Saturday, July 5, 2008

More Perfect Crimes by Robert A. Waters

As long as I keep hearing that there are no perfect murders, I’ll keep posting evidence to the contrary. A few nights ago, the narrator of the television series “Crime Scene Science” stated unequivocally, “There are no perfect crimes.” Even though forensic science has improved dramatically, there are still as many unsolved cases in America today as there were before the advent of computers and databases and DNA. According to FBI statistics, at least one-third of murders each year are never closed. And that doesn’t even count murders camouflaged to look like suicides or accidents. Or murders put down as death by natural causes. It doesn’t count the many murders in which the body of the victim is never found. Or murders for which the wrong person is convicted. Notwithstanding the comments of some, there are indeed perfect murders committed every day.

Loren E. Bollinger was a brilliant rocket scientist whose expertise was propellants, combustion, rockets, and nuclear devices. In 1966, he was in his Columbus, Ohio office when he was shot five times with a .25-caliber handgun. Police linked the bullets from Bollinger’s murder to two other slayings. Investigators never identified any real suspects. The killer, if alive, would be at least in his mid-sixties. While there is always hope that these murders might be solved, each day that passes diminishes that hope.

On October 11, 1944, Georgette Bauerdorf, an oil heiress, was found dead in her North Hollywood apartment. There were signs of a violent struggle and the cause of death was a towel stuffed down her throat that restricted her ability to breathe. Sheriff’s deputies questioned Bauerdorf’s friends and acquaintances, but no one ever emerged as a convincing suspect. Was it a perfect murder or a bungled investigation? Whatever the case, the killer was never caught.

Vivian Newton was found strangled near San Diego in 1947. A Canadian, she had visited the city for only one day when she met an army sergeant. They hopped the border to Tijuana, Mexico where they partied and where Vivian purchased clothing. Returning to San Diego, she hit the nightclubs and danced with several men until about midnight. Then she vanished. On June 17, her body was found fifteen miles north of the city. Her army companion was cleared, as was one other suspect. Vivian Newton’s killer was never found—-unfortunately, he got away with the perfect murder.

On the weekend of November 14, 1948, Leno and Louise Lazzari were gunned down in their secluded bungalow near Boca Raton, Florida. At the time, the town had barely 200 residents. The Lazzaris had just returned home from shopping – a spilled grocery bag was found next to Louise’s body. Leno had grabbed a shotgun to defend his home and actually got off an errant shot before he was killed. Leno was a well-regarded sculptor whose clients included the Duke of Windsor. Local police called in Miami detectives and the FBI but no one was ever convicted of the murders. A drifter was suspected, but passed a polygraph and his fingerprints did not match those found at the scene.

In 1959, Cliff and Christine Walker and their two children, Jimmie, 3, and Debbie, 2, lived in a “cracker shack” in rural Sarasota County, Florida. A few days before Christmas, the entire family was murdered in their home. While Cliff and the children were visiting friends, someone entered the home and raped and shot Christine. A short time later, Cliff and the children pulled up. Cliff was shot in the face as he entered the house. Then Jimmie was shot. Finally, two-year-old Debbie took a bullet to the head, but didn’t die. The killer then took her to the bathtub, turned on the water, and drowned her. Multiple murders were so unheard of in the county that officers vowed to bring the killer to justice. Despite their best efforts, he was never caught.

There are serial killers, mass murderers, sex predators, domestic slayers, and psychopaths of all stripes who’ll never be identified or caught. There are also average people who snap and commit a murder, then cover it up successfully. While we can debate whether the killer left behind some remnant of himself or herself at a crime scene, it is unarguable that people commit perfect murders every day. Otherwise, cops would have a one-hundred percent clearance rate.

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