When Rumors Destroy Cold Cases – The Jennifer Harris Story

Jennifer+Harris

Small town America might be a great place to raise a family, but sometimes it isn’t the best place to die. Many rural communities lack the resources and experience to solve major homicide cases. When you add in the rumor mill of small-town gossip and the loss of major evidence, some people wonder if the case is solvable. Such is the case of Jennifer Harris from Bonham, Texas.
Jennifer Harris was a vivacious 28-yr-old with fiery red curly hair. Everyone around the community loved her including two men; Rob Holman and James Hamilton.
Holman was Jennifer’s childhood sweetheart. They were married shortly after high school and it looked like a happily ever after situation. Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be the case. The couple had a rocky relationship and some even claim Rob had abused Jennifer. It hasn’t been confirmed whether this was physical or verbal abuse and no police reports were ever filed.
As time passed and Jennifer went to college the couple began to grow apart. Rob enjoyed the laid-back pace of Bonham, Texas while Jennifer was enjoying living in the city. Things began to fall apart even further when Jennifer met James Hamilton in the massage therapy school she had been attending. The two hit it off and decided to open a business together. That wouldn’t be all they did together and soon Jennifer was living in the city and seeing James while Rob moved back to Bonham.
Hamilton was living with the mother of his two children and had a baby on the way but was insisting on marrying Jennifer. Jennifer refused and was quickly losing interest in Hamilton. By early 2002, Jennifer had lost her massage business with Hamilton and was facing bankruptcy. What does she do? She looks up Rob, who had a new girlfriend by this time. It didn’t seem to matter. The couple frequently met and slept together. All this soap opera style drama would lead up to Mother’s Day, 2002 and a mystery that has haunted Bonham, Texas for sixteen years.
Jennifer visits a friend during the early evening hours of May 12, 2002, and leaves around 8 pm. She wouldn’t be seen alive again. A woman takes her dog out for a walk down a lonely country road and notices a dark green jeep abandoned at the side of the road but thinks little of it until she sees it again the next day. She calls the police. The Jeep is quickly identified as belonging to Jennifer Harris. It would be a long six-day search before a fisherman would discover Jennifer’s lifeless body in the Red River.
The medical examiner determined the cause of death to be homicidal violence but couldn’t determine the exact cause of death. Her body had been severely decomposed, and her uterus was missing. This is where the rumor mill of small towns kicked into overdrive. As soon as that story was released theories ran wild. Friends of Jennifer Harris said she had confided in them about her pregnancy, but there wasn’t any hard evidence to verify it. Could she really have been pregnant, and the murderer removed her uterus to destroy evidence? This is what the townsfolk claimed. It would be years before her autopsy would be reexamined. After this examination, it is determined that Jennifer’s uterus was indeed missing, but so were other organs and body parts. The latter examiner determined that Jennifer had suffered some sort of severe injury that left her organs exposed to fish and turtles in the river.
Both Rob Holman and James Hamilton were initially interviewed by police and were named as possible suspects, but no arrests were made. Hamilton claimed he was at an Mc Donald’s over an hour away on the May 12th. After reviewing the case files new investigators and consultants are discouraged by the way this alibi was handled. It wasn’t verified properly, and no one ever pushed it. Rob Holman, on the other hand, claimed to be out driving around for over five hours on the night Jennifer disappeared. Hamilton supposedly passed a lie detector test, but Rob was never given one. To make matters worse, most of the evidence, in this case, has either been lost or damaged when the storage pods got wet. The clothing that was found was lost and so was her laptop. Nobody was even sure if the jeans and t-shirt were even Jennifer’s.
This case has more twists and turns than a roller coaster so hold on, there’s more. Jerry Harris took notes on the case from the beginning and was determined to find justice for his daughter. This meticulous record keeping brought up a sinister revelation years later. Two months after Jennifer’s body was found her ex-boyfriend, James Hamilton called the grieving father to ask about Jennifer’s life insurance policy. In all the case files, this is the only reference to an insurance policy. I have many questions about this. Was there actually an insurance policy taken out on the life of Jennifer Harris? If so, who was the beneficiary? Was there money paid out? Who received it? None of this has been reported. If the beneficiary was Rob or James then that would supply the investigators with a serious motive for murder. Who knows if this lead was even followed? The case file for Jennifer Harris is so slim no one knows what leads were followed and which ones weren’t.
A year later, a woman is watching the news when she hears about the Harris cold case. Incredibly, Deborah Lambert hadn’t heard about the case. She quickly called the police and gave a recorded statement. Deborah and her mother had driven across the Red River Bridge on Mother’s Day a year earlier and had witnessed a frightening scene around 5 pm. She vividly recalled a red-headed woman being rough-housed by three men. Deborah said she made eye contact with the woman and saw terror in her expression. Her mother said, “that girl is about to be raped and killed.” Deborah claimed she was too afraid to call the police at the time. Deborah claimed two men were wearing jeans and one man was wearing shorts. Because of the time discrepancy, the original investigators dismissed Deborah’s statement completely. The new team doesn’t dismiss it so quickly. In reality, the time difference can be explained. Most people don’t continuously watch the clock. Deborah and her mother could have traveled across the bridge later than she remembered, and or Jennifer’s friend could be mistaken on the time she left her home.
Jennifer’s younger sister Alyssa and her filmmaker husband Barry has taken up the case along with private investigator Daryl Parker and the new sheriff Mark Johnson. Everyone hopes to find justice for Jennifer. This case was recently highlighted on the show 48 Hours. Hopefully, the renewed interest in the case will generate some leads. If Deborah Lambert’s statement is correct, there could be two other men out there that know something about this case.
At one point, the local D.A. was accused of being involved in the murder of Jennifer Harris. This rumor was completely unfounded but based on the fabricated fact that her uterus was missing. Authorities researched this rumor extensively and found absolutely no connection, but the D.A. still lost his job over this case.

 

This case was so mishandled that people wonder if it can be solved at this point. I believe it can, but I have many questions. Here are a few of my questions and theories.
– Is it normal for a body to decompose so quickly in the river, or was she partially mutilated before her body was dumped?
– I would like to know what happened to Rob. Did his second marriage fall through? Is his wife/ex-wife still alive?
– Did a forensic team investigate Jennifer’s Jeep?
– Has anyone checked Jennifer’s online footprint? Yes her laptop is missing, but surely her accounts would still be there. Everyone had a MySpace account. If someone remembered Jennifer’s email address then they might be able to reopen the accounts and see who she was talking to at the time of her death.

My suspicion and theory:
Rob Holman claimed Jennifer had called him and wanted to see him on the evening of May 12th. He told the police that he refused to meet her because he had plans with his new girlfriend, but when asked for an alibi Rob said he didn’t have one. He was out driving around for four hours that night.
Ok. What is it then? Was he with his new girlfriend, or was he out driving around? Also, I looked up the historical weather data for that day. It was rainy, overcast, and pop up thunderstorms all evening. Who drives around in thunderstorms? Curious.

I have reached out to Sherriff Johnson and Daryl Parker with questions about this case. I haven’t heard back from them as of this writing, but I will update you all when I get some answers to my questions. As always, if you have any information regarding the murder of Jennifer Harris, please contact the Fannin County Sherriff’s office at (903) 583-2143

Missing 26 years – no answers

A small house on Delmar Street once witnessed the echoes of excitement, but now it remains a mystery that has haunted Springfield, Missouri for 26 years.

On the night of June 6, 1992, it held three women just beginning new chapters in their lives. Sherrill Levitt, 47 was a newly divorced cosmetologist who was looking forward to starting a new life. Susie Streeter,Levitt’s daughter was a 19-yr-old newly graduated senior. Staying with them for the night was Susie’s friend Stacy McCall,18. Saturday had been a whirlwind day. The two teenagers had attended all the graduation breakfasts, dinners, and events before attending the official ceremony. After graduation, the two attended several parties with various classmates and planned to meet up with a group the next day. Together they would travel south to Branson and spend the day at White Water and Silver Dollar City.

The last official sighting of Suzie and Stacy was around 2 am on June 7, 1992, when they left the house of Janelle Kirby. They promised to call Kirby when they woke the next morning, but the call never came. Back in the days before cell phones, Kirby and her boyfriend called the house but got the answering machine. They decided to drop in on the three women and see what happened. When they arrived they noticed all three women’s vehicles were parked in the driveway, so they assumed they were still there. Kirby knocks on the door but no one answers. The boyfriend notices the glass globe covering the porch light had been busted and lay shattered on the front porch. Without thinking he picks up a broom and cleans up the mess. Finding the door unlocked the two teenagers enter the house, but it is empty.

The beds look like they were slept in, nothing was missing, and the women’s personal belongings were all accounted for. Strangely, the women’s purses were all lined up in a neat little row, but Sherrill’s still contained $900 and her cigarettes. The front room television was on, but turned to a channel that was nothing but “snow.” The teens turned to leave thinking the women must have stepped out and would return shortly. Before they closed the door the telephone rang. Kirby picks up the phone only to find a man’s voice making sexual innuendos. Aggravated, she hangs up, but the phone rings yet again before she could get out the front door. It was the same caller. The two teens continue on to Branson thinking they will meet up with the girls down there. They would never see their friends again.

Several hours later, frustrated by her teenager’s lack of communication, Janis McCall drops by the little house on Delmar street looking for her daughter, Stacy. It would be Janis that calls the police to report the three women missing. Here is the most frustrating part of this case. The police don’t make it to the house until the next morning leaving the house unguarded for over 24 hours. It is estimated that at least ten friends and family members had trampled through the house before investigators arrived to secure the crime scene. Some friends even admitted to “picking up the place.” No one believed that three women secure in their home could just disappear. Surely they would return and this would all be cleared up soon. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

After the missing person’s investigation began to take shape in the local news, an elderly woman came forward with a tip. She always sat on her front porch in the mornings and noticed an older model van pull into her driveway in the early morning hours of June 7th. A young blond woman was driving and looked stressed. She heard a man’s voice speak to the young woman from the back seat in a harsh tone. He said something along the lines of, “back out slowly if you know what’s good for you.” When the investigators showed the witness a photo lineup, she picked out Susie Streeter as the driver. All of this took place only a couple blocks from the Delmar house. Police immediately follow the clues trying to find this light green van. The woman said it looked like a late 1960’s to an early 1970’s model. Tips began to pour in about the van sighting. Investigators said at one point the suspected van had been every color of the rainbow. How could they tell which tip was credible and which tip was not? It didn’t matter. The police doggedly followed every semi-credible lead in hopes of solving this unbelievable case. Up until this case, Springfield was viewed as a safe community. Nobody locked their doors. Children played in the streets and walked to school alone in the mornings. No one wanted to believe this could happen in their town. Now the entire city reeled at the news.

Without any physical clues at the crime scene, police began their investigation by digging into the backgrounds of the three women. Sherrill Levitt had just gone through a divorce and had recently purchased the home on Delmar Street. Could the ex-husband be a suspect? The police investigated him thoroughly and quickly ruled him out. Also, Levitt had an older son named Bart. He was nine years older than Susie and had a falling out with his mother recently. Bart also had a drinking problem. Could he be a suspect? Police quickly rule him out as well, but this wasn’t the end of the possible suspects connected to Susie Streeter. Streeter had recently broken up with a boy named Dustin Recla. Recla and his two friends, Michael Clay and Joseph Riedel had been in trouble with the law recently. Recla and his friends had been arrested for vandalizing a mausoleum at a local cemetery. They broke into the above ground grave, tore open several caskets, rummaged about the corpses and stole jewelry and gold teeth. It was said that they even stole a few skulls.

Now it takes a sick individual to desecrate a grave, disrespect a corpse, handle human remains, and tear out their teeth. It is said that Susie Streeter found out and was going to be a witness against them. Could these teenage boys be capable of kidnapping the three women? Possibly.

During a police interview, Michael Clay said he wished they were all dead. This was after they had been missing for quite awhile, so he couldn’t claim a lack of knowledge of this case. Despite this and the inability to verify the boy’s alibi, there isn’t any firm connection between the three missing women and the teenage boys. They remain suspects in this case to this day. Ok, so surely this is the end of this wild tale. Nope.

This investigation has dug up several monsters that were hiding in the Springfield area in 1992. I will give you a short list and will highlight their particular crimes at a later date.

Robert Craig Cox:
– Convicted kidnapper, murder suspect, living in the area at this time
– Worked at car dealership with Stacy McCall’s father
– Known to target teenage girls
– Made claims in a Texas prison that he knew what happened to the Springfield Three

Larry Dewayne Hall & Gary Hall:
– Twin brothers that traveled around the country doing Civil War Reenactments, known serial killers
– Larry claims his brother Gary was stalking one of the teens that night

Gerald Carnahan:
– Convicted killer of teenage girls
– Recently convicted of a 20-yr-old cold case through DNA evidence

Steven Eugene Garrison:
– Kidnapped, raped and tortured 20-yr-old college student in Springfield around the same time as this case
– Claimed his “friend” confessed to killing the missing women during a night of binge drinking

More conjecture:
While all of these men could be viable suspects, there isn’t enough evidence to convict any of them at this point and this case remains as cold as the Arctic Circle. Theories, rumors, and even psychic revelations have sensationalized this case to the point where it is hard to distinguish facts from folklore. Psychics claim they are buried under the parking lot of a nearby hospital. Some claim the girls witnessed a drug deal during their night of partying and they were killed as a result. Others claim they are buried in the Mark Twain National Forrest, or in Arkansas. I get letters from people with all sorts of theories. I reviewed one such letter today. I hope someday a viable lead will turn up in this case and give the victims’ family some answers. As a native of this area, I know this case affected me growing up. When I went to start looking at wedding dresses for my wedding, I went to the McCall’s Bridal shop. It had been five years after the disappearance, but the first thing I saw as we walked in was the yellow poster pictured above this post. It changed this entire area. It changed me. As always, if you have any information regarding this case please contact the Springfield Police Department at (417) 864-1810.

Almost Rescued – The Angela Hammond Disappearance

angela hammond

The disappearance of Angela Hammond, 20 has tormented Rob Shafer for nearly three decades. In April 1991 Shafer was a high school senior engaged to the beautiful Angie Hammond. She was four months pregnant and they were both looking forward to their life together. Both the Shafer’s and the Hammond’s families were eagerly awaiting the marriage and the birth of the new grandbaby. Life was going to be great.
Reality struck hard, however, on the night of April 4, 1991. Angie and Rob spent the evening at a BBQ before Rob had to return home to babysit his younger brother. The couple planned on meeting up again later. Angie promised she would call in an hour and left Rob on his doorstep. Back in the day before cell phones, Angie would call her fiancé from a local payphone. Today with all the crime shows on TV, no woman in her right mind would be alone at 11 pm talking on a payphone, but things were different in the rural town of Clinton, Missouri.
The entire community population was less than 8,000 people. Most were farmers, factory workers, or owned a small local business. Teenagers would cruise around the town square for fun and hang out in the parking lots of the local grocery store. The police station was only two blocks away and violent crime was unheard of. This naïve environment would be shattered before Angie and Rob’s phone call was completed.
Standing in the grocery store parking lot, the 20-yr-old Angie was chatting with her fiancé. She mentioned to Rob that a strange truck kept circling around the square. It was a late 60’s early 70’s model Ford F-150. Being a native of Clinton, she knew most of the vehicles that usually cruised the square. Neither caller thought much about it and their conversation continued. Angie stated that she was getting tired and decided to go on home instead of waiting around for Rob. Moments later Angie described the strange man that emerged from the two-toned truck. She said he was a dirty looking old white guy with a white beard and mustache. He had used the phone next to her and then returned to his truck, but he didn’t leave. This made Angie nervous. Suddenly the man returned, and Rob hears Angie scream. Dropping the phone in a panic, Rob runs out to his car and barrels down the road the seven blocks to the payphone. As he approaches the scene the old Ford pickup passes him on the road. Angie screams “Robbie” and Rob shoves his car into reverse and spins around in the road to give chase.
The hero saves the girl, beats down the bad guy, the police come and arrest the kidnapper, and everyone lives happily ever after, right? No. Reality is grim, and those sudden spins you see cars do in the movies are not real. When poor Robbie slammed his car into reverse and spun, it also destroyed the car’s transmission. The older model car gave chase for about two miles but died in the middle of the street. Robert Shafer was left to watch the truck disappear down the dark rural lane. Helpless and alone he made his way back to the police station to report what happened.
It is here that Rob discovered the sad truth about an inexperienced police department. With the low crime rate, the police had little experience dealing with violent crime. This would stall the process, but the case went forward. Of course, Rob was the first suspect, but after a week-long investigation, he was cleared. They ran checks on all the trucks in the area that might fit the description, but that too came to no conclusion. Rob was able to add to the truck’s description the fact that it had a window decal covering the back glass. The decal was of a fish jumping out of the water. Still, with this added info the truck seemed to vanish into the night.
Rob gave details to the police sketch artist about the truck’s driver. This is where details seem to differ from Angie’s description over the phone. This discrepancy caused some people to look narrowly at Rob, but investigators came to a different conclusion. Below is pictured the composite sketch of the driver as remembered by Rob.

angela_marie_hammond_10

You can clearly see that this man does not have a white beard and mustache. I would argue that the facial hair was fake. I will give you my theories later.
Almost immediately after Rob Shafer was ruled out as a suspect, the officials began to try to link this disappearance with two other missing women from Missouri. One woman was Trudy Darby from Macks Creek, Missouri. Darby worked at a local convenience store. On January 19, 1991, she had been robbed, kidnapped, and murdered. Her body was discovered two days later.
The second woman was Cheryl Ann Kenney. Like Darby, Kenney was robbed, kidnapped, and presumed murdered, but her body hasn’t been found as of this writing. Kenney was kidnapped from Nevada, Missouri.
Now it’s time for a geography lesson. It is 69 miles from Clinton, MO to Macks Creek, and 74 miles from Clinton to Nevada, MO. If you were to plot out a giant triangle on a Missouri roadmap the final side would be 83 miles from Macks Creek to Clinton. Although these aren’t great distances to travel, the way in which these crimes took place it makes me think they are not connected.

Two years later the case of Trudy Darby was solved. Two brothers, Jesse Rush and Marvin Chaney confessed to robbing, raping, and murdering Darby. After intense investigations, they never found any links between Angie Hammond and the brothers.

So who could have taken Angie Hammond from the phone booth that night in Clinton, Missouri? Some wondered if a serial killer was on the loose in rural Missouri. Although these cases weren’t necessarily related there was indeed a serial killer hiding out only 70 miles up the interstate. This brutal slayer of women was wanted by Texas authorities and was flying under the radar by using the alias of Richard Fowler. His name was Kenneth McDuff. This serial killer was featured on America’s Most Wanted in April 1992. He was recognized by a coworker and arrested on May 4, 1992. Some say that McDuff was responsible for many more victims than he was given credit for. Others wonder if those reports are inflated. Below is a mugshot of McDuff.
Could this be the man behind the disappearance of Angela Hammond? There’s a good possibility. He was in the area. He had a habit of picking random women and brutally killing them. And if you look at the specific details of the composite sketch you will find eerie similarities.

angela_marie_hammond_10mcduff003a

Ok now, look at the individual characteristics of the face. Look at the bridge of the nose. Notice the small indention? It is visible in both photos. Notice the marking under the left eye and the dark brows. What do you think? Could this be the man behind Hammond’s disappearance? Could he have worn a fake beard and during the struggle to get Angela into his truck it came off somehow?

I would like to see investigators check out his alias, Richard Fowler to see if he owned a pickup like the one witnesses seen in Clinton, MO. We may never know for sure. McDuff was executed for his heinous crimes on November 17, 1998. If Hammond’s body could be found and DNA extracted then there might be a chance of tying it back to him, but after nearly three decades finding the DNA of a killer on the bones of a victim might be impossible.

As with every case I highlight, if you have any information on the disappearance of Angela Hammond please contact the Clinton Police Department at (600) 885-2679.

The Misidentified Serial Killer

cleophus cooksey jr

Photo courtesy of Arizona Police Department

Cleophus Cooksey Jr, 36 was released from prison in July of 2017 only to kill nine people four months later. Cooksey was immediately labeled a serial killer, but I tend to disagree. The FBI defines a serial killer as someone who kills three or more people with a cooling-off period in between. Serial killers tend to kill for sexual gratification and chose victims according to their fetish desires. Spree killers, on the other hand, tend to kill two or more people in a short period of time. These killers escalate quickly and don’t have a cooling-off period between the murders. I argue that Cooksey would fall into the spree killer category. I will present the facts as they are available and let you decide.

Cooksey was the grandson of an Arizona civil-rights leader Roy L. Cooksey. The civil rights activist opened the state’s first black-owned daycare center in Tucson and helped to establish the Afro-American Coordination Committee in 1960. Surely his children and grandchildren would follow in his footsteps and become pillars in their community, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case here. Cleophus Cooksey, Jr. would have continuous run-ins with Arizona law enforcement during his teenage years and was imprisoned by the age of 18 convicted of manslaughter. He would be behind bars for 16 years.
Cooksey was released from prison in early 2015 even after being charged with 22 infractions while behind bars. Freedom would last ten months before he was arrested for a DUI. After his release from the DUI, he would again be arrested in May 2016 on another parole violation. This hopping in and out of jail continued until he was finally released under supervision on July 28, 2017. This time he would go on to kill nine people four months after his release.

victims of cleophus cooksey jr

Photo courtesy of Arizona Police Department

November 27, 2017:
Andrew Remillard, 27 and Parker Smith, 21 were found shot to death in a Phoenix parking lot.
December 2, 2017:
Salim Richards, 35 was robbed and shot. He would die at the scene before paramedics could get him stabilized.

December 11, 2017:
Jesus Bonifacio Real, 25 was shot and killed. Mr. Real was the brother of Cooksey’s ex-girlfriend.

December 13, 2017:
Latorrie Beckford, 29 was killed

December 16, 2017:
Kristopher Cameron’s remains were found discarded in a field. He was only 21.
Later the same day, Maria Billanueva, 43 was kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed.

December 17, 2017:
The police were called when neighbors heard shots fired. The authorities arrived to find Rene Cooksey and Edward Nunn shot and killed. Cleophus Cooksey, Jr. was arrested for the death of his mother and stepfather the same day. It would take a little while before ballistics would link the other slayings with Cooksey. It is unclear what set off Cooksey, or what his motive was in the slayings. I will keep you posted as I follow the case.

Synova’s Rantings:

I contend that the media uses the word “serial killer” a little too much. A spree killer doesn’t seem to draw the same attention. I will let you draw your own conclusions, but I feel the media uses “click bait” titles to draw attention. I wish we could go back to reporting the facts of cases and stop muddying the water with sensationalized news. The suspected crimes of this man, if proven true are heinous enough without the dramatizing of headlines.

 

Synova Appearing in Springfield, MO – 1 Day Only!

Synova will be appearing THIS Saturday at the ABC bookstore in Springfield, MO.

Do you like to chat about true crime cases? Do you like reading true crime books? Come out and meet S.W. MO’s #1 True Crime Writer/Blogger.

Time: 11 AM – 4 PM

ABC Books

2109 N Glenstone Ave Ste J
Springfield, Missouri 65803

Serial Killer or Psychotic Windbag?

Arthur Ream

“Art had a thing for little girls,” said Arthur Ream’s ex-wife. Unfortunately, this information wouldn’t be taken seriously for 22 years after the disappearance of Cindy Zarzycki. Now nearly forty years from her death the authorities wonder if this serial pedophile and child killer could actually be a serial killer. I will let you decide.

Who is Arthur N. Ream?

Art Ream is a 68-yr-old convicted pedophile, child molester, and child killer. His lengthy criminal record extends back to the early 1970’s. He was arrested in 1975 for taking indecent liberties with a child and served five years. By 1986, Ream was living in East Detroit, Michigan. (The town would be later renamed as Eastpointe)
Cindy Zarzycki, 13 was madly in love with a boy named Scott. He was her dreamy first crush and he was all she could talk about. In April of 1986, Cindy had been grounded for disobeying her father and was supposed to stay home. The single father had his hands full raising a family on his own, but he had to keep an eye on his teen girl and the rebelliousness that comes with adolescence. Knowing the world for what it was, he had one rule that must be obeyed. It was simple. “Do not walk home alone.”
Cindy disobeyed and walked home from the local mall and was grounded for it. This simple rule, had it been followed could have saved the young girl’s life. Puppy love is blinding, however, and Cindy found herself sneaking out to go to her “boyfriend’s” surprise birthday party. She was to meet Scott’s father at Dairy Queen at 11 am. There was one piece of critical information hidden from sweet Cindy. Scott’s father was none other than the convicted child molester, Arthur Ream. There wasn’t a birthday party. Scott wasn’t even in the state at the time. Cindy headed towards the Dairy Queen on April 18, 1986, and was never seen again. The case was viewed as a runaway and overlooked for several weeks before falling into the cold case files.
Years later cold case detectives notice Linda Bronson’s statement about her ex-husband and reached out to her. That coupled with witness statements from childhood friends made Arthur Ream the prime suspect. Finally, in 2008, the family watched Arthur Ream receive a life sentence for the murder of their innocent little Cindy. Eventually, with some physiological wrangling, the detectives convinced Ream to lead them to Cindy’s body. Buried with her was her favorite denim purse filled with the mixtape she made for her beloved Scott’s birthday.

Fast forward to 2018 and now Ream is in the headlines again when investigators have possibly linked up to six more cold cases to the child killer. Evidence led them to believe that the bodies of several other young girls had been buried near Cindy’s gravesite in the early 1970’s. Here is a brief synopsis of each of the possible victims.

 

• Cynthia Coon, 13
Coon was last seen in Ann Arbor, Michigan on January 19, 1970. This was just before Art Ream’s first prison sentence. Cynthia Coon loved to walk the one mile to school every morning. She was on her way to the Forsythe Junior High School building on the morning of January 19th but never arrived.

This case was unusual because she actually contacted her parents three months later in April 1970. She was afraid and couldn’t tell her parents her location. The police wondered if it was another runaway situation, but this theory was dispelled when the parents received an extortion phone call a month later. After that horrifying call, there has been no contact from the missing thirteen-year-old.

Police are still looking for possible links between the missing girl and Arthur Ream and wonder if they will find her remains in Ream’s morbid cemetery in Macomb Township.

• Nadine O’Dell, 16

Nadine was a quiet teenager that frequently babysat other children. August 16, 1974, she was on her way to meet her boyfriend to babysit for his young siblings. He was planning to meet her at the halfway point so she wouldn’t have to walk alone the entire way. She never made it to the rendezvous point. The cold case remains unsolved 44 years later.

• Kim Larrow, 15

Kim was visiting her friend who worked at an ice cream shop in Canton, Michigan. The girls were making plans to meet at Haggerty Field that evening, but the teenager was never seen again. Unfortunately, a child of divorced parents Kim had become a bit rebellious and found herself experimenting with drugs. This was the excuse that was given later when it was discovered that the family didn’t file a missing person’s report for several days. Whatever the reasons, Kim’s case has remained cold since June 8, 1981.

• Kellie Brownlee, 17

On May 20, 1982, Kellie Brownlee had hitchhiked to the Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi, Michigan where she planned on submitting several job applications. She applied at a few locations and was even spotted by a family friend, but never returned home.

• Kimberly King, 12

The youngest of Ream’s possible victims was a 12-yr-old named Kimberly King. September 15, 1979, Kim was supposed to go to the movies with her friends, but when plans changed she called them from a local payphone. Kimberly never showed up to meet her friends.

 

So, is Arthur Ream a serial killer, or was he merely bragging to other inmates to bolster is jailhouse persona? The FBI and Michigan authorities don’t think so. They spent a week out digging the wooded area trying to find human remains. Unfortunately, the area is huge. The team finally closed the dig site and is currently restructuring the dig. I will continue watching this case and will let you know what they find out. As always if you have any information on this case please contact the FBI at 1-800-CALLFBI

Missouri’s Madame Murderer

Missouri’s Madame Murderer

When a wife is found murdered in her home the first person suspected is always the husband. Maybe it’s the old TV shows that program us to believe the bad guy is always the butler. As viewers, this concept makes for good television, and it is expected among the collective masses. The problems begin when the investigators believe this notion and refuse to look past it. This is what happened in the case of Russ and Betsy Faria.

Two days after Christmas in 2011, Russell Faria arrives home to find his wife dead in the floor. He calls 911 in a panic to report that his wife has committed suicide. There was one problem with this theory. She had been stabbed 55 times and the knife was left in her neck. It was obviously not a suicide. This made the police look harder at Russell Faria. The rest of the clues should have led to another suspect, but once Russ was suspected they didn’t look at anyone else. One key witness would make sure their focus stayed squarely on Russ Faria’s chest. Her name was Pam Hupp.
The Farias were a happily married couple struggling through Betsy’s bout with terminal cancer. They had just returned from a cruise and were planning another vacation the upcoming March. During Betsy’s battles, she relied a great deal on her best friend Pam to help with rides to the doctor and such. She also allegedly depended on Pam to become the beneficiary of her life insurance policy upon her death. The $150,000 was to be placed into a trust for her daughters and it was. So, what’s the problem? The trust was set up four days before the trial of Russell Faria and then it was wiped out right after the husband was convicted of murder. The children never received a penny. The very fact that Hupp received the insurance payout should have been a red flag, but it was overlooked and wasn’t allowed into the trial.
Even though Russ had a solid alibi for the night of the crime backed up by four witnesses, time-stamped receipts, cell phone towers, and surveillance cameras, the prosecution kept the blinders on and focused on him anyway. The crime scene held some unusual clues that could have pointed at Russ, but to an open-minded investigator they could have spelled out “set up.”
Russell Faria was convicted of the murder of his wife to everyone’s surprise. After the first trial, the investigators would review old evidence and Pam Hupp’s behavior after Russell’s conviction.
Betsy Faria was stabbed 55 times. Let’s look at that. Upon close examination, it was discovered that most of the stab wounds were done posthumously, or after death. The slits across Betsy Faria’s wrists were done deliberately to give the first impression of suicide. The other wounds weren’t readily visible, so Russ’ 911 call was beginning to make more sense. Couple that with the fact that Betsy had threatened suicide a few times during her bout with cancer, it became clear that this wasn’t an open and shut case against the husband.
During the second trial, the defense was allowed to bring up the evidence against Pam Hupp. This included the fact that she was the last to see Betsy alive, and she had taken the life insurance money without giving it to the children. This along with Russell’s alibi exonerated him of his wife’s murder. That’s the end of the story, right? Nope.
A few months later the case was brought back into the spotlight when a woman dials 911 in a panic. A man was supposedly breaking into her house with a knife and threatening to kill her. Suddenly the operator hears several gunshots and the woman cries profusely. Pam Hupp had just killed Louis Gumpenberger. In the man’s pocket was a note that mentioned Russell Faria and money. Could Russ have hired a hitman to go after poor Pamela Hupp? No. This time the police saw through her ruse quickly. Her staged crime scene and her vicious hitman began to fall apart. Gumpenberger was anything but vicious. It turns out Pam Hupp had lured a mentally disabled man to her home and shot him dead. Why? To frame Russell Faria. Or maybe I should say re-frame? You’d think she wouldn’t try the same failed idea twice, but she did.
Police arrest Pamela Hupp for the murder of Gumpenberger and haul her off to jail. Her attorneys are currently fighting to keep the evidence of the previous two murders out of this trial. Wait. Did I say two murders? Yes, I did. You see this isn’t the first time Pam Hupp was suspected of murder. Allegedly Pam’s own mother died when she accidentally fell off a balcony years ago. I bet you can’t guess who got money out of that deal? Now after delving into that case, it seems that Shirley Neumann’s death was likely a homicide. Time and investigation will tell.

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What do you think? Do you think there is a triple homicide here, or do you believe Hupp’s claims that the evil Russell Faria is out to get her? Currently, Hupp’s trial has been postponed until September of this year. I will update you as the case progresses.

 

Let’s chat at my next book signing event!

I will be in Joplin, MO this Saturday from 11 am – 2 pm. You can find me at the Always Buying Books bookstore.

5357 N Main St, Joplin, MO 64801

Show me this meme and get a discount on my books!

The Phantom Assassin

I-70sketches

By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48155940

Is there really such a thing as the perfect crime? The Golden State Killer got away with murder but was still caught 44 years later. But what happens when there isn’t any DNA to link the killer to the icy cold case?
This is what happened in the 26-year-old cold case of the I-70 serial killer. Many people confuse this case with the I-70 Strangler, but that guy was caught. His name was Herb Baumeister and he targeted gay men.
This case is strange in the fact that the killer walked into a store, shot his weapon, and walked right back out leaving behind shell casings and the body of a petite brunette. That’s all. There weren’t any sexual assaults to leave DNA. He didn’t torture his victims. He simply wanted to kill.
April 8, 1992:
A 26-yr-old brunette woman opened the Payless Shoe Source shoe store in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her name was Robin Fuldauer. Register receipts show that sometime between 1:30 pm and 2 pm, a man walked into the store and shot Robin in the back of the head with a .22. A customer walks in around 2 pm and finds the place empty and calls the police. She hadn’t noticed Robin’s body face down in the back room. Strangely only a few dollars was stolen from the cash register. Police wonder if this was a botched robbery attempt. That theory would be dropped quickly when the Phantom Assassin found his next target.

April 11, 1992:
Three days later & 700 miles east along I-70 the killer strikes again. This time there were two victims. Both women are petite with shoulder length brown hair. They were busy closing the bridal shop and were waiting for a late customer to arrive.
Pat Majors and Patricia Smith had already shut off the lights and locked the door when a man knocked on the front glass. Patricia Smith unlocked the door with the customer’s order in hand. He had already paid so she expected to merely hand it out the door. Instead, she was pushed inside and ordered to the back by the Phantom Assassin. The two women were quickly shot in the head, but before the killer could leave the customer showed up.
The gunman tried to force the man into the back room, but instead, the witness entered a dialog with the killer. Somehow he was able to persuade the killer to let him go. The witness fled the scene and called the police. They arrived on site not knowing what to expect. The two women were quickly found in the back room. One was declared dead at the scene and the other died later in the hospital. The only clues left behind were the shell casings and the witness description. Surely that would be enough to catch the guy. Right? Wrong.

April 27, 1992:
Sixteen days later in Terre Haute, Indiana, the killer strikes yet another petite brunette working alone in Sylvia’s Ceramics. This time the killer gets sloppy. His victim was actually a man named Michael McCowan. The store was named after his mother Sylvia. He wore his brown hair in a long ponytail and wore earrings. Perhaps the deranged psychopath thought Michael was a female in his haste to appease his inner demons. Who knows? Whatever the case it was clear that a petite brunette wasn’t safe working alone in a storefront building along I-70.

May 3, 1992:
One week later the killer would find his next target. This time it was Nancy Kitzmiller. She was working in a western wear store in St. Charles, Missouri.

May 7, 1992:
Four days later the killer shoots Sarah Blessing in Raytown, Missouri. This time there were two witnesses. The suspect walked down the sidewalk looking in the windows and caught the gaze of a young man in an electronics store. The witness noticed the man was wearing a large heavy coat and thought it was odd in the warm weather. A few moments later the witness heard a loud pop next door. When he peered out the door he saw the stranger calmly walking down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. The man ran next door to find Sarah had been shot. She died on the scene.
A grocery store employee was out gathering shopping carts from the parking lot and noticed the suspect climbing the slight embankment towards I-70. Both witnesses gave the same descriptions that the police had heard before. He was a white man in his late 20’s – mid 30’s. He was small around 5’9” – 5’10” with sandy blondish hair. Some recall his hair having a dull red tint.

Suddenly the killings seemed to stop leaving the investigators wondering what happened. Maybe the killer had been arrested on an unrelated charge. Police poured over all the surrounding area’s arrest records. One by one they were all ruled out and the case was faltering on the brink of becoming a cold case.

September 25, 1993:
Sixteen months after Sarah Blessing’s murder, a killer surfaces in Texas off I-35. His MO is eerily similar to the I-70 killer and investigators wonder if they could be the work of one man. Mary Glasscock, another petite brunette, was murdered by a single gunshot to the back of the head with a .22. She had been working alone at the Emporium Antiques store in Fort Worth, Texas.

November 1, 1993:
Amy Vess was working alone in a dancewear shop when the killer shot her, stole some cash from the register and left behind a shell casing from a .22.

January 15, 1994:
Vicki Webb was shot by an unknown killer while she worked alone in a Houston gift shop. A spinal abnormality caused the bullet to ricochet off the vertebrae and lodge in her head. The bullet paralyzed her but didn’t kill her. At that moment she made a decision that would save her life. She chose to play dead. Webb could hear him rummaging through the cash register and then he returned to her. He rolled her over and looked at her for a moment. Then he pressed the barrel to her forehead and pulled the trigger. The gun misfired. Almost as an afterthought he pulled her pants down to her ankles and walked out of the store. Was he not buying her act? Was he planning to sexually assault her and was scared off by something? In later interviews, Webb said she really didn’t think he was aroused by pulling off her pants. It was almost as a last minute idea. Maybe he was trying to throw off the cops, or maybe his MO was changing. Was he becoming a sexual predator?
Vicki Webb lived and after many surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy, she was able to walk again. She lived in fear that he would return to finish the job and for decades she kept her face out of the newspapers. It wasn’t until an episode of Dark Minds that she allowed an interview. She claims she wants to see her attacker in court just to show him that she won. I hope she gets the chance.

Some investigators have a hard time linking the I-70 slayings and the I-35 killings. Here are the facts as I have uncovered them. I personally believe they are the same man, but I will let you decide.

Location:
– All the hits were within easy access to a major interstate highway providing an easy escape
– All the targets were working alone in a small storefront type store

Victims:
– All the victims were shot execution-style in the back of the head
– No torture
– No sexual assault
– No major reconnaissance beforehand

Weapon: Here is where some investigators question the connection.
– The I-70 killer used a different .22 than the I-35 killer used

My explanations:
During the 16-month hiatus, there was a big media blitz. My theory is that he saw something on the news that scared him. So he changed weapons and location.
My researching continues on this case and I hope to write a book about this case. Hopefully, I can get it completed by the year’s end. I will keep you posted on my progress.

Below is a wanted poster to show the killer’s gun. If you have any information on this case please contact the St. Charles P.D. 1-800-800-3510 or contact your local police department.

wanted pic

 

Golden State Killer Caught after Four Decades

golden state killer

Who is the golden state killer? If you’re anything like me you probably hadn’t heard of this man until a few days ago. People in and around the Sacramento California area during the 1970’s knew exactly who he was. He was known then as the East Area Rapist.

The 1st known attack happened in 1976. He started out raping women who were home alone. He would blind them with a flashlight to wake them out of their sleep, before binding their hands and feet with shoe strings in a peculiar knot.

He would take momentos from their house and would even go as far as to call and taunt them over the phone afterwards. After several rapes something was said in the newspaper about him only attacking women who were home alone and that he didn’t attack a home where a man was present.

Just to prove them wrong his next attack was upon a man and a woman. He tied them both up and placed a cup and saucer on the man’s back. Then he told them that if he heard it fall to the floor he would kill them all.

In some cases he threatened to chop up the woman’s children and bring body parts back to her if she dared scream or move. After 50 rapes in several counties in northern California the rapes suddenly stop.

Three months later and 350 miles south the same man attacks again only this time he has graduated to murder. Some of the original investigators thought that the MO was so similar that it must be the East Area Rapist but even their own police department refused to believe them.

Later in 2001, a Cold Case squad would finally link the East Area Rapist, the Golden State Killer, and the Original Night Stalker as one man. His DNA profile had been on file for decades but they still could not trace him.

A 120 home invasions, 50 rapes, 12 murders, and 40 plus years later a genealogy website helped the authorities link a face and a name to the DNA profile of the Golden State Killer.

The name that evaded police for so long was Joseph James DeAngelo. He was arrested last Wednesday at the age of 72.

No one knows why his murderous rampage seemed to end in 1986. I for one do not believe that he quit murdering people. Serial killers don’t quit they are usually captured or killed. I personally believe DeAngelo continued until he got too old to pull it off. I do not believe that he quit at the age of 40 in 1986.

I will continue to follow this case and update you with new information as I receive it. I will be curious to find out what has been happening over the last 32 years of this serial killer’s existence.