Monday, March 26, 2018

Murders Unsolved

Louise Lawson
 Ghosts of the Unquiet Dead 
by Robert A. Waters 

Almost every town, village, and city in America has unsolved murder cases.  Some date as far back as the founding of this country, while others are recent.  This is a sampling of murders unsolved, and of souls that still cry out for justice. 

Louise Lawson.  The New York media called her a gold-digger, a "moth," a hustler, and other harsh names.  But to the folks in her hometown of Alvarado, Texas, the beautiful Louise Lawson was a rose cut down in her prime.  She came to the big city to study piano and voice, but her singing career never got off the ground.  Although Lou (as she was called) landed bit parts in a few movies and worked as a chorus girl in Flo Ziegfield's follies, she eventually gravitated to procuring "sugar daddies."  For certain favors, the famous and not-so-famous plied Lou with a stylish apartment, cash, stocks, and expensive jewelry.  It may have been the jewelry that got her killed.  On the morning of February 8, 1924, the 26-year-old Texan opened her door to two men who allegedly were bringing her a case of bootleg whiskey.  But during the few minutes they were in the apartment, the men strangled Lou to death.  When cops arrived, her apartment had been ransacked and $20,000 worth of jewelry was missing.  Lou's loyal Texas family brought her home and buried her—a crowd of 2,000 filled the local Baptist Church.  In New York, the search for her killers quickly stalled.  While several other vulnerable women in the city were also murdered for their jewelry, the killers were never caught. 

Patricia Rebholz.  On the steamy night of August 6, 1963, 15-year-old Patricia left a teenage dance party at the American Legion Hall in Greenhills, Ohio.  The pretty, popular cheerleader began walking toward her boyfriend's home.  She never made it.  After a brief search, her bludgeoned body was found in a yard across the street from Michael Wehrung's home.  Michael, her boyfriend, also 15, immediately became the chief and only suspect in the brutal slaying.  Day after day, police interrogated the teen.  Investigators leaked information and misinformation to the press, soon turning most of the town against him.  In truth, there was no hard evidence to connect Wehrung to his girlfriend's death, and he was not charged.  Fast-forward to December 6, 2001, 38 years after the murder.  A new prosecutor, convinced of Wehrung's guilt, indicted him on one count of second-degree murder.  After a week-long trial, the jury found the defendant not guilty.  It's unlikely that Patricia's still-grieving family will ever learn who killed her. 

Georgia Jane Crews. "Hello… yeah… you know that girl that you looking for… yeah, the twelve-year-old… yeah… she's dead."  The call came in to the Lake County, Florida Sheriff's Department on April 10, 1980, two days after 12- year-old Georgia Crews vanished.  Lake County was sparsely populated, and Montverde, where Georgia and her family lived, had a population of only about 200 souls.  On the evening of April 8, Georgia left her home to go to a nearby market.  Or maybe it was to visit a friend.  No one really knew.  What is known is that she never returned.  A week later, after a massive search, the child's remains were found 30 miles away, in Casselberry.  She'd been stabbed once in the back.  Investigators never determined whether she had been sexually assaulted, though her pants were unbuttoned.  Thirty-eight years later, there are no real leads.  Even the recorded message left by the killer has been lost, like the little girl who walked down the street and vanished. 

Paul Burch.  The brutal torture and murder of Paul Burch, a gas station attendant in Santa Fe, New Mexico, generated local headlines, but no national publicity.  According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, on November 13, 1957, two customers looking to pay for gas found Burch's body "sprawled facedown between the runners of the station's grease rack."  He'd been stabbed 14 times with a blunt-bladed knife about five inches long after being knocked out with a blow to the back of the head. Fifty-seven-year-old Burch was married, with five children.  He was planning to purchase the service station and had been to see a lawyer that very day to work out details.  More than $200 in cash and a $250 check were stolen, presumably by his killers.  The Santa Fe Police Department worked diligently to solve the case but came up empty.  Not only has no one been charged, but there have never been any real suspects. 

Tens of thousands of murderers walk our streets every day.  And every day, millions of long-forgotten victims cry out for vengeance.  Unfortunately, their voices can no longer be heard. 

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