The Unsolved Murder of Lacey Gaines

In the crazy world of life, you can be a good person but that doesn’t mean you’re invulnerable to the evil that lurks around the corner. Sometimes, the relationships you have, whether with friends or a significant other, can be toxic. Their bad habits can seep into your life and before you know it you’re inadvertently mixed up in unsavory things that you never even fathomed was possible. For Lacey Gaines, she understood what virulent she was involved with and was seeking help, but the assistance didn’t arrive soon enough.

Lacey GainesLacey Gaines was a 20-year-old mother of one living in Justice, Illinois. Most of her life was spent in Crete, Illinois — a small village in the south suburbs of Chicago known for its downtown views and Dixie Highway. For three years, she attended high school at Illinois Trinity Lutheran Day before transferring to Grant Park High during her senior year. People who knew her best described her as loyal and intelligent. She could speak fluent Spanish and always had an eagerness to expand her knowledge.

Things took an unexpected turn when at 16-years-old, she met Daniel Rogelio Sanchez,  who was in his twenties. They began dating, much to the disapproval of friends and family, and Lacey soon became pregnant. The relationship wasn’t that great, as Daniel would try to be possessive and control her — often becoming jealous of other male friends she would speak to at school. Not letting the circumstances dampen her future, she began inserting her independence by tackling two restaurant jobs at “Vic’s on Main” in Crete and “Maxwell’s in Beecher, Illinois, that overlapped one another between 2005-2008 in order to provide for the upcoming baby.

The entire 2008 year was emotional but eventful for Lacey, however. Despite theLacey and Son hardships of relocating to a new school and becoming pregnant, she graduated with ease and gave birth to a baby boy, Conor Alvardo. After graduation, Lacey’s parents, Jeffrey and Gilda Gaines, purchased a home in a safe community for her. While living there with Daniel, she was supporting the family by taking up a full-time position as a waitress at Kingsberry Waffle House in Flossmoor.

Lacey’s relationship with Daniel quickly began to deteriorating exponentially. He became very physically and mentally abusive, and co-workers noticed she would arrive to work with bruises all over her arms. After seeking guidance out of fear for her safety, and confining to her aunt, Cherry Simpson, Lacey terminated the relationship, though the troubles wouldn’t end there.

After the break-up, a custody battle ensued, which only made things more stressful for Lacey. Nonetheless, she tried to remain positive and took steps to improve her future. She eventually moved out of the home her family purchased and took up residence at Sunset Lake Apartments to start anew. Her parents weren’t fond of this decision because the area was riddled with crime and drugs, but she assured them everything would be okay.

Sunset Lakes Apartments Justice Illinois
While adjusting to her new living arrangments, she met Juan Valadez, whom her friends and family approved of. The two began living together, yet Daniel’s anger and jealousy seemed uncontrollable once he was aware of her lifestyle. Not wanting to let go of the past relationship, he continually began stalking her and would send harassment and death threats. His ever-increasing anger resulted in Lacey fearing for the safety of her and her son, and she sought more immediate help and options by contacting a social worker, but this didn’t little to prevent Daniel’s undaunting rage.

Everything changed six days after Lacey’s 20th birthday. On the bitterly cold evening of Monday, December 7, 2009, Lacey had a doctor’s appointment at 3:00 p.m. but had a peculiar feeling of foreboding. Thinking it would be less stressful and safer in general, she asked her grandmother if she could babysit Conor for a few hours, and she happily accepted the offer.

Lacey and Juan

A few hours later at 7:10 p.m. Lacey’s new boyfriend, Juan Valadez, arrived home accompanied by a female friend of the couple. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but as soon as the two walked inside the apartment they discovered a ghastly scene. Lacey was found lifeless, with blood all over the floor.

Juan immediately dialed 911, but he couldn’t speak English, so his female friend had to assist in the frantic conversation. The police, medical dispatcher, and ambulance soon arrived at the crime scene and Lacey was rushed to the Advocate Christ Memorial Hospital in Oak Lawn, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

An autopsy was soon performed and it was determined that Lacey had been strangled with an electrical cord, but a knife wound that caused a 4-inch gash on the left side of her neck was what ultimately killed her. According to the medical examiner, the murderer is right-handed and approximately the same height as Lacey. Moreover, it was also concluded that there were no signs of sexual assault or defensive wounds, which provided intriguing evidence for law enforcement.

Back at the apartment building, the police sealed off the area to conduct an examination of the crime scene. Their investigation showed that there were no signs of forced entry and no property had been stolen, leading law enforcement to believe Lacey knew her killer personally. While scouring the rooms for evidence, they managed to retrieve several important items, including a kitchen knife with a 10-inch blade that was later confirmed to be the murder weapon.

Though the police considered Lacey’s case to be an isolated incident, residents were distraught and rumors began circulating. Compelling information started coming in from those in the building claiming several maintenance men working in the complex were known to be pedophilic and Peeping Tom’s. With the latest tragedy, those rumors blossomed into fear, and families were afraid to let their children roam outside and people began walking together in groups for safety precaution. The police did what they could to assure the residents that they had no reason to fear a mad killer was on the loose, but that did little to stop the worrying.

With the belief that Lacey’s murder was personal, Police Chief Robert Gedville and over 30 detectives from the Southwest Major Crimes Task began probing her history. They rounded up friends, family, and prior boyfriends to piece together information that may lead to a potential suspect. That’s when more pertinent information came to light regarding Lacey’s ex-boyfriend, Daniel. He was considered the prime suspect in the case, yet after hours of interviews and interrogations, he was ruled out as a suspect.

Nearly one year later, hardly any new pivotal information was trickling in despite the detectives working tirelessly. Lacey’s case soon turned relatively cold. Potential suspects were unearthed, including some of the rumored maintenance men from her apartment complex, but they and all people from her past that might have had some form of motivation to commit such an audacious crime were ruled out.

About two weeks before the first anniversary of Lacey’s tragic murder, friends andLacey Gaines family held a candlelight vigil on Saturday, December 4, 2010, where the passed out flyers and brochures to keep her unsolved case in the spotlight. Despite the blistering cold weather, many people showed up to pay their respects and show support, and Lacey’s brother closed off the evening by gathering everyone together and saying a prayer.

It has now been nearly ten years and as of 2018, the case remains unsolved with no progress being made aside from Lacey’s case being uploaded to the Unsolved Mysteries website on July 21, 2014. Tips and leads have run dry, and family members feel as if law enforcement has completely disregarded her case. Nevertheless, Lacey’s family still strives for justice and continues to make sure she’s not forgotten in the eyes of Justice, Illinois. They believe as long as they continue to keep her case burning bright amongst the public they have the optimism to see this case resolved. They haven’t given up hope despite all the difficulties the years have been since the unjust murder, but just as Lacey is so often described, they remain loyal to see through the darkness to the very end.

Side note: This particular case doesn’t have much information surrounding it, yet I felt it deserved coverage nonetheless. To be honest, it was much more difficult to write about than any long-form articles I’ve done in the past, primarily because of the lack of information. I’m sure there is more information that isn’t detailed online, and I’d be very interested to learn what kind of DNA evidence — if any — law enforcement has. However, covering more under-the-radar and obscure cases is something I want to continue doing more often, because they deserve limelight as well, and the more people know about a case, the more it could ramp up with potential new evidence. The more eyes and ears, the better.

Sources

Cold No More Blog

Project Cold Case

Lacey Gaines – Find a Grave

Cherry Simpson’s Heartfelt Message

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The Unsolved Delphi, Indiana Murders of Abigail Williams and Liberty German

In the society we live in today, with cell phones, social media, and forensic science growing exponentially, it’s hard to fathom crimes going unsolved. What’s even more difficult to comprehend is when all of those things are combined in one mystery and answers are still unable to be produced. So when two young girls go hiking on a canceled school day and record their adventure on Snapchat, nobody expected the devastating turn of events, but people were hopeful the case would be solved quickly. It’s now been over a year and the case remains unsolved. This is the disappearance and murder of 13-year-old Abigail Williams and 14-year-old Liberty German.

Abigail Williams and Liberty German

Abigail Williams and Liberty German were two best friends in the 8th grade at Delphi Community Middle School in Delphi, Indiana — a small Midwestern town consisting of fewer than 3,000 residents, known for its blue-collared workers, avid hunters and fishers, and the annual Delphi Bacon Festival.

Abigail Williams FishingThey gravitated to each other from a young age because of similar interests and were practically inseparable ever since. Like the community around them, they thoroughly enjoyed spending their days experiencing nature by hiking, fishing, camping, and riding ATVs. Sports also played a big role in their lives. Abigail loved volleyball and had been on the school team for the last three years. Liberty had a passion for softball and loved playing the first-base position. Seeing her friend’s desire for the game, Abigail naturally took interest and Liberty convinced her to join the school team for its upcoming season.

Though the teenagers were keen on spending their days outside, they also found enthusiasm in other curricular activities. Both girls dabbled in music–playing the alto saxophone in the school band. They also relished in creativity by showing an interest in arts, crafts, and painting. Abigail often knitted hats for babies at the local hospital and Liberty would bake cookies for the family and leave behind sticky notes that offered words of love and encouragement to those she cherished deeply in her life.

Abigail and Liberty’s future was bright and their maturity was far beyond their years. Even at 14-years-old, Liberty already displayed strong ambitions to become a science teacher in her future endeavors, because she wanted to solve crimes. Friends and family knew that whichever path they chose in life they would have been successful, but everything changed on February 13, 2017, and the community where everybody knew each other suddenly turned into a catatonic state of horror and untrustworthiness and it hasn’t been the same since.

On Sunday, February 12, 2017, Abigail had a sleepover at Liberty’s home, who was in the primary care of her grandparents, Mike and Becky Patty, knowing that school had been dismissed for Monday, February 13, 2017, because of an unused snow day. The two girls took complete advantage of the opportunity and spent their weekend laughing, painting, playing outside, and staying up late.

The following afternoon they conjured up a plan to go hiking at the Monon High Bridge — a common hangout spot for teenagers. Liberty’s grandmother Becky gave her consent but only if they were able to have a ride back home. Liberty’s older sister, Kelsi German, dropped the two off on her way to work at 1:30 p.m. and the girls arranged to be picked up by Liberty’s father, Derrick German, after running several errands that would take two hours.

Everything was seemingly going as planned. As many teenagers do, Liberty wanted to share their afternoon with social media and began recording their adventure at 2:07 p.m. on SnapChat and uploaded a picture of Abigail smiling as she crossed the abandoned Monon High Bridge. Their happiness and joy from the two best friends were evident but nobody could have predicted what would soon transpire.

Abigail Williams Bridge

At approximately 3:11 p.m. Derrick texted Liberty saying he was about to arrive and urged her and Abigail to meet him at the destination. Three minutes later he pulled into the parking area but the girls weren’t in view. He proceeded to text Liberty once more but he didn’t receive a reply. Knowing this was uncharacteristic, he went on to call her, but once more she never answered.

Worrying began to seep in and he decided to walk the trail to search for the girls. Fifteen minutes later without any luck, he called his mother, Becky, and alerted her to the situation unfolding. She responded by attempting contact with Liberty but after several failed attempts she called her husband at work. Mike immediately took time off to join Derrick, where they spent an hour combing the area but the sun started to dwindle down and they decided to contact the local authorities to report Abigail and Liberty missing.

The word traveled quickly as family members used social media to spread awareness. By 6:00 p.m. hundreds of concerned residents showed up beside the State Police, Carrol County Sheriff and Fire Department, and Natural Resources. During the search, an effort to contact and locate Liberty by calling her cell-phone provider and triangulating her position was made but sadly proved fruitless. The hours rolled on and despite large search groups consisting of drones and K-9 units, they were unable to battle the terrain in the darkness and by midnight they called off the search and would resume in the morning. To reassure the public, Carroll County Sherrif Toby Leazenby issued a statement saying there was “no reason to suspect foul play” at the time.

Family members were in distraught and unable to get any sleep as they wondered where their loved ones were. Once the sunrise emerged the search resumed, and the FBI, dive teams, friends and family, and volunteers scoured the dense woods and thickets. Shortly before noontime, everyone’s worst nightmares came to fruition, when a volunteer searcher stumbled upon the bodies of two young girls near Deer Creek; a half-mile away from the Monon High Bridge.

The bodies were transported to the coroner in Terre Haute, Indiana, for an autopsy. Sgt. Kim Riley of the Indiana State Police and Delphi’s Police Chief Steve Mullins provided a statement to the media saying, “Based on the way the bodies were found, foul play is suspected.” They didn’t publicly identify the victims or release how they were murdered but the community knew, and the hearts of family members collapsed. The rest of the day was spent in utter disbelief, and Delphi’s Community School Superintendent Gregory Briles canceled all related school activities for the week.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 15, 2017, Indiana State Police and the Carrol County Sherrif’s Department held a press conference. They officially confirmed the two bodies recovered were Abigail Williams and Liberty German, and that a homicide investigation was underway. In addition to the announcement, a photograph was released of an unidentified male walking across the Monon High Bridge at approximately the same time as the two girls. They didn’t classify him as a suspect but asked if he would come forward to conduct an interview.

As family members were arranging funeral plans, the community of Delphi rallied together to help support the cost. A benefit fundraiser was held on Saturday, February 18, 2017, throughout the town by numerous local businesses, where all proceeds went to the families. Later that evening, visitations for Abigail and Liberty were held at the Delphi High School between 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. The support was so enormous and overwhelming that they had to extend the time to 10:30 p.m. as people paid their respects, said goodbye and released hundreds of lanterns into the sky to paint a beautiful portrait to honor the girls’ memory.

On Sunday, February 19, 2017, Indiana State Police officially declared the unidentified male in the released photograph was the prime suspect in the case. The picture had been captured by Liberty German as she was recording Abigail during the hike. Three days later on Wednesday, February 22, 2017, another vital piece of evidence was made known when the police unveiled a snippet of audio of a male saying “Down the hill” that was recorded from Liberty’s phone.

The police said they are looking for a middle-aged caucasian male between 5’6-‘510 inDelphi Suspect height, roughly 180-200 pounds, and possibly reddish-brown hair. He’s wearing a blue windbreaker or coat, denim blue jeans, brown shoes or boots, and a brown undergarment that may be clothing or a fanny pack. Indiana State Police went on to say more evidence was obtained from the crime scene but did not elaborate in order to not hinder the potential of a future trial. They also proclaimed Liberty as a hero for having the presence of mind to record the suspect amidst a terrifying encounter.

Over the course of several days, a Delphi Murder Tip Line service was soon orchestrated. The phone calls would be answered by the FBI’s Major Case Contract Center in Washington, D.C. Likewise, a nationwide campaign was launched to provide over 6,000 electronic billboards with information pertaining to Abigail and Liberty’s case across 46 states with the hope to garnish new tips and leads in the case.

Abby and Anna WilliamsOn the second weekend of the murders, Carrie Timmons created a beautiful movement called “Light up Delphi,” where she urged the town to install orange porch lights as a tribute to Abigail and Liberty. It wasn’t too long after that many businesses throughout Delphi were sold out because the bulbs were selling at such a rapid pace. Afterward, the two girls were laid to rest at Loof Memorial Gardens in Pittsburgh, Indiana.

In the following week, the family members of Abigail and Liberty were met with even more generous support, when over $200,000 was raised in fundraisers, benefits, and donations from Indianapolis Colts team owner Jim Irsay and former punter but now comedian Pat McAfee. Additionally, Abigail’s grandparents, Diane and Eric Erskin of Delphi, were given a tour of the new headquarters where the investigation was being conducted. They felt so grateful for their determination to help bring justice and closure that they left behind a message that read:

“Where are the police when you need them? I have uttered those words whenever a speeding or reckless driver nearly runs me or someone else off the road. Where are the police when you need them? They are here, in Delphi, with us. We pray for your protection, and we are forever grateful for your service.”

By Friday, March 16, 2017, Indiana State Police Sgt. Tony Slocum said over twelve search warrants had been issued in relation to the Delphi Murders investigation, with the latest being executed by State and Federal police at the property of 77-year-old Ronald Logan, where Abigail and Liberty were found positioned down a steep incline behind his residence. The police made it apparent that he was not considered a suspect and told the public to not jump to conclusions because the search warrant was simply a normal routine part of the investigation.

Nonetheless, the media immediately began swarming the authorities with questions and tried digging up information on Logan. It was soon discovered that he had been on probation for operating a vehicle while intoxicated in 2014. Due to the severity of his conviction, he wasn’t supposed to be driving but on the day of Abigail and Liberty’s disappearance, he violated his parole to drive to the county dump site. In the subsequent hours, he was reported at a bar drinking alcohol. As a result of violating his parole, he was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison but his judgment was later lowered to him serving home detention and being monitored by a GPS system.

After the debacle, the investigation went relatively stagnant, but the police remained adamant the case hadn’t gone cold. The heartache only deepened when friends and family were unable to celebrate what should have been Abigail’s 14th birthday on June 23.

On July 17, 2017, a composite sketch of the grainy photograph captured by Liberty Delphi Murder Composite SketchGerman was released by law enforcement. Their goal was to generate more awareness to the public, and hundreds of new tips and leads emerged from the effort. However, Indiana State Police had to reprimand the public on being “armchair sleuthing” because many Facebook users were posting side-by-side comparisons of innocent people to the newly released composite sketch.

Despite new information being called in ample amounts ever since the new sketch, it wasn’t until September 2017 when law enforcement thought they had finally caught the big break they needed. Indiana State Police received a call from El Paso County Police in Colorado saying they had apprehended 31-year-old Daniel Nations and he seemed to be a viable suspect in the Delphi Murders.

Daniel NationsDaniel Nations had connections to Indiana and was living a very troubled and criminal lifestyle. At the age of seventeen, he witnessed his mother Rebecca Smith get stabbed to death by his uncle, who subsequently discarded her body in the woods and covered her up with leaves, sticks, and shrubbery. This had a profound impact on Nations, though he was already menacing. From that point forward, he would hardly hold down a stable job and would continue dabbling in all manners of illegal activity.

In 2007, he had been arrested in Beaufort, South Carolina for indecent exposure and had to register as a violent sexual offender. Thereafter, he had difficulty finding a respectable job and in 2015 more criminal activity started fluctuating heavily. Between March to December, Nations would be arrested throughout several areas in Indiana, such as Greenwood and Bartholomew County. His charges ranged from possession of marijuana, driving with a suspended license, failure to appear in court, pleasuring himself in a woman’s restroom in a Rickers Gas Station, and domestic battery on his wife, Katelyn Nations, that resulted in breaking her nose.

Starting in February 2017, things were quieting down for Nations, but he was still residing in Indiana and was frequently checking in with law enforcement per requirement as a registered sex offender. He was arrested in Martinsville, Indiana on February 24 and spent four days in jail after failing to appear in court. In April 2017, he took up residence at a motel in Greenwood, Indiana, and was arrested shortly thereafter on the suspicion of possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. On May 12, he checked out of the motel, and a warrant was issued for his arrest when he once again failed to appear in court on July 19, 2017.

In late August 2017, several reports were called into the El Paso County Sherrif’s Office claiming a man driving a red Chevrolet compact Sedan with Indiana license plates was threatening people with a hatchet on a Monument hiking trail in Woodland Park. An immediate search began, but the man was unable to be found.

One month later, police in Teller County, Colorado pulled over a man because of a broken taillight. The officers noted the vehicle matched descriptions provided by eyewitnesses from a month earlier. They discovered the male to be Daniel Nations. Inside of his vehicle was a hatchet and a .22 caliber rifle, and he was officially arrested on September 28, 2017. The following afternoon, the El Paso County Sherrif’s Office notified Indiana State Police about the suspect and detectives traveled to Colorado to conduct a weekend-long interview and investigation, but to the dismay of many, they announced on October 3rd that they “can’t specifically include or exclude Daniel Nations as a suspect in the Delphi homicides.”

The latter part of October was difficult for the town of Delphi. Halloween was approaching and the community was still on edge, with residents hesitant on letting their children roam the streets for candy. Family members of Abigail and Liberty were heartbroken knowing they weren’t able to experience their daughters expressing their creativity with their costume designs as they so often did. November was hard to battle as well when Thanksgiving seeped in. The presence of Abigail and Liberty’s laughter echoing throughout the home could no longer be heard, and the cookies Liberty would always bake for the family was now absent. Nevertheless, both families pushed through together as a strong family unit and did their best to keep their spirits shining brightly.

On December 13, 2017 — the 10-month anniversary of Abigail and Liberty’s disappearance and murder — family members and Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter appeared on Dr. Phil’s television show to keep the case remained in the spotlight. After the broadcast, the case hit a major spike in awareness and over 270 new leads were called in that police are actively following up on. A few weeks later on December 27, Liberty German would have turned 15-years-old, and all the family wanted for her birthday and Christmas was closure, but to no avail.

Dr Phil Delphi

It’s now 2018, and the case remains unsolved. In January, Daniel Nations was sentenced to three years probation for his harassment in Colorado, and in February the Indiana State Police announced he was no longer considered a person of interest in the Delphi murders.

Abigail Williams’ 15th birthday is soon approaching, and the pain and turmoil haven’t lessened. Both families are doing their best to keep Abigail and Liberty’s hopes, dreams, and spirits alive in the hearts of residents in Delphi, Indiana. A $1million sports complex is being constructed in their memory and will be consisting of three baseball fields, batting cages, an amphitheater, and a plaque to commemorate their lives. Even to this day, orange light bulbs can be seen lighting up homes and streets and it continues to be a reminder that just because the girls are gone, they aren’t forgotten. The community has rallied together; friendships have developed tighter; bonds are becoming stronger; generosity is spreading wider, and love is growing deeper.

The Unsolved Disappearance of Andrew Gosden

When people disappear without a trace of their own accord, the aftermath causes friends and family to question everything, and even blame themselves for the circumstances. They replay old memories and conversations in their head wondering if something they said or did was the reason why their loved one decided to vanish. Those questions begin to seep into every facet of their lives as the answers may forever be lingering over them as a dark cloud without any sunlight in sight. The story of Andrew Gosden’s unsolved disappearance is an example of such pain and heartache.

Andrew Gosden 1

Andrew Gosden was born on July 10, 1993, to his parents, Kevin and Glenys Gosden, who both worked as speech therapists in Balby — a suburb of Doncaster, South Yorkshire, England. He grew up with his older sister by two years, Charlotte Gosden, and the two were both very intelligent. As a teenager, Andrew attended McAuley Catholic High School with a 100% attendance record and had a knack for mathematics. He was in the top 5% in the government’s Young, Gifted, and Talented Programme for high-achieving students and was predicted to score straight A’s on the GSCE’s.

The future was bright for Andrew, but he was still an ordinary teenager who didn’t mind isolating himself in his bedroom to play video games and read science fiction and fantasy books such as Lord of the Rings and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. He also enjoyed collecting rocks and gems and listening to heavy metal music. If you walked into his bedroom you would immediately be met with posters of his favorite bands plastered all over the walls, such as Slipknot, Marylin Manson, Muse, and Funeral for a Friend. As for hobbies away from home, he loved visiting museums and exhibitions to enrich his knowledge and gain a better understanding of the history of a time that once was.

On Friday, September 14, 2007, the normal lives of the Gosden family changed drastically in ways that were never even fathomable beforehand. Initially, the day began as typical as could be. It was only eight days into the new school term when 14-year-old Andrew woke up for school, put on his McAuley Catholic High uniform, and told his family bye as he walked out the door of his Littlemoor Lane home and to the school bus, as he so often did.

However, he seemingly made an unexpected detour with unclear motives. Rather than attending school, he chose to stay behind and wait for his sister and parents to leave home. After their departure, he returned home, changed his clothes into a black Slipknot t-shirt and black jeans, grabbed his wallet, keys, PSP without the charger, and shoulder bag and walked out the door to the nearest ATM and withdrew €200.00 from his bank account. Thereafter, he made his way to Doncaster train station and purchased a one-way ticket at 9:30 a.m. to Kings Cross, London, roughly two hours away. The ticket seller advised him he could purchase a return ticket for 50p but he declined the offer for unbeknownst reasons. At 11:20 a.m. CCTV footage captured Andrew arriving at his destination without a problem, but his whereabouts afterward is unknown and he has never been seen since.

Andrew Gosden CCTV 1

Andrew’s family hadn’t any inkling that he had skipped school for the day until later that evening. When Andrew got home from school he would typically go to his bedroom or the converted cellar to play video games, so it wasn’t a surprise when Kevin and Glenys didn’t see their son after they arrived home from work. It wasn’t until 7:00 p.m. when Glenys called out for Andrew and Charlotte to eat dinner when the discovery was made. When Andrew never emerged from the bedroom or cellar, Glenys went looking for him, but could only find his school blazer and tie draped neatly over the back of his chair and his shirt and trousers in the washing machine.

The family immediately knew something was wrong because Andrew was considered a “home bird” and always mentioned where he was going when he decided to leave home. Phone calls were made to friends in the area but nobody had seen him. They proceeded to call his school and was alarmed by the news that he never attended any classes for the day. It was learned that the school tried making contact with his parents when he didn’t arrive at his morning class, but they dialed the wrong phone number so nobody was alerted to the situation.

Unaware if Andrew left on his own free will or was abducted on his way to school, they believed if he did go anywhere on his own accord it would be in London, particularly in Chislehurst and Sidcup where he often visited his distant relatives during the holidays. Praying for a miracle, they contacted his aunts and grandparents in the area but it turned out to be fruitless, so their last option was to notify the South Yorkshire Police, where an immediate search began.

Over the course of several days, hardly any answers were unraveled. The Gosden family made sure to keep their son’s disappearance in the public eye by distributing missing person flyers throughout town and the Doncaster train station. As a result, eyewitnesses started coming forward sharing alleged sightings.

One credible testimony came from an adult woman who claimed to see Andrew at a Pizza Hut on Oxford Street in Convent Garden on the day he vanished. She reported the information to the police but it was later discovered they waited until six weeks to follow up on the report. Another witness was the individual who sold Andrew his ticket to Kings Cross. He told the family he was by himself and purchased a one-way ticket, but refused to buy a return ticket at a cheap price.

Now that a solid lead was uncovered, the family began feeling much more hopeful, but the police neglected to browse the CCTV footage until 27-days later, where the video captured Andrew getting off the train station. The amount of time that passed by before looking through the footage angered the family because most of the film had been deleted by the time it was viewed. Kevin Gosden went on to criticize the South Yorkshire Police’s ineptitude by saying, “The handling of the investigation was too slow, too chaotic, and disorganized.”

Andrew Gosden Mom and Dad

As days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, and months into a year, the impact of Andrew’s disappearance began to be unbearable for Kevin as a lack of answers were churning in. He quit his job as a speech therapist because he couldn’t keep his thoughts straight. Depression started to overwhelm him to the point he attempted to commit suicide, and he subsequently spent fifteen weeks in a psychiatric hospital. Glenys, on the other hand, found working and keeping busy helped her maintain a level of normalcy as she continued to pursue answers to Andrew’s whereabouts.

In October 2008, the charity “Missing People” helped the Gosden family in many facets — even going as far as having Andrew’s photograph printed on milk cartons that were sold by the Iceland supermarket, hoping the 100,000 cartons sold a day would generate more awareness and leads.

One month later in November 2008, an unidentified male visited the Leominster Police Station located in Herefordshire in the late evening hours using the outside intercom claiming to have information on Andrew Gosden. By the time an officer came to the front of the station the man had disappeared and never resurfaced.

Andrew Gosden Agre Progression 18-19 Years OldThe following year on Andrew’s 16th birthday, Kevin and Glenys released a statement to the press urging the public to keep searching. On the anniversary of his disappearance that September, computer-generated age-progression sketches created by experts for a television program centered on missing people were released.

In October 2009, one of Andrew’s favorite bands, Muse, was hosting a concert at the Sheffield Arena. Kevin had taken Andrew and Charlotte to see them play on their last tour in 2006 and it was a fond memory for them all. Hoping to bring out positive memories, family and friends stood outside passing out over 10,000 leaflets about Andrew, hoping to continue spreading public awareness; and Muse themselves got involved by offering free tickets to Andrew if he decided to come forward. Despite an admirable effort by combined resources, nothing pivotal came from the new push for information and the case turned cold.

By May 2011, hope began to dwindle due to a lack of progress. Kevin started believing Andrew passed away and hired a private company to perform a sonar scan of the River Thames — hoping answers would be unearthed even if they weren’t the ones he desired. After a thorough sweep had been conducted a body was discovered but it did not belong to Andrew. The latest results provided mixed emotions; it was a sigh of relief knowing that Andrew hadn’t been in the river, but on the other hand, it was painful because a resolution wasn’t able to be provided. Kevin described life during the four-years of Andrew being gone as a “never-ending limbo of just thinking, ‘Why did you go?’.”

On what would have been Andrew’s 18th birthday, Barry Ford, a businessman from Kent, offered up his sports car to anyone that would provide information that would lead to answers to Andrew’s whereabouts. Though nothing was able to be gleaned from this opportunity, the rallying and support from a friend gave Kevin gratitude and strength to keep carrying on the good fight.

In 2014, the television program “Panorama” on BBC One, an investigative journalism television show that focuses on current affairs, featured Andrew’s parents, hoping new leads would be phoned in after the broadcast. They made it aware that Andrew would be 23-years-old by then and prayed he would watch the program and reach out, but they also told the media, “I think it’s unlikely he will make contact but we still have hope.”

Two years later, Andrew’s case was still remaining strong in the public. A charity event for families of missing children was held on May 25, 2016, and many celebrity musicians collaborated together to unveil a new [single] song to further help fund researching for those who are missing. The song was titled “I Hope,” which was inspired by a poem Kevin had written about his son in 2013.

The following year in 2017 the South Yorkshire Police launched a fresh appeal urging anyone to come forward even if they believe the information they have may seem insignificant. On the anniversary of Andrew’s disappearance, Kevin held a vigil at the Doncaster train station to honor his son’s memory by remaining silent for ten hours — one hour for each year his son has been missing.

It’s now 2018 and Andrew’s disappearance is still as relevant as it was in 2007. Online web sleuths have made it their mission to seek answers and to keep the hope alive, and forums and blogs can be found to show such dedication.

Andrew Gosden

As for the Gosden family, they remain diligent. The journey has been rough, however, especially for Kevin. He recalls memories of being energetic and enthusiastic to take his children on adventures — taking them out on the speedboat; swimming under the summer night stars; teaching them how to snorkel, and even going paragliding. Now, his energy has since depleted and is plagued by post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, and still battling suicidal thoughts. He presses onward though, with the support of his wife Glenys and daughter Charlotte, who is trying to be the best family they can while keeping Andrew a part of it in order to keep his spirit alive. They continue to deposit money into his bank account, and they haven’t remodeled his bedroom or changed the locks on the doors, hoping one day he will open the door to come back home.

The Unsolved Murder of Gary Grant Jr.

Children are the epitome of innocence. As parents, we strive to see the smile on their faces and to enjoy life with a creative imagination before having to face the realities of adulthood. When horrible crimes are committed against such purity people are often left wondering how and why. There are times when those questions get answered; other times a resolution doesn’t occur. In other instances justice is in view but the lack of evidence isn’t adequate enough to provide closure.

Gary Grant JrGary Grant Jr. was born on March 8, 1978, to his parents May and Gary Grant Snr. He was the youngest of two other siblings, Michele and Dawn Grant. The family was living in a middle-class neighborhood in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where Gary Snr. worked strenuous hours as a local police detective, in a city where casino gambling had recently been legalized but was an anecdote for many illegal crimes at the forefront. When Gary Jr. was seven-years-old his parents divorced but the separation didn’t come between raising their children and being actively involved in their lives.

On the morning of Thursday, January 12, 1984, nothing was out of the ordinary. Gary Jr. and other students from Our Lady Star of the Sea were home from school because of a Parent-Teacher conference. As such, Gary was excited and told his mother that he had an appointment at 2:30 p.m. May questioned him about what he meant but he insisted that it was a secret. Though she thought it was strange, she considered it innocuous — thinking he was going to meet up with friends or had a playdate with a girl he liked who lived in the vicinity. Around noontime, Gary left his home on the 2500 block of Arctic Avenue to play with friends, and May instructed him to be home by 4:00 p.m. for dinner.

At approximately 4:00 p.m. Gary Jr. failed to arrive home. May wasn’t overly worried because she knew kids would be kids, so she allowed leeway with his absence. One hour passed by without his emergence and panic was starting to seep in, knowing this type of behavior was uncharacteristic. May put on her coat and went to the homes of two friends in the area. They both claimed they had been playing with Gary but they parted ways to go home at 4:30 p.m.

The information provided a moment of relief — hoping by the time she got back home Gary Grant Jr and Dad Gary would be there awaiting her return, but that wasn’t the outcome. May continued searching relentlessly but after another hour without any results, she called her [ex] husband, Gary Grant Snr. and informed him of the situation.

An immediate search was conducted, with alleyways, abandoned buildings, the boardwalk, and arcades being scoured but the efforts proved fruitless. By 2:00 a.m. an official investigation began. Nearly the entire police department was searching for Gary Jr. but his father wasn’t allowed to participate in the case due to regulatory guidelines. Nevertheless, those directives weren’t enough to deter him from independently going door-to-door passing out photographs of Gary Jr. and asking residents in the neighborhood if they had witnessed anything.

One witness named Robert Hughey — New Jersey’s Commissioner of Environmental Protection who owned a warehouse two blocks away from where Gary Jr. lived — stated shortly after 4:30 p.m. he was heading home and saw Gary Jr. walking near the warehouse in the direction back to his residence. He didn’t consider it strange, as children often roamed the area because a local park was nearby.

Two days later on Saturday, January 14, Hughey went to his warehouse to search the premises. It was 3:30 p.m. when he stumbled upon a ghastly scene. The deceased body of Gary Jr. was uncovered in an abandoned lot of land near the storehouse. He had been bludgeoned to death with a metal pipe lying near his body and a rug was draped over him.

Gary Grant Jr Murder Weapon

The police were immediately notified — whom many were still searching for the boy. Gary Snr. was also still pursuing answers as to his son’s whereabouts and was driving down California Avenue to his [ex] wife’s home when he saw a swarm of police vehicles and officers looking in distraught at the crime scene. He immediately knew from their body language that his seven-year-old son was found. As he approached the scene his worst nightmare came to fruition.

Detective Jim Barber and other investigators went on to interview over 500 people hoping to obtain credible witnesses and information that would help solve the atrocious Carl Masonmurder of Gary Grant Jr. Several people came forward claiming to see him with one of his friends, Carl Mason; a twelve-year-old mentally challenged kid with an IQ of 65. Mason was often bullied and was given the nickname “Boo,” because he was considered to be the neighborhood “scardey-cat.” Days prior to Gary Jr’s. murder, Carl’s older brother was arrested on robbery charges and there were rumors circulating that he was recruiting younger children to perform burglaries for him.

With the testimonies of several witnesses, the investigators went to Mason’s home where he was living with his grandmother, to follow up on the recent developments. When asked if he was with Gary Jr. on the afternoon he disappeared he denied the allegations — saying he spent time with him on Wednesday at the Texas Avenue Park. Due to conflicting reports, the police asked him and his grandmother to go to the police station for further questioning.

Mason’s grandmother obliged and took him to the police station. When they arrived, the police separated them and the two weren’t consulted on acquiring a lawyer. The detectives spent three hours interrogating Carl. According to investigative journalist Rick Murray, he provided many inconsistent reports and had even confessed to murdering Gary Jr. with a metal pipe but retracted his statement, but from the perspective of the detectives, his intimate knowledge of the crime scene could only be known if he was a member of law enforcement or the murderer.

Shortly thereafter, the detectives typed up an admission of guilt for Carl and asked for his and his grandmother’s signature. The two were lead to believe signing the papers would allow them to go home, but instead, the forms allowed the detectives to apprehend and charge Carl Mason with the murder of Gary Jr. in an official compacity.

Carl was subsequently transferred to a juvenile detention center, and on the following afternoon on January 15, he was given a polygraph test that came back inconclusive. He was given another test three days later but the results were the same. Both tests indicated that he was innocent and had no involvement with Gary Jr’s. tragic murder. One month later, the Superior Court Judge John Himmelberger dropped all charges because of an illegal interrogation and his confession was not admissible in the court of law.

Gary Snr. and many other people believed Carl Mason was the perpetrator or at the very least had more knowledge than he proclaimed. He still did his best to track down answers by contacting the Prosecutor’s Office to speak with the Major Crimes unit but never received a reply. At one point he spoke with the Attorney General’s Office questioning the lack of movement in the case, and in response, he was taken off his son’s case.

With a lack of information churning in the case eventually turned cold, but two years later a chilling discovery was made on the driver’s side back door of a police-issued vehicle that read, “Gary Grant is dead. I am living. Another will die on 1/12/86 if all goes right.” The anonymous death threat was seemingly a hoax and after a thorough investigation was conducted the police were unable to locate the mysterious writer.

Gary Grant Jr Message

Three weeks later another peculiar message was found carved into a sidewalk saying, “Gary Grant Jr. lives. I still killed him. Son of a pig officer. Payback is a M.F.” The logical assumption amongst the police was that the murder of Gary Jr. was an act of retaliation from someone who had been previously arrested by Gary Snr. After combing through their database of prior convictions nobody who had been incarcerated seemed to warrant this type of extreme reaction.

Once more, the case went stagnant and leads ran dry. Years later, Gary Grant Snr. retired from the Atlantic Police Department and relocated to Puerto Rico. His undaunted resolve for solving his son’s murder was always present, however, telling the Press of Atlantic City, “My seven-year-old son has remained on my mind every waking moment of my life.”

With his retirement, his main goal was to find closure, and in 2016 he found two unbelievable clues while browsing through evidence boxes and converting old audio tapes into digital files. He discovered an audio clipping that he never heard before made to 911 on March 8, 1986 — what would have been Gary Jr’s. tenth birthday — and in the midst of the two spinetingling messages found weeks apart.

Transcript

Dispatcher: Police and Fire.

Caller: Is it possible for me to collect a reward on my own self for the murder of Gary Grant?

Dispatcher: Is it for you to collect the reward … for yourself?

Caller: Uh-huh.

Dispatcher: If you have … yeah, if you have information. What are you saying? That … I don’t know what you mean? Like, you know who did it? Something like that you mean?

Caller: No. How’s if I did it myself and I want to collect the whole reward.

Dispatcher: If you did it?

Caller: Yeah.

Dispatcher: Suppose I hook you into the detective bureau?

Caller: Mm, no, that’s okay.

Dispatcher: (Unclear).

Caller: (Unclear). It’s not a crank call. You’re never gonna catch me.

Dispatcher: You know what?

Caller: You’re never gonna catch me.

Dispatcher: You know what? Take your time. I didn’t hear you.

End Transcript

The other audio file was from a phone call placed on June 2, 1986. The caller remained incognito and said, “Because of his father. The cops know what he looks like,” but never elaborated further. Hoping to generate new leads, Gary Grant Snr. uploaded the soundbite to Facebook to see if anyone recognized the voice. He managed to obtain the name of the suspect and discovered he knew the individual because he lived in a neighborhood that he often patrolled, yet couldn’t recall having any issues with him. Interestingly enough, the caller was arrested in 2013 for child molestation against a five-year-old and was sentenced to prison. It has never been determined if he had involvement in the murder of Gary Grant Jr.

It’s now 2018 and the murder of Gary Grant Jr. remains unsolved. Gary Snr. still believes Carl Mason was the individual responsible for taking his son’s life but remains humble enough to consider the possibility he is innocent. To keep the spotlight on his son’s life, he created a Facebook page to honor his son’s memory and offer words of encouragement to others. As he continues to pursue justice and closure, his dedication is a beacon of light for others to never give up. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The EAR/ONS Case is Solved — I Want to Share a Heartfelt Message to Everyone

It has been an emotional week since the East Area Rapist/Original Night Stalker … wait, Joseph James DeAngelo was identified and caught. I’m still trying to process the fact that there are a name and a face to the moniker that has plagued California for over four decades. I can’t even begin to comprehend how survivors and family members are feeling right now, knowing the monster in the dark has been brought to light and there is no escape for him. There are no open windows; there are no glass sliding doors; there are no bicycles; there are only bars. With all of this happening, I want to share an honest message and confession of my own.

For the better part of two years, I became obsessed with this case. The story of it all enthralled me to the point where I absorbed every piece of information I could. When I discovered the EAR/ONS and Unresolved Mysteries subreddit, I knew it was a place where there was an active community that was equally consumed as I was.

To be honest, I was intimidated at first. There were so many knowledgeable people who knew the case backward and forward and I thought there was nothing I could do to contribute in a way that would be beneficial. Nonetheless, I proceeded to learn more and eventually expanded into sharing my thoughts, theories, opinions and creating a 12-part series on the case.

Within that timeframe, I met amazing people here and have developed friendships. I may not know your real names, but the fact that we speak regularly is a beautiful thing to me. Some of you have motivated me; gave me inspiration; pushed me to be better; made me want to be more credible and reliable; irritated me; tested my patience; and it was all for the best, because those traits I acquired seeped into my personal life and it helped me become a better person.

Over time, people considered me well-informed on the case and sought answers from me, even when I didn’t deserve that type of acknowledgment. When I was presented with that responsibility, I wanted to ignore it because I personally felt inadequate, but I finally accepted that role and strove to live up to those expectations.

Due to that level of accountability, I discovered my passion — writing (blogging) about true crime. That’s when I really started to have the genuine desire to not only discuss this case but to also bring more light to it. There were no ulterior motives; I simply wanted to spread awareness (I’m aware of how cliche that is). At one point I considered writing a book about the case, but I felt guilty for doing so. In fact, I felt rather ashamed that I made a “name for my self” here, because none of those things was my intention.

Nevertheless, some of these things were completely out of my control. I simply took things one day at a time and let life unfold as it may. Two years later, I am unbelievably thankful for each and every one of you. That’s not hyperbole. You all have changed my life in ways I never thought was possible, especially in terms of being an adult. To put it plainly, I grew up. In reality — away from the computer — those positive changes has flowed wonderfully and I became a better person; an individual that I thought was impossible to achieve. Thank you, for everything.

I now want to give an honest message about Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. himself. With him now under constraints, I can’t help but harken back to two statements he once made. First was a phone call to the police when he professed, “You’re never going to catch me you dumb fuckers.” The second is to a victim he harassed and told her, “You think you’re smart, but I’m smarter than you.”

 

Ear
Joseph James DeAngelo Jr. — The EAR/ONS/GSK

 

What a glorious day it is knowing that this heinous monster is officially apprehended and by some of the original police task force. He may have eluded capture for longer than we all hoped or even anticipated, but he eventually got caught, and his mugshot is spread across the nation. His face is revealed and he looks old; tired; and miserable. Science reigns supreme and the justice will be beautiful.

As I alluded to earlier in my post, I was plagued by this case for two years. I couldn’t look at a glass sliding door or walk by a fence without thinking of him. Every time I read about a burglary in the local newspaper, he came to mind. When I went to sleep at night, I often wondered if he was alive, dead, in prison, or in another country. I scoured over details of each crime scene trying to find a connection that would lead to his identification. A part of me almost came to admire his ability to turn into a ghost and disappear from the responsibilities of life, because so many people knew a lot about him yet also knew nothing at all.

However, answers are revealing, and one thing is made abundantly evident — he’s not unique or special. Some of the theories on him were right; some were wrong. Those that were accurate represent the fact that he is a real human being because over 40 years he almost turned into a myth — an urban legend. He wasn’t a ghost. He had a career; family and children; a means of travel; a place he called “home.” Right now, he’s only a bitter old man whose dark past is now exposed. As a result, it’s becoming clear that many things he left behind in his attacks weren’t all red herrings. Rather, they were insecurities being presented in the crimes because of his own self-hatred and brokenness as an individual.

Ultimately, he is a victim of poetic justice because he was caught at his own game — by people smarter than him. Just as he has done to countless of innocent people, he was surveilled for days. His routines and habits were learned. Then one day unbeknownst to him, he was blitzed — caught off guard and left speechless. His hands were bound behind his back and had absolutely zero control.

Now, he’s going to have to endure the same treatment he instilled in his victims. All of those lives that were dismantled because of him will get their time to speak in court without being interrupted. If he dares to speak, they get to intervene and say, “Shut up!” They get to seize control and walk around the courtroom while he sits helplessly in handcuffs. When it’s all said and done, they get to walk to freedom — opening the courtroom doors and be gone in the night, while he rots in jail for the rest of his life.

Today, life is beautiful.

The Mysterious Abduction of Angela Hammond

People, whether children or adults, go missing every single day. Sometimes, the person decides to vanish on their own accord, while other people disappear in a more sinister nature. When these incidents happen they impact people in ways that are undoubtedly life-changing, especially when those unfortunate circumstances occur in a small populated town where everyone knows one another. The lingering effects of those cases create a void in families, friends, and the entire community that never fully heals.

Angela HammondAngela Marie Hammond was born on February 9, 1971, to her loving parents, Marsha and Chris Hammond. For the first four years, the family lived in Kansas City, but they soon relocated to Clinton, Missouri, where Marsha’s parents, Lloyd and Elizabeth Young were residing.

Clinton, Missouri is a small, rural town populated by fewer than 9,000 people as of 2016. Residents make a living by hard work at factory jobs, farming, and supporting local businesses. It’s a town where people wave to each other as they walk; people meet up in the morning at the local diner to have coffee, and when high school football season starts the community gathers together on Friday nights to support their hometown team.

Clinton, Missouri

Not too long after the move to Clinton, Marsha and Chris added another addition to their family, a newborn baby boy, Loren Hammond. Sadly, over time their marriage fell apart, which resulted in Marsha moving twenty miles away to an isolated farm out in the country in Montrose, Missouri, and Chris traveling back to Olathe, Kansas, where he later remarried. Despite the unfortunate circumstances, Angela and Loren grew up in a happy and stable environment, where their parents were actively involved in their lives and made sure they were loved and taken care of.

As time went on, Clinton, Missouri became Angela’s home, and she cherished the friends, memories, and future she was making for herself there. Angela’s best friend, Kyla Engeman, described her as an intelligent woman who knew how to have fun anywhere she went. There was never a dull moment with her, and the energetic and positive energy beaming off of her made people want to be around her.

Angela Hammond and Kyla

In November of 1990, 19-year-old Angela met Rob Shafer, an 18-year-old high school star athlete who had ambitions to join the military. The two quickly intertwined and fell in love. The following year in January 1991, she announced to Rob that she was pregnant. Rob was thrilled by the news and subsequently proposed, where Angela ecstatically accepted. The newly engaged couple soon moved in together at a rented trailer home and started planning ahead for their new journey in life. Rob still had plans to follow through with enlisting in the military later that summer, while Angela was working at the Union State Bank as a night processor and taking college courses in Central Missouri State University thirty miles away in Warrensburg, Missouri.

Angela’s relationship with Bob continued to blossom and they were both wanted and accepted into each other’s families. Four months later, nobody could have predicted the mysterious turn of events that continues to baffle the small town to this very day.

On the unusually warm Spring evening of Thursday, April 4, 1991, Angela was accompanied by her fiance at her mother’s residence to have a family barbeque. The entire night had gone smoothingly–where everything seemed to be perfectly intertwined to have a relaxing and blissful time with friends and family.

Shortly after 9:00 p.m. Angela and Rob decided to head back to Clinton because he had plans to be at his mother’s home, Carol Shafer, by 10:00 p.m. to babysit his younger brother, Justin Shafer. The couple had plans to meet up in town later that night when his mother returned in a few hours, so when she dropped him off she proceeded to spend time with her best friend, Kyla, and cruise the downtown square to have a little fun to pass the time.

At approximately 11:15 p.m. Angela and Kyla parted ways for the night. Thereafter, she decided to call Rob at the nearest payphone on the corner of 210 South 2nd Street where the Food Barn Store parking lot was situated — now the Jim Raysik Car Dealership. She didn’t own a home phone and wanted to tell him that she was exhausted and planned on going back home to soak in a bath. The two continued speaking on the phone for thirty minutes, but at 11:45 p.m. the lives of everyone in Clinton, Missouri changed in an unsettling fashion that still looms over the small town.

In the midst of the phone call, Angela alerted Rob to a conspicuous man circling the block several times in an older modeled green Ford F150 pickup truck. Moments later the driver pulled over near her and stepped outside of the truck and walked toward the unoccupied phone booth next to Angela. Seconds later he returned to his truck and grabbed a flashlight and started waving it around as if he was searching for something. Trying to ease the unsettling tension, Angela asked if he needed to use the phone and he told her no. All of a sudden, a horrifying scream could be heard and Rob — who lived 7-blocks away — immediately tossed aside the landline phone and jumped out of his seat to rush to Angela’s aide.

Angela Hammond Truck 2On his way to her, a similar truck matching what Angela relayed darted passed him with a woman struggling with the driver and screaming “Robbie” for help. He hastily put his vehicle in reverse and made a sharp U-Turn to give chase. The pursuit continued for approximately two miles before Rob’s transmission malfunctioned when he made a right turn, resulting in the vehicle stalling in the middle of the road, as the truck with the woman in tow quickly faded out of view.

Unfortunately, Rob had no choice but to walk back to town. Luckily, a passing motorist noticed him and picked him up and Rob asked to be taken to the police station so he could notify them of what just transpired. He arrived at the department just shy over midnight and reported the incident.

 

Rob told the police Angela described the unidentified male as “filthy and bearded.” He was wearing coveralls, a dark-colored baseball hat, eyeglasses, and had a full beard with a mustache. The truck he was driving was a green Ford F150 with a white top and delineated to be between the late 60s to early 70s. There had been partial damage on the left side front fender, and on the rear window was a mural of a fish jumping out of the water. A composite sketch of the person of interest was created, although it had been met with much scrutiny because it doesn’t feature key characteristics that Angela described to Rob.

Angela Hammond Composite Sketch

Initially, the police were skeptical of Rob’s story, believing it seemed too contrived and convenient. Nevertheless, as they began their investigation they uncovered Rob’s vehicle undrivable in the middle of the street. Shortly thereafter they found Angela’s car abandoned at the shopping center parking lot with her purse still inside.

Detective Damon Parsons of the Clinton Police Department notified Marsha on the scenario unfolding, which caused immediate frantic. She contacted Angela’s father, Chris, and delivered the devastating news. He promptly made the trip to Clinton, Missouri and resided there for several weeks to assist with trying to locate his daughter.

Angela Hammond Rob ShaferFor the first week of the investigation, Rob was considered the prime suspect in Angela’s disappearance, but after passing a polygraph test and two witnesses coming forward claiming to see the same truck as Rob described to police, he was subsequently ruled out.

As the police continued rounding up friends and family for questioning and additional details, they focused on Angela’s ex-boyfriend, 17-year-old Bill Barker. There were rumors going around that he was the father of Angela’s baby, but he denied those allegations and after looking further into things, he was no longer considered a suspect.

The community rallied together distributing missing person’s posters all throughout town, plastering the photographs on local storefront windows, diners, and truck stops that were often frequented. Over 250 volunteers including friends, family and the police, conducted an air and ground search scouring the entirety of Clinton looking for Angela. Water wells, creek beds, old country roads that are isolated, barns, woods, fields, and abandoned buildings were heavily combed with no luck.

Eleven days later the Clinton Police Department contacted the Missouri Rural Crime Scene Squad seeking help into the investigation. As a result, 25 police officers from 15 neighboring counties happily accommodated them. The Missouri Highway Patrol also looked through their database of all registered vehicles. A list of 1,600 potential pickup trucks matching what Angela’s kidnapper was possibly driving was compiled and sought out for new suspects, but the extensive search proved fruitless.

The police were at a loss for words–perplexed as to how a small town crime wasn’t providing evidence and answers that would hone in on a probable suspect. In turn, they started to consider the possibility that Angela’s abduction could be connected to two similar disappearances that had occurred within an 80-mile radius months earlier in January and February of 1991.

In Macks Creek, Missouri — a small country-oriented town with a population of fewerTrudy Darby than 500 residents — on Saturday, January 19, 1991, 42-year-old Trudy Darby was working the night shift at the local K & D Convenience Store. At approximately 10:00 p.m. Trudy was in the process of closing up the store for the night when she noticed three men lingering just outside of the store. Feeling unnerved by their presence, she phoned her son, Waylon Darby, asking him to assist her because she felt uncomfortable. Waylon obliged and arrived in ten minutes, but his mother was nowhere to be found. Two days later on January 21, 1991, Trudy’s nude body was discovered fifteen miles away in the Little Niangua River; she had been shot twice in the head by a .38 caliber.

Cheryl Ann Kenney.jpgOne month later on Wednesday, February 27, 1991, another remarkably similar incident occurred 80-miles away in Nevada, Missouri — another small town about the same size as Clinton, Missouri. Cheryl Ann Kenney, a 30-year-old wife, and mother of two, was working at the Quality Convenience Store located on Business 71 Highway. It was 10:00 p.m. and she was accompanied by the store janitor and a male customer. The store typically stayed open until midnight, but the night was going relatively slow so she decided to close up the shop and allowed the janitor to leave early. Cheryl proceeded to count the till and store the money in the backroom. At 10:17 p.m. she set the store’s alarm system and made her way to her white Chevrolet resting in the parking lot. It’s unclear as to what truly happened afterward, but she never returned home and hasn’t been seen since.

Three years later in the summer of 1994, the case of the abduction and murder of Trudy Darby was solved. The perpetrators were 15-year-old Jessie Rush and his half-brother, Marvin Chaney. They were arrested after Jessie had visited Kansas City and bragged to multiple friends — Elizabeth Corpening, Carl Blakely, and Gretchen Chastain — that he was responsible for Trudy’s murder and successfully got away with it. Jessie’s friends were shocked by his revelations and rightfully alerted the police. Subsequently, he was interrogated and ultimately confessed to the crime.

 

Jessie didn’t hold back the details of the grisly crime. He professed that he, Chaney, and another accomplice had planned the abduction of Trudy beforehand. They entered the store and held her up at gunpoint — stealing $220.00 from the cash register and forcing her into their vehicle. She attempted to defend herself, which only angered them more. They transported her to a nearby barn, where they sexually and physically assaulted her. Afterward, they shot her once in the head and put her body in the trunk of their car and took her to the Little Niangua River to dispose of her. When they opened the trunk they noticed she was still breathing so they shot her once more and discarded her body.

A few months later on December 24, 1994, Trudy’s father, Wilbert Blecher, passed away at the age of 69-years-old. Before perishing, he expressed his utmost gratitude for being alive long enough to have the resolution and justice he desperately sought after for three years. Six years following on November 21, 2000, Trudy’s mother, Betty Jean Thompson Belcher passed away at 74-years-old.

While Jessie was in jail awaiting trial he became acquainted with several inmates, one of whom was Edward Thomas, who he befriended because he believed he was a lawyer that could help him lessen his charges of abduction and murder. With his misguided faith, Jessie wrote 13 letters to Thomas that incriminated him further with Darby’s murder and also suggested that he and Chaney are behind many more audacious unsolved crimes that hadn’t been solved.

In one particular letter, he proclaimed:

I just wish my brother would have done like I said at the barn and burnt the bitch up but that pussy ass cheevers and parel desided to take the bitch to a fuckin river instead. I was to fucked up to argue with em all I wanted to do was fuck the bitch then shoot her in the head to watch her brains come out. Sounds cool huh? if the bitch would have not moved in the trunk at the river my brother wouldn’t of had to shoot her in the head again just the have the cops find a shell the stupid mother fucker the only smart thing we did was have marshels brother greg burn the barn other wise the mother fuckers would have a lot more on us. im glad they don’t know every thing else we did or i’d be on death row.

In a barrage of additional letters sent to Thomas, Jessie alluded that he Chaney had committed many more unsolved crimes, saying:

I never told you about them other bitchs because if it gets found by accident it can get us involved in killing them other fucking bitchs. the cops don’t even know about my brother and me killing any other bitchs except Macks Creek. them other bitchs in my last letter to you were both like that bitch in Macks Creek we all tortured the bitchs then fucked the dog shit out of em.

Three years later in April 1997, Jessie Rush and Marvin Chaney were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Rush was transported to South Central Correctional Facility in Licking, Missouri, and Chaney was imprisoned at the maximum-security Potosi Correctional Center in Mineral Point, Missouri. In September of 2017, Chaney passed away at the age of 56-years-old due to natural causes.

As for Angela’s disappearance in 1991, the first year was emotionally overwhelming for family and friends, because they still had to maintain their responsibilities as an adult. In June of 1991, Rob Shafer had gone to Fort Eustis, VA, to train for the National Guardsmen, while Kyla Engeman planned to relocate to Colorado. Later that year, Marsha won a vacation trip to Florida from her place of employment, but she didn’t want to accept the prize because she felt guilty — spending time having a few days of enjoyment while her daughter was missing. Nevertheless, friends and coworkers convinced her to take the opportunity to recharge her batteries from all the turmoil.

In October of 1991, a new possible lead emerged from a man named Russel Smith. He was living in Libau, Manitoba, Canada, but decided to visit family living in Ulrich, Missouri. He hadn’t any knowledge regarding who Angela was or the circumstances surrounding her disappearance until he saw a missing person’s poster. Once he did, he had an epiphany and immediately contacted the Clinton Police Department. According to his assertion, during September he witnessed a woman matching Angela’s description getting inside of a green pickup truck that had a white top and mural on the rear window after leaving a drugstore in Selkirk, Manitoba, Canada.

Russel’s bold allegation caused Clinton’s Police Chief Bob Pattison to contact Sgt Bob MacQuarrie of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to alert them to the possible new development. In response, MacQuarrie followed up on the sighting. Considering Angela was four-months pregnant at the time of her disappearance, they made the logical deduction that she may have given birth to her child. They proceeded to visit all the hospitals and baby stores in the area with Angela’s photograph to see if any staff members had remembered seeing her, but nobody recognized her.

The following month in November 1991, the production crew for Unsolved Mysteries arrived in Clinton, Missouri, to film a re-enactment of Angela’s disappearance. The episode was broadcasted on television the very next month. With the latest televised coverage, David Rader, the producer for the television show, urged law enforcement to not raise their expectations too high because only two of the 49 missing person cases they covered had been solved by the public. By the end of 1991, the investigation into Angela’s disappearance was met with despondency.

In the summer of 1992, another baffling mystery occurred in Springfield, Missouri, when Sherrill Levitt, Suzie Streeter, and Stacy McCall vanished without a trace on the same night. Their disappearance sent shockwaves across the nation. Shortly thereafter, Marsha became friends with Stacy’s mother, Janis McCall, and formed a unique bond — becoming a moral support shoulder to lean on in the wake of their nightmarish tragedies. The two of them were later invited to be on the Oprah Winfrey show to keep their missing loved ones in the spotlight in the hopes of garnishing new leads that would bring closure.

Regrettably, Angela’s disappearance went stagnant for years. The police had ruled out Jessie Rush and Marvin Chaney as suspects in Angela’s disappearance and couldn’t locate any hard evidence linking them to Cheryl’s vanishing either. In April of 2009, new information was brought forth by the Clinton Police Department. They provided a statement to the media claiming they have new evidence in the case, particularly of DNA nature, due to advancements in technology an forensic science, but they never elaborated fully as to what they unearthed.

Angela Hammond's mother

Since then, very little updates have surfaced in the subsequent years. 27-years have passed from when Angela disappeared, and lack of answers has continued to plague friends and family of Angela’s. Nonetheless, they had to resume building on to their own lives. The Hammond family still pursues closure with a relentless passion and makes sure Angela’s memory isn’t forgotten. They still remain in contact with Rob and consider him a part of their family. As for Rob Shafer, he eventually moved 60 miles away and works construction and has a beautiful family of his own. Though the heartache and what-ifs still linger, Angela’s family embraces her gleeful personality–honoring her by thinking positive and shedding light in dark places, as Angela so often did.

The Unsolved Disappearance of Morgan Nick

You hear it all the time; “Back then, people didn’t lock their doors at night.” That phrase often gets mentioned when devastating crimes occur in unexpected places that are deemed safe by the community. When those tragedies happen everything changes, but sometimes positives can blossom through the aftermath of the rubble. In the unsolved disappearance of Morgan Nick, her story has remained a beacon of hope that transcended across the nation. This is her story.

Morgan NickOn September 12, 1988, John and Colleen Nick gave birth to a beautiful and healthy baby daughter they named Morgan Chauntel Nick. She was raised in the small populated town of Ozark, Arkansas, a community of fewer than 4,000 residents. By 1994, Morgan became the oldest of two other siblings, Logan Nick, who was almost four-years-old, and a younger sister, Taryn Nick, who was a vibrant 22-month-old baby.

As a young kid with a wild imagination, Morgan’s aspirations ranged from being a medical doctor to a circus performer. In school, she had signed up for the track team but quickly regretted that decision because she didn’t enjoy sweating. In turn, she decided to start participating in Girls Scouts where they often did indoor activities.

Even at such a young age, Morgan possessed character traits that would undoubtedly lead to a successful future, no matter which avenue she pursued. Not only did she have the uncanny ability to make others laugh, she also never limited herself to experiencing new things. When she was five-years-old, she adopted a kitten she named Emily, and a motherly bond was immediately formed. From then on, the two were thick as thieves and Emily would always be found sleeping next to her at night.

Morgan Nick Cat

The potential Morgan had was very bright. She enjoyed being around others and people loved being around her, but on a summer day in 1995, everything that should have been for Morgan’s future was snuffed out, and the young girl with a heartwarming smile that could make anyone laugh suddenly had an entire community in shambles.

On the warm summer day of Friday, June 9, 1995, Colleen Nick wanted to share an afternoon with her oldest daughter, Morgan, because they hadn’t had a day for themselves in a long while. They planned to visit Alma, Arkansas — a quaint town thirty minutes west where everyone knew each other — to attend a Little League Baseball game with some friends living in the area while Morgan’s grandmother happily babysits her grandchildren.

Later that afternoon, Colleen and Morgan dined on grilled cheese sandwiches they made together before leaving town in their Nissan Stanza a little early, as this was their first time visiting Alma. They arrived at the local park where the baseball game was being held without a hitch and met up with their friends. By the time the game had started, there was a total of 300 people in attendance.

Throughout the entire evening, everyone was having a wonderful time — people could be heard roaring with cheers and laughter on the bleachers, and Morgan would sneakily untie her mother’s tennis shoes when she wasn’t looking for a funny joke. As time carried on, Morgan became restless. At 10:30 p.m. two of Morgan’s friends, 8-year-old Jessica and 10-year-old Tye [last names are omitted] invited her to play in the nearby field 75-yards away to catch lightning bugs. Morgan asked her mother for permission but Colleen was hesitant due to the late hour and being unfamiliar with the area, but her friends assured her everything would be okay because kids often played in the field next to the parking lot without any hiccups.

Colleen ultimately gave her consent but told her to stay in view. Morgan was hard to miss, as her green Girl Scouts t-shirt and white tennis shoes could easily be seen from a distance. Colleen would periodically glance over to check on Morgan and nothing seemed amiss as she and her two friends pranced across the field, where the parking lot light poles loomed over illuminating the area.

Fifteen minutes had quickly passed by and at 10:45 p.m. the baseball game concluded and people were beginning to gather their belongings and walk to their vehicles. Morgan’s two friends, Jessica and Tye, ran back to the bleachers to meet up with their families but Morgan wasn’t present.

Colleen, confused by the situation, asked where Morgan was, but they said she was in the parking lot near her car emptying out sand that filled her shoes from running amok in the field. She frantically ran to her car expecting her daughter to be there, but she wasn’t in sight. Growing more concerned by the second, she alerted one of the baseball coaches and they began asking Jessica and Tye more questions, and alarming new information came to light.

The two said that while they had been playing, a man they characterized as “creepy” approached and spoke to them as they were dumping sand from their shoes. He had been standing beside a faded red colored Ford pickup truck that had a white camper shell. Not too long after, the baseball game had ended and that’s when they ran back to their parents. An immediate search began but Morgan and the eerie man next to the red truck was gone.

The police were called to the scene and they arrived within six minutes. They performed an additional search thoroughly of the parking lot and fields, but the 4-foot-tall, 55-pound girl with blonde hair and blue eyes was nowhere to be found. Interviews were soon conducted with those still at the park. Several eyewitnesses corroborated the children’s testimony and provided additional details on the suspicious male. He was described as a Caucasian male between the ages of 23-38-years-old and spoke with a “hillbilly” accent. He had a medium build at approximately 180 pounds and was estimated to be 6’0 tall, and he had salt and pepper colored hair that was slicked back, with a mustache and a one-inch thick beard. The truck he was driving was a low wheelbase, red Ford pickup with dulled paint and a white camper shell that had curtains on the inside covering the windows. Witnesses noted the camper shell was too short for the bed and there was rear damage on the passenger side.

The unidentified male was the prime suspect in Morgan’s disappearance and was immediately classified as an abduction. It was soon discovered that her vanishing wasn’t the only terrifying event that transpired that day. Earlier that evening in the same town, an unknown male driving a red truck attempted to lure a 4-year-old girl to his vehicle. The abduction was thwarted when the child’s mother intervened and alerted those around her. It’s unclear whether or not the same man presumably responsible for Morgan’s disappearance was behind this attempted abduction, but the coincidences were notable.

Interestingly, the following day after Morgan vanished, another report came through to the police when an unnamed man matching Morgan’s alleged abductor’s description unsuccessfully tried enticing a 9-year-old girl into a men’s restroom inside of a convenience store fifteen miles away from Alma in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

As for Colleen, she refused to return back home to Ozark, Arkansas without her daughter in hand. For the next six weeks, she remained steadfast and took up residence at a volunteer fire station located next door to the police building — doing anything she could fathom to help spread awareness to bring Morgan home. Flyers were made and distributed to locals, placed on the windows of stationary vehicles, and stapled across light poles all throughout the town. Colleen even faxed over urgent letters to President Clinton hoping to get the federal government to react quicker with nationwide bulletins when children go missing.

During this interval of time, a composite sketch was created of Morgan’s possible Morgan Nick Composite 1kidnapper and media coverage quickly swept the state. This resulted in over 4,000 tips and leads, and the police had to purchase a storage shed to file the uncanny amount of information in extra filing cabinets, but none of the leads panned out.

When Colleen returned home she had to break the devastating news to her children. None of them couldn’t fully comprehend the extent of the situation. Logan, the oldest sibling, only knew that Morgan wasn’t home and would frequently ask, “Why did you lose my sister?” as he broke down into tears repeatedly telling his mother to “Go get her,” because he missed playing with her around the house.

One year later in 1996, Colleen commenced the Morgan Nick Foundation in Alma, Arkansas; a non-profit organization that tries to help prevent children from going missing and offers a support system to families who are facing the hardships of a child disappearing. Likewise, the state of Arkansas honored Morgan by renaming their Amber Alert system after her — The Morgan Nick Amber Alert — that connected the police and over 250 radio stations in a statewide emergency broadcast.

In the subsequent years, Colleen relocated to Alma to make things easier for handling the Morgan Nick Foundation. Meanwhile, the police were still acquiring innumerable tips stemming from reported sightings and false confessions to the abduction, but all of them were ruled out or considered unreliable.

Morgan Nick CompositeIn 2001, Morgan’s case garnished a lot of traction. A new composite sketch was unveiled of her believed kidnapper, as well as an age-progression sketch showing what Morgan may look like at her current age of twelve-years-old. On August 28, 2001, the television program Unsolved Mysteries broadcasted her case which created a massive resurgence that resulted in an ample amount of new tips.

One particular tip suggested that Morgan’s body could be located on a private property in Booneville, Arkansas. The information was deemed so specific and credible that the police initiated an immediate examination on January 15, 2002. After a full day of digging with a backhoe, nothing was unearthed and the investigation was concluded at 9:30 p.m.

Morgan Nick Newspaper Wednesday Jan 16 2002.png

In the following years, the police were still receiving regular tips but they were either dead ends or exhausted to their fullest without any positive results, but on the bitterly cold morning of November 16, 2010, a narcotics officer thirty-five miles away in Spiro, Oklahoma, alerted investigators in Crawford County to an abandoned trailer home belonging to a convicted child molester who was serving time in prison. The information supplied wasn’t directly focused on Morgan’s case specifically, but the individual had been considered a viable person of interest since the very beginning of Morgan’s case and hadn’t been ruled out. Detectives in Crawford County assisted with the investigation at the property hoping to locate any DNA evidence pertaining to Morgan but none was uncovered.

Morgan Nick Tonya Smith

Two years later on June 23, 2012 — a little more than 17-years after Morgan disappeared — a brief glimmer of hope emerged and then diminished just as quickly in a despicable turn of events. Tonya Renee Smith, a 24-year-old Hollister, Missouri native who had served time in Louisiana State Prison, tried assuming Morgan Nick’s identity by purchasing vital documents and a birth certificate via the website VitalCheck. Due to the extreme nature of Morgan’s case the police were alerted and on August 2, 2012, Tonya was apprehended in Branson, Missouri. She was soon extradited to Arkansas and spent 120 days in Pulaski County Jail. On February 28, 2013, she was charged with computer fraud and sentenced to six years of probation and ordered to pay a $2,500.00 fine.

Once again, Morgan’s case turned into a standstill, but five years later on December 18, 2017, another seemingly crucial tip regarding a water-well led investigators back to the abandoned trailer home in Spiro, Oklahoma they had searched seven years prior. The LeFlore County Sheriff, Rob Seale, along with the FBI and numerous Cadaver dogs, spent the entire afternoon combing for evidence, but regrettably, their efforts proved fruitless.

It’s now 2018 and Morgan Nick has been missing for nearly 22-years. For the town of Alma, Arkansas, many things have changed since the unfateful day of Morgan’s disappearance, including the baseball field she vanished from, which has since been remodeled into a parking lot, but her spirit still lives on in the community.

Colleen Nick.jpg

At the public library, a bulletin board can be found that features flyers for missing children. There’s also a 5K/1 Mile Walk fundraiser hosted annually that helps provide extra resources for The Morgan Nick Foundation to further help prevent children going missing — an organization that has successfully solved over 40 missing person’s cases –many of whom had gone missing for over twenty years — and returned home safely.

As for Colleen Nick, she remains undaunted that her daughter will be found alive, saying “No one else has to believe it because I believe it enough for everyone. I think there will be people who will be amazed when Morgan comes home.” Though a considerable amount of time has gone by, she continues to fight and pursue closure. While others may not share the same sentiment, Colleen does, and her relentless faith is a testament for anyone struggling with something in their life. Never give up hope.