11-19-2019

Searching for new information on 1981 unsolved homicide

Tampa woman searching for missing daughter, grandson 26 years later

Graphic evidence related to Bever murders released after Michael Bever’s conviction

‘They wanted these 2 dead:’ MPD seeks shooter who killed couple ‘safely in their bed’

Michelle Parker disappeared 8 years ago

NEW LONGREAD: What It Means to Name a Forgotten Murder Victim

NEW LONGREAD: Who killed Olof Palme?

NEW LONGREAD: Robert Gross, long suspected in KC killings, to be accused in Northland woman’s death

11-18-2019

Cold case murder of Provo resident Marla Scharp in 1978 to be re-opened

Police in talks with Setagaya family relatives about demolishing crime scene

Questions arise about who’s investigating one of area’s biggest murder cases

Missing black women’s cases are often unsolved, underreported. Here are 7 from Montgomery

Locals look back as Clutter case turns 60

‘Every night they are still so angry’: 25 years after Mindy Tran’s abduction

NEW LONGREAD: Who was Peggy Johnson? And why didn’t anyone report her missing?

NEW LONGREAD: Who would do something like this?’ The 1988 murder of Betty Rolf

NEW LONGREAD: Two 1970s shootings remain unsolved, but not forgotten (part 1 + part 2 + part 3 + part 4)

11-17-2019

Genealogy Data Used To Crack LA County Cold Case Rape-Murders

Arrest in 40-year-old Reno-area cold case murders

U.S. Supreme Court considers whether to take Troy Kell death row case

Mom Hopes DNA Can Unlock Answers About Amber Swartz-Garcia, Abducted in 1988

I-Team: The mysterious death of Barbara Betancourt

Authorities have checked on information in Leach case (related vintage LONGREAD)

Family still hoping for justice in 2003 ‘suspicious death’ of Cassie Cole

Long Island Police Continue Searching for Woman Missing Since 1983

The Justice Files: To Catch a Killer (part 1 + part 2)

NEW LONGREAD: Who Killed Eva Booth?

NEW LONGREAD: Man speaks of his sister who vanished without a trace in 1999

NEW LONGREAD:  This N.J. girl vanished without a trace. Two months later, cops say they haven’t given up hope.

11-16-2019

Few details available on teen girl murdered 44 years ago in Portsmouth

MISSING IN KANSAS: “Miss Molly’ may be 1 of 2 missing women

What Happened to 10-Year-Old Kevin Collins, Who Vanished from a Bus Stop in 1984?

What happened to Sheila Brown?

‘It breaks my heart’: Devin Bond’s remains possibly found

UNSOLVED: AUNT SPEAKS OUT 2 YEARS AFTER PAITIN FIELDS’ RAPE AND MURDER

Heartland Unsolved: Dardeen Family Murders (part 1 + part 2)

NEW LONGREAD: Book details evidence in unsolved murder of Donna Gentile

NEW LONGREAD: A family’s hope for justice following the 1995 death of Leah Ulbrich

NEW LONGREAD: Author haunted by disappearance of Cranston friend 72 years ago

11-15-2019

Potomac River Rapist and Murderer, Who Terrorized DC Area in the ’90s, Arrested

31 years later, authorities still search for answers in Dayton cold case

Local police re-examining nearly 60-year-old murder case

Dale Kerstetter family left with more questions after video release

Cold Cases in KELOLAND

Family, friends to conduct vigil for murder victim Kathy Lynn Gloddy

Decades after he confessed, a New Haven man is under arrest for the double murder 

‘It’s time’: Mother speaks out, police name suspect 6 years after Grandview murder

Authorities still looking for answers in missing woman case (related vintage LONGREAD)

NEW LONGREAD: The Strange Life and Mysterious Death of a Virtuoso Coder

NEW LONGREAD:  Jim Sullivan, Rock’s Unsolved UFO Mystery, Vanished Into Thin Air 

NEW LONGREAD: The Disappearances of Shequenia Burnett and Terkessa Wallace

11-14-2019

Disappearance of local babysitter still baffling investigators after 4 decades

35 years after disappearance, search for Tammy Belanger continues

Parents of woman killed on trail share skepticism about details of unsolved murder

Gone without a trace? Misery, mystery linger in these Alabama missing child cases

Friend and former roommate of Diane Shields & Mary Shotwell Little speaks

NYPD detectives launch their own true-crime podcast

NEW LONGREAD: Student death remains mystery after 56 years

NEW LONGREAD: DNA evidence but no ‘smoking gun’ on man charged in 1982 ax murder

NEW LONGREAD: 23 years since unsolved attack on Melanie Doyle

NEW LONGREAD: THE JOURNEY TO JUSTICE (part one + part two)

Rule 34 of the internet: if it exists there is porn of it. No exceptions.

Look upon my affliction, ye mighty, and despair.
For there is no object so banal—fudge, ball point pens, barbecue forks, red lipstick, wiener dogs—that the mere mention of its existence fails to saturate my brain with images of slayings past.
I am not proud of this fact nor am I ashamed of it; it simply is.
I consider this pathology my own personal Rule 34: if it exists it reminds me of murder.
The homicide, for example, currently caroming through my cerebellum was called to mind by the most commonplace of NYC objects: an invitation to a party at a hipster bowling alley.
You may consider that a spoiler or foreshadowing, as you wish.

[A Note on Sources, or A Blogger’s Lament: the reportage on this case is an omnishambles.
Every media outlet has different, often contradictory, details.
I will to adhere to facts as best I can and intersperse with discrepancies and counterstatements as warranted.
Variations of detail in initial crime reportage are common but in most cases ironed out straightaway—in this instance, for reasons unknown, the narrative failed to gel.  Journalists, bless their feckless hearts, never fail to disappoint me.]

William Sproat and Mary Petry

Mary Petry and William Sproat weren’t supposed to be in Columbus the weekend of February 27th, 1970 but they were.

The couple, both French majors and aspiring teachers, attended different Ohio universities: William, age 23, was a first-year graduate student at Ohio State University in Columbus;
Mary, age 20, was a junior at Saint Joseph College in Cincinnati, approximately 90 miles away.
The pair had been introduced by mutual friends in 1968 while attending a performance of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra; they had dated exclusively the two years since.
William had originally been scheduled to visit Mary in Cincinnati the weekend of the 27th but requested a last-minute change of plans—he had a paper due and Mary agreed to travel to Columbus instead.
This seemingly-inconsequential decision would ultimately prove fatal for both.

Murder House by Day

Late Friday afternoon Mary carpooled with classmates to a Holiday Inn just outside Columbus; she then took a taxi to William’s off-campus apartment located at 178½ West 8th Avenue.
The cabdriver, subsequently cleared by authorities, watched her enter William’s residence at 6pm.
Mary was a nice girl and in 1970 nice girls didn’t cohabitate outside of wedlock;
thus at 7:30pm Mary—described as “deeply religious, very quiet, very gentle”—phoned a female friend, presumably from William’s apartment, to confirm she’d be by later to spend the night.
The fates had other plans.

“They (William and Mary) were clean, neat, and what would be called ‘square’ nowadays.” Columbus Police Lieutenant Robert Ruddock, Akron Beacon Journal, March 3rd, 1970

Murder House by Night

William’s roommate had made plans to sleep elsewhere and none of the other tenants at 178½ West 8th Avenue were home that evening;
if a hue and cry was raised no one was present to hear it.
At 10pm a third-floor tenant came home and noticed the door to William’s apartment—unit #C, second floor—ajar;
he declined to investigate.
The following afternoon—at either 12:15 or 1pm, depending on the source—William’s roommate Tom Mcguigan, a childhood friend, returned home, the door still ajar,
and found his apartment transformed into an abattoir.

“It was a typical college boy’s apartment, banners and things all over the walls.” Columbus Police Captain Francis B. Smith, New York Daily News, March 1st, 1970

Although the published information is frequently contradictory these few facts are (mostly) agreed-upon: the only items missing from the scene were a gold throw rug and a small amount of cash from the couple’s wallets.
The only item moved in the apartment,
a large stuffed chair, had been positioned against a window to pin the curtains closed.
Mary was found face-up on a bed in one of the bedrooms and William was found face-down on the bathroom floor.
The murder weapons, both originating in the apartment, were located near Mary:
a butcher knife with a 7½ inch blade and a cudgel fashioned from a crutch and a bowling ball, the Rule 34 trigger object du jour.

Further reportage presents some minor variations: William was hogtied wrists-to-ankles with wire hangers which may have been tightened with pliers;
some sources report he also had a wire hanger wrapped around his neck.
Whether the assailant came equipped with pliers or happened upon a pair at the scene is unknown.
Some unspecified effort had been undertaken to make William comfortable—I presume his head had been placed on a pillow—and he’d been gagged with a strip of cloth, origin unclear.

Newspaper accounts regarding the state of affairs in the bedroom differ widely. Mary had, according to some sources, been trussed with rope bindings later removed from the scene;
other sources report she’d been bound with with wire hangers à la William.
Mary’s blouse was tucked neatly into her skirt, most sources agree, but other specifics concerning her state of dress diverge;
she is sometimes described as fully clothed and sometimes as nude from the waist down.
Mary had been garroted and her throat cut, according to some sources, and she may have been gagged with an unspecified binding.
A veritable profusion of contradictions and misinformation, the reporting on this case is.

“There wasn’t any great struggle; the apartment was not torn up.” Columbus Police Lieutenant Robert Ruddock, Dayton Daily News, March 1st, 1970

The clashing reportage persists through the couple’s autopsies: both William and Mary had been stabbed in the back but the precise number of wounds—generally, but not uniformly,
described as 15-20 per victim—-varies by publication.
According to the Philadelphia Daily News  Franklin County Coroner William Adrion deemed the couple’s lacerations “very deep” and “in a sort of pattern.”
Mary’s skull had been crushed by repeated blows with the bowling ball bludgeon;
some sources state William was beaten with this weapon as well,
others claim he’d been kicked in the head.
Neither victim had biological matter under his or her fingernails and neither exhibited any type of defensive injury.
By the time they realized they were in danger, it seems, it was already too late for the couple to fight back.

The results of Mary’s rape kit are (predictably) unclear. Some sources state she’d been sexually assaulted while others state she had not—a Schrodinger’s rape, if you will.
Indicia of sexual assault notwithstanding,
investigators believe sex was the precipitating motive for the homicides.
William and Mary—with no known enemies and no previous romantic partners—appeared to have been targeted at random.
A rapist with a similar modus operandi was prowling the area and investigators believe a connection may exist between the string of sexual assaults and the couple’s murder.

According to OSU student newspaper The Lantern, the rapes and Sproat-Petry homicides were linked by the assailant’s lack of foreplanning—he utilized only items found at the scene—and an affinity for bondage:
three of the six rape victims had been bound and one had also been gagged.
The rapist, according to survivors, gained entry by asking to use the telephone;
if that ruse failed he asked to borrow writing implements to leave a note for a neighbor.
When the victim reopened the door to hand over pen and paper he attacked.
The Columbus Police Department released a composite of the rapist based upon the assault victims’ descriptions;
a forensic link between the rapes and Sproat-Petry murders, if one in fact exists, has never been publicized.

The media coverage, unfortunately, isn’t the only botched aspect of the Sproat-Petry murders; the Columbus Police Department, as so frequently happened in decades past,
bungled the initial forensic investigation.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification, called in four days after the murders, found several bloody fingerprints the CPD technicians somehow missed.
Despite this blunder evidence found at the scene was apparently well-preserved; as technology improved biological matter belonging to the assailant was isolated and a DNA profile created.
A 2008 article in the Columbus Dispatch  revealed the killer’s DNA has been entered into CODIS but the sample has not yet been linked to an offender.

“If we had been able to employ the technology back then that we have today we would have stood a much better chance of solving the case.” Ron Price, 30-year veteran of the Columbus Police Department, The Lantern, July 9th, 2000

I have no idea if these witnesses are reliable—their accounts appear only in the student newspaper—but two incidents occurred in the hours before the crime which may have been related to the homicides.
A female student reported fending off an attempted home invasion—surrounding circumstances unknown—and a local paperboy reported an odd sighting on the murder house’s front porch.
The paperboy, as reported in The Lantern,
delivered papers to one of the 178½ West 8th Avenue tenants and at approximately 8pm he attempted to enter the building to collect his wages.
An unfamiliar man barred his entry: “Get the hell out of here,” the stranger reportedly said,
and the paperboy complied.
The man’s description is absent from The Lantern  archives as is any remarked-upon resemblance to the OSU rapist’s composite.

The final development in the Sproat-Petry murders occurred six days after the crime, on March 5th.
A bloody gold throw rug was discovered in an abandoned Omar Bakery truck located eight blocks from West 8th Avenue;
unspecified evidence indicated the rug had been only recently placed in the vehicle.
William’s roommate Tom McGuigan was unable to definitively identify the rug but did confirm it looked similar to the one missing from the apartment.
The Columbus Police lab was able to determine the rug’s stains were of the same serological type as Mary’s blood but the primitive technology of the time precluded further testing.
Nearly fifty years later the provenance of the Omar Bakery truck rug, as well pretty much every other pertinent detail regarding the Sproat-Petry homicides, is still unknown, unclear, and/or unpublicized.

Also Rule 34: if it exists there are toys of it

When I first became obsessed with crime I believed my knowledge would serve as template for survival—I would identify and avoid the missteps which earned other, less-fortunate victims a one-way trip to the morgue.
As the Sproat-Petry homicides illustrate, however, sometimes there are no missteps—just mundane decisions which culminate in an encounter with a random killer.
I can’t tell you who murdered William Sproat and Mary Petry—hell, I can’t even successfully parse the mangled crime scene reportage—but I can tell you this:
I did not attend the hootenanny at the hipster bowling alley.
An evening spent lobbing murder weapons—envisioning every ball I handled awash in blood and bespattered with brains—seemed too morbid even for me.

In Living Color

“You want a piece of me?” asks the Gingerbread man

Once upon a time in suburban Maryland an amusement park was born and an amusement park died.

The Enchanted Forest swung open its doors for the first time on August 15th, 1955, an oasis of whimsy just outside Ellicot City.
Specializing in low-voltage thrills, the park’s theme can best be described as a torrid ménage à trois between Mother Goose and (both) Brothers Grimm;
attractions included a castle, Cinderella’s pumpkin coach and a replica of Hansel and Gretel’s candy-bedecked cottage.
The Enchanted Forest was wholesome family entertainment writ large,
a monument to the earnest ethos of Middle America during the Eisenhower era.

Circa 1955

A good time was had by all, or by most, anyway; as the Enchanted Forest’s existence neared the three-decade mark the novelty began to erode and a savvier generation of tots proved less susceptible to the park’s resolutely vanilla offerings.
Vandalism was an ongoing issue, with acid-tripping teens breaking in after-hours and setting nuisance fires,
stealing anything and everything they could manage to drag or carry away.
As the crowds thinned and aggravations mounted the Harrison family, sole proprietors of the park since its inception, resolved to shutter the gates forever;
although the site was briefly available for private functions the Enchanted Forest ceased regular operations at the close of the 1987 summer season.

Years passed and the park became dilapidated, foliage creeping up and encasing the attractions in a leaf-strewn embrace. The Enchanted Forest became a famed location for urban explorers,
intrepid souls who gained entry by hook or by crook and then posted evidence of their exploits on a new invention: the worldwide web.
Eventually townsfolk began to say the site was haunted, although the creepy phenomena cited—strange noises and inexplicable lights—were always relayed second- or third-hand.

circa 2000

As infamous as the park became, there is one fact which is always overlooked; the Enchanted Forest was linked to a double homicide, a crime which remains unsolved to this day.
But even before the double murder the park was the scene of a suspicious death;
if the Enchanted Forest was haunted—skeptical of supernatural manifestations though I may be—I know exactly whose spirit gamboled through the ruins as the cloak of darkness fell.

Enter the dragon—the Komodo dragon, that is. In the closing years of the 1970s an exhibit dubbed the Maryland Reptile Institute opened on Enchanted Forest grounds;
operated by herpetologist ‘Safari’ Sam Seashole, the attraction featured an array of exotic animals with an emphasis on—as the name suggests—snakes and other reptiles.
The union, unfortunately, was doomed; area residents deplored the presence of venomous creatures in their midst, terrified a homicidal serpent might break out and embark on a killing spree.
(In modern parlance: “I have had it with these motherfucking snakes at this motherfucking theme park.”)
The Harrison family and park management were reportedly dissatisfied as well;
Reptile Institute access required an additional fee and failed to earn as much profit as anticipated.
All parties agreed the arrangement wasn’t working and in 1980 Sam Seashole began the process of removing his menagerie from the premises.

As is appropriate at a fairy tale park, what happened next was an homage to the poisoned apple in Snow White.
On September 23rd, 1980 Sam Seashole arrived at the Institute mid-move and found one of his charges, a forty-five-pound baboon, writhing in his cage in mortal agony;
despite medical intervention Tootie could not be saved.
A hamadryas ape, Tootie was seven and a half years old—baboons in captivity can live well into their thirties—and had been raised by Seashole since birth, more pet than zoological specimen.
Dr. Stuart Myers, a local veterinarian who treated Tootie, told a UPI reporter the baboon’s convulsions were a “classical symptom of strychnine poisoning.”
The Howard County Police Department subsequently opened an animal cruelty investigation;
only a single clue could be located—an empty banana peel near Tootie’s open-air enclosure.

According to the Baltimore Sun, the errant banana husk gave credence to Dr. Myers’ assertion of foul play.
Primates, as Institute staff would know, consume bananas in their entirety, peel included—the empty skin nearby indicated the perpetrator had needlessly peeled the fruit,
ostensibly to dip it in poison, before placing it in the baboon’s cage.
And it just so happens that Tootie, as unlikely as this may seem, had a mortal enemy: Enchanted Forest manager Joseph Selby, commonly known to park denizens as “Uncle Joe.”
As Sam Seashole told the Baltimore Sun, Selby had expressed “considerable animosity” toward the Reptile Institute in general and towards poor Tootie in particular.

A perfect attraction for children too young to understand the meaning of the term “Freudian”

Five days later, on October 3rd, 1980 Joseph Selby, age fifty-five, was charged with cruelty to animals, a crime punishable by a fine not to exceed $1,000 or imprisonment not to exceed ninety days or both.
Motive aside, the case against Uncle Joe was far from airtight;
although he’d been present at the park when Tootie fell ill so were several other employees.
Selby had worked at the park for nearly twenty-six years, a model employee who failed to take so much as a single sick day; he had never before been arrested.
And there was also a near-insurmountable impediment to conviction: despite Tootie’s strychnine-specific symptoms there was no forensic evidence the ape had actually been poisoned.

According to the Baltimore Sun Sam Seashole had initially balked at subjecting his beloved pet to an autopsy;
Tootie’s remains were then put in deep freeze at Dr. Myers’ veterinary office, and it was unclear how long poison would linger postmortem in primates in subzero temperatures.
The following month, on November 4th, the Howard County prosecutor announced the charges against Selby had been dropped;
the Harrison family evicted the last of the serpents from their personal Garden of Eden and peace—for a while, at least—again reigned o’er the land.

Six months later, on March 6th, 1981 a female motorist driving past 12102 Frederick Road in Ellicott City spotted a house ablaze. As this was the pre-cellphone era she alerted a nearby neighbor—who happened to be the chief of the West Friendship Fire Department—-who summoned help at approximately 9:40pm.
The fire brigade arrived too late;
inside the home first responders found the bodies of Enchanted Forest manager Joseph Selby and his fifty-one-year-old wife Betty. The couple had succumbed to to smoke inhalation.

The Selbys

Investigators soon determined the fire had been deliberately set. According to a spokesperson for the Howard County Police Department,
the inferno was “incendiary” in nature and had started in a front room of the single-story residence while the Selbys slept in the back.
Investigators have never revealed the means by which the arsonist gained entry to the Selby home, although door-locking was far from de rigueur in 1980s suburbia.
The most singular aspect of the crime scene, the arsonist’s cheeky calling card, was located on the Selbys’ porch;
a child-sized fire engine had been parked just outside the front door.
The Selbys’ children were adults at the time;
investigators have never publicly identified the mini-fire engine’s owner and its presence at the scene—prominently displayed, nearly blocking the entryway—remains a mystery.

Despite the best efforts of the Howard County Police Department the motive for the Selby slayings has never been established;
Ellicot City was experiencing a spate of random arsons at the time,
and it’s possible the residence was chosen by chance, perhaps due to its proximity to the local Fire Chief.
The female motorist who first spotted the blaze departed the scene and has never been identified;
it’s unknown if she noticed anyone or anything amiss in the area aside from the fire.
Although a $20,000 reward was offered—quite a substantial sum in the 1980s—nearly four decades later the murders of Joseph and Betty Selby remain unsolved.

All good things must end: the Enchanted Forest, a crumbling monument to lost innocence, no longer exists.
In 2004 conservationists began rehabbing the attractions and reinstalling them at nearby Elioak Farm,
where they are again accessible—sans ghosts—to fairy tale enthusiasts of all ages.
Aside from a brief mention on the Howard County cold case website it seems the Selby murders have receded into memory; in the definitive account of the park’s glory days—-The Enchanted Forest: Memories of Maryland’s Storybook Park—the Selbys’ fate, which is ascribed not to homicide but to a “house fire,” rates only a single mention.

The Enchanted Forest may be gone but nearly forty years later the central questions of the three park-linked deaths remain: did Joseph Selby kill Tootie, despite the state’s failure to prosecute?
And if this is the case was Tootie’s death related in any way to the Selby slayings six months later?

Like fairy tales, some mysteries are eternal; but in the matter of the Enchanted Forest deaths I happen to have a theory.
Maybe the strange sounds emanating from the Enchanted Forest were the howls of Tootie’s ghost, driven mad with fury at the injustice of his untimely death.
And maybe—stay with me here—six months after his murder Tootie-from-beyond-the-grave hopped in a teeny fire engine, a Molotov cocktail riding shotgun, and pedaled to the Selby residence intent on revenge.
Is this theory demented? Absolutely;
but there’s one fact which is inviolate, and older than all the fairy tales in existence—nobody who hurts an animal deserves to live happily ever after. The end.

The last thing you see before you die

“The mystery was never solved, never will be; and we shall talk of it with awe and almost trembling as long as we live.” Overland Monthly and Out West Magazine, (1885)

Glenrose Hospital, cuckoo’s eye view

Cindy Weber was a runner.

Catatonic depressions. Suicide attempts. Drug overdoses. The twenty-year old Edmonton resident kept landing in psych wards but she refused to submit,
always struggling—and often succeeding—-to wriggle free from confinement.
Her sixth overdose-related hospitalization, she resolved, would be her last; an early checkout at the end of a noose would put an end to her managed care forever.
As her air supply dwindled she thought she was free but in reality she was soldering herself inside another cage, this one more claustrophobic and constructed without a key.

Someone cut her down, but not soon enough. Cindy ended up not only trapped in a hospital but trapped inside her own body—her brain ravaged by hypoxemia, she was no longer able to speak or walk unassisted.
Her cognition was intact—she could communicate with the assistance of an alphabet board—but her motor skills and sense of balance were decimated.
She could no longer dress herself, or feed herself, or make it to the bathroom without a walker or wheelchair.
Although her mother brought her home on weekends Cindy,
now twenty-two, lived full-time in Glenrose Hospital’s long-term care ward, the decades of confinement stretching out before her without a parole date or commutation in sight.

Cindy may have lost the physical capacity to run but she was still a runner at heart.
She and her mother were enjoying a routine weekend at the Weber residence, located at 13511 118th Street in Edmonton, when the impossible became a reality.
On July 18th, 1981 Mrs. Edna Weber awoke at 6:45am to find her daughter had vanished;
the back door, securely locked the night before, now stood open.
Aside from Cindy the only item missing from the home was the white terrycloth sun-suit she’d worn to bed—her anti-palsy medication, her alphabet board and her walker had all been left behind.
Since she was present at the scene let’s follow the story in Mrs. Weber’s own words (all quotes verbatim from the Edmonton Journal):

July 20th, two days after her daughter disappeared: “[Cindy] can’t walk or talk and she can hardly see because her glasses were left behind. I checked the yard and the park hoping maybe she had crawled there somehow, but I found nothing except the back door open. [Cindy] seemed so happy the night before. She sat out in the sun during the day and we went to a movie in the evening. We had a great time. I never saw Cindy so happy. I just pray to God this doesn’t go on for months. I just can’t take it.”

 

July 21st, three days after her daughter vanished: “[Cindy] hated being in the hospital and she always tried to run away from them. She told me once she would rather die than stay in the hospital. The police know there is something very, very rotten here [regarding Cindy’s disappearance]. Never in a million years could she have walked far enough to reach a car. The police say that someone who knows her must have picked her up—-not knowing if she’s all right is the worst part of it. I’d feel better if I knew she could take care of herself but she has to be fed and dressed and undressed by somebody. Without her medicine she will be shaking uncontrollably. The longer it goes the less hope I have.”

 

October 22nd, three months after Cindy’s disappearance: “Somebody out there knows what happened to her. There’s no way she could’ve left on her own. I don’t hold out much hope that Cindy’s still alive. Let’s face it—where does a crippled girl go for three months?”

 

The term “crippled” is now antiquated but Mrs. Weber’s question is nonetheless valid:
where does a physically-challenged girl go for three months, especially a physically-challenged girl without anti-palsy medication, walking apparatus and only means of communication?
In the immediate aftermath of Cindy’s disappearance the Edmonton Police Department downplayed the possibility of foul play, positing instead she’d been scooped up by someone she knew.
None of Cindy’s friends, however, had visited her at the hospital in more than a year.
Her social circle was questioned regardless,
but investigators soon determined her fair-weather friends had played no role in Cindy’s disappearance.

Bereft of leads, detectives next shifted their focus to family members and hospital caregivers, polygraphing, according to the Edmonton Journal, “those close to Cindy” to no avail.
Investigators gleaned no information relevant to her current location but they did learn Cindy was desperate to leave the hospital.
Her speech classes at Glenrose had recently been canceled after her progress plateaued, the Canadian healthcare system apparently unwilling to fund treatment for a patient with no hope of recovery.
As Cindy’s patient advocate Edna Shaffler told the Edmonton Journal, “She was very upset about the hospital canceling her speech classes so I took her outside.
I told her maybe they would work out something else. But Cindy just took a fit and tried to run away from her wheelchair. I never saw her like that before.”

On the one-year anniversary of Cindy’s disappearance Mrs. Weber offered a $5K reward for information leading to her daughter’s location.
She also contacted three psychics and, interestingly enough, two shared the same vision:
Cindy had been abducted by a man and a woman, the two clairvoyants claimed, and her body was currently secreted in deep brush on the outskirts of Edmonton.
Despite the psychics’ similar visions and the passage of four decades the reward remains unclaimed—-neither Cindy nor her body has ever been located,
in deep brush on the outskirts of Edmonton or anywhere else.

O Sister, Where Art Thou? A Not Exactly Overlapping Not Exactly Crime

Cindy Weber wasn’t the only young woman reported missing in Edmonton in the early 1980s.
Nine months before Cindy’s disappearance eighteen-year-old Laura Noyes vanished from the Dickinsfield Apartments on October 23rd, 1980.
At 9am, as Laura’s sister Dora told the Edmonton Journal, an unknown man rang their buzzer and asked, “Is Laurie there?”
This being Canada, hotbed of politeness, Laura went downstairs to see what the visitor wanted—and never again returned to the apartment.
Laura had grown up in Victoria, a fourteen-hour drive from Edmonton; she’d only been in town a month and had no known friends in the area and no romantic entanglements.
On the one-year anniversary of Laura’s disappearance her sister was pessimistic:

“We don’t have any hope left for her. I knew Laurie very well. She wasn’t the kind of person to run away without telling us about it. She would always phone to tell me if she was going to be out late so I wouldn’t worry. All she had was the clothes on her back and about $20. No, there’s no way—-she’s gone.” Dora Noyes, Edmonton Journal, October 22nd, 1981

Plot twist: two years after Laura vanished she was located alive and well in another province.
The Edmonton Police Department did not reveal either her whereabouts or reason for disappearing—we never learn why Laura went missing, or where she went missing to,
or whether her sister Dora, so certain she had come to harm, was ever able to make peace with her abrupt departure.
Laura Noyes’ story has a sad postscript; a year after the Edmonton Journal announced her reappearance Laura, now age twenty, was dead.
She died “suddenly at her residence,” according to her obituary; authorities apparently did not suspect foul play and there’s no evidence of a criminal investigation.
Laura’s demise, like her disappearance, remains shrouded in mystery.

The Edmonton Journal’s linked coverage of Cindy and Laura’s disappearances has always struck me as serendipitous.
Two young women missing under bizarre circumstances,
and yet situations which initially seemed sinister are revealed to be decidedly less so as the facts fall into place.
Although it’s theoretically possible a kidnapper obtained a key to the Weber residence I’ve always believed the evidence, or at least most of it, indicates Cindy believed she was being rescued;
her carefree mood prior to her disappearance suggests she knew confinement in Glenrose’s long-term care ward was forever in her past.

118th Street, Edmonton

I can picture Cindy inching her way across the floor on her hands and knees, careful not to awaken her mother—-but I have no idea who awaited in the darkness as she finally managed to unlock the back door.
Leaving her medication and alphabet board behind does not bode well for a lengthy period of survival, unfortunately.
I’m not sure if euthanasia was an agreed-upon outcome or if the person Cindy believed to be her savior had darker motives all along.

Cindy Weber led a troubled life but least one of her wishes came true: she slipped the surly bonds of long-term hospitalization. If she died, she did so not as a patient but as a human being.
Live free or die—and she did.

Luck is relative.

Central Prison: when all the good prison names are already taken

We might as well start at the end; backwards or forwards the story adds up to zero.

On August 27th, 1992 the North Carolina Department of Corrections announced the death of inmate Roy Lee Fox in Raleigh’s Central Prison.
According to a DOC spokesperson Fox, age fifty-five,
had perished three weeks previously on August 8th of natural causes—although officials will claim privacy regulations prevent further disclosure they will privately ascribe his death to brain cancer.

No one who knew Fox, the boogeyman of Buncombe County, believed he was actually dead.

A long, long time ago in a holler not so far away: an illiterate fifth-grade dropout was given an honest day’s work helping farmer Charles Lunsford with his annual hay sale.
The date was November 9th, 1964 and the hired hand was sixteen-year-old Arrlie Fox, brother of Roy Lee Fox, then twenty-seven.
Criminals both, the Fox brothers, along with two accomplices—cousin Donald Fox, age twenty-three and Robert Carson McMahan, nineteen—were seasoned stick-up men,
specializing in elderly and female victims.
Charles Lunsford and his wife Ovella, age fifty-five, looked like easy pickings to the Fox gang—as history will attest, this assessment will turn out to be fatally flawed.

Chez Lunsford

11:30pm, November 10th, 1964. Imagine your wife is bleeding to death. Imagine your wife is bleeding to death and your phone’s been yanked out the wall so you can’t call an ambulance.
Imagine your wife is bleeding to death and you can’t call an ambulance so you get in your car to drive to a hospital and realize your tire’s been slashed.
Imagine driving twenty miles to the nearest hospital on three tires and a rim while your wife, the love of your life, bleeds out onto the seat beside you.
Charles Lunsford wouldn’t have to imagine; thanks to the Fox gang he could simply remember.

An unlikely badass but a badass nonetheless

Right out of the gate the robbery went sideways; the gang had planned a blitz attack on the sleeping Lunsfords
but when Donald and Arrlie entered—clad in Halloween masks to shield their identities—Charles was in the kitchen preparing a midnight snack.
The farmer threw his bowl of applesauce at the intruders and a melee commenced;
Roy Lee Fox, also masked, heard the ruckus and ran inside to help his brother and cousin.
Awakened by the commotion, Ovella jumped out of bed upstairs and grabbed a rifle she’d recently won in a church sales contest.

With Charles outnumbered three to one Ovella waded into the fray but there was a catch—a literal catch.
The rifle was new and she couldn’t dislodge the safety and two of the assailants drew their own weapons and fired,
one bullet lodging in a wall and the other in her chest.
The Foxes’ home invasion plans had no contingency for murder, it seems,
so the trio fled into the darkness where lookout Robert Carson Mcmahan awaited.
Not only had they committed homicide but the robbery was a bust;
Ovella’s rifle was the sole item pilfered during the commission of the (now capital) crime.

Despite her wound Ovella was still conscious during the three-wheeled trek to the hospital; she would die upon arrival and Charles, beaten savagely during the fracas, was hospitalized.
Acting on a tip, Buncombe County detectives arrested the Fox gang four days later.
All but Roy Lee Fox confessed, although the identity of the fatal triggerman remains a topic of debate.
Irrespective of the triggerman’s identity, however, under a felony theory of murder all four gang members were eligible for Old Sparky, the (generically-named) North Carolina electric chair.

That deputy’s belt is the hardest working apparatus in Buncombe County

Even blood bonds have their limits. Arrlie Fox, to the horror of his family, testified against his three codefendants in exchange for a single life sentence on burglary charges.
“They could’ve pulled out my nails with pliers and I wouldn’t have done nothing like that [testifying against a family member],” an unnamed Fox sibling told a reporter.
All three confessions and Arrlie’s testimony portrayed Roy Lee Fox as the chief instigator of the robbery spree but the jury spared Fox and his two codefendants as well.
Double life sentences were meted out to all instead—one for first degree burglary, one for first degree homicide. The jury blinked . . .

Donald Fox was killed in a prison riot in 1968; in 1969 Robert Carson McMahan’s conviction was reversed on appeal

. . . And Roy Lee Fox lived to kill another day. Two decades later, on January 4th, 1985 Fox was back on the streets.
The machinations which spurred his release from prison are peculiar—North Carolina Governor Jim Hunt, signatory of Fox’s pardon, claimed clemency had been granted at the behest of the FBI.
While imprisoned, according to FBI officials, Fox provided information regarding a high-profile Texas homicide—Fox was never called to testify at trial, however, rendering his cooperation moot.
(Incredibly, one of the men eventually convicted in the case was Charles Harrison, infamous hitman and father of Cheers actor Woody Harrelson.)

The obituary of Arrlie Fox, paroled in 1985, describes him as a “servant for the lord;” Ovella Jean Lunsford and irony, killed with the same murder weapon

Regardless of whatever help Fox did or did not give federal officials he was freed with a single year of parole;
this despite a prison disciplinary record which included weapons possession, assault to commit a sexual act and possession of illegal funds.
Although this information is uncorroborated, according to former Ashville Citizen-Times reporter Lewis Green
Fox, clutching a suitcase stuffed with cash, was flown home from Central Prison on a private plane.
Nothing to see here, folks, so let’s move right along.

July 16th, 1986. Beware of strangers bearing fresh-grilled burgers. Eighteen months after Fox strolled out of Central Prison he encountered thirty-nine-year-old farmer Morris Sams at the Riverside Grocery.
Although they’d never previously met
Morris agreed to accompany Fox and his three companions—Ronnie Ragan, Maggie Fox Ragan, and Raymond Lee Powell, henceforth the three amigos—to a cookout on the banks of the French Broad River.
Fox, for reasons unknown, drew a .38 caliber firearm during the festivities and shot Morris several times in the torso.
The three amigos, allegedly in fear for their lives, subsequently helped Fox submerge the body of their friend-turned-victim in the river.

The French Broad River, surprisingly narrow

After the shooting the three amigos considered themselves Fox’s hostages—or that’s their story, anyway. A few days after the crime the group returned to the cookout site and discovered Morris’s body afloat on the river’s surface.
His corpse was then retrieved, allegedly at Fox’s suggestion, and dumped in a nearby sewer system.
Five days later,
while investigating a blockage waste technicians discovered Morris’s body wedged in a pipe;
a short time later the three amigos were (allegedly) able to free themselves from Fox’s grasp and (separately) contacted authorities.

Seems like old times; Roy Lee Fox was again arrested for murder. Morris Sams was a law-abiding farmer shot in cold blood without warning;
with the three amigos’ eyewitness testimony and his previous conviction by all rights Fox should’ve been en route to death row but the prosecutor’s office had other plans.
Inexplicably, Fox was given deal on a forty-year sentence for second degree murder plus a life sentence on kidnapping charges vis-à-vis the three amigos;
the terms were to be served concurrently, with parole eligibility in ten years.
Pardoner-in-chief Governor Jim Hunt will later tell the press Morris Sams’ murder left him “very, very saddened;”
this was a great comfort to Morris’s loved ones, I’m sure,
especially the three little girls left fatherless by the crime.
After a brief hiatus from politics Jim Hunt will again be reelected Governor, citing his “tough on crime” bona fides.
Voters, to the delight of politicians everywhere, have notoriously short memories.

Forever linked, in a perfect world at least

He was down but not out; the wily Fox still had one ace left to play. After a few months in Central Prison Roy Lee Fox contacted Buncombe County investigators and expressed a willingness to talk about an unsolved double murder.
There was one caveat: he would only be willing to share information, Fox told detectives,
while ensconced in the county jail.
Because voters aren’t the only ones with short memories the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office ignored the red flags and took the bait.

Do you feel lucky? Well, do you? Six weeks before Morris Sams’ final picnic Ohio resident Wesley Dale Mahaffey did;
he won a three-day trip in a raffle staged by Major Heating and Air Conditioning, his employer.
On May 17th, 1986 thirty-three-old Wesley and his twenty-nine-year-old wife Bonnie traveled to the Great Smokies Hilton in Asheville, North Carolina.
Just like Ovella Lunsford’s church-won rifle, the Mahaffey’s vacation would ultimately turn out to be a (blood-spattered) booby prize.

At 12:15am on October 20th the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office received an anonymous call reporting a white male “in bad shape” at Buzzard Rock,
an obscure forest outcropping with a breathtaking view and reputation as a teen hangout.
Upon arrival first responders found a fully-clothed male and female located approximately seventy-five feet apart, deceased.
The male’s pockets have been turned out and the couple’s wallets are missing.
A 1978 Oldsmobile station wagon at the scene is traced to Ohio residents Wesley and Bonnie Mahaffey, killed on the last day of the last vacation they will ever share.
A subsequent autopsy determines both have been shot with a .38 caliber weapon—Bonnie in the neck, chest and stomach and Wesley in the head, neck and arm—three times.
The medical examiner will affix their times of death as occurring between 7 and 9pm.

The couple—described by a neighbor as “real friendly and real nice people”—had no acquaintances in the area and no known risk factors in their backgrounds.
According to all who knew them the Mahaffeys were middle-class Middle Americans with lives steeped in traditional values.
The couple had two children—Janis, age eleven, and Jason, age seven.
Wesley was employed as a service manager at Major Heating and Air Conditioning in Hamilton, Ohio;
Bonnie was a homemaker who sold Avon to help make ends meet.
The first two days of the Mahaffeys’ trip had proceeded uneventfully; Wesley and Bonnie were last seen alive at 9:30am by a housekeeper as they exited the Hilton for a final day of sightseeing.

The couple’s pristine backgrounds weren’t the only factor rendering their murders inexplicable; their presence at Buzzard Rock defied logic as well.
Aside from the occasional cadre of partying teens the area was little-used.
Commercial GPS systems had yet to be invented and the overlook was invisible from adjoining roads; access also entailed navigating a steep dirt road, a risky proposition in a ‘78 station wagon.
The area was so obscure even many local residents were unaware it existed;
as Buncombe Deputy Mark Ivey told the Asheville Citizen-Times, “There are people right here in this county who don’t know where Buzzard Rock is.”

A 1978 Oldsmobile station wagon, chariot of the gods

Although clues were scarce the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Department did its best; yet one by one the leads which dominated the initial stages of the investigation fizzled into nothingness.
Early newspaper articles reported footprints at the scene indicated more than one assailant—this assertion will later be backtracked.
A homicide at a different rest stop in the same time frame was found to be unrelated.
A “brushy-headed” man spotted peeping into the Mahaffey’s car was eventually identified and cleared,
poor grooming an unindictable crime.
As the investigation entered its second year the case began to cool and detectives’ frustrations began to simmer.
Into this void stepped Roy Lee Fox, a bottom-feeder who never encountered a situation he wasn’t eager to exploit.
As per his request he was removed from Central Prison and installed in the Buncombe County Jail.
He had pledged to confess and confess he did.

Text excerpt from Roy Lee Fox’s confession:

“In regards to the Buzzard Rock incident this was a contract murder. I was paid $100,000 to kill these two individuals on Buzzard Rock by Buncombe County (official’s name redacted) who gave me a .38 revolver to do these murders at his suggestion at his request. He did request me to return the weapon to him . . . this incident happened on May 20th. I am only taking (official’s name redacted) that the reason of him hiring me to kill these people is that a drug transaction went sour. The Mahaffey’s did have a kilo of coke. I was told the kilo would be a bonus to me in addition to the $100,000.”

View from Buzzard Rock, present day

According to Fox’s confession, the Mahaffeys had been slain in a drug hit contracted by an unnamed Buncombe County official.
This seemed, at best, far-fetched—everyone who knew the couple agreed their coke exposure was limited to the beverage sold in red cans.
In fact, nothing about Fox’s confession jibed with reality;
the Mahaffeys hadn’t traveled to Ashville for a narcotics drop—Wesley won the trip by chance, and the destination was selected by his employer.
Investigators knew Fox’s confession was bogus—a blatant attempt to frame the (name redacted) Buncombe County official—but were nonetheless certain Fox had perpetrated the crime.

Desperate for physical evidence tying Fox to the murders, detectives unearthed an informant who claimed he’d witnessed Fox dump a gun in the French Broad River.
Buncombe County Sheriff Buck Lyda devised a plan to part the waterway like the Red Sea to scour the bottom for the murder weapon.
The logistics of the plan were actualized but the search was a failure;
no gun was found despite a meticulous search of the riverbed.
Although several bullets were located forensic analysis would later prove none had been fired from the Mahaffey murder weapon.

Prepping for the river search

Despite this setback Fox was charged with the Mahaffey homicides on April 13th, 1987. For the next six weeks Buncombe County detectives waged an all-out hunt for forensics tying him to the crime.
“We have enough to try him now but every piece of evidence helps,”
Captain Lee Warren told a reporter for the Ashville Citizen-Times.
The Captain’s confidence will prove misplaced; using a handcuff key secreted under his dentures,
Fox staged a brazen escape attempt from the Buncombe County Jail on June 3rd.
His bid for freedom was quashed by quick-thinking guards but within twelve hours the homicide charges against him were dropped.
Fox’s “confession” was looking more and more like a ruse,
an excuse to leave maximum security for the less-secure county lockup to facilitate a planned escape.
Without corroborating information a conviction on murder charges was now looking extremely unlikely;
Fox was shipped back to Central Prison and the Mahaffey investigation evaporated.

Five years later a spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Corrections announced Fox’s death at Central Prison.
According to local reporter Lewis Green, the circumstances surrounding Fox’s demise were riddled with anomalies, including but not limited to: a failure to notify the Fox family,
a three-week gap between the event and the announcement, and an unheard-of hand-printed death certificate (a more official-looking copy was eventually issued, however).
When the journalist asked to view the inmate’s grave the DOC claimed Fox had been cremated, and this absence of proof convinced Lewis Green and many other locals,
law enforcement and civilians both, that Fox’s demise had been a staged event.

River Search II, French Broad Boogaloo

If Fox were alive today he’d be eighty-four years old. Although I am generally skeptical of conspiracy theories
his enrollment in the Witness Protection Program wouldn’t surprise me—nothing about his 1985 commutation or plea deal in the Sams case comports with past precedents.
Someone was pulling strings behind the scenes,
although the motivation and identity of Fox’s patron will likely remain a mystery.
His (possibly) staged death aside, the aspect of this Br’er Fox tale that most intrigues me is the Mahaffey murders.
Bogus confession aside, there’s no evidence tying Fox to the slayings—yet there’s also no evidence definitively exonerating him, making the prosecution of another suspect a daunting proposition.
Even if Fox didn’t kill the Mahaffeys he effectively killed the investigation into their murders;
Roy Lee Fox was a lot of things, none of them good, but he did make an excellent scapegoat.

It seems almost inconceivable but Wesley and Bonnie Mahaffey are dead because they won a raffle; the phrase “good luck” will never sound the same.

Everyone agrees it was an accident.

Alcohol. High heels. A fifth-floor walk-up. The receptionist at my favorite hair salon met her demise a few weeks ago due to alcohol, high-heels, and a fifth-floor walk-up.
After a bar crawl fellow salon employees dropped her at her door and her neighbors heard her tumble down the stairs a few minutes later.
Fatal falls are far more common than most people realize, authorities told her family;
the autopsy results haven’t been released but it is believed she teetered as she reached the top floor and snapped her neck while hurtling down the stairs backwards.

It is terrifying to remember so we strive to forget: safety is illusory.
Every day, all day, each and every one of us is a single misstep from endless night—and it’s not only our choice of accommodations or footwear which might be plotting to kill us.
In one notable NYC murder a bride-to-be showed up early for an electrolysis appointment and wound up dead.
Sometimes the early bird gets a bullet instead of a worm.

Beauty is tyranny. Scheduled to wed fireman Frederick Weigold on January 14th, 1956,
twenty-five-year old Queens resident Kathleen Egan was determined to look perfect on her honeymoon.
Plagued by rogue hairs on her chin and bosom, the AT&T clerk scheduled a series of electrolysis treatments designed to obliterate the unsightly fuzz forever.
In the ultimate irony, so mortified was Kathleen by her whiskers and chest pelt she booked the appointments under a fictitious surname (“Ferris”) to shield her identity.
Little did she know her secret shame would soon be printed on the front page of every major newspaper in New York.

35-57 82nd Street

On November 15th, 1955—exactly two months before her wedding—Kathleen skipped work to bid bon voyage to a friend leaving for Europe;
she then spent a few hours running errands related to her impending nuptials.
At 3:30pm Kathleen was due at 35-57 82nd Street in Jackson Heights for an appointment—her fourth—-with electrologist Marie “Mae” Gazzo.
The precise time of Kathleen’s arrival is unclear but she apparently arrived early—-by 3:30pm there were already intimations of calamity at Mae’s electrolysis office.
Suitemate Dr. Herbert Schwartz, a chiropodist, had become alarmed by the incessant ringing of the telephone.
He and Mae shared a line and she always picked up the receiver by the second ring.
At 5pm Dr. Schwartz took advantage of a lull between patients and walked down the hall to investigate.

When his repeated knocking drew no response Dr. Schwartz attempted to enter Mae’s office—the knob turned but the door was jammed.
The rooms on the second floor of 35-57 82nd Street are interconnected and thus he continued down the hall to enter Mae’s office via a bridge club located in the building’s rear.
As he traversed the club—-closed during daylight hours—Dr. Schwartz discovered the still-warm corpse of thirty-two-year old Mae Gazzo splayed beneath a window.
Mae hadn’t died alone; shortly after their arrival responding NYPD officers found the body of Kathleen Egan crumpled in the bridge club’s tiny kitchen, her battle with unwanted hair ended forevermore.

MINE EYES HAVE SEEN THE GORY

The tabloid press was granted an absurd amount of access to the crime scene; though there are some variations in detail these are the pertinent facts upon which all newspapers agree:  
 
In the kitchen:

    • Kathleen was found facedown, nude except for her stockings
    • A set of rosary beads were entwined in her fingers
    • Her one-carat engagement ring—valued at $550—was missing

 
In the bridge club:

    • Mae was found fully clothed in her white beauticians’ uniform
    • As she fell she pulled the window curtains down on top of her
    • Kathleen’s girdle and panties lay on the floor beside Mae

 
In the office:

  • The electrolysis machine was still running
  • Jazz was playing loudly on the radio, the volume possibly turned up by the killer
  • A stopper had been wedged inside the door to prevent entry via the hallway
  • Kathleen’s orange dress and bra were found neatly folded on a hanger in the closet
  • A two-carat diamond ring Mae always removed for work was found secreted in a drawer
  • The contents of both women’s purses had been dumped onto a table
  • Approximately ten dollars was missing from Kathleen’s wallet and thirty-five from Mae’s

 
 “At least sixty ex-convicts, gun-toters, sex perverts and assorted criminals have been taken to Elmhurst station house for a ‘sweating.’” Long Island Star Journal, November 18th, 1955

Subsequent autopsies will determine neither victim exhibited evidence of sexual assault and both had sustained a single bullet wound—Kathleen behind the left ear and Mae in the left side of her upper back.
Mae’s wound showed evidence of stippling indicating close contact with the gun barrel—the tip of the bullet protruded just above her right breast.
The medical examiner will estimate the victims’ times of death as sometime between 2:40 and 3:05pm;
Mae had been killed first, the doctor surmised, dying approximately ten minutes before Kathleen.
Both women were shot with the same weapon, a .38 caliber Colt Special revolver;
the copper-coated bullets utilized in the crime were rare in America but popular overseas.

Upon examining the crime scene details detectives theorized the event had unfolded thusly:
between 2:30 and 3pm Kathleen arrived at Mae’s office and removed her dress and bra for treatment.
Her skin bore only faint electrolysis markings indicating the process had been interrupted shortly after commencement.
When the killer knocked on the door Mae shrouded Kathleen with a sheet before answering;
both women were then immediately confronted at gunpoint.
As their purses were dumped and cash extracted Mae fled through the adjoining door into the bridge club.
Dragging Kathleen along with him, the killer gave chase and caught up with Mae as she struggled to open the window, presumably to summon help.
Enraged, the assailant shot Mae in the back and then proceeded to tear off Kathleen’s panties and girdle, possibly as a prelude to rape.
Kathleen managed to break away but was ultimately cornered in the bridge club’s kitchen—she was then forced to her knees and executed.

“This is one of the toughest cases we’ve ever been called on to solve but we believe robbery was the motive for this double killing.” NYPD Chief Inspector Daniel McGovern, Democrat and Chronicle, November 17th, 1955

FRUSTRATION, DESPERATION, STAGNATION—OH MY!

“A wonderful girl, just the grandest, grandest girl”—that’s how Dr. Schwartz’s wife described Mae Gazzo to journalists after the murders.
The electrologist, the sole support of her widowed mother, was a homebody with no romantic entanglements and no known enemies.
Just six weeks before her death Mae had achieved a lifelong dream of purchasing a house “in the country” for herself and her mother.
To Bronx natives like Mae the New Jersey suburbs were the promised land.

Mae began operating the electrolysis parlor at 35-57 82nd Street three years before her death;
detectives questioned the hundreds of women listed in Mae’s business ledger—she had no male clients—but were unable to develop a single lead.
Then as now, predatory behavior was an occupational hazard for women;
the previous occupant of Mae’s office, Anne Hoey Warren, had been raped in the building a few years before Mae’s tenancy.
Investigators determined Ms. Warren’s rapist Mark Sullivan had an airtight alibi for the day of the murders;
detectives dismissed the freshly-paroled felon from the suspect list and the investigation soldiered on.

Despite a BOLO order issued to area pawn shops Kathleen’s diamond ring could not be—and has never been—located.
No unidentified fingerprints were detected at the crime scene and no hair or fiber evidence collected.
Bereft of forensics, the sole weapon in the NYPD arsenal was interrogation,
a high-stakes free-for-all in the era before Miranda.
Sex offenders, stick-up artists and assorted ne’er-do-wells were rounded up and grilled like beefsteak.
A confession from dishwasher Foster Baker initially seemed promising but detectives’ ardor quickly cooled—evidence ultimately proved Baker had been present at work at the time of the murders.
With another potential suspect crossed off the list the investigation chugged onward.

The next miscreant in investigators’ crosshairs was a Bronx resident named Louis Polite.
Beginning one month before the murders, detectives learned,
electrologists throughout the city had been bombarded with a rash of lewd phone calls;
Mae herself had been the recipient of at least one of these unwelcome advances.
After the slayings the harassment intensified, victims reported, with the caller now posing as an NYPD detective before veering off into depravity.
A sting operation eventually identified the obscene orator as Airman First Class Louis Polite.
No ballistic evidence could be unearthed which tied Polite to the homicides, however,
and he denied any knowledge of the murders.
Detectives eventually shelved the ironically-named Polite as a suspect and resumed their quest;
leads dried up, optimism withered, and the slayings of Kathleen Egan and Mae Gazzo began to fade into memory.

AN OVERLAPPING MURDER, ALL IN THE FAMILY

Four years and three months after the electrolysis shop slayings Mae Gazzo’s family suffered another blow—her thirty-five-year-old cousin Eleanor Saia was murdered in a real estate office in Oradell, New Jersey.
Eleanor, a happily married mother of two,
was a receptionist at Demarest Reality and Insurance, located at 275 Kinderkamack Road.
At 1pm on March 14th, 1960 she arrived at the office just as her boss Frank O’Shea was departing for lunch.
A half hour later a potential client entered, noticed Eleanor prone on the couch, assumed she was napping and left.
Due to the drawn drapes in the office he failed to notice her upper body was drenched in blood.

At 2pm Frank O’Shea returned to the office and found Eleanor mortally wounded—she mumbled incoherently, only three words decipherable: “Englewood, Edgewater, Lyndhurst,” names of New Jersey towns.
The victim was transported to Bergen Pines Hospital where she died without regaining consciousness;
an autopsy will determine she was beaten to death with an unidentified object—her face bruised, her left eye blackened, her skull fractured in two places.
Although Eleanor exhibited no evidence of sexual assault investigators were unable to rule out an attempt—her blouse and slip were ripped and a button had been torn from her white sweater.

The office’s safe hadn’t been touched; the only item determined to be missing from the scene was Eleanor’s red leather wallet containing less than five dollars.
Although her murder shared many similarities with her cousin Mae’s—both women were murdered at work,
in ostensible robberies which netted only a negligible amount of money—authorities were unable to find any concrete links and ultimately deemed the situation a “weird coincidence.”
The cousins’ slayings will share one final similarity—as is the case with the murders of Mae and Kathleen, Eleanor’s homicide remains unsolved.

Leading with the bleeding, literally

Return home after having a couple of cocktails and you might die. Go to work and you might die. Have your rogue hairs zapped and you might die.
Show up early for an appointment and you might die—hell, show up late or fail to show up at all and you might die.
Locking your doors, advisable though it may be, can’t lock out mortality;
like it or not, each and every one of us will, without exception, die.
The only sensible option is to enjoy your time on earth, however brief, and don’t sweat the small stuff—because as Kathleen Eagan learned in the most public way possible: hair today, gone tomorrow.

Seeing Jimmy Hendrick’s photo yesterday reminded me—murder necklaces aren’t the only random object linked to homicide.  Owning a rattan death chair has killed more people than than Ted Bundy and BTK combined.  If I ever get tired of living I’ll just slap on a murder necklace and buy one of these babies—-I won’t even have to unlock my doors. Death will find a way in.

 

Cindy Zarzycki went missing in 1986

Angela Freeman, missing since 1993

Dantrell Davis, murdered in 1992

Johnny Babino, last seen in 1995

Ruth Leamon, last seen in 1982

Tracy Pickett, last seen in 1992

Donna Gail Harris, last seen in 1991

Phree Morrow, murdered in 1992

Paulette Webster, last seen in 1998

Sherry Eyerly, last seen in 1982

Tamara Lohr, murdered in 1992

Samantha Lang, murdered in 2007

Wanda Jean Mays, died under mysterious circumstances in 1986

Dena Raley-McCluskey, murdered in 1999

Jessica Arredondo, murdered in 1988

Gina Tenney, murdered in 1985

Ty Taing, died under mysterious circumstances in 1995

 

 

My rage is radioactive. It infuses every atom of my being. It will linger in the atmosphere a millennium after my bones have crumbled into dust.

My pain is different. As time passes grievous losses—romantic betrayals, the deaths of cherished pets and friends—begin to shrink into scabbed-over wounds so deeply embedded in my core
I can inveigle myself into believing these sorrows no longer trouble me at all.
My true crime obsession, I believe,
is a way to reexperience and exorcise my personal anguish at a safe distance—and the murders presently twirling through my mind are the unsolved homicides of Donald Ray Young and Rebecca Lou Hastings.

“It’s the most frustrating thing I’ve ever worked on; I don’t have a weapon, a suspect or a motive. I don’t know why it happened. We’ve ruled out all the usual reasons. I’ve interviewed about 50 people and I can’t come up with even two people who didn’t like them, much less hated them enough to murder them. It was almost like they were two perfect people.” Phoenix Police Department Detective Jim Thomas, Arizona Republic, May 19th, 1985

Rebecca Hastings and Donald Young—Becky and Donnie to intimates—may have been two perfect people but they were not, as it turns out, a perfect couple.
Twenty-three-year old Becky was eager for marriage and Donnie, thirty-four and thrice divorced, preferred to saunter to the altar at a more leisurely pace.
Deeming their differences insurmountable, the couple decided to end their romantic relationship and remain friends.
On the weekend of January 7th, 1984 the duo were in the final stages of dismantling their conjoined existence at 3514 West McKinley Street in Phoenix, Arizona;
Becky spent Saturday afternoon looking at new apartments with a male friend.

On Saturday evening Becky spoke on the phone with her mother and a friend, telling both she planned to spend the night at home—she intended to take a bath and go to bed early, she said.
Donnie spent the evening drinking with a female friend at a bar located in the West Valley Mall.
He dropped off his companion at 1am and, assuming he drove home directly, would have arrived back at West McKinley Street at 1:45am.

At noon on Sunday Donnie’s longtime best friend Kim Siegfried stopped by West McKinley Street to help with some home repairs. The door was unlocked—the door was always unlocked—and he entered the single-story residence.
His shouted greetings unanswered, he peeked into the darkened bedroom and spotted Donnie prone on the bed,
upper body hidden beneath a blanket.
“So I went and did some work,” Kim Siegfried will later tell an Arizona Republic reporter.
“I walked past his room a little later and he hadn’t moved and I thought he must’ve really tied one on the night before.”

Site of Donnie Ray Young’s last tipple; photo courtesy of the North Phoenix Blog

Kim Siegfried completed the repairs and returned home but something about Donnie’s position—facedown, swaddled in blankets, only his bare feet and ankles poking through—nagged at him.
He chain-called throughout the afternoon, hoping Donnie would answer and becoming increasingly anxious when Donnie did not. At 7:30pm Kim Siegfried returned to the small house on West McKinley Street.
The door was still unlocked and Donnie was still in the same position.
“I didn’t know Becky was in there until I turned on the light,” Kim Siegfried will later tell the Arizona Republic.
“I saw [Becky’s] leg and then I knew without a doubt they were dead. I didn’t even uncover them. I’m a coward,
I guess.”

Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Postmortems reveal Becky and Donnie had each been shot ten times,
primarily in the head.
The term “overkilled” seems insufficient for a murder featuring twenty bullet wounds—“overkilled10” seems a more apt descriptor.
The caliber and type of weapon utilized and the precise location of Becky and Donnie’s wounds have never been revealed by law enforcement.
No bullet casings were found at the scene indicating either a fastidious perpetrator or a weapon capable of retaining spent shells.
No one on West McKinley heard any gunfire the night of the murders,
including one neighbor who lived only six feet from the crime scene.

The extravagant number of gunshots wasn’t the only peculiar aspect of the Hastings-Young homicides:
although she was found nude Becky exhibited no indicia of sexual assault.
The interplay of victims’ bodies was odd as well—Becky lay on the bed faceup and Donnie,
fully clothed, lay facedown directly on top of her.
Beside them on the bed lay a butter knife and Donnie’s house keys.
The only item determined to be missing from the home was Becky’s purse containing approximately twenty dollars.

Although it is only a theory Phoenix Detective Jim Thomas assesses the scene thusly: Becky was slain first, he believes, and the killer was still in the house when Donnie arrived home.
Hearing a strange noise, Donnie grabbed a butter knife from the kitchen and,
house keys still in hand, proceeded into the bedroom.
From the positioning of their bodies it appeared Donnie had been leaning over Becky, possibly to check on her,
when the killer opened fire.
Although Detective Thomas can conceptualize the mechanics of the murder the killer’s motive and principal target remain a mystery. Did Donnie interrupt an assailant targeting Becky? Or was the assailant lying in wait for him?
Nobody knows—or nobody who knows is talking.

Although Detective Thomas is unsure why Becky and Donnie were slain he managed to eliminate several classic motives from the roster of possibilities:
as revealed in the Arizona Republic, neither Donnie nor Becky had any known enemies.
Neither had any known drug involvement.
A burglary gone wrong has also been ruled out since nothing was missing from the home aside from Becky’s pocketbook.
Unable to find any potential red flags in their present lives investigators began to examine Becky and Donnie’s respective pasts.

Both Becky and Donnie were Phoenix transplants—in the Arizona Republic  Detective Thomas describes the pair as “trusting people from the Midwest.”
Donnie was a Cape Girardeau, Missouri native and a Vietnam veteran.
He worked as a communications supervisor at the Tanner Construction Company alongside his best friend Kim Siegfried.
Although he had three failed marriages Donnie was said to be on good terms with all of his ex-wives.
He and his third wife, an Arizona Republic employee, had amicably divorced in October, 1983,
eighteen months before the murders.
It’s unclear how long Donnie and Becky had dated but they had apparently cohabitated only a relatively short time.

Becky had grown up in the wryly-named hamlet of Normal, Illinois.
At the time of her death she worked as a file clerk in Dr. Jerold Mangas’s medical practice with a promotion to office manager in the offing.
Although not as matrimonially ambitious as Donnie Becky had been married once, briefly, while still in her teens—the union had been dissolved in 1979, long before she moved to Arizona.
Interestingly, although it’s almost certainly unrelated to her murder, the Bloomington Pantagraph contains a relevant item in the March 6th, 1978 edition:

The tire slashing incident, never again mentioned in the archives, occurred four months before Becky’s August 6th, 1978 marriage—her divorce was finalized fourteen months later, on October 27th, 1979.
Sixteen hundred miles away and six years before her murder the vandalism is most likely a red herring—but it does demonstrate that perfect person though Becky may have been,
at one point there was someone who not only hated her but was willing to break the law to harass her.

Becky and Donnie have long since faded from the media spotlight; their murders haven’t been mentioned in the Arizona Republic since 1985, nearly thirty-five years ago.
The press may have forgotten but ever since I first read about the case years ago Donnie and Becky have remained close to my heart,
the trusting uncoupled-couple from the Midwest blasted with an armory’s worth of ammunition for a reason fathomable only to their killer.

Becky and Donnie’s homicides have been haunting me of late, ever since a nightmare I endured a few weeks ago called them to mind.
I dreamt was back in my ex-boyfriend’s apartment, and just like Becky on her final weekend I was packing up my possessions and getting ready to move out.
The demise of this particular relationship was devastating but it occurred years in the past;
if strapped to a lie detector I would claim to be over the heartache and I would pass the polygraph.
Nevertheless, I woke up crying.

I will admit I had this dream. I will admit I woke up crying.
I will admit that Becky and Donnie have been heavy on my mind.
But here is what I will not admit, even if someone holds a gun of unspecified caliber to my head and threatens to pull the trigger ten or even twenty times:
if given the option, as I boxed up my possessions lo those many years ago, to move out and carry on with my life or stay even one more night—even though I knew a maniac was going to break in and kill us?
I know which option I would’ve chosen.
And it wouldn’t have required a moving van.

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 airline employees 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.

    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 the 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 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