Thursday, March 29, 2012

Little Julia Johnson - Unsolved Murder in Canada

Winnipeg’s most poignant mystery
by Robert A. Waters

On the afternoon of April 28, 1928, five-year-old Julia Johnson disappeared from her front yard at 128 Austin Street in Winnipeg.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported that “shortly before 3:00 Wednesday afternoon Julia was playing outside her home with a [tennis] ball. Her mother, who was in the house at the time, had spoken to her a few minutes previous. A woman who lives next door and is a close friend of the Johnsons had noticed the child playing, too, and had told her not to go away. ‘No, I won’t,’ Julia had replied. ‘I’m just playing here.’”

Five minutes later, her mother checked on her and she was gone.

Julia was described as a very pretty girl. When last seen, she wore a red and black dress, black shoes, fawn-colored stockings and a brown toque. She weighed about forty pounds, had blue eyes and dark brown hair.

Local police launched a massive hunt for the missing girl. Boy scouts, schoolboys, and neighbors joined in, searching nearby homes, fields, forests, and sewers. A trained police dog sniffed around Julia's home but found no leads. Police questioned neighbors, transients, and known “deviants.”

Winnipeg, located in Manitoba, was a close-knit, blue-collar community with many European immigrants. In 1928, neighbors watched out for one another.

After her child vanished, journalists reported that Julia’s mother had “taken to her bed” while her father continued to search. Though poor, the Johnsons offered a reward of $50 for their daughter, dead or alive. Nine days later, the Winnipeg City Council added $100 to the reward fund.

Two weeks after Julia went missing, dozens of Spiritualists and mediums met in an attempt to shed light on the whereabouts of the missing child. No helpful results came from the meeting.

On Halloween, Mrs. Johnson sat in the dark all night waiting for her daughter to return. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, “Mrs. Johnson has been nursing a hope for the past few weeks that perhaps Julia had been kidnapped and held away for spite, that the guilty person might consider the punishment sufficient and endeavor to return her to the vicinity of her home on Halloween night, when masks would make the venture look like another Halloween prank.” The night came and went with no contact and the disappointed mother sank back into despair.

In November, Dr. A. Maximilian Langsner, a famous Viennese criminologist on tour in Canada, met with Mrs. Johnson. Declaring that the child was still alive, he stated that he would find her. Langsner claimed to use “psychic thought processes” to solve crimes. His psychic powers must have failed him in this case, however, because he never made good on his promise.

The police, frustrated by a complete lack of leads, continued to investigate the case for years.

Finally, on March 22, 1937, a worker at an old cigar factory made a startling discovery. While dismantling a boiler, he found the skeleton of a child. Journalists reported that “it lay crouched at the far end of a rusty old boiler in the basement of a warehouse at 187 Southerland Avenue [within sixty feet of the Johnson’s back fence].” The remains were fully clothed. Sitting on top of the bones lay a tennis ball.

The Winnipeg Free Press reported: “The theory that [Julia] might have crawled into the boiler in which her remains were discovered Monday afternoon was exploded...when it became fairly plain that she had been shoved in. Her assailant, apparently, had placed the end of a pole, or possibly a long pipe, against her stomach, and shoved her to the far end of the rusted metal boiler that was to be her tomb for nine years. That much, at least, was revealed by the bent position of the skeleton...” A long, rusty pole was found on the floor beside the boiler.

The coroner said: “Everything points to the body having been doubled up and thrust into the boiler.”

In 1928, the Western Wicker Products factory, makers of “willow furniture,” had occupied the building. Investigators speculated that varnish used in the basement may have masked any odor from the decomposing body.

The next year, as the Depression struck, the business folded.

Eighteen workers helped produce the furniture. Police set out to find the employees but many had moved to other areas of Canada. Several now lived in the United States, and one had returned to his native Yugoslavia. Detectives never tracked down all the employees.

Did five-year-old Julia Johnson wander down to the busy factory, enter without being seen, walk down into the basement, crawl into the rusty boiler, and somehow struggle her way to the very back in a “doubled-up” position?

Or is it more likely that some anonymous deviant (possibly a worker at the factory) got away with cold-blooded murder?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Lost at Sea: The Hunt for Partick McDermott - A Review

Lost at Sea: The Hunt for Patrick McDermott by Philip R. Klein
Klein Publishing, Nederland, Texas. (2012)
Review by Robert A. Waters

The mystery of what happened to Olivia Newton-John’s long-time boyfriend, Patrick McDermott, has intrigued me since the story first broke in 2005. Newscasters speculated that he fell or jumped off the charter fishing boat, Freedom, into the San Pedro Bay in California. One sensational story after another theorized that his death was suicide.

Lost at Sea: The Hunt for Patrick McDermott, by Philip R. Klein, describes the private detective’s years-long search for what really happened. It is a hard-driving account of the inner workings of a dedicated private detective and his staff as they attempt to locate McDermott.

Born in an orphanage in Korea, the toddler was adopted by an upper-middle-class family in Los Angeles. As McDermott grew into his teens, women found him attractive, and he spent much of his time surfing, playing in a garage band, and partying. When he was eight, his father died. Later, McDermott’s mother passed away. At seventeen, he was on his own.

In 1992, the playboy surfer married Yvette Nipar, a beautiful aspiring actress. They had a child, then quickly divorced. The relationship had been rocky from the start, and got worse. By 2005, McDermott was deep in debt. Investigators speculated that Nipar planned to take him to court to make him pay thousands of dollars he owed in child support.

After a long-term relationship with singer Olivia Newton-John, she ended the live-in arrangement a few weeks before McDermott went missing. The playboy's life had come crashing down.

Hired by NBC’s “Dateline” to learn what happened to the wayward fisherman, Klein found no evidence that McDermott had fallen or jumped into the water. His body was never found, and several witnesses claimed they saw him give his fish away as he left the dock on the day he disappeared. The Coast Guard and LAPD had done a cursory investigation, but since no body was found and presumably no laws broken, they quickly dropped the case.

This book profiles a high-powered search to find an elusive man. The reader follows the investigators, surrounded by NBC staff and cameras, as they make several visits to Los Angeles and Mexico in an attempt to track down their prey. As they get closer, they're in for a surprise--the conclusion will stun those who have followed this case throughout the years.

I highly recommend Lost at Sea: The Hunt for Parick McDermott.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sierra LaMar Poster

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Florida Multiple Murderer to Die

Family of Victim Awaits Justice
by Robert A. Waters

On April 12, David Alan Gore is scheduled to drift into dreamland and never return. Outside the walls of Raiford, protestors will carry signs denouncing his execution. Few, if any, will even recognize the names of Gore’s victims.

So, here they are, the innocent women and children he raped and murdered.

Ying Hua Ling

Hsiang Huang Ling

Judy Kay Daley

Angelica LaVallee

Barbara Ann Byer

Lynn Elliott

Gore, who has run out of appeals, will be put to death for the murder of his last victim, Vero Beach teenager Lynn Elliott. The following court document describes how he kidnapped and killed her:

“On July 26, 1983, Gore and his cousin Freddy Waterfield picked up teenagers Lynn Elliott and Regan Martin, who were hitchhiking. Soon after, Gore took a gun out of the glove compartment and handcuffed the two girls while Waterfield drove to Gore’s parents’ house. Once there, Gore bound each of the girls and placed them in separate bedrooms. Regan Martin testified that Gore cut off her clothes and forced her to perform oral sex on him while he threatened to kill her, and that Gore kept going back and forth between the two rooms. At one point when Gore was out of the room, Martin heard gunshots from outside. When Gore returned he placed her in a closet and then the attic and threatened to kill her if she tried anything. Soon after, Gore surrendered to the police and Martin was rescued. Elliott’s nude body was found in the trunk of Gore’s car.

“Michael Rock, a teenager riding his bike by Gore's house on the day in question, testified that he saw Gore and a naked woman (Lynn Elliott) running up the driveway toward the road. Rock watched as Gore caught up with Elliott and dragged her back toward the house. He then saw Gore throw Elliott down and shoot her. Elliott had been shot twice, once in the back of the head and once in the jaw.”

Rock pedaled home as fast as he could and told his mother what he'd witnessed. She immediately called 911.

Lynn’s parents, Carl and Jeanne Elliott, have waited for three decades to watch the serial murderer die.

“Get it over with,” Carl told a reporter. “Give him what he deserves.”

Jeanne said, “I would ask [Florida Governor Rick Scott] to, please, think about the families waiting for justice to be done. The hurt does not go away.”

In 2011, Jeanne nearly died. While in a coma, Carl told her, “You can’t go now. You have other things to do.” Jeanne recovered, because she still needed to see Gore executed.

For all those who want Gore to stay alive, I'd ask you to say a small prayer for two souls fading into the sunset, souls whose lives were shattered when a monster snatched their daughter, whose only satisfaction will be when the killer pays for his crime.

And say a prayer for the families of his other victims.

As David Alan Gore sinks into a peaceful sleep for the last time, may he wake up in Hell.

NOTE: At 6:19 p.m., on April 12, 2012, David Alan Gore was pronounced dead at Florida State Prison in Raiford. The worst pain he would have felt in the end was maybe a couple of needle-pricks--unlike his victims who were raped, tortured unmercifully, and murdered.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Another Senseless Killing

Store clerk murdered for no apparent reason
by Robert A. Waters

At 1:00 p.m., the call came in to the Merrillville, Indiana Police Department.

"We need an ambulance at Lucky Foods on Cleveland and 57th," the caller told the 911 dispatcher. "Someone just robbed the store and the woman inside is bleeding."

"Where’s the suspect?"

"We don’t know. He ran."

Within minutes, police swarmed the store. They found Judi Simpson-Beaver lying near death behind the counter. Outside, witnesses said they saw a man run from the store and get into an older model brown Oldsmobile with a maroon-colored hood. The car had a temporary Indiana plate.

The clerk died on the floor in a pool of blood.

When detectives viewed the store’s surveillance video, they seemed shocked by the senselessness of the crime.

The film showed a man enter the store wearing a purple hoodie and a white Jason mask. The jacket had the logo, "Royal Estoc Empire," written across the back. Waving a gun, the thug jumped over the counter, and retrieved two cash register trays filled with money. Then the robber headed for the door.

Had the story ended there, it would have been just another "grab the money and run" heist. But, almost as an afterthought, the thief suddenly turned and fired a shot at Simpson-Beaver. Hit in the chest, she collapsed behind the counter. The gunman then walked behind the counter, stood over the wounded clerk, and fired again. Point-blank, to the head.

Witnesses told investigators that coins from the money trays spilled onto the sidewalk as the shooter fled.

Such a brutal, unnecessary crime enraged the public. There seemed to be no reason for it. Simpson-Beaver had complied with every demand, handing over the money drawers. With a mask covering his face, the clerk would have been unable to identify the robber.

Detectives quickly released the video to local media. Two days later, cops announced an arrest.

Jeremy Kale Blue lived two blocks away from the store. He drove a car similar to the one seen leaving the area. A witness said she recognized him when he pulled his mask up as he fled. Police charged Blue with three counts: murder; murder in the perpetration of a robbery; and robbery.

Fifteen minutes before the crime occurred, the surveillance video shows two other men enter the store, apparently casing it. Investigators still have not identified these men. A $5,000 reward has been issued for information leading to their capture.

Judi Simpson-Beaver, described as having a strong Christian faith, was helping to raise her grandson while one of her two sons served in Afghanistan.

Yet another senseless murder. Yet another grieving family. Yet another community searching for answers.

The killer deserves no mercy.

NOTE: Jeremy Blue has not been convicted of any crime. So far, investigators haven’t found the gun or jacket used in the murder. Family members insist that he was home all day.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Another Unsolved New Hampshire Murder

Luella Marie Blakeslee
Who murdered the pretty schoolmarm?
by Robert A. Waters

Luella Blakeslee disappeared in 1969.

Her bones were discovered in 1998.

As of 2012, her killer remains unknown.

Blakeslee graduated from the University of New Hampshire, then studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. She'd been employed as a French teacher in Derry, New Hampshire, and Harvard, Massachusetts before moving back home after the death of her mother.

At the time she went missing, Blakeslee lived in Hooksett, New Hampshire and taught at Derryfield, a private school in Manchester.

Reporter David J. Duffy wrote in the Lowell Sun that on July 4, 1969, George Blakeslee, her father, "returned home at about 11:30 p.m. When Luella did not come home that evening, he thought she may have spent the night at the home of friends. Her 1963 red Volkswagen sedan was still parked outside the house." When she didn't return the next morning, George reported his daughter missing.

A week after she went missing, police arrested Blakeslee's boyfriend on charges that he assaulted a teenage girl who was visiting the area. Investigators questioned him extensively about Blakeslee's disappearance and also attempted to link him to the still-unsolved murder of eleven-year-old Debra Horn.

Cops later focused their attention on another of Blakeslee's acquaintances, Robert G. Breest, after he was arrested for the murder of a local teenager. According to the Boston Herald, eighteen-year-old Susan Randall “had been living in Manchester and working two jobs, trying to save money to fulfill her dream of becoming a fashion designer. She was murdered on Feb. 28, 1971, and her body was discovered several days later—half-naked and hurled from a bridge in the icy waters of the Merrimack River in Concord, N. H.” Circumstantial evidence pointed to Breest as her killer. A jury convicted him and he received life in prison for the murder.

On May 9, 1998, two joggers found the skeletal remains of Luella Blakeslee in Hopkinton, NH. At the scene, investigators recovered a weather-beaten handbag, wallet, and comb that belonged to the missing woman.

Breest had long been a suspect in Blakeslee's disappearance. Now he became a suspect in her murder.

For decades, while serving his time, Breest continued to claim that he was innocent of the Randall murder. Eventually, he succeeded in getting the prestigious Innocence Project to investigate his case. On March 27, 2008, the New Hampshire Department of Justice released the following memo:

State v. Robert Breest: DNA test results in 1971 Concord homicide. New Hampshire Attorney General Kelly A. Ayotte announces that recent DNA test results have provided additional confirmation that Robert Breest is guilty of the 1971 homicide of Susan Randall. Susan Randall's badly beaten and partially naked body was found on the ice of the Merrimack River in 1971. Robert Breest was eventually arrested for the murder and brought to trial. The evidence at trial included substantial forensic evidence that tied Breest to the murder including hairs and paint chips. He was convicted by a jury of First Degree Murder and sentenced as a [psycho-sexual] murderer in 1973. Breest was sentenced to life in prison. Under the laws in place at the time of his sentencing, he was not eligible for parole for 40 years.

“In the 35 years since his conviction, Breest has repeatedly challenged his conviction and sentence. In 2000 and 2002, he requested and was granted DNA testing of blood underneath Susan Randall's fingernails. Those test results did not exclude Breest as the source of the DNA under the fingernails.

“In 2007, Breest filed a federal lawsuit seeking yet another round of DNA testing on the blood under the victim's fingernails. The State objected to more testing on the grounds that the jury's verdict already established beyond a reasonable doubt that Breest was guilty of the murder. The State argued that new testing would only further traumatize the victim's family. The federal court ordered additional testing, reasoning that further DNA testing might exonerate Breest.

“On March 25, 2008, Reliagene Technologies completed the DNA testing on the blood under the victim's fingernails and concluded that the blood was consistent with Robert Breest's DNA. This latest test result confirms the jury's original verdict that Robert Breest is guilty of the brutal murder and attempted sexual assault of Susan Randall. The newest DNA tests add to the already overwhelming evidence of Breest's guilt. The State is hopeful that these test results will end Breest's relentless litigation and finally provide the victim's family closure on this long ordeal.”

Did Breest also murder Luella Blakeslee? Certainly the fact that he knew Blakeslee and murdered another young woman places him high on the suspect list.

Blakeslee lay for decades in a cold forest, her mysteries lying frozen in time. Those mysteries still exist. Will they ever be brought to light?