Sunday, December 26, 2010

Century-old mystery forgotten

Richmond Byers vanished from Seeleyville, Indiana

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The Disappearance of Little Richmond Byers
by Robert A. Waters

Shortly after the turn of the century, the presumed abduction of Richmond Byers made national headlines. Before Catherine Winters and Charles Lindbergh, the inexplicable vanishing of the child horrified Americans. The boy’s father searched for years, bankrupting the family in a vain attempt to find his son. In the end, it was futile. He went to his grave wondering what had become of the six-year-old boy he and his family called “Rich.”

As time went on, Dr. L. S. Byers wrote to newspapers across the country explaining what had happened in the small town of Seeleyville, Indiana and urging editors to publicize the case. I’ve published one of his letters below. (Although Dr. Byers doesn’t use the term in his letter, it’s clear that he thought a group of “gypsies” had taken his son.)

The letter, published in the Fort Wayne News in 1906, reads:

“After coming to the ball ground at about 3:15 p.m. Sunday, the 29th of May, 1904, bringing home his tricycle, [Rich] immediately left, we supposing he expected to return to the company of children at the game. It has not been definitely settled that he got back there, but he was seen by Mrs. Coffy [a resident of the town], who called him back and asked him what he had said to a man to whom he was talking. He told her that he said to the man: ‘You have a blackened eye, where did you get it? At the saloon?’

“The man was in his shirt sleeves. Now, he had a coat somewhere. He would not have been dressed like that had he been a resident of any town near here, as everybody was dressed up, it being the first really fine Sunday that spring, which makes me believe he had a wagon somewhere near the town. Besides, five wagons passed through the town that afternoon and six wagons were together when they passed through Terre Haute, eight miles west of here.

“One of them came back next day. Four were overhauled the next night [and searched], but the sixth one has never been overtaken.

“A doctor of Clinton, sixteen miles from Terre Haute, wrote me that a covered wagon went into a lane four miles from his home that Sunday night. Now it is the custom for these rovers to go into camp before sundown, as they depend on the children to beg their food and let their emaciated horses graze. It is useless to try and convince me that that wagon did not have my boy in it. And then a covered wagon was seen over 100 miles north, near the state line, making good headway.”

Richmond Byers was described as having a light complexion, and gray eyes. His left eye was noticeably crossed. He had a V-shaped scar on the edge of his left ear. He was said to be small for his age, and very bright.

Shortly after the child vanished, citizens of Seeleyville turned out en masse to search the area. There were many deserted coal mines nearby and each was thoroughly searched. The fields and woods and ponds surrounding the town yielded no clues, nor did the abandoned houses in the vicinity. An article in the Logansport Journal described the search and concluded: “There was then only one solution to the mystery--that the boy had been kidnapped by a band of gypsies who had been camping in the vicinity and who left on the night of his disappearance.”

Later in the article, the editor wrote: “Persons who were near the camp of the gypsy band south of this city last week say they saw a boy fitting the description of Richmond Byers playing around the wagons. His face, they say, was scarcely tanned and it was believed that he had been with the band only a short time. While playing around the camp, he was reprimanded several times by the women and told to get back into one of the wagons.”

Dr. Byers and his wife Maggie began the long search for their child by visiting local law enforcement officials in cities surrounding Seeleyville. As reports of children who resembled their son came in, Dr. Byers would rush to another town, only to be disappointed to learn that the boy was some other child. He visited cities in Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky, Arkansas and numerous other states. A $2,500 reward was established by friends of the family as Dr. Byers’ practice suffered because he was gone for so much of the time.

For years, the doctor and his wife had high hopes of locating his long-lost son. But it never happened. Richmond Byers was as lost as yesterday.

What happened to the boy?

Today, when a child goes missing, law enforcement officials always investigate the family first. Simultaneously, they track down sex predators and try to eliminate or include each in the investigation.

At the turn of the century, “gypsies” were always a convenient scapegoat when a child went missing. While there are few documented cases of these groups actually abducting a child in America, it’s always possible. But the more likely scenario is that the stranger seen talking to Richmond Byers abducted him for sexual gratification, then murdered him and hid his body.

While articles about the vanishing of Richmond Byers can still be found in the old newspapers of the time, the case has largely been forgotten today.

If anyone has additional information about this case, please contact me.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Georgia Tech Student Turns Tables on Career Criminal

Yuhanna Williams brought a knife to a gunfight

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Another self-defense shooting
by Robert A. Waters

After the shooting of armed robber Yuhanna Williams, Alice Johnson, executive director of Georgians for Gun Safety, is reported to have said: “It’s certainly appropriate to defend yourself if your life is in danger. [But] I really have to wonder why anyone would want to kill another human being over the money in the cash register.” Unfortunately, more often than not, the reverse is true. Thousands of clerks have been killed by thugs after they gave robbers the “money in the cash register.” This story, however, is not about a clerk complying with the orders of an armed psychopath--it’s about a carjacker who got what was coming to him.

Just before 8:00 p.m., on December 11, 2010, twenty-three-year-old Ryan Moore stopped in the parking lot of Ingles supermarket in Rockdale, Georgia. A student at Georgia Tech, he’d just completed his last final exam for the semester. He borrowed a friend’s car and drove to the store to buy orange juice.

Police reports state that when Moore stepped out of his car, two men approached and tried to rob him. At least one of the assailants had a knife. Newspapers reported that the robbers attempted to take Moore’s car.

There was a brief struggle, and Moore was cut on the chin and arms. The victim, who possesses a concealed carry permit, drew a .357 Magnum and fired. Yuhanna Abdullah Williams, 30, died at the scene. He'd been shot in the head. The second robber fled and, as of this writing, has not been identified.

Ryan Moore was taken to Rockdale Medical Center and later released. He has not been charged.

Yuhanna Williams was transported to the morgue.

A month earlier, a customer at a video store in the same plaza shot and killed another robber.

According to an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, at least six self-defense shootings have occurred in or around the metro Atlanta area this year.

• A clerk at a liquor store in Cobb County killed a robber in an exchange of gunfire.

• In Stone Mountain, a barber shot a suspected burglar and held him at gunpoint until police arrived.

• The owner of a tattoo parlor killed one of three armed robbers.

• A resident in DeKalb killed one burglar and wounded a second one.

• A homeowner in Ellenwood killed one of three armed intruders as his children lay asleep in another room.

• Three armed home invaders were captured by police when a Decatur resident heard them kicking in his back door--the homeowner shot one of the men.

None of the victims who fought back were charged with any crime.

In most of the incidents described above, the assailants had long criminal records. Yuhanna Williams, for instance, had been arrested numerous times in the nine years since he turned 21. Charges included simple battery, disorderly conduct, public indecency, DUI, violation of probation, and possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute at a school.

Lucille Giscombe, a frequent shopper at Ingles, perhaps said it best. “I feel everyone has to defend themselves,” she said. “These people [robbers] are ruthless. They have no regard for human life. I have a gun. I am like Rambo, so they need not bother me.”

Friday, December 17, 2010

Quirky Quotes from Old Newspapers

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Vintage Quotes
Compiled by Robert A. Waters

From the Statesville (GA) Landmark, March 8, 1907

"The jury in the case of William T. Gilpin, charged with the murder of W. W. McDonald, a prominent attorney, of Douglas, Ga., tonight brought in a verdict of not guilty, after having been out several hours. Gilpin shot McDonald in his wife's room at the Rimes House in Vidalia one night last October. He had concealed himself in the closet of the room. After McDonald had entered, Gilpin sprang from his place of concealment and emptied two revolvers at McDonald, and the latter subsequently died from his wounds. (Gilpin was, of course, guilty of premeditated murder, but the unwritten law is that a man has a right to slay the despoiler of his home.)"

From the Statesville (GA) Landmark, March 8, 1907

"John Bullard was hanged Friday at Marietta, Ga., for the murder of his 17-year-old daughter last September. He was a victim of consumption and it had been a question whether he would die before the day of his execution. He was so weak from the disease that he had to be supported on the scaffold and with his dying breath he declared that the death of his daughter was due to an accident."

From the Frederick (MD) News, September 26, 1902

Nashville, Indiana, Sept. 25--"Mrs. John Browning missed her 2-year old baby. After searching for the child over an hour, she found it 100 yards from the house, sitting in some tall grass and in its lap lay a large rattlesnake. The baby was patting the snake on its head and body, and the snake lay coiled. The mother screamed and the snake moved slowly into the grass. The child was taken to the house and was found to be unhurt. Afterward, Mrs. Browning went to the spot where the child was found, and a few feet away she found the snake and killed it. It was almost three feet long, and had eight rattles and a button. What puzzles the family most is the fact that a small gold ring worn by the child was found on the ground close to the snake. The reptile had undoubtedly carried it to the place. Perhaps it fell off the child's finger, but maybe the snake took it off. The snake was charmed by the rlng, so the Brownings think."

From the Atlanta Constitution, January 26, 1910

MAN WHO WROTE "GOO-GOO EYES" PUT IN THE POOR HOUSE BY BOOZE

"Hugh Cannon, who wrote Goo Goo Eyes, Ain’t That a Shame Bill Bailey and other classics of ragtime, was sent to Eloise poor house today at the age of 36. He told the story of his life in short expressive sentences. 'I quit the coke easy,' he said. 'Fifteen days in the jail cured me of that. I hit the pipe in New York for a year and stopped that. I went up against the morphine hard and quit but booze--red oily booze—that’s got me for keeps. I started when I was 16. I’m 36 now and except for seven months on the wagon I’ve been pickled most of the time. It was twenty years--twenty black, nasty, sick years--with only a little brightness now and then when I made good with some song.'"

NOTE: Hughie Cannon died two years later in a Toledo infirmary. Cause of death was cirrhosis of the liver. Cannon sold the rights to all his songs and died in abject poverty.

From the Iowa Press Citizen, December 21, 1920

TWO BANDITS TAKEN AFTER HARD BATTLE

MILLTOWN, N. J., Dec. 21--"Two bandits were captured by a citizens posse here shortly after midnight following an unsuccessful attempt to rob the First National bank. Two other bandits escaped. A watchman heard the noise in the bank and sounded the alarm. Thirty citizens responded. Armed with rifles, pistols, shotguns, axes , etc., they started for the bank. Two of the robbers surrendered. They said they were Clifford Jackson of New York and Frank Voorhees of New Brunswick. They refused to identify their companions."

From the Ukiah (CA) Republican Press, November 22, 1939

"NEWS DISPATCHES the other day carried a story [that the] failure of the Ham and Eggs amendment to pass at the recent election was believed responsible for the suicide of 72-year-old Henry Brutt, of Los Angeles. The unscrupulous heads of the Ham and Eggs racket have the blood of this unfortunate old man on their hands, if the story is true. Aged men and women all over California were led to believe Ham and Eggs was a panacea for all their misfortunes. Some method must be found to drive this racket, the most infamous and cruel yet devised, from California."

NOTE: The Ham and Eggs Amendment was an effort to give all unemployed Californians (about 800,000) $ 30 per month. It was to be funded, of course, with a massive set of new taxes and bonds.

From the Waterloo (IA) Courier, December 26, 1894

"DIED IN PRISON.—Charles Holchrist, who was sent to Anamosa in 1878 from Grundy county for life, for murder, has recently died. A letter from Anamosa says that Holchrist was a farmer in Grundy county and while riding through the country in a wagon with two other men (all three of them in a drunken condition) a quarrel arose and Holchrist struck one of his companions with a hammer and killed him. The murdered man was his farm hand and a mere boy. An arrest followed and a trial resulted in Holchrist's conviction and sentence to prison at hard labor for life. When the penitentiary doors closed upon him Holchrist left a wife and daughter and a little property in Grundy county. He was assigned to the stone shed and worked there faithfully for fifteen years. The prison officials speak of him as an orderly and good workman. His courage did not desert him and his cheerfulness was habitual until a year ago. Mrs. Holchrist and the daughter communicated regularly with the husband and father until last year, when the wife importuned him in a letter to give her a deed to the family property, which consisted of some town lots. He hesitated about doing so, but finally yielded. As soon as the wife obtained possession of the property she began an action for divorce, obtained a decree and is now married and living at Lake Park, Iowa, near the Minnseota line. Then his daughter, who is a school teacher, stopped writing to him, all of which tended to crush him. He lost his strength, became unable to work and was sent to ward No. 6, which is peopled by old and infirm men. Here he merely existed for the last six months."

Monday, December 13, 2010

Twenty Quotes About Murder

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Murder quotes
Compiled by Robert A. Waters

"There's the scarlet thread of murder running through the colorless skein of life, and our duty is to unravel it, and isolate it, and expose every inch of it." Sir Arthur Conan Doyle from the Sherlock Holmes book, A Study in Scarlet.

"There are 4 kinds of Homicide: felonious, excusable, justifiable, and praiseworthy." Ambrose Bierce, Writer.

"Civilizations die from suicide, not by murder." Arnold J. Toynbee, Historian.

"What the detective story is about is not murder but the restoration of order." P. D. James, Author.

"I didn’t want to harm the man. I thought he was a very nice gentleman. Soft-spoken. I thought so right up to the moment I cut his throat." Perry Smith, as quoted by Truman Capote in the classic true crime book, In Cold Blood.

"Deliver me from the workers of iniquity, and save me from bloody men." Psalm 59:1-3, New King James version.

"You feel the last bit of breath leaving their body. You're looking into their eyes. A person in that situation is God!" Ted Bundy, serial killer.

"The boys with their feet on the desks know that the easiest murder case in the world to break is the one somebody tried to get very cute with; the one that really bothers them is the murder somebody only thought of two minutes before he pulled it off." Raymond Chandler, Author.

"It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain, but, once conceived, it haunted me day and night." Edgar Allan Poe, from "The Tell-Tale Heart."

"These concerns (for orphan children in India and elsewhere in the world) are very good, but often these same people are not concerned with the millions that are killed by the deliberate decision of their own mothers..." Mother Teresa (1910-1997).

"I know what you're thinking. Did he fire six shots or only five? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I've kinda lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya punk?" Clint Eastwood, in the movie Dirty Harry.

"Political language...is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." George Orwell, Author.

"You shall not murder." Deuteronomy 5:17, New King James version.

"The very emphasis of the commandment: Thou shalt not kill, makes it certain that we are descended from an endlessly long chain of generations of murderers, whose love of murder was in their blood as it is perhaps also in ours." Sigmund Freud, Psychoanalyst.

"I never killed a man who didn't need it." Clay Allison, western outlaw.

"Unnatural death always provoked a peculiar unease, an uncomfortable realization that there were still some things that might not be susceptible to bureaucratic control." P.D. James.

"You know, everybody uses this word [closure] and banters it around...I don't have any closure and most parents of murdered children or crime victims don't really have closure because your life is changed forever by that event." John Walsh, whose son Adam was kidnapped and murdered.

"There is a legitimate argument over whether the death penalty effectively deters violent crime, although my personal observation is that not one of the criminals who have been executed over the years has ever killed again." Dinesh D'Souza, Author.

"I can't express the feeling. I felt so much better. I'm so glad Florida has the guts to keep the electric chair. At least there was a split second of pain. With lethal injection, you just go to sleep." Raymond Neal, brother of murder victim Ramona Neal, after serial murderer Gerald Stano was executed for her slaying.

"There is a generation that curses its father, And does not bless its mother. There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness. There is a generation--oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, And whose fangs are like knives..." Proverbs 30: 11-14, New King James version.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

AMBER Alert for Twelve-Year-Old Brittany Smith

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Suspect’s mother asks him to “come home”
by Robert A. Waters

On Friday, December 3, when Tina Smith, 41, didn’t show up for work at the Richfield Retirement Community in Salem, Virginia, a co-worker called police. Investigators found Smith murdered inside her home. (Details haven’t been released concerning the cause of death.)

After they were unable to locate Tina’s twelve-year-old daughter Brittany at her school, authorities issued an AMBER Alert. “We found out pretty quickly that Brittany had not shown up for school,” Roanoke County Police Spokesman Chuck Mason said. “Nobody seemed to know where she was.”

The chief suspect in the murder and the presumed kidnapping is Jeffrey Scott Easley, 32. According to police, he had met Tina online and had recently moved in with her and her daughter.

Yesterday, authorities released a video that allegedly shows Easley buying items at a local Walmart on Friday night. The suspect used a credit card belonging to Tina Smith to pay for his purchases. In the video, Brittany is seen with Easley.

Easley’s mother, Sallie Martin, held a news conference pleading for her son to return home. "Last night I went to bed and I was worried from what I know about you and Brittany,” she said. “I wondered if you were hungry or if y'all were cold. You know you can call me and I just want you to come home and I want you be safe."

Investigators have stated that they feel Brittany is in grave danger. Until the video surfaced, the pretty seventh grade student had last been seen on Friday morning. She was supposed to attend Glenvar Middle School, but never showed up. “We are extremely concerned for Brittany’s safety and have asked Virginia State Police to extend the AMBER Alert for another 24 hours,” said Roanoke County Police Chief Ray Lavinder.

Jeffrey Scott Easley is five feet, eleven inches tall and weighs about 265 pounds. Easley, originally from Wilmington, North Carolina, is likely driving a silver 2005 Dodge Neon sedan with Virginia tag XKF-2365.

Brittany is five feet tall and weighs about 100 pounds. She has straight brown hair and brown eyes. Brittany usually wears a bright green rubber bracelet in memory of her brother who died last summer.

If you know anything about Brittany Smith's disappearance, authorities urge you to call the Roanoke County Police at 540-777-8641 or the Virginia State Police at 800-822-4453.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Who Was the Tape Recorder Man?

Sheila and Katherine Lyon

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The Strange Disappearance of the Lyon Sisters
by Robert A. Waters

“Hope springs eternal,” wrote the poet. For families of kidnapped victims, those words often bring solace. On the other hand, once a child is missing for more than a few days, cops look at the odds and are much more pessimistic.

Occasionally, a victim survives and returns home. Steven Staynor was held captive for seven years before escaping from a brutal sex predator. Elizabeth Smart was kept for nine months. Shawn Hornbeck was rescued after four years and Jaycee Lee Dugard came home eighteen years later.

There seems to be little hope, however, that the Lyon sisters will ever be seen again. After all, it’s been thirty-five years since they were snatched from the streets of Wheaton, Maryland.

On March 25, 1975, Sheila Mary Lyon, 12, and her sister, Katherine Mary Lyon, 10, left their home sometime between 11:00 a.m. and noon. They planned to walk a half-mile to the Wheaton Plaza, a local mall, to buy a birthday gift for their mother.

Mary Lyon, the girls’ mother, told them to be home by 4:00. Their father, John Lyon, a well-known announcer for one of the most popular Bethesda radio stations, was working.

Sheila and Katherine were seen at the plaza by several friends as well as her brother. They ate pizza at a local restaurant and window-shopped. At some point, they were seen speaking into a microphone held by a middle-aged man. The sisters left the mall sometime between 2:30 and 3:30 and were last seen walking along Drumm Avenue toward their home.

Neither Sheila nor Katherine Lyon has been seen since. Despite a desperate door-to-door search and thousands of volunteers scouring the surrounding woodlands and fields, the girls were never found.

There have been few leads. Two men who lived in the area and were later convicted of crimes against children became suspects. Nothing was ever found to link either to the missing girls.

Perhaps the best lead is the man with the tape recorder. He was never identified, even though investigators requested that he come forward. If you lived in the area at the time, think back and try to remember someone you knew who would take a tape recorder in his briefcase and record young boys and girls at local malls.

Here’s what we know about him:

He was about six feet tall, middle-aged, and wore a brown suit. He carried a brown or tan briefcase. When he opened the briefcase, there was a portable cassette tape recorder inside. The recorder had a microphone attached to it.

Some reports say the Tape Recorder Man, as he was called, said he was recording women’s voices to be used in an answering machine. Some children thought he was a reporter and volunteered to be recorded so they could see themselves on television. An eyewitness who helped police sketch a likeness of the man said that he saw Sheila and Katherine speaking to him.

“Are any of you two involved in sports?” the man asked. The boy moved on and didn’t hear the response.

The boy added that “the man was holding a microphone in his hand between the girls, and asking questions. He had a tan briefcase on the ground. It was one of the those hard ones that sat up.”

Many people saw the Tape Recorder Man and helped police develop a sketch of him. In the weeks before the girls disappeared, he was also seen at the Iverson Mall and the Marlton Heights Shopping Center in nearby Prince George’s County.

Whether he had anything to do with the disappearance of the girls is unknown. But police, who have never let the case go cold, would still like to speak with him.

If you have any knowledge of this case, or of anyone in the area at the time who had a briefcase with a tape recorder in it, please call Montgomery County Police Department at 301-279-8000.

Police sketch of the Tape Recorder Man

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NOTE: This message came from Adam Klein. He has developed an intriguing theory about who the Tape Recorder Man (TRM) may have been. Thanks to Adam for letting me share it with my readers.

The Tape Recorder Man was, I believe, James Mitchell DeBardeleben the II. In my trauma as a 9 year old boy growing up in quiet Kemp Mill, I held on to the pain and gripping fear of the Lyon sisters.

Later in life I was reminded of their nightmare once again. In my extreme curiosity I studied the case with enthusiasm. I asked the question to myself over and over again - if a man was going to kidnap two middle class white girls out from under their family's and community's noses - why the hell would he be seen in public talking to the girls before he kidnapped them? Would the public display help him? If so I could not work out in my mind how it would help him?

I thought about this question. I meditated on many more like: Did he want to get sketched? If so why? Was he taunting the police? What was he doing for the weeks before the kidnapping acting as a Tape Recorder Man? How does a full-grown man, well-dressed man, get his face drawn in the paper and NO-ONE in the whole community recognizes him?

Then I went to sleep one night and I had a dream. The dream related to me seeing a group of bullies in a high school in the late 1950's attempting to stuff the head of another teenagers/classmates head into the opening of a vending machine. The sadism was over the top and the rage toward the one getting bullied was intense. They were enraged at him for his violence toward a female classmate.

When I awoke I saw exactly how the crime could have happened. I sat on the edge of my bed and had an experience I have never had in my life and never had since: I literally watched my mind show me how this crime very likely could have happened. It answered every question I had puzzled over and then many many more.

At the edge of my bed I watched a "movie" of sorts delivered from somewhere deep inside of my mind. Whoever kidnapped them impersonated a police office. He either was a cop or he had a police uniform. His whole tape recorder man routine was his way of either tormenting the community and or communicating to someone is some sick psycho-sexual drama.

If he had a police uniform then he could sit in a car near the most obscure point on the normal route of teenagers on their way from Kensington to Wheaton Plaza. Such a move would allow him to immediately gain the girl's trust. Once they saw him as a police officer they would be willing to "help" the officer by speaking into a microphone in the middle of the mall. A simple lie, like "the Police force has been seeking a criminal -well known to come up here to Wheaton Plaza - I will change to plain clothes and come up to the mall -if you girls would be willing to speak into this mic this would help decrease the criminal's suspicion that he is be followed by the police...."

Then he could kidnap them when they are walking home. He could tell the girls "this is top police work there is no danger to you, but if you could not talk about it, at least till you have dinner with your family tonight, that would help the police". He can simply lie in wait for the girls return and then ask them for further assistance. If they could just get in the car and go up to the station for about 10 minutes. And if they get in the car, which they did, that's it.

I sat on the edge of bed slack-jawed. I said to myself well great but if their has been no criminals in the DC area that impersonate police, and kidnap girls/women such a theory is worthless. Since it is so many years later if any such person existed then forget it. Furthermore, I would have to believe that such a criminal would NOT be a cop so Police uniforms would have had to have been stolen.

I googled police impersonator, Washington DC area. And there he was, one of the most dangerous serial rapists in the history of America was right here in the DC area - James Mitchell DeBardeleben. Between 1979 and 1983 he was named the "mall passer" because he loved to pass counterfeit money at shopping malls. He especially had a passion for committing crimes in crowded malls, and beyond that he liked crowded holiday malls. His counterfeit operation was a way of financing much darker and more sinister crimes - kidnapping, torturing and raping girls and women.

DeBardeleben was a sexual sadist. He was a murderer. He was a kidnapper. He was a highly sophisticated and extremely dangerous criminal.

He was all over the DC area - especially Wheaton. He robbed the bank that existed in the parking lot of Wheaton plaza. He followed the bank manager for weeks and watched his coming and going behavior. When he went to work one morning DeBardeleben went to his house and lied to his wife stating that he was a Federal Banking Official. When she opened the door he burst in put her at gun point, tied her up and gagged her. He called the bank and told the husband/manager that he would kill his wife if he did not leave $ 30,000 in the Wheaton Library bathroom. Again a highly sophisticated and extremely lethal criminal.

I wanted to know if Police uniforms had ever been documented as having been stolen. When I went into the Washington Post Archives I discovered 3 Maryland State Police uniforms went missing in a Robbery of A Baltimore Dry cleaning business in February of 1975. The article was published in Sept of 1975 when one of the stolen uniforms re-appeared in bizarre crime scene involving a police impersonator attempting to rape male truck drivers.

The February robbery of the dry cleaners coincided perfectly with the appearance of the Tape Recorder Man at area malls. This fits not only my crime theory but the profile DeBardeleben.

Further exploration of the crime brought me into another coincidental and highly compelling piece that I had never known before: A nearly identical crime took place at an outdoor mall in Fort Worth Texas on December 23,1974. 3 young girls went to a mall, very similar to Wheaton Plaza, and went missing, never to have been seen or heard of again.

I did more research on DeBardeleben. He lived in Fort Worth in 1974 - in the house his mother owned. She died in the Spring of 74 his wife (Carol Miller of Arlington Virginia) left him and went into hiding up in Arlington, VA in the Autumn of 1974. This reportedly enraged this well documented psychopath.

The sketch of the TRM is definitely an attempt at the schoolteacher face of one James Mitchell DeBardeleben - including the birth anomaly-related to his bizarre looking nose.

Furthermore, the sighting of Lyon Girls in Manassass fitsDe Bardeleben's crime profile as well. Arrogant, sadistic, seeking attention but only to a point. Well thought out escape routes, hoping to get spied, unlikely to get caught.

2 years ago I told the police my crime theory. They agreed that DeBardeleben was a very likely suspect. Politics likely prevent the Montgomery County Police from doing more. The Secret Service convicted DeBardeleben because of his counterfeiting crimes - and therefore they retained all evidence.

The family likely does not want tenuous or complicated legal matters to make their lives come back to the spotlight - they have been through WAY WAY TOO MUCH already.

The Fort Worth police blew there case as well but surviving family members and the Fort Worth police may be interested in helping.

The Secret Service is absolutely off limits to most mortals like me.
But Carol Miller may know something. I believe she may have known in real time who was doing this - so she may have extreme guilt. She has received immunity for her willingness to cooperate with police in previous criminal procedures related to James Mitchell DeBardeleben.

DeBardeleben is dead so she may be willing to talk more now.

The TRM had a very brief moment in public on March 25, 1975. He wore a brown leisure suit.

A brown leisure suit reminds me of a Maryland State Police uniform. An image of Maryland State Uniform from 1975 would be beneficial if produced for the sake of this exploration.

The Lyon girls were reported to have approached TRM almost immediately upon his appearance in public March 25, 1975 at the Wheaton Plaza.

They spoke to him immediately with seemingly no apprehension or in a more care free. Then the TRM left the plaza. Got what he needed and out.

Only in retrospect this "coincidence" was likely totally loaded. Boys, who were the same age as the Lyon girls looked on the strange TRM scene with cautious curiosity. If this made boys suspicious by all right and reason such a man would (AND DID) make most girls and women feel troubled. Why not the Lyon girls?

So some falsely induced trust makes maximal sense - if the girls thought that TRM was a police officer in plain clothes speaking into his microphone would make perfect sense.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stolen Child

Paula Ream
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Grave-robbers Target Babyland
by Robert A. Waters

Paula Ream, who died in 1962, was much-loved. She never walked, never spoke, never did the things “normal” children did. She was born with a crippling, fatal disease called cerebral palsy.

But Paula had a family that cared. Her father made sure that she got a special chair so she could be comfortable. Her sisters changed her diapers and carried her wherever she went. Her mother worked outside the home but nurtured and loved her handicapped child.

Everyone who knew little Paula remembered her smile. The music and dancers on “American Bandstand” made her smile. Going for automobile rides made her smile. Simple things that most of us take for granted brought pleasure to the little girl who would never grow up.

She died when she was nine. Like previous generations of her family, Paula was buried in the Riverview Cemetery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

When her parents died, they were buried nearby. Other relatives passed on and were laid to rest in the same cemetery. To this day, family members visit the graves, including that of the child who never stood a chance.

That was why it was so baffling when police showed up at the door of Cass O’Dell and informed her that her sister’s child-size casket and remains had been stolen. Someone, a police chaplain said, had dug up Paula’s grave and removed everything except the vault and the metal plate that marked the grave.

Who could have committed such an unspeakable atrocity? At this time, no one knows.

“[Paula] was at the head of Babyland,” O’Dell said, referring to the section of Riverview Cemetery reserved for infants and the very young. “How did they pick her? A baby, a child who was like a baby? It’s just upsetting to all of us.”

Lancaster Police spokesman Tim Fry spoke to reporters. “This is an active investigation,” he said. “I don’t know of this happening in the twenty years I’ve been here in or around any of our burial parks.”

In recent months, bones of chickens and a circle of candles have been found nearby. This has led to speculation that local teenagers were responsible for practicing black magic or devil worship.

However, the consensus among family and many investigators is that the crime is more sinister. The grave-robbers may have been members of a cult that practices Palo Mayombe, a mystical Cuban-African religion. Experts informed local police that some practitioners use human skulls as part of their ritualistic ceremonies. The powers of a young child’s skull are thought to be even more potent than that of an adult and are highly prized, according to academics who study these religions.

Whatever the answer, the family is devastated. Fay Hamm, another of Paula’s sisters, spoke for the family. “I hope they trip themselves up and get caught,” she said. “I hope and pray for that every day. Everybody has lost a loved one, and you don’t want them to end up like that. To take Paula’s body is unbelievable.”

Lancaster City-County Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information leading to the capture of those responsible. You may contact them at 800-222-8477.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Defending Hearth and Home

Marquis Lee Patterson, Dewayne Edward Kemp, DeAungelo Johnson
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The Castle Doctrine
by Robert A. Waters

October 21, 2010 at 8:00 a.m.

Midwest City, Oklahoma Police Dispatcher: “911. What is your emergency?”

Caller: “I just shot an intruder and one got away inside my home.”

Dispatcher: “Did they have any guns?”

Caller: “I don’t know. They kicked in my door.”

The caller is thirty-one-year-old Amanda Walworth. Breathless, hyperventilating, she tells the dispatcher that one intruder is lying on the floor in her living room. “I think he’s dead,” she said.

A police report described the break-in and its aftermath: “Amanda Walworth was asleep in her bedroom when she was awakened by a sound in her house that she thought was an earthquake. Her two children, 2 and 3, were also asleep in their rooms. She then heard a second crash[ing] sound and immediately thought someone was breaking into her house.

“[Walworth] retrieved a handgun from the nightstand by her bed. She opened her bedroom door so she could see down the hallway. She observed light coming from the kitchen door which had been forced open. Knowing her children's rooms were between her and the suspects she walked down the hallway where she observed two male suspects in the living room. Amanda feared for her and her children's safety and began to fire the weapon at both subjects.”

During the barrage of gunshots, one intruder fell. The second raced through the front door and out toward the street.

A shaken Walworth then called 911.

Shortly after police arrived, a second 911 call came in. Someone has been shot in a drive-by shooting, the caller stated. Responding officers found Dewayne Edward Kemp, 15, bleeding from a bullet wound to the stomach. He was transported to the hospital where he underwent surgery.

It didn’t take long for DeAungelo Q. Johnson, 17, the man who’d called 911, to admit that he, Kemp, and Marquis Lee Patterson, 15, had planned to burglarize the Walworth house. Their objective, Johnson said, was to steal a big-screen television set.

Kemp and Patterson entered the home while Johnson acted as a lookout. Soon Johnson heard gunshots and saw Kemp running from the home.

Patterson died at the scene.

Kemp and Johnson were charged with first degree murder and burglary in the first degree. (In Oklahoma, all perpetrators involved in a felony can be charged with murder if a death results during the commission of that crime.) If convicted, they face long prison sentences.

In the 911 call, Walworth gave her reasons for shooting the invaders of her home. "I fired three or four shots,” she said. "[The intruders] scared me. I was just trying to get them out of my house. I didn't want them to hurt me or my kids.”

Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater investigated the case and ruled that Walworth would not be charged with any crime. “The resident’s actions in defending her home and children were not only entirely lawful,” he said, “but necessary to protect her family. She and her family had been burglarized on at least two prior occasions and, during one of those prior incidents, she and her husband were at home when the break-in occurred.”

Oklahoma has a law which allows a victim to use deadly force against an intruder inside his or her home. In many states, it's called the "Castle Doctrine."

"Although I regret the loss of life and the lasting impact an incident like this has on the families of all concerned," said Prater, "the citizens of Oklahoma County have a right to defend themselves in their homes and I will aggressively protect that right."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Many States Issue Cold Case Playing Cards

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Cold Case Playing Cards
by Robert A. Waters

In 2003, during the early days of the war in Iraq, the United States created a set of playing cards listing the fifty most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s government. These were distributed to American soldiers. All except ten of those listed were either captured or killed, including Saddam himself, along with his two murderous sons.

Tommy Ray, a special agent with Florida Department of Law Enforcement, decided to make up a set of Polk County’s Most Wanted playing cards and distribute them to inmates in the local jail. A 2007 article by Richard Morgan in the New York Times described Ray’s theory. “His hunch was,” the article read, “that prisoners would gossip about the cases during card games, and somehow clues or breaks would emerge and make their way to the authorities. The plan worked. Two months in, as a result of a tip from a card-playing informant, two men were charged with a 2004 murder in a case that had gone cold.”

Since then, several additional crimes have been solved by inmates or even by citizens viewing the cards online. Dozens of states and municipalities have now issued similar sets of cards. Some of these states are New York, Minnesota, Nebraska, Indiana, Colorado, and Louisiana.

Shown above and below are several cards issued by the state of Indiana:

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Who Murdered Pat O'Hagan?

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Still at Large
by Robert A. Waters

The old watch: their
thick eyes
puff and foreclose by the moon. The young, heads
trailed by the beginnings of necks,
shiver,
in the guarantee they shall be bodies.

From "Vapor Train Reflected in the Frog Pond"
by Galway Kinnell

Sheffield, Vermont is so small it has no traffic lights and no stores. It does have a post office and about 700 residents. The joke is that the sign that says “Entering Sheffield” on one side also says “Leaving Sheffield” on the other.

But it was no joke when seventy-eight-year-old Pat O’Hagan disappeared. On September 11, 2010, she was reported missing from her home.

The Vermont State Police took the lead in the investigation. Soon hundreds of law enforcement officers and volunteers combed the woods around the house. Divers scoured a nearby quarry. Helicopters rattled overhead. Searchers on all-terrain vehicles searched farms and fields.

There was no sign of the missing woman.

The frantic family gathered and told investigators that O’Hagan would never have left voluntarily. She’d moved with her husband to Sheffield fifteen years earlier. Her husband died a few years later and Pat lived alone in a refurbished farmhouse. She had five children and nine grandchildren. O’Hagan had many friends and was active in the community.

She loved camping and kayaking. She was president of the Sheffield Historical Society, active in her church, and volunteered at a food pantry.

Police were tight-lipped about the investigation from the beginning. After examining O’Hagan’s home, detectives told reporters that it was obvious she’d been abducted. But no further details were forthcoming.

As the search ramped up, the FBI joined in. Finally, three weeks later, hunters found O’Hagan’s remains. She was located near a hunting camp ten miles from her home. Police informed reporters that she’d been identified by dental records and had been murdered, but gave no other details.

Residents of Sheffield were stunned. “We’re all just very sad,” said Greg Bryant, a friend who worked with O’Hagan at the food pantry. “There’s a huge hole in the community. It’s a small community and she was a big part of it.”

Vermont State Police Major Edward Ledo said, “At this point, someone is responsible for the murder of a seventy-eight-year-old woman and they’re still at large.”

A $ 20,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killer.

In the meantime, residents are locking their doors and looking over their shoulders. “We know that somebody’s out there that knows [something],” Terry O’Hagan, her son, said. “Whether you’re involved, whether you’re not involved, whether you know, please come forward.

Anyone with information should call Detective Sergeant Jason Letourneau at 802-748-3111.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Strange, Savage Murder of Amy Gellert

Unsolved Homicide in Cocoa Beach
by Robert A. Waters

(A few days ago, my computer caught a virus that ended its life. A new machine was born and sent to my domicile. So, after a brief hiatus, I'm back online and writing once more.)

On the evening of March 20, 1994, Robert and Bunny Lehton returned home from church. As they entered their house on 1240 South Orlando Avenue in Cocoa Beach, Florida, they were confronted by a masked intruder who brandished a knife and gun. Threatening them, he tied up the couple.

They complied with the stranger in their home because they knew their twenty-one-year-old daughter would be arriving soon. Amy Gellert was in charge of working the sound board for the late afternoon church service and had remained there after her mother and step-father left. Robert and Bunny hoped to encourage the intruder to leave before Amy got home.

They would not be successful.

An article in the Orlando Sentinel described the weapons used by the assailant: "Their captor carried a double-edged dagger and a gun--a blank-firing stage-prop Brixia 8mm automatic that looks like the real thing but isn't...Investigators said the gun could have been used in the theater or plays. Deputies identified it from a piece of evidence left at the home."

Detectives from the Brevard County Sheriff's Office determined that the gun may have been a prop used by actors. "We believe [the intruder] was unfamiliar with this weapon," said investigator Gary Howard. "It could have been stolen from a college or university, [or] lost somewhere. We need to know who is missing this gun."

After binding the couple, the stranger paced back and forth. He indicated that he was waiting for someone to pick him up.

Bunny reported to investigators that the man had a mid-Atlantic accent. He wore gloves, she said, that "were knit, with leather on the palms and the backs, not like anything you could find down here."

As the intruder continued to pace, the lights of Amy's car flashed in the driveway.

This seemed to enrage the stranger. He suddenly launched a frenzied knife attack, severely wounding the homeowners. As Amy got out of her car, he approached her, stabbing her numerous times in the head and neck. She attempted to shield herself with a backpack, but was unsuccessful. After a brief struggle, the astonished young woman collapsed in a pool of blood and died.

After spending weeks in a local hospital, Robert and Bunny Lehton pulled through.

During the attack on Amy, the assailant dropped the gun's magazine. Years later, investigators were able to obtain a DNA profile from the magazine. However, they haven't yet been able to come up with a match from their suspect pool or any DNA databank.

The working theory of investigators is that the assailant and his accomplice knew the family attended church services each Sunday evening. The intruder was dropped off at the home with the intent of burglarizing it. He forced his way in and was ransacking the house when the couple returned. Since his cohort hadn't yet arrived to pick him up, the stranger came up with a new plan. Binding the couple, he waited for his ride. Then Amy came home. The assailant, according to the theory, panicked and decided to eliminate everyone. After stabbing the entire family, police stated that he fled toward the ocean near their home.

The man was slightly below average in height and had a pronounced Pennsylvania or Maryland accent. His knife had a twisted gold chain hilt. Robert Lehton, a psychiatrist, made a telling observation. "It seemed," Lehton said, "[that] he had a love affair with that knife, the way he was handling it."

For sixteen years, this case has gone unsolved. It's been investigated by several agencies, including the Brevard County Sheriff's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. There's a reward for information leading to the conviction of a suspect. Amy's case was also publicized on Florida's Cold Case Playing Cards.

It's likely that the killer or his accomplice has told someone about murdering a girl in Florida. If you have any information on this case, call 1-800-423-TIPS.

Justice for Amy Gellert demands it.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Justice for Laralee

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Murder on Deerfoot Road
by Robert A. Waters

April 26, 1994. Another beautiful sun-drenched spring afternoon in DeLand, Florida. At 3:15 p.m., fifteen-year-old Laralee Spear gets off her school bus at South Spring Garden Avenue. The petite, friendly cheerleader begins walking home along Deerfoot Road.

She never makes it.

A half hour later, Barbara Spear calls police to report her daughter missing.

In 1994, DeLand has less than 20,000 residents. It’s known as a friendly town, home to the prestigious Stetson University. Unlike Daytona Beach, its raucous neighbor to the north, major crimes are rare in the community.

Officers from the Deland Police Department and Volusia County Sheriff’s Office converge on Deerfoot Road. Blue lights beat against homes on either side of the street. Yellow crime scene tape is strung up. Uniformed cops and suited detectives move about as neighbors watch.

Several witnesses inform cops that they saw a black low-rider truck speeding away from the area at about the time the girl disappeared. Barbara Spear tells investigators her daughter was happy at home and school and would never run away. She’s an A-student, and has many friends. Laralee likes to ride her bike, sing in the choir at church, and play her violin. She loves animals, especially horses. She hopes to become a pediatrician, her mother says.

Cops quickly get the message--there’s no reason for Laralee to disappear.

The searchers spread out. Within an hour, the sheriff’s office sends a helicopter up. The chopper starts at the scene of the disappearance and circles out.

It’s been two hours now and time is of the essence. Then a call comes in, the kind of call cops hate. The helicopter pilot has spied a body lying on the back-yard patio of a burned-out house. It’s only a quarter-mile from where Laralee vanished.

Cops have been called to this house before. Teenagers often use the place for drug parties, neighbors say. There’s an old railroad trestle nearby. The charred home and yard surrounding it has been sealed off because of complaints, but that doesn’t stop the parties.

Behind the blackened corpse of the building, detectives spot Laralee.

There’s no question who it is. Her hands are tied. Much of her clothing is missing. Blood pools beneath her.

Cops are supposed to be Joe Friday matter-of-fact, but a slow anger boils inside the responders. Senseless. That’s the word for what they see. It’s obvious from the first that someone abducted Laralee, attempted to sexually assault her, and shot her multiple times in the back of the head. She may have been beaten as well.

The days wear on. Some of Laralee’s clothes are found scattered alongside Deerfoot Road. The killer must have discarded them as he drove away.

Cops release a profile of the killer. He would be young, investigators inform the media, maybe a teen. He may have a new handgun he likes to shoot. He may speak incessantly about Laralee’s murder. He may have a quick temper and he may have left the area shortly after the shooting. Cops think the killer is inexperienced in murder. He may have kidnapped Laralee and attempted to rape her. When she fought back, he shot her and fled.

Nine months later, detectives hone in on a suspect. Bobby Raleigh, a twenty-year-old ne’er-do-well and drug dealer, is arrested for Laralee’s murder. He’s easy to find since he’s sitting in jail for killing two rival drug dealers. But no matter how hard they try, investigators can’t find the evidence to link him to the kidnap and murder of Laralee. Cops conclude that he has an air-tight alibi and no physical evidence connects him to the crime. Eventually, Bobby Raleigh is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death for the drug-related murders. The charges in Laralee’s case are dropped for lack of sufficient evidence.

For sixteen years now, the case has gone unsolved. Laralee was recently featured on Northeast Florida Crime Stoppers Cold Case Playing Cards. Here's hoping someone will step forward and name this brutal killer.

The fleeting innocence of a young girl vanished with one senseless horrifying act and justice needs to be served.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Gainesville's Unsolved Murders

Gator Nation Cold Cases
by Robert A. Waters

Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida. For many years, it was the epitome of a small Southern college town. Now it’s the home of Gator Nation and all that that entails. Over the years, Gainesville has amassed an impressive list of unsolved crimes. Perhaps the most infamous was the Tiffany Sessions kidnapping. In 1989, the pretty co-ed went out for a jog and never came home. Her disappearance is still a mystery. But there are other lesser-known cases that also need closure.

On the night of December 29, 1979, Suzanne Powell, 20, left the Majik Market convenience store where she worked and drove to what was then the Atlantic Bank on 3838 NW 13th Street. As she did every night, she intended to deposit receipts from the business. Powell, a student at the University of Florida, drove up to the night deposit box. As she slowed to make the drop, a shotgun blast shattered the windshield of her car. When police arrived, they found Powell lying dead on the ground with financial documents from the store scattered about. She’d been murdered for $ 275. Although investigators developed two suspects, escaped prisoners Readus Sheperd and Thomas E. Willard, they had no evidence other than the word of an anonymous jailhouse informant. (Recently, one of Sheperd’s close relatives informed investigators that he’d once admitted to killing a woman in Gainesville.) Sheperd is now long-dead and Willard disappeared never to be seen again. In fact, there was never any physical evidence at all against the two. After more than thirty years, the murder remains unsolved.

In the early morning hours of December 1, 1994, the Gainesville Fire Department responded to reports of a blaze at 1031 SE 3rd Avenue. Firefighters found two bodies inside a burning house. The victims were identified as Treva Gernannt, 88, and her daughter, Emily Wallace, 66. Their deaths were not caused by the flames, as first suspected. Gernannt died of numerous stab wounds. Investigators could never determine the cause of Wallace’s death, but the fact that there was no carbon monoxide in her body indicated that she was dead before the fire started. Gernannt and Wallace were well-known for their church work and for helping the homeless. In fact, their home was near a path used by transients. It is thought that the two Christian ladies may have attempted to help the wrong person and ended up getting murdered. It’s been more than fifteen years and this murder is still a mystery.
 
On June 27, 2005 , Phillip “Brian” Sweat answered a knock on his door at 4024 SW 38th Street and was stabbed to death. As he lay dying, Sweat called 911 and described the attack. His assailant was a black male, he said, wearing a long-sleeved blue shirt and jeans. Before he could relay additional information, he told the dispatcher: “I’m getting light-headed. I’m going to die.” With that, his voice stopped. Investigators have theorized that Sweat was taking a nap when he heard a knock on the door. At that time, a would-be burglar (who’d rung the doorbell to determine whether someone was home) attacked Sweat, stabbing him. His home was located near a group of what cops called “seedy” hotels. Sweat’s case has been featured on Florida’s Cold Case Playing Cards. These cards were distributed to inmates in the state’s prisons with the hope of generating leads on unsolved cases. For five years, Phillip Sweat's unknown killer has walked free in the heart of the Gator Nation.

Julie Cohen, 22, was the first female to be admitted into the University of Florida’s Graduate Forestry program. In March, 1977, she was alone in the Austin Carey Memorial Forest working on a class project. Part of her research consisted of taking samples from local trees and grasses. When Cohen didn’t show up for her class the next day, fellow students began a massive search. Her remains were found in the forest--she’d been strangled with her own bra. Investigators theorized that the attack was “personal or maybe sexual.” There were signs of a struggle, but little evidence was left at the scene. Cops set up roadblocks along Waldo Road but no one claimed to have seen anything unusual. Detectives recently submitted items to a specialty lab in hopes of getting “touch” DNA (cells from the killer that may have transferred onto Cohen’s clothing). It’s been 33 years since Julie Cohen was murdered. No suspect has ever been charged.

Unknown killers walk the same streets, shop the same stores, and attend the same sporting events we do. Their pasts hide dark secrets that are buried with their victims. Here’s hoping technology or conscience will someday shed a light on these murders.

Monday, October 11, 2010

$ 267,000 Reward Offered for Info on Slaying of Beloved Officer

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Three years have passed since Sergeant Christopher Reyka was murdered
by Robert A. Waters

A recent newspaper article reported that in the last three decades, 180,000 murders have gone unsolved in the United States. In some cases, investigators claim to know the killer but don’t have enough evidence to charge him or her. In other instances, the perpetrator is unknown. Either way, thousands of murderers get away with their crimes every year. In this sad case, a highly respected officer was gunned down while going about his duty. To date, no one has been charged with the brutal crime.

At about 1:15 a.m., on August 10, 2007, Broward County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Christopher Reyka pulled his cruiser behind Walgreens Pharmacy at 960 South Pompano Parkway in Pompano Beach, Florida. In the shadows, Sgt. Reyka noticed two cars idling. His suspicions aroused, he ran Florida license tag number F168UJ and found that the plate had been stolen.

Three months earlier, a gang of robbers had begun targeting twenty-four hour pharmacies in the area. Taken during the heists were prescription drugs which are easily sold on the street.

Although no one except the killers saw what happened next, several citizens called 911 reporting gunfire in the area. When deputies arrived on the scene, they found Sgt. Reyka slumped beside his car. Ten rounds had been fired at him--five had hit him in areas not protected by his bullet-proof vest. A forensics examination determined that the bullets had come from a 9mm semiautomatic pistol.

Sgt. Reyka died en route to the hospital.

Detectives located a security camera from the Isle of Capri casino that had filmed a white car speeding away from the scene of the murder two minutes after the shooting. A review of the video-tape determined that the vehicle was likely a 1998-2000 Ford Crown Victoria or 1995-2004 Mercury Grand Marquis.

It is thought that Sgt. Reyka came upon a robbery that was about to happen.

Four months after the murder, eleven suspects in the drugstore robberies were arrested. Three were suspected of being involved in the murder of Sgt. Reyka. They are Timothy “Black Arms” Johnson, 24; Gerald “Dread” Joshua, 28; and Deitrick “Real Deal” Johnson, 22. Investigators, however, have yet to find the murder weapon and don’t have enough evidence to charge any of the suspects with the murder of Sgt. Reyka.

“We think it’s definitely not a coincidence that Chris was killed at a drug store,” Sheriff Al Lamberti said. “With a rash of robberies before and robberies afterwards, then the arrests were made. Now [the robberies] have stopped. We think Chris interrupted something at that drug store.”

In 2010, Gerald Joshua was convicted of robbery with a deadly weapon and sentenced to 12 years in prison. Deitrick Johnson is currently awaiting trial on multiple robbery and weapons charges. His Broward County criminal record includes 32 arrests. The trial of Timothy Johnson, who also faces multiple charges, is also pending.

Sgt. Christopher Reyka was a veteran of the U. S. Marine Corps. He'd worked for eighteen years with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and had recently been honored as Employee of the Month. He was active in his church and in his community, participating in fund-raising events for Special Olympics and serving as a scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts. He left behind a wife, two sons, and two daughters.

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There is currently a $ 267,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Sgt. Reyka’s killer or killers. If you have any knowledge about the identity of those involved in this crime, please call 954-493-8477.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Law Enforcement Patch Collection

When I see a cop, the first thing I look at is his or her patches...
by Robert A. Waters

Those who regularly read my blog know that I love to collect law enforcement patches. I recently purchased a pristine collection from a former police officer. Below are a few samples from this beautiful group.

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Thursday, September 30, 2010

An Atrocity in Fort Wayne

A recent composite of what April's killer may look like

The Bizarre Case of April Marie Tinsley
by Robert A. Waters

For twenty-eight years, a killer has stalked the streets of Fort Wayne, Indiana, taunting police and threatening children. As far as investigators know, he’s murdered only one child--April Marie Tinsley. There’s plenty of physical evidence, including DNA, and it should be easy to convict him if he’s ever caught. Like the BTK Killer, he enjoys publicity. That could be his downfall.

April 1, 1988 was cool and stormy in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When eight-year-old April Tinsley came home from school, she asked her mother if she could play outside with friends. With a piece of Easter candy in her hand, April headed out the door.

A report on the FBI website describes what happened next: “April was abducted about 4 p.m. on a Friday afternoon as she walked to a friend's house through her south-central Fort Wayne neighborhood. Her disappearance prompted an immediate, massive search by 25 police and 50 neighborhood residents. A witness reported seeing a white man in his mid-30s pull April into a light-blue pickup, but neither was found.

“Her body was found three days later at the bottom of a ditch along a rural DeKalb County road. The case stalled, but in May 1990, a teenage boy saw a man draw the message ‘I kill April Marie Tinsley. I will kill again’ on a barn near the intersection of St. Joe Center and Schwartz roads. In [2004], a series of hand-written notes were left on mailboxes and bicycles threatening further killings such as Tinsley's. The notes contained misspellings and grammatical errors similar to the message left on the barn.”


April had blonde hair cut short, blue eyes, and was a petite youngster. Her abduction and murder enraged the community. Investigators determined that the note scrawled on the barn was indeed written by the killer. Unfortunately, the teenager who saw the man couldn’t identify him.

Of the four messages found at residences in and around Fort Wayne, three were left on bicycles belonging to young girls and one was left in a mailbox. Each was written on yellow lined paper and placed inside baggies. Some had Polaroid pictures, while at least one contained a used condom. (The semen was tested for DNA and matched the profile obtained from April’s body.)

One note, placed in the basket of a child’s bicycle, read: “Hi Honey I been watching you I am the same person that kidnapped an rape an kill April tinsley you are my next viteam if you don’t report this to police and I don’t see this in the paper...”

Some investigators believe the killer’s grammatical and spelling errors were purposely written to make them think he was illiterate.

In April, 2009, twenty-one years after the murder, a multi-agency task force began to reinvestigate the case. The Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI issued a profile of the killer.

According to the profile, the killer is a white male who would now be between forty and fifty years old. He is attracted to pre-pubescent girls. Although he may be married, his attraction to these types of children will never be satiated. According to the profile, the killer may go to places where young children congregate. He may make inappropriate comments about young girls (i.e., “She sure is sexy, isn’t she?”). He may collect items related to little girls, such as toys and photographs. He may live or work in Fort Wayne or surrounding counties. The killer is probably in the low to medium-low income bracket. He may have owned or borrowed a Polaroid camera in 2004. In the same year, it is believed he was driving a forest-green pickup truck with a matching camper shell that had dark tinted windows.

One of the photos sent to a child in 2004 showed the lower portion of the killer’s body. He was circumcised and had hair on his lower legs.

It’s obvious that this killer is deranged. Yet he’s been smart or lucky enough to evade capture for 22 years. Anyone who has any knowledge of this case or knows someone who fits the FBI profile is asked to call 1-866-602-7745.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

New Kid on Florida's Death Row

Randall Deviney
The Bad Boy of Bennington Drive
by Robert A. Waters

The screams coming from the home on Bennington Drive in Jacksonville, Florida were loud enough to cause all the dogs in the neighborhood to start barking. Several neighbors called 911 and police soon arrived. Shortly after 10:30 p.m. on August 5, 2008, responding officers made their way into a house of horrors.

They found sixty-five-year-old Delores Futrell lying on the floor of her home. She’d been beaten, stabbed repeatedly, and had her throat slashed. Her clothes had been cut off her body, and her empty wallet lay on the floor. The bloody scene shocked even the cops--it was obvious that a frenzy of rage had overtaken the killer or killers. Neighbors, stunned and saddened to hear that one of their own had been murdered, began an all-night vigil outside the well-tended townhouse.

An eighteen-year-old ex-con named Randall Deviney quickly aroused the suspicions of Futrell's relatives. He lived on Byner Drive, a few houses down from the murdered woman. As the stunned family grieved outside Futrell's home, Deviney rode back and forth on his bicycle. Even though he knew the family and had been be-friended by Futrell, he seemed hyper and would not stop to speak. To many in the crowd, it seemed as if Deviney was attempting to listen to the conversations of bystanders in an attempt to gain information.

Finally, he approached two of Futrell's daughters. He asked if Futrell had been raped, further heightening their suspicions.

Deviney liked being known as a bad-ass, a punk with a mean streak. He’d attended Ed White High School, but majored in misconduct instead of academics. To say that he was a poor student was being generous. A former teacher described the young hoodlum as a budding sociopath. “[Deviney] was just defiant and disrespectful, without conscience and remorse,” the teacher said. “He thought he could behave however he wanted. School was nothing more than an inconvenience to him, and if any teacher got in his way they could expect a tirade of foul language...”

Deviney should have been in prison when Futrell was murdered. He’d been released after serving one year of a three-year stint in the state penitentiary. His arrest record included aggravated assault, sexual battery, grand theft, armed robbery, trafficking in stolen property, and other crimes. Shortly after being released, Deviney committed yet another robbery. Instead of putting him back in prison, however, a judge let him back out on the streets. Four months later, Futrell was dead.

With a blanket of tattoos covering his body, Deviney looked like a walking advertisement for cheap prison art. He’d had little nurturing as a child. Indeed, both his parents had been imprisoned for murdering their sixteen-month-old son. They admitted during his trial that they were unfit parents. Deviney’s childhood was plagued with messy divorces, domestic violence, abuse, and drug use. “With his family, he never had a chance,” said his lawyer, Melina Buncome-Williams.

It was the same argument always used by the defense when the evidence against their client is overwhelming. While attempting to make the killer into a victim, attorneys never mention the millions of individuals raised in dysfunctional homes who live productive lives and don't murder old defenseless ladies.

The real victim, of course, was Delores Futrell. She’d worked as a dialysis technician before retiring, and had four children, seventeen grandchildren, and more great-grandchildren than anyone could count. She was described as a “spiritual person” who cared deeply for others. She loved cooking and tending her garden.

Futrell suffered with multiple sclerosis. Because of her condition, she had trouble maintaining her balance. She also had little strength or stamina, leaving her vulnerable.

As Deviney grew up, Futrell attempted to help the struggling teen. She baked cakes and cookies for him and his brother, paid him to perform odd jobs around the house, and counseled him on the direction his life was taking.

Early in the investigation, detectives questioned the violent ex-con. With no evidence to prove that he was the killer, however, they released him. Then, three weeks after the crime, a DNA profile came back from the lab. Skin from beneath the fingernails of Futrell had been matched to Randall Deviney.

He was arrested and charged with the murder of the woman he used to call his "godmother." Deviney confessed, stating that as she once again attempted to counsel him on going straight, he “snapped” and killed her. He informed investigators that he beat the defenseless woman until she was helpless. When she didn’t die, he retrieved a fillet knife he’d brought to the scene and cut her throat. Futrell was still alive, so Deviney stabbed her repeatedly until she died.

It was a horrible death that demanded the ultimate justice.

In 2010, the bad boy of Bennington Drive was convicted and sentenced to death.

“He picked the easiest prey,” said prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda. “This was the classic case of why we need the death penalty. It’s horrific. An innocent elderly lady is savagely murdered in her home. What other sentence could there be?”

Judge Mallory Cooper stated her reasons for sentencing Deviney to death. “Delores Futrell struggled to survive and scream for help,” Cooper said. “However, her struggle to escape the defendant’s attack was to no avail. There is no doubt that for each of her final breaths, she was acutely aware of her impending death.”

After the verdict, Futrell's daughter, Helen Futrell-Stewart, spoke to reporters. “I am left with a hole in my heart,” she said. She stated that the family was glad the trial was over and they were happy the killer received death.

If there ever was a case that deserves the death penalty, it's this one. There's no question about the guilt of the killer. According to witnesses in the courtroom, he had absolutely no remorse, and would joke with his defense attorneys while the jurors were outside. It seems obvious that Deviney has a rage to kill, and would certainly murder again if released. And Delores Futrell's family is crushed with the weight of Deviney's horrific act.

Lethal injection is too easy for this cold-blooded killer.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Heroes For Our Sons

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Sordid tales from the NFL
by Robert A. Waters

Some reasons for the popularity of Tim Tebow are his decency, wholesomeness, and traditional stances on moral issues. In a football league loaded with thugs, the Denver Broncos quarterback is a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, there are few Tebows in this league. The following is a list of players who have brought shame to themselves and disgrace to their profession. Those included in this list are just the tip of the iceberg, of course. I could have added hundreds more. But these are some of the people our children have looked to as role models.

Ben Roethlisberger -- Recently, Big Ben was suspended by the NFL for his out-of-control behavior off the field. Although he was never charged, his latest episode with a co-ed in a Georgia nightclub got him booted for six games (later reduced to four). As a franchise player and one of the high-profile faces of the NFL, Commissioner Roger Goodell seemed disgusted by his behavior. “There is nothing about your conduct in Milledgeville,” Goodell said, “that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans."

Reggie Bush –- The 2005 Heisman Trophy winner no longer owns the trophy. The University of Southern California recently returned theirs, as did Bush. Why? Because, according to an NCAA investigation, Bush and his family illegally received nearly $300,000 in gifts and loans from a sports agent while still in college. In addition to Bush, the entire Trojan program was hit with severe sanctions as well. As Pete Carroll fled just ahead of the law to the more friendly confines of the NFL, the administration of USC crumbled. Now Reggie has “moved forward.” He’s a star in New Orleans, and has a Super Bowl ring to show for it. He has faced no real punishment at all for the havoc he caused USC, and probably never will.

Michael Vick -– Maybe Michael Vick has gained some measure of redemption. I hope so. Spiritual leader and former Super Bowl winning coach Tony Dungy advised the jailed star on how to rehabilitate his career and, more importantly, his life. So far, it seems that the former superstar has listened. After his troubled college career and his even more troubled NFL career, Vick ended up a pariah, having pleaded guilty to felonies related to dog-fighting. The sight of tortured animals being evicted from his Virginia mansion infuriated many. Vick served 21 months in prison and was forced to declare bankruptcy. After being reinstated by the NFL, however, he has worked hard to re-establish himself. Here’s hoping the former bad boy can redeem himself completely. But I wouldn’t count him as my son’s hero.

Chris Henry –- While I hate to speak ill of the dead, Henry ranks as an All-Star in the League of Those who Never Learn. Year after year, from 2005 to 2009, this Cincinnati Bengals star racked up arrest after arrest. Gun crimes, driving while intoxicated, providing alcohol to minors, illegal substance abuse, and assault were a few of the charges. He was suspended for two games in 2006 and eight games in 2007. In 2009, according to the Charlotte, North Carolina Police Department, Henry fell out of a truck while involved in a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. He died a short time later of head trauma. In what must have been a bizarre joke, the NFL honored Henry with a moment of silence before all its games on week 15 of the 2009 season.

Lawrence Phillips –- In 2005, Phillips, a sixth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams, deliberately drove his car into a crowd of teenagers with whom he’d had a dispute. Previous charges for the troubled running back included domestic battery, child abuse, and a litany of drug offenses. Phillips never lived up to his potential in the NFL, and squandered most of the millions he received for signing with the Rams. He finally ended up playing for the Canadian Football League. In 2006, Phillips was convicted of seven counts of assault with a deadly weapon for trying to run over the teens. He is currently serving ten years in prison. Another role model we can do without.

Donte Stallworth –- The Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver was suspended for the entire 2009 season after killing a construction worker while driving under the influence of alcohol. Stallworth had just received a five million dollar bonus from the Browns and was celebrating at the posh Miami Beach Fountainbleu Hotel. After the accident, alcohol in his system tested well above Florida’s legal limit. For his crime, Stallworth was convicted and sentenced to thirty days in jail, two years of house arrest, and eight years of probation. A beleaguered Roger Goodell, who must sometimes think he’s managing Attica instead of the NFL, wrote to Stallworth: "Your conduct endangered yourself and others, leading to the death of an innocent man. The NFL and NFL players must live with the stain that you have placed on their reputations.” But suspensions in the NFL are not permanent, as fans know. So in 2010, our once-wayward hero signed a new contract with the Baltimore Ravens.

Fourteen players were suspended for one or more weeks at the start of the 2010 season. These included Brian Cushing of the Houston Texans who’ll sit out four games for substance abuse (i.e. steroids). Also suspended for four games is Santonio Holmes, arrested for possession of marijuana and domestic violence. Vincent Jackson will lose three games. The San Diego pass catcher has recently been arrested at least twice for DUI. When questioned about his character, Jackson had a classic response: “You know, I've done everything off the field right except [for] two bad choices.”

New England Patriots offensive lineman Quinn Ojinnaka was suspended for one game after being arrested for battering his wife. When she read his Facebook account and found out that he was flirting with another woman, she confronted him. Ojinnaka was accused of throwing her down the stairs in their home. Aqib Talib of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers sat out the first game after punching a cab driver. LenDale White, another former USC player, was suspended for four games after violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

The dreams of Roger Goodell can’t be pleasant. He must wish he could shut down strip clubs and bars and drug labs across the country. Since he can’t, he must dread to hear the telephone ring.

If you want role models for your children, you might check some profession other than the National Football League.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dopers

Sammy Lynch is accused of murdering Evelyn Harbin

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Innocent Blood
by Robert A. Waters

“Someone took her life over a rock of crack.” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott.

From the dope-house to the jailhouse is not an uncommon occurrence. (An addict once told me that since turning to drugs, she’d done everything she’d vowed never to do--that included prostitution, theft, robbery, and attempted murder.) According to investigators, Sammy Lynch murdered eighty-three-year-old Evelyn Harbin after she caught him breaking into her home. The long-time addict was allegedly there to steal items that he could sell or trade for drugs.

On September 3, 2010, family members found the body of Evelyn Harbin lying on the floor of her Columbia, South Carolina home. Blood was everywhere. Harbin, a widow, was well-loved by family and friends. She lived in a quiet neighborhood, collected antique pottery, and went to church every time the doors opened. She was a retired cake decorator.

Sammy Lynch lived across the road from Harbin. Police told reporters that after he broke into the grandmother’s home, she confronted him. Showing no mercy, the brutal killer attacked Evelyn. According to news accounts, he broke her neck and stabbed her to death. He later mutilated her body in an attempt to cover his crime.

Leaving his victim dead on the living room floor, Lynch stole her flat screen television set and other belongings. Included among the killer’s loot were checkbooks and a handicapped parking sign. He also stole her Chevy Trailblazer.

Lynch became an immediate suspect because of his proximity to the victim and his lengthy criminal background. Since 1993, he has had numerous arrests for illegal drugs and burglaries.

Two days after the murder, detectives found Evelyn’s Trailblazer parked near an abandoned house behind Lynch’s home. In addition to items from the victim, the SUV contained belongings of Lynch.

According to Sheriff Lott, it didn’t take long for the suspect to confess to the murder and robbery. Lynch stated that after murdering Evelyn, he used her cell phone to call a dating service. It’s also thought that he went back into the home a second time to steal additional items.

Evelyn’s granddaughter, Gina Harbin, found the body. "You just can't accept this,” she said. “[You] just can't get over it. I can't sleep. I keep seeing her little face and how scared she must have been."

Sheriff Lott told reporters: “We’ve got a crackhead who was so desperate to go out and steal something so that he could get some more drugs that he took this lady’s life.”

“He had absolutely no remorse,” Lott added.

A neighbor, David Fox, echoed the feelings of many. "It takes a sorry individual,” he said, “[and] it takes a cruel person to do something like that to anybody, especially an elderly lady. He needs to be skinned one inch at a time."

Millions of crimes are committed by addicts each year. Heartbreak and destroyed lives follow in their wake. Sometimes the murder of innocent victims so enrages the public that the ultimate justice must follow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shooting Back

Ethel Jones shot a burglar in her home

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Grandma defends home and other self-defense stories
by Robert A. Waters

For many years, I've been fascinated by true stories of innocent people who successfully defended themselves against violent attack. In many of these cases, victims used guns to fend off murderous thugs. Check out my website for information about my books, two of which describe in detail stories of intended victims who defended themselves with guns. Below are brief summaries of a few recent cases.

A couple of weeks ago, Ethel Jones, 69, gained Internet acclaim by shooting a burglar inside her Decatur, Alabama home. According to news reports, Michael Bynum was already on probation for burglary when he tore the air conditioner out of a window and entered Jones’ house. It was 3:00 a.m. as the intruder made the rounds of each room shining a pen-light. Jones, awakened by the commotion, pulled a .38-caliber revolver from beneath her pillow and opened fire. Bynum ended up in the local hospital with a bullet in his belly. “I hope this will make people have second thoughts before they break into a home in our neighborhood,” Jones said.

In my hometown of Ocala, Florida, a drug-crazed woman allegedly broke into the home of an elderly resident. Alicia Kwasny, a stranger to the homeowner, ran through the house screaming that snakes were chasing her. After the frightened resident fired a warning shot with a .25-caliber pistol, Kwasny ducked into a bathroom where she refused to come out. An article in the Ocala Star Banner reported that she was bruised and bleeding and clad only in her underwear. She later told police that she’d been smoking crack cocaine and had taken a Roxy pill. Kwasny stated that when she uses that combination of drugs, snakes always chase her. When she comes down off her high, she might consider herself lucky the resident used restraint and didn’t shoot her.

A Harrisburg, Pennsylvania man was violently attacked by two alleged robbers while delivering Chinese food to a home in a dilapidated neighborhood. Newspapers reported that after demanding money, the assailants punched the driver in the face and hit him over the head with a bottle. The deliveryman then pulled out a handgun and shot one of his attackers. The robbers ran away, but soon a 16-year-old was transported to a local hospital with a gunshot wound to the shoulder. Investigators determined that the wounded teenager was one of the robbers. After being treated, he was summarily arrested. Police stated that the deliveryman acted in self-defense--he was not charged with any crime.

In Pulteney, New York, Stephen Boychecko confronted a daylight burglar. A police report states that Michael Peterson broke into Boychecko’s home at about 7:10 p.m. (Peterson was already on probation for another break-in, and was suspected of being a serial burglar.) The elderly homeowner and his wife were napping in their bedroom when Boychecko heard the glass breaking from a nearby bathroom window. The resident grabbed a handgun and shot Peterson twice. The burglar was hospitalized. According to investigators, he will be jailed as soon as he recovers. Police stated that the homeowner will not be charged.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Abduction of Cherrie Mahan

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“A black hole opened up and she fell in...”
by Robert A. Waters

Twenty-five years. In the span of time, it’s nothing. But to the family of a missing child, it’s a lifetime. On the afternoon of February 22, 1985, eight-year-old Cherrie Ann Mahan stepped off her school bus with several other children. The kids scattered towards home, each going separate ways. When the dust cleared, Cherrie was gone. Vanished. Disappeared into the dark fog of time. The question remains unanswered: who snatched the brown-haired, brown-eyed girl with the beautiful smile?

It was about 4:00 p.m., and Cherrie was slightly more than fifty yards from her family’s mobile home in Winfield, Pennsylvania when she went missing. Due to the cold weather, she wore a gray coat, blue denim skirt, blue leg warmers, beige ankle boots, and brown earmuffs bearing the logo of a Cabbage Patch doll.

An article in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review outlined the events surrounding the disappearance: “Cherrie's stepfather, Leroy McKinney, usually drove her the 50 yards from the bus stop at Cornplanter and Winfield roads in Winfield to the family's mobile home at the end of a steep, wooded driveway. The home was not visible from the road. But that day, [Leroy and his wife Janice] decided to let Cherrie walk [home].”

Leroy heard the bus pull up and leave. But when Cherrie hadn’t arrived within a few minutes, he drove down to the bus stop to check on her. She was nowhere to be found. Leroy raced back home and Janice called police.

The only real clue in two and a half decades was the sighting of a unique-looking van. After interviewing neighbors and the children on the school bus, investigators determined that a bright blue or green 1976 Dodge van had been seen following the bus. It had an unusual mural painted on it that covered the entirety of both sides of the van. The painting showed a snow-capped mountain with a skier headed down the mountain. The skier was dressed in red and yellow clothing.


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Now it should have been easy to find that van. But alas, the vehicle was never located. As the years drained away, Pennsylvania State Trooper Frank Jedesky continued to work the case. Commenting on the mysterious van, he recently said, “By now it’s probably in a junkyard or somewhere.”

“It's the not knowing that kills you,” a heart-broken Janice McKinney said. “Every day you wonder and you look at some girl who's 33 and you wonder, ‘Is that her?’ I look at little kids and wonder, ‘Is that my grandchild?’”

Janice speaks of her child today as if Cherrie had fallen into a black hole. The pain never leaves, never goes away.

Who took Cherrie Mahan? Why did no one report that unusual van to police? Today, someone might still remember it. If so, please call the Pennsylvania State Police Missing Persons Unit at 1-412-284-8100.