Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

LAPD ’53


Someone snuck up on her and grabbed her,’ says Dad

Husband of Colorado woman who vanished two years ago is charged with murder

Detectives re-test evidence in 1978 Narragansett cold case

Kamloops mom still waits for her daughter’s return

NEW LONGREAD: ‘Anger and heartbreak,’ Cape Coral woman still missing one year later

VINTAGE LONGREAD: 25 years later. Still no sign of Kenley.

VINTAGE LONGishREAD: Germany: New Hope in Lost Son Case


MEA CULPA: Apparently one of yesterday’s links fell victim to a late-in-the-day paywall.  Here is the article in all its denuded glory:

LONGREAD: Elyse Pahler murder case: Here’s a timeline of the 1995 satanic killing in SLO County


NEW LONGREAD: SC’s most shocking crimes now include Murdaugh killings

VINTAGE LONGREAD: Spattered blood and speculation

VINTAGE LONGREAD: Death still haunts toddler’s sister

VINTAGE LONGREAD: Homicide Investigation Fails To Catch A Killer


30-year anniversary of one of Denver’s most notorious crimes

Cold case arrest made in Montrose beating death of Houston socialite

Man convicted of murdering two women decades apart

Dana McPeek disappeared in 2001. Her family still seeks answers

Gastonia family has looked for missing loved one 20 years

Cold case arrest has ‘eerie similarities’ to Lindsey Baum murder case

Adult film actress’s mysterious death still unsolved

VINTAGE LONGishREAD: It’s still a mystery why Chalisa Lewis had to die

VINTAGE LONGishREAD: Sad milestone Thursday in slaying of Daly City girl


Memorial placed to honor cold case victim in Berrien County

Preston’s most shocking unsolved murder 25 years on

Texas Rangers say DNA samples led to arrest in Hailey Dunn murder case

DNA results show man is not D’Wan Sims, whose 1994 disappearance made headlines

He Was Put to Death. The Real Serial Killer Roamed Free.

Lost Colony’ aims for justice in Canton woman’s murder

NEW LONGREAD: Bringing Ellabeth home

NEW LONGREAD: The Great Falls Tribune covered the Kalitzke-Bogle double homicide for 65 years. Here’s a look back


Spotsylvania mom still determined to find daughter missing since 2015

Woman helped convict a notorious Hartford killer as a teen in 1953

Arrest made in 1997 rape, attempted murder of local woman Cari Anderson

Boston police seek new leads in brutal 1996 murder of 20-year-old Swedish au pair

Murder mystery in Mississippi after former state lawmaker shot to death

NEW LONGREAD: Detectives dive into 1966 murder of 14-year-old paperboy

NEW LONGREAD: A mother and daughter ‘kidnapped.’ A husband’s bizarre story. A baffling Irvine mystery


Mother’s boyfriend arrested in Hailey Dunn killing (plus VINTAGE LONGREAD)

Police asking for the public’s help in solving the 1989 murder of Barbara Williams

Northern Manitoba community seeks answers to unsolved murders

NEW Texas Monthly LONGREAD: Pecos Jane Has a Name

VINTAGE LONGREAD: Who killed Kevin Martin?


Louisiana deputies make murder arrest in 44-year-old cold case

Puzzling double murder of Dylan Ellis and Oliver Martin still cold

Private investigator takes on Augusta’s Millbrook twins case

It’s not gonna go away”: Family still searching for Brian & Joni

Annual walk held for Ashley Loring Heavyrunner, who vanished in 2017

Vanished New Albany woman’s fate remains unknown

NEW LONGREAD: The Other Side of the River, Revisited

NEW LONGREAD: Kip Kinkel Is Ready To Speak

NEW LONGREAD: Long-Buried Secrets: The Serial Killer and the Detective

“Immigrants, we get the job done.” —- Hamilton, an American Musical

Sun Ye “Sunny” Kennedy was an unlikely Chinese restaurant owner. First of all, she was not Chinese but Korean, born and bred.
Secondly, she did not know how to cook and had no interest in learning. No matter.
Sunny’s eatery, the China Town Restaurant in Bradenton Florida, was a success, known locally for its generous lunch buffet.

Married in 1974, Sunny had immigrated to America four years later as the wife of an American serviceman, Stephen Kennedy.
The couple had one child, a son named David.
After waiting tables for a few years Sunny opened the China Town Restaurant but her twelve-hour, seven-days-a-week schedule put a strain on the Kennedys’ marriage;
in 1988 the couple divorced and Stephen Kennedy moved to New York.
The split was amicable and the couple shared joint custody of David, although Sunny retained physical custody.

“She didn’t want anything from her husband. No child support. Nothing. Her dream was to make her own good living and raise her son.” Chikugo Kirby, China Town cashier, Tampa Bay Times, January 30th, 1990

Dating as an American divorcee had its share of minefields; one of Sunny’s first relationships fell apart due to cultural differences—her American boyfriend was uncomfortable with her steadfast refusal to look him in the eye, and could not abide her tendency to walk behind him.
It looked like her luck was turning around, though;
in August of 1989 Sunny met auto mechanic William Earl Plumb at The Lounge, a bar abutting the China Town Restaurant—they hit it off and moved in together immediately.
For the next six months the couple were reportedly quite happy together.

A Side Order of Death, No Substitution

Like yin and yang, beef and broccoli, Chinese restaurants and unsolved homicide go together.

The roots of this phenomenon are presumably threefold: many Chinese restaurants are cash only, open late-night, and most are staffed with immigrants leery of law enforcement. This creates a fertile environment for murder, including these still-unsolved slayings with Chinese-restaurant ties:

January 18th, 1971: Shum and Toki Sang, owners of The House of Sang in Parsippany, New Jersey, were murdered in their car outside their home.

October 10th, 1983: owner Chun Hok Wong and his sons Si Chun Wong and Xue Yin Huang were murdered inside the Szechuan Star Restaurant in Mount Kisco, New York (a suspect, Leung Hung Yu, fled to China).

January 19th, 1985: the bodies of Jimmy and Lilly (sometimes spelled Lily) Ming were found dismembered and bagged on the Squamish Highway; Jimmy managed the Yangtze Kitchen Restaurant in Vancouver, Canada.

April 23rd, 2001: Shaoxiong and May He were stabbed in their Asian Garden Restaurant in San Antonio, Texas.

October 5th, 2011: Chen Rong and Mei Gong Li, owners of Chinese Happiness Restaurant in D’Iberville Mississippi, were stabbed to death at their home along with Li’s sister Mei Jing Li.

October 8th, 2014: Jin Chen, Hai Yan Li, and their sons Anthony and Eddy were stabbed and bludgeoned in their home; Jimmy was a waiter at King Wok Restaurant in Guilderland, New York.

What the Fortune Cookie Failed to Tell Us:

At 11pm on January 27th, 1990 forty-two-year old Sunny; her son, fifteen-year old David; and thirty-six-year old William Plumb left the restaurant in Sunny’s red van.
The next day, Super Bowl XXIV, the restaurant staff found the eatery’s door unlocked but Sunny failed to appear, an unthinkable occurrence.

At 2pm officers from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to the Kennedy residence at 1552 Highcrest Circle in Valrico.
They discovered the front door unlocked and inside found the bloodied bodies of Sunny, David and William.
All had been shot once in the head with semi-wadcutter bullets,
a type of ammunition popular at shooting ranges (the shells’ round noses are designed to pierce paper targets without ripping).

The murders did not comprise a single crime scene; Sunny was found in her bedroom closet, William splayed on the floor just outside,
and David lay in bed on the other side of the one-story residence.
Sunny distrusted night-deposit boxes and was known to retain large amounts of cash,
sometimes as much as 15K, packed into shoe boxes.
An unidentified amount of cash was found at the scene, leading Hillsborough detectives to declare,
without elaboration, robbery was not believed to be the motive for the crime.

Confirmed to be present in New York, Stephen Kennedy was dismissed from suspicion in the slayings,
as was a then-teenager named Park,
a recent Korean immigrant who worked as a dishwasher at the China Town Restaurant and occasionally stayed at the Kennedy residence.

Despite the dismissal of these suspects, most who knew Sunny Kennedy are certain she knew her killer—she was known to be exceedingly security conscious,
and had installed bars and extra locks on the home before she moved in.
She would never under any circumstances, her friends and employees agree, open her door to a stranger.

Although known to avoid conflict, there were two recent events in Sunny’s life which may have foreshadowed the crime.
Shortly before her death her friend Gene Montagna heard her have a tense phone conversation in Korean.
After she hung up she asked him to lend her 15K;
he lacked the funds and she never spoke of the matter again.
Four days before her death Sunny had a loud argument with a blond Caucasian man—bespectacled, thirty-five to forty, of average height and build—in the restaurant;
they spoke in her native Korean.
Hillsborough Sheriff’s deputies circulated a composite of the person of interest but the Identikit image was never published in the Tampa Bay Times.

I cast no aspersions on law enforcement, but I am baffled by the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office’s failure to identify the Caucasian man who argued with Sunny at the restaurant.
In mid-century America Korean wasn’t taught as a high school elective; he almost certainly had missionary or military ties.
I’d be shocked if he didn’t also have a Korean wife.
Why wasn’t his composite more widely publicized?

Several elements of the Kennedy-Plumb murders gnaw at me. David Kennedy, fifteen years old,
loved martial arts, Dungeons and Dragons, and dreamed of going to art school.
A prototypical geek: one of us, one of us.
William Plumb: law-abiding, genial, dead because he fell in love with the wrong woman at a strip mall watering hole.

Above all, in these decidedly anti-immigrant times I think about Sunny Kennedy—coming all the way from Korea to make a new life, working so hard, being so careful.
Always peering out her window when her doorbell rang to make sure she knew the identity of her visitor; this was a woman who understood the value of caution.
Installing burglar bars, changing the locks whenever she moved into a new residence.
None of it saved her.
Someone she knew wanted not only her but also her loved ones eternally and irrevocably dead.

The call is always coming from inside the house.

Murder scene, present day

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

A darkened cathedral, January, 1968. Rose Bottazi knelt in front of the shrine of the Virgin Mary and lit a candle of remembrance. As she stood to depart she stumbled. Plaster cracking, the gigantic arms of the Virgin’s statue reached out to break her fall. “Do not worry,” the statue intoned; “I have you.”

Then she woke up.

Rose did not often speak about her dreams but she told her oldest daughter Donna about her nocturnal encounter with the Blessed Virgin;
she was worried it was an omen—and she may have been right.

Rose Bottazzi was livin’ the dream: she had a loving family, a stable romance and a brand-new business venture.
The forty-six year old divorcee and former professional dancer owned a home in Brick Township, New Jersey which she shared with the two youngest of her three children.
She was on the cusp of opening a dry-cleaning shop and her married older daughter had just given birth to her first grandchild, a boy.
The baby had a bad cold and Rose worried her Virgin Mary dream somehow related to her grandson’s illness.
She called her daughter regularly to check on the baby’s health and confirm he’d been given his medicine.

The man in Rose’s life was South Orange resident James V. Gerard, age fifty-six, an Internal Revenue Service agent at the Newark Office.
A lifelong bachelor, James had been employed in the IRS delinquent accounts division for more than twenty-six years.
According to family members James and Rose, who had been dating eight years, had a low-key, harmonious relationship:
“They were two quiet stay at home types,” Rose’s brother Patrick Bottazzi later tells the Asbury Park Press.
“He (James) loved Rose’s cooking and would sit in front of the television set watching a football game in his spare time.”
Such was the state of affairs on January 12th, 1968 when Rose and James went out to dinner and vanished.

First stop that evening was Peterson’s Sunset Cabin in Lakewood, an upscale steak house. James was clad in a blazer and dress pants, Rose in a three-piece ice-blue knit pantsuit with a “dressy” white coat.
At Peterson’s the couple had dinner and then shared a drink with part-time hostess Eileen Holland.
She will later describe the pair’s demeanor as “upbeat,”
saying Rose and James talked mainly of films they’d recently seen or intended to see.
The Peterson’s hostess saw no indication of the calamity to follow.

Site of the last supper

Next stop: Tavern on the Mall in Laurelton. James and Rose dropped in for a quick nightcap; they imbibed two drinks each and tipped bartender John Vincintini a dollar (approximately $8 in modern currency).
At 1am as the couple departed the weather had turned foul—a sleet storm impaired visibility and slickened the roads—but they were only 4.5 miles from 253 Alameda Drive,
Rose’s Brick Township home.
The couple set off in James’s vinyl-topped dark blue 1968 Chrysler Newport, license plate IBO 182;
five decades later their fate remains a mystery.

The next morning Rose’s twelve-year old daughter Debra awoke to an empty house; she contacted her brother Anthony who contacted authorities.
In the early stages of the investigation the New Jersey State Police seemed certain the couple’s disappearance had been caused by a driving mishap.
Local police agencies and fire departments searched the lagoons and waterways on the pair’s route home from the Tavern; no trace of James’s car or evidence relevant to the couple’s disappearance could be found.

A ’68 Chrysler Newport but not the ’68 Chrysler Newport

On one subject all who knew James and Rose agreed—the couple had not decamped voluntarily. A search of the pair’s financial records revealed no unexplained transactions or withdrawals.
Rose was in the midst of extensive dental work—two of her molars had temporary caps due for replacement that week—and she’d recently rented a shop and purchased 10K worth of dry-cleaning equipment.
In James’s apartment, located at 324 Center Street in South Orange, his final paycheck had been left uncashed;
he was only six months from retirement eligibility.
All of the couple’s possessions remained in place and no motive could be found which could explain their absence.

Still certain Rose and James had skidded off the roadway, law enforcement officers continued to scour the Brick Township area, including the nearby Pine Barrens of Jersey Devil and Sopranos fame.
Evidence remained elusive and as accidental death became a less likely scenario investigators delved into the couple’s pasts.
Rose had divorced her husband Domenic nearly a decade earlier and there was no history of animosity;
he had moved to Canada but was vacationing in Florida when Rose and James vanished and was quickly dismissed from suspicion.
Although James’s job in the IRS collections department entailed dunning recalcitrant taxpayers he had never reported any harassment from agency targets.
James sometimes bet on sporting events, detectives learned, but he always paid his debts and 10K cash (current value $70K) was found in his safety deposit box.

The address given is incorrect; it’s 253 Alameda Drive

Adding to the mystery, some items located in Rose’s residence hinted the couple may have arrived home after leaving the Tavern on the Mall.
Although Rose’s daughter had been present and heard nothing, James’s wallet, car registration, credit cards and IRS identification badge were located inside.
Rose’s purse was found in the residence as well. [IdiditforJodie flashback: “A woman’s purse is like a minister’s Bible”.]
The means by which James and Rose paid for dinner and drinks on their final evening has never been publicized; perhaps they carried sufficient cash.
The significance of the items’ placement is ultimately unclear;
it’s certainly possible the couple never returned home and the items were left behind as they left for Peterson’s, accidentally or intentionally.

Seasons changed. Two years passed. The Bottazzi and Gerard families offered a reward and disseminated missing persons flyers and then finally, in 1970, a possible break:
Newark Mayor Hugh Addonizio was arrested for bribery and extortion.
James and the Mayor had been close personal friends, socializing and having dinner together on a weekly basis;
investigators found James’s signature as a preparer on Addonizio’s tax returns,
a situation an IRS official described as not illegal—as long as James had not been paid for his service—but “irregular.”
As Rose’s brother Patrick Bottaazzi told the Asbury Park Press,
“This all came out later. We found out he was good buddies with (then Newark Mayor) Hugh Addonizio.
Hughie wasn’t owned by the Mob at that time. He was the Mob.”

When a decade in the cooler feels like victory

Hugh Addonizio was convicted on various corruption charges and sentenced to ten years behind bars; he was released in 1977 and died in 1981, never speaking publicly about the Bottazzi-Gerard disappearance.
Despite James’s relationship with the disgraced Mayor no definitive evidence could be found linking La Cosa Nostra to the couple’s disappearance and no motive for a Mob hit conclusively established.
Despite this dearth of supporting evidence, however,
most law enforcement officials appear to believe the couple met with foul play,
probably due to James’s sports betting and/or association with Mafia figures.
As William Gallant, Captain of Detectives of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office told the Asbury Park Press,
“As far as I’m concerned she (Miss Bottazzi) is not here now because of him. Whoever took him out figured they had to take her out too.”

The door prize was cement shoes

A top-to-bottom reinvestigation into the couple’s disappearance was launched by the New Jersey State Police in 1978;
no new evidence was unearthed.
And here, fifty years after they vanished, the impasse in the Bottazzi-Gerard case still stands.
Whether plunged into a lake via a traffic mishap or killed by the Mob—sleeping with the fishes either literally or metaphorically—I like to think Rose’s dream came true:
the Virgin Mary gathered the couple into Her heavenly arms and told them not to worry.
Death, a great mystery, comes to us all; so pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Looking for Mr. Goodrape

Posted: April 12, 2020 in Uncategorized

Renee Brown’s fate was a cautionary tale.

Vanessa Renee Brown and her son circa 1980

The ending of this story is definitive: on Valentine’s Day, 1984 scrap metal scavengers discovered a nude female corpse in a vacant lot in Philadelphia.
Found face-down among the weeds and rubble, Vanessa Renee Brown—Renee to friends and family—had been strangled, stabbed and her throat slashed.
Although she exhibited no evidence of sexual assault she had been mutilated: large chunks of flesh were hacked from her shoulder and two words carved deeply into her back: “GOOD RAPE.”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First, some background: Renee was twenty-two years old, a single mother of a five-year old son.
A 10th-grade dropout, she received government benefits and lived with her parents three blocks from the lot where her body will later be dumped.
This vacant lot, incidentally or not, held some significance to Renee;
she liked to party—a not-uncommon trait in twenty-two year olds everywhere—and the lot was the site she preferred to be dropped off so her late-night arrivals would not wake her family.

This story begins—or maybe it doesn’t—in the wee hours of the morning on May 12th, 1983, eight months before the murder.
Finding herself short of funds while leaving a Market Street nightclub, Renee exited a licensed taxi and hailed a gypsy cab driven by William Kemp, age thirty.
Instead of driving her to the lot near her home Kemp drove to a shuttered canoe-rental establishment on the Schuylkill river. There, according to Renee, Kemp raped her and fled.

Renee was able to flag down a patrol cruiser a few minutes later; she provided a description of Kemp and his vehicle and officers spotted him shortly thereafter.
He was arrested, charged with rape, and subsequently released on $10K bail.
Agreeing to press charges, Renee identified Kemp in court while testifying at a pre-trial hearing.
Several trial dates were postponed; the proceedings were ultimately rescheduled for March 16th, ten months after the incident.
In a Philadelphia Daily News article Harold Tindal, father of Renee’s son,
describes her attitude towards testifying at the upcoming trial as “nervous” but “determined.”

Renee didn’t live long enough to appear in court; she disappeared on February 28th, two weeks before the trial was scheduled to begin.
She was last seen at a birthday party where partygoers described her as being in high spirits;
as Renee left she informed a friend she was going to meet someone but gave no further information.
Four days later, on March 2nd, her benefits check was cashed;
in the pre-surveillance state, however,
it was unclear who cashed the check and the location of the processing bank has never been publicized.
Ten days later the scrap metal scavengers made their grisly find.

The ultimate disposition of the rape charges against Kemp are unclear. The 1980s were a different time; the media coverage of Renee’s case was an extravaganza of victim-blaming and -shaming about her late-nights and economic status.
Although Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Schiffman vowed to continue Kemp’s rape prosecution—a conviction might be easier to obtain in Renee’s absence,
he told the Philadelphia Daily News, since she was “no pillar of the community”—but there’s no record the case proceeded to trial.
(The 6th Amendment guarantees the right to confront one’s accusers; further prosecution without Renee’s live testimony would have likely raised Constitutional issues.)
Renee’s story swiftly slipped from the headlines.

Oddly, to me at least, investigators were adamant Renee’s murder and the upcoming rape trial were unrelated.
According to several media accounts,
District Attorney Edward Rendall (later governor of Pennsylvania) stated Kemp,
free on bail at the time of the crime, was not a suspect but declined to reveal the means by which Kemp had been eliminated or which other avenues of investigation were being pursued.
“It would’ve been foolish for him [Kemp] to do it and sign his autograph like that, wouldn’t it?” Detective Ernest Gilbert opined in the Philadelphia Daily News,
as if making smart decisions was a violent offender behavioral hallmark.

Renee’s slaying, whether related to her rape or a random act, has never been solved.
Maybe I want to believe her rape and murder are connected because I don’t want to live in a world where a woman could suffer two unrelated attacks in less than a year.
Violence, I like to believe, is doled out sparingly.
Maybe Renee lived a different truth; after all, she lived in a world where an assistant district attorney would bad-mouth a murdered rape victim, mother of a young child.
To me the most horrific aspect of Renee’s death isn’t the “GOOD RAPE” mutilation;
it’s the way she was treated in the press.
A woman was stabbed, strangled and her throat was cut; but the media seemed far more appalled by her late nights and benefits check than her murder.

A selection of unsolved mutilation-murders and one (maybe) castration-murder for your reading (dis)pleasure. A little something to think about the next time some halfwit sidles up and screams, “You wanna a piece of me?”

A belated Valentine’s Day gift for angry women everywhere

Benny Evangelista let religion go to his head

An arm and a thigh is the Popeye’s combination meal you never order

The decapitation is henious but the creepy phone call is next level


ADDENDA: these articles aren’t longreads but the cases are on point and deserve a little publicity. Consider them the true crime version of an amuse-bouche (my younger self invariably misheard this term as amuse-douche, much to my adult delight.)


I’ve seen some bad things in Brooklyn but nothing like this
Three more reasons to stay out of Oklahoma (as if your current stay-out-of-Oklahoma pile didn’t already threaten to block out the sun)


Compared to the Evangelista dolls Annabelle looks like Barbie

Some people are born in Florida—others travel south to fulfill their destiny.

Does any story that begins with the detection of a foul odor end happily? I suspect not; this one certainly doesn’t.

For the better part of a week a putrid stench wafted across the exclusive community,
its intensity growing with each passing day.
The year is 1973, the location the Coquina Sands subdivision in Naples, Florida.
On July 26th resident Phillip Smith realized he hadn’t seen his elderly neighbor in a while and did the math;
at 6pm he phoned the Naples Police Department and requested a wellness check for Mrs. Ruth Rogers Waples,
age seventy-one, at 630 Murex Drive.

Wealthy. Eccentric. Outspoken. Rare is the media account of her murder which does not include at least one of these descriptors.
Widow of Harold Jirou Waples, a former Michigan Attorney General and thirty-second degree Mason,
Mrs. Waples was an unforgettable character who spoke her mind and flaunted her affluence with brio.
Unapologetically loud, sporting more bling than an upwardly-mobile gangster rapper,
Mrs. Waples was a familiar presence at community meetings where she tirelessly advocated her (prescient) pet cause: the elimination of smoking in public spaces.

Mrs. Waples had emigrated from Michigan twelve years earlier, shortly after the death of her husband.
A more fitting relocation is unimaginable,
as the Widow Waples was the embodiment of the phenomenon we currently identify as “Florida woman.”
Her hectoring letters to the editor—signed with her infamous nom de plume, Mrs. Waples from Naples—were a fixture in the Naples Daily News.
She hijacked a 1964 meeting of the Zoning Board to demand reimbursement for a pair of panties she’d torn on a local fishing pier.
She told neighborhood children she loved pharmaceuticals and motored recklessly in an aircraft carrier-sized Cadillac. Draped in diamonds, nuttier than Mr. Peanut’s bowel movements,
Mrs. Waples let her freak flag billow out like a sail at full mast and laughed (maniacally, perhaps) in the face of convention.

When Officer Frank Baughman arrived at the Waples home the stench was overpowering. He swung open the unlocked front door and a German Shepherd bounded outside, desperate to escape.
That someone or something had died inside was a foregone conclusion but the grisly spectacle the patrolman encountered still managed to shock;
amid perilously stacked possessions—Mrs. Waples was a bit of a hoarder—he found the nude, decomposing body of the home’s occupant.
Splayed face-up on the living room floor, Mrs. Waples’ arms were upstretched and her hands were missing.

“Mrs. Waples was eccentric to say the least and finding her nude was not unusual. She was known to walk around her home nude at various times.” Unnamed police officer, Naples Daily News, July 29th, 1973

Seven days earlier: June 18th was Mrs. Waples’ last night on earth and she lived it in the most Waples way possible.
The evening began with several phone calls to the Naples Police Department;
someone was knocking on her door,
Mrs. Waples informed the dispatcher, and she wasn’t expecting visitors.
An average person might be hesitant to trouble law enforcement about such a picayune matter but Mrs. Waples was not an average person;
her peccadilloes were well-known to the Naples Police Department and they sent out a squad car to mollify her.

Please pardon the low-quality Naples Daily News images; Mrs. Waples looks ready to sing “Swanee”

Knock-knock; who’s there? Patrolmen from the Naples Police Department, responding to your call for assistance.
Despite being assured by the dispatcher the strangers now at her doorstep were law enforcement agents Mrs. Waples refused to open the door.
Not once, not twice, but three times:
that’s the number of trips officers made to the Waples home at the behest of Mrs. Waples’ repeated calls to the station but each time the patrolmen were denied entry.
Eventually the officers gave up and the identity of Mrs. Waples’ (original) uninvited guest would later be a subject of speculation.

It’s now midnight and Mrs. Waples is just getting started. Next door on Murex Drive the thunderous ring of the telephone—1970s landlines were calibrated to deafen the dead—echoed through the Smith residence.
Twelve-year-old Jackie Smith, daughter of the neighbor who will later request the wellness check,
answers the phone.
Mrs. Waples is on the line with some important news: she is going to be murdered and an African-American family with six children will thereafter move into her residence.
Young Jackie Smith is unperturbed; Mrs. Waples was always claiming she was going to be murdered,
as it so happens, just another one of her (many) eccentricities.
Nobody in the Smith home gives the phone call another thought—until the odor of rot pervaded, that is.

4am, the switchboard of the American Ambulance Company. “Help me! Help me! They’re trying to kill me!”
The screaming woman on the line did not give her name but the screaming woman did not have to: dispatcher Jack Bridenthal recognized her voice.
Mrs. Waples was a frequent caller, and had in fact made a similar call only one week previously.
Mrs. Waples’ wolf-cries, at this point, were no longer taken seriously at American Ambulance;
per company policy the dispatcher hung up the phone, failing to contact law enforcement.
(Unlike 911 operators, an amenity not yet available in Florida, private emergency services had no duty to investigate.)
After this ignored plea for assistance Mrs. Waples fell silent—and the next time she is seen both her hands and her pulse will be long gone.

At the Waples residence the crime scene investigation is off to a poor start. Cluttered with possessions and reeking of dog excrement and decomposition, the home was the forensic version of a Superfund site.
The survival of Mrs. Waples’ (unnamed) German Shepard,
aided by fortuitously blasting air-conditoning, was near-miraculous;
he’d been trapped with her body for a full seven days.
Although investigators initially presume he has consumed Mrs. Waples’ hands the German Shepard will ultimately be exonerated;
at autopsy the medical examiner determines Mrs. Waples’ stumps have not been gnawed off but neatly severed.
[Mrs. Waples’ doggie, the ultimate survivor, was rehomed with a local family, a nugget of good news in a motherlode of bad.]

Hoarding detritus and dog feces weren’t the only impediments at the Waples crime scene. For reasons I cannot fathom Naples Detective Barrie Kee—instead of, say,
one or more trained crime scene technicians—was tasked with gathering forensic clues.
To prepare for this important role he was given a fifteen-minute presentation on fingerprint detection and analysis while en-route to the Waples residence.
This appears to have been the extent of Detective Kee’s forensic training and his lack of expertise and the repercussions thereof will hamper the investigation in perpetuity.

Dr. Heinrich Schmid, Collier County Medical Examiner, performed Mrs. Waples’ autopsy. Her remains exhibited no self-defense wounds, according to his report,
and no evidence of sexual assault was detected.
Mrs. Waples’ death had been caused by a single .38 caliber bullet fired into her mid-back, lodging in her chest;
the wound would have caused collapse in approximately five seconds and death in approximately five minutes.
Interestingly, the postmortem suggested a killer with a split criminal profile:
willing to hack off Mrs. Waples’ hands, presumably to steal her rings,
yet lacking the necessary fortitude to shoot a helpless old lady face-to-face.
Greedy and cowardly; what a way to go through life.

Mrs. Waples’ jewels were missing but detectives caught a lucky break; photos of her most recent acquisitions were available courtesy of a local retailer.
During the last four years of her life Mrs. Waples had purchased a staggering $70,000 ($500,000 in modern currency) worth of trinkets from Thalheimer’s, a business which retained reciepts—including photographs—of every transaction.
The Naples Police Department put out a nationwide BOLO for Mrs. Waples’ jewelry and nine months later the pieces began to surface in Rockford, Illinois, fifteen hundred miles away.
Diamonds, in this case, were a homicide investigation’s best friend.


Bad sleuthing to the back, stellar sleuthing to the front: with only a vague description of a wristwatch Rockford Police Officer Joe Shickles was able to blow the Waples case wide open.
A local jeweler phoned the station with a tip: a drunken man had attempted to sell a $2,000 timepiece,
an item which appeared inconsistent with his socioeconomic status.
Sensing shenanigans, the jeweler refused the sale;
although he neglected to ask the drunkard’s name he did remember the watch’s manufacturer: Girard.
It wasn’t much but it was all Officer Shickles needed.

Unable to find any locally-stolen Girard watches, Detective Shickles checked the nationwide BOLOs and discovered the Waples jewelry alert.
He then canvassed Rockford area jewelers with photos of Mrs. Waples’ purloined baubles,
eventually locating two of the missing items: a $10,000 diamond pendant and a multi-carat sapphire and ruby ring.
The pieces, according to the purchasers,
had been pawned by a visibly intoxicated man named John Masterson.
Masterson, when confronted by Officer Shickles, revealed he was selling the jewelry on behalf of Richard Lee Mitchell,
a paroled felon who had until recently resided in Naples.
The Waples case finally had a suspect.

Detectives from the Naples Police Department, as it turns out, had already interviewed Richard Lee Mitchell.
Mitchell, age thirty-four, had a lengthy history of violence including but not limited to:
armed robbery, home invasion, weapons violations, and aggravated assault of an eighty-seven-year old victim.
Shortly before the Waples slaying Mitchell had been paroled into the custody of his sister Dorothy Marlowe,
a Naples resident whose husband Larry was friendly with Mrs. Waples.
[Larry Marlowe and Mrs. Waples became acquainted at Naples Community Hospital while Dorothy was being revived post-suicide attempt, the Florida version of a (platonic) meet-cute story.]

Richard Lee Mitchell had surfaced on detectives’ radar early in the investigation because the patrolmen who spent Mrs. Waples’ final night playing door tag had recorded the license plate of a car parked near her home;
the vehicle was registered to Mitchell’s sister Dorothy Marlowe.
Dorothy reported the car had been in her brother’s possession the night of the murder but Mitchell denied being present on Murex Drive.
This denial—despite the verified presence of the car near the scene—was apparently sufficient for Naples detectives.

Richard Lee Mitchell was arrested in Rockford on March 11th, 1974 and fought extradition to Florida vigorously but to no avail; his trial began on May 6th, 1975.
Ironically, this was not the first high-profile Florida murder trial to feature Mrs. Waples’ involvement:
eight years earlier, in 1967, Mrs. Waples—described as a “a tall, portly blonde”—made a cameo appearance at the trial of Carl Coppolino, a surgeon accused of murdering his wife.
As F. Lee Bailey, counsel for the defense, recounts in his his 2008 book When the Husband is the Suspect:

“[W]e had one candidate who was bound and determined to be on the jury. She announced herself as ‘Mrs. Waples from Naples,’ and went on to recount that her recently deceased husband had relied heavily on her advice throughout his years of legal practice. She opined that she could be an excellent juror. The courtroom was all a-chuckle as she carried on.”

Say what you will about Mrs. Waples’ sanity but she always brought the party with her.

I’m guessing Mrs. Waples would say “murder”

The case against Richard Mitchell, also known as “Butch,” was not a slam dunk.
The murder weapon remained missing and—thanks to the bungled crime scene investigation—no hair or fingerprints tied Mitchell or anyone else directly to the slaying.
In the 1970s, however, testimonial evidence was paramount and Mitchell’s admissions and incriminating statements were plentiful, according to witnesses:

    • Chester Treadwell, a longtime friend, claimed Mitchell bragged about “popping a cap in an old broad in Florida,” more specifically “a lady in Naples”
    • Dale Kelley (or “Kelly,” depending on the source) testified Mitchell admitted “taking care of a woman” in Florida by shooting her in the back, then severing her hands to steal her (unbudgeable) rings
    • Alcoholic beverage enthusiast John Masterson said Mitchell had paid him $25 per piece to sell Mrs. Waples’ jewelry (demonstrating Mitchell knew the jewelry was connected to a crime)

And Eugène Vidocq wept

In the 1970s jurors were not expecting a CSI moment. Mitchell met Mrs. Waples through his sister and observed her great wealth.
He purportedly confessed (on two separate occasions) to killing a woman in Florida.
A car under his alleged control was present at the time and place of the homicide, and he had possession of Mrs. Waples’ jewelry after her death.
Despite the absence of forensic evidence the trial outcome was looking grim for Richard Lee Mitchell,
but there was a bombshell revelation in store . . . and it wasn’t hidden up Mrs. Waples’ sleeve.

It was hidden up her skirt. Mrs. Waples, Medical Examiner Heinrich Schmid testified, was intersex.
You might ask, I suppose, what the existence of Mrs. Waples’ undescended testes, invisible to the naked eye, had to do with her murder?
She was shot in the back in the sanctity of her home; a crotchful of alien tentacles or snappish vagina dentata would not change the facts of the case.
But let’s not be coy.
This revelation was intended to dehumanize Mrs. Waples, to imply she was a freak of nature who, by daring to exist as God made her, got what she deserved.
Predictably, the tactic worked; after one hour and forty minutes of deliberation the jury acquitted Butch Mitchell of homicide.

Richard Lee Mitchell did not live happily ever after. Convicted at a separate trial for transporting Mrs. Waples’ stolen jewelry across state lines, he received a ten-year sentence.
Upon his release he continued to flout the terms of his parole,
eventually receiving thirty-three years as habitual offender.
Mitchell, age forty-nine, slithered off this mortal coil in 1991, now subject to celestial courts impervious to double jeopardy protections.
The venue will be hot, the punishment will be excruciating, and, God willing, this time there will be no possibility of parole.

“[Mrs. Waples] lived her life the way she apparently wanted to without regard for gossip or what people thought of her.” Unnamed acquaintance, Naples Daily News, July 29th, 1973

The story of her murder has a depressing ending but the story of her life does not.
Mrs. Waples left her entire million-dollar estate—not to an African-American family with six kids—but to an assortment of charities for orphaned and abused children.
She had a flair for the dramatic, amazing jewelry, and her generosity at death made the world a better place.
She kowtowed to no one.
Rest in power, Mrs. Waples; and may your missing hands, should they ever be located, look exactly like this:

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

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

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

William Sproat and Mary Petry

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

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

Murder House by Day

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

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

Murder House by Night

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Living Color

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

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

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

Circa 1955

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

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

circa 2000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Selbys

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

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

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

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

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

The last thing you see before you die

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

Glenrose Hospital, cuckoo’s eye view

Cindy Weber was a runner.

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

118th Street, Edmonton

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

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

Luck is relative.

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

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

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

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

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

Chez Lunsford

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

An unlikely badass but a badass nonetheless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The French Broad River, surprisingly narrow

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

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

Forever linked, in a perfect world at least

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

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

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

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

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

A 1978 Oldsmobile station wagon, chariot of the gods

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

Text excerpt from Roy Lee Fox’s confession:

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

View from Buzzard Rock, present day

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

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

Prepping for the river search

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

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

River Search II, French Broad Boogaloo

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

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