3/9/15

Unknown Dead

It was April, pre-summer, and two small boys were out playing in the industrial wasteland of their world of SE 7th  through 9th streets in 1947 Oklahoma City. Clyde Franco was 9 years old when he and his friend George Alvarado were exploring and a made a ghastly discovery.
 
Within the shadows of People's Packing Company at 130 SE 7th was a sewer outlet.  That April evening about 6 p.m. the two boys made a discovery that brought local police, the acting coroner and the curious.  
 
A woman about 40 years old and wearing only a slip and a bobby sock on the left foot was found in the sewer outlet. Her skull had been crushed and she had been dead about a month.  Her head and hands were so decomposed it presented a problem with identification.
 
Local police called it a "baffling mystery" and mysterious it remains. No follow up story could be found as to any identification or arrest made.  Who was this woman? Who, more importantly, was her killer?
 
--Marilyn A. Hudson, 2015, from "Into Oblivion"... 

3/2/15

FREE LOVE, NAKED PREACHERS AND BLOODY AXE MURDERS: IS THERE A CONNECTION?

Just before the turn of the 20th century religious groups sprang up across the United States and elsewhere. It is common for people’s minds to turn to the spiritual when there is a large changing of the guard or millennial passage.  Fears and anxieties stir up in people a desire for assurance and peace.  The later 1880’s saw a tide of religious activities such as the Holiness Movement that sought to draw people to a faith and offer hope. Some, however, were largely cults in that they often sought to control and manipulate people in order to gain financial, social or sexual favors. The health movement that birthed the morning breakfast cereals had just as many quacks and huckster as any “Elmer Gantry” preacher working the backwater revival circuits.
One group appears to have traveled a diverse and perhaps bloody track as it meandered from its North Carolina roots to the deepest south and into the heartland and west.  In 1896 newspapers carried a story of a religious sect deemed horrible and despicable.  They were largely younger people who lived in ‘arks’ or boats. No used no locomotion but depended on the drifting tides, being carried or pulled by other craft to move from place to place.  There was no privacy with all ages and sexes sharing common sleeping areas with no grouping by family. They believed that civil marriages did not exist and so freely divorced in order to follow their fellow believers. They practiced, basically, the tenets of “free love” then popular as alternate lifestyle.   They practiced a custom called “Fellow Watchman” where a married man was expected to take the wife of another man as his wife and participate in daily prayer with them. These secondary wives were called Fellow Watchman.  There were apparently many splits in the group over the free love aspect but the leaders adhered to it.
According to a newspaper article from 1896, the group was founded on Chincoteague Island in Virginia by a Joseph Barnard Lynch. He had claimed an angelic visitation that resulted in his own ‘sanctification’.
The group used a unique interpretation of the religious term of sanctification.  The term is generally understood in theology as a process of being set apart for special purpose. For the members of this group, no one could go to heaven who had not been sanctified in the spirit. It was an instant experience rather than a gradual one (a term preferred by many Holiness groups was that sanctification was a gradual process of being cleansed of sin or imperfection through constant and ongoing personal devotion and good works by those who had accepted Christ. Some groups, however, believed in an ‘instantaneous’ experience of spiritual cleansing).  So the vocabulary of the group was very common to the general theological terminology of the day.  What was unique was the belief that when the members of the Sanctified Church were thus sanctified they could no longer commit sin. Hey taught that nothing a sanctified person does or could do could be sinful.  In one sense, it was a doctrine that transformed and purified those acts from evil to good because of their state of sanctification.
A leader in the early North Carolina band was Sadie E. Collins, “head deaconess” and from newspaper articles in other regions in the next 20 years this was not an uncommon model.
In 1901 there was a newspaper report of a near religious war erupting on the border of Cherokee Co., North Carolina and Ducktown, Tennessee.  Apparently a branch of the group had moved into the area and erected a church in 1900.  Their message of being incapable of doing wrong was not well accepted.  Preacher P. Berrong was whipped and had to escape to save his life.  In July of 1901, a Anna Kirkman sued her husband for divorce. She claimed she had been commanded by the Lord to break off the marriage. She was identified as a leader of the Sanctified Church in Logansport, Iowa.
 
In 1904 Oklahoma City there was a strange sight that met residents and visitors looked down South Broadway one chilly spring day. Marching casually up from Reno Street, yet with a destination in mind, were two men, John Aiken and James Sharp, a woman, Melissa Sharp, and a 12 year old boy, Lee Sharp. 
Declaring himself "Adam God" Sharp would prove an interesting character. What was really unusual about this incident was they were all stark naked.
Arrested, charged with lunacy, and ordered out of the state, they were back in 1906 in a cult community, Eden, in south Oklahoma County. That same year, reports came from a group operating in Iowa and Idaho led by a Rev. John P. Martley that went under the name of “The Sanctified Church of Adam and Eve.”
A few years later, 1908, the group that had paraded in Oklahoma City (which now included a second in command, Louis Pratt) had gone to Kansas City.  There, they had caused a riot where five people died.   Sharp, and possibly his wife and others, were ordered to prison for his role in the riot.
The group have been a part of the Morman faith or confiscated some of the terms and teachings of the "Adam God" doctrine of Brigham Young, mixed in some extreme evangelical elements and bits and pieces of a lot of things. Not much has been found explaining the doctrinal aspects of this strange cult but it is clear that they were considered bizarre and out of the ordinary.  For most people in the Edwardian era, amusements were where they could be found and a group marching naked down a main city street had to have been worth a chuckle or two.  
Were the two groups – sharing some naming and beliefs – related to one another? In this time period small independent groups flowed into one another and then broke apart over some rock in the stream of doctrine or polity with regularity.
What makes this interesting is that in 1909, the Sanctified Church once more makes some serious news in the hinterlands of Louisiana.  There it seems to emerge within the African American community and had added to it elements of a hodgepodge of Voodoo and other beliefs.  Voodoo is a folk religion of Africa and the Caribbean developed by descendants of the African Diaspora and mixed with Native folkways.  Through the next several years the very words “Sanctified Church” could inspire fear and caution amid occupants of the Deep South.  The cause was claims that members of the church were on a holy mission to kill people.  People, whole families, were brutally killed by axe welding killers in Louisiana and Texas between 1909 and 1914.  For an excellent discussion of this series of crimes see Elliot’s Axes of Evil.
Was it now primarily an African American movement now? It is known that it was associated with African Americans in Louisiana.  In 1912, a congregation in Atlanta is clearly identified as specifically an African-American group.
Did The Sanctified Church continue in largely white areas of Iowa and Idaho and other points west?  This becomes very interesting given the horrific events of July 1912 in Villisca, Iowa when an entire family and two child guests were axed to death as they slept.  Were there still in the region remnants of The Sanctification Church and/or the Sanctification Church of Adam and Eve and/or the Adam God movement? Were they absorbed back into traditional churches due to the excesses of their ‘free love society’?  Did their groups move off in search of places to rest and find freedom for their unique religious society?
Is it possible a follower with a strange twist in his own soul, followed the hairpin curves of theological sense used to support these movements, and arrived at a place where killing or sacrificing human beings, was seen as appropriate, even expected by a divine being?  It is a journey often made in human society over fine points of political structure so it would not be unusual to see someone use religion in this same way.

Jack The Ripper: Where Did He Go?

The story is one that has burrowed deeply into the global sub-conscious. The eruption into sedate, dignified, and moral Victorian society of a depraved maniac who savagely mutilated that society's lowest valued members.  The mystery of the unknown killer, the sexual undertones of victims who tried to survive by selling sex, and the stirring cauldron of urban unrest amid social and political tensions made the story one that gripped people on every continent with a newspaper or reached by travelers.
 
The familiar events are well known.  The murders attributed to this still unknown serial killer were committed between  3 April 1888 to  9 November 1888. These are the "canonical five" but others suggest they should also include a murder from 13 February 1891 and one or two before 1888.  Whatever the exact number the death of November 9 seemed to reach a high point of horror.  After that, jack the Ripper, for all intents and purposes seems to disappear. Some have suggested he was placed in a mental institution, some that he committed suicide, and some that he left the country.
 
 
For London dwellers, the abrupt ceasing of murders after the intense Mary Kelly slaughter, appeared to herald an end to the nightmare of terror.  There was a general sigh of relief.  To those in England the murders appeared to stop but in Europe, well, the story tends to get a little more interesting when one sees events in Europe over the next decade.
 
In Vienna in the 1890's a killer struck with what was termed "Jack the Ripper" style.  This was a vague and often over sensationalized  description for what was often a 'run of the mill' murder.  Women whose skulls were crushed by an axe blow and throats slashed by knives and razors are horrific but they did not compare with level of mutilation shown in the London murders in the White Chapel district.
 
Alois Szemeredy (1840-1892), "Doctor?"
There were two men arrested in Vienna in the 1890's and some sources tend to confuse the two accounts.  In 1892 an Alois Szemeredy (1840-1892) was arrested in relation to a February 11, 1892 murder in Vienna. He committed suicide 1 October 1892 in Prezburg, Austria.
 
There is some attempt to connect this man with the London murders. It was believed he was responsible for killing a woman in South America in 1876, Caroline Metz.  It is alleged he disappears and is unaccounted for in the years 1886-1890. This span of years covers the Jack the Ripper killings in London. (Port Phillip Herald (AU) 9 November 1892).  The book, Jack the Ripper: The Definitive Casebook by Richard Whittington-Egan suggests there was some suggestion this man had ben in England during the time of the Ripper deaths, that his papers into the country suggested he was an American surgeon and that later in a visit to Vienna his papers claimed him to be a "sausage maker."  It is unclear if this is a confusion of the two claimed Ripper murders in Vienna or not.
 
Simon Schostowitz (?-?), "Pork Butcher"
This Hungarian born man was arrested in relation to the murder of a Miss Anna Spilka, 32 year old woman who was strangled and had her throat cut.  This killing is called a "Ripper like" murder in the Aberdeen Weekly (AU) of January 3, 1899.  The killing is thought to have occurred within days of another killing about December 28, 1898 in Vienna.  An angry mob sought to lynch him but authorities enabled him to escape. (West Australian (AU) 3 Jan. 1899:5). 
 
An article from the Naugartuck Daily News of 29 December 1898 indicates the first victim in Vienna was named Frankska Hofer and that she had been dissected by an unknown "Jack the Ripper."  Of note, was that police indicated similar cases in Amsterdam and Brussels.   They also offered a fascinating, but unexplained, side note that the police maintained a theory that a maniac woman was killing as she moved around Europe.
 
It has been suggested that the Vienna killer was a shochet.   As such he may have been the victim of Anti-Semitism. This posed a very real threat in Vienna and the region in the time period before and after these killings.  A person filling this role in Jewish society was specially trained to provide a ritually pure slaughter to the kosher animals that Jewish Law allowed them to eat.  Pigs were never considered  'kosher.'  So, unless this was a slur applied to the man, it is unlikely he served as a Jewish shochet.

 
"Jack" sightings were irregular notes popping up across the globe with a variety of murders all labeled sensationally as "Ripper" style killings. Few, however, appear to match the  unique M.O. of the London killings.  A few do pop up in some interesting places: southern Texas, New York City, California, and other locations.  The news accounts are often hard to decipher; newspaper men knew that the words "gruesome", "slaughter" , "butchered", and "mutilated" were sure to sell papers and as a result many a 'run-of-the-mill' murders were labeled with those terms for that purpose. Often, to a small peaceful hamlet where the most violent act in a decade was when farmer Brown fell off his wagon and died of a broken neck, the facts of a murder in their community where truly awful and shocking.  For them, in that place and time, they were truly horrific.
 
Victim Mary Kelly, Nov. 1888, London
Jack was a Woman?
Over the decades this was a theory that some presented. The argument was that only another woman could have moved so stealthy and become so invisible in White Chapel. Women were often invisible and unremarkable.  It has been suggested she was a really bad abortionist who just wanted to learn more and was unconcerned about killing her 'patients' in the process.  Other theories are that a society woman or middleclass merchant's wife was gifted by a philandering husband with a sexually transmitted disease and went on a rampage. 
 
Although it is known that women died during abortions (sometimes due to mangled attempts, sometimes due to bleeding caused by the process and infections caused by the environment). Sometimes, even as late as the 1930's, attempts were made to disguise the death as the work of a murderer or accident.
 
Victorian society was conflicted when it came to women in general. On one hand they firmly believed that women were gentile, fragile, and in constant need of protection. Woman was a little like a mentally challenged child who had to be handled with care and offered no mental challenges because she was unsuited to the struggle that would entail.  At least, women of a certain rarified class were considered such delicate flowers. Lower class women were often seen as made of sturdier, and therefore more inferior, stuff.   To imagine a woman slicing into a human being with the force and seeming enjoyment of the "Jack" murders was beyond belief.  Yet, stories from several continents do show women from this era slaughtering entire families.  One story from the U.S. shows a woman killed her husband and six children with the household axe.  It is feasible that police may have been disinclined to think of a woman as the killer.
 
Is it likely, though, for Jack to be a woman?  The terrible focusing on the genitals and muscular structure of victims such as Mary Kelly seem to suggest a - curiosity.  Were these then all steps to a discovery of the female in the sick and twisted mind of the killer? A search to explain why people searched out frantic and blunt couplings in the alleys and side streets of fog shrouded White Chapel?  A mad desire to explore his own sick compulsions and the act that drew him and perhaps repulsed him at the same time?

2/27/15

The Axe Falls Again

Over several years of research into the historically bizarre, there have been many tantalizing mysteries and many unanswered questions. Many of these brought to my attention as I researched When Death Rode the Rails, Murderous Marriages, and the upcoming Into Oblivion. Some will forever remain unanswered and others, perhaps, are slowly being revealed.  Full answers to many questions may continue to be an elusive dream but there is some hope.
 
The mysterious and mostly unsolved axe murders that swept the nation in the first two decades of the 20th century are one such topic.  I have had the pleasure of being cited in two such works and am happy to say that the value of both works made me very happy to have been recognized in both.

The first is Murdered in their Beds by Troy Taylor (2012) and reviewed on my long time blog, The Paranormal Librarian from a few years back:

When the horrific and the unsolved are joined the result is sometimes too much to ignore.   Author Troy Taylor spent decades in gathering bits and pieces of information into one solid and satisfying presentation of the facts of this 1912 Villisca, Iowa ax murders.  Doggedly he hunted down other instances mirroring the details of that Iowa crime searching for answers.
 
The result of that work is a remarkable book  linking  murders spreading over at least three states and several years. Along the way a picture of the murderer is constructed with as keen an understanding of criminality as an  FBI profile.  
 
Placing all within the historical reality of the early decades of the 20th century a new understanding of the Iowa crime finally emerges.   Filled with historic images and graphic descriptions of the crimes it will be greatly sought by all true crime sleuths.
 
In presenting this high level of investigation and research, Taylor has contributed greatly to bringing these crimes to light. The reasoning is logical, the thinking as he answers some lingering issues solidly holds together.  It is entirely possible that learning the details found here may eventually lead to the discovery of a vital clue which might, just might, solve a century old series of crimes.
 
If that happens - tip the hat to author Troy Taylor and MURDERED IN THEIR BEDS (2012).
 
The second is a recent work by author Todd C. Elliot, Axes of Evil: The True Story of the Ax-Man Murders ( TrineDay, 2015).   Previously on this blog there have been numerous posts and many informative comments that provided hints, information and leads on a variety of the axe murders hidden away in the pages of small local papers or in local legend.  They have been some of the most popular posts read on this blog.  Louisiana author Elliot, living in the epicenter of one of these murders, took up the challenge to get to the core of the tales.  The result is the most detailed exploration of the murders of Louisiana and Texas circa 1910-1912 that has been produced to date.
 
So often, in exploring these oldest crimes, the researcher is confronted by lack of access to necessary newspaper, court records, and the supportive network to help drive the search. These challenges are compounded in cases where the victims are poor, minorities, or the location a 'backwater' where little remains to answer the many questions raised.
 
Elliot has accomplished in Axes of Evil a bringing together of  vital strands of information by ferreting out newspapers in his region and bringing clarity to the blood muddied waters of lore and legend.  He provides names of victims (often glossed over by mention of their race rather than name), good connections and timelines of events and potential links to similar crimes.  Don't worry, although he does provide some solid theories as to who and why, there is are enough questions raised by his information as answers. The mystery will continue and this is good.  That is the way the truth is always accessed; trial and error, questions and counter-points.  Elliot's work, however, peels back the layer of mystery created by racial bias, economic limitations, and the limitations of early 20th century criminal investigations. What is revealed is fascinating, horrifying, and gripping.
 
I recommend these works to anyone fascinated by true-crime, by enduring mysteries, and the morbidly macabre.  Read them and enjoy.

2/7/15

The Unsolved: A Town Where Fear Ran Wild

In the spring of 1946, the sleepy community of Texarkana would be rudely shocked awake by a series of murders.  The killer struck, usually couples who had hidden away in isolated "Lover's Lanes".  The press popularly called them the "Moonlight Murders" to have the evocative alliteration element; there was no moon when this monster walked.

Several theories have evolved about who the killer was who terrorized the community. They have ranged from a college student who committed suicide to it being the Zodiac Killer. 
 
 
A new movie revisits the 1970's cult classic, The Town That Dreaded Sundown, for its usual "let's find a popular film, remake it and use all the classic stereotypes, add some spicy elements, and have a winner!"  Many facts in the film do not reflect the facts of the cases involved, many elements of the case are still unclear, and as a result there is probably a better need for a documentary that truly explores the case, the theories, and the facts.

2000 Missing People a Day?

According to the FBI website, "during 2012, 661,593 missing person records were entered into NCIC",  and despite the fact this was a "decrease of 2.5 % from the 678,860 records entered in 2011" that is still a lot of people.
 
Explanations for the disappearance of so many fall into several categories. Some are logical and some fantastical in the extreme. Strange things do happen but it is known that very ordinary people have simply walked away one day to never be seen again.  Eliminating the non custodial parent kidnappings in most lists still leaves an impressive number of missing persons.
 
Missing persons might be missing due to -

  • Intentional disappearance to begin a new life or escape an old one
  • Death by gang or criminal activities in retaliation, turf war, or other rationale for violence
  • Impression into the sex slavery traffic and trade
  • Murder for reason of being in the wrong place at the wrong time
  • Accidental death in a situation where their body might not be found for decades (hikers, travelers, etc.)
  • Murder by serial killer, mass murderers, and loved ones
  • Flawed data: it is apparent from records that missing reports are often issued but are not so carefully tracked to remove them if found. This could lead to double-counting or other flaws in the data or the interpretation of the data.
  • Being sucked into alternate or parallel dimensions
  • Death to supply food for alien reptilian overloads secretly gaining control of the planet (yes, there are some who believe this is a viable reason)
 There are always groups of people who do not report people missing.  Parents of children with a wild streak in frequent trouble with the law have been known to just assume they had bolted once more and shook their heads and just hoped they might come back.  In one case from several decades ago, the girl had been in and out of trouble with local law and authorities before she left her teens. She was sent to a state "reformatory" and soon left there to disappear.  Several years later, not yet 20 years old her body was found in a trash dump where someone had left her in sad commentary to the killers value of human life.  She was unidentified for several years until finally, her parents, filed a missing person report and the unknown female victim was discovered as a possible match.
 
In the 1960, 1970's and 1980's there was a focus on the problem of "runaway" and it was often tied to the blooming drug culture in America and some seem to believe they were the only generation to have such home wanderers.  Indeed, from the earliest years there have always been those children who either left home and found the big world so much more to their liking they never returned or once they left circumstances common to criminal served to make to forever lost to their families and friends.   It is true that in the 1960's and 1970's there were many serial killers - often called chain killers in previous generations - that seemed to have all broken loose of the constraints of normalcy to operate openly.  They often operated simultaneously as well: several of them plagued California in these decades preying on the hitchhiking 'run aways' traveling the highways.
 
Why do so many go missing? How can we solve this lasting mystery? How can we find answers to the long and sad question of unidentified bodies, "Who am I?"

1/9/15

Into Oblivion: Where Only A Silent Wind Blows, part 9

Anyone who believes, deep in their heart of hearts, that humans are getting better every day should explore sites such as "NameUs" or "DoeNetwork."   There, are stark and haunting reminders of just how twisted the human creature can be, and continues to be, through the wonderful social advances of this last century.  Page after page of people missing to never be seen again.  Page after page of bodies found and never identified dating back decades. Visit a state crime bureau or local police page on cold cases lingering around hoping for a solution.  So many cold cases go to the back of the mind of investigators for the simple brutal reality that they often have too many current cases to solve as the endless killing, raping, disappearances, and abducting continue unabated.
 
Those kill seem to find a style or method that works for them.  Like soulless machines, the worst of them seek both evil satisfaction and mindless efficiency.

The Woman on the  Ranch
One such case was in October 1953 in Washington County, Oklahoma.  On a ranch about  a mile from the small town of Vera a man riding pastureland looking for strays found a woman's body.  The young woman was about 5 ft. 2 in, weighed about 110 lbs. and was between the ages of 20-30.  She had light to medium brown hair.  She was thought to have been placed there toward the end of September. When she was found she was laying face down, nude, with no visible signs of violence.  Significantly, her body was left on this isolated ranch in an isolated corner of the county,  but then also about a half mile from the nearest road.

Despite her body being taken to the University of Oklahoma for autopsy, fingerprints being collected, and x-rays for dental records by 1959 the woman was still unidentified. After that she - and the crime - seem to disappear. Was she ever identified? Was a killer ever caught?  There were rumors of strange noises in the night. Whispers that she might have been the victim of a botched abortion. Nothing solid. Nothing certain.

An Affair to Remember
In November of 1956 a Baton Rouge woman apparently went to a remote Lover's Lane in St. John the Baptist Parish, LA. Her companion in the blue sedan was a married man.  What happened next is a subject for conjecture.  What is known is that hunter's came through later, saw the man sitting in the back seat at an odd angle and when they investigated saw he had been shot through the window at close range.  Scattered around on the ground were items such as might be found in a woman's purse.  Tracks led off and revealed the shoeless path of a woman running and being followed by a man in boots.  The tire tracks of a motorcycle were found and might be implicated. The woman, Audrey Alta Smith Moate (1925- 1956?)  was never seen alive again.  Several "witnesses" provide details that seem a bit contrived and a little too convenient.

New Mexico Gone
In December of 1956 a 32 year old Native American woman disappeared from Gallip, McKinley Co., New Mexico.  She was 5'6", black, should length and curly hair, 130 lbs. with brown eyes. She went by the name of Walcie Rae Downing, Rae, Walcie Rae Alston, Walcie Rae Pearce.  She left behind five children.  When last seen in Gallup she was wearing a white blouse and blue jeans with an engagement ring on her finger. She was driving a 1952 or 1954 Ford, cream and faded tan. Although listed as missing since 1956, she matches the same general range of victims. Hopefully, she was safe and well. For more information or to report information contact The Doe Network.

The Airman's Wife
Mrs. Billie Shaffer of Seminole, wife of an Air Force captain assigned to Greenland, went Christmas shopping in 1958 and never came home.  A last meal with friends and she left, gift purchases in her car, and headed back to Seminole from Oklahoma City.  Her car was found, minus woman, purse and gifts, abandoned along a road NE of Oklahoma City, far from where she would have been headed. Her body was finally found in early spring in the middle of an isolated farm, once again far into the field, and by a pond.  She was clad in only a slip.  There were no visible signs of violence or cause of death. 
 
Pima Canyon Woman
Just a mile north of the end of Campbell Road, in the desert countryside of  Pima canyon, Tucson, Arizona a woman's skeletal remains were found in October of 1965.  She was estimated to have been an adult probably between 20-30, white and about 63 inches in height.  There was not much to tell investigator's except a simple band.  How long she had been there is unknown but she may have been there from the early 1950's through the early 1960's.   DNA and Dental records are available and interested relatives and friends might contact the Pima County Medical Examiner's Office.

So many women, left where only a wind blows, and so soon forgotten in the overload of other and ever more pressing crimes.  Can we help find answers to some of these mysteries?  Can we help find the closure and answers so long sought? 

So many local newspapers are not available via databases, so many local newspapers did not adequately cover many crimes for political or societal reasons.  Even on the impressive databases of several missing networks there are huge vacant spaces and people missing or found who are not listed. The better the basic data is the more plausible a chance of new patterns or connections being found that link things across a wider canvas.  Get involved and help solve some real mysteries.

---Marilyn A. Hudson, c2015
(Check back on this one - I will be updating as new information is uncovered.)

1/4/15

Into Oblivion: Were They Ever Found?, part 8

The following were women listed as missing during the 1950's.  Are they still missing?  Newspapers were bad at not following up on missing persons stories making it hard to learn if they were found or the missing resolved.  Many police agencies do not maintain older records and some do not allow any but another law officer to review them.  If you have information on any of these people, please post a comment or contact the author here.

  • Miss Nancy Durkins, 19 yrs., August 1951, Oklahoma City
  • Shirley Ann  Cuica, 15 yrs., April 1951, Oklahoma City
  • Charlene or Sharlene Wright, 15-16 yrs., April 1951, Oklahoma City
  • Tillie Mae Pennington, 20 yrs., July 1952, Oklahoma City
  • Dorothy Mae Moss, 19 yrs., July 1952, Oklahoma City
  • 2 Unidentified teenage girls from Hobart,OK September 1952
  • Andreas Lopez Phares, 20 yrs. 1955, Texas
  • Marcia Horam, 21, Chicago, 1957 (May have moved to NYC )
  • Mrs. Nancy Faun, 19, Chicago, 1957
  • Mrs. Virginia Moore, 19, El Paso, TX, 1959
  • Anna Carol Jackman, Oklahoma City, 1959 (Mother was Nola Foster)

12/29/14

Lover's Lane Murders

Lover's Lanes, those back roads and out the way places where young lovers for generations have retreated to have some alone time.  "Billing and Cooing", "Parking", "Sparking", "Making Out" were terms that emerged from these isolated trysting places along railroad tracks, off country roads,  in or near cemeteries, old factories, under leafy trees, under bridges, and by bodies of water.  They were places were lovers could talk, kiss, share a forbidden drink and other activities un-named.  Lonely, isolated, and a place where others would tend to pay less attention to anyone else, these dark secretive places were a magnet that apparently called out to those with a date with death.
 
The term "Lover's Lane" was one not always used but generally understood to exist. The term was not always used in local news accounts of events occurring in these places of a less than loving nature.  In the later half of the 20th century it be used more often and more salaciously than in previous years; some of the innocence had rubbed off of society by that time.
 
In the 1920's and 1930's society was almost totally mobile and so they saw a lot of social barriers fall: short hair and skirts on women, drinking and partying by both sexes, and a flaunting of sexual mores in general.  In 1933, 16 year old John Henkel killed 27 year old Oliver Bailey in a "Lover's Lane" in Ohio after the older man made "advances".

In Pennsylvania in late spring of 1940, a young match factor worker, Fay Gates, was raped, savagely bludgeoned and her body left along a lonely road known locally as "Spook Hollow."   This stretch of road was called by some locals a place where young people went to park.
 
In 1942 in Woodbury, NJ a 39 year old widow Mrs. Emma Evans, was raped and slain in a Lover's Lane and a 22 year old soldier from L.A., Wilburn Rogers was charged.

In June of 1943 in Dallas, Oregon 17 year old Ruth Hildebrand was raped and slain and her body dumped in the Williamite River.   The Monmouth Police Chief, Richard Layton, was charged in her death and later executed.

Around Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1944 several young women were similarly attacked and there was hint of a lover's lane connection. Phyllis Irine Conine, 17, Wilhema Hayes, 37, and Ann Kuseff, 22 were all killed from February through May.

In 1945 in Pontiac, Michigan, Mrs. Lydia Thompson was slain Oct. 11. She was bludgeoned, stabbed and struck with an axe or hatchet in a crude attempt to remove her head. By 1947, her husband was being called in for more questions after a man claimed he had been hired to kill Mrs. Thompson.
 
The Phantom Killer, also known at the time as the "Moonlight Murderer", of Texarkana struck in 1946 wounding in February Jimmy Hollis and Mary Larey on a Lover's Lane and then in March killing another couple on another Lover's Lane. Dead were Richard Griffin and Polly Moore.
 
 
Also in 1948, along a local lover's lane in Oregon, Illinois were the deaths of 17 year old Mary Jane Reed and Stanley Skridla.  Suspicions emerged of police cover-ups and allegations of the involvement of a local deputy sheriff.
 
In 1948, a young woman, Theresa Foster, was killed in Boulder, Colorado and her body dumped in a ravine near a river. A year later, a young man and his  blind date on a local Lover's Lane stretch of road were attacked by a man. The young man, Roy Spore was killed and his body left not far from where the Foster woman's body had been found. His date was injured but unharmed.

Mary Roberts, 17, was abducted and killed near Marion, Illinois by 33 Joseph Milani alias William Winningham.  He wounded her boyfriend and took her as the couple parked in a local lover's lane.
 
In 1970, west of Norman, Oklahoma, two college students were murdered by person or persons unknown.  Amarillo native David Sloan, a student at the University of Oklahoma and his date, Sheryl Benham were found stuffed into the trunk of Sloan's vehicle. Sheryl was nude from had a blanket wrapped around her waist. She and David had been shot repeatedly in the torso and face.  A local police officer was suspected, but quickly left the force and the community. In 1990, the case was reopened due to the discovery of a weapon allegedly owned by the officer and stored in an attic. The case went to trial with testimony of missing files, misplaced or lost evidence, and other accusations.  The officer, now living in Texas, was acquitted by a jury in 1992 after only four hours.  The case is unsolved but closed. 
 
Oddly, enough, this same area (Norman's Lover's Lane) was searched in 1959 when women's clothing were found in the area by a squirrel hunter from south Oklahoma City.  Although, a minimum of three women were missing from the South Oklahoma City area at the time, as searchers canvassed the region and looked for shallow graves or bodies, the local sheriff said he could not understand what all the fuss was about.
 
--Marilyn A. Hudson, c2014
 
Note: I will update this list as more such crimes are uncovered.

12/28/14

Into Oblivion: The Dark Spring Killer, Part 7

This is a slightly revised version of an earlier story...

Spring times are supposed to be about life and renewal and second chances. Once upon time in central Oklahoma City the spring was dark and filled with visions to cause nightmares.

The first body parts showed up in April 1, 1976, in an abandoned house at 325 NE 8th in Oklahoma City, utility workers exploring an abandoned house found the head and body parts of a 18 year old Cathy Lyn Shackelford. At the time, however, she was unidentified and was labeled a 'Jane Dow'.

Fast forward to April 19, 1979 when several grisly discoveries are made between mid-April and the first of May. All around the 300 block NE 10th and 200 block NE 7th in Oklahoma City. The second known victim was named Arley Bell Killian.

A strange gap of seven years followed before another find was made. On March 6, 1986, the body of 23 year old Tina Sanders was located at 507 N. Lindsay. A fourth, found during excavations in the mid 1990's, has been suggested but unverified.
 
There are interesting similarities which might provide links to similar crimes and bring closure to this cold case. All the women were Native American, they either lived on the streets and/or worked as prostitutes, and were all probably killed within the same one mile radius where their bodies were found. The killings were in the spring, they were not rushed, and due to the ease with which the body parts were created and discarded, the killer had to have been familiar with his surroundings (the Stiles Circle - Lincoln Terrace neighborhood; now generally covered by the Centennial Expressway and the OU Health Science buildings and related structures).  Each body had an incision in the lower lip, massive body mutilation and dismemberment, and certain parts of the bodies were never found.

The chronology of the murders -1976, 1979 and 1986 - indicate there may have been a pattern at work.  Another killing (5) might have occurred in 1982-1983.  Just as possible, however,  the killer could have been in jail, in the military, or out of state on some job during the seven year break.  It is likely other killings, as of yet to be found,  may be fit that pattern.(Oklahoma Cold Cases) It would be atypical for such a killer to have such a long 'cooling off' period but not impossible.

Some suggest that another body was found April 22, 1995 and pulled from missing head, hands and feet, from a shallow grave 50 miles west of the city.   Authorities were said to note 'similarities' in the manner of the dismemberment. (Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes, 2009,p. 291) The time period is shortly after the Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City and that story was the major news for several days and no report was found to confirm that suggestion.

In 1993, the combined efforts of Andra Medina, Sgt. Norma Adams, Norman forensic sculpture Betty Pat Gatliff, and well known Oklahoma based anthropologist , Dr. Clyde Snow brought closure to the first Jane Doe.  DNA identified her as Shackleford ("DNA Tests Identify '76 Slaying Victim". Steve Lackmeyer, Oklahoman, Nov. 30, 1993, pg.1).

There were also some 'interesting' bodies in eastern Oklahoma, not for from the I-40 corridor in Shamrock 1975, Wellston 1985 and Broken Arrow 1989. Also possibly other locations in 1985 and the early 90's.    Body parts or dismembered bodies of young women who apparently went missing unnoticed and unidentified.  The 1960's through the 1990's were especially violent with serial killers springing out of their dank worlds to grab headlines through gory acts: Kemper, Bundy, Rader and so many others.

The killer may have been influenced by the famous "Black Dahlia" case related to the 1946 murder of Elizabeth Short, one of the thousands of young women who fled to the sunny warmth of California with dreams of modeling and maybe stardom.  When her dissected body was found displayed in an empty lot in a quiet Los Angles neighborhood, few had ever seen in such a sight beneath those sunny skies.  She had been cut in half, sections had been removed, and strange cuts marked both halves of her body.  Her lovely face had been disfigured by slitting the mouth so that it appeared to be ear-to-ear. She had been killed elsewhere, her body drained of blood and washed before she was staged in such a manner where she would be found.  Police at the time viewed her as perhaps the latest kill in a long string of murders plaguing the area from the late 1930's. They asked themselves if she was actually #8 in a line of victims.  Later, after her death there would be another murder police said had "Black Dahlia" aspects to it. All of this or some of it may have been known to the OKC killer because on the severed heads police found strange slits and cuts that served to widen the mouth, and remained explained.
 
Psychologists of the time providing profiles and suggestions to law enforcement produced the common description that inferred that the killer was probably also Native American or African American since it was believed that serial killers would only hunt among their peer racial and social group.  The presence of such serial killers as Jake Bird, an African American man, who confessed to killing numerous wife women in the 1920-1940's may indicate that theory may not be as iron clad as it was once thought. The fact that serial killers often hunted amid their own race in a time of racial segregation may have been less a matter of choice than necessity.  Once racial barriers fell, the victims of serial killers was extremely varied as to race.
 
What happened to the killer? Where did he go?  One notorious killer confessed to some of these deaths but the confessions are considered by most as suspect, the last minute greedy attempt by a sociopath to get attention.  
 
If that is true, then chilling questions remain. When the region was razed by bulldozers and new building rose over the bloody grounds, what secrets were lost?  Are there other victims  out there - somewhere? Victims of this monster who stalked the streets to prey- at leisure -  on women struggling just to survive?
---Marilyn A. Hudson, 2014 (Revised and updated from earlier post)

Into Oblivion: Do You Have a Story?

Do you have a suggestion for a story of disappearance, unsolved murder, or other crime without solution,  to be included in this new work?

Send your suggestions (and any information you may have) about missing persons, murders, and lingering mysteries from before 1960, to the author at this email address. 

This work will be different in many ways from similar true crime works.  It involves input from the families of some victims and seeks to identify some common trends that might lead to understanding more about who may have been responsible in these cases.  All done with dignity and respect for the victims.

I am especially interested in cases from Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Texas, and Missouri.

Email me and let's talk about your story. 

Into Oblivion: The Mad Man, Part 6


THE MAD MAN. Cleveland, Ohio
Sept. 1936, Kingsbury Run (Pubic Domain)

In 1926 the body of young woman was found cut to pieces just north of Medea, Pennsylvania.  It was part of a rash of bodies discovered ranging from 1923 to 1939, with an interesting pause during the early 1930’s.  These western Pennsylvania crimes were often around an area dubbed “Murder Swamp” in Lawrence County near Pittsburgh.  Victims included men, women, and children.


During the early 1930’s , however, the papers across the country were filled with the recent discoveries of the work of someone killing in a gory fashion in Ohio.  Called the “Cleveland Torso Killer”, “The Bloody Butcher” or “The Mad Killer of Kingsrun” this individual operated from 1935 to 1938.  In that, nearly two dozen body parts were found in Ohio bearing a surprising similarity to those found earlier in Pennsylvania. The connection was not well recognized at the time.  In this time, law officers often suffered from tunnel vision and failed to make “big picture” connections to crimes beyond their jurisdictions. Those Pennsylvania deaths seemed, in retrospect, almost prototypes for the Ohio killings.

The terms used by various newspapers differed radically based on the sensibilities of the community and the tension between the fervor to sell papers and the need to maintain the community’s confidence in its safety.  Sure to sell issues terminology included “mangled”, “butchered”, and similar fear instilling terms.  As a result of the Cleveland cases, the more scientific term “torso” would be able send chills down the spines of most people and provided an added term to the newspaper vocabulary.

Several of the Ohio murders featured decapitations (as cause or post death action), many were missing arms and legs and unlike what was then known about so called “sex fiends”, the victims were male and female.  It was generally believed that taking the head and the hands was a means of hiding identification and thus delaying capture. The action may have had other, more ritualistic, meanings for the killer. Some bodies were bisected or cut through between the hips and the rib cage where there is only the spinal column to provide significant resistance. 

The list of the victims of such a killer, or set of killers, as the one roaming Ohio may never be able to be complete.  There may be victims buried in isolated areas that will never be found, their mortal remains may have been so destroyed as to make them unidentifiable, or taken to a place a great distance from the place where other victims had been taken.  That being said, the list of most of his accepted victims is long and sadly filled with little beyond the tale of their last and violent moments.

There is the nameless, “Lady of the Lake”, a title given to a body found along Lake Eerie in September of 1934.

Edward Andrassy’s decapitated and emasculated body was found Sept. 23, 1935 on Jackass Hill in the Kings run area of Cleveland.

Two in 1937 are also interesting in view of other cases to be seen elsewhere.  On June 6, 1937, part of the skeleton of “Victim 8” was discovered. It was in a burlap bag and contained parts of the body of a woman wrapped in a newspaper from the previous year. Then, in July of 1937, parts of a man’s body floated down stream and, for the first time, internal organs and heart had been removed. These were never found. 


There would be at least 13 murders credited to this mysterious individual (although some did suggest it might have been two men) but most are considered to be copycats past 1938.  There is one 1950 murder of a male in Cleveland bearing the hallmarks of the killer that has not been totally ruled out. 

A killer as vicious as the one roaming Cleveland, in most cases, does not simply stop. So what happened to him? Some suggest a local doctor was responsible but others do not agree and so the subject remains open for debate.  There are also always ‘copycats’ – these are deaths caused as the result of someone reading about a crime and hoping to cover their own crime using similar methods.  Several stories from this era fit the profile of getting an idea from a newspaper story.  These ranging from husbands getting rid of tiresome wives to victims of botched abortions being discarded in a manner hoping to conceal the true cause of their death.  

If the killer was in his 20’s or 30’s during these murders he could easily have continued to roam the countryside seeking those whom he could destroy to meet his bizarre and twisted need to kill.  If that was the case, it would be plausible he would not become elderly until as late as the 1960’s or early 1970’s.  This leaves a possible twenty to thirty years of murder.

This work in no way suggests that the mad killer of Cleveland was responsible for all the missing women, murdered people and dismembered victims spread across the country in that ensuing time, but it does encourage the consideration of looking at some clusters of crimes for similarities. Finally, could so many murders have occurred using such a messy means and leave both killer and victim anonymous all these years?

Interestingly, in April 1939 in Baltimore, a brutally ‘dissected’ body of a woman was found in the East Baltimore sewers. Her head and parts of her upper torso were found later.  It was believed the killer might have buried the head at one time.

In October 1939, the bodies of several men, dead for some time, where found in some boxcars in an area of Pennsylvania known as “Murder Swamp”. They had been dismembered and on the chest of one was carved the word “Nazi.”

It is possible the killer left Ohio when too much attention was being paid to his capture.  He could have easily have drifted somewhere and killed repeatedly.  The dogged detective of the killer, Merylo, believed he might have been active in at least three other locations.  If he was, would there be evidence of where he might have gone and what might that evidence look like?
---Marilyn A. Hudson, 2014

12/26/14

Into Oblivion: A Pillow(case) for My Head , part 5


In December 1948,  along US 277 northeast of Lawton and southwest of Chickasha a head was found in a pillowcase. The spot was near the Comanche-Caddo County line. 
Local authorities determined it had been intentionally placed in the spot off the road.  The distance was too far and the undergrowth too thick for it to have haphazardly ended up in that area.  It had been there a few weeks or months, the bottom of the case was just beginning to show signs of decay when the head was found. 
The FBI were called in to determine what they could but, to date, no follow up story has been found.
Who was  the individual whose head was tossed away like that?  Was he, or she, ever identified? Were the killers ever found? 
It was not the first time, or the last, that heads would be found in the state.  Many of them would remain mysteries from the pages of history.
 

12/22/14

Into Oblivion: And Then She Was Gone, Part 4

Moore, Oklahoma


Missing Persons Flyer
The Crown Motel, 9501 S. Shields in Moore (OK), was owned by the Blasdell family and managed by son Jim Blasdell in May of 1958.  It was on a busy thoroughfare in the south Oklahoma City suburb and linked drivers to the south route linking US 77 and the new Interstate on I-35.

A future thinking manager Blasdell was adding and upgrading his holdings. Seeing the growing need for living space he added apartments. All around Oklahoma City was booming and expanding and the future looked bright.  The Naval training facility in Norman was once more drawing people for training and the University there was growing as well. 
The motel was in a prime location. It was a short jog to US 77 to take one south to Norman and north to Oklahoma City.  This military facility was located in the area of the present “South Campus” of the University of Oklahoma and just north of HWY 9.

A young couple, married barely two weeks, took a room there.  The young husband was reporting for duty to the Navy Air Training Center in Norman and the bride would search for their first real home. Carol Ann Hlavac Batterman was an attractive young woman with a friendly disposition making and keeping friends easily. She had a savings account back in Illinois and wrote her parent’s long letters regularly.  She had married just two weeks prior to her disappearance; she and her husband were originally from the Chicago, Illinois area.

She had long brown hair, usually worn loose to nearly her shoulders. Her olive complexion was tanned and dotted with freckles on her nose and forehead. Over her clear eyes arched two bold eyebrows.  On that morning her husband took their car to work, and the plan was that she would follow by bus and they would later go house hunting in Norman. 
That day, no doubt eager to make a good impression on her new husband and prospective landlords, she dressed with special care for the expedition.  She slipped into a beige suit, high-heeled shoes, and proudly slipped on her yellow Provo Township High School class of 1956 ring with a black stone worn on her right hand, and a wedding band with 13 engraved stars (it was engraved on the inside with their initials  and wedding date ( "DB to CH - 5/17/58"). She put approximately $35 in a small white purse (6" x 3-4") and the couple’s only room key.  As the motel door closed behind her, the room held all her clothing, makeup, jewelry, and $100 in cash.

She was last seen waiting for a bus outside of the Crown Motel in Oklahoma City at 3:35 p.m. on May 31, 1958. She never got on the bus and was never seen or heard from again.

Witness reports varied.  One story from June recounted someone seeing her voluntarily enter a white ’55 or ’56 Chrysler station wagon with an OK auto tag.  Another reported a witness seeing a gray pickup truck, possibly a 1953 Ford, stop at the curb near Batterman shortly before she vanished. The witness could not be sure if the vehicle was connected because something interrupted the line of sight and when it was cleared the vehicle, and the young woman, were both gone. It's unclear if the driver of the truck (reported wearing a large cowboy style hat) had anything to do with her disappearance.

In early June, a room key was returned via the mail to manager Blasdell of the Crown Motel and it was thought it was the room key last seen with the missing bride.  The lead was an intriguing mystery but ultimately a dead end.
East of Norman, was Reynolds Lake, a reservoir and dam, east of Lake Thunderbird . It was just north of HWY 9 and close to present SE 224. The caretaker, Mrs. E.F. Kelly, of the fishing resort reported in June having seen a woman struggling with two men in a white station wagon. It appeared she was attempting to jump from the vehicle but the men restrained her.    Several days later the caretaker reported she loaned a shovel to two men who claimed they had to dig worms.  She did note they did not appear to have any fishing equipment with them.  As a result, the lake became epicenter to searches for the missing woman.

Three years later, her young husband was living in Tennessee, seeking a divorce so he could marry another woman and start a new life.  Of Carol Ann there was no word.  The savings account remained untouched and her parents, to whom she had written so often and at length, never heard from her again. They retained hope, however, that she was somewhere well and safe.
A retiring police officer in 1973 looked back at the case of Carol Ann Batterman as one that still baffled him with its apparent insolvability. To this day, she is listed as missing, because although she was declared dead to accommodate the remarriage of her husband, a body was never found.

The time period was riff with undercurrents of crime beneath the "Leave It to Beaver" domestic bliss projected in the era.  Silken webs stretch out from that same Naval Base in Norman to touch - briefly and perhaps inconsequentially - an earlier crime in the far northern parts of the U.S.

Carol Batterman is still listed as a missing person.  She joined, that May day, a select group of unfortunate travelers whose journey was into oblivion in a vehicle fashioned of mystery and unanswered questions.
 
--Marilyn A. Hudson, c2014

 

 

12/21/14

Into Oblivion: Everything You Know is Wrong

As the 20th century dwindled down, law enforcement forged into new territory to crime fighting by creating a "profile".  Various psychologically trained, experienced investigators in the FBI and other law agencies began applying new ways of thinking in trying to identify and out think predatory killers, termed in the 1970's as "serial killers."
 
As a result some truisms emerged.  These stereotypical statements were taken as gospel: most serial killers are white, of a certain age, certain socio-economic level and will prey on one gender or another, and always within their own racial or social comfort zones.
 
Thus, for the past forty years the strong belief that there were no women serial killers or ethnic serial killers.   If found, they must be an anomaly.  Yet, statistics about the personalities that can evolve into these types of killers indicate there are a lot of them in society. Thus, few possibilities of anomalies but rather a pattern undetected or under recognized.
 
Then, however, was Jake Bird arrested in 1947 for killing two women in Tacoma, Washington.  Various newspaper accounts of the time reflect an intelligent, even savvy, man in his 40's.  He implied and claimed connection to over 40 murders in a half-dozen states.  He favored using an axe but a knife worked as well.  His favorite target were white women usually in their 30's to 50's.
 
So - - one major prop is shuttled aside in this one case.  Rather than being an exception that proves the rule, it may be the exception that indicates the basic rule is flawed and too restrictive.  One of the guiding principles for early serial killers was a limited field of operation. Society was not as mobile and options were limited for them to act out their dark desires to kill.  As a result there would tend to be a similarity in selections of victims; the killer would tend to be in places where he felt invisible, safe or easily accepted without questions.   As society became more mobile, there tended to be a shift in the selection of victims and they were not as cookie cutter as mystery novels might imply. Issues of opportunity were enlarged with the ability to get away swiftly.  Most importantly, a killer who did not feel he fit into society anyway, who had developed skills to help him, or her, retain a low profile and move with ease through various realms of society, began to prey on a wider variety of victims.
 
So many states have long, long lists of missing persons or unidentified bodies going back decades.  In researching some of these, it is often clear that working under assumptions of motivation, victim selection and methodology, police were often hampered in connecting victims to a predator. 
 
Is it time to go back to the criminal investigation drawing board and start fresh with an assumption, "everything you know is wrong?"

BEFORE IT WAS 'THE STOCKYARDS' IT WAS 'PACKINGTOWN'

http://www.oklahomacounty.org/assessor/Projects/Stockyards/Stockyards.jpg

According to first hand reports, nearly every block around the center of meat selling, packing and shipping had at one or two saloons, brothels, and gaming sites.  It was a wild, and often lawless, center that cleverly maintained a position as a non-district for tax purposes in the early days.  This, no doubt, invited in a certain shady clientele that gave it the wild, west patina long after the cowboys had nestled into study Ford trucks and Model T's.

Some links to view images and learn more:

OKC Net  http://okc.net/2013/10/31/butchers/#comment-380798

Agnew Theater http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/17693

Redskin Theater http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/7830

THE TULSA NORTHSIDE KILLER

In the late 1940's families in one area of Tulsa, Oklahoma were frightened and nervous.  Over a six year period several women had been slaughtered by person or persons unknown.  This killer seemed to follow a strict protocol of seeking victims in a limited area, removing a screen from the back of the house and silently slipping inside.  More than once he stayed around long enough to make a sandwich or otherwise enjoy the hospitality of his victim's abode before slipping out once more into the unknown. On more than one occasion, he slipped past sleeping family members and never woke them. All attacks occurred in a narrow box of neighborhoods bordered by a railroad and the business district.
 
Victims:
  • Mrs. Helen Brown, beaten to death in her apartment, on July 16, 1942
  • Mrs. Clara Stewart and Mrs. Jack Green in 14 January 1943
  • Mrs. Pat Campbell also listed as Panta Lou Liles,  a red-haired Navy wife, 15 May 1945.
  • Mrs. J. B. Cole, age 38, along with  her 13 yr. old daughter Doris Cole and a 14 year old friend, Levon Gabbard,  where all attacked, but survived, receiving severe injuries on July 1, 1948.
  • Mrs. Ruth Norton, killed in her apartment, that same night in July of 1948.

Plus other women who were beaten and survived.  There may be other deaths unattributed and unknown, as is so often, unfortunately, the case in such matters as serial killers.

All of these were women who died in the time, place and parameters of the other killings.  In addition, several murders in Texas also featured redheads.

According to the book Necrophilia: Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects  by Anil Aggrawal, the killer was identified as Charles Floyd.  The indication was that he was sentenced to life imprisonment in Texas and actually died in a mental institution. This source identifies only a Mrs. Brown (1942),  Stewart and Green (1943), a Niles (a corruption of Panta Lou Liles) (1945), the wounded mother and daughter (1948) and Ruth Norton (1948) as his victims.

According to this source he had a penchant for redheads and was a voyeur until it no longer satisfied his dark hungers and then he killed and abused the victims post death.

An inmate from the asylum at Vinita, Oklahoma was closely examined by police. He had been institutionalized after an earlier slaying but had recently been released.  There may be a gap between the murders that might fit such a scenario: 1942-1945.  Then, the murders/assaults in 1948.  This assumes the killer remained in Oklahoma for those years.

There are still gaps in this story as validation for the Charles Floyd suspect is still lacking.  Searching through newspapers in Texas and Oklahoma has yet to prove this name in association with the crimes or any crimes of murder. It is possible if he were a mental patient he might have fallen under privacy restrictions and his absence might be explained. It is very strange, however, that a death of serial killer might go so unremarked. Is it surprising because we are so familiar with a constant deluge of data - significant and meaningless - about every event that happens in society?  Perhaps it is just an example of putting the emphasis where it should be in such cases; the killer fades into the background and the focus is on the loss of the person they killed...the person taken from the world by evil.

--Marilyn A. Hudson, c2014

Into Oblivion: Women Found Dead, Part 3

They were often found in hard-to-reach pastures or deserted areas.  Often, there was no clear cause of death. Many of them had been driving home or going shopping.  Many times their cars were found far from where they were known to have been, abandoned with no sign of purses or purchases.  Usually, they were left in slips or underwear.
 
In 1953, a rancher riding in the Osage Hills of Northeast Oklahoma came across the body of a white female, 21-25 years of age, 110-125 lbs. and about 5'2".  She was unknown and unidentified.
 
A Texas woman visiting in Louisiana spoke of a "mysterious trooper" who called her and with whom she may have gone off on a date one evening in 1957. Ruth Tilotta was 31 when her body, clad only in red underwear, was found in Louisiana.  No clues as to who the trooper was or what she did that last day.
 
A 17 year old Yolanda Gomez's skeletal remains were found near Anapra, new Mexico in 1960. She had been missing a year when discovered.  For awhile it was assumed she might be the missing Andrea Lopez Phares. She had a bracelet with initials not her own engraved on them.
 
In Potter Co., Texas in 1971 the mystery of where store clerk Elizabeth Perryman had gone was finally answered.  Her body was one of three discovered that year in the Amarillo area.  The others were Linda Simmons and Kathryn Louise Sands.
 
In 1988, east of the metropolitan area of Oklahoma City, 27 year old Savona Lynn Kidd's body was discovered ending a search for her whereabouts.

---Marilyn A. Hudson, c2014

Into Oblivion: All The Missing Wives, part 2

They were all young, attractive, and most were dark haired...

In 1955, Andrea Lopez Phares, 20, left a town in Texas to return to her home and never was  seen again. Her car was found with a key still in it, her purse and wallet in place (but missing a large amount of money according to her husband) and the trunk mat and a blanket were gone. Her husband and his brother would both go to court charged in relation to the disappearance but neither convicted.  Her husband finally moved to Oklahoma.
 
In 1958, Carol Ann Batterman,19, left the motel where she and her brand new husband were staying to meet him and look at apartments and was never seen again. Reports of a woman struggling with two men by a local lake and strangers asking for a shovel to dig worms, yet lacking normal fishing gear, was under investigated.  Local deputies shrugged wondering what the fuss was all about when reports of clothes found just northwest of the same area a year or two later. It was a known "lover's lane" after all; apparently making it safe from murder. Despite searches, digging, and lack of activity on a savings account, the woman was never seen. Her case is still considered open by local police.
 
In 1959, Billie Schaffer, 37, drove to town to do some shopping and meet with friends and several weeks later her body is found far from home in a lonely field. Her Air Force Captain husband was in Greenland when she died but rushed back to join the search.  Her car had been found abandoned far from where she had been driving and no sign of the purchases or her purse where found. [She may also be one of string of murders where the victims were placed in hard to reach fields One was in 1953, a rancher riding in the Osage Hills of Northeast Oklahoma came across the body of a white female, 21-25 years of age, 110-125 lbs. and about 5'2".  She was unknown and unidentified. The place where she was found was not easy to get to according to locals].
 
In 1959, a young bride Virginia Moore, 19, leaves El Paso, Texas to visit relatives and apparently disappeared.
 
In 1963, a young and expectant woman disappears on a short trip in the Kansas City, Missouri area and is last seen at the side of the road.  Weeks later her slip clad body is found in a corn field, her hands severed and part of her head missing. She is six miles from where  her car was found. Patricia Willoughby,22, had been seen, possibly, being "led" or "steered" toward another vehicle, along a stretch of road.

--Marilyn A. Hudson, c2014
 

12/7/14

Into Oblivion: Some Interesting and Haunting Disappearances, Part 1

In this new series, author and researcher, Marilyn A. Hudson explores some missing persons cases.

Early May of 1955 in the south plains area of Hale Center, Texas, a charming bride of 19 took the family Lincoln into town to complete some errands.   A Mexican national whose family made the annual migration circuit had caught the eye of the farmer and now, a year later, she was a happy wife and a soon to be mother. Her life, however, was soon to take very different direction. Andrea Lopez Phares never returned to her home with her 43 year old husband and local farmer.
 
Her car was found abandoned, the key still in the ignition but the wires yanked under the hood.  The speedometer showed it had exceed 100 miles an hour in its last journey.  A huge posse crisscrossed the countryside looking for the woman.   Her jewelry was found buried far from the car.  Over the months and years both her husband and her brother-in-law would be charged in the case but both times juries failed to find enough evidence.  After a time her husband moved to Arizona citing the need to get a fresh start as the search for his wife had ruined his farm. The truth was he moved back to family in Oklahoma.
 
Oddly, an anonymous letter arrived at the police at one time claiming having seen the woman in a Laundromat in Guymon, Oklahoma. This is an area jut north of the panhandle area where Phares had lived.  Texas Rangers and an Oklahoma private investigator could find nothing to prove any link.
 
For 21 months ...for 17 years....for decades...the mystery of where she was and what had happened to her lingered like a fragile scent on a summer evening.  Skeletons were found several times in the desert and hope sprang up but always it was some other poor soul.
 
Is there a lonely road out there where in the mystical hours of dusk, a solemn parade of lost people continues their last...and endless...journey home?  Keep the lights burning on the front porch; maybe some will make it home ...at last.

---Marilyn A. Hudson , c2014