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 Murder of Lacey Gaines

In the crazy world of life, you can be a good person but that doesn’t mean you’re invulnerable to the evil that lurks around the corner. Sometimes, the relationships you have, whether with friends or a significant other, can be toxic. Their bad habits can seep into your life and before you know it you’re inadvertently mixed up in unsavory things that you never even fathomed was possible. For Lacey Gaines, she understood what virulent she was involved with and was seeking help, but the assistance didn’t arrive soon enough.

Lacey GainesLacey Gaines was a 20-year-old mother of one living in Justice, Illinois. Most of her life was spent in Crete, Illinois — a small village in the south suburbs of Chicago known for its downtown views and Dixie Highway. For three years, she attended high school at Illinois Trinity Lutheran Day before transferring to Grant Park High during her senior year. People who knew her best described her as loyal and intelligent. She could speak fluent Spanish and always had an eagerness to expand her knowledge.

Things took an unexpected turn when at 16-years-old, she met Daniel Rogelio Sanchez,  who was in his twenties. They began dating, much to the disapproval of friends and family, and Lacey soon became pregnant. The relationship wasn’t that great, as Daniel would try to be possessive and control her — often becoming jealous of other male friends she would speak to at school. Not letting the circumstances dampen her future, she began inserting her independence by tackling two restaurant jobs at “Vic’s on Main” in Crete and “Maxwell’s in Beecher, Illinois, that overlapped one another between 2005-2008 in order to provide for the upcoming baby.

The entire 2008 year was emotional but eventful for Lacey, however. Despite theLacey and Son hardships of relocating to a new school and becoming pregnant, she graduated with ease and gave birth to a baby boy, Conor Alvardo. After graduation, Lacey’s parents, Jeffrey and Gilda Gaines, purchased a home in a safe community for her. While living there with Daniel, she was supporting the family by taking up a full-time position as a waitress at Kingsberry Waffle House in Flossmoor.

Lacey’s relationship with Daniel quickly began to deteriorating exponentially. He became very physically and mentally abusive, and co-workers noticed she would arrive to work with bruises all over her arms. After seeking guidance out of fear for her safety, and confining to her aunt, Cherry Simpson, Lacey terminated the relationship, though the troubles wouldn’t end there.

After the break-up, a custody battle ensued, which only made things more stressful for Lacey. Nonetheless, she tried to remain positive and took steps to improve her future. She eventually moved out of the home her family purchased and took up residence at Sunset Lake Apartments to start anew. Her parents weren’t fond of this decision because the area was riddled with crime and drugs, but she assured them everything would be okay.

Sunset Lakes Apartments Justice Illinois
While adjusting to her new living arrangments, she met Juan Valadez, whom her friends and family approved of. The two began living together, yet Daniel’s anger and jealousy seemed uncontrollable once he was aware of her lifestyle. Not wanting to let go of the past relationship, he continually began stalking her and would send harassment and death threats. His ever-increasing anger resulted in Lacey fearing for the safety of her and her son, and she sought more immediate help and options by contacting a social worker, but this didn’t little to prevent Daniel’s undaunting rage.

Everything changed six days after Lacey’s 20th birthday. On the bitterly cold evening of Monday, December 7, 2009, Lacey had a doctor’s appointment at 3:00 p.m. but had a peculiar feeling of foreboding. Thinking it would be less stressful and safer in general, she asked her grandmother if she could babysit Conor for a few hours, and she happily accepted the offer.

Lacey and Juan

A few hours later at 7:10 p.m. Lacey’s new boyfriend, Juan Valadez, arrived home accompanied by a female friend of the couple. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but as soon as the two walked inside the apartment they discovered a ghastly scene. Lacey was found lifeless, with blood all over the floor.

Juan immediately dialed 911, but he couldn’t speak English, so his female friend had to assist in the frantic conversation. The police, medical dispatcher, and ambulance soon arrived at the crime scene and Lacey was rushed to the Advocate Christ Memorial Hospital in Oak Lawn, where she was pronounced dead on arrival.

An autopsy was soon performed and it was determined that Lacey had been strangled with an electrical cord, but a knife wound that caused a 4-inch gash on the left side of her neck was what ultimately killed her. According to the medical examiner, the murderer is right-handed and approximately the same height as Lacey. Moreover, it was also concluded that there were no signs of sexual assault or defensive wounds, which provided intriguing evidence for law enforcement.

Back at the apartment building, the police sealed off the area to conduct an examination of the crime scene. Their investigation showed that there were no signs of forced entry and no property had been stolen, leading law enforcement to believe Lacey knew her killer personally. While scouring the rooms for evidence, they managed to retrieve several important items, including a kitchen knife with a 10-inch blade that was later confirmed to be the murder weapon.

Though the police considered Lacey’s case to be an isolated incident, residents were distraught and rumors began circulating. Compelling information started coming in from those in the building claiming several maintenance men working in the complex were known to be pedophilic and Peeping Tom’s. With the latest tragedy, those rumors blossomed into fear, and families were afraid to let their children roam outside and people began walking together in groups for safety precaution. The police did what they could to assure the residents that they had no reason to fear a mad killer was on the loose, but that did little to stop the worrying.

With the belief that Lacey’s murder was personal, Police Chief Robert Gedville and over 30 detectives from the Southwest Major Crimes Task began probing her history. They rounded up friends, family, and prior boyfriends to piece together information that may lead to a potential suspect. That’s when more pertinent information came to light regarding Lacey’s ex-boyfriend, Daniel. He was considered the prime suspect in the case, yet after hours of interviews and interrogations, he was ruled out as a suspect.

Nearly one year later, hardly any new pivotal information was trickling in despite the detectives working tirelessly. Lacey’s case soon turned relatively cold. Potential suspects were unearthed, including some of the rumored maintenance men from her apartment complex, but they and all people from her past that might have had some form of motivation to commit such an audacious crime were ruled out.

About two weeks before the first anniversary of Lacey’s tragic murder, friends andLacey Gaines family held a candlelight vigil on Saturday, December 4, 2010, where the passed out flyers and brochures to keep her unsolved case in the spotlight. Despite the blistering cold weather, many people showed up to pay their respects and show support, and Lacey’s brother closed off the evening by gathering everyone together and saying a prayer.

It has now been nearly ten years and as of 2018, the case remains unsolved with no progress being made aside from Lacey’s case being uploaded to the Unsolved Mysteries website on July 21, 2014. Tips and leads have run dry, and family members feel as if law enforcement has completely disregarded her case. Nevertheless, Lacey’s family still strives for justice and continues to make sure she’s not forgotten in the eyes of Justice, Illinois. They believe as long as they continue to keep her case burning bright amongst the public they have the optimism to see this case resolved. They haven’t given up hope despite all the difficulties the years have been since the unjust murder, but just as Lacey is so often described, they remain loyal to see through the darkness to the very end.

Side note: This particular case doesn’t have much information surrounding it, yet I felt it deserved coverage nonetheless. To be honest, it was much more difficult to write about than any long-form articles I’ve done in the past, primarily because of the lack of information. I’m sure there is more information that isn’t detailed online, and I’d be very interested to learn what kind of DNA evidence — if any — law enforcement has. However, covering more under-the-radar and obscure cases is something I want to continue doing more often, because they deserve limelight as well, and the more people know about a case, the more it could ramp up with potential new evidence. The more eyes and ears, the better.

Sources

Cold No More Blog

Project Cold Case

Lacey Gaines – Find a Grave

Cherry Simpson’s Heartfelt Message

The Unsolved Delphi, Indiana Murders of Abigail Williams and Liberty German

In the society we live in today, with cell phones, social media, and forensic science growing exponentially, it’s hard to fathom crimes going unsolved. What’s even more difficult to comprehend is when all of those things are combined in one mystery and answers are still unable to be produced. So when two young girls go hiking on a canceled school day and record their adventure on Snapchat, nobody expected the devastating turn of events, but people were hopeful the case would be solved quickly. It’s now been over a year and the case remains unsolved. This is the disappearance and murder of 13-year-old Abigail Williams and 14-year-old Liberty German.

Abigail Williams and Liberty German

Abigail Williams and Liberty German were two best friends in the 8th grade at Delphi Community Middle School in Delphi, Indiana — a small Midwestern town consisting of fewer than 3,000 residents, known for its blue-collared workers, avid hunters and fishers, and the annual Delphi Bacon Festival.

Abigail Williams FishingThey gravitated to each other from a young age because of similar interests and were practically inseparable ever since. Like the community around them, they thoroughly enjoyed spending their days experiencing nature by hiking, fishing, camping, and riding ATVs. Sports also played a big role in their lives. Abigail loved volleyball and had been on the school team for the last three years. Liberty had a passion for softball and loved playing the first-base position. Seeing her friend’s desire for the game, Abigail naturally took interest and Liberty convinced her to join the school team for its upcoming season.

Though the teenagers were keen on spending their days outside, they also found enthusiasm in other curricular activities. Both girls dabbled in music–playing the alto saxophone in the school band. They also relished in creativity by showing an interest in arts, crafts, and painting. Abigail often knitted hats for babies at the local hospital and Liberty would bake cookies for the family and leave behind sticky notes that offered words of love and encouragement to those she cherished deeply in her life.

Abigail and Liberty’s future was bright and their maturity was far beyond their years. Even at 14-years-old, Liberty already displayed strong ambitions to become a science teacher in her future endeavors, because she wanted to solve crimes. Friends and family knew that whichever path they chose in life they would have been successful, but everything changed on February 13, 2017, and the community where everybody knew each other suddenly turned into a catatonic state of horror and untrustworthiness and it hasn’t been the same since.

On Sunday, February 12, 2017, Abigail had a sleepover at Liberty’s home, who was in the primary care of her grandparents, Mike and Becky Patty, knowing that school had been dismissed for Monday, February 13, 2017, because of an unused snow day. The two girls took complete advantage of the opportunity and spent their weekend laughing, painting, playing outside, and staying up late.

The following afternoon they conjured up a plan to go hiking at the Monon High Bridge — a common hangout spot for teenagers. Liberty’s grandmother Becky gave her consent but only if they were able to have a ride back home. Liberty’s older sister, Kelsi German, dropped the two off on her way to work at 1:30 p.m. and the girls arranged to be picked up by Liberty’s father, Derrick German, after running several errands that would take two hours.

Everything was seemingly going as planned. As many teenagers do, Liberty wanted to share their afternoon with social media and began recording their adventure at 2:07 p.m. on SnapChat and uploaded a picture of Abigail smiling as she crossed the abandoned Monon High Bridge. Their happiness and joy from the two best friends were evident but nobody could have predicted what would soon transpire.

Abigail Williams Bridge

At approximately 3:11 p.m. Derrick texted Liberty saying he was about to arrive and urged her and Abigail to meet him at the destination. Three minutes later he pulled into the parking area but the girls weren’t in view. He proceeded to text Liberty once more but he didn’t receive a reply. Knowing this was uncharacteristic, he went on to call her, but once more she never answered.

Worrying began to seep in and he decided to walk the trail to search for the girls. Fifteen minutes later without any luck, he called his mother, Becky, and alerted her to the situation unfolding. She responded by attempting contact with Liberty but after several failed attempts she called her husband at work. Mike immediately took time off to join Derrick, where they spent an hour combing the area but the sun started to dwindle down and they decided to contact the local authorities to report Abigail and Liberty missing.

The word traveled quickly as family members used social media to spread awareness. By 6:00 p.m. hundreds of concerned residents showed up beside the State Police, Carrol County Sheriff and Fire Department, and Natural Resources. During the search, an effort to contact and locate Liberty by calling her cell-phone provider and triangulating her position was made but sadly proved fruitless. The hours rolled on and despite large search groups consisting of drones and K-9 units, they were unable to battle the terrain in the darkness and by midnight they called off the search and would resume in the morning. To reassure the public, Carroll County Sherrif Toby Leazenby issued a statement saying there was “no reason to suspect foul play” at the time.

Family members were in distraught and unable to get any sleep as they wondered where their loved ones were. Once the sunrise emerged the search resumed, and the FBI, dive teams, friends and family, and volunteers scoured the dense woods and thickets. Shortly before noontime, everyone’s worst nightmares came to fruition, when a volunteer searcher stumbled upon the bodies of two young girls near Deer Creek; a half-mile away from the Monon High Bridge.

The bodies were transported to the coroner in Terre Haute, Indiana, for an autopsy. Sgt. Kim Riley of the Indiana State Police and Delphi’s Police Chief Steve Mullins provided a statement to the media saying, “Based on the way the bodies were found, foul play is suspected.” They didn’t publicly identify the victims or release how they were murdered but the community knew, and the hearts of family members collapsed. The rest of the day was spent in utter disbelief, and Delphi’s Community School Superintendent Gregory Briles canceled all related school activities for the week.

On the afternoon of Wednesday, February 15, 2017, Indiana State Police and the Carrol County Sherrif’s Department held a press conference. They officially confirmed the two bodies recovered were Abigail Williams and Liberty German, and that a homicide investigation was underway. In addition to the announcement, a photograph was released of an unidentified male walking across the Monon High Bridge at approximately the same time as the two girls. They didn’t classify him as a suspect but asked if he would come forward to conduct an interview.

As family members were arranging funeral plans, the community of Delphi rallied together to help support the cost. A benefit fundraiser was held on Saturday, February 18, 2017, throughout the town by numerous local businesses, where all proceeds went to the families. Later that evening, visitations for Abigail and Liberty were held at the Delphi High School between 4:00 – 8:00 p.m. The support was so enormous and overwhelming that they had to extend the time to 10:30 p.m. as people paid their respects, said goodbye and released hundreds of lanterns into the sky to paint a beautiful portrait to honor the girls’ memory.

On Sunday, February 19, 2017, Indiana State Police officially declared the unidentified male in the released photograph was the prime suspect in the case. The picture had been captured by Liberty German as she was recording Abigail during the hike. Three days later on Wednesday, February 22, 2017, another vital piece of evidence was made known when the police unveiled a snippet of audio of a male saying “Down the hill” that was recorded from Liberty’s phone.

The police said they are looking for a middle-aged caucasian male between 5’6-‘510 inDelphi Suspect height, roughly 180-200 pounds, and possibly reddish-brown hair. He’s wearing a blue windbreaker or coat, denim blue jeans, brown shoes or boots, and a brown undergarment that may be clothing or a fanny pack. Indiana State Police went on to say more evidence was obtained from the crime scene but did not elaborate in order to not hinder the potential of a future trial. They also proclaimed Liberty as a hero for having the presence of mind to record the suspect amidst a terrifying encounter.

Over the course of several days, a Delphi Murder Tip Line service was soon orchestrated. The phone calls would be answered by the FBI’s Major Case Contract Center in Washington, D.C. Likewise, a nationwide campaign was launched to provide over 6,000 electronic billboards with information pertaining to Abigail and Liberty’s case across 46 states with the hope to garnish new tips and leads in the case.

Abby and Anna WilliamsOn the second weekend of the murders, Carrie Timmons created a beautiful movement called “Light up Delphi,” where she urged the town to install orange porch lights as a tribute to Abigail and Liberty. It wasn’t too long after that many businesses throughout Delphi were sold out because the bulbs were selling at such a rapid pace. Afterward, the two girls were laid to rest at Loof Memorial Gardens in Pittsburgh, Indiana.

In the following week, the family members of Abigail and Liberty were met with even more generous support, when over $200,000 was raised in fundraisers, benefits, and donations from Indianapolis Colts team owner Jim Irsay and former punter but now comedian Pat McAfee. Additionally, Abigail’s grandparents, Diane and Eric Erskin of Delphi, were given a tour of the new headquarters where the investigation was being conducted. They felt so grateful for their determination to help bring justice and closure that they left behind a message that read:

“Where are the police when you need them? I have uttered those words whenever a speeding or reckless driver nearly runs me or someone else off the road. Where are the police when you need them? They are here, in Delphi, with us. We pray for your protection, and we are forever grateful for your service.”

By Friday, March 16, 2017, Indiana State Police Sgt. Tony Slocum said over twelve search warrants had been issued in relation to the Delphi Murders investigation, with the latest being executed by State and Federal police at the property of 77-year-old Ronald Logan, where Abigail and Liberty were found positioned down a steep incline behind his residence. The police made it apparent that he was not considered a suspect and told the public to not jump to conclusions because the search warrant was simply a normal routine part of the investigation.

Nonetheless, the media immediately began swarming the authorities with questions and tried digging up information on Logan. It was soon discovered that he had been on probation for operating a vehicle while intoxicated in 2014. Due to the severity of his conviction, he wasn’t supposed to be driving but on the day of Abigail and Liberty’s disappearance, he violated his parole to drive to the county dump site. In the subsequent hours, he was reported at a bar drinking alcohol. As a result of violating his parole, he was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison but his judgment was later lowered to him serving home detention and being monitored by a GPS system.

After the debacle, the investigation went relatively stagnant, but the police remained adamant the case hadn’t gone cold. The heartache only deepened when friends and family were unable to celebrate what should have been Abigail’s 14th birthday on June 23.

On July 17, 2017, a composite sketch of the grainy photograph captured by Liberty Delphi Murder Composite SketchGerman was released by law enforcement. Their goal was to generate more awareness to the public, and hundreds of new tips and leads emerged from the effort. However, Indiana State Police had to reprimand the public on being “armchair sleuthing” because many Facebook users were posting side-by-side comparisons of innocent people to the newly released composite sketch.

Despite new information being called in ample amounts ever since the new sketch, it wasn’t until September 2017 when law enforcement thought they had finally caught the big break they needed. Indiana State Police received a call from El Paso County Police in Colorado saying they had apprehended 31-year-old Daniel Nations and he seemed to be a viable suspect in the Delphi Murders.

Daniel NationsDaniel Nations had connections to Indiana and was living a very troubled and criminal lifestyle. At the age of seventeen, he witnessed his mother Rebecca Smith get stabbed to death by his uncle, who subsequently discarded her body in the woods and covered her up with leaves, sticks, and shrubbery. This had a profound impact on Nations, though he was already menacing. From that point forward, he would hardly hold down a stable job and would continue dabbling in all manners of illegal activity.

In 2007, he had been arrested in Beaufort, South Carolina for indecent exposure and had to register as a violent sexual offender. Thereafter, he had difficulty finding a respectable job and in 2015 more criminal activity started fluctuating heavily. Between March to December, Nations would be arrested throughout several areas in Indiana, such as Greenwood and Bartholomew County. His charges ranged from possession of marijuana, driving with a suspended license, failure to appear in court, pleasuring himself in a woman’s restroom in a Rickers Gas Station, and domestic battery on his wife, Katelyn Nations, that resulted in breaking her nose.

Starting in February 2017, things were quieting down for Nations, but he was still residing in Indiana and was frequently checking in with law enforcement per requirement as a registered sex offender. He was arrested in Martinsville, Indiana on February 24 and spent four days in jail after failing to appear in court. In April 2017, he took up residence at a motel in Greenwood, Indiana, and was arrested shortly thereafter on the suspicion of possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license. On May 12, he checked out of the motel, and a warrant was issued for his arrest when he once again failed to appear in court on July 19, 2017.

In late August 2017, several reports were called into the El Paso County Sherrif’s Office claiming a man driving a red Chevrolet compact Sedan with Indiana license plates was threatening people with a hatchet on a Monument hiking trail in Woodland Park. An immediate search began, but the man was unable to be found.

One month later, police in Teller County, Colorado pulled over a man because of a broken taillight. The officers noted the vehicle matched descriptions provided by eyewitnesses from a month earlier. They discovered the male to be Daniel Nations. Inside of his vehicle was a hatchet and a .22 caliber rifle, and he was officially arrested on September 28, 2017. The following afternoon, the El Paso County Sherrif’s Office notified Indiana State Police about the suspect and detectives traveled to Colorado to conduct a weekend-long interview and investigation, but to the dismay of many, they announced on October 3rd that they “can’t specifically include or exclude Daniel Nations as a suspect in the Delphi homicides.”

The latter part of October was difficult for the town of Delphi. Halloween was approaching and the community was still on edge, with residents hesitant on letting their children roam the streets for candy. Family members of Abigail and Liberty were heartbroken knowing they weren’t able to experience their daughters expressing their creativity with their costume designs as they so often did. November was hard to battle as well when Thanksgiving seeped in. The presence of Abigail and Liberty’s laughter echoing throughout the home could no longer be heard, and the cookies Liberty would always bake for the family was now absent. Nevertheless, both families pushed through together as a strong family unit and did their best to keep their spirits shining brightly.

On December 13, 2017 — the 10-month anniversary of Abigail and Liberty’s disappearance and murder — family members and Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter appeared on Dr. Phil’s television show to keep the case remained in the spotlight. After the broadcast, the case hit a major spike in awareness and over 270 new leads were called in that police are actively following up on. A few weeks later on December 27, Liberty German would have turned 15-years-old, and all the family wanted for her birthday and Christmas was closure, but to no avail.

Dr Phil Delphi

It’s now 2018, and the case remains unsolved. In January, Daniel Nations was sentenced to three years probation for his harassment in Colorado, and in February the Indiana State Police announced he was no longer considered a person of interest in the Delphi murders.

Abigail Williams’ 15th birthday is soon approaching, and the pain and turmoil haven’t lessened. Both families are doing their best to keep Abigail and Liberty’s hopes, dreams, and spirits alive in the hearts of residents in Delphi, Indiana. A $1million sports complex is being constructed in their memory and will be consisting of three baseball fields, batting cages, an amphitheater, and a plaque to commemorate their lives. Even to this day, orange light bulbs can be seen lighting up homes and streets and it continues to be a reminder that just because the girls are gone, they aren’t forgotten. The community has rallied together; friendships have developed tighter; bonds are becoming stronger; generosity is spreading wider, and love is growing deeper.

The Unsolved 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 Unsolved Abduction and Murder of Dorothy Jane Scott

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorothy Jane Scott newspaper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Unsolved Case of the Long Island Serial Killer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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