The Unsolved Disappearance of Linda Sherman

When you’re married and your spouse has disappeared or been murdered the first person of interest is typically the significant other. In the majority of these types of cases, this notion is correct. However, there are instances where the partner is innocent. Sometimes, the police have a prime suspect linked to the crime but don’t have enough evidence to file charges, and the case goes unsolved. This is the unresolved disappearance and murder of Linda Sue Lutz-Sherman.

Linda ShermanLinda Sue Lutz was born in 1957 and raised in Florissant, Missouri. When she was a junior at McCluer High School, she met Donald Sherman, who was a senior. They seemed destined for one another, and despite their young age, they got married on February 10, 1975, at Christ Memorial Baptist Church.

Shortly thereafter, they rented a home next door to Linda’s parents, Walter and Elenora Lutz. At 17-years-old, Linda gave birth to a daughter, Patty, before the start of her senior year of high school. This didn’t deter her from graduating, and her parents babysat their granddaughter while Linda continued her education.

To help support his family, Donald Sherman worked as an assistant manager at a local gas station. He later transitioned to a factory job as a machinist. Once Linda graduated she worked a plethora of jobs, including Sears as a sales associate, Site Oil Company, a cocktail waitress at Flaming Pit restaurant, and the U.S. Government Records Center (now National Personnel Records Center).

Their marriage had many rough years because their job schedules often conflicted with each other, so they were unable to spend quality time together. When they were able to be together, Donald was very possessive. He always had to know her whereabouts and didn’t like her spending time with other people, even her own family.

This type of jealous and controlling behavior caused many arguments. Many of these fights resulted in Linda terminating the relationship but eventually mending things with Donald. The first instance occurred in October 1977, when she filed for divorce. By the middle of November, however, they settled their issues and relocated to a nicer and much bigger home in Vinita Park, Missouri.

Linda, Don and Patty Sherman

By 1982, things were going relatively okay, aside from the minor bickering every once in a while. Now that Linda and Donald had adjusted to their larger home they wanted to expand their family. Not too long after this decision, Linda became pregnant but unfortunately had a miscarriage. The unexpected loss took a toll on her, and her health suddenly began to decline. She was later diagnosed with epilepsy and often had seizures. This put a damper in their long-term goals, and they both decided it would be best not to have any more children.

Donald’s attitude started to worsen after Linda’s stillbirth. As a result, they started to fight more frequently. On one occasion, Linda believed Don was tampering with her vehicle–making it dangerous to drive. In her mind, that suspicion was confirmed when an argument broke out and he threatened to kill her, their daughter, and then himself. These dark signs were enough for Linda, and she filed a restraining order against him. The judge granted her request, and she and her daughter packed their bags and relocated to a small apartment in St. Ann, Missouri. One month later, Linda and Donald were back together; and as their relationship typically went, there were good and bad days.

In the spring of 1985, Linda felt that her life wasn’t moving forward in a positive way. In a state of feeling miserable and trapped in a neverending cycle, she finally took the initiative to leave Donald for good. She began saving money from her profession and was using it towards looking for a house or an apartment to rent, and even had her mailing address changed so she could avoid being around him in some small compacity. On April 11, 1985, she officially filed for divorce once again. Despite the measures Linda had taken to officially move on from her life with Donald, she was unable to completely avoid him.

Eleven days later on April 22, 1985, things took a very sinister turn. Linda had clocked out of her job at 2:06 a.m. and got home at approximately 3:00 a.m. When she arrived, Donald was waiting up for her, angry because of how long it took her. He began questioning her whereabouts but she refused to provide an answer. This caused friction and the two fought until 4:00 a.m., before going to bed, where Donald slept in the master bedroom and Linda decided to sleep on the living room sofa.

A few hours later, Patty woke up to get ready for her fourth-grade classes at George Washington Elementary School. In an uncustomary fashion, Donald took his daughter to school, which Patty found peculiar because her mother often performed this task. Moreover, she thought it was strange that her mother, who was still asleep on the sofa, didn’t wake up to tell her she loved her and to wish her a good day at school.

Once Donald dropped off Patty at school he went on to his shift at work. He returned home about 6:00 p.m., and according to his story, Linda was still at home even though she should have been at her job, and was antsy and angry. The two barely spoke to one another, and she left home, presumably for work, shortly thereafter. Sadly, Linda never arrived and nobody has ever seen her alive again.

When Linda didn’t arrive home after her shift at work, Donald didn’t think too much of it because it was becoming a regular event. He also believed she was having an affair, which is one reason why he put her through a lot of intense questioning the night beforehand. However, when Linda failed to make her presence known for one more day, and her family became aware of what was transpiring, they urged Donald to file a missing person’s report.

Meanwhile, Linda’s family frantically went around town in search of her and also handed out fliers to the community that offered a $1,000.00 reward for information leading to her whereabouts. After scouring every nook and cranny, they finally uncovered her 1971 yellow Volkswagen abandoned in the parking lot of St. Louis International Airport. There was nothing that would indicate a struggle in or around the vehicle, but in the backseat of her vehicle was a hat and school books for a computer class she was taking.

In the subsequent days and weeks, the police got involved and began interviewing Linda’s friends and family members. With no contact from Linda, something that was very uncharacteristic of her, her loved ones started to believe she met with foul play, especially considering her unstable relationship with Donald and his recent outbursts. They also felt there was no way Linda would abandon her daughter; let alone leave her in the care of her unhinged father who once threatened to murder the whole family.

Linda’s family also suspected she was having an affair. It was later confirmed by law enforcement she was having a romantic relationship with a co-worker, and even an employee Donald worked with caught her in the act. When Donald was interviewed by the police, he stated he firmly believed she ran off with another man. He claimed to notice that on the last evening he saw her there was supposedly a missing bag with an assortment of items taken from their home. Moreover, he mentioned that one week after her disappearance, he witnessed seeing her in the passenger’s side of a van driven by an unidentified male, and when Linda noticed him she quickly ducked her head out of view.

As the police continued to conduct their investigation into Linda’s disappearance, they simply couldn’t locate any evidence to support that Linda vanished on her own accord. However, they also weren’t able to provide any affirmation she met with foul play. The only information they obtained throughout interviews with family, friends, and co-workers was that Linda didn’t have any enemies or people with animosity towards her except for her husband, Donald.

It wasn’t long after Linda’s vanishing when Michael Webb, a young patrol supervisor for Vinita Park Police was assigned to the case. He went on to interview Donald on numerous occasions, but aside from the testimony of friends and family regarding his precarious relationship with Linda, there was zero evidence to support him being responsible.

Additionally, Donald lawyered up and refused the option to undergo polygraph testing. All of these things culminated in law enforcement making Donald the prime suspect in Linda’s disappearance, despite nothing tangible to work with. For Donald, however, he felt slighted and believed the police were focusing only on him and refused to consider the possibility he was innocent.

As time went on, the lack of answers took a toll on Linda’s family. Patty went to live with her maternal grandparents on the weekdays and Donald had her on the weekends when he wasn’t working. Donald, though, was having trouble coping. He was utterly convinced that Linda abandoned her life, whether starting over by herself or with another male, so he attempted to file for a cross-petition for divorce, but this was unsuccessful because if she was still alive, she would have to provide consent for this to occur.

Eventually, Donald turned to alcohol and began drinking very heavily to cure his stress and depression–an issue his own parents struggled with. On February 25, 1974, his mother Audrey Sherman used a .38 caliber to murder his father, Charles Sherman, after they got into a dispute caused by alcohol and the struggle to keep the family afloat.

After five years with no answers and a cold case, a new lead in Linda’s case emerged. At approximately 12:30 p.m. on June 28, 1990, two Trans World Airlines (TWA) flight attendants went to eat lunch at the Mexican restaurant Casa Gallardo in Bridgeton, Missouri. They sat down at a table situated next to a glass plated window, and when they looked outside they noticed what appeared to be a human skull resting outside of some nearby bushes and a yucca plant. They quickly alerted the restaurant manager, who immediately notified the local authorities. If finding a skull wasn’t abnormal enough, Donald Sherman had been at the same restaurant the day the skull was found because he often frequented the bar there to drink.

The Police Chief, Walter Mutert and his investigators arrived at the scene and sealed off the area. They proceeded to send the skull to the St. Louis County Medical Examiner’s Office for further analysis. It was learned that the skull was female and appeared to be of recent origin. Aside from this, there wasn’t much more information able to be obtained, because there wasn’t necessarily a crime scene or anything to indicate the remains was that of a missing or murdered person. The skull was subsequently placed on a shelf in the morgue and forgotten about. At one point, it was even considered to be stolen from a cemetery and dumped at the restaurant as a cruel joke.

Linda Sherman Skull 1

It wouldn’t be until fourteen months later on September 6, 1991, when the Vinita Park Police Department, who weren’t even aware of the skull being found, received an unsealed envelope. Inside was a Super Bowl flyer from the same restaurant the skull was discovered at, and on the back was a single sentence written in purple ink in all capital letters saying “THE BRIDGETON POLICE HAVE L. SHERMAN’S SKULL.”

Thereafter, new testing was done on the skull, and dental records confirmed that it belonged to Linda Sherman. With this surprising information, the police visited Linda’s family and broke the heartbreaking news to them. Patty, who was then 16-years-old, was devastated, but it did provide one answer that she was searching for, even if it wasn’t the one she wanted. Not too long later, Linda’s skull was buried in Steedman Cemetary in Callaway County, Missouri.

Linda Sherman Tombstone

Linda’s case immediately turned into a homicide investigation. In hopes to acquire evidence from the letter, law enforcement sent the contents to the FBI crime lab in Washington D.C. but nothing substantial was gleaned–not even a single fingerprint or DNA. Whoever had written the letter and mailed it seemingly took all precautions to avoid having it traced back to him or her.

Linda Sherman Newspaper ClippingMichael Webb and other investigators proceeded to reinterview friends, family, co-workers, and other people who knew her. Throughout this process, an ex-girlfriend of Donald told the police he had confessed to murdering Linda, yet there was no evidence to link him to the crime. Another theory, perpetuated by Donald, was that Linda’s place of employment was involved in a cocaine conspiracy ring and she was possibly silenced. One rumor that did pique Webbs’ interest sent him and a team of police and cadaver dogs to search some property 90 miles away in Perryville, Missouri for Linda’s remains, but after a thorough examination they were unable to locate anything. Once again, the investigation into Linda’s case turned cold.

In 1999, the police exhumed Linda’s skull and sent it to Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pennsylvania. There was new technology being developed, where newly electron microscopes and X-Rays used in archeology and soil examining was used to take samples of dirt clods that were initially found on Linda’s skull and gathered for potential evidence. The results managed to narrow down the place where she was presumably buried before her skull was retrieved and deliberately placed. Although this new research proved invaluable at the time, it still wasn’t enough to provide a solid possibility as to where the rest of Linda’s remains were and perhaps still are.

Since then, nothing has propelled Linda’s unsolved case forward with momentum. There is simply a lack of information. To help garnish attention and possibly unearth new leads, Unsolved Mysteries aired a segment on Linda’s case on July 2, 2001. Unfortunately, the episode didn’t provide much information, and the case has remained cold ever since.

The years continued to go by with no answers. Michael Webb, who started as a patrol supervisor, investigated Linda’s case for over twenty years and climbed the ranks to become the Vinita Park Police Chief. He passed away on February 4, 2009, due to pancreatic cancer. Throughout it all, he pursued justice for Linda every day he was able. He was adamant Donald was responsible for Linda’s disappearance and murder but was unable to provide enough evidence to convict him.

As for Linda’s friends and family, they tried to move on as best as they could. Donald Sherman eventually remarried, started a new family, and continued working factory jobs. On May 7, 2015, he passed away in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, at the age of fifty-eight. If he had any involvement or information about Linda’s disappearance and murder, he took those secrets to his grave.

Patty Sherman later relocated to Attica, Indiana where she got married and had a child. Even though there aren’t any answers to what truly happened to her mother, she continues to hold on to hope. There may never be any closure, but she does her best to learn from her parents’ mistakes and raise her family in a healthy, stable and loving environment. If she can provide that for her own family, she can live with some form of peace.

Sources

Linda Sherman – Unsolved Mysteries

Linda Sherman – Find a Grave

River Front Times – Body of Evidence

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

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 Andrew Gosden

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

Andrew Gosden 1

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

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

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

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

Andrew Gosden CCTV 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Gosden Mom and Dad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Andrew Gosden

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

The Unsolved Abduction and Murder of Dorothy Jane Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorothy Jane Scott newspaper

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

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

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

djsnewspaper

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

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

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

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

 

Jennifer Kesse and the Luckiest Person of Interest

Jennifer Kesse

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

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