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.

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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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Insight Into the Springfield Three

 

The Springfield Three revolves around the unsolved disappearances of 47-year-old single mother and cosmetologist, Sherrill Levitt, her 19-year-old daughter, Suzanne Streeter (often known as Suzie), and 18-year-old childhood friend, Stacy McCall.
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