodging in her skull.

Manoir Haddon Hall, present day

Although both Donna Andrade and Teddy Thompson were taken into police custody Donna was released after a cursory investigation; Teddy, despite his avowal the shooting had been accidental, was charged with his wife’s homicide.
At trial Donna testified she’d been in the process of ending their two-year extramarital affair when Teddy began threatening suicide and brandishing a newly-purchased firearm;
she had summoned his wife Diane, she claimed, to try to talk some sense into him.
According to Donna she’d been in another room putting on a record to lighten the mood (♫ Suicide is Painless ♫) when the fatal shot rang out and she had thus failed to witness Diane’s death.

“I told him I loved him but I had to leave him because our relationship wasn’t working out and I was very unhappy. Teddy asked me not to leave him and said if I didn’t stay with him he would blow his brains out.” Trial testimony of Donna Andrade, Montréal Gazette, January 9th, 1975

Teddy Thompson, testifying in his own defense, alleged he’d been demonstrating the sincerity of his suicidal intentions by gesticulating with his .357—as one does—when he tripped and the revolver mysteriously fired.
The plausibility of his story is impossible to gage because the case was never adjudicated by the finder of fact;
Thompson cut a deal mid-trial, typically an indication the proceedings aren’t going in the defendant’s favor (in American courts, at least).

On January 20th, 1975 Teddy Thompson accepted a manslaughter plea and was sentenced to a whopping three years in prison; the precise length of Thompson’s sojourn behind bars is unclear
but he was fancy-free two years later when he went from shooter to shootee, his mid-flight stance at death indicating his suicidal impulses were a thing of the past.

  Marketing executive: “The cover art’s okay but do you think you could sex it up a little?

Several newspaper articles describe the Andrade-Thompson-Sorgente murders as a probable “settling of accounts,”
and I assumed the accounts being settled involved Thompson’s ludicrous sentence for the death of his wife—perhaps a friend or relative of Diane Juteau had opted to mete out a more commensurate punishment.
Not an advisable course of action, but understandable under the circumstances.

Further investigation into Antonio Sorgente’s past,
however, provided evidence the accounts being settled may have belonged to him:
at the age of 21 Sorgente was one of four men arrested for a series of violent 1968 armed robberies—the disposition of his case was never publicized, indicating he may have cut a deal in exchange for testimony.
Sorgente’s codefendants in the crime spree ultimately received as much as twelve years in prison
which (if paroled) would’ve put them back on the street in the same rough time frame as the Manoir Haddon Hall murder.

Of course, it’s also possible the Andrade-Thompson-Sorgente slayings involved narcotics; a small blurb in the Canadian true crime magazine ‘Allo Police describes the crime as an “affaire de drogue,”
although the identity of the victim or victims—Andrade, Thompson or Sorgente—with drug involvement is unspecified.
So many possible motives, yet so little evidence available for elimination purposes.

  Designer: “Say no more.”

Four decades later, mysteries in the case persist: was Diane’s homicide the precipitating event for the Manoir Haddon Hall murders or was one of the other scenarios the true impetus for the crime?
And why in God’s name did Donna Andrade resume her affair with Teddy Thompson after his release from prison?
Donna’s professed desire to be free of Teddy led directly to his wife’s death—their continued relationship seems like a postmortem slap in Diane Juteau’s face, essentially heaping insult on top of her (fatal) injury.

On a more germane note: why didn’t 1980s NYC media reveal Donna Andrade’s presence at the Donald-Ivana introduction, an inarguably colorful detail?
I’m aware of the publishing truism when truth and legend contradict it’s advisable to print the legend
but in this case the legend of Ivana’s Olympic feats seem less newsworthy than the first Trump marriage being only one degree away from an unsolved triple homicide.

[Irony alert: if a witness to Hillary and Bill Clinton’s introduction was mysteriously murdered there’d be an entire cottage industry built around blaming the crime on deep-state crisis actors and Hillary Clinton’s voracious vagina dentata.]

I need a word for the frustration I feel when I spend weeks hunting down a photo and then this; photus interruptus? Pixel blocked?

The moral of today’s post is multifaceted, but let’s begin with the valuable life-lesson imparted via the tragic fate of Diane Juteau: if your husband’s girlfriend summons you at 5am to tango with his suicidal impulses decline the invitation.
Solemnly state, “Sister, he’s your problem now,” and hang up the phone.
The unfortunate end of the glamorous Donna Andrade is also a teachable moment:
if your paramour does time for killing your predecessor end the relationship—regardless of your personal circumstances you deserve a romantic partner without blood on his or her hands.

The most important (dare I say big-league?) lesson provided by this post, however, comes courtesy of Donald Trump—possibly the only decent and useful commodity he will ever impart to humanity.
Always check your sources.
Who knows? The true story might be far more fascinating than stolen Olympic glory.

But I understand there are some allegations even the bravest fact-checkers won’t touch

Every cripple does his dance — Irish proverb as quoted in On the Track of Murder (Barbara Gelb, 1975)


I swear to god I’m not racist.

I live in the city; I despise all races equally.

Airing the fruits of my google alerts in Daily Dread, however, has shed a somewhat unflattering light on my monochromatic crime obsessions—I’m tracking more missing middleclass white women than Fox News and Nancy Grace combined.

I don’t know the words to “Kumbaya” and I’m not interested in learning but I do think equal representation is important;
all murders matter, to repurpose the phrase.  
Cases that receive more attention garner more resources and are thus more likely to be solved—so this seems to be an ideal time to revisit the crimes of Charlie Chop-off, killer of urban nonwhite males,
a demographic underrepresented in media coverage and overrepresented in victimology statistics.


FOR PEDANTS ONLY:  a Note on Sources and Nomenclature

One of the most exasperating aspects of reinvestigating the Charlie Chop-off murders is a dearth of reliable contemporaneous sources. 
Although the slayings were mentioned somewhat fleetingly in the New York Times I’ve opted to use their coverage as the gold standard—the Times’ current political bureau is odious but their 1970s crime reportage is,
in my experience at least, above reproach.

Published in 1975, Barbara Gelb’s book On the Track of Murder is considered by many to be the seminal work in the Charlie Chop-off canon;
I was initially skeptical about relying on a source using pseudonyms—anonymity has historically been exploited to tweak facts into a more salacious narrative. 
That said, with one minor exception Ms. Gelb’s reportage tracks perfectly with the Times, lending credence to the details in her book which failed to make it into the newspaper’s coverage.

The New York Daily News and the Harlem-centric Amsterdam News both published a smattering of articles about the murders but their reportage is too rife with inaccuracies and contradictions to be taken as gospel—the Daily News’s varietal spellings of the participants’ names is particularly atrocious.

The only (somewhat) recent source I consulted is this Court-TV article written by the venerable Katherine Ramsland;
it’s only available via the Wayback Machine, however,
and a glut of unreliable (and often debunked) information has sprung up on the web in recent years.

Finally, I should note the name “Charlie Chop-off” appears only in On the Track of Murder;
Ms. Gelb claims the nickname originated with the youngsters in the targeted communities but the appellation fails to appear in any print archives—I’ve opted to retain it for the sake of convenience, however.



Name:  Douglas Owens

Age/Race:  8 years old, African American

Date:  March 9th 1972 (with some variations noted below)

Location: Douglas’s body was found on the roof of 221 East 121st Street, two blocks from his home

Circumstances:  Douglas was waylaid after dark while running an errand for his mother. 
He was stabbed 38 (some sources say 39) times in the neck, chest and back; he had also been sexually mutilated—his penis split in half but not severed.  
Douglas was fully clad although his pants had been slashed open; his sneakers had been removed and placed neatly near his body. 
According to On the Track of Murder the coroner found “inconclusive” evidence of sodomy, but the precise indicia exhibited are unspecified.

Although I was unable to find much information about any of the Charlie Chop-off victims the media coverage of Douglas Owens’ death was particularly abysmal.  
His murder received not a single contemporaneous article in the press, and although March 9th is the date most often cited for his slaying an early New York Times article gives the date as March 4th;
a more recent Daily News article lists the date as March 16th.


Name:  On the Track of Murder uses the pseudonym Jimmy Wallace but we shall call him The Boy Who Lived

Age/Race:  10 years old, African American

Date: April 20th, 1972

Location: the attack occurred on the roof of the victim’s dwelling at 174 West 107th Street

Circumstances:  The Boy Who Lived was on his way to a nearby shop when he encountered a mid-30ish, white but olive-skinned (possibly Italian) stranger;
introducing himself as Michael, the man had a slender build, bad skin and a prominent mole on his left cheek. 
The victim, preternaturally observant for his age, also noted his soon-to-be attacker was right-handed, walked with a limp, had foul breath and stood approximately 5’7” tall. 
After a few pleasantries the man offered the Boy Who Lived fifty cents for assistance with a task on the roof;
the pair proceeded upstairs.

Upon reaching their destination the assailant forced the Boy Who Lived to disrobe;
the victim was then sodomized, castrated, and stabbed in the neck and back (the precise number of wounds has never been publicized).  
After the assault was completed the perpetrator moved the child to a downstairs hallway where he was subsequently discovered by a neighbor; although some sources note the victim’s sneakers were placed nearby it’s unclear if the shoes were located at the roof attack site or hallway dumpsite.

Although the significance of these anomalies remains unknown, the Boy Who Lived is the only victim moved to a secondary location post-assault;
he’s also the only castrated victim whose missing genitals surfaced—his penis was found the following day by a trio of frolicking children in a playground several blocks away.

“On April 21st, 1972 one Eugene Q. G— approached Patrolman Lavendero, 24th Precinct, and said he discovered some youths playing with a black penis on Amsterdam Ave. He turned it over to the Officer, who in turn brought it to the attention of the (major crimes) squad.”  Police report as quoted in On the Track of Murder (Barbara Gelb, 1975)


Name:  Wendell Hubbard

Date: October 23rd, 1972

Age/Race:  9 years old, African American

Address:  The attack occurred on the roof of the victim’s residence, 2013 Fifth Avenue near the corner of 125th Street

Circumstances:  At approximately 5:45pm Wendell asked his father for a quarter to buy candy at a local shop;
as Brooks Hubbard later tells the Daily News, “I never seen the boy no more.”  
At around 9:45pm a gaggle of neighborhood children playing on the roof discovered Wendell’s body,
sneakers removed and placed at his side.

The medical examiner will later determine Wendell had been sodomized, castrated and stabbed 17— some sources say 19—times in the neck, chest and abdomen;
his pants had been pulled down but not removed.  
The assailant absconded with the victim’s penis which to date has never been located.

A week after Wendell’s death the Amsterdam News had a small blurb about the crime,
the first Charlie Chop-off attack mentioned in the press. 
Two child homicides and one castration in a fifteen-block radius and the New York Times won’t mention the murders for another ten months.

“I have the death certificate. I have a little Boy Scout flag and a little cap he had from Troop 157. I keep them in a drawer. Sometimes I go into that drawer and look at them.” Wendell’s father Brooks Hubbard on his mementos of his murdered son, New York Daily News, February 4th, 1993


Name:  Luis Ortiz

Date:  March 6th, 1973

Age/Race:  10 years old, Hispanic (Puerto Rican)

Location:  Luis’s body was found in a basement stairwell at 200 West 106th Street, one and a half blocks from his home

Circumstances:  At 8:15pm Luis’s mother sent him to a nearby store to buy bread and milk;
he arrived at the shop, successfully completed his purchase—despite being 13 cents short—and then promptly disappeared.  
When he failed to return home in a timely manner his mother notified law enforcement;
the NYPD launched an overnight search but no trace of Luis could be found.

[Short at the Register, Shortly to Die:  Luis’s cash shortage at the market calls to mind 5-year old Eric Shunk of Philadelphia, 15 cents short while buying a notebook in 1983; and 7-year old Holly Ann Hughes of Staten Island, 5 cents short when buying a bar of soap in 1981. Both children departed the store with their purchase but neither returned home alive.]

At approximately 1pm the following day Luis’s body was found in a basement stairwell by a woman taking out her trash;
the location is only one block from the site of the attack on the Boy Who Lived. 
Luis had been sodomized, castrated and viciously stabbed (37, 38, or 40 times, depending on the source).  
The victim’s sneakers were placed at his side but his groceries and genitalia were missing.

A canvass of local inhabitants revealed several neighbors had seen Luis in the company of a stranger shortly before he vanished. 
The description of Luis’s mystery companion— a slender, olive-skinned man with bad skin,
between the ages of 35-50, standing between 5’7” and 5’10” inches tall—closely mirrored the description of the Boy Who Lived’s attacker with one minor difference: 
Luis’s companion had black marks on his chin while the living victim’s assailant sported a prominent mole on his left cheek.

Eventually investigators located a woman in the neighborhood who may have previously interacted with the killer;
On the Track of Murder uses the pseudonym Mrs. Hernandez but we shall call her Mama Bear.  
Two days before Luis’s murder a man approached her 9-year old son Juan
offering a free bicycle in exchange for help with an errand. 
Juan agreed to accompany the man, who introduced himself as Tony, but not until the next day because Mama Bear was strict and he knew he had to ask permission first.

Ortiz crime scene

The next day at the appointed time Juan failed to appear—instead Mama Bear arrived at the meeting place and told the stranger to stay the hell away from her son or she’d call the police.  
Even though at this point the neighborhood attacks had barely made the news Mama Bear implicitly understood the price of a “free” bike would be far higher than 9-year old Juan could imagine.

The day after Mama Bear’s confrontation with the gift-bearing stranger Luis disappeared. 
Although Mama Bear’s description closely matched that of the surviving victim there was one notable discrepancy;
the Boy Who Lived said his attacker was an olive-skinned white man but Mama Bear said the man she encountered was Hispanic and spoke with a slight but noticeable Dominican accent. 
Mama Bear later worked with an NYPD artist to produce the first composite sketch of the slayer.

Luis was the first Charlie Chop-off victim seen with his attacker and his death marked another milestone as well—his slaying was the first murder to get significant media traction. 
On March 10th, four days after his death protestors staged a demonstration at the 24th Precinct on West 100th Street, angry the NYPD had failed to devote more resources to finding the predator in their midst.
The event was given saturation coverage in the newspapers;
the precise number of dead nonwhite children necessary for media attention has now been definitively determined: 
three (Douglas Owens, Wendell Hubbard, Luis Ortiz) and a half (the Boy Who Lived).

“Are you crazy?” Get back here, right by the door where I can see you!”  Worried mother on 108th Street screaming at her children out a fifth‐floor window, New York Times, March 12th, 1973

According to On the Track of Murder the NYPD, galvanized by the community’s wrath, now created a taskforce with the sole objective of finding the Harlem castration killer. 
The unit was soon besieged with leads, including a phone call from a Bronx woman who identified a man she felt closely resembled the composite: chronic mental patient Erno Soto, currently institutionalized. 
Detectives paid a visit to Soto’s wife at her 125th Street apartment; at 6’1” her husband was much taller than the suspect’s estimated height of 5’7,” she informed investigators.  
A subsequent consultation with the Ward Island’s Manhattan Psychiatric Center confirmed Soto had been in custody at the time of The Boy Who Lived’s attack, dismissing him from contention.  
Investigators then moved on but spoiler alert:  the hospital staff had failed to give a full accounting of their 33-year old patient’s proclivities. 
Erno Soto’s involvement in the Charlie Chop-off case had not yet reached its final chapter.

[Errata Interlude AKA Three Wrongs Don’t Make a Right:  in The Encyclopedia of Serial Killers Michael Newton states the phone call implicating Erno Soto was received in 1972, soon after the murder of first victim Douglas Owens; the correct date is March 23rd, 1973, shortly after the Ortiz slaying.   In Serial Killers: The Method and Madness of Monsters  author Peter Vronsky incorrectly lists Erno Soto’s name as Miguel Rivera, the pseudonym used in On the Track of Murder.  Also, the Charlie Chop-off illustration proliferating on the web isn’t an approved NYPD composite.  I tracked down the attributed artist, Nathan MacDicken, who was kind enough to take a few minutes to correspond with me.  Mr. MacDicken said he’d been contracted to draw the illustrations for Court TV articles; he was given only a description of the suspect and his victims.]

The Serial Killer Who Wasn’t and the Victims Who Weren’t


Name: Steven Cropper
Date: August 17th, 1973
Age/Race: 7 years old, African American
Location: Steven’s body was found approximately two blocks from his home on the roof of 325 (or 323, according to On the Track of Murder) East Houston Street on the Lower East Side

Circumstances: Steven and a friend were idling in front of a community pool imploring passersby for spare change when a slender, limping Hispanic man approached.
Steven exchanged a few words with the man and then he and his new acquaintance departed the scene;
several bystanders saw the duo walking together in the area at approximately 3:30pm.
Steven would never be seen alive again.

At 5:30pm a woman walking her dog discovered Steven’s bloodied body on the roof of her building,
his sneakers placed nearby.
His shirt had been pulled up above his shoulders and a deep 9-inch “X”—administered postmortem, according to Medical Examiner Michael Baden—had been etched into his chest.
A third gash traveled the length of the victim’s arm, severing the artery in his left elbow; the gore-encrusted razor used in the crime was discovered beneath the boy’s corpse.
Steven’s pants—two pairs of tightfitting jeans, an unlikely choice on day the temperature reached 91 degrees—were unbuttoned but not removed; no overt evidence of sexual molestation or mutilation could be detected.

“It effected everyone. It split the whole family up. The tragedy of Stevie’s death is not only did we have to deal with him dying, we had to deal with the rest of us dying.” Victim’s brother Christopher Cropper, New York Daily News, February 2nd, 1993

Cropper crime scene

Initially NYPD detectives were uncertain if Steven’s death was related to the Charlie Chop-off series; aside from his age and race his murder shared few commonalities with the Harlem child slayings.
Unlike the previous victims Steven had been assaulted during daylight hours, slashed three times with a razor
instead of stabbed repeatedly with a knife;
more significantly, he hadn’t been raped or castrated and his attack occurred a hundred blocks distant from the previous crimes, which had all been perpetrated within a fifteen block radius.

“I’ve been in this business a long time and I’ve seldom seen anything like it [Steven’s murder].” NYPD Lieutenant Louis Karcher, New York Times, August 18th, 1973

Steven’s sneakers were found next to his body, but—as chronicled in On the Track of Murder—some investigators downplayed the significance of the footwear placement.
If an assailant intended to sexually assault a child, one detective reasoned, he’d tell his prospective victim to disrobe—which in almost all cases necessitates a prior removal of shoes.
Perhaps Steven’s attacker had aspired to rape but pivoted to homicide when the boy attempted to flee,
or perhaps he’d been slain by a copycat killer.
The similar description of the suspect in the Harlem and Cropper slayings, however, convinced other investigators both the uptown and downtown crimes had been committed by a single assailant.

“The probability that the same man did all four crimes is fantastic.” Enigmatic proclamation of unnamed NYPD detective, New York Daily News, June 27th, 1974


“Every lead is investigated no matter how whacky (sic) it seems.” Lieutenant John Yuknes, New York Times, August 23rd, 1973

During the 16 months of Charlie Chop-off’s reign the NYPD utilized every then-existing investigative technique including:

• Obtaining the mailing list of a chicken-hawk magazine and interviewing local subscribers
• Casing the area methadone clinics perchance the killer was a loose-lipped opiate addict
• Sorting through 9,000 police records of known child molesters
• Knocking on thousands of apartment doors searching for witnesses and clues
• Distributing more than 1,500 fliers featuring the suspect’s composite to police departments throughout the country
• Bringing 150 persons of interest down to the station for questioning
• Contacting Interpol in a fruitless search for similar murders abroad
• Canvassing the local bike shops since Mama Bear’s son was enticed with a free bicycle

NYPD detectives also created a revised image of the suspect using an Identikit, a then-cutting age technology which promised to revolutionize the field of forensic composites.
The Boy Who Lived spent an entire afternoon choosing facial features from a catalog to recreate the face of his attacker—the result was a new, more accurate depiction of the suspect.

“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack, but needles have been found in haystacks before.” Sergeant Edmund Klan, NYPD optimist, New York Times, April 17th, 1973

Although the field of profiling had not yet been established investigators asked an NYPD psychologist to devise a blueprint of the castration killer’s psyche.
Dr. Harvey Schlossberg theorized the perpetrator was a self-hating homosexual who endeavored to emasculate his victims as an antidote to his same-sex yearnings; by turning the little boys into little girls, the doctor opined,
the slayer believed he could negate his own homosexuality and absolve his acts of sodomy.
Dr. Schlossberg also detected erotic undertones in the assailant’s penetration-heavy modus operandi.

“Symbolically, it’s an orgasm—it’s really quite sexual.” Dr. Harvey Schlossberg on the assailant’s frenzied stabbing technique, New York Times, April 17th, 1973

A week after Steven’s murder the New York Times announced the first named suspect in the case; Daniel Olivo, age 30, arrested for the rape of a 5-year old boy in a Bronx park on August 20th, three days after the Cropper murder.
After luring the child to a secluded area on the pretext of playing ball
Olivo pounced on the victim and committed an act of sodomy.
The child managed to escape after the attack and alerted his father, a hot dog vendor stationed nearby.

According to the Times, Olivo—standing 5’7” and weighing 140 pounds—was “Hispanic in appearance” with a pockmarked complexion and noticeable limp.
Investigators were unable to develop any information linking Olivo to the Charlie Chop-off crimes, however, and he was eventually dropped as a suspect.


August 22nd, 1973; “Let’s kill him,” screamed the mob. Luis Alberto Gonzalez’s ordeal showcased the ugly side of community activism—all he wanted was a job and he ended up cowering from a lynch mob in a downtown precinct house.

I hope you like riot photos because we have riot photos

While applying for a technician’s position in a Lower East Side health clinic an employee noticed Gonzalez bore a striking resemblance to the Charlie Chop-off composite, prominently featured in area storefronts.
The suspicious employee alerted law enforcement who transported Gonzalez to the station and summoned the witnesses in the Steven Cropper case; Gonzalez was then interrogated and showcased in an identity parade.

After a thorough grilling failed to elicit any incriminating information and witnesses confirmed Gonzalez was not the man who led Steven Cropper to his doom detectives were confident he had no involvement in any of the slayings.
Gonzalez was now dismissed from suspicion but dismissing him from the police station would not be so simple; erroneous reports of the killer’s arrest had spread throughout the neighborhood like wildfire.
As Gonzalez was questioned 500 irate citizens, many brandishing nooses and makeshift weapons, encircled the police station demanding he be handed over for a swift administration of NYC street justice.

“We might have been out catching the real murderer instead of protecting this guy.” NYPD Sergeant Richard Bowes on the resources wasted quelling the riot, New York Times, August 26th, 1973

The horde was unmoved when an NYPD spokesperson grabbed a bullhorn:
“This is not the man! Go home!” officers announced in English and Spanish—but law enforcement’s entreaties were met only with jeers and projectiles from the crowd.
Howling for vengeance, the rabble-rousers refused to budge for hours, pelting the precinct house with bricks and garbage.
Worried the increasingly lawless assemblage would breach the station’s defenses detectives smuggled Gonzalez out of the building clad in a police officer’s uniform.
The outcome of his employment interview at the health center has never been publicized but I’m fairly certain Luis Alberto Gonzalez didn’t take the job.

Nine months passed, community furor lessened and detectives continued to chase worthless leads; eventually the taskforce was quietly disbanded, the NYPD unwilling to further fund an investigation stalled on the fast track to nowhere.
Then, finally, on May 25th, 1974 a major break in the case:
Erno Soto, the too-tall suspect fingered shortly after Luis Ortiz’s murder was arrested while trying to abduct a dark-skinned 9-year old boy on East 8th Street in the Village.

“He was walking along holding the kid up over his head, holding him up to the sky, and the kid was screaming.” Retired NYPD homicide detective Ed Gomez, New York Daily News, February 4th, 1993


Back in the NYPD crosshairs, detectives launched a reinvestigation of Soto—and this time investigators unearthed information which indicated his dismissal as a suspect may have been premature.
Soto, who had an eleven year rap-sheet for burglary and narcotics but no known history of pedophilia, had ties to both the Harlem area—his wife lived on 125th Street—and the Lower East Side where Steven Cropper was slain:
Soto’s father Felix lived on Ridge Street, directly around the corner from the crime scene.

A check with the Ward Island’s Manhattan Psychiatric Center revealed Soto had been free on a weekend pass when
Steven was slain, and during the interview asylum employees revealed a pertinent fact they’d previously omitted:
Soto had a history of creeping out of the psychiatric center undetected.
Although he was listed as confined during the Boy Who Lived’s attack that didn’t necessarily mean he was present—-it was possible he’d been absent without leave.

“He was crazy. There was no doubt about that. He was nuttier than a fruit cake.” Retired homicide detective Ed Gomez on Soto’s mental state, New York Daily News, February 4th, 1993

Periodically committed since 1965, Soto wasn’t covertly mentally ill; he was psychotic, a raving maniac, babbling incessantly about religion and careening with a shambolic gait as he crooned along to the voices in his head.
Disheveled with subpar hygiene—“slovenly” was the tactful descriptor favored by the New York Times—Soto was described in hospital records as being “so out of it he can’t give useful information.”
Nonetheless when interrogated Erno Soto confessed to Steven Cropper’s murder, though he declined to take credit for the Harlem slayings.
Soto was unable to provide any details about Steven’s murder but in the 1970s a confession was sufficient for the NYPD to close the case.

According to On the Track of Murder, the homicide taskforce was divided in their opinions about Soto’s guilt, the team breaking into a three-way split.
One third of the detectives believed Soto had committed all of the attacks,
one third believed he’d killed Steven Cropper but not the uptown boys, and the final third believed him to be a false confessor, innocent of all crimes.
One of the most interesting things I stumbled upon in my research was a July 11th, 1974 article in the New York Times absolving Soto of the Harlem murders;
two-thirds of the NYPD may have decided Soto wasn’t Charlie Chop-off but the crimes would stick to him forevermore.

I know what you’re thinking; you want to see a photo of Erno Soto to determine whether he resembles the composite sketches in the case.
Brace yourself for bad news; below I’ve posted the only image of Erno Soto available in the newspaper archives:

Not very helpful, is it? I have no idea why the New York Times would print the mugshot of a minor suspect like Bronx rapist Daniel Olivo and fail to provide a photo of a man actually arrested for child murder but here we are.
Amplifying their unhelpfulness, none of the contemporaneous newspapers conclusively state whether Soto resembled either the Identikit or composite sketch—but here’s what we do know about his attributes vis-à-vis the witnesses’ descriptions:

• The phone tipster who initially fingered Soto believed he looked like the sketch composite
• 33-years old when arrested, Soto fell into the witnesses estimated age range of 30-45
• As all witnesses reported and both composites reflected, Soto had bad skin
• I’m going out on a limb here, but if Soto had poor hygiene he probably also possessed the swamp breath noted by the Boy Who Lived

• At 6’1” Soto was significantly taller than the 5’7”-5’10” reported by witnesses
• Soto was left-handed while the Boy Who Lived believed his attacker to be right-handed
• Soto had a Puerto Rican accent, not the Dominican accent detected by Mama Bear or the absence of an accent reported by the living victim
• Soto had neither black marks on his chin nor a prominent mole on his left cheek
• Soto did not limp, although he did favor the Thorazine shuffle

Hewing to the case’s three-way split theme the results of Erno Soto’s identity parades were mixed.
Witnesses to Steven Cropper’s final amble through the Lower East Side identified Soto as the victim’s companion,
but the Boy Who Lived was adamant Soto was not his attacker—according to On the Track of Murder he deemed Soto far too tall.
Tragically, Mama Bear was unable to give her opinion on the matter;
she’d moved without leaving a forwarding address, a common witness hazard in the pre-computer era.

[Overlapping Murder: on June 10th, 1974, two weeks after Erno Soto’s arrest for the attempted 8th Street abduction, his younger brother joined him in police custody. Eugenio Soto, age 31, was engaged in an airing of grievances with family paterfamilias Felix when things took an ugly turn. Eugenio blamed Felix’s poor parenting for brother Erno’s legal and mental travails, according to police reports; decisively seizing the last word, he stabbed his 60-year old father to death with a kitchen knife. Eugenio was later convicted of first degree manslaughter and sentenced to a ten-year term in the penitentiary; he was released on February 10th, 1982.]

Personally, I’m of the opinion Soto most likely did kill Steven Cropper—I find the eyewitnesses and geographic proximity compelling—but I’m not convinced he committed the Harlem crimes.
On the Track of Murder‘s author theorized Soto was driven to homicide by his wife’s promiscuity—-during a period of marital separation she birthed a mixed-race son—and in retaliation he eliminated black boys
in a campaign of psychological revenge.
I find this explanation too pat—especially since the uptown victims were sodomized, an act unnecessary for racial cleansing and incompatible with Soto’s lack of history as a sex offender.
Viewed with modern sensibilities the racial motivation theory fails to impress.

“When the police find [the killer] they’ll just say he’s a sick man and send him to a hospital for two years.” Max King, prescient Delancey Street shopkeeper interviewed during the Lower East Side riot, New York Times, August 26th 1973

Did someone say riot? Here’s some police station riot footage, courtesy of the Associated Press:

Theories are plentiful but for practical purposes debating Soto’s guilt in the Steven Cropper case, at least, is moot;
although he was found competent to stand trial Soto was acquitted of murder by reason of insanity on December 1st, 1976—not a surprising outcome for a man with a documented 20-year history of psychosis.
After trial Soto was remanded back to Ward’s Island, this time to the maximum-security Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center,
an institution impervious to his Houdini act—as far as we know, anyway.

“The history and nature of his psychosis renders him to be a dangerous person; he is in need of constant surveillance. When he is out in society on his own he is literally a walking time bomb.” Trial testimony of Soto’s psychiatrist Dr. John Baer Train, New York Times, December 1st, 1976

As the years passed Erno Soto faded into obscurity, remembered only in the nightmares of his victims’ kin and schoolmates—as they grew into adulthood they would always hold their children a little closer than most.
As all horror connoisseurs know, however, the boogeyman is never truly vanquished:
in 1993, seventeen years after his acquittal in Steven Cropper’s murder Soto emerged like Nosferatu from a coffin and swooped back into the public’s consciousness.

According to his lawyers the now-55 year old Soto was terminally ill, confined to a wheelchair and dependent on daily dialysis, a souvenir of his youthful drug abuse.
Seeking to be released on compassionate grounds, Soto’s application for emancipation set off a bombshell in the media and occasioned a three-day series in the Daily News rehashing his storied history as the number-one suspect in the Charlie Chop-off crimes.

“My parents were never notified. We didn’t know anything until we read the [Daily News series] on Friday. I know my mother was shocked. And my father—I thought he was going to have a heart attack. I thought he was going to die right in my arms because he was crying and he was very upset.” Steven Cropper’s brother Christopher on the possibility of Soto’s release, New York Daily News, February 2nd, 1993

Dubbing Soto “the Monster of Ward’s Island” and painting him as unquestionably guilty in both the Cropper and Harlem attacks, Daily News journalists interviewed the families of Steven Cropper and Wendell Hubbard
and revealed Soto’s extensive history of misbehavior while confined.
Soto, reporters learned, had faded from the news cycle but his stay at the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center had not been uneventful: Soto had been disciplined for cold-cocking a staff member, possessing marijuana,
attempting to slit his psychiatrist’s throat and threatening to “jab the eyes” out of a fellow patient.

In court, citing Soto’s still-active psychosis Manhattan Supreme Justice Bruce Wright declined to release him from maximum-security confinement,
but as a mental patient—as opposed to a convict, sentenced to a finite term—-Soto is eligible to apply for emancipation every two years.
Soto is not a registered sex offender and he’s never been convicted of homicide;
he was committed not as punishment for Steven Cropper’s murder but as a societal panacea—as soon as Soto is adjudicated sane, as unlikely as that seems, the Monster of Ward’s Island will be back on the prowl.

Erno Soto’s name never again appears in the newspaper archives but he’s still with us;
if he had a terminal illness in 1993 it’s a slow-acting one.
Now 79 years old, his address is listed in online databases as 1 Wards Island, New York, NY—not the Kirby maximum security ward but a combination psychiatric hospital/homeless shelter.
It’s unclear how much freedom Soto has gained over the years—and due to stringent medical privacy laws the public has no right to know if he’s eligible for day passes, just another maniac on New York City streets.

L’Hôpital Erno-Soto, an abandoned mental asylum in France—tell me again how there are no coincidences

The assumption of Soto’s guilt in the uptown Chop-off attacks—as propagated in the Daily News’s 1993 series—has carried over online, unfortunately;
I’d like to do what I can to combat that misapprehension—considering the Harlem crimes closed is an affront to the victims and their families.
It’s too late to help Douglas Owens, Wendell Hubbard and Luis Ortiz but the Boy Who Lived may still be alive and to discount his fervent disavowal of Soto as his attacker is reckless and disrespectful.
The Boy Who Lived was maligned in the Daily News series, incidentally—portrayed as beset by “mental problems” and too unstable to recognize his assailant.
More recently, the baseless allegation the living victim “refused” —as opposed to “failed”—to identify Soto as his attacker has metastasized online like free downloads and porn.

I’m aware of the vagaries of eyewitness identification, of course;
but the Boy Who Lived’s disavowal isn’t the only evidence which tends to exonerate Soto in the uptown crimes—and there’s absolutely no meaningful evidence implicating him, even by 1970s standards.
To paint the Boy Who Lived as incapable of recognizing his attacker is heartless; “Believe the Victim” is our current mantra and it’s not solely applicable to heterosexual sex crimes.

Let’s give the Boy Who Lived the benefit of the doubt—-even the Marquis de Sade would agree he’s suffered enough.

I can’t find much about this missing family online but I’ve been searching for years; maybe someone else will have better luck. The article is available in google archives but the print is smeared so I’ve provided a clearer copy.

Since the article’s publication David Dennison’s mother and father have passed away—he’s listed in both obituaries as a surviving son residing in Zaragoza. Oddly, Sylvia Dennison’s obit lists his wife as “Marylin” which is slightly different than the Pittsburg Post Gazette’s “Marialin,” but the discrepancy may simply be a typo.

I rarely don my tinfoil hat but I’m pretty sure the answer to this mystery can be summed up in three little letters: C(entral) I(ntelligence) A(gency). I’d love to know more, however—Mary Dolores, if you’re out there, ayúdame por favor!