08-21-2018

400 years later, Spanish coin is clue in mysterious death
Police: Investigation into Erin Rebecca Taylor’s murder is ‘very much open’
Mom’s billboard seeks tips in Caralyn Aubrey King’s 1997 murder
Mystery of baby left in phone booth solved 64 years later
Composite sketch found in case files relating to 1972 murder of girl
More than 5 years after torsos wash up in Anchorage, cases remain unsolved
LONGREAD: Murder at the State Fair (5-part series + coda)

08-20-2018

Connie Smith’s disappearance draws theories, suspects (part 1 previously posted)
LONGREAD: Heaven LaShae Ross’ death is still unsolved 15 years later
One year later, Jenna Van Gelderen’s family hopes for answers
Tulsa detective tries genealogy research in 2004 murder of 18-year-old Brittany Phillips
Pocatello police looking for cold case connections, including girl supposedly killed by Ted Bundy
DNA might be key to solving Tracy Pulido’s murder, five years later
LONGREAD: I Grew Up in the Shadow of the Aurora Axe Murderer

08-19-18

FOX 2 Unsolved: 1979 Payless murders
‘Who killed Theresa?:’ 40 years later, brother seeks answers in Quebec cold case
More than 40 years later the search for 20-year-old Debora Howard restarts
COLD CASE: FIFTEEN YEARS LATER, WHO KILLED HEAVEN LASHAE ROSS?
Mother of Jennifer Bailey, murdered in 1990: ‘It’ll never be solved, I don’t believe’
29th anniversary of the missing Jack family
Missing woman’s mother wants to buy daughter Angie Yarnell’s Ivy Bend home
One year later, no arrests in death of teen girl in Havre de Grace
LONGREAD: 30 years later, murder of Medora teacher Keyla Weddel still unresolved

08-18-2018

Cayce McDaniel’s family, mother speak on 22nd anniversary of her disappearance
New interviews prove helpful in 41-year-old unsolved murder of Deb Polinsky
Could DNA help solve the murder of Carmen Van Huss?
Tara Grinstead’s accused killers confessed in 2005, court documents claim
Man questioned in Brittanee Drexel disappearance to be released
The Bakersfield 3: Disappearances of Micah Holsonbake, Baylee Despot and murder of James Kulstad
A tip, DNA will lead to killer of Renee Sweeney, say police
The Bobby Dunbar kidnapping case leaves unanswered questions [part 1 (previously posted) + part 2]
LONGREAD: Where Is Arianna Fitts?

08-17-2018

Woman’s Remains Identified 2 Years After a Homeless Person Walked Around with Her Skull on a Stick
New technology sparks new hope in brutal killings of Patricia Wilson and her son Robert
Authorities dig up Minnesota pasture searching for the remains of Becky Jo Look, missing 22 years
Jake Wilson’s family far from closure after remains found
Mother struggles to find justice 5 years after the murders of Megan Simmons and Jazmine Shelton
Main suspect in disappearance of Annie McCarrick linked to murder of Irish teen
LONGREAD: Who beat Ruth Jacobson to death in 1991?
No closure yet in case of body found buried in police chief’s yard in 1988

08-16-2018

AS SEEN ON UNSOLVED MYSTERIES: Agency ordered to disclose parts of files in ‘boys on the tracks’ case
40 Years Later: Teen Strangled, Killed at Torrey Pines State Beach in 1978 Cold Case
Arizona Woman Vanishes After Sending Strange Text To Roommate
Lake County detectives try to ID ‘Judy Doe’ in 34-year-old cold case
Emily Paul, teen missing for five years, is confirmed safe
Expect a surge in serial killers in 15 years, Canadian author says
Iowa investigators searching for Mollie Tibbetts ask anyone in these 5 areas the night she vanished to contact them
DC police ID remains of 3 women found at apartment building in shallow grave back in April
LONGREAD: The 1958 double murder that shook Mauston

08-15-2018

Cold case files: How an unsolved death rocked a small Indiana town
Rosie Tapia’s family marks 23 years since her kidnapping, murder
State Police: Body identified as boy missing since 1979
Family fears missing Memphis man was fed to hogs; search for answers continues
‘Wounds Never Healed’: Golden State Killer Suspect Charged with Claude Snelling Slaying in 1975
Police Continue Search for Experienced Hiker Days After She Went Missing in National Park
Sun Crime State podcast: On the Trail of the Granny Killer
‘Where are you?’ Montreal mother writes to missing daughter 40 years later

08-14-2018

LONGREAD: After 66 years, missing Lakeville camper’s case remains unsolved
LONGREAD: Who murdered 14-year-old Ronda Blaylock? Mother dies never knowing who did it
LONGREAD: Mother of three found on banks of Grand River; 31 years later her killer is still at large
Did an innocent man die in prison for a murder committed by the Golden State Killer?
Grandfather of missing teen Molly Miller still hopeful after 5 years
Podcast brings questions to light in Hendersonville woman’s mysterious death
Dad once accused in teen daughter Mistie Murray’s vanishing dies at 68
Pennsylvania authorities exhume decapitated unidentified child found in 1962 in hopes of solving Philly cold case
Renewed probe into Suzanne Miller’s 1974 murder draws ‘overwhelming amount’ of tips

08-13-2018

22 years after Amber’s death, alert system reminds us to be ever vigilant for our children
In a Town of 11 People, Mysterious Disappearance Turns Neighbor Against Neighbor
Son looking for answers 13 years after mother Sherry Milton disappeared from Alabama
LONGREAD: 25 years ago, Sara Anne Wood’s abduction changed everything
Cold Case: Murder of young mother Mary Futrill Petersen remains unsolved
Woman hopeful sister’s murderer can still be found
Nine years later, Kayla Berg still missing
Family still looking for Jessica Masker who went missing more than 5 years ago

beefcakestack

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



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

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

08-11-2018

Nevada prisoner charged in 1984 hammer killings of Aurora family of 3, Lakewood woman
Maple Grove Police still looking for clues in 1989 disappearance of Amy Sue Pagnac
LONGREAD: 37 years ago, Decatur student Mary Anne Tirpak was killed. Her death is still unsolved.
LONGREAD: The mysterious 1933 disappearance of hiker Joe Halpern
LONGREAD: The mysterious death of famous Canadian artist Tom Thomson

08-10-2018

Lady of the Dunes Mystery Reinvigorated
Toledo serial killer Nathaniel Cook granted release from prison
Who sent the explosive device that killed Andrew and Patricia Puskas in 1982?
New Hampshire unsolved case file: Who killed Mary Elizabeth Critchley?
TV show tackles BG cold case: BGSU professor was killed in her home May 9, 2013
Iowa man says ‘maybe I was the last person to see’ Mollie Tibbetts
BRENDA KAYE BANASKI: Teen’s disappearance, death shook Miller neighborhood
Death of young girl in ‘74 still haunts man
LONGREAD: The 40-year search for Beverly’s killer

08-09-2018

AS SEEN ON UNSOLVED MYSTERIES: 30 years ago, a Daily Herald sports writer vanished on a mountain
Cold case: Spokane’s own Jane Doe, dismembered, dumped in multiple locations
Mother of missing woman Baylee Despot determined to keep fighting
Investigation into Bennett family murders reaches critical stage, police say
Comatose and near death, alleged ‘Skid Row Stabber’ still awaits retrial in decades-old serial killer case
Looking into Becky Jo Look’s cold case disappearance
Investigation Discovery features Jackson man missing 2 years in California
Family of Kelley Gaffield hopeful for new leads in 1995 murder
Police: Pharmacy intern staged suicide to seem like murder
The 40-year mystery of Stephen and Michelle’s disappearance
Could Diane Gilchrist be Warren Forrest’s 9th victim?
5-PART LONGREAD: Miscarriage of justice? ‘Threads of circumstantial evidence’ convicted man in 1992 Creston murder

08-08-2018

Sources: Aurora police have possible suspect in 1984 Bennett family hammer attacks
Twelve years later: State reviewing Renee Pagel cold case murder
Suspected serial killer freed after botched Detroit murder case
Authorities arrest suspect in 12-year-old cold case involving suspected murder of Auburn woman
Have you seen them? N.J. State Police are looking for these missing people
Police hope to find leads in 1981 Halloween killing
LONGREAD: Unsolved 1978 murder of teen haunts family
LONGREAD: 45 years on, quadruple murder still haunts

08-07-2018

Twenty years later, police still investigating cold case of Sacramento restaurateur Henry Moreno
Who killed Helga Beer? Time is running out to find her murderer
THE STRANGE TRUE STORY OF THE DISAPPEARANCE OF FLIGHT 2501 OVER MILWAUKEE
Where is baby Leonna Wright? ‘I think we are getting closer to an answer,’ sheriff says
Justice for Janie
Unearthing 44-year-old cold case from Belleville’s history an emotional experience, reporter says
Cold Case Sunday: Hyram Kitchen murder unsolved after 28 years
Family ‘always hopeful’ Faith Hedgepeth murder will be solved
Clues to 1974 disappearance of 3 Fort Worth girls might be at the bottom of Texas lake
LONGREAD: What happened to Tabi?: Unsolved Tipton murder still haunts family

08-06-2018

Sister still desperate for answers on the 43-year-anniversary of Anna Brown’s murder
She confessed to a murder she didn’t commit. Now she’s seeking compensation from those who arrested her.
Heather Teague’s mother battles state police for answers about daughter’s abduction
Family Of Woman Last Seen At Wicker Park Nightclub Want Answers 4 Years After Mysterious Death
Ames native uses DNA testing to find her father 30 years after his disappearance
DNA rendering puts new face on 1977 New Castle County cold case
Police want to bring Fremont Town Marshal’s 1988 murder case to a close
AS SEEN ON DISAPPEARED: Mother of Brandi Wells, missing since 2006: ‘I’m not giving up on her’
LONGREAD: Two Fayetteville boys went to a movie in 1964. They were never seen again.

08-05-2018

Eight years later, Regina family’s homicide remains unsolved
Practice Dive Latest Step in Search for Three Fort Worth Girls Missing 44 Years
Pig farmer questioned by FBI for a second time over disappearance Iowa college student Mollie Tibbetts
9 years later, Shannon Hercutt homicide remains unsolved
Family of woman missing for 11 years pleads for answers
Breakthrough in 30-year cold case of missing Lee Boxell
LONGREAD: Fifty years on, missing toddler Jefferie Hill’s fate still a mystery

08-04-2018

The Fayetteville boys who vanished 54 years ago
Waterloo family seeks closure 25 years after Diane Courbat’s death
Police still seeking answers on mystery of missing Jack family
Family anxious that missing woman is one of 3 remains found in crawl space in Southeast DC
It’s been 25 years since Katie Eggleston vanished
FBI assisting in case of missing couple Terry and Sharon Smith
Five years after Alexis Murphy’s disappearance, community and family remember her life
LONGREAD: The Bizarre Cult-Related Disappearance Of Chantelle And Leela McDougall

08-03-2018

Mystery Woman in the Vineyard: Gruesome murder remains unsolved
19 years pass since double-murder of teen girls in south AL
A severed leg led police to a Connecticut cult’s ‘chief apostle’ who went missing 14 years ago
Missing Iowa Student Mollie Tibbetts is Likely Still Alive, Parents Believe
Brandi Wells still missing after 12 years
Jane Doe Investigation Goes High Tech With DNA Phenotyping
Suspect identified in Dr. Hausknecht murder possibly motivated by ‘grudge held for more than 20 years’
Missing Pieces: Podcast details new DNA testing in Susan Eads cold case
$2,000 reward offered in Danniella Vian missing person case
LONGREAD: How a Brain in a Bucket Convicted Mark Lundy of Murder

08-02-2018

Missing Journalist Molly Zelko Podcast Set For Anniversary
Police release rendering of serial killer’s victim in hope of learning her identity
Warrant: Southington man, cult leader murdered, dismembered in 2004 by cult members
Florida Mom Receives Letter From Teen Who Vanished 5 Years Ago
Unreleased interviews coming from former DeOrr Kunz Jr. investigator
25th anniversary of Holly Piirainen’s killing brings call for information
Texas Teen’s Slay Unsolved 40 Years Later
LISA KOPANAKIS: Hopes fades in slaying of IUN student
LONGREAD: Despite Acquittal, Doubts Remain

08-01-2018

Seven Years Later, Mysterious Homicide and Missing Person Case Remains Unsolved
Stephen King’s son says ‘The Lady of the Dunes’ may have been an extra in Jaws
Clues from decades ago hold key to catching murderer in 1990 Villa Road slaying
Police: ‘We are coming for you’ in Trudy Appleby case
Single fingerprint helps crack decades-old cold case
Missing in Michigan: What happened to Joann Mason who disappeared 35 years ago
‘They know I didn’t do it’: Ailing Gary Thibodeau maintains innocence in Heidi Allen case
New surveillance videoreleased in slaying of President George H.W. Bush’s former doctor
D.C.’s last serial killer: The Princeton Place murders
LONGREAD: A Mother’s Lifetime of Searching

07-31-2018

Accused Killer Allegedly Admits to 6 More Slayings, Used Dating Apps to Find Victims
Murder of woman found strangled with barbed wire in Phoenix unsolved for 33 years
52 Great True-Crime Podcasts
Missing in Kansas: April Wiss
Sheriff’s Office: ‘We need your help’ to solve cold cases in Polk County
New Podcast Episode Explores Shelton Cold Case
ALEXANDRA ANAYA: Mother hopeful for justice in killing, dismemberment of Hammond girl
LONGREAD: 4 Hung Juries Leave Murder of Altadena Couple Unsolved

07-30-2018

‘LIKE THE SISTER I NEVER HAD’: the 33rd anniversary of Nicole Morin’s disappearance
Still no arrests 35 years after murder of Michigan teen Shawn Raymond
19 years later, no answers in Della Harris’s disappearance
After 41 Years Poconos Man’s Murder Remains Unsolved
Fate of Elizabeth Turvey Brown, missing since 1977, remains unknown
LONGREAD: The Samurai Killer of South St. Louis
LONGREAD: A British couple hitching on a yacht that turned into a tale of horror
D.A. not retrying brutal La Porte hammer murders featured on ‘Cold Justice’

07-29-2018

LONGREAD: Answers still sought for ‘lonely child’ who disappeared from Pittsburgh in 1962
Ally’s killer still at large
Sign seeking tips in Careaga family murders hard for mom, but she supports it
AS SEEN ON DISAPPEARED: Kortne Stouffer’s family holds fast to hope six years later
DNA evidence discovered in missing woman Kendra Nystrom’s case
Authorities ‘hopeful’ missing University of Iowa student is ‘still alive’ as search enters 10th day
Murder victim left note anticipating death 37 years ago
Slaying of pregnant sisters remains a mystery 36 years later

07-28-2018

After nearly 44 years, families of missing Fort Worth girls could get answers soon
Mystery remains after bound skeletal remains of teens discovered more than 50 years ago
New detective hopes to crack Randy Sellers’s 1980 disappearance
Whodunnit? These murders are among NC’s biggest unsolved mysteries
Sarah Avon Abducted 37 Years Ago
Vigil Held For Janice Pockett, Who Disappeared 45 Years Ago
UNSOLVED: The murder of Clay County woman Teryl Orcutt
Miscarriage of justice? Evidence in 1992 murder seemed to all point in one direction
NEW LONGREAD: Close Encounters: A priest and a mysterious U.F.O. sighting
VINTAGE LONGREAD: 5 ‘Boys’ Who Never Come Back

07-27-2018

Unsolved: Who killed Carrie Moss?
Forever unsolved? 45-year-old Bluefield murder case dismissed
Cold Case solved: ’80 murder of Danville woman
Woman’s Body Discovered at Abandoned Home in Robeson County, Where 3 Women Found Dead
Fitbit may be the key to finding missing Mollie Tibbetts
Unsolved Files: Christian Glen Hall
Three years ago, Diamond Bynum and nephew King Walker disappeared without a trace
COLD CASE: Deborah Sykes vanished without a trace in 2005
‘It never ends’: Search for Susy Tomassi spans 4 months
Family of missing Crystal Soles to hold remembrance walk
Sheriff: ‘Sociable’ Oregon couple still missing after house burned
LONGREAD: Where Is Arianna Fitts?

07-26-2018

Joplin police searching ponds in Tracy Pickett’s 26-year-old cold case
Case of Phoenix girl who went missing in 1994 solved
Vanished: the Disappearance of Joleen Cummings
Well-known Seattle activist Donnie Chin’s murder remains unsolved
German serial killer accidentally kills himself in jail during sex act
Search continues for Trudy Appleby and other missing persons in Quad Cities
Hanover’s homicides: How one woman is unearthing the area’s ugly past
Family of convicted Orange County murderer believes Golden State Killer is real culprit
NEW LIZZIE BORDEN LONGREAD: Massachusetts Mystery

07-25-2018

‘Gruesome’ death in East Kingston remains unsolved after 10 years
‘Kill Jar’ author hopes book spurs new Oakland County Child Killer probe
21 years later, woman seeks answer in son’s mysterious death
Missing Girls’ Cold Cases Turn 50, 45, Respectively, This Week
Breakthrough in 1996 disappearance of 14-year-old Cayce McDaniel
Third anniversary of Florida teens disappearance at sea ‘a very sad day’
Police find no connection between mysterious dollar bill and missing Arizona girl
How Missing Student Mollie Tibbetts’s Boyfriend Realized She Vanished
George H.W. Bush’s cardiologist followed by mystery biker before killing
LONGREAD: Mysteries remain in Pittsburgh as anniversaries of the disappearances and deaths of two young men approach

07-24-2018

Franklin homicides of 10-year-old boy, stepmom still unsolved 12 years later
New Images Of Unidentified John Wayne Gacy Victims Released
LONGREAD Angel Baby: 10 years on
Aunt, boy went on errands on East Side in 1980, were later found slain
‘The Phantom’ serial killer of children out of prison, living in Tucson
Vanished: Allean Logan disappeared 13 years ago, and case is still unsolved
The story of Wisconsin’s ‘most notorious pedophile

07-23-2018

No answers 29 years after murder of Arkansas teen Dana Stidham
WHO KILLED HER? DNA leads police to reopen Linda Singh’s 34-year-old cold case
College Student, 20, Vanishes on Jog
Did an innocent man die in prison for a murder committed by the East Area Rapist?
Possible developments in Colonial Parkway murders, family says
Answers still being sought for Denease Monson Latham cold case
Months after her mom and grandma were murdered, she’s demanding an arrest
Case of Karla Elaine Storer found dead in Trumbull dumpster still unsolved
LONGREAD: A Missing Mother And Daughter, A Double Life, Amnesia And Finally — An Arrest

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

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

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

Spy Magazine über alles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Manoir Haddon Hall, present day

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

  Designer: “Say no more.”


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

I swear to god I’m not racist.

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

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

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

charliechop2

FOR PEDANTS ONLY:  a Note on Sources and Nomenclature

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

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

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

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

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

 

THE LOST BOYS

Name:  Douglas Owens

Age/Race:  8 years old, African American

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

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

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

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

 

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

Age/Race:  10 years old, African American

Date: April 20th, 1972

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

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

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

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

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

 

Name:  Wendell Hubbard

Date: October 23rd, 1972

Age/Race:  9 years old, African American

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

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

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

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

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

 

Name:  Luis Ortiz

Date:  March 6th, 1973

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ortiz crime scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

Cropper crime scene

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

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

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

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

INVESTIGATION FRUSTRATION

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

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

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

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

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

Although the field of profiling had not yet been established investigators asked an NYPD psychologist to devise a blueprint of the castration killer’s psyche.
Dr. Harvey Schlossberg theorized the perpetrator was a self-hating homosexual who endeavored to emasculate his victims as an antidote to his same-sex yearnings; by turning the little boys into little girls, the doctor opined,
the slayer believed he could negate his own homosexuality and absolve his acts of sodomy.
Dr. Schlossberg also detected erotic undertones in the assailant’s penetration-heavy modus operandi.
.
“Symbolically, it’s an orgasm—it’s really quite sexual.” Dr. Harvey Schlossberg on the assailant’s frenzied stabbing technique, New York Times, April 17th, 1973

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

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

UNQUIET RIOT

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

I hope you like riot photos because we have riot photos

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

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

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

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

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

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

ERNO SOTO RIDES AGAIN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Overlapping Murder: on June 10th, 1974—two weeks after Erno Soto’s arrest for the attempted 8th Street abduction—his younger brother joined him in police custody. Eugenio Soto, age 31, was engaged in an airing of grievances with family paterfamilias Felix when things took an ugly turn. Eugenio blamed Felix’s poor parenting for brother Erno’s legal and mental travails, according to police reports; decisively seizing the last word, he stabbed his 60-year old father to death with a kitchen knife. Eugenio was later convicted of first degree manslaughter and sentenced to a ten-year term in the penitentiary; he was released on February 10th, 1982. I generally don’t pick sides in family squabbles but Team Eugenio: if two of your children are arrested for homicide in a 14-day span your Father of the Year award is permanently rescinded and all further applications are denied.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew and Pamela Harrison first laid eyes on the site of their demise on their honeymoon; they were charmed.

Pamela Harrison

The couple, raised in the middleclass suburbs of Philadelphia, spotted their dream home while sightseeing in the Blue Ridge Mountains—a six-room log cabin on eighty acres of woodland in the rustic town of Surgoinsville, Tennessee.
It would be, they later told their loved ones, the perfect place to raise a family.

Andy Harrison’s face is illegible in every available photograph

The cabin, lacking a phone and electricity, needed extensive repair work but the couple was undeterred;
in April, 1979 Andy and Pam purchased the property and moved south.
Andy, age twenty-eight, a former high school sports hero, got a job delivering Pepsi products to local convenience stores; Pam, age twenty-seven, a former cheerleader and model,
manned the front desk at a nearby Holliday Inn.
It appeared their life together was just beginning, but Pam and Andy Harrison had less than two years to live.

Although the Rogersville Review never specifies I believe these photos are from Pam’s modeling portfolio

Their last day, June 24th, 1981, dawned as a typical workday; the couple had only one car, a 1968 Camaro, and at approximately 6:30am Pam drove Andy to his job at the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company in Johnson City.
She then returned home for a few hours before her scheduled shift at the Kingsport Holiday Inn;
that afternoon Pam, known as a conscientious employee, failed to report to work.

“She’s the nicest person I ever met—so bubbly and friendly. Everybody here loved her.” Unnamed coworker of Pamela Harrison, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 3rd, 1981

At 4 pm that evening a fellow Pepsi employee drove Andy to the Holiday Inn to retrieve the couple’s vehicle
as was his routine, but the Camaro wasn’t in the parking lot.
A quick check with her coworkers revealed Pam had never arrived at the hotel;
Andy, stranded, helped his coworker with some deliveries for a few hours in exchange for a ride back to Surgoinsville.
He subsequently arrived home at approximately 8pm where he discovered Pam’s keys, purse and the family car—everything in its proper place except Pam herself.

That evening Harry and Janie Rimer—a salt-of-the-earth couple who lived across from the Harrison cabin on Longs Bend Road—heard Andy walking in the area calling for his wife.
He later stopped by the Rimers’ home in the company of a bespectacled stranger;
according to the Rogersville Review, when the Rimers said they hadn’t seen Pam that day Andy replied, “Oh, well, I guess she’s among the missing.”

Andy and his companion soon drove away in a two-tone blue automobile; approximately a half hour later,
at 10pm, the Rimers witnessed the same car, a 1980 Plymouth Horizon, return to the Harrison home.
A few minutes later a shot rang out;
the sound of gunfire was apparently commonplace in the area, however, and the Rimers were unperturbed.
The vehicle then departed and for the next forty-eight hours the Harrisons’ cabin was silent.

When the Harrisons failed to report to work for the next two days the couple’s coworkers became anxious.
The Holiday Inn staff asked Bobby Baird, a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agent staying at the hotel,
to visit the Harrison home for a wellness check.
Just before midnight on June 26th Agent Baird arrived on Longs Bend Road;
although the Harrisons’ door was padlocked and nothing appeared amiss he immediately noted the odor of human decomposition.
Forcing his way inside, Agent Baird discovered the body of Andy Harrison in the front hallway,
his remains covered with an assortment of women’s clothing.

Andy had been shot once in the back of the head with a .25; his billfold was absent but everything else in the cabin appeared undisturbed.
Although the residence was thoroughly searched Pam, almost three days she’d last been seen,
remained among the missing.

The next morning a search of the Harrisons’ property revealed several items of Pam’s clothing scattered on a creek bed forty yards from the cabin;
as Hawkins County Deputy Charlie Godsey searched nearby he noticed a cistern for an unused septic tank—peering into the chasm he discovered the decomposing remains of Pamela Harrison.
Wrapped in a maggot-infested blanket and clad only in a bra and hiked-up shirt,
Pam had endured a sexual assault and a massive skull fracture;
she’d also been shot once in the back of the head with the same weapon that killed her husband.

“Andy and Pam went down there looking for their dream, and then this.” Andrew Harrison’s stepfather Alfred Gilbert, Philadelphia Inquirer, July 3rd, 1981

Andy had been slain shortly after 10pm on the 24th, the coroner estimated, and Pam a few hours earlier,
sometime in the early afternoon.
Luckily for law enforcement neighbors Janie and Harry Rimer had exceptional recall of the events on Longs Bend Road on the Harrisons’ final day.
When interviewed the Rimers provided a detailed description of Andy’s companion and his vehicle
including a partial license plate number.
Mrs. Rimer further revealed she’d seen the same car at the cabin midday, after Pam returned from driving Andy to work.
The TBI had to search through more than ten thousand vehicle registration records but agents were eventually able to identify the automobile and its driver.

Kingsport resident David Jordan, age twenty-five, was employed in the collections department of the First National Bank of Sullivan County.

Jordan, married with two children, told investigators he’d met the Harrisons approximately one year earlier when Andy delivered Pepsi products to a Jiffy Market Jordan was then managing.
At first Jordan denied he’d been at the cabin the day the Harrisons were slain but when confronted with the Rimers’ recollections his story mutated.
Eventually he verified the Rimers’ account—he’d been at the cabin midday, he admitted,
and had later returned to help Andy look for Pam—but Jordan was adamant he hadn’t harmed either of the Harrisons.

Although her family and friends scoffed at this allegation, Jordan claimed he’d been having an affair with Pam. He had visited the cabin around noon on the 24th to drop off some personal use marijuana he regularly sold Andy, Jordan said,
and then had sex with Pam. The crime lab found pubic hair and semen consistent with Jordan’s in the blanket wrapped around Pam’s remains,
but even a consensual affair couldn’t explain the serological evidence in the Plymouth:
when doused with Luminol the interior of the car—specifically the steering wheel, accelerator, radio, air conditioner, floor, glove box, and light switch—lit up like a kid on Christmas.

During their yearlong acquaintanceship personal use marijuana wasn’t the only item the Harrisons purchased from Jordan;
he also admitted he’d sold the couple a .25 caliber gun, the same type of weapon used in the slayings—the .25, like Andy’s billfold, has never been located.
Jordan was arrested on July 6th, ten days after the murders, and held without bail at the Hawkins County Jail.
While in custody Jordan reportedly confessed his guilt to fellow prisoner Dennis Evans Taylor; rape of Pam had been the primary motive, he allegedly stated, and then Andy had to be eliminated to prevent retaliation.
Andy was “a fool,” Jordan purportedly said, but even he would eventually figure out who murdered his wife.

“[Jordan said] Pam was one of the most beautiful women he had ever met; he said he burned inside every time he got close to her.” Inmate Dennis Evans Taylor, Rogersville Review, October 21st, 1982

The murders of Pam and Andy Harrison—while certainly tragic—seemed to be destined for a tidy conclusion;
Jordan, charged with two counts of capital murder, faced death in Old Smokey,
the Tennessee State Prison electric chair.
The sense closure lurked right around the corner was illusory.
This was Appalachia; the Harrisons were strangers and Jordan was from a prominent local family who provided him with the best legal counsel money could buy. Three trials ensued.

The first jury declared themselves hopelessly deadlocked after only 24 hours of deliberation; the second jury, which reportedly split eleven-to-one for guilt, suffered a similar fate.
(According to a Newsweek article penned by Andy’s mother the second trial’s hold-out juror claimed an auditory issue had prevented him from hearing testimony—an affliction he neglected to mention before the alternates were dismissed.)
Finally on September 1st, 1983 the third jury returned with a verdict after a single hour of deliberation:
Jordan was found not guilty on all counts.

[Three degrees of Sid Vicious: after the Harrison murders Andy’s mother Louise Gilbert attended a Philadelphia-area Parents of Murdered Children support group with the mother of infamous punk muse Nancy Spungen.]

And thus the legal saga of the Harrison murders ends and the crime slipped into the realm of legend;
whispers of strange happenings at the couple’s murder scene fueled rumors the risen spirits of Pam and Andy could not rest in peace.
Subsequent residents of the cabin reported phantom footsteps, doors slamming,
and spontaneous woodstove fires—one tenant even claimed she saw Pam’s face reflected in her bathwater.
More gruesomely, the blood stains in the foyer where Andy was slain reportedly returned several times despite being masked over with plywood, tar paper and oak flooring.

The most spectacular otherworldly event at the Harrison home, ten months after the David Jordan’s acquittal,
actually garnered front page coverage in the Rogersville Review.
Star prosecution witnesses Harry and Janie Rimer remained on Longs Bend Road after the murders despite several incidents of intimidation—their house was vandalized,
and midway through the first trial Mrs. Rimer had almost been killed by an unidentified sniper while hanging out her wash. The couple didn’t scare easily, however,
and despite the harassment the Rimers persevered and testified at all three trials.

On July 14th, 1984 several Rimer family intimates—Janie Rimer, her two daughters, a granddaughter and a friend—happened to stroll past the Harrison residence at approximately 10pm.
The cabin, still lacking electricity, was unoccupied at the time but Mrs. Rimer and her companions noticed a small light flickering inside.
As the onlookers stood transfixed the light swelled to brilliance, an unearthly glow illuminating the entire structure—and it was then Mrs. Rimer noticed a spectral figure standing on the porch.

There, three years after his murder stood Andy Harrison,
still clad in the Pepsi uniform he wore when he breathed his last.
Suddenly one of Mrs. Rimer’s daughters screamed—and as if a switch had been thrown the cabin was again plunged into darkness.

Mrs. Rimer later said she felt no fear when she saw the shadowy figure on the Harrisons’ porch; she wasn’t sure what he was trying to say, she told a Rogersville Review reporter, but she had the feeling Andy was trying to send her a message.

Click through for an October 27th, 2000 Rogersville Review article about the hauntings

Speaking for the dead, obviously, is a tricky proposition but I believe I know what Andy was trying to convey;
and he chose Mrs. Rimer as a conduit, I’m sure,
because considering her fearless trial testimony he knew she’s be the perfect person to tell the tale.
Andy Harrison, in my opinion, was sending a message to the person who killed him—and regardless of the jury’s verdict Andy knows exactly who that person is.
I think Andy wants his killer to know he’ll be waiting patiently on the other side
to avenge the rape and murder of his beautiful wife Pam—and this time a cowardly gunshot from behind isn’t going to stop him.

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

Kimberly Riggsbee

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

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

Riggsbee crime scene

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

Riggsbee crime scene rear view

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

Beverly Honeycutt

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

Honeycutt crime scene

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

Street view of the Honeycutt home

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

Beverly Honeycutt

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

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

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

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

Bullet hole in the Riggsbee crime scene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Nigg

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

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

That ship had already sailed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

The Sanecks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ziegler family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• A screen had been removed from a second floor window

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

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

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

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

DA Lamb block quote

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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