The Unsolved Abduction and Murder of Dorothy Jane Scott

When horrific unsolved crimes are committed — whether it be murder, robbery, abuse, drugs — people are left searching for a motive. Sometimes, the victim(s) are at the wrong place at the wrong time and it was merely opportunistic for the perpetrator. Other times, they may have had an altercation that transformed into an awful situation. There are other situations where a victim hasn’t done anything wrong, yet the assailant believes they have and become fixated on repairing the wrongdoing in their own irrational mind. The latter example is a heartbreaking story that remains unsolved to this day. This is the story of Dorothy Jane Scott.

Dorothy Jane ScottDorothy Jane Scott was living in Stanton, California with her aunt, Shonti Jacob Scott. She was a 32-year-old single mother of a 4-year-old son, Shawn Scott, and working as a back-office secretary for Swinger’s Psych Shop, a store her father previously owned, and Custom John’s Head Shop — a conjoined business located on 517 South Brookhurst St. in Anaheim, California. Dorothy’s parents, Vera and Jacob Scott often babysat their grandson as she tirelessly worked to provide for her son, considering Shawn’s father was absent from his life and residing in Missouri.

According to friends, family, and colleagues, Dorothy was a very religious and compassionate woman who hadn’t any animosity toward anyone and preferred to stay indoors and attend church rather than dabble in outside influences or attend social gatherings. She would date men on occasion but most of her focus was directed toward her son. However, despite treating other people with generosity and seemingly not giving anyone a reason to dislike her, a man — a monster hiding in plain sight — took a fondness for her that altered her life in such a drastic fashion that remains unexplained to this day.

It all began in the early months of 1980 when Dorothy started receiving anonymous phone calls on a regular basis for months at her place of employment and her residence she shared with her aunt. The unidentified male would often proclaim his love for her; other times he would unleash his malice by threatening to murder her. He openly admitted he was stalking her and substantiated those claims by providing various details regarding the clothing she had on and day-to-day activities at certain times throughout the day.

One phone call in particular haunted Dorothy. In deep animus, the caller told her he would get her alone all to himself and dismember her into bits and pieces. She alerted her parents and even mentioned she recognized the voice but couldn’t recall a name. The alarming telephone calls and violent innuendos continued; so in May 1980, Dorothy signed up for karate classes and was considering purchasing a firearm.

One week later on Wednesday, May 28, 1980, Dorothy, though feeling relatively safer after taking self-defense courses, still felt unnerved as she headed to work early to attend an employee meeting. During the conference, she noticed her co-worker, Conrad Bostron, was looking unwell with a concerning red rash on his forearm. Out of concern for his wellbeing, Dorothy and another colleague, Pam Head, took him to UC Irvine Medical Center, but on the way, Dorothy made a quick stop at her parents’ to change her apparel and let her family know what was happening.

Unknowingly to Dorothy and Pam, the emergency room visit would encapsulate the entire day and night as they remained in the waiting room for their coworker’s discharge. At approximately 11:00 p.m. Conrad was released from the hospital with his prescription script, concluding he was suffering from a black widow spider bite.

Prior to leaving the hospital, Dorothy went to the restroom while Pam waited with Conrad — the only time the two women were separated from one another. Shortly thereafter, Dorothy insisted that they should go to the pharmacy store mere feet away to get his prescription filled while she retrieved her car — a white 1973 Toyota Station Wagon — from the parking lot to pick them up because she didn’t want Conrad walking in his condition.

Pam and Conrad’s business in the pharmacy took only five minutes. They assumed Dorothy would be waiting directly outside for them but she wasn’t there. They proceeded to walk to where Dorothy had originally parked her vehicle, and suddenly they were confronted by her vehicle driving in an unprecedented speed in their direction with the headlights on full-beam, partially blinding them as they waved their arms in the air to get her attention. The driver never stopped, as the vehicle swerved past them erratically and made a sharp right turn out of the parking lot.

Perplexed by the situation, Pam and Conrad thought an emergency came up regarding Dorothy’s four-year-old son and decided to remain at the hospital for two hours, believing she would return, but she never did. Pam decided to call Dorothy’s parents and ask if they had any contact with their daughter but they hadn’t. That’s when they promptly notified the police and reported Dorothy missing.

By 5:00 a.m. Dorothy’s station wagon was discovered up in flames in a back alleyway ten miles away from the hospital, but Dorothy was nowhere in sight. Several search parties were conducted in the following days but their efforts were fruitless. Vera and Jacob Scott feared the worst and those feelings only grew more harrowing when Vera received a phone call from a male remaining incognito saying he had murdered her daughter.

Dorothy Jane Scott newspaper

The police were immediately called regarding the disturbing phone call. They told the Scott family to not release any details about their daughter’s disappearance or the phone call to the media in order to have an upper hand with pivotal information and to steer clear of false confessions. After a week had gone by without any positive results, Jacob and Vera’s optimism diminished. They decided to report the story to the local newspaper, Santa Ana Register and offered $2,500.00 to anyone who would provide information leading to her whereabouts, dead or alive.

With Dorothy’s disappearance now in the eyes of the public, Pat Riley — the editorial manager for Santa Ana Register — received a nameless phone call on June 12, 1980. The caller said to him, “I killed her. I killed Dorothy Scott. She was my love. I caught her cheating with another man. She denied having someone else. I killed her.” 

He went on to relay intimate details specifically about the night of her vanishing that wasn’t released publically; acknowledging Conrad’s spider bite and the red scarf Dorothy had worn. Even more chilling, he stated Dorothy had called him from the hospital hours before she disappeared. Though the anonymous caller had pertinent details about what transpired, the police were under the impression Dorothy never placed a phone call to the individual; primarily due to Pam being by her side the entire day other than going to the restroom and parking lot to get her vehicle.

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After the horrific phone call Dorothy’s mother received one week after her daughter disappeared, she would go on to get anonymous phone calls by the same man every single Wednesday. As weeks turned into months and months into years, Dorothy would remain unfound and the harassing phone calls never stopped. On some days the caller would ask if she was related to Dorothy and when she replied yes, he would respond by saying, “I’ve got her,” and hang-up the phone. Other days he would profess he had killed her. The phone calls lasted four years and despite the police installing a voice recorder in Vera’s home hoping to trace the calls, they were unable to pinpoint a location because the conversations were very brief.

djsnewspaper4In August 1984 — four years after Dorothy disappeared — a construction worker discovered dog remains at Santa Ana Canyon Road approximately thirteen miles away from UC Irvine Medical Hospital. When he continued digging he unearthed another set of remains that sadly belonged to Dorothy Jane Scott, along with a turquoise ring and a wristwatch that had stopped at 12:30 a.m. on May 29, 1980, one hour after her initial disappearance. An autopsy was conducted but the medical examiner was unable to provide a cause of death due to the state of the remains, though foul play is undoubtedly involved.

Over the years, no conclusive breakthroughs have been made, but there is circumstantial evidence that points to Mike Butler — the brother of a female associate working alongside Dorothy. According to acquaintances, Butler had an unhealthy obsession with Dorothy. Unfortunately, there is hardly any evidence to consider him a suspect and the family, in general, has tried separating themselves from the entire ordeal.

On April 23, 1994 — Dorothy’s birthday — Jacob passed away at 69-years-old. Eight years later in 2002, her mother would also depart. They never received any answers as to who, why, and how their daughter died. Dorothy’s son, Shawn, has gone on to live a meaningful life, but still pursues justice for his mother. It’s now been close to thirty-eight years and Dorothy Jane Scott’s abduction and murder remain unsolved.

 

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The Visalia Ransacker – List of Stolen Items

The Visalia Ransacker is an interesting criminal, and if he is the elusive East Area Rapist, that makes him all the more intriguing. However, there’s an unfortunate lack of information surrounding him aside from how he operated and his target locations. Other than that, it’s hard to find any detailed intel unlike the crimes committed by the East Area Rapist.

As a result, this post is going to be dedicated to the stolen items — discarded or not — that he took in his home invasions. I’d like to thank the 12-26-75 Podcast for providing an excellent series on the perpetrator via original police reports and research. They were able to see what items were taken from certain homes, so I thought I would present those findings in a clear, concise format that is easy to read, understand, and follow.

The Visalia Ransacker – Stolen Items

Attack #1 – March 19, 1974 – West Walnut Avenue – Piggybank.

Attack #2 – April 6, 1974 – Linda Vista – Money, piggybank, ransacked all of the rooms and threw clothing around.

Attack #3 – April 6, 1974 – South Whitney Drive – Money, piggybank, ransacked all of the rooms, and used household items to place against the front and back doors to alert him if someone came inside.

Attack #4 – May 4, 1974 – South Dollner – Money, ransacked bedrooms and threw clothing around.

Attack #5 – May 5, 1974 – West Feemster – Money, piggybank, ransacked jewelry and bedrooms, threw clothing, and left a window screen on a bed.

Attack #6 – May 11, 1974 – South Whitney Drive – Money, ransacked bedrooms, tossed women’s clothing around, and left a window screen on a bed.

Attack #7 – May 11, 1974 – West Tulare Avenue – Money, piggybank, .380 Auto Pistol, placed items against doors for an alarm, tossed clothing around the home, and left a window screen in the bedroom where he escaped.

Attack #8 – May 17, 1974 – South Emerald Court – Money, one ring, threw women’s clothing — two daughters in cheerleading — around their rooms, left a window screen on a bed where he made his escape.

Attack #9 – May 17, 1974 – West Dartmouth Avenue – Money, piggybank, blue chip stamps, ransacked bedrooms and littered clothing throughout the room.

Attack #10 – May 18, 1974 – West Cambridge Avenue – Ransacked all rooms but nothing was stolen.

Attack #11 – May 18, 1974 – West Feemster Avenue – Small inexpensive items and $52.00

Attack #12 – May 18, 1974 – West Feemster Avenue – Several piggybanks, pantyhose, cologne, placed a bottle of woman’s perfume on the doorknob for a warning, threw women’s clothing around in the bedrooms, unsuccessfully attempted to pry the family’s sliding glass doors open.

Attack #13 – May 18, 1974 – UNCLEAR – Ransacked the home but nothing was taken. Women’s clothing was littered throughout the home.

Attack #14 – May 25, 1974 – Sue Lane – Money, ransacked all rooms and tossed women’s clothing on the floor, and pried open a sliding glass door from the inside of the residence.

Attack #15 – May 25, 1974 – West Cambridge – Money, piggybank, ransacked all rooms and scattered the mother and daughter’s clothing all over the floor; the daughter was a high school student at Mt. Whitney.

Attack #16 – May 25, 1974 – South Redwood St – Money, piggybank, earrings, ransacked all bedrooms, tossed women’s clothing on the floor, left a window screen on a bed where he made his escape.

Attack #17 – May 26, 1974 – South Sowell St – Ransacked all bedrooms but nothing was stolen.

Attack #18 – May 26, 1974 – West Howard – Money from a piggybank, ransacked all bedrooms, attempted to pry open a door and window unsuccessfully, but left a window screen on one of the beds.

Attack #19 – May 26, 1974 – West Cambridge – Money, ransacked all bedrooms, opened a Playboy magazine on a bed, pried open various doors and windows, and there was evidence suggesting he put lotion on his hands due to smear stains on the glass windows and magazine.

Attack #20 – June 23, 1974 – South Conyer St – Ransacked all bedrooms and jewelry, threw women’s clothing on the floor, but nothing was stolen.

Attack #21 – September 14, 1974 – West Princeton Avenue – One earring from a pair of two, ransacked bedrooms and tossed women’s clothing on the floor.

Attack #22 – October 4, 1974 – South Grant – .22 revolver, 3 boxes of .22 ammo, 1 1/2 boxes of 12 gauge shotgun ammo, money, and ransacked all rooms.

Attack #23 – October 19, 1974 – West Cambridge –  Money, but left some cash behind that was out in the open, a piggybank and shattered another one, removed a window screen and tossed clothing all over the flooring.

Attack #24 – October 19, 1974 – West Cambridge – Ransacked all bedrooms and threw clothing everywhere, removed a window screen where he made his escape, but nothing was stolen.

Attack #25 – October 19, 1974 – South Oak Park St – Money, ransacked all rooms and tossed clothing on the floor.

Attack #26 – October 23, 1974 – South Oak Park St – Money and piggybank, ransacked all bedrooms and removed a window screen.

Attack #27 – October 23, 1974 – South Giddings St – .32 Caliber Revolver, two cheap cameras, ransacked bedrooms and littered clothing on the flooring.

Attack #28 – November 1, 1974 – West Vassar Avenue – Money from piggybank, ransacked all rooms, scattered clothing on the floor, and left open his escape route.

Attack #29 – November 1, 1974 – South Giddings – Money from a piggybank.

Attack #30 – November 1, 1974 – West Cambridge – Money, ransacked bedrooms and tossed only female clothing on the floor, and removed a window screen.

Attack #31 – November 1, 1974 – West Vassar Avenue – Money, ransacked bedrooms and threw women’s clothing on the floor, and placed an item at the front door for an alert system.

Attack #32 – November 1, 1974 – West Paradise Avenue – Money, piggybank, 1 earring from a pair, ransacked all bedrooms, threw female clothing on the floor, and removed a window screen.

Attack #33 – November 2, 1974 – South Mountain St – Money, blue chip stamps, and ransacked the kitchen, bedrooms, and jewelry.

Attack #34 – November 2, 1974 – South Mountain St – Ransacked the residence but nothing was stolen.

Attack #35 – November 2, 1974 – West Laurel Avenue – Money, four tubes of glue, 1 earring from a pair, ransacked the bedrooms and kitchen, tossed pictures of children on the floor, as well as female clothing, and placed an item at the front door for a warning.

Attack #36 – November 2, 1974 – South Whitney – Money, piggybank, blue chip stamps, six brand new t-shirts, and ransacked all bedrooms.

Attack #37 – November 2, 1974 – West Campus Avenue – All rooms were ransacked, four windows were left sprawled open, and female clothing was littered everywhere, but nothing had been stolen.

Attack #38 – November 29, 1974 – West Princeton – $6.92 in cash, piggybank, two boxes of .22 ammo, ransacked all rooms and threw clothing onto the floor.

Attack #39 – November 29, 1974 – West Tulare Avenue – Money, piggybank, one earring, a bra, two pictures of children, ransacked the bedrooms, tossed women’s clothing on the floor, and removed a window screen.

Attack #40 – November 29, 1974 – West Laurel Avenue – Unknown.

Attack #41 – November 29, 1974 – South Whitney St – $72.00

Attack #42 – November 29, 1974 – West Walnut Avenue – $7.50. in cash.

Attack #43 – November 30, 1974 – West Meadow Lane – $10.50 in cash, ransacked the bedrooms, used an item for an alert system at the front door, and removed a window screen.

Attack #44 – November 30, 1974 – West Meadow Lane – $30.00 in cash, tore a photo up of the family’s son, ransacked all the rooms, tossed the daughter’s clothing on the floor; she was in band practice and attended Mt. Whitney High School.

Attack #45 – November 30, 1974 – South Encina St – Money, piggybank, ransacked all bedrooms and jewelry, removed a window screen, and placed an item at the back door for an alert system.

Attack #46 – November 30, 1974 – West Paradise – Ransacked all rooms, threw women’s clothing on the floor, removed a window screen, but nothing was stolen.

Attack #47 – November 30, 1974 – West Paradise – .30 cents, two rings, one earring from a pair, ransacked all rooms and littered women’s clothing on the floor.

Attack #48 – November 30, 1974 – West Paradise – Money, and ransacked the kitchen and bedrooms.

Attack #49 – November 30, 1974 – West Myrtle Avenue – Ransacked the bedrooms and den, removed a window screen and left it on the bed, but nothing was stolen.

Attack #50 – November 30, 1974 – West Myrtle Avenue – Money (no details available on the ransacking).

Attack #51 – November 30, 1974 – South Sowell St – Money, ransacked all bedrooms and tossed women’s clothing on the floor.

Attack #52 – November 30, 1974 – West Cambridge – $5.00 in cash, ransacked all rooms, threw clothing on the floor, and unsuccessfully attempted to pry open a door.

Attack #53 – November 30, 1974 – West Kaweah – 20 gauge shotgun shells, a box of .22 ammo, ransacked all rooms and threw female clothing onto the floor.

Attack #54 – November 30, 1974 – West Kaweah – Money, ransacked all bedrooms, removed a window screen and left open his escape route.

Attack #55 – November 30, 1974 – South Oak Park St – $260.00 in cash.

Attack #56 – December 14, 1974 – 3013 West Vassar Avenue – The residence belonged to Alf Huzman and he worked at Kaweah Delta Hospital. Money and a piggy-bank were stolen. The bedrooms were ransacked with clothing all over the flooring, and a window screen was removed and left in a bedroom.

Attack #57 – December 14, 1974 – 1840 South University St – The residence belonged to Kenneth Hochnadel. Money had been stolen, and the bedrooms were ransacked. Female clothing was scattered on the floor and a window screen was removed.

Attack #58 – December 14, 1974 – 3340 West Cambridge – The residence belonged to Rodney B. Swanson Jr. Money was stolen, and all bedrooms were ransacked. The family’s daughter had clothing littered all over her bedroom floor.

Attack #59 – December 14, 1974 – 2943 West Cambridge – The residence belonged to Frank Vigario. Nothing was stolen but all bedrooms and jewelry were ransacked, piggy-banks were emptied, clothing was scattered on the floor, and a window screen was removed.

Attack #60 – December 16, 1974 – West Seeger Avenue – Money, all bedrooms were ransacked, female clothing was thrown on the floor, and a window screen was removed and left in a bedroom.

Attack #61 – December 21, 1974 – West Myrtle Avenue – Liquor and coins, a screening to a (door or window?) were cut to gain entry to the home. In total, $42.00 worth of belongings were stolen.

Attack #62 – December 21, 1974 – West Meadow Avenue – Money, piggy-bank, blue chip stamps, one each of four pair earrings, all bedrooms were ransacked, and female clothing was tossed to the ground.

Attack #63 – December 21, 1974 – West Iris Avenue – Money and a piggy-bank were stolen. All bedrooms were ransacked, and female clothing, along with photographs of children, were thrown to the floor, and a window had been pried open from the inside and left ajar for a point of escape,

Attack #64 – December 21, 1974 – South Fairway – Blue chip stamps, and bedrooms were ransacked with female clothing and photographs of the family thrown to the floor, and a window screen was removed.

Attack #65 – December 21, 1974 – West College Avenue – Money and an unknown item had been placed at the front door for an alert system.

Attack #66 – December 22, 1974 – West Laurel Avenue – Money, brand new t-shirts, pajamas, rings, and all bedrooms were ransacked.

Attack #67 – December 22, 1974 – South Terri St – Money, although some cash was left behind, piggy-bank and bedrooms and jewelry were ransacked.

Attack #68 – December 22, 1974 – South Divisadero St – Money, rings, one each of two different pairs of earrings, ransacked all rooms, threw female clothing to the floor, placed an item against the front door for a warning, and pushed out a window screen from the inside.

Attack #69 – December 22, 1974 – West Fairview Court – Money, piggy-bank, ransacked all rooms and dumped clothing on the floor.

Attack #70 – January 25, 1975 – South Verde Vista St – Money, blue chip stamps, ransacked all bedrooms and tossed female clothing to the floor.

Attack #71 – January 25, 1975 – West Pecan Court – Money.

Attack #72 – February 2, 1975 – South Whitney Drive – Purse, twenty books of blue-chip stamps, a box of .22 ammo, all rooms had been ransacked, female clothing was littered everywhere on the flooring, a door was unsuccessfully attempted to be pried open, a window screen was removed and placed outside by the family’s backyard gate, and a bottle of Jergen’s lotion that did not belong to the family was found, along with hand smears/prints on a sliding glass door. Three days later on February 5, 1975, the family was returning home from a night out and saw a man crouched near the back window. He was chased but ultimately escaped.

Attack #73 – February 16, 1975 – South Sowell St – Money, one earring, a door was attempted to be pried open unsuccessfully, all bedrooms were ransacked, and the daughter who attended Mt. Whitney High School had her clothing littered on her bedroom floor.

Attack #74 – February 16, 1975 – West Kaweah Avenue – Money, all bedrooms were ransacked, numerous windows had tried being pried open unsuccessfully, and female clothing and framed pictures of the family’s son and daughter at weddings were thrown and broken. The daughter attended the College of Sequoias.

Attack #75 – March 1, 1975 – West Howard Avenue – Money, rings, a broken H & R revolver, left behind valuable jewelry that was in plain sight, ransacked all bedrooms and tossed female clothing to the floor.

Attack #76 – May 24, 1975 – South Mountain St – Taurus .38 revolver, ransacked all rooms in the home, and two doors were unsuccessfully pried open.

Attack #77 – May 24, 1975 – South Mountain St – Money, ransacked all bedrooms, and threw female clothing to the floor.

Attack #78 – May 24, 1975 –  South Redwood St – Blue chip stamps, ransacked all rooms, threw female clothing to the floor, opened several windows and removed the screening from the inside.

Attack #79 – May 31, 1975 – South Sowell St – Money from a piggy-bank, 16 rings, ransacked all bedrooms and the kitchen, tossed clothing to the ground and poured or accidentally spilled orange juice on the clothes.

Attack #80 – July 24, 1975 – West Kaweah Avenue – Ransacked the residence and unlocked a door, but nothing was stolen.

Attack #81 – July 25, 1975 – West Campus Avenue – Money, stamps (not sure if regular stamps or blue chip stamps), credit card, ransacked all bedrooms and removed a window screen.

Attack #82 – July 25, 1975 – West Fairview Court – Money, 20 gauge shotgun shells, one ring, ransacked all bedrooms and threw female underclothing to the floor. The perpetrator gained entry through the side door. The homeowner had an extensive coin collection. There’s no mention as to whether or not the collection was stolen, or it’s not clarified very well.

Attack #83 – August 1, 1975 – West Campus Avenue – Money, stamps (unclear on what type of stamps), one each of two pairs of earrings, emptied out the piggy-banks, ransacked all rooms in the home, tossed female clothing to the ground and made a trail of the lingerie down the hallway, and removed a window screen from a bedroom.

Attack #84 – August 23, 1975 – West Howard St – Money from a piggy-bank, ransacked all rooms and jewelry in the home, littered women’s clothing on the floor, removed a window screen, and failed to pry open a door.

Attack #85 – August 23, 1975 – West Feemster Avenue – $91.00, blue chip stamps, one ring, left behind some money in plain view, ransacked all rooms in the home and the jewelry, readjusted a box of .22 ammo and placed it on the homeowner’s bed, scattered women’s clothing on the floor, and failed to pry open several doors to the residence.

Attack #86 – August 24, 1975 – West Cambridge – Money from a piggy-bank, ransacked all the rooms in the home and littered clothing everywhere.

Attack #87 – August 24, 1975 – West Princeton Avenue – Money from a piggy-bank, ransacked every room in the home, and pried open a door from the inside.

Attack #88 – August 29, 1975 – Dartmouth – Money, rings, one each of nine pairs of earrings, ransacked all bedrooms and jewelry, tossed women’s clothing to the floor, and failed to pry open several windows.

Attack #89 – August 30, 1975 – South Redwood St – Two cell flashlights that were later recovered at another address on the victim’s street, ransacked all rooms and jewelry, littered only the daughter’s clothing to the ground, took one picture out of twelve, and the family had recent events of prowling and knocking sounds to their home. The daughter attended Mt. Whitney and was a song leader at First Baptist Church.

Attack #90 – August 31, 1975 – West Royal Oaks Avenue – A necklace, one silver dollar, two boxes of 12 gauge ammo, three boxes of .38 ammo with a 100 count each, a .38 Miroku Revolver that was used to murder Claude Snelling on September 11, 1975, threw women’s clothing to the ground and made a line with men’s shorts in the hallway, along with four 1/2 shotgun barrels loaded with three steel jacket hollow point bullets.

Attack #91 – September 11, 1975 – Whitney Lane – The Visalia Ransacker attempted to abduct sixteen-year-old Beth Snelling. Her father, Claude Snelling woke up to the commotion and went to her rescue. The perpetrator proceeded to shoot Claude that proved fatal and subsequently ran away from the crime scene. The stolen .38 Miroku Revolver stolen from August 31, 1975, was used to murder him and the gun was found discarded in a ditch on September 19, 1975.

The Visalia Ransacker would continue to hit ten more homes between September 11, 1975 – December 10, 1975. The details of those ransackings aren’t available online; or if they are, I’m unaware of them. The locations of these home invasions included Royal Oaks, Campus, Redwood, County Center, Country Lane, West Tulare, West Laurel, and West Kaweah.

Since the Ransacker often hit on the weekends and in the same area, the police performed several stakeouts. On December 10, 1975, on West Kaweah, detective William McGowen witnessed a suspicious male walking in the neighborhood. He confronted the man and the stranger pulled out a firearm and shot at him. The bullet pierced McGowen’s flashlight — causing him to fall down to the ground. The shooter managed to elude the detective and escape a large manhunt that occurred following the event. Afterward, the Visalia Ransacker disappeared altogether and his whereabouts are unknown.

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McGowen

 

The Unsolved Case of the Long Island Serial Killer

Life has a peculiar way of impacting people in unforeseen circumstances. Sometimes, blessings can occur in unexpected ways that transcend the course of one’s life. Other times, tragedies happen in ways that can go unexplained and the turmoil can seemingly never overturn into a positive. In this case, the disappearance of Shannan Gilbert was the catalyst that featured both of these scenarios; a yin and yang event that has left many people affected in different forms. This is the story.

Shannan GilbertShannan Gilbert was born on Friday, October 24, 1986, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her family lived in New Jersey, where Shannan grew up with her mother, Mari Gilbert and her siblings, Sarra Elizabeth Gilbert, Sherre Gilbert, and Steve Smith. Her intelligence was exceptional and she graduated high school at sixteen-years-old. Afterward, she was taking online college courses at Phoenix University and held several jobs ranging from being a hostess at Applebee’s, a hotel receptionist, and cooking for the elderly in a senior center. Her goal was to save money to relocate to New York to pursue her ambitions of being an actress, singer, and writer. The jobs she undertook wasn’t enough to fund her transition and she decided to temporarily turn her attention to online escorting via Craigslist.

The profession was going as well as expected until Saturday, May 1, 2010, when 24-year-old Shannan Gilbert was accompanied by her escort driver, Michael Pak, to meet up with Joseph Brewer — a new client living in a gated community in Oak Beach, Long Island. They arrived at his residence at approximately 2:00 a.m. Three hours later everything turned into a hectic frenzy that remains unclear to this very day, but the events changed Long Island forever.

Shortly before 5:00 a.m. Shannan called 911. She was repeatedly telling the dispatcher, “They are trying to kill me!” as she fled from Brewer’s home and sprinted toward the closest neighbor, Gustav Coletti. He was in the process of shaving when he was startled by erratic screaming and knocking on his front door. As he frantically went to open the door, Shannan darted inside with utter terror brimming from her face. Out of concern for her wellbeing, Gustav said he was going to notify the police. Those words caused more distraught which prompted her to run away from his home.

Gustav watched her flee and subsequently noticed a black SUV driving slowly down the road. He proceeded to confront the driver, who was Shannan’s escort driver, Michael Pak. He asked what his intentions were and Pak responded, “I’m looking for Shannan.” Gustav — who was oblivious to her occupation — told Pak that he called the police, causing him to drive away from the residential community.

In the midst of the exchange between Gustav and Michael, Shannan had run to the home of Barbara Brennan and hellaciously pounded on the front door for assistance. Fearing for her own safety, Brennan refused to acknowledge the knocking and called her next-door door neighbor, Tom Canning, to alert him to the situation. He quickly looked went outside to check on the commotion, but Shannan had already fled across the street to the home of Dr. Peter Hackett. From this point onward, Shannan was never seen alive again.

Two days after Shannan’s disappearance, her mother Mari Gilbert received anDr Peter Hackett unexpected telephone call from Dr. Peter Hackett. He asked if Shannan was safe and feeling better but Mari hadn’t any knowledge that anything was amiss. She went on to ask how he acquired her phone number and he mentioned that it was policy to have a patient’s contact information. Perplexed by the response, Mari asked why he was distributing medicine in the first place. As the conversation continued, he allegedly stated he ran a halfway-home for women in dire need and explained the events that transpired–providing medication for Shannan to help calm her nerves (the type of medicine is unclear but it’s presumed to be a benzodiazepine).

With Mari and the rest of Shannan’s family learning of her distress and unaware of her whereabouts, they filed a missing person’s report. Mari relayed the information she received from Hackett’s phone call to the investigators and once media coverage began swarming in, Dr. Peter Hackett was bombarded by several reports about the conversation with Mari. He proceeded to deny all allegations of a phone call ever happening on live television. Shortly thereafter, phone records were obtained and released publically, proving Hackett’s deception. He went on to recant his prior statements but remained adamant about never mentioning anything relating to halfway-homes or treating Shannan Gilbert with an unknown substance drug(s).

A massive search for Shannan went underway but the pursuit was fruitless. Seven months later in December 2010, a police officer conducting a routine training exercise with his cadaver dog stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a woman wrapped in a burlap sack. Two days later, three more bodies in burlap sacks were unearthed in the proximity, none of whom were Shannan. They were all online escorts and determined to be murdered by strangulation.

LISKVICTIMS

Megan Waterman was the first woman to be properly identified by name. She was a 22-year-old mother from South Portland, Maine. She had been staying in a hotel in Hauppauge, New York when she disappeared on June 6, 2010, after leaving behind her phone and wallet to meet an unknown client that accepted her escorting ad on Craigslist.

Maureen Brainard-Barnes was a 25-year-old single mother from Norwich, Connecticut. She was visiting New York when she disappeared in July 2007.

Amber Lynn Costello was 27-years-old living in North Babylon, New York. She vanished under mysterious circumstances on September 2, 2010, after meeting an unknown client who called and emailed her numerous times offering upwards of $1,500.00 for her company.

Melissa Barthelemy was 24-years-old from Erie County, New York. She disappeared on July 12, 2009, and when her family reported her missing the local authorities refused to initiate a search until several days later when Melissa’s younger sister, Amanda, began receiving nearly a dozen phone calls from Melissa’s cell-phone.

The caller was not Melissa, unfortunately. Instead, it was an unidentified male who taunted and harassed Amanda by saying crude things. In one exchange, the caller professed, “Do you know what your sister is? She’s a whore. I killed her. I know where you live and I can kill you too.” 

Throughout the handful of phone calls made to Amanda, the police attempted to triangulate the caller’s location. They managed to pin him to Times Square in Manhattan but the populated area made it impossible to adequately locate the origin.

According to law officials, the subject is a Caucasian male between 20-40 years old. His demeanor is calm, and his manner of speech is elegant. He also seemed to be acute on police tactics — keeping his phone calls under three minutes. This had the police theorizing he could be an active or retired member of law enforcement. Other officials speculated these type of behaviors aren’t unique and could be gleaned from watching television shows such as CSI or NCIS.

Thereafter, the unidentified male never made any subsequent communications with Amanda. However, the police managed to obtain call records that indicated Melissa was in contact with somebody residing in Manorville, New York, but this lead wasn’t considered entirely beneficial at the time.

Richard Dormer LISKRichard Dormer — the former police commissioner at Suffolk County — told ABC News that he believes a serial killer is behind the killings due to the location of the bodies and their cause of death. The news made headlines and sent the media and local residents into hysteria.

The search for Shannan Gilbert continued but the task proved difficult because of the harsh, winter weather. The police orchestrated another search for Shannan the following year in March and April that extended to Nassau County. To their horror, six more sets of remains were discovered.

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Unlike the first four victims found the previous year, the remains of these victims were partial, indicating dismemberment. Shockingly, one particular set of remains unearthed was linked to a pair of severed legs wrapped in plastic that washed up on the shore of Fire Island in 1996 — a case that baffled original detectives ever since the discovery was made.

Interestingly, one victim was an Asian male that was wearing women’s clothing. Law Asian Male LISKenforcement searched their database for missing Asian males from Long Island but none were a definitive match. They hypothesized that he was also a sex-worker and could have been mistaken for a woman.

Another set of partial remains uncovered a captivating tale. The body parts were confirmed via DNA to belong to 20-year-old Jessica Taylor, who was last seen in Manhattan near the Port Authority Bus Terminal in July 2003. Three weeks after she disappeared, a woman walking her dog came across a woman’s torso with a tattoo mutilated from the hip, and a pair of legs. Missing from the crime scene were a skull, arms, and hands — of which were found amidst the multitude of other victims.

Approximately 200 yards away from the partial remains of Jessica Taylor was a female child between 18-24 months old wrapped in a blanket. A name was unable to be provided to the authorities so they referred to her as Baby Doe. She was later linked to being the daughter of an unidentified woman dubbed “Peaches” because of a tattoo found on a torso that was located in 1997 at Hempstead Lake State Park.

Two equally horrifying theories arose from these uncoverings; either two killers were disposing of their victims coincidentally in the same proximity or a lone serial killer was responsible and has been active for at least twenty years.

In the span of six months, ten bodies had been located, none of which belonged to Shannan Gilbert LISKShannan Gilbert — the missing 24-year-old who unintentionally brought forth the chilling discovery. In December 2011, the skeletal remains of Shannan were finally located, less than a half mile away from Dr. Peter Hackett’s backyard — the last place she was reported to be seen.

After a positive identification was confirmed, the Suffolk County Medical Examiner spent four days performing an autopsy. In the meantime, Richard Dormer preemptively announced Shannan’s death was accidental — drowning in the dense marsh she was found in — even though the results weren’t confirmed. What is known is that Shannan suffered from Bipolar disorder and was off her medication at the time of her disappearance. Nevertheless, the premature answer given by Dormer angered surviving family members, and soon after an official ruling on her death was determined to be inconclusive.

The Gilbert family wholeheartedly believed Shannan was met with foul play and hired an attorney, John Ray, who proceeded to employ an independent coroner to get a second opinion on Shannan’s death. The autopsy indicated Shannan could have met with foul play because of the larynx of her hyoid bone being detached; meaning she could have potentially been strangled, yet a definitive conclusion couldn’t be determined.

John Ray LISK

Due to inconsistent reports and the oddities surrounding Dr. Peter Hackett’s behavior and false statements, Mari Gilbert forthrightly accused Hackett being responsible for her death and alleged murder. In 2012, Mari and Ray filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Hackett, but he wasn’t charged with any wrongdoings. Soon after, he relocated with his family to Florida and is not considered a suspect.

Three years later in 2015 — with a lack of headway in the Long Island Serial Killer case — an escort going by the name of “Leanne,” came forward alongside the Gilbert family’s attorney and told the media a fascinating story.

According to Leanne, she had an unsavory encounter with James Burke — the Chief of Police in Suffolk County’s Police Department — at a house party in Oak Beach one year after Shannan disappeared. During the party, Burke partook in cocaine and alcohol that was freely passed around. He made numerous attempts to seduce her, but after all of her declines, she became very aggressive. He reportedly choked her and forced her to provide oral pleasure, all the while proclaiming she was a “No good whore.” She would go on to attest that more law enforcement members were present and some were actually clientele.

James Burke LISKLeanne’s testimony came after the events that unfolded in November 2015, when Burke resigned from the position of Suffolk County’s Police Chief after being served a 46-month federal prison sentence for severely beating Christopher Loeb because he stole a duffel bag full of sex toys and pornography from his SUV. Afterward, he coerced other law enforcement members in his jurisdiction and neighboring counties to cover up his indecencies; a series of misdoings that occurred in a three-year time span.

Additionally, Burke refused the FBI’s assistance when they were brought in to take over the Long Island Serial Killer case. The motive behind his intentions are unknown, but the sheer fact of this decision led many people to presume he had a possible tie-in personally in the serial killing(s) and wanted the evidence to remain buried. Others speculated he wasn’t involved at all and wanted to cover his involvement in solicitation and drugs.

In a macabre turn of events that nobody could have predicted, Shannan’s mother was savagely murdered by her youngest daughter, Sarra, in July 2016, who suffers from schizophrenia. She had stabbed Mari over two-hundred times and used a fire extinguisher to bludgeon her. On August 4, 2017, Sarra was sentenced to 25-years-to-life in prison.

Throughout all of these tragic tangents involved in some form or another in the Long Island Serial Killer case, a suspect named John Bittrolff emerged from all of the rubble.

Bittrolff was making a living as a carpenter and was an avid hunter living in Manorville, New York. In 1993 and 1994, he murdered two women and is suspected of more. His first victim was Rita Tangredi, a sex worker who was found strangled and bludgeoned to death on November 2, 1993, in Suffolk County. Eighteen days later on November 20, 1993, the body of Sandra Costilla was discovered in North Sea, New York, of whom lived a high-risk lifestyle similar to Rita. Two months later on January 30, 1994, Colleen McNamee, another sex worker, was unearthed in Shirley, New York, and disposed of in the same manner as the previous two women.

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The medical examiners were able to obtain male DNA and semen samples but the evidence didn’t point to any one person. It wasn’t until 2013 when Bittrolff’s brother, Timothy, was sent to prison for criminal contempt. As a result, his DNA was taken and placed into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System). His DNA shockingly came back as a partial match from one of the murders twenty-years prior and ultimately led back to John, who was subsequently charged in July 2014 for the murder of Rita Tangredi and Colleen McNamee.

Throughout the examination into Bittrolff, investigators were considering him to be a prime suspect in the Gilgo Beach murders — particularly the first four victims who were found strangled and discarded in burlap sacks. It was learned that Rita Tangredi’s daughter was best friends with Melissa Barthelemy — one of the sex workers who was murdered and had call records from an unknown source in Manorville, New York. Likewise, the torso of Jessica Taylor found in 2003 was approximately three miles away from his residence.

As of right now, the inspection is still ongoing, but John Bitrolff was convicted of the second-degree murders of Rita Tangredi and Colleen McNamee by a Suffolk County Jury on July 5, 2017, and on September 12, 2017, he was sentenced to 50-years to life in prison at the age of fifty-one-years old.

John Bittrolf LISK 1

It remains to be seen if Bitrolff is the Long Island Serial Killer. The investigation is still culminating all of the evidence. As for Shannan Gilbert, she has never been conclusively tied to being a victim of the notorious serial killer, and the Gilbert family attorney, John Ray, is still striving for answers.

On March 6, 2018, Sanford Berland — a Long Island judge — ordered Suffolk County to release the full 23-minute phone call Shannan placed to 911 shortly before vanishing to Ray. They have until March 19, 2018, to produce the recorded phone call and transcript, where it will be reviewed by the judge, where he will ultimately rule whether or not it should be made available.

Shannan Gilbert’s unsolved case is a fascinating one. It paints a portrait of misconception. It’s important to remember that Shannan, along with her mother, Mari, and the rest of the victims, is human. They are more than escorts. Their lives had value, and they had dreams of wanting to become more. Yet if it wasn’t for Shannan’s tragic disappearance, perhaps none of the victims would have been found and more would pile on. Shannan put into motion a tale of horror and corruptness, but also a story of a caterpillar that’s in its growing stages and ready to become beautiful; a butterfly who flaps its wings and creates justice in a case that was buried in the dust without anyone’s knowledge.

 

 

The St. Louis Jane Doe of 1983

StL Jane Doe ApartmentOn a brisk Monday afternoon on February 28, 1983, in St. Louis Missouri, two rummagers went looking for scrap metal for their car in the basement of an abandoned apartment building — which has long since been bulldozed —  located at 5635 Clemens Avenue. One of the individuals pulled out his lighter to light his cigarette and that’s when they stumbled upon a gruesome sight.

There was an African American girl estimated to be between the ages of eight to eleven and approximately 4’10 – 5’6 in height. She was wearing a blood-stained yellow V-neck sweater with no tags and she was positioned face down with her pants and underwear removed. Her head had been decapitated and mold was growing on her neck. There were two coats of red nail polish on her fingers and her hands were bound by the wrists with red and white nylon rope.

When homicide detectives Joe Burgoon and Herb Riley arrived at the crime scene they initially thought she could have been a prostitute until they examined the body and realized the victim hadn’t gone through puberty. They determined she was beheaded elsewhere — possibly by a large carving knife because of how cleanly cut her head was removed — due to the lack of blood and was subsequently discarded at a later time. They did find some traces of blood on the side of the walls leading to the basement that indicated she had been carried and her body brushed against it during the process. An autopsy conducted by Mary Case from St. Louis’s Medical Examiner’s Office showed she had been raped and her cause of death was by strangulation three or five days prior to being found.

St. Louis Jane Doe Newspaper 1

As for the child’s head, it was never recovered despite an extensive search from Jerry Thomas and Frank Booker. This hindered the investigation because dental examinations couldn’t be provided nor a facial reconstruction through forensic technology programming. The investigators scoured a list of all children at the surrounding schools but everyone was accounted for. They proceeded to look through the database of missing children yet there had been no reports of a young child matching her description being missing, and she was ruled out as being five possible victims of ranging from several states including a Jane Doe from Northampton County, North Carolina.

At one point, detectives sought out assistance from a group of psychics who performed a seance. Herb Riley gave them photos of Jane Doe’s fingerprints, and as they passed the photocopies around they all had the same conclusion; her head would be located on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico and he should immediately contact the Coast Guard. This lead was pursued in-depth but it proved to be a dead end.

St. Louis Jane Doe Newspaper

Jane Doe’s case quickly turned cold and after ten months of exhausting all possible leads and nobody coming forward to claim her body, she was buried in December of 1983 at Washington Park Cemetary in Berkeley, Missouri.

Ten years later in 1993, investigators mailed her blood-stained sweater and nylon rope that bound her hands to a psychic residing in Florida for further analysis but this was a fruitless endeavor because the evidence was lost in the mail delivery. In 1996, the original homicide detective Herb Riley passed away and Jane Doe’s case was one of two cases he never solved during his tenure with the police department.

Twenty years passed by and in June of 2013, investigators were able to exhume the child’s remains with the hope of gathering new forensic evidence by modern advancements made in science and technology. This task proved difficult because the cemetery she had been buried in was unkempt, appeared long forgotten, her grave was unmarked, and many people were displaced because of insufficient care with the burial records.

With the help of willful volunteers and other various resources, Jane Doe’s remains were unearthed and transported to the St. Louis Medical Examiner’s Office where researchers from the Smithsonian Institution and University of North Texas recalibrated bone sampling and minerals (stable isotope analysis) to attempt to narrow down her native origins based on the water she had drank. The testing revealed she had spent most of her life in one of the numerous southeastern states including Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Tennessee, Florida, Louisiana, and North or South Carolina.

Though new scientific testing provided a glimmer of hope to the child’s case, the police say it’s rather unlikely she will be properly identified unless someone comes forward with vital information. If any light can be shed on this devastating tragedy, it would be the nicknames she was given — “Hope” or “Little Jane Doe” — and her reburial in Calvary Cemetery on West Florissant Rd. in north St. Louis, Missouri, funded by the nonprofit organization, “Garden of Innocents,” where the plot of land is regularly maintained.

Overall, the list of suspects was unfortunately very short. With a lack of evidence from her murder, finding a person of interest was difficult. The authorities suspected a family member may be involved due to no reports of a child being reported missing, but considering they were unable to determine where she was from, that theory was hard to substantiate. However, there was one suspect that caught the eyes of the investigators.

Vernon Brown StL Jane DoeVernon Brown was born on October 1, 1953. He had a very troubled upbringing and suffered from excessive physical abuse from his grandfather. He dropped out of high school and in 1973 he was convicted of molesting a twelve-year-old girl and subsequently spent four years in an Indiana prison. After his release, nine-year-old Kimberly Campbell disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She was later found raped and strangled in a vacant residence that was owned by Vernon’s grandmother. Though he was considered the prime suspect in the case, there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him with the crime. In 1985, Vernon relocated to Enright Avenue in St. Louis, Missouri, living under the false name, Thomas Turner, where he was living with his wife and stepchildren.

At approximately 3:00 p.m. on Friday, October 24, 1986, he had just arrived home after picking up his stepchildren from school. Afterward, he sat outside on his front porch watching children walk home after being dropped off from the school bus. That’s when nine-year-old Janet Perkins, a bright young student at Cole Elementary School, was walking to her home a few blocks away, excited for the weekend. Vernon took notice and lured her into his home. His stepchildren saw her come inside and he ordered them into their bedrooms and locked their doors from the outside.

Vernon led Janet down to the basement where he bound her feet and hands by using a wire coat hanger. Moments later, he began to strangle her with a rope. Vernon’s stepchildren could hear her screaming and pleading for her life as her voice echoed through the air vents. Thereafter, he discarded her body and went on about his day as if nothing ever happened.

The following day, the police discovered two trash bags containing Janet’s body in an alley behind his residence. Two days later on Monday, October 27, 1986, the police arrested Brown, and a relative of a neighbor testified on his behalf saying they witnessed Janet enter his home. Throughout questioning him by detectives he confessed to murdering Janet on videotape.

Surprisingly, he admitted to murdering nineteen-year-old Synetta Ford one year beforehand on March 7, 1985. She was found strangled by an electrical cord and stabbed multiple times in an apartment basement where he had worked as a maintenance man. At the time, the authorities arrested him for the murder but he was let go after he gave homicide detectives a false alias.

While he was in prison in Bonne Terre, Tom Carroll — a homicide detective in St. Louis — frequently visited and questioned him about other possible murders he may have committed, particularly about the young Jane Doe found in 1983. Brown never confessed to her or anyone else’s murder. However, detectives believe he could be involved with at least twenty unsolved homicide cases but they don’t have enough tangible evidence to conclusively prove their stance.

On Wednesday, May 18, 2005, at 2:35 a.m. fifty-one-year old Vernon Brown was executed by lethal injection. His last words were, “You’ll see me again. To all my friends, don’t think of me as being gone, but there with you. And to Jazz, who has my heart and love. Peace, love. Vernon Brown.” If he participated in any other murders, he took those secrets to his grave.

Jane Doe’s case has never been solved and is one that haunts the original and current investigators, but as long as her case stays in the light, as her nickname given by the police suggests, there will always be “Hope.”

Jennifer Kesse and the Luckiest Person of Interest

Jennifer Kesse

Jennifer KesseJennifer Kesse was born on May 20, 1981. She graduated from Vivian Gaither High School in Tampa, Florida. In 2003, she obtained a degree in the field of financing from the University of Central Florida.

Continue reading “Jennifer Kesse and the Luckiest Person of Interest”

The East Area Rapist – Part 10

Welcome back. We are now entering the Original Night Stalker’s territory. In this entry, I will be discussing the horrific murders caused by this unknown assailant who has never been apprehended, let alone properly identified. This will be the final entry in this incredibly long journey. A lot of time has been invested in this unsolved crime spree, yet I feel as if I have barely scratched the surface. Hopefully, this series garnishes enough attention to spread more awareness to those who aren’t familiar with this unforgivable rapist and murderer. Continue reading “The East Area Rapist – Part 10”

The Mysterious Disappearance of Joan Risch

On October 24, 1961, thirty-one-year-old wife and mother of two, Joan Risch disappeared from her residence in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Unknowingly at the time, this case would end up becoming one of the most well-known and complexing unsolved cases to ever strike the state.  Continue reading “The Mysterious Disappearance of Joan Risch”