The Unsolved Disappearance of Amanda Kay Jones

When an unsolved crime happens in a small town where everyone knows one another, rumors run rampant. This gossip can be very damaging to a someone’s reputation. Then again, sometimes a person(s) doesn’t do themselves any favors and only makes the suspicion much worse.

hillsboro missouri

Hillsboro, Missouri is a little quaint town consisting of fewer than 2,500 people in 2004 and has a very low crime rate, so when a 26-year-old single mother who was expecting her second child unexpectedly disappears, it had the community in shambles. Family and friends were expecting immediate results and to them, the answer was obvious. 13 years later, the case still remains unsolved.

amanda kay jones daughterAmanda Kay Jones was a single mother of a four-year-old daughter, Hannah, from her ex-husband, Jeffrey Jones. Their marriage only lasted between 1999-2000, but they didn’t officially divorce until 2002. Amanda, who had custody of her daughter, was working as a loan administrator at Eagle Bank in Festus, Missouri, to provide for her family.

In December 2004, Amanda’s place of employment was hosting a Christmas company party, where she met a Bryan Lee Westfall, a computer instructor at Jefferson College and a volunteer groundskeeper at the Hillsboro Civic Center, who was bartending for the gathering. The two struck up a conversation and immediately hit it off.

They soon began dating but the relationship ended as quickly as it began. The two went their separate ways until February 2005, when Amanda contacted Brian to inform him she was pregnant. When Bryan was confronted with the news he rejected the notion and told her he would pay for an abortion if need be. Amanda, appalled by his view, declined and said she would raise the child on her own. That’s when Bryan stated he wanted to have no more contact with her.

Side note: I’ve seen some sources say they didn’t have a relationship; rather, they had a one night stand. Moreover, Bryan was also in a relationship with another woman at the time.

From that point onward the two had no reported contact with each other until the middle of August 2005. Meanwhile, Amanda focused on raising her daughter and preparing for the birth of her newborn, which she planned to name Hayden Lucas, along with taking care of her health because she was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease — an illness that causes your thyroid to be overactive and overproduce hormones.

Amanda was planning to raise her baby on her own, so when she unexpectedly hillsboro missouri community civic centerreceived a phone call from Bryan in the early morning hours on Sunday, August 14, 2005, she was surprised. Bryan asked if she would like to meet up at the Hillsboro Community Civic Center to discuss the baby and to possibly grab lunch at the seafood restaurant, “Off the Hook.” Amanda, hoping Bryan wanted to be apart of the child’s life, accepted the invitation, and said she would meet him at 1:00 p.m. after church services with her family, Bertha and Hugh Propst, and her daughter.

Once church services concluded, Amanda dropped her daughter off with her parents and said she would be back soon. Thereafter, she made a quick stop to Walgreens to buy a soda and hairspray before meeting up with Bryan at approximately 1:00 p.m. The two reportedly spoke for an hour, and during their conversation, Amanda received a phone call from a relative at 1:16 p.m., to which the family member claimed Amanda sounded agitated and said she was unable to speak at the moment. Not too long after, Amanda said she had to use the restroom, and that’s when the two parted ways, as Bryan went back to work around the Civic Center.

This is where the timeline of events start to become muddled.

At around 5:00 p.m. Amanda’s family started to grow concerned because they felt she should have been home already, or at the very least make contact with them to let them know she was okay. With numerous failed attempts to reach Amanda on her cell phone, her sister, Carrie Propst went to her residence to see if she was home, but to no avail.

Bertha subsequently called Bryan to see if Amanda was with him but he said he last saw her at approximately 2:00 p.m. after he dropped her off back to her car after their lunch date. Shortly thereafter, Bryan called Bertha and said he wasn’t being truthful — and he and Amanda never went out to eat, and after conversing for an hour the two split ways, but as he was leaving the premises at 4:00 p.m. he noticed her still sitting in her car speaking on her cell phone.

The news from Bryan didn’t sit right with Amanda’s family. They couldn’t imagine she would sit in her vehicle, which had a broken air conditioner, in the middle of the summer heat; especially since she was 8 1/2 months pregnant. Amanda’s family decided to see if she was at the Hillsboro Civic Center. When they arrived, they found her blue 1997 Pontiac Sunfire abandoned with her purse inside and her doors unlocked. Amanda, her cell phone, keys, and wallet were nowhere to be found.

1997 pontiac sunfire

Side note: The picture of the blue 1997 Pontiac Sunfire is not Amanda’s vehicle. It’s just a photograph of one for reference.

The police were soon called and an investigation quickly ensued. Bryan was brought in for questioning, and he initially was cooperative. However, the police considered his story suspicious because he gave Bertha conflicting statements as to his whereabouts with Amanda. Additionally, the police obtained Amanda’s phone records and noticed she was last active on her phone at 1:16 p.m. when a relative called instead of 4:00 p.m. like Bryan claimed. Despite Bryan’s inconsistent story, he hasn’t officially been named a suspect in Amanda’s disappearance, and he and his girlfriend at the time subsequently acquired a lawyer and has been quiet ever since.

As the investigation continued the police didn’t have much to go on. They proceeded to speak with Amanda’s ex-husband, and he was very cooperative and did whatever he could to help assist. With a lack of witnesses and possible reported sightings, they kept an eye on hospitals in the surrounding areas to see if anyone resembling Amanda had given birth, but this was a fruitless effort. All the police could do was speak to local residents and hope for a miracle.

Meanwhile, Amanda’s ex-husband, Jeffrey Jones gained custody of his daughter, Hannah. It wasn’t an easy adjustment; Hannah was confused about the drastic change and didn’t understand why her mother had suddenly vanished from her life. Two years later, Jeffrey unexpectedly passed away. This was another devastating loss to Hannah, and she went back to the care of her grandparents. Even though Hannah faced an unbelievable amount of turmoil and stress at such an early age, she had a strong support system and her family did the best they could to nurture her.

amanda kay jones prengantIt’s now 2019, and Amanda Kay Jones has been missing for thirteen years, and there has yet to be any positive update(s) on her whereabouts. As for Hannah, she is now a senior in high school and on the dance team. Despite having many tribulations in her life, her grandparents have raised her with love and made sure she had a fulfilling life — even though she still has a gaping hole in her heart that only her mother and baby brother can fill. Nonetheless, Hannah continues to persevere and has ambitions to become a pediatric nurse.

It’s unclear what truly happened to Amanda Jones. Her friends and family are adamant that Bryan Westfall is involved somehow. The police still consider him a person of interest and have even searched two properties that he owns, but nothing substantial came from their probe. With a lack of evidence and cooperation, they are unable to do anything besides continue their search and hope somebody comes forward with pivotal information. Until then, the case remains unsolved.

More information:

The Charley Project – Amanda Kay Jones

FBI Missing Poster Information

Local Article

Amanda Jones’ Ex-Husband Passes Away

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The Unresolved Disappearance of Asha Degree

It’s difficult being a parent. Your job is to raise protect your child(ren) and do your best to raise them the right way. However, the outside world is hard to avoid, and it will always come with its hardships. For one family, no matter how much they tried to love their daughter and give her a promising upbringing, something or someone took her away from them. This is the unresolved disappearance of Asha Degree.

Asha Degree ParentsHarold and Iquilla Degree got married on Valentines Day in 1988. One year later they became parents to O’Bryant Degree, and on August 5, 1990, they had their second child, Asha Jaquilla Degree. The young family lived in Shelby, North Carolina, on 3404 Oakcrest Drive, and were very close-knit, with Harold’s mother and sister living down the street from them.

Growing up, the Degree family were very religious and attended Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church every week without fail. Asha thoroughly enjoyed church and was always eager to go to her weekly Bible study. Seeing how the family was Christian oriented, Harold and Iquilla did their best to shelter their children from the deviances of the outside world, with limited television and no access to a computer, saying, “Every time you turned on the TV there was some pedophile who had lured somebody’s child away.”

At the age of nine-years-old, Asha was coming into her own person. She was a fourth-The Whipping Boygrade student at Fallston Elementary and was described as an outstanding student with an exceptional attendance record. When it came to education, she had a knack for science and mathematics. She also enjoyed reading and writing — even having ambitions to become an illustrator, and her English class had just finished reading the book “The Whipping Boy” by Sid Fleischman — a children’s book about two kids running away from home but eventually return.

Aside from excelling in her education, Asha also loved sports — particularly basketball, where she was the star point guard on her pee-wee team, the Fallston Bulldogs. Asha’s brother was also heavily involved in sports and was on the boys’ basketball team.

Due to Asha and O’Bryant’s upbringing, they were more responsible than your average child. They would often let themselves in their own home after school and would be found doing their homework or chores by the time their mother arrived home from her job at Kawai America Manufacturing, while their father would get home late from PPG Industries, where he worked the second shift as a dock loader.

On Friday, February 11, 2000, all schools were closed for a three day weekend because of Presidents Day. The next day on Saturday, Asha’s school held their first basketball game of the season. Unfortunately, Asha fouled out and her team lost the game. The loss had her visibly distraught because she felt as if she let her teammates down. Nevertheless, as many children do, she quickly recuperated and was back to her normal self.

Asha Degree Basketball

The following morning things were seemingly normal as the Degree family went to church. Once the services concluded, they all went to [aunt] Alisha’s residence and their grandmother prepared lunch for the family. After spending the afternoon together, Asha and her parents went home because Harold had to get ready for work.

At approximately 8:00 p.m., Asha and her brother — who shared the same bedroom — went to bed early because they stayed up late the night before because they had a sleepover with their cousins, and they had school the next day. An hour later, she awoke due to a blistering thunderstorm, and a power outage occurred in the neighborhood after someone had a car accident in the vicinity.

Harold arrived home at 12:30 a.m. and the power restored shortly thereafter. Upon his arrival, he checked on the children and they were sound asleep in their beds (there are some sources that state Asha was still up and in the living room at the time). Harold decided to relax for a couple of hours and checked on his kids once more before going to bed at 2:30 a.m. (I have seen some people say Harold left home between that two hour period to get Valentines Day candy, but I haven’t been able to substantiate that claim). Not too long later, O’Bryant woke up to the sound of Asha getting out of bed to use the restroom. Moments later, he heard her bed squeak. Thinking that she had crawled back to bed, he paid her no mind and went back to sleep.

This is where things become mysterious.

Iquilla awakened at 5:45 a.m. and got the bath ready for the kids since they didn’t take one the night before. At 6:30 a.m. she went to wake up Asha and O’Bryant. When she went to their room she noticed O’Bryant was sound asleep but Asha wasn’t in her bed. She thought this was peculiar but wasn’t entirely worried, as she scoured the rest of the home expecting to find her. Panic began to seep in, and she went outside to check their two vehicles hoping to find her but to no avail. She proceeded to wake up Harold, who advised her to call his mother to see if Asha was there, but she hadn’t been. Iquilla then called her own mother, and with no luck, Harold phoned the police.

The police arrived ten minutes later at 6:40 a.m. Search dogs were brought in but they were unable to pick up a scent on Asha — possibly due to the thunderstorm. Nonetheless, Asha’s family and the police searched the local neighborhood but no trace of her could be found. By noon, over sixty people, including residents in the area, the church congregation, and a helicopter with infrared heat-detection were aware of what was transpiring and went to assist in the search. Despite an all afternoon pursuit of nearby woods and fields, nothing was found beside a mitten that didn’t belong to Asha or her family.

When Asha’s family examined her bedroom for clues they found that her backpack was missing, which she kept her house key in, along with her Tweety Bird purse, and an assortment of clothing. Moreover, all of the doors and windows in the home had been locked — indicating Asha left on her own volition. This revelation suggested that the squeaking O’Bryant heard wasn’t Asha crawling back into bed. Instead, she was packing her book bag and was getting ready to leave home, for reasons unknown.

Asha’s disappearance was broadcasting on the local news that evening. This coverage prompted several witnesses to come forward. According to three different people, they said they had seen Asha walking alongside N.C. Highway 18 between 3:45 – 4:15 a.m., only one block away from her residence. One driver was very concerned for her well being because it was still storming outside, and she didn’t have any winter clothing on, so he made a U-Turn to see if she needed any help. When he attempted to check on her she darted off into the nearby woods and was never seen again.

With new leads to work on, the police searched heavily into the woods where a witness said she ran off into, and that’s when they uncovered a shed of a nearby business, Turner Upholstery, and discovered that Asha presumably sheltered herself from the storm because candy wrappers were littered about, a pencil and marker were found, and a Mickey Mouse shaped hair-bow was also located. Asha’s family confirmed to the police that those items did indeed belong to their missing daughter.

The month of March was hectic for the Degree family. In order to spread more awareness to the public, they began selling t-shirts with Asha’s picture on the front, but this quickly came to a halt once they discovered someone was trying to pocket the money made in this charitable cause. With the money they did raise they offered $5,000.00 for a reward for any information leading to Asha’s whereabouts. Her case also made headlines across national television programs including The Montel Williams Show, America’s Most Wanted, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. Aside from this, her case hasn’t been featured in the spotlight other than local news stations from time to time.

Subsequently, Asha’s family members underwent polygraph testing — a procedure that is routine in a missing person(s) case — and passed with flying colors. Additionally, the lead investigators in the case traveled to Quantico, Virginia to have a profile created of a possible suspect, if this was indeed a case of an abduction, yet the profile was unable to locate any prominent suspects.

Asha’s case was being actively investigated, but her case was turning cold as all leads being phoned in were turning up no results. It wasn’t until August 3, 2001, when twenty-six miles away in Burke County — the opposite direction of where Asha was seen walking — a contractor working a construction project unearthed a backpack that was wrapped in two black plastic trash bags and buried. It was confirmed to be Asha‘s because it had her name and phone number printed on it.

With the latest lead in the case, the police thoroughly examined the construction site and discovered a pair of men’s khaki pants and skeletal remains that belonged to an animal. The findings were sent to an FBI crime laboratory in Quantico, Virginia, but the results and additional details have never been made public. Despite the latest bombshell discovery, Asha’s case wasn’t producing any promising information and her case went cold, though the police did announce they believe Asha left her residence on her own free will and met with foul play.

Donald Preston FergusonThirteen years later in January 2014, lead detectives in Asha’s case hoped to catch a break when U.S. Marshals arrested 52-year-old Donald Preston Ferguson at his residence in Spartanburg, South Carolina for the 1990 murder of 7-year-old Shalonda Poole, who was found strangled, stabbed, and sexually assaulted behind a Greensboro, North Carolina Elementary School.

At the time of Shalonda’s murder, Donald Ferguson was arrested in June 1989 for sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He managed to place bail while awaiting trial and relocated to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he eventually met Shalonda Poole through her half-brother, Marvin Cowan. Shortly after her body was found, he moved back to South Carolina. When he finally went to trial in March 1991, he was found guilty and sentenced to eight years in prison, but was released in October 1997.

Initially, Melvin Bennett, a mentally disabled individual who had an IQ of less than 70 and was a co-worker of Shalonda’s mother at the University of North Carolina of Greensboro confessed to her murder. He would be indicted for first-degree kidnapping and first-degree statutory sexual offense by a Guilford County grand jury in March 1991, but six months later DNA tests proved he was innocent. After a four day trial in October 1992, he was officially found not guilty.

Shalonda Poole’s case went cold until her case was re-opened in 2007. Through advancements in forensics, the police were led to Donald Ferguson, when DNA was collected from an entirely different sexual assault case that was being examined in 2013, and it surprisingly matched to the DNA evidence obtained from Shalonda Poole’s case. Once he was apprehended, the Cleveland County police focused in on him after looking at his past history and noticing Shalonda’s case bore similarities to Asha’s disappearance.

Shalonda shared a room with her twin sister, and mysteriously vanished in the early Shalonda Poole - Source is GreensboroCOM.jpgmorning hours of July 21, 1990, between 6:00 – 8:00 a.m. When she was reported missing many people helped search for her including Donald Ferguson. He had known Shalonda’s family for about a month and had even been to her home days beforehand playing cards with her family. Her body was uncovered one day later, bound and gagged. She suffered 19 stab wounds to the neck and was manually strangled.

After a thorough investigation into Donald Ferguson in a possible connection to Asha Degree’s disappearance, he is considered to not have any involvement in her case. In December 2014, he pleaded guilty to Shalonda’s murder and was convicted of first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In February 2015, the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office and FBI began to reexamine Asha’s case, going through all the evidence collected and re-interviewing people from the initial investigation. During this strenuous process, a viable new lead was made relevant in May 2016. Law enforcement announced to the public that there may have been sightings of Asha entering a dark green early 1970s Lincoln Continental Mark IV or Ford Thunderbird with rust along the wheel wells.

 

 

Dr. Seuss McElligot's Pool.jpgThree years later in October 2018, the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office unveiled more possible clues related to Asha Degree’s case via Facebook and asked for the public’s assistance. The first piece of evidence was the book “McElligot’s Pool” by Dr. Seuss. It had apparently been checked out at the Fallston Elementary School library around the time of Asha’s disappearance, but the school didn’t contain any records dating that far back.

The second clue was a white t-shirt with a red collar and matching sleeves featuring a picture of the band “The New Kids on the Block” on the front. The police are hoping that by releasing this new information they will be able to jog someone’s memory as to whether or not they remember someone having these items shortly before Asha vanished. As of today, there are no prominent suspects in the case despite the latest information released in the last three years.

Throughout all of these years, the small town of Shelby, North Carolina still has missing pictures of Asha plastered all throughout the area, and blue ribbons are tied around tree and light posts — representing that her case has not been forgotten. They continue to rally behind the Degree family, and despite an awful tragedy, they stay strong as a community, always going out of their way to help a neighbor or friend in need.

As for the Degree family, they have done everything they possibly can to keep Asha’s case shining brightly in the media and in their community. They created a scholarship in Asha’s name after watching their son, O’Bryant graduate high school. To raise money for this award for a local student they sell t-shirts with Asha’s picture on it and other charitable events.

In addition, they host an annual walk, where people gather together at the Degree family home and walk to the location where Asha was last seen — where a billboard now stands tall with Asha’s photograph for everyone to see as they drive on Highway 18. For the better part of thirteen years, they hosted this event on Valentines Day but changed the date to February 7, because Iquilla Degree said it’s not right for people to be sad on a day that should celebrate love.

Asha Degree Billboard Family

It has been a grueling eighteen years for the Degree family. They are plagued by so many questions without any answers. Did she leave on her own accord? If so, why? Did someone lure her away from her home? If so, who? Is she still alive? If so, where is she? Iquilla still holds on to hope that her daughter is still alive and refuses to lose faith. Her conviction in God and the support from her family continue to give her strength to endure another day. Meanwhile, her son, O’Bryant, has a daughter of his own and is almost the same age as Asha was when she disappeared. According to Iquilla, her granddaughter is a spitting image of Asha, and seeing her breathes new life into her, and only motivates her more to find her daughter. As long as the family can remember Asha, though she may be missing, she will always be near in their hearts.

Sources

Asha Degree Wikipedia

Asha Degree – The Charley Project

JET Magazine Interview

Donald Ferguson Arrested

The Unsolved Disappearance of Brandon Lawson

In today’s society, where practically everyone owns a cell phone and a social media account that is relevant to news happening at any precise moment, it’s hard to contemplate modern crimes going unresolved, especially when it involves someone disappearing. Sadly, unexplained mysteries still occur. One such baffling mystery that has perplexed many online web sleuths is Brandon Lawson–a name that is synonymous with many words: Blue collared. Hard worker. Loving father. Family man. Loyal Husband. Missing.

Brandon Lawson and Ladessa

Brandon Lawson grew up in Crowley, Texas. When he was 16-years-old in high school, he met 15-year-old Ladessa Lofton. As soon as they met, they seemed destined for each other and have been together ever since, but like many relationships, there were rough patches. Nevertheless, the two always managed to work through the issues.

After high school, the couple lived in Fort Worth, Texas until early 2012 when they transitioned to San Angelo, Texas to start anew with their four children. By August 2013, life for the family had been going well, though they were dealing with normal eustress. They were still adjusting to their new living arrangments, and in order to provide for the family, Brandon proudly worked as an oil field worker for Renegade Oil Services–often performing arduous overtime hours. This was only temporary, however, as Brandon had recently passed a drug test for a new job he had lined up and would be starting soon, which excited him and Ladessa because the job was more stable with accommodating work hours.

Brandon Lawson Job

On the evening of Thursday, August 8, 2013, things were going seemingly well. Brandon had been away for the majority of the afternoon, but once he returned home he and Ladessa got into an argument — a typical spout most couples have at one point; brought upon by raising four children, one of whom was a newborn baby battling an ear infection, money, bills, and because Brandon didn’t come home the previous night. Staying out all night put a lot of worry and stress on Ladessa because she thought Brandon may have partaken in drugs — something he had trouble with in the past and dealt with a recent relapse.

After the quarrel, Brandon grabbed his keys, wallet, cell-phone, and wall-charger and decided to leave home at approximately 11:53 p.m. Although being low on gas, he called his father asking if he could stay with him for the night, despite his residence being three hours away in Crowley, Texas. His father, Brad, obliged but urged Brandon to reconsider and return home to mend things with Ladessa since it was late and a long exhausting drive. From that point forward, everything turns muddled (with a confusing timeline that doesn’t entirely make sense).

Seven minutes after Brandon left home, Ladessa called him to reconcile their differences. It’s unclear on what exactly was exchanged during the conversation, but Ladessa suggested that if he was still angry and didn’t want to come home, he should go to his brother’s home, who only lived five minutes away with his girlfriend Audrey and 4-year-old son, and spend the night there until everything had smoothed over. The discussion seemingly didn’t go as planned, because ten minutes later Ladessa called Brandon’s brother, Kyle, concerned for Brandon’s wellbeing, implying Brandon refused her notion.

Kyle Lawson.jpgAt 12:10 a.m. Kyle proceeded to drive to Brandon’s home to check on Ladessa and the children. Things had simmered down by then and after a brief talk, Kyle returned home. Brandon placed two phone calls to Ladessa approximately twenty minutes later at 12:34 a.m. and 12:36 a.m. but she didn’t answer.

Two minutes later at 12:38 a.m. Brandon called his brother. He stated that his truck ran out of gas on Highway 277 near Bronte, Texas, and he needed assistance. A few minutes later Kyle called Ladessa and told her about the situation unfolding. She replied she would leave a gas can on the front porch for him to pick up because she was going to let her phone charge in her vehicle and to take a bath.

Subsequently, both Kyle and Audrey drive over to retrieve the gas can for Brandon at 12:45 a.m. Initially, Kyle planned to purchase the gas for him, but his paycheck hadn’t transferred into his bank account yet so the plan was to meet up and carhop to the nearest gas station, the Stripes Convenience Store, roughly five miles away from Brandon’s location. This is where things take a very confounding and unexpected turn that has yet to be explained.

At 12:48 a.m. Brandon attempted to call Ladessa for the third time but she doesn’t respond. Six minutes later at 12:54 a.m. a nursing home located in Robert Lee, Texas, receives a frantic .43 seconds long 911 Emergency phone call from Brandon.

Side note: Throughout the course of the conversation, there are several pieces of dialogue that are incoherent. Many people have attempted to piece together the missing links. Here is a transcript of the phone call with additional side notes to help unravel things more clearly.

Operator: 911 Emergency.

Brandon: Yes, I’m in the middle of a field [Unintelligable – Escaped? We?] just pushed some guys over. We’re out here going towards Abilene on both sides. My truck ran out of gas. There’s one car here. A guy’s [chasing me?] through the woods. Please hurry!

Operator: Okay. Now run that by me one more …

Brandon: [Talking over the operator]: There’ll be no talking to ’em. I accidentally ran into ’em.

Operator: Oh, you ran into them? Okay.

[Background noise: Detective?]

Brandon: [Unintelligable – Shot?] the first guy.

[Background noise: Gunshots?]

Operator: Do you need an ambulance?

[Background noise: Unintelligable]

Brandon: Yeah! No, I need the cops.

Operator: Okay. Is anybody hurt?

Brandon: [Unintelligable – Crap?]

Operator: Hello? Hello? Hello?

From this point onward, Brandon doesn’t respond to the operator, but the background noise seems to get closer to the phone. It’s unknown what truly transpired, but things only continue to grow more baffling.

Four minutes after the phone call, a passing truck driver notices an abandoned pick-up truck with the license plate 76L-SY8 parked haphazardly on the highway and informs 911 about the issue.

When Kyle and Audrey arrive at Brandon’s pickup truck on the desolate stretch of highway twelve minutes later at 1:10 a.m., they are surprised to see Deputy Neal from the Coke County Sheriff’s Office, who arrived at the same time from the opposite direction for unbeknownst reasons to them. Both parties didn’t see any vehicles or suspicious activity on the highway on their way to Brandon’s truck.

At the time, Kyle and Audrey had no reason to be concerned for Brandon’s safety. They initially assumed he was hiding in nearby bushes because he had an outstanding warrant for an old drug charge for possession with the intent to deliver in Johnson County that resulted in a hefty fine that Brandon and Ladessa were saving up money to pay. As a result, they made several attempts to contact Brandon and finally managed to get ahold of him, unknowingly to Deputy Neal. Brandon promptly mentioned he was ten minutes away in a field and bleeding, and requested to get to him quickly. The signal soon faded away and the phone call ended. Immediately afterward at 1:19 a.m. Audrey texted Brandon saying, “Hey, bro, the cops are at your truck,” but he never responded. Believing things were still okay, Kyle told Deputy Neal he was on his way to deliver a gas can for Brandon because his truck ran out of gas, but wasn’t certain where Brandon had gone.

Meanwhile, Deputy Neal does a quick search of Brandon’s pick-up truck. Despite the odd positioning, there had been no damage dealt on the exterior, and all the doors were unlocked. Inside, the truck seats were empty, along with the keys and Brandon’s wallet. Due to the truck being parked unsafely, Neal turned on Brandon’s hazard lights, locked the doors, and ordered a tow to pick up the truck at 8:00 a.m. and proceeded to leave the scene without running Brandon’s license plate.

Once Deputy Neal was out of view, Kyle and Audrey tried contacting Brandon via cell phone but he never responded. Their worries started growing as they walked around shouting his name and drove slowly up and down the highway hoping to see him. Kyle eventually called a few acquaintances from work to help look for him but to no avail. They called off the search at 3:00 a.m. because Brandon’s cell phone had completely stopped ringing — indicating it had been shut off or had no battery power. Before leaving for home, Kyle put the gas can in the bed of Brandon’s truck just in case Brandon returned but he intended to return once the sun rose and his paycheck cleared.

On the way home, Kyle called Ladessa to inform her he couldn’t locate Brandon, but she didn’t get the message until 4:30 a.m. when she finally retrieved her phone from her vehicle. It was at that moment she noticed several missed phone calls from Brandon and Kyle. The fear began to sink in and she called the local police station at 5:00 a.m. to see if any updates had been made but there hadn’t been. Two hours later at 7:00 a.m. Kyle’s paycheck finally entered his bank account and he returned to Brandon’s truck to fill it up with gas. By 8:30 a.m. the truck was towed off, and since there hadn’t been any word from Brandon, Deputy Neal went back to Brandon’s last known whereabouts that afternoon to check nearby homes and land for possible signs of someone being in the area but he was unable to recover anything.

With a lack of contact from Brandon — something very uncharacteristic of him regardless of the circumstances — his family started to grow increasingly worried. Stricken with guilt, Kyle contacted the authorities and mentions the phone call Brandon made claiming he was bleeding while they were present with Deputy Neal. Notwithstanding, Brandon’s family were still unaware Brandon placed a distressed 911 phone call fifteen minutes before Kyle, Audrey, and Deputy Neal arrive at the scene.

Two days later on August 11, 2013, a small search was conducted for four hours without any signs of Brandon. With a lack of any pivotal updates, the consensus amongst Texas Rangers was that Brandon, if alive, is no longer in Coke County. According to Deputy Neal, he’s of the mindset that Brandon made his way back to the highway and got picked up by a passing motorist. These statements, along with other misleading information, were published in the local media publication, “The Observer Enterprise” by Melinda McCutchen, the wife of Sheriff Wayne McCutchen. It’s unclear whether or not these misconceptions are simply a minor error or if they are deliberate, but the information being told to the public can lead to possible muddled tips and leads, and family members of Brandon have shown their disdain for such publishings.

The following day on August 12, 2013, Ladessa was able to retrieve Brandon’s phone records. While she was combing through them, hoping to find some clue or epiphany to where Brandon may be, it was made evident that he placed a 911 phone call shortly before vanishing. Rightfully so, she and her family made their contempt and dissatisfaction known for law enforcement concealing this fact.

After several days had gone by without any contact or update on Brandon, Ladessa filed Brandon Lawson Missing Postera missing person’s report on Tuesday, August 13, 2013, and used the very little money she had to hire private investigator Paula Boudreaux and Texas Ranger Nick Hanna to perform a private aerial search for Brandon. The search also included a handful of friends and family to walk around the vast area where Brandon’s truck was abandoned but the results turned up empty.

Multiple subsequent searches were attempted near the private property where the truck was located but the landowners only permitted limited access which was inadequate for a thorough search, though Ladessa made it abundantly clear that if she was not granted access she would use a helicopter to continue searching above anyway.

One week after Brandon mysteriously disappeared, an official search was conducted by law enforcement on Tuesday, August 16, 2013. The search consisted of aerial coverage with infrared lights, search dogs, and more, but nothing was gleaned. Another search was performed two weeks later on Thursday, August 29, 2013 — this time with large investigative units including the Coke County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Rangers, Tom Green County Sheriff’s Office, Highway Patrol, Search and Rescue. They covered over 2,500 acres, but once again nothing was discovered during this extensive search.

After the second official search, Ladessa quit her job and relocated with the children back to Fort Worth, Texas, closer to her relatives because money was an issue and the lease for her home was up, so her family wanted to help her with the children and get back on solid ground through the difficult circumstances.

Nonetheless, despite the turmoil and the long move back home, she continues to be highly persistent in pursuing answers to her husband’s whereabouts. Though she hasn’t been able to assist with boots on the ground searches — with subsequent searches occurring two months later on Thursday, October 24, 2013, and three more in the early months of 2014, where no answers were uncovered — she has created a “Help Find Brandon Lawson” Facebook page to help garnish attention and spread awareness, along with a website ran by family members titled “Missing Brandon Lawson,” where all the information you need to know can be located there.

A few months after Brandon disappeared, Kyle Lawson was considered a suspect and was brought in for questioning. He was asked if he and his brother got into an argument, and whether or not he had injured Brandon in some fashion or had given him a lift to somewhere. Knowing where the investigators were heading in their questions, Kyle willingly asked for a polygraph test. Unsurprisingly, he passed with flying colors.

Since then, no updates have been made since Brandon’s initial disappearance. Many in law enforcement are still adamant that Brandon Lawson is not in Coke County, because if he was in the vicinity to where he disappeared he would have been located. At the time, the rough terrain was suffering from a drought and the water in the river had been very low. All of this, combined with the technology and equipment provided for multiple searches, leaves them believing Brandon is elsewhere.

Brandon’s family aren’t satisfied with law enforcement’s conclusion, but they are all left with one question that remains unanswered: Is he alive or deceased, and if so, where? What is known is that there has been no activity from Brandon’s Motorola Droid Razr cell phone or his bank account. They don’t believe that he would voluntarily disappear and start fresh; it’s simply not characteristic of him to abandon his family, especially his children, because even though some facets of his life at the time were darkened, there were many visible positives just around the corner.

Regardless of the lack of answers and updates, Brandon Lawson’s case is one that has attracted many various resources in the true crime genre on the Internet, including web sleuths, Redditors, podcasters, and blogs. People of these communities have rallied together to support the Lawson family and to share the case with others in order to perpetuate new eyes and ears.

Brandon Lawson CrossThe journey hasn’t gotten easier even five years later for Ladessa and her children. Each birthday and Christmas, the kids ask for their father, and every passing year without updates is another heartbreak. Nonetheless, Brandon Mason Lawson’s memory still lives on with his infectious smile and goofy attitude emanating from his children. Though he has been absent for a long time, there is a red and white cross placed in the ground where his truck was last seen, not to represent despair; rather a memorial of hope that one day Brandon will return home safe and sound.

Sources

Missing Brandon Lawson

Brandon Lawson – Five Years Later

Help Find Brandon Lawson Facebook

Author’s note: I’ve been quiet for nearly two months since my last blog post. I needed to take a step back for a while. For the last couple of years I haven’t spent much time hanging out with friends or even doing fun activities during the summer months. It’s been five years since I’ve last gone swimming, hiking or camping (I’m not exaggerating). Due to that, I wanted to simply get away from the Internet and enjoy the outdoors — to recharge my batteries, so to speak. Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon with more material in a much more consisent timeframe. 

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

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 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.

The Unsolved Murder of Janett Christman

Urban legends have been around for centuries. Typically, there’s always partial truth to the stories, but they tend to become hyperbole as the tales get passed on to other people. In this narrative, the tragic elements became an anecdote that managed to seep into Hollywood and inspire countless of horror films that have since formed into cult classics such as “Halloween” by John Carpenter and “When a Stranger Calls” by Fred Walton. As you will soon see, the reality is much scarier than fiction.

Janett Christmann

Janett Christman was born on March 21, 1936. She was the oldest daughter of Charles and Lula Christman, with a younger sister by 18-months, Reta Christman Smith and a newborn baby, Cheryl Christman Bottorff. The young family of five had been living in Boonville, Missouri before relocating to the small, college-oriented town of Columbia, Missouri, known for its football team, Missouri (Mizzou) Tigers, and were living on the upper floor of the business they owned, Ernie’s Cafe and Steakhouse, where they made an honest and reputable living.

Janett was 13-years-old and an 8th-grade student at Jefferson Junior High School. She was described as a loving churchgoing teenager who had a knack for playing the piano in the choir, intelligent, and independent for her age — working fervently for the things she desired.

On the brisk Saturday of March 18, 1950, there was a dance party being held that evening for students. Janett had been invited to go by several of her friends but declined because he had plans to babysit. She would often babysit for two families that were well acquainted with one another; the Romacks and the Muellers. On this evening, she was going to be tending to Ed and Anne Romack’s 3-year-old son, Gregory, hoping the job would provide enough money for a burgundy colored suit she had been saving up for the upcoming Easter holiday.

Dusk began to settle in and around 7:30 p.m. Janett arrived at the Romacks’ residence. The couple had recently moved to a rural and isolated home on 1015 Stewart Road directly on the outskirts of Columbia. At the time, Anne was pregnant, and due to the recent and exhausting relocation they hadn’t been able to have a night out just for themselves in a long while, so when the chance arose to spend time with friends and play cards, they capitalized on the opportunity.

When Janett arrived, Anne assured her that Gregory enjoyed sleeping with the radio on and he shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Prior to leaving, Ed quickly taught Janett how to load, unload, and fire the shotgun in case anything transpired. As they were leaving, Ed placed the gun near the front door and said they would be back soon and advised her to lock the door and turn the front porch light on if anyone came knocking. With that, they departed in good spirits and went about their night.

Throughout the evening the weather began to worsen. The temperature dwindled down to the mid-twenties with a storm bringing in the rain and sleet. The robust winds swayed the nearby trees and echoed against the home. Despite the unexpected weather, there was no apparent cause for concern until 10:35 p.m. when Boone County Sheriff’s Department received a frantic phone call.

With the treacherous weather pouring in, the night for local police had been going relatively slow. When the phone suddenly began ringing, officer Ray McCowan picked up the receiver and asked what the emergency was. He was immediately met with the howls of a woman screaming in sheer panic, uttering the words “Come quick!” He tried intervening but the phone line was cut short and a dial tone was all that could be heard.

McCowan knew straightaway the horror emanating from the female caller’s voice was genuine and not a prank by doltish teenagers, but all he could do was anticipate the phone ringing again because the call was too short to provide a trace and the woman didn’t mention any additional information as to what was unfolding or her whereabouts.

Shortly thereafter, Anne Romack called home from the Moon Valley Villa — where she, her husband, the Muellers, and other friends were — to check on Janett and see how the night with Gregory was going, but nobody answered the phone. Considering it was quite late, Anne wasn’t too concerned, presuming Janett had fallen asleep. The Romacks continued to spend a few extra hours away before heading home at approximately 1:15 a.m.

It was 1:35 a.m. when the Romacks pulled into their driveway that was filled with rain and seeping mud. They noticed the porch light was on and the front window blinds were open wide. As Ed began to fiddle with his keys to unlock the front door, he realized it had already been unlocked. He was perplexed because of his instructions to Janett before leaving and as he and Anne walked through the front door they were met with a ghastly discovery.

Three days shy of her 14th birthday, Janett Christman was found sprawled out on the living room floor in a pool of blood soaking through the shagged carpet. She had been violently raped and murdered. Her legs were spread out with her right slipper barely hanging off her foot. There was a head wound from a blunt instrument, multiple puncture wounds from a mechanical pencil, and a cord from an electric iron that had been snipped with a pair of scissors was bound tightly around her neck.

Janett Christman Murder 1

A few feet away was the landline phone dangling off the hook — the reason why Anne was unable to get a response when she called earlier that evening. The sight of this horrifying scene sent Anne into a hectic state as she darted up the stairs to check on her 3-year-old son, Greg, who had been unharmed and shockingly still asleep, oblivious to the horror awaiting downstairs.

Ed Romack hastily dialed the police and they he were dispatched immediately. Sheriff Glen Powell from Boone County’s Sheriff’s Department arrived with numerous detectives and bloodhounds. Unfortunate complications soon arose, however, when Lt. Joe Douglas from the city police — a different jurisdiction that hadn’t any authority since the Romacks lived 100-yards out of city limits — arrived at the scene and attempted to take reign of the investigation. The battle of leadership had the separate agencies being uncooperative with one another, and though answers unraveled quickly, there were many disagreements amongst the two groups.

Inside of the home were clear indications Janett had resisted her attacker. Blood smears and fingerprints were found in the living room and kitchen, where the back door had been unlocked and left ajar. As the police followed the trail outside, the search dogs managed to track the assailant’s scent one mile up from Stewart Rd. to West Boulevard and across West Ash St. before losing the trail. Back at the crime scene, an adult male’s footprints were found near a side window of the residence that had been shattered with a garden hoe, where several authorities believed the perpetrator had gained entry, primarily due to muddy papers found on the piano that was situated nearby.

The method of entry is where the two jurisdictions collided. Due to Ed’s instructions he gave Janett, many detectives suspected the perpetrator knew Janett and tried appearing friendly to get inside. This theory was substantiated by the front porch light being turned on, as he told Janett to do if someone came to the door, the loaded shotgun nearby untouched, and the apparent knowledge as to where to locate the electric iron to use the cord for a murder weapon.

With this prevailing theory, law enforcement worked twelve-hour shifts tirelessly performing stakeouts and canvassing surrounding areas under the suspicion the killer may return to the scene to relish in what he had accomplished. Likewise, the police sought assistance from the public, asking for locals to call in if they see anything peculiar or anyone they know acting differently than normal.

Meanwhile, local officers had gone around questioning Janett’s friends, family, and students from her school. During this process, along with local residents phoning in possible leads, potential suspects were formed. However, it quickly became evident that a racial bias was present because the majority of the men brought in for questioning were black men in the community who were unwarrantedly deemed suspicious. Nevertheless, this tactic was fruitless and the police were no closer to resolving Janett’s murder.

This wasn’t the first rape and murder to befall Columbia, Missouri. Four years earlier on Marylou Jenkinsthe bitterly cold night of February 5, 1946, 20-year-old Marylou Jenkins had been brutally murdered in a similar manner to Janett.

Marylou was at home alone — coincidentally less than a mile away two blocks over from the Romack Residence — while her mother spent the evening a few houses away tending to an elderly couple, while her father was out of town conducting business. When Marylou’s mother had to spend the night away down the street, they conjured up a plan to alert one another if something was amiss. Their scheme was to turn on a light, lift up the shades, and place a phone call.

Late into the night, Marylou’s mother noticed a light on in her house with the shades up, but since she never received a phone call she didn’t believe anything was wrong. The following morning when she returned home, she stumbled upon the gut-wrenching scene of her daughter deceased on the living room floor. She had been raped and strangled with an extension cord.

Marylou Jenkins Newspaper

Two weeks later, Floyd Cochran, a 35-year-old disabled trash hauler, was arrested for savagely murdering his wife. Afterward, he attempted to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. Once the police were aware of what transpired, they took him into custody. Floyd willingly admitted without any remorse that he murdered his wife.

Considering the timeline of events and the desperate need to solve Marylou’s murder, Boone County investigators interrogated Floyd for ten hours, where he supposedly made incriminating statements that led to his guilt, and he later confessed to the crime, despite no evidence connecting him to the murder.

Floyd was subsequently sentenced to die on September 26, 1947, via the gas chamber. A few hours before being executed, he recanted his alleged confession. It was later discovered he was coerced to give a false confession, but the deed had already been done and Marylou’s death is considered solved.

A series of prowlers and peeping Toms would emerge in the following years, and in the late months of 1949, the activity increased with a string of sexual assaults.

The first rape occurred several days before Halloween. A 16-year-old teenager was babysitting on East Sunset Lane, when an unidentified male wearing a white homemade mask with holes cut out for eyes, broke into the residence and violated the young woman in the living room.

The following month on November 29, 1949, 18-year-old Stephens College student, Sally Johnson, became the next target. She lived one block away from where the prior victim was attacked and was home alone falling asleep on the sofa while watching television when an unknown male gained entry and attempted to violate her. Thankfully, she resisted her attacker and was left unharmed, as the perpetrator panicked and fled from the home.

On the very next day, another more brazen incident occurred. A college student enrolled at the University of Missouri was on a date with her boyfriend. They were at Hinkson Creek — a lover’s lane — and in their vehicle when a man draped in a white hood and brandishing a firearm appeared and ordered them out of the car. They did as he instructed and he forced the couple several yards away. He proceeded to rob and bind the male, then ordered the female to walk. When they were a considerable distance away, he sexually assaulted the female and sprinted away from the crime scene.

Days later on December 4, 1949, a 26-year-old black male named Jake Bradford had been arrested after the police caught him in the act of peeping inside a young woman’s window. Bradford spent a week in jail and after intense questioning, he confessed to assaulting the 16-year-old in October and the attempted rape of 18-year-old Sally Johnson, even though she was brought in to ask if he was the perpetrator and was unable to provide an adequate answer.

Nevertheless, the reports of peculiar prowlers and rapes in the area diminished. The police believed they apprehended the right man, and locals began to feel a sense of relief, then all of a sudden the nightmare resurfaced when the tragedy fell upon Janett Christman, with shocking parallels to Marylou Jenkins, causing many people to cast doubt on law enforcement’s original affirmation.

As the police continued on with their investigation into Janett Christman’s murder, one prime suspect named Robert Mueller materialized, and the circumstantial evidence against him began piling up heavily.

Mueller was 27-years-old and friends with Ed Romack since high school. After graduation, Mueller served in World War II as an Army Air Corps Captain and had a distinguishable record. He later returned to Columbia, Missouri, overlooking his father’s restaurant, Mueller’s Virginia Cafe, and working as a tailor. Many people remember him for dressing well and always carrying around a mechanical pencil in his front shirt or jacket pocket.

When Mueller and Ed Romack reacquainted, they shared mutual friends and would frequently spend time together. According to Ed, he had a lustful eye for virgin women and spoke about having a desire to defile someone young. Moreover, he knew Janett since she babysat for him on numerous occasions, and Ed recalled him making lecherous comments about her well-developed hips and breasts.

Additionally, Mueller’s lewd behavior stemmed over to Ed’s wife, Anne, who felt uncomfortable around him because of his uninvited sexual advancements. Much to her dismay, one day before Janett’s murder Mueller had been visiting the home helping Anne hemp a dress and reportedly tried groping her breasts. In a formal statement given to police, Anne described Mueller as a man who “doesn’t use words, he uses his hands.”

The oddities didn’t end there, however. The morning of Janett’s death, Robert contacted Janett to ask if she would babysit his children for the night, but she declined because she already had prearrangements to look after the Romacks’ son. Furthermore, Mueller attended the gathering with the Romacks and their mutual friends but hours into the party he excused himself claiming he had to meet a doctor who was meant to tend to his son. Mueller disappeared for two hours before returning to the party. The police questioned Mueller’s doctor and discovered he never went to the Mueller residence that evening.

To implicate Robert even further, Ed Romack got a phone call from Mueller at his father’s home on the morning after the murder. Supposedly, he had asked if he needed any assistance with cleaning up the blood throughout the house. However, he shouldn’t have known about the tragedy that took place because the crime hadn’t been printed in the local newspaper yet.

Additionally, Ed claimed Mueller would later speak to him regarding the crime and began expounding on how he believed the crime unfolded, claiming that breaking a window to climb into the home would be too loud and noticeable. Instead, it would be much easier to knock on the door and say, “Ed sent me here to get poker chips.”

The circumstantial evidence against Mueller was staggering and overwhelming. In May 1950, law enforcement compiled all the evidence against him and went to his residence to speak with him. Rather than following the basic guidelines of an arrest warrant and interview procedure, the officers didn’t take him into custody — rather, they transported him to a farmhouse outside of city limits and interrogated him at length throughout the course of the night. Mueller was subsequently taken to the state capital, Jefferson City, where he was given a polygraph test and passed.

With the unfortunate results of the lie detector test, the detectives had to let Mueller go free. However, all of the evidence pointed in his direction and the court judge, W.M. Dinwiddle, felt compelled to arrange a grand jury to investigate Mueller’s case further.

Over time and legal issues, Robert Mueller was never charged because of the profound level of incompetence police conducted during their investigation into him. These intertwined factors led Mueller to not be apprehended and he later sued the police department but lost the lawsuit. Afterward, he relocated with his family to Tuscon, Arizona, and in 2006 he passed away at 83-years-old.

After everything that had transpired in the small town of Columbia, it seemed as if all families involved in some form or another needed to uproot their lives from the haunting memories and start anew. The Romacks moved to Idaho Falls, Idaho, and lived with sincere regret that conclusive answers were never given. In the 1980s, Anne passed away. Ed eventually remarried and in 2016 he passed away at 93-years-old. As for his son, Gregory, he grew up successful and settled down in Alaska.

The Christman family remained in Columbia and continued running their business until Janett’s father, Charles Christman, passed away on September 24, 1974, at 60-years-old. After his death, his wife Lula Christman moved to Kansas City, where she would remain until her passing in 2009. Her oldest daughter, Reta, would settle down with a wonderful man and start a family of her own, while the youngest daughter Cheryl — who was only a baby at the time of Janet’s murder — moved to Florida.

It’s now been 68 years, and the once loving, hard-working, and independent 13-year-old who was saving up for a burgundy dress for Easter, would have been 82-years-old on March 21, 2018. While the Romacks and the Christman family believed Robert Mueller is responsible for Janett’s murder, they were painfully stricken with the unsatisfaction for receiving legal justice and closure, and the case officially remains unsolved.