Friday, November 28, 2008
Has DNA Solved the Murder of Joanne Lynn?
As she did every weekday morning, Joanne Ena Lynn, 11, left her home at 8:00 on September 19, 1949 to walk to school. Fall had come early that year, and the trees were rust-red along State Road 15-A in Hemlock, New York. Joanne wore a blue and white candy-striped dress, a red sweater, white bobby sox, and tan shoes.
According to local reports, Joanne was described as being five feet two inches tall and weighing 118 pounds. She’d gone barely an eighth of a mile from her home when she disappeared. Two motorists said they saw a girl fitting her description walking toward a 1938-to-1940 gray sedan with Pennsylvania license plates.
The village of Hemlock lies in the Finger Lakes region of New York. Nearby Hemlock Lake is one of the smaller bodies of water in the area, best known for its land-locked salmon. A few miles south of Rochester, in the 1940s the area was mostly rural.
When Joanne didn’t return home from Hemlock Central School that afternoon, her mother contacted police. The child was described as “a normal, happy girl” who looked forward to attending the Hemlock fair on the weekend.
Search teams combed the hills and gullies and dragged the lakes surrounding the area. Spotters from airplanes looked for the girl while police bloodhounds padded through heavy forests. After four days of futility, the National Guard was called in. On September 23, guardsmen searched all day in a driving rainstorm, coming up empty.
The following morning, 14-year-old Norma Marsden was gathering butternuts four miles from Hemlock. Two hundred yards off Route 15-A, she came across the body of Joanne Lynn.
The child lay face-down in a ditch. Lt. William M. Stevenson of the Batavia State Police told reporters that she’d probably been “lured or dragged into an auto, [and] taken out of the car and shot twice as she cringed in a grove of locust trees. One bullet entered her forehead and pierced her arm as she tried to shield her face. The other entered her left breast and emerged from her back.” Both bullets were collected as evidence.
Dr. Herbert R. Brown, Livingston county pathologist, reported that there was “evidence of an attempt to rape” but that the act had not been completed. Fingernail scrapings suggested that Joanne had fought her attacker.
In a bizarre twist, even though she was clothed, Joanne’s sweater and undergarments were missing.
Livingston County Sheriff Donald McColl worked diligently on the case. Many of his efforts to solve it were innovative and forward-looking. Immediately after the abduction, McColl issued a fourteen-state alert for the suspected vehicle. He and his detectives interviewed all known sex offenders but found no suspects.
Forensics experts determined that the gun used to kill Joanne was a German Luger semi-automatic pistol. For years after the murder, every time a German-made gun was found to have been used in a crime in New York or Pennsylvania, Sheriff McColl had it tested to see if it matched the bullets collected from Joanne. None ever did.
McColl also developed a “secret witness plan.” Citizens had gathered $ 4,000 as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the murderer. McColl asked anyone with knowledge of the case to write or type that information on a sheet of white paper. Newspapers reported that “McColl suggested tipsters withhold their names but devise a combination of six or more numerals, placing the figure on two corners of a sheet and tearing off one corner, before mailing.” In this way, they could claim the reward anonymously.
Despite the efforts of police, nothing worked. The years went by and no suspect was ever developed. McColl died in 1958, still working to solve his most difficult case. After nearly 60 years, the case still remains on the website of the New York State Police.
Years later, in 1989, William Henry Redmond, a fugitive suspected in the 1951 rape and murder of eight-year-old Jane Marie Althoff was finally tracked down by Pennsylvania police. A twice-convicted child molester, Redmond had worked for much of his life at carnivals and fairs around the country. His fingerprints were found in a pickup near Trainer, Pennsylvania - Althoff’s body was found inside the truck. After he was arrested, police reported that he admitted to her murder. Unfortunately, he died of heart disease before he could be tried.
Redmond was a suspect in the murders of several other girls including Joanne Lynn. An article in the Grand Island Independent reported that “Robert Montgomery, a New York State Police investigator, wrote in an August 1991 affidavit filed in Hall County Court that his agency’s crime laboratory had established a DNA profile of the killer from samples from [Joanne's] clothing.”
The article stated that Redmond had been a suspect in the investigation since 1951. “Redmond worked before and after Joanne Lynn’s death as a ferris wheel operator and truck driver for various traveling carnivals. At the time of her death, the Hemlock Fair and Carnival was in progress six miles south of where her body was found.”
In a chilling revelation, Pennsylvania police reported that when they searched Redmond's home, they found undergarments of pre-teen girls.
Whether Redmond’s DNA matched that of the killer has never been published, as far as I can determine. If anyone has further information about this case, please contact me.
Posted by Robert A. Waters at 9:36 PM