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 Murder of Bonnie Huffman

When you’re young you sometimes feel invincible. Your whole life is ahead of you and it’s hard not to imagine yourself having a successful future. Your dreams and ambitions are at your fingertips, and the world is your oyster.

bonnie huffmanThese thoughts were no different for Bonnie Huffman, a hardworking, intelligent 20-year-old school teacher whom, in 1954, had just finished up her third year of teaching for K-8 students in Buckeye School in Old Appleton, Missouri.

While working as a school teacher, she was living with her mother, Lillie Huffman, and half-brother, Bobby Thiele in a three-room farmhouse and using the money she earned from teaching to help pay the bills, but was soon to start working an office job at Missouri Utilities Company that would provide more of a substantial source of income.

Bonnie also had plans of marriage with her boyfriend of four years, Doug Hiett, and they had made the appropriate arrangments for such an occasion even though they weren’t engaged. As with many relationships, however, they had their fair share of problems. Doug had been absent for a while because he was in the U.S. Army and deployed in Korea but had recently returned during the summer of 1954. It’s unclear what transpired, but on July 3rd, 1954, he unexpectedly ended his relationship with Bonnie without providing an explanation.

The break-up devastated Bonnie, and not knowing what to do she called her best friend mary lou bessMary Lou Bess and asked if she would accompany her to the Broadway Theater in Delta, Missouri, to help clear her head. Mary happily agreed, and she and her husband, Cramer Bess, met up with Bonnie soon thereafter, and they managed to keep Bonnie in good spirits for several hours.

Once the Broadway movie was over, Bonnie suggested the three go to the nearby tavern. She thought it would be humorous to watch drunk people stumbling around the parking lot. Mary and Cramer thought this was a peculiar thing for Bonnie to propose because she always avoided this particular bar due to its unsavory reputation. Mary and Cramer both assumed Bonnie was wanting to go there with the possibility of finding Doug but didn’t want to ask her reasoning. Instead, the two declined her offer and recommended that she should go home and try to get some rest.

The three parted ways, and Mary and Cramer believed Bonnie would be going home as well, but they noticed her get in her grey 1938 Ford and head in a different direction than her normal route. That was the last time Mary saw her best friend alive, and it’s unknown whether or not Bonnie drove to the tavern. What is known is that Bonnie did seem to be going back home on Highway N, but she never arrived.

The following morning when Bonnie didn’t arrive home, Lillie and Bobby started to get concerned. Bobby decided to make a trip to Delta, Missouri and found Bonnie’s vehicle parked in the middle of the road. At first, he presumed she had car trouble and checked to see what was wrong. The car managed to start up fine, and he proceeded to move it out of incoming traffic. Thereafter, he went back home to inform his mother, and the two called Mary and Doug to see if Bonnie was with either one of them, but she wasn’t. It was at this point Lillie and Bobby started to panic, and they called the police to report her missing.

When the police arrived at Bonnie’s vehicle, they found her car keys still in the ignition, but her purse, glasses, necklace, and watch were missing. There was also a Gene Autry toy cap gun near her car and a VFW magazine. However, they couldn’t locate Bonnie.

One day later on the morning of July 5, 1954, a young couple passing through from Allenville, Missouri noticed a foul stench in the air. They followed the source of the odor and uncovered the body of Bonnie Huffman two miles down the road, lying in a culvert, near the local high school, approximately two miles away from where her vehicle was found. The police were quickly notified and an investigation immediately ensued.

bonnie huffman newspaper

Bonnie was discovered to have knee abrasions, a dislocated jaw, and her neck broken. Her t-shirt was partially torn and her underwear was missing. This police believed she was sexually assaulted and murdered, but due to the warm temperatures and a lack of medical advancement, an official ruling after an autopsy couldn’t be determined.

It was theorized that Bonnie’s killer(s) made her park her vehicle, and subsequently brandished the toy cap gun to force her to comply. A struggle occurred, and Bonnie was forced into the perpetrator’s vehicle and managed to jump out while they were driving, and while doing so, was severely injured and the driver proceeded to rape, murder, and discard her.

Once the news of Bonnie’s murder started to make headlines, the entire community was in disarray — scared that such a grisly crime could occur in a small, populated town. The police were doing everything in their power to solve the case. They were interviewing hundreds of citizens and issued numerous polygraph tests, but they had trouble locating promising leads.

One tip they did pursue extensively came from the VFW magazine located at the crime scene. They managed to track down the subscriber and his mailing address to St. Louis, Missouri. According to the subscriber, he and his nephew were down in Hiram, Missouri — near Bollinger County, where Bonnie was discovered — for the 4th of July weekend but left back for home abruptly. Moreover, it was discovered that his nephew had actually been arrested in Bollinger County for sexual assault. The uncle was given a polygraph test and passed without any issues. It’s unsure if his nephew was followed up on more heavily or not.

Bonnie’s ex-boyfriend, Doug, was also brought in for questioning. He complied wholeheartedly and expressed deep remorse; blaming himself for her murder by saying, “If I hadn’t broken up with her, none of this would have happened.” He also stated he had planned to mend things with Bonnie because he regretted ending their relationship so suddenly. After a thorough investigation and a strong alibi for his whereabouts on the night this tragedy occurred, he was ruled out as a suspect. With the lack of pivotal leads to follow up on, Bonnie’s murder turned into a cold case.

One year later, a wooden cross mysteriously appeared where Bonnie’s body was found. Shortly thereafter, an unidentified person removed it for unbeknownst reasons. In 2007, a replica was planted anonymously, with the words: To the memory of Bonnie Huffman. Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live. – John 11:25, KJV.

bonnie huffman cross

Ten years went by and in 1964, Bonnie’s cold case started to defrost when a true crime magazine covered her story and caused a huge splash. The author of the article illustrated Bonnie’s physical attributes and portrayed her as a lustful object for careless men, and labeled her killer(s) as a “Merciless sex fiend.” The sensational article created a much-needed resurgence in Bonnie’s case, and law enforcement began to look more heavily into the investigation. As a result, more leads and potential suspects were disinterred.

One person of interested was a man who molested his own two daughters when they were only six years old. Another individual unveiled was a man littered with tattoos and religiously spoke openly about his desires of sex and berating women. The last person examined was a local mechanic who had dark sexual fantasies and wore women’s clothing when he was at home. Unfortunately, law enforcement was unable to connect any of the men to Bonnie, and they were ruled out as a suspect.

Once again, Bonnie’s case became stagnant. It wouldn’t be until decades later in 2004 when the Cape Girardeau’s police station had a new clue emerge from a mysterious letter from Florida. It was mailed anonymously and had no return address. The contents inside had a detailed summary of what happened on the night of Bonnie’s murder.

According to the author, he (or she) was on their way home after a long night of dancing with friends and stumbled upon a deserted vehicle in the middle of the road. He believed the driver needed assistance, so he got out of his car but soon realized nobody was in view. In mere seconds, he spotted two men throwing *someone* in the ditch. In the midst of the commotion, he heard a female voice screaming for help at the bottom of the culvert. The two men became aware of his presence and immediately chased after him. He quickly got back inside his vehicle, and the two men attempted to force their way into his car to pull him out but the doors were locked. They proceeded to run to their vehicles and block his pathway on the road. He managed to escape their grasp and would go on to say in the letter, “How I ever got the clutch in and shifted, I will never know.”

Additionally, the author claimed he didn’t come forward sooner because he was petrified of retaliation, particularly because of how small the town was. Moreover, he included a hand-drawn map of where Bonnie’s body was found, along with accurate depictions of the roads and where the stores and the Cape Girardeau Police Department were located at the time. The police concluded that the letter was genuine and the most tangible piece of evidence they had. Sadly, the author never made contact again and due to his anonymity, the promising lead was unable to be pursued further.

It’s now been over sixty years, and most of the locals, witnesses, and possibly Bonnie’s killer(s) have passed away. The physical evidence collected has since been destroyed, although a single latent fingerprint from Bonnie’s rearview mirror still exists. With not much to work with, the likelihood of her case being solved is slim to none. One of the original officers who investigated the crime stated, “It’s just one of those things. Some cases can’t be solved. It’s just as simple as that.”

For Doug Hiett, he never really was able to forgive himself but did manage to learn how to cope with survivor’s remorse. He eventually married a lovely woman and had two beautiful daughters, and worked at Cotton Belt Railroad for forty years before retiring. In March of 2009, at the age of 76-years-old, Doug passed away and was buried at the Missouri Veterans Cemetery in Bloomfield, Missouri.

bonnie huffman bench
Image Source: STL Today

Bonnie’s surviving family members do their best to keep her case in the spotlight. They cling on to hope that with the neverending advancement in technology and the medical field, answers will eventually be presented, even if Bonnie’s killer(s) aren’t alive any longer. If they can obtain a name and a face, that will suffice and bring some form of closure.

In 2011, relatives of Bonnie purchased a set of black onyx benches that have her photograph engraved on them. They are located in Bollinger County Memorial Park Cemetary in Marble Hill, Missouri, where she is buried. To this day, the small town of Delta, Missouri memorializes the life of Bonnie Huffman. She will never be forgotten, and even though her case remains unsolved, her beautiful and radiant smile forever stays present in the minds and hearts of the community.

Sources:

Find a Grave

The Southeast Missourian

St. Louis Today

Snoop Dorky Dork Blog

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 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.

 

The St. Louis Jane Doe of 1983

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

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

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

St. Louis Jane Doe Newspaper 1

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

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

St. Louis Jane Doe Newspaper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Tragic Unsolved Murder of Angie Housman

On November 18th, 1993, nine-year-old Angie Housman was last seen getting off her Angie Housmanschool bus in St. Ann, Missouri – a quiet suburb on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. She wouldn’t be found until nine days later, and ever since then, her name has never been forgotten.

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