Jersey Girl Vanishes Without A Trace – The Patricia Jane Wagner Story

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Photo courtesy of Facebook

She goes out for coffee with a long-time friend and never returns, and strangely, he doesn’t either. Investigators believe he met with foul play as well. What happened to Patricia Wagner and her unnamed friend?


Patricia Jane Wagner, 26 was last seen going out for coffee with a g named Dennis. Neither would return. Investigators believe they met with foul play, but very little information is available on this case. I have spoken with family members, browsed through hundreds of Jane Doe files, and scoured newspaper archives and I still came up with nothing. It’s as if this woman disappeared from the human record. If it weren’t for her family, this poor woman would have been long forgotten.

October 20, 1972, was the last time Patricia was seen leaving her home on Rutgers Avenue in Jersey City. The address of her destination is unknown. There are so many unanswered questions in this case, but we believe someone knows what happened to this beautiful young woman. Although I am not at liberty to release his last name, Dennis was never seen again either.

Patricia is 5′ 3″ tall, weighs approximately 120lbs, has brown hair, and has blue eyes. No one is sure about the clothes she was wearing at the time.

According to the NJSP website, New Jersey has 237 unidentified persons listed on their database, and after reading every one of them, I found two possibilities. The first one is less likely, but I will start with it.

On May 16, 1986, a skull was found only eight miles from Jersey City in North Bergen. The estimated death was 1985 or earlier, and the estimated birthdate is from 1937-1956. The NIC# is U212789648 and Case # J5241. Unfortunately, that’s all the information on that one. The date of death makes me unsure, but the location and the estimated birth year are close enough to warrant further investigation. Patricia’s birthdate was July 17, 1946, so it definitely falls within the same timeframe.

The second Jane Doe I found was a little more promising. She was found on May 17, 1974, in the river near the north tip of the Burlington Island. The island is a 300-acre spot of land in the Delaware River between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The estimated height, death, and age all line up close to that of Patrica Wagner. In fact, they line up so well I sent an email to the investigator to check out Patty’s case. Patricia’s cousin is waiting on the DNA to come back, and then we’ll know for sure. Sadly, there’s no word on Dennis, and he doesn’t seem to have a NAMUS page. If he does, I couldn’t find it. His family has their own investigators on the case and asked that I not disclose his details. The police do not believe he was involved in the disappearance of Patricia.

What happened to this woman? Her sons were raised without their mother, and her parents went to their graves, not knowing what happened to Patty. One armchair sleuth commented on Facebook and mentioned the convicted killer, Robert Zarinski. He was a known killer in the area and could have up to ten murders to his name. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1975 for the murder of Rosemary Calandriello and was suspected in several other homicides. Could Patty have met this predator along the way? If so, where is Dennis? Did something else happen to them?

If you have any information on this case, please contact the New Jersey State Police at 609-882-2000.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. THE SOURCE LINKS ARE PLACED WITHIN THE BODY OF THE TEXT.

This week’s Recommended Documentary:

Have You Seen Andy?

This week’s Recommended Reading:

On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you’d like to check out Synova’s true crime books follow this link to her Amazon Author Page.

Synova’s Amazon Author Page


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Dixie Mafia Exposed – Justice for The Sherry Murders

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Photo courtesy of the Clarion-Ledger May 22, 1991

The battle raged for ten long years, but two warriors refused to abandon the case. Lynn Sherry Sposito and FBI agent Keith Bell kept fighting until justice was served for the murders of Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret.


How did this criminal enterprise finally crumble? Although it would take a decade to find justice for the Sherry murders, the foundations began to erode when investigators learned of the Dixie Mafia’s involvement. The first clue came in rather quickly after a neighbor spoke to Lynn Sposito about a strange car in the area on the night of her parent’s murder.

The Greenwood Commonwealth reported on the abandoned car believed to be the getaway car. It was found on September 22, 1987, within a couple of miles from the Sherry house. This 1981 Ford Fairmont would lead straight back to the Dixie Mafia and would get the case rolling.

Screenshot 2019-08-15 at 9.23.07 AM Photo courtesy of the Greenwood Commonwealth September 24, 1987

Not only was this vehicle found close to the murder scene, but it also matched the description given by the neighbor. Strangely, the dome light had been purposely dismantled and the bulb removed. Whoever was driving this car did not want to be seen when he opened the car door.

The car had been stolen off a lot shortly before the murder. Some reports say it was stolen the day before, but in the book Mississippi Mud, it says the car was stolen on the same day. This is not the only discrepancy reported in the book and newspapers. You must remember that both the newspapers and the book were written as the story broke, so they could only write what was known at the time. It is easier to write a story decades afterward in my opinion.

The license plates on this stolen car were registered to another abandoned vehicle from three years earlier. This stolen Firebird had been abandoned in front of an apartment complex. A known Dixie Mafia member named Lenny Sweatman had stripped the car for parts before it was towed away. That tangled web is what led the investigators to the doorstep of the Dixie Mafia. Sweatman would lead to the club owner, Mike Gillich. Gillich would lead back to Kirksey Nix and his Lonely Hearts scam.

The scam was on the police radar for a while and investigators wondered if the murder was connected, but they had no proof. It would take a couple of snitches, a little legal wrangling, and a lot of patience to bring down the killers.

Bobby Joe Fabian was serving a life sentence in Angola prison when he decided to work with investigators in hopes of shortening his sentence. Fabian was the informant who would officially link the scam to the murders. He told of Kirksey Nix’s involvement and implicated Pete Halat. He also told authorities that known hitman, John Ransom was the triggerman. This would later be proved false, but it was enough to get the ball rolling.

Bill Rhodes, an associate of Ransom turned states evidence and claimed he had been hired to drive the getaway car. He claims to have met with Mike Gillich and Pete Halat several months before the murder. Rhodes was to drive and Ransom was to kill the Sherry’s, but this plan fell through when John Ransom was arrested five months before the death of the Sherrys.

As it turns out, Ransom provided the weapon used to kill the judge and his wife, but was not the triggerman as first alleged. Eventually, investigators persuaded Mike Gillich to turn informant. When he finally told his side of the story he spoke in great detail even telling how the hitman put superglue on his fingers so he wouldn’t leave prints behind in the house. He also gives the name of the actual triggerman. Thomas Leslie Holcomb was offered $20,000 to kill the Sherrys.

Nix and the crew were indicted in May 1991, but Pete Halat somehow escaped the noose. It was difficult for investigators seeing the Mayor’s smiling face on the news knowing he was involved in murder, but knowing they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him. Finally, their day came when Gillich spilled the beans and Pete Halat was convicted in 1997.

Halat was working with Nix’s former girlfriend Sheri La Sharpe. Together they would stash the money in a safety deposit box, but Halat got greedy and moved the money to a different safety deposit box that only he had access to. Conveniently there was one other name on the box. Judge Vincent Sherry. Sherry had been Halat’s law partner before he left to become a judge. This would give Halat an “out” when Nix eventually noticed the money was missing. Now Halat could blame the innocent judge for the theft and Halat could get off scot-free.

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Photo courtesy of the Enterprise-Journal Sept 23, 1997

Although the Sherrys got justice, this story will continue next week with the only man to have inside information on this case. His knowledge would eventually lead to his death and his murder would be labeled suicide. Find out more about Lt. Dan Anderson’s connection to this case and his murder next week.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.

Further Reading:

Sun Herald Article

WLOX

Caselaw

Djournal.com

newspapers.com


This week’s Recommended Documentary:

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Biloxi Confidential

This week’s Recommended Reading:


Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


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Groomed & Trafficked – The Ashley Higgins Disappearance

ashley_standish_higgins_1Photo courtesy of The Charley Project

It’s the oldest unsolved missing person case in Orange County California. Two girls take a bus from Costa Mesa to Vegas and only one returns. What happened to Ashley Higgins and who was this mysterious older boyfriend she was going to see? Was he the man Ashley’s mother seen in the paper, the man arrested for running a prostitution ring?


Ashley Standish Higgins, 19 had recently graduated from the Newport Harbor High School and gotten an apartment in Costa Mesa, California. She shared the place with an older African American male named Lee Pippin. His name will come up later in this strange tale.

November 5, 1982, Ashley and her friend Melissa took a bus from Costa Mesa California to Las Vegas. Ashley was going out to meet her boyfriend and Melissa went along for the ride. When the two girls arrived at the Tam O Shantar hotel and met the boyfriend, Melissa got a terribly uneasy feeling. The boyfriend was a much older man and he gave Melissa the creeps. Everything about the situation worried her and she tried to convince Ashley to leave with her. Ashley refused. The last time anyone saw her she was heading down to the lobby to see a ring her boyfriend wanted to show her.

Melissa left the hotel and promised to meet up with Ashley at the bus stop on Sunday to head back to Costa Mesa together. Unfortunately, Ashley never arrived at the bus stop. Thinking she just missed her friend, Melissa headed home. Melissa was arrested immediately upon her return. While Ashley was an adult, Melissa was a 17-year-old minor on probation. She wasn’t allowed to leave the state. She would go on to get into drugs and it would be a long time before she even realized her friend was a missing person.

While Ashley was away, her roommate, Lee Pippins made several calls to Vegas. He called hotels, police, and hospitals. Why would he make so many strange calls to Vegas while his roommate was away? Strangely he also called a few select cities including Albuquerque, New Mexico. When law enforcement checked Ashley’s credit card it appeared Pippins had been using it.

What happened to Ashley Higgins? Who was this older African American man she met in Vegas? Why was her roommate making so many strange phone calls? Why was he using her credit card?

At first, law enforcement wondered if the woman wanted to disappear. It wasn’t uncommon for a 19-year-old to run away. The family refused to believe this. Why would she run away when she knew she was to inherit a large sum of money soon? Wouldn’t it make more sense to stay, collect the inheritance, and then leave?

Shortly after Ashley’s disappearance, her mother notices a newspaper article about the arrest of a man named Richard Leon Johnson. She immediately recognized him claiming she had seen him at her daughter’s apartment. Johnson was arrested for pimping and pandering. Could Johnson be Ashley’s boyfriend?

In 1978, Richard Johnson had been indicted by the El Paso County Grand Jury on pimping and pandering charges. His house and four vehicles were seized and eventually repossessed, but he somehow remained free and received probation. Disturbingly, Johnson was already on probation for pimping charges, but instead of being incarcerated he received another probation. If that isn’t disturbing to you then read on my friend. The Colorado Springs Gazette-Telegraph reported on April 18, 1978, that the prostitutes that were set to witness against Johnson couldn’t be located. What happened to these witnesses? Did they ever turn up? Were they murdered?

Later investigations revealed Johnson’s prostitution ring closely aligned with the cities Ashley’s roommate, Lee Pippins was calling on the weekend of November 7, 1982. Also, nearly a month after the pretty blond-headed girl went missing, her credit card was used to rent a car in Las Vegas. We all remember who had it that fateful weekend, right?

Were Pippins and Johnson grooming an innocent girl for their human trafficking ring, or were they, innocent bystanders? I hardly think they were innocent, but how could they not be tied to this case?

Everyone hoped Ashley had run away and she would appear when it was time to inherit her money, but she never came.  It was pretty obvious by this point that Ashley Higgins met with some sort of foul play.

Ashley’s brother, Andrew is a retired police officer and he’s spent nearly forty years looking for answers. He truly believes his sister has been found somewhere in the Pacific Northwest and is currently classed as a Jane Doe. If you have any information on this case, please contact the Costa Mesa Police Department at 714-754-5157.

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Distinguishing Characteristics:

  • Height: 5’2″
  • Weight: 120lbs
  • Hair: Blond
  • Eyes: Brown
  • A c-shaped scar on one knee
  • A surgical scar on chin
  • previously fractured hip from a childhood car accident
  • Front two top teeth are false

THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.
Further Reading:

Crimewatchers

Facebook

Websleuths


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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SIGN UP HERE


This week’s Recommending Reading:


Human Trafficking (In the News)

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Runaway Girl: Escaping Life on the Streets

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TrafficKing: Jeffrey Epstein human trafficking case


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Lonely Heart Scam Leads to the Murder of A Judge and his Wife

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PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MURDERED IN MISSISSIPPI FACEBOOK PAGE

Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margaret were assassinated in their own home on the night of September 14, 1987. It would take ten years to finally bring all of the culprits to justice, but thirty years later there’s still a part of the story that hasn’t been told. Who found the bodies first? I will give you one guess and it isn’t who you think.


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photo courtesy of the Clarion-Ledger September 17, 1989

 

The official story says Pete Halat and a junior partner found the bodies of Judge Sherry and his wife on September 16, 1987. Thirty years later a new voice has arisen to tell a different story. Lt. Dan Anderson was working as the bailiff for Judge Sherry and was worried when he didn’t show up for court. He called Pete Halat thinking he would know where to find the judge since he wasn’t answering the phone. Halat brushed off his questions claiming the Judge had a habit of being late. Finally, Anderson gets upset and tells Halat he is going to drive over to the house and check on Vincent and Margret. This sparks concern in the law partner. Halat tells him to wait and he would go along too.

Together the two men meet at the Sherrys’ house. Anderson knocks on the door and it opens. Inside he discovers the horrific scene. Overwhelmed with grief from the death of his friend, Anderson is told to go home. Halat promised to take care of everything. Instead, he waits until the next day and took a junior partner along to conveniently find the bodies.

Lt. Anderson returns home distraught after seeing the corpses of his friends. Before he could get himself together, his daughter Phyllis happened to call. On this rare occasion, Dan Anderson poured out his emotional story to his daughter giving details of the crime scene. Phyllis listened and tried to console her father and promised to call and check on him later that evening. When evening came, her father was back to his tight-lipped self and refused to speak of it again. Phyllis had no way of knowing that her father was being forced into silence. She assumed it was his quiet way of dealing with trauma.

Over three hundred people would attend the funeral service for the Sherrys. The event was held at the Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral on Howard Ave. in Biloxi. The Clarion-Ledger also reported the strange eulogy given by Pete Halat. He wasn’t scheduled to speak at this service but chose to stand and speak anyways. His extremely long speech seemed to be more of a campaign speech for his upcoming mayoral campaign. He railed about the corruption in Biloxi and spoke of the deceased couple rarely. It made everyone including investigators begin to turn a wary eye on the lawyer.

Last week we left you with the story of the abandoned Ford Fairmont. To recap, it was seen by a neighbor the night the Sherry’s were murdered. This tip would lead back to a man by the name of Lenny Sweatman. Investigators knew if Sweatman was involved then another Dixie Mafia member would be close by. Mike Gillich owned the Golden Nugget nightclub and was good friends with the notorious Sweatman.

The case reached a stagnant point and looked like it might be going cold, but Lynn Sposito, the Sherry’s daughter kept pushing forward. She knew she must get enough evidence to draw in the FBI. They were working behind the scenes but didn’t officially join the investigation until August 1989 when they found definite ties to the Dixie Mafia.

During the murder investigation, another case was running parallel to this story. Kirksey Nix, Jr. had been running a scam from behind the bars of the Angola Prison. Nix had acquired hundreds of thousands of dollars through this scam. His goal was to “buy” his way out of his life sentence. With the rampant corruption in Mississippi at the time, this was quite possible to do. The investigators would label it the Lonely Hearts Scam.

The Scam:

Nix found a way to take advantage of lonely gay men by placing singles ads in the local gay magazines. He would talk of how corrupt the place was and how mistreated he was for being gay. Of course, Kirksey Nix was not homosexual in the least, he simply played a part to con money out of these pen pals. To make matters even more treacherous, he would then turn around afterward and blackmail the men if they were still “in the closet.”

Now inmates cannot have that kind of cash just lying around their cells, so Nix put together a complex scheme to shuffle the cash into a safety deposit box. Who’s name was on the box? Pete Halat and Nix’s girlfriend Sheri La Ra Sharpe. The plan was to store the cash in the safety deposit box until it was time to buy Nix out of his legal troubles, but Halat became greedy and stole $100,000 from the box. To cover his tracks he moved the cash to a box assigned to himself and his law partner Judge Sherry. That way when Nix noticed the money missing he could blame it on the judge.

This all sounds good in theory, but there was one problem. They didn’t have the evidence to put Halat away. It would take ten long years before investigators could find enough to convict him. In the meantime, Pete Halat continued his mayoral campaign and became the 12th mayor of Biloxi, Mississippi.

This complicated the investigation greatly and the FBI had to keep their findings close to home. They couldn’t work as close to local law enforcement as they would have hoped knowing that Halat had confederates in the force.

Next week I will dive more into the investigations, the snitches, and the battles that finally brought down Nix and Halat. Stay tuned guys.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.

Further Reading:

FBI Files

Newsweek article

FBI page

NY Times

Revolvy Article

WLBT

Wikipedia

Biloxi confidential


This week’s Recommending Reading:

Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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SIGN UP HERE


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Captive Prey – Bizarre Death of Incarcerated Native American

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Photo courtesy of the Justice For Raymond Eacret Facebook Page

“I don’t know any other life, but I want one.”

He was a meth-addict trying desperately to get his life back together and find a better path, but they took it from him. They were supposed to guard, to protect, and to serve, instead, this Native American was killed just before he was supposed to be released from the Humboldt County Jail. What happened to Raymond Eacret?


Raymond Johnathan Eacret, 34 was arrested on June 19, 2015, for a misdemeanor parole violation and was scheduled to be released by June 26, 2015. He wouldn’t survive that long. He was found dead within hours of his release. Immediately conflicting reports arose around this young man’s death. At first, they said he was found hanging in his cell. Then it was reported that he was found hanging in the medical unit of the prison which a fellow inmate claims it is impossible to do in that facility. A witness claims to have seen them bring Raymond into the Medical unit beaten, bruised, and unconscious.

The distraught mother tried to see her son, but the coroner refused until after an autopsy was completed. Raymond Eacret a card-carrying member of the Yurok Tribe was denied his final rights as a Native American. When Shiela Sudbeck was finally able to see her son she was shocked by the state of his body. He had two black eyes, a broken nose, and was covered in bruises. It looked as if he’d been kicked in the back and his ribs broken. They were left protruding through the skin. There was a three-inch deep cut across part of his neck, but not all the way around it. A secondary bruise circled his neck but was much lighter in color making you wonder if someone had strangled him to cover up a beating.

A few hours before his death, Raymond had called his mom to tell her not to worry. The charges against him had been dropped and he would be home by dinner time. If this were a suicide why would he call his mother? Why would he commit suicide when he was being released and the charges were dropped? It didn’t make sense. Raymond had struggled with meth addiction but was trying desperately to start over. Why would he commit suicide now? How did he get broken ribs and bruises from a suicide?

If Raymond Eacret was the first and only inmate death in this county one might be able to argue that this was a terrible accident, but Eacret was the fourth victim within several months.

Peter Stewart, Martin Cotton, and James “Hans” Peters all died sudden violent deaths at the hands of authorities. All three were disabled and diagnosed with mental illness, and they all met death within three months of each other in 2007. Grant it, they died a nearly a decade before Eacret, but all four deaths seem suspicious and tend to leave more questions than answers. Did these four Native Americans cause their own deaths, or were they killed by someone else?


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.

Further Reading:

http://www.arcataeye.com/2011/03/westwood-house-was-meth-shop-say-police-%E2%80%93-march-1-2011/

https://lostcoastoutpost.com/2015/dec/4/obituary-raymond-eacret-lamberson-1981-2015/

https://poormagazine.org/node/5425

https://www.facebook.com/Justice-For-Raymond-Eacret-195052187493211/

http://www.arcataeye.com/2011/03/westwood-house-was-meth-shop-say-police-%E2%80%93-march-1-2011/

https://popularresistance.org/the-police-killings-no-one-is-talking-about/

https://madriverunion.com/police-seek-robbery-suspect-september-6-2011/

https://highboldtage.wordpress.com/2008/08/10/demand-coroners-inquests-regarding-the-deaths-of-peter-stewart-martin-cotton-james-hans-peters/


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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SIGN UP HERE


Each week Synova highlights obscure cold cases on her blog as a victim’s advocate with the Missouri Missing organization. She never charges for her services. If you’d like to help support Synova in this worthy cause, please check out the affiliate links below and on the sidebar of this page. By purchasing one of her books or using these links, you will be supporting Synova’s work on cold cases and will ensure her ability to continue to give a voice to the victim’s family. Thank you.

Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI

White Devil: A True Story of War, Savagery And Vengeance in Colonial America


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Synova’s Recommended Reading

Mississippi Mud by Edward Humes

For all of you who are following all my Dixie Mafia stories on Mobster Mondays, here’s some recommended reading.

The riveting true-crime account of the heartbreaking murder that shook a Southern city to its corrupt foundation

Get Your Copy Here

Judge’s Murder Exposed Dixie Mafia to the World

Photo courtesy of the Murdered in Mississippi Facebook page

The judge and his wife are executed in their beautiful home on Hickory Hills Circle in Biloxi, Mississippi. Two days would pass before they were officially discovered and it would take years before the entire case exposed the corruption in Mississippi. Who killed Judge Vincent Sherry and his wife Margret? Why is the official date of discovery two days later when we know someone else found the bodies a day earlier?


On the evening of September 14, 1987, Judge Sherry and his wife were settling in for the night when tragedy struck. Sometime after 7PM, a gunman entered the upscale home in the Ancient Oaks Subdivision and shot the couple with a .22 caliber pistol. The judge was shot several times in his living room still dressed in the clothes he wore to court earlier that day. Margaret Sherry was shot several times and later found near the bed.

Who would do this type of thing?

The Sherrys were never punctual and at some point, the judge had canceled his court appointments for the next day. Because of this, it would take two days before the bodies were officially discovered by the judge’s law partner Pete Halat. Notice I say “officially.” Someone else had discovered the bodies the day before, but this was hushed up until decades later. You’ll have to wait until next week to discover the end to that tale.

When the judge didn’t arrive at court by 11 am on September 16,1987, Pete Halat and a junior partner drive out to the judge’s house. The door was unlocked and Pete pushed it open. He stepped inside the living room and quickly walked back out telling the other man to call the police because “The Judge and Margret were murdered.”

News broke of the mafia-style slayings and pandimonium quickly spread throughout the city. Judges and public officials were being guarded by law enforcement. No one knew why this couple was targeted. Judge Sherry had made a career by defending the criminal element in the city. Any of them could have it out for the judge. Margret was a former city councilwoman and was about to run for mayor. Mrs. Sherry was very vocal about her stand against illegal gambling and vices that came along with the casinos. If she won the election it would be bad news for the corrupt business owners and officials. Was the intended target?

The Clarion-Ledger would eventually report the officials had begun their investigation by looking into the Sherry’s own son as a suspect. He was ruled out rather quickly. Because it was such a high-profile case involving a judge the FBI was unofficially involved in the investigation from the beginning. They would get “officially” involved in August of 1989 and launch their own investigation into the case and the corruption in the city.

Investigators canvassed the neighborhood around the Sherry home, but no one would say anything. They didn’t even want to be seen talking to law enforcement on the sidewalk. If they knew anything, they were too afraid to say. If a high-powered, well-respected judge and his wife could be murdered in their own home, what hope did the common citizen have for protection?

The Sherry’s daughter came into town and began her own investigation and found people were a little more comfortable talking to her than talking to the police. A neighbor spoke with Lynn Sposito and mentioned a strange car in the area on the fateful Monday night when her parents were killed. Lynn took the information to the police and to the FBI investigator, Keith Bell.

Within a week the authorities found an abandoned yellow 1981 Ford Fairmont. It matched the description of the witness, but the police had to be sure. Strangely the interior light had been purposely dismantled and the bulb removed. Whoever drove this car didn’t want his face seen when the car door was opened. The car was stolen the day prior to the murders, and the licenses plates had been stolen off a different car three years earlier.

Investigators traced the license plates back to the last known records. They found the firebird had been abandoned in front of an apartment complex managed by Lenny Sweatman. The name Sweatman started setting off alarm bells for law enforcement. Sweatman was a well-known member of the rugged Dixie Mafia. Investigators contacted Sweatman and inquired about the Firebird. He claimed to have called a friend to come over and strip the car for parts before having it towed away.

Now the investigators know about the Dixie Mafia and the corruption in Biloxi, but soon the world would know the name “Dixie Mafia,” because this case would blow the top off the crooked politics, and corruption in Mississippi. Stay tuned. Next week we will continue our journey into the ten-year struggle it took to finally win justice for the good judge and his wife.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.

Further Reading:

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/99196064/vincent-jerome-sherry

https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/99196183/margaret-joyce-sherry

This week’s Recommending Reading:

Mississippi Mud: Southern Justice and the Dixie Mafia


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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“Where’s Opie?” – The Jesse Ross Disappearance

jesse ross


A local K.C. radio personality leaves for a college field trip in Chicago and never returns. “Opie Cunningham” from 95.7 The Vibe was going to a conference with thirty other students from the University of Kansas City. The group was scheduled to return home two days before Thanksgiving, 2006 but Opie wasn’t among them. Where’s Opie?


Jesse Ross, 19 was a sophomore at UKC and worked as a radio personality on a local station. With his flaming red hair, freckles, and slightly mischievous personality, Opie (as in Ron Howard’s character on the Andy Griffeth Show) was an obvious nickname. Jesse carried this moniker into his radio career and became part of a segment called “Where’s Opie?” For these shows, Jesse would broadcast from random points throughout the city, and the listeners would then be required to call in and guess his location. This quick-witted young man thrived on the radio waves, and just before his trip to Chicago, Jesse Ross had been promoted from intern to paid employee with the station.

In November 2006 Jesse was scheduled to attend a four-day conference with thirty other students and his professor. The meeting was set up like a mock United Nations conference, and over 1,200 students from across the nation would gather at the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago for the event. Donald Ross, Jesse’s father, dropped his son off at the school in the wee hours of the morning and told his son goodbye. He never realized it would be the last time.

November 20, 2006, was the last full day of events, and everyone was attending little parties and meetings as the event wound down to a close. Jesse calls his mother and says he’s having a great time. He promises to call the next day when the group loads up in the van and starts their long drive home. A party was held that final night, but reports differ on the details. Some say the party lasted from 10 pm to 3 am, while others say it was held from midnight to 3 am. Whatever the case, there was alcohol involved, and in the middle of the party, a mock “Emergency Security Meeting” was called. All of this seems strange, but supposedly it had a purpose. Around thirty students attended this meeting, and the group took a break around 2:30 am.

Why was a bunch of kids called to a meeting at 2:30 in the morning to pretend to negotiate affairs of state? Seems strange.

The events were held in one building, and most of the group were staying at the 4 Points Sheratan Hotel half a mile away. The walkway between the venues was well-lit, heavily trafficked, and entirely covered by security cameras. What could go wrong? Hum. Let’s see about that. We have a group of underage kids drunk walking after dark in one of the most dangerous cities in America. Oh, I have a great idea! Let’s call them to a meeting at 2:30 am.

During the break, Jesse is seen leaving the conference room by the security cameras in the hotel, but no one can say what happened next. Did he go to the room of another college student to party? Did he have an accident inside the hotel and it was covered up? No one can prove that Jesse left the building, and no security footage picked him up, walking back to his hotel room. What happened to this teenager? Almost thirteen years have passed, and no one can find him. Did he meet a predator on his way back? Did he stumble his way down to the bridge and fall in?

A new documentary titled, “When I last Saw Jesse,” was released this past April at the K.C. Film Festival. Local filmmaker, Brian Rose spent six years trying to interview those college kids at the conference and claims to have a new witness.  He doesn’t disclose what type of information this witness gave, so we can only hope it will help solve this strange case. If you have any information on this case, please contact the Chicago P.D. at (312) 744-8266.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.

Further Reading:

Jesse’s Facebook Page

Find Jesse Ross Website

True Crime Garage Podcast Episode #1

True Crime Garage Podcast Episode #2

Reddit


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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SIGN UP HERE


Each week Synova highlights obscure cold cases on her blog as a victim’s advocate with the Missouri Missing organization. She never charges for her services. If you’d like to help support Synova in this worthy cause, please check out the affiliate links below and on the sidebar of this page. By purchasing one of her books or using these links, you will be supporting Synova’s work on cold cases and will ensure her ability to continue to give a voice to the victim’s family. Thank you.

Synova’s Recommended Reading:

Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer


jesse ross

Do Legends Really Die? The Death of Buford Pusser

Buford_Pusser.jpg


Do legends die, or do they get distorted over time until no truth remains? The legendary lawmen Buford Pusser was killed in a fiery crash on August 21st, 1974. Although everyone in town knew he had a price on his head, the case was closed quickly and the records were sealed by court order. Why?


In Buford Pusser case, the controversy surrounding his life was insane enough, but now his detractors are pouring manufactured facts, rumor mill stories, and manipulated truths into the story trying to defame a rough-and-tumble lawman.

On August 20th, 1974, Buford Pusser and his daughter Dwana went to the McNairy County Fair. Earlier that day, Pusser had announced he had just signed a contract with Bing Crosby Productions to portray himself in the next Walking Tall movie.

Many locals saw him at the fair. He played basketball with some of them and seemed fine around 7 p.m. However, by 10 o’clock that night, some people noticed he began to slur his words a little bit and wondered if he had been drinking. The people at the food stand remember him ordering two BBQ sandwiches and a fish sandwich along with two glasses of water. He was seen carrying around this disposable cup most of the evening, but the only thing he was known to order was water.

Another witness claimed he saw Buford Pusser leave that evening and he tore out of the parking lot like some rowdy teenager. Although Buford Pusser drove his souped-up Corvette at high rates of speed, he was never that reckless. Others notice at the fair that Buford seemed a little off the longer the evening wore on. These witness statements and others lead people to believe that perhaps Buford Pusser had been poisoned.

One investigator who later would be completely discredited claimed to have proof he had been poisoned with a rare South American Indian poison called Cuare. Like with everyone else who went up against the Dixie Mafia, this investigator was publicly discredited and humiliated. Strangely, this investigator would wind up being shot execution-style a short time later. Everyone was quick to point out that it had nothing to do with the Pusser investigation. I think otherwise.

Just after midnight, Dwana and Buford decide to leave the fair. Dwana gets a ride with a friend and leaves shortly before her father. A few miles down the road Buford Pusser caught up with them and passed them at a high rate of speed. It took a few miles to catch up to the Corvette, but by then it was too late.

Some reports say the car was already on fire, but others say it started a few minutes later underneath the hood. The legendary lawmen lay on the ground near his beloved Corvette with a broken neck. Could he really be gone? It didn’t seem possible.

Rumors began immediately after his death. The tie rods had been sawed in two. The brake lines had been cut. He was poisoned. Investigators say Buford Pusser was drunk and driving to fast he wasn’t wearing a seat belt and he was ejected from the car no foul play, but no one in the town believed it several stateliners had contracts out on Buford Pusser and this was a well-known fact.

Some estimated car was traveling close to 100 mph others say it was a 120 mph. Whatever the case, why would he fly past the car he knew his daughter was in like a maniac? Wouldn’t that put his child in danger? It didn’t seem like Buford Pusser was really in his right mind that night.

This was the argument many people claimed proved poison theory. At the time of his death, Buford Pusser’s blood-alcohol level was 1.8. For a giant of a man 6 ft 6 in tall 250 lb that would not have affected him very much.

Rumor had it the brake lines had been cut on his car but if this was the case why were there 545 feet of skid marks left down the highway?

TNADApusser_ks30

photo courtsey of roadsideamerica.com

The manufacturing company investigated the wreckage and said there was no manufacturing default, and it didn’t look like it had been tampered with. Of course, if there had been a default, would they have admitted it? I doubt it. They would have to take responsibility for killing a legend. Besides all of that, if you look at pictures, there isn’t anything left of this vehicle. How could they tell if it had been tampered with? They said the tie rods were broken, but they think they were broken upon impact.

The accident was reconstructed and mapped out using photographs. The low flying machine had crossed into the opposite lane, crossed the grassy ditch, and passed an old gas station. Then it crossed the side road and slammed into an embankment. The big man was ejected from the vehicle and broke his neck upon impact. The legend had just enough strength left to whisper his daughter’s name.

Was Buford Pusser murdered? We may never know. Many have fought and spent thousands of dollars trying to find the truth, but this secret is buried deep in the Tennessee dirt.

What is the purpose of mankind? Humanity’s purpose is to serve others and leave a mark on this world. Whatever your opinion of this great lawman you must agree on one point. He definitely left a mark in history. He inspired thousands of people to stand up for what they believe in. Many people credit their law enforcement careers to his inspiration. What can you say? Have you done anything remarkable with your life? Walk on Buford the Bull.

I cannot possibly fit the entirety of this story in a blog post, so be watching out for a book. I will be writing about this famous lawman, his family, his enemies, and the stories that shaped McNairy County, Tennessee. When reading about this man’s exploits, an old Elvis Presley song came to mind. I would like to quote the lyrics here.

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid
Of the dark
At the end of a storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song
Of a lark
Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed
And blown
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never
Ever walk alone
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never
Ever walk alone

Listen to the song here:

(Wikipedia says The single “You’ll Never Walk Alone” was an adaptation of the Oscar Hammerstein II and Richard Rodgers standard.)

All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. I do not own the photos used in this post. All photos are used under the fair use act. No copyright infringement intended.©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


If you enjoy this content don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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SIGN UP HERE


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS.

Further Reading:

WMC Action News

This week’s recommended Dixie Mafia Books include:

Walking On: A Daughter’s Journey with Legendary Sheriff Buford Pusser

Ghost Tales of The State Line Mob: Novel Based on Actual Events


TNADApusser_ks30

The Jonathan Estes Disappearance

jonathan paul estes Poster courtesy of the Find Jonathan Paul Estes Facebook Page

It’s the dreaded Triple D Threat; Domestic Dispute, Divorce, and Disappearance. After a rocky end to their 13-year marriage, the separation was inevitable, but when allegations arise of domestic abuse and the husband vanishes, this case takes a turn for the worse. What happened to Jonathan Estes?


Jonathan Paul Estes, 36 was last seen on June 2, 2018, in Bogue Chitto, Mississippi around his home. Estes was a construction worker and spent a great deal of time working out of town. He worked hard and enjoyed time with his children when he was home. It seemed as if the little family had life by the tail, but things aren’t always what they seem. The last year of his marriage to Cindy had been tumultuous, but Jon always tried to find ways to appease his wife.

Several months before filing for divorce, Jon began to suspect his wife was cheating on him while he was out of town working. He even placed a few deer cameras around his home to see who was pulling into his driveway while he was gone. Things finally deteriorated to the point that Jon hired a private investigator. These problems reached a boiling point when his 13-yr-old son found some lewd pictures on his mother’s phone and forwarded them to his father.

Jon filed for divorce and moved five miles away from the family home, but remained close enough to spend time with his kids. This should be the end of the chaos, but unfortunately, it was just the beginning.

When Jon took the divorce papers to the house for Cindy to sign a fight broke out, and life would never be the same for the Estes family. Cindy claimed that Jon raped her at gunpoint. Jon says that she became angry when he brought the papers and began attacking him. He turns to leave and while in her driveway, she runs him over with her car. While Jon is trying to recover Cindy raced down the street and straight to the police station. (It is assumed that she went straight there, but who knows she may have stopped for a coke.) Once there, she filed charges against Jon for the alleged rape.

Jon, driving his truck, was headed back to his house when he noticed the ‘GPS’ location device had suddenly been activated. Knowing his wife’s vindictive personality, he figured he would just dump the truck. Jon turned around and drove the truck (which was inconsequentially registered in Cindy’s name) across the hayfield behind the family home. The surrounding property was the cattle farm owned by Cindy’s family. There amongst the hay and treeline, Jon left his truck behind. He called a neighbor to pick him up and met her at the highway.

Jon returns to his home where his nosey neighbor keeps watch on the house. He told her that he was going to have a friend pick him up and take him to the police station so he could sort out this mess, but no one ever came to pick him up, and no one ever saw the man again.

The last known contact was when Jon called his friend the next morning to talk about the craziness of his divorce. During his conversation, he mentioned that a cop car kept driving back and forth in front of his house. He told his friend that he was going to walk out to the end of his driveway and talk to them. Maybe he could figure out what in the world was going on. Unfortunately, no one ever heard from him again. He never called his friend back, and the patrolling officers say he never walked out and talked to them. Where did he go? Did he run off like the police initially believed?

The family of Jon Estes doesn’t think he would have run away from his problems. He wasn’t the type, but it was a logical explanation at first anyway. Now, a year later, that option isn’t really on the table anymore.

Apparently, Jon Estes was a gentle person that would do almost anything to appease his wife, and I say this because of what came out later in the investigation. Jon and Cindy had been having trouble for quite a while. When Jon’s sister hacked into his email account, trying to find clues to his whereabouts, she found out how desperate he was to save his marriage. The last couple of years, he had agreed to a more open-type of marriage that involved couples and partner swapping. This was disturbing enough, but then she found the pictures and videos taken of Cindy while Jon was away. This wasn’t part of the deal.

The sister also found out about Jon’s own little investigation into his wife’s infidelity. He had been collecting information on her extramarital affairs in case he needed evidence during the divorce proceedings. Although no names have been released publicly, it seems evident that one of his wife’s lovers held some type of position of authority in the small community. Perhaps this is why Jon disappeared. Either way, Cindy never once tried to find her husband. She claims he ran off so he wouldn’t have to pay child support, but the family has the receipts to show Jon was paying child support to her months before his disappearance and before the divorce was even filed. He wanted his kids taken care of no matter what happened to his marriage.

If Jon had run away to avoid his problems, wouldn’t it make sense for her to try to find him to get justice for what he had supposedly done to her? Wouldn’t she hunt him down so he would be required to support his children? Obviously, Cindy doesn’t think so because other than bashing him online; she hasn’t publicly put forth any effort to find him.

Four months after the disappearance of Jonathan Estes, a grand jury convened to hear the case against him regarding the rape allegations. They find there’s no evidence to this story and drop the charges entirely. The family was informed that no charges would be brought against him if he happened to return because there simply wasn’t any evidence that an attack ever occurred. A short time later, Cindy filed for divorce citing abandonment by Jon and was granted full custody of their two kids.

STRANGE TWIST: A stolen bobcat bulldozer

As if this case wasn’t bizarre enough, there’s another twist to this saga. Cindy is coming up for trial for stealing a bobcat. For those of you who don’t know, a Bobcat is a small bulldozer used in construction. During the chaos of the missing person’s case, and before the couple could legally divide their belongings, Cindy was busily posting everything on Facebook for sale. During this time she sold a bobcat that was at the family home that didn’t belong to either Cindy or Jon. It actually belonged to his dad and was only borrowed.

Jon’s father drove the five hours to find his son and to file charges at the police station about his bulldozer. During the chaos, this wasn’t taken care of properly, and by the time the reports were filed, the bobcat had already been sold for a meager amount. Strangely, in this tiny town where everyone knows and is related to everyone else nobody knows what happened to this bobcat.

How does this missing piece of construction equipment play into this case? I really don’t know. I just hope it hadn’t been used in the process of covering up a murder. If you have any information on this case, please contact the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Department 601-833-5231


This list of links is not an all encompassing source citing. All of the information used in this article can be easily found online. Links below were used as sources and are recommended reading for Synova’s readers.

Further Reading:

Charley Project

Unfound Podcast


Each week Synova highlights obscure cold cases on her blog as a victim’s advocate with the Missouri Missing organization. She never charges for her services. If you’d like to help support Synova in this worthy cause, please check out the affiliate links below and on the sidebar of this page. By purchasing one of her books or using these links, you will be supporting Synova’s work on cold cases and will ensure her ability to continue to give a voice to the victim’s family. Thank you.

VIPERTEK VTS-989 – 58 Billion Heavy Duty Stun Gun – Rechargeable with LED Flashlight

How To Be Your Own Bodyguard: Self Defense for men & women from a lifetime of protecting clients in hostile environments.

Synova’s True Crime books are also available on Amazon.com

Unorganized Crime: Journey to Redemption

Snatched: The FBI’s Top Ten Art Crimes and more (Synova’s Case Files)


jonathan paul estes