Lost in Paradise – The Claudia Kirschhoch Story


When 29-year-old Claudia Kirschhoch told her parents a work assignment was taking her to Cuba, they were far from thrilled. Although relations were improving between the communist country and the United States, the red island was not yet rolling out the red carpet for American tourists.

When Claudia called the following day, saying the Cuba trip had been canceled and she was re-routed to Jamaica, her parents were relieved, believing Cuba was dangerous, Jamaica was divine. But for Claudia, paradise was short-lived; for her parents, the purgatory continues.

Although Claudia coveted Cuba, she was cool with a Jamaican jamboree– and jam she did. For two evenings, the bubbly brunette danced at a reggae club, went skinny dipping, and smoked a little weed.

Claudia did not return home when scheduled, and no one has heard from her in twenty years. Her parents believe employees of a Jamaican inn know more than they are saying about her disappearance.

Raised in New Jersey, Claudia was an assistant editor for the New York City-based Frommer’s Travel Guide and was part of a travel junket sent to the new Sandals Resort in Havana, Cuba.

On May 24, 2000, Claudia and three other travel journalists flew to Montego Bay, Jamaica. From there, the group was scheduled to fly to Havana. But they were denied entry into Cuba due to increasing tensions with the United States over the ongoing Elian Gonzalez affair.

To placate the writers, Sandals Resorts offered a complimentary week at several resorts throughout Jamaica. Claudia and fellow travel journalist Tania Grossinger were given one in Negril.

The women eagerly accepted and were re-routed to Negril, where they planned to stay until they could book return flights to New York.

Negril is on the western edge of Jamaica, 135 miles from the capital of Kingston. Its population was between 3,000-4,000, but plenty of tourists were in the town year-round.

Claudia and Tania made the most of their Jamaican layover, as they partied through the evenings of May 25 and 26. Tania could book a flight back to New York on May 27, but issues with Claudia’s visa prevented her from booking a flight home. She planned to continue to stay at the Negril resort until more flights became available.

The two women had breakfast together the morning before Tania returned home. That afternoon, a lifeguard saw Claudia walking along the Negril beach away from the resort. She was wearing a t-shirt over a bikini and carrying a portable radio.

Her visa hang-up was resolved, and Claudia was scheduled to return home five days later, on June 2. When she failed to arrive at work, Frommers contacted her parents, Fred and Mary Ann, in New Jersey. After learning their daughter had not been on any flights entering the United States, they reported her missing.

Sandals Resorts had also reported Claudia missing after the hotel’s maids found she had not slept in her bed for several days. Everything in her room seemed normal when searched by hotel security. Most of her clothes were neatly folded in her suitcase, the only exceptions being a white t-shirt and bikini, the outfit consistent with the clothing she was last seen wearing by the lifeguard.

Claudia’s passport, return plane ticket, credit and ATM cards, cell phone, camera, and $180 in cash were recovered from the hotel safe. All of the items were taken to the Sandals Resort manager’s office.

Claudia’s parents traveled to Jamaica and soon grew suspicious of Sandals Resorts.

As a security precaution, the license plates of all vehicles entering and leaving the resort were recorded; the logbook for May, however, was inexplicably missing. A videotape from a surveillance camera mounted near Claudia’s room had been recorded over before being viewed. Furthermore, Claudia’s room had been cleaned by housekeeping, cleared by security, and rented out to other guests before the potential crime scene could be processed for clues.

Capping off the series of unfortunate events, Claudia’s cell phone was missing when Fred and Mary Ann tried to claim it.

Aided by an American search and rescue team including FBI agents, Jamaican police scoured the island for Claudia. A search dog tracked her scent to the home of Anthony Grant, a bartender at the Sandals Resort. At the house, the dog hit on a pair of boots, gloves, and a knife.

While searching Grant’s Toyota Corolla, the dog also seemed to hit on Claudia’s scent in the back seat and trunk. A strand of hair in the back seat was later identified as Claudia’s. Also, police learned Grant had recently changed his car’s seat covers.

The boots, knife, and mat from Grant’s car were sent to the FBI Laboratory in Washington, D.C. A minute amount of blood on the knife’s blade was recovered, but it was too small to b helpful.

Grant and Claudia had been seen partying together at the clubs in the evenings before her disappearance. He admitted taking her to his home but denied any involvement in her disappearance.

Grant had called in sick for work on May 28, the day after Claudia was last seen, and did not show up for work after being questioned by the police. Shortly after that, he was fired from Sandals Resort.

Jamaican police administered a polygraph test to Grant, but the results were inconclusive. They could find no evidence tying him to Claudia’s disappearance, and he has never been charged with any crime. Claudia’s parents, however, believe he knows what happened to their daughter.

Because Claudia was last seen on the beach and in a bathing suit and t-shirt, police investigated the possibility that she had drowned. The water where she was last seen was not deep, and the current was weak. Authorities believe if Claudia had drowned in that area, her body would have surfaced. They do not dismiss the possibility that she drowned but consider it unlikely.

After Claudia was reported missing and news of her disappearance spread through the area, several Negril residents reported seeing a woman resembling her living in the hills with a Rastafarian man. Jamaican police investigated the reported sightings but said there is no information indicating the woman was Claudia.

Claudia’s parents believe Sandals Resort employees hindered the investigation into their daughter’s disappearance. In 2002, they filed a lawsuit against the resort, charging it with willfully destroying evidence and causing emotional stress. The two sides settled out of court in 2005.

Fred and Mary Ann Kirschhoch also claim the Jamaican police did not cooperate with them and would not let them examine the investigative file.

Claudia’s disappearance is sandwiched between the noted disappearances of two other American women from the Caribbean. Twenty-three-year-old Amy Bradley disappeared in Curacao in 1998, and 18-year-old Natalee Holloway disappeared in from Aruba in 2005.

Investigations into Amy’s disappearance have uncovered evidence suggesting she may have been kidnapped and forced into the Caribbean sex industry; those into Natalie’s disappearance show that she likely met with foul play, and she was declared “dead in absentia” in 2012.

No evidence has been found indicating if Claudia Kirschhoch has met with either scenario.

Claudia Ann Kirschhoch was last seen in Negril, Jamaica, on May 27, 2000. At the time of her disappearance, she was 29-years-old, 5’2″ tall, and weighed 105 lbs. Her hair and eyes were brown, and she had a tattoo of a phoenix on her right hip.

In May of 2002, a judge ruled Claudia legally dead, saying it was unlikely she disappeared of her own accord.

A $50,000 reward is offered for information leading to her whereabouts. If you have any information, please contact any of the phone numbers on the poster.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


More Info:

• Reddit

• Charley Project

• Unsolved Mysteries


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EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.


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More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)


ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Where’s the Line of Culpability? The Margo Freshwater Story


Carrying her young grandchild, Tonya McCarter walked through the parking lot of a local gym in Columbus, Ohio, on the morning of August 13, 2002. Her husband, Daryl, her adult grandson, and his fiance were all there when two men approached the group and asked Tonya for her name. She replied, “Tonya McCarter.” But one of the men, an undercover policeman, replied he had reason to believe she was a woman who had escaped prison over thirty years earlier. Daryl and his son laughed at the question; Tonya, however, remained stoic. Her past had finally caught up with her.

Tonya McCarter’s real name was Margo Freshwater. For 32 years, she had been living a lie, unbeknownst to her friends and family. She was a convicted murderer who had escaped a Tennessee prison after serving only eighteen months of a 99-year sentence.

Margo Freshwater’s life, from naive teenager to escaped inmate to fugitive mother and grandmother, had come full circle.

In the fall of 1966, 18-year-old Margo Freshwater’s world was crumbling. A native of Worthington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, she had dropped out of high school after becoming pregnant. After being dumped by her boyfriend, the penniless Margo gave her son up for adoption and, shortly after that, attempted suicide.

Margo soon had another boyfriend, Al Schlereth, but he had his problems. After several minor brushes with the law, he was arrested for armed robbery in Memphis, Tennessee.

Desperate to free her new beau, Margo traveled to Memphis, where she sought the help of attorney Glenn Nash.

Margo had no money to pay Nash and couldn’t even afford a place to stay. Although he was also broke, Nash agreed to take the case pro-bono and put Freshwater up at a local boarding house.

Glenn Nash had once been a respected attorney. Friends and colleagues described him as extremely bright, and tests would later show he had a genius-level I.Q. Nash, however, was also tormented as his alcoholism was out of control. Although he had been cleared the year before of two federal charges involving theft of money orders and treasury bonds, he was still under investigation by the Memphis Bar Association for other instances of misconduct. Paranoia had overtaken him, and he believed agents from the bar were conspiring against him. Nash’s marriage was crumbling as he descended into perpetual drunkenness, and, many believed, he was losing his grip on reality.

Had Margo Freshwater visited Glenn Nash several years earlier, all would likely have been fine. But when the attractive but troubled teen walked into the equally troubled lawyer’s office in the fall of 1966, it was a recipe for disaster. An immediate spark ignited between the two tormented souls, which soon exploded into a fire that raged out of control. The 18-year-old high school dropout and the married 41-year-old paranoid and alcoholic lawyer began an affair.

Margo’s first boyfriend had left her with an illegitimate child; her second lover was imprisoned, but the third man in Margo’s quest for love was not the charm as he would lead her imprisonment.

On December 6, 1966, Nash told Margo’s landlady the couple was going bowling; they instead went on a killing spree, striking in three states.

The first stop was the Square Deal liquor store in Memphis. After entering the store, Nash pointed a gun at the store clerk, 60-year-old Hillman Robbins, and ordered him to give him the money from the cash register, approximately $600.

Nash then ordered Margo to stay behind the cash register while he took Hillman into the back room. During that time, a customer came into the store and later told investigators that a friendly Margo waited on him and gave no indication that she was in trouble.

As Margo waited on the customer, Nash tied up Hillman with rope in the backroom. He then shot him five times in the head, using two guns, a .22 caliber and a .38 caliber.

Witnesses saw a man and a woman fleeing the liquor store and get into a white Ford Fairlane. Glenn Nash owned such a vehicle.

Whether Margo knew of Nash’s intentions to rob the liquor store and to kill the clerk is still debated, as is her culpability in the subsequent events.

Twelve days later, on December 18, a nearly identical crime occurred over 1,000 miles away at the Jackson Mini Market convenience store in Oakland Park, Florida, a part of metropolitan Fort Lauderdale.

Witnesses reported hearing gunshots and seeing a man and woman fleeing the store and getting into a white Ford Fairlane. When police arrived at the store, they found the body of 44-year-old clerk Esther Bouryea. She had been shot multiple times in the neck and had been bound with a rope just like Hillman Robbins.

Nearby, an abandoned Ford Fairlane was found along a highway shoulder. It was registered to Glenn Nash of Memphis, Tennessee. Inside, police found ropes and shell casings matching those used in the murder of Hillman Robbins. Margo was identified as Nash’s companion, and an All Points Bulletin (APB) was issued for the pair’s arrest.

On December 28, ten days later, the body of 55-year-old cab driver C.C. Suratt was found in a ditch in Mississippi. He had been shot twice in the back of the head. Shell casings matched those used in the murders of Hillman Robbins and Esther Bouyea.

Nash and Freshwater had returned home and resumed killing. Surratt is believed to have been shot after picking up the pair just across the state line in Millington, Tennessee.

After staking out bus stations throughout Tennessee and Mississippi, police spotted Nash and Freshwater at a Greenville, Mississippi station, 150 miles south of Memphis near the southeastern Arkansas border.

The couple was arrested and charged with the murders of Hillman Robbins and C.C. Suratt; only Nash was charged with the murder of Esther Bouyea.

After a psychiatric examination, however, Nash was declared insane and incompetent to stand trial. He was instead sentenced to incarceration in a mental hospital.

Despite never having fired a shot, Freshwater stood trial twice for the murder of C.C. Surratt. She claimed Nash was violent and out of control, believing all three victims were members of the bar association who were “out to get him.” She insisted she was fearful of Nash and participated in the crimes out of fear for her own life.

Both trials resulted in hung juries, and mistrials were declared. The state declined to try her a third time for the murder of C.C. Surratt.

Three years later, in 1969, Margo was tried for the murder of the first victim, Hillman Robbins. Nash was still deemed insane and would not stand trial in the courtroom where he had tried several cases before his descent into madness.

Freshwater again claimed that Nash was holding her prisoner, and she was terrified of him. She testified she had no idea he planned to kill Hillman Robbins when they robbed the liquor store in Memphis and that Nash forced her to participate in the subsequent robbery and murders of Esther Bouyea C.C. Surratt.

Freshwater, however, was fresh out of luck with the Memphis jury. They did not believe her claims of captivity and, although she had not pulled the trigger, found her guilty of the murder of Hillman Robbins. She was sentenced to 99 years in prison.

The state of Florida sought to charge Nash, alone, for the murder of Esther Bouyea, but the insanity ruling prevented them from doing so. Freshwater was never charged in connection with her murder.

Freshwater was incarcerated at the Tennessee State Prison for Women in Nashville. After serving only 18 months of her 99-year sentence, she took it upon herself to make a fresh start.

On October 4, 1970, she and several other inmates were being escorted by an unarmed guard outside the prison. Freshwater and another inmate, Faye Fairchild, scaled the prison’s barbed-wire fence and made a run for freedom. Both women were young and fit; Margo had run track in high school. In contrast, the guard was older and not in good shape. The women quickly ran out of his view and hitched a ride to freedom.

The women made their way to Baltimore, Maryland, where Fairchild had a family. After laying low for several weeks, they were seen on the street saying goodbye to each other.

Fairchild was apprehended; several sources say she was captured two years later in Chicago, but another says it was only a couple of days after being last seen in Baltimore. Yet another source says she stayed at large for over 20 years, not being captured until the early 1990s.

Margo Freshwater stayed off the radar for over three decades.

Authorities eventually came to believe Freshwater was using the names “Tonya” and “Tanya.” In 2002, investigators used police computer databases to check nationwide for anyone named “Tonya” or “Tanya” with Freshwater’s birth date of June 4, 1948.

They found that a woman named Tonya McCarter had the same date of birth. What caught investigators’ eyes was that the woman lived in Worthington, Ohio, a suburb of Columbus, where Margo Freshwater had been born and lived before her life of crime. Employment records showed the woman had not worked from 1966-70, the same time Margo Freshwater was jailed and then imprisoned.

When investigators obtained a copy of Tonya McCartor’s driver’s license, they were astounded by the similarities between the woman and an old photo of a young Margo Freshwater.

Tonya McCarter was arrested as she was leaving the Columbus health club on May 19, 2002. Fingerprints confirmed she was Margo Freshwater.

With her true identity uncovered, Freshwater revealed the details of her three-plus decades as a fugitive. She had avoided detection by not resuming her criminal career and by living a simple life.

Amazingly, Margo Freshwater lived many years undetected in the town where she had grown up.

After escaping prison, Freshwater told investigators she and Fairchild hitched a ride with a trucker to Baltimore. From there, Fairchild took a train to Chicago; Freshwater went to Ashland, Ohio, 80 miles southwest of Columbus. She obtained a driver’s license and social security number under the name Tonya Myers. She found work as a waitress and lived at a boarding house.

Freshwater soon gave birth to a son. She said she was pregnant when she escaped from prison but refused to divulge the father; he is believed to have been a prison guard. She had been imprisoned for 18 months, so Nash could not be the father.

Freshwater began dating Phillip Zimmerman, a man she had met at the Ashland boarding house. She told him she had been raped in a juvenile jail while serving time for petty theft. Although they were never married, Freshwater and Zimmerman raised her son and had a daughter together before parting ways after seven years.

Freshwater then married and had a son with Joseph Hudkins, a railroad worker from Columbus. After he died in 1988, Freshwater, under the name Tonya Hudkins, began working as an administrative assistant for MetLife Insurance. Through her job, she came in contact with many people in her hometown, but she never “met” anyone who recognized her.

Freshwater had cut off all contact with her family. She said she had encountered an aunt and a high school classmate while in public, but neither recognized her.

Freshwater met Daryl McCarter, a long-haul trucker, through a telephone dating service in 1998. When they married within a few months, she quit her job with MetLife Insurance to travel the country together.

Freshwater was returned to the Tennessee State Prison for women, the same prison she had escaped from 31 1/2 years earlier to serve her 99-year sentence. After having served nine years, however, Freshwater’s conviction for the murder of Hillman Robbins was overturned.

Johnny Box, a cellmate of Glenn Nash, wrote a letter in 1969 to the district attorney prosecuting Freshwater. He said Nash told him that he alone had killed Hillman Robbins and confirmed Margo’s claims of being controlled. However, it was learned that the district attorney provided only one page of the letter to Freshwater’s lawyers.

A Tennessee Court of Appeals ruled the full letter should have been turned over to the defense team, and Freshwater was given a new trial. In October 2011, the court accepted Freshwater’s best interest guilty plea, allowing her to plead guilty to the murder of Hillman Robbins while maintaining her innocence.

Margo Freshwater had spent, in total, approximately 10 1/2 years in prison and was given credit for time served. She was released from prison in November 2011. Daryl McCarter took his wife back after her release from prison.

Now 71-years-old and legally named Tonya McCarter, Margo Freshwater lives in Worthington, Ohio, where she was born.

Glenn Nash was released from the mental hospital in 1983, declared fit to re-enter society. Despite efforts to try him for the murders, he was still ruled to have been insane at the time, and the courts have not allowed his prosecution.

Nash returned to his wife, to whom he was married when he had the affair with Freshwater. A 2011 article states he was living in West Memphis, Arkansas. He appears to have stayed out of further trouble.

Freshwater and Nash both say they had no contact with each other after Freshwater’s escape from prison. The 2011 article said Nash was contacted after Freshwater’s release from prison that year, but he refused to comment.

As far as I can tell, Glenn Nash is still alive at age 93-94.

The saga of Margo Freshwater has been compared to that of Patty Hearst, who was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army and subsequently committed several crimes in conjunction with group members. Both women claimed to have committed their crimes out of fear and manipulation.

It is interesting that Freshwater lived as a fugitive under the name “Tonya” and that Patty Hearst went by the name “Tanya” while an SLA member.

Hillman Robbins Jr., whose father was the first person killed by Nash, was a professional golfer who had a successful amateur career, highlighted by winning the 1957 U.S. Amateur. Hillman Jr. died at age 49 in 1981.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


More Info:
• Unsolved Mysteries


More photos for this case can be found on Synova’s Patreon page! Check them using the button below

Support Synova’s Cause:

EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.


American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes and Trial of Patty Hearst

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More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)


ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Murder or Wrongful Conviction? The death of Debbie Race


The evening of May 11, 1982, was unfolding as Larry Race had hoped. He and his wife Debbie were celebrating their 14th anniversary. The Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota, couple had dinner on the veranda of an upscale restaurant with a breathtaking view of Lake Superior. Afterward, they enjoyed a romantic evening on the shores of the lake, drifting in their small boat as they talked and listened to music. To Larry, the enchanted evening felt like a second honeymoon. But the events soon turned as dark as the Minnesota night.

On the following afternoon, Debbie’s body was found along Lake Superior’s shore. She had perished in the lake’s chilly waters.

Larry said he had done everything he could to save his wife. The state of Minnesota disagreed, saying what happened was a clear cut case of cold-blooded murder.

Larry and Debbie’s families both supported Larry’s story. A jury, however, agreed with the state.

Larry and Debbie Race, each 33-years-old, had three children and lived in Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota, in the northeast part of the state, 75 miles from Lake Superior. The couple’s marriage had been rocky for several years because of Larry’s numerous girlfriends.

Larry acknowledges his infidelity but says he was putting an end to his affairs. He also says Debbie had forgiven him and agreed to give him another chance. The romantic evening along Lake Superior was to be the start of repairing the relationship.

Larry was an avid boater and scuba diver. He owned a small boat named the “Jenny Lee” named after their two daughters.

The following is Larry’s account of the events that unfolded after he and Debbie left the restaurant on the evening of May 11, 1982.

Larry says the sun was setting as he and Debbie set sail. For nearly an hour-and-a-half, they drifted approximately a mile offshore of Lake Superior.

Around 9:00 p.m., after darkness had fallen, they noticed the Jenny Lee was taking on water. Larry says he turned off the engine, and the leakage stopped, but the boat still would not restart. Larry re-examined the engine and heard gushing noises at the bottom of the boat.

Larry says he grew concerned and that Debbie panicked. As the boat continued to take on more water, Larry says Debbie insisted on getting off the boat and that he, not using sound judgment, agreed.

Larry says he had two life rafts on board and that he attempted to inflate one of them but found holes in it and tossed it into the lake. Larry says he inflated the second raft, but it was meant for only one person.

Debbie put her purse and other valuables and Larry’s shoes into a gear bag. She took it and the scuba tank onto the life raft. Larry had his dry suit and scuba tanks on board the boat. He was a strong swimmer and thought he could tow Debbie and the raft to shore because he had done so with his daughters when the Jenny Lee had previously broken down. Larry says he was making progress on getting the raft to shore but was getting cold. When he attempted to get into the raft with Debbie, it started to sink.

Larry says the cold water’s effect on his body hindered his judgment and made another poor decision. He says he saw lights in the distance that appeared to be closer than the shore, so he decided to swim toward them. As he did so, Debbie continued to inch her way to shore.

However, it soon dawned on Larry the light he had seen in the dark was from the Jenny Lee. He made it back to the boat, and, this time, the engine started.

After catching his breath, Larry says, continued to search for Debbie, all the while firing distress signals in the air. Unable to find her, he returned to shore and notified the Coast Guard. They conducted a grid search of the lake but to no avail.

On the following afternoon of May 12, a boy walking home from school found Debbie’s body, lying face-up, along the lakeshore. An autopsy determined she had not drowned. Instead, Debbie had succumbed to hypothermia, a reduced body temperature that occurs when a body dissipates more heat than it absorbs.

The average body temperature in humans is 98.6°Fahrenheit; hypothermia is defined as a core body temperature below 95.0 °F. Although the weather was warm on the evening of Larry and Debby’s debacle, the temperature of Lake Superior’s waters was only 37 ° F, easily cold enough to kill someone who had been in the water for as long as Debbie had been.

Neither the police nor prosecutors bought Larry’s story that Debbie’s death was an accident brought about by circumstances beyond his control. They believed the actions leading to Debbie’s demise were brought about purposefully by an unfaithful husband wanting out of his marriage.

Larry Race was arrested and charged with his wife’s murder.

Prosecutors believed Larry’s motives for killing Debbie were the oldest in the books: to collect insurance money. In November of 1981, seven months before Debbie’s death, Larry had taken out life insurance policies on Debbie, totaling $108,000.

Larry’s Appellate Attorney countered that $37,000 was mortgage insurance on their house, and the rest was part of a group policy through his credit union. Several relatives also contend it was Debbie who had sought the extra life insurance.

Multiple women testified to Larry’s infidelities. Prosecutors established that he had had at least four extramarital affairs during his 14-year-marriage to Debbie.

One woman testified that she had been with Larry the weekend before Debbie’s death and that he had professed his love for her and his disdain for Debbie.

Larry’s lawyers acknowledged his affairs.

A Deputy Sheriff testified that approximately two weeks before Debbie’s death, Larry had told him he had two life rafts aboard the Jenny Lee, although the deputy did not see them. When he was initially questioned 11 days after Debbie’s death, the deputy made no mention of hearing about two life rafts.

Larry is adamant two life rafts were aboard the Jenny Lee on the evening of May 11, 1982. The raft which he says he tossed into Lake Superior after finding holes in it was never found. Although multiple friends testified on Larry’s behalf at his trial, none could ever recall having seen two rafts aboard the Jenny Lee. Also, the Coast Guard’s search and rescue team are confident that if that second raft had been tossed into the water as Larry contends, they would have found it during their search.

The raft, which was found, became a cornerstone of the prosecution’s case against Larry Race. Five puncture cuts were found in the bottom of the raft, and several experts testified the cuts had been made in the raft while it was inflated because no knife cuts on the top of the raft corresponded with the bottom punctures, meaning the air chambers were inflated when the cuts were made.

Prosecutors argued this shows the cuts were not random acts such as vandalism or that they had developed through wear and tear.

The state argued Larry pushed Debbie into the raft well away from the Jenny Lee and then returned to the boat to don his scuba equipment. They contend Larry swam back to Debbie’s raft and slashed it with a knife, leaving her to sink and freeze to death in the icy waters. Once Debbie had been set adrift, Larry dragged the life raft back to the Jenny Lee to support his story about attempting to inflate the first raft.

A knife was found aboard the Jenny Lee, but its punctures did not match those in the raft. The knife used to cut the raft was never found, nor was the gear bag in which Larry says Debbie had put her valuables.

Witnesses place the Jenny Lee near the mouth of the Talmadge River at 8:30 p.m. and again at 9:30 p.m. Debbie’s body was found seven miles west of that spot.

Underwater expert Jean Aubineau testified for the defense, saying it would have been impossible for a body to drift seven miles without a raft. He said a body with a life vest such as Debbie was wearing would have traveled only 1-2 miles before hitting the shore and that the only way Debbie could have traveled seven miles downriver was on a raft.

However, the prosecution negated the testimony by arguing that because the Jenny Lee’s location was unknown at the time Larry and Debbie abandoned her, it was impossible to develop a legitimate drift theory.

Larry’s attorneys claim the skin lividity in Debbie’s body also proves that she came ashore in a life raft.

Lividity is a settling of the blood in the lower portion of the body postmortem, causing a purplish red discoloration of the skin. Debbie’s blood had not sunk to her feet, and the defense claimed it would have done so if she would have been kept in an upright position by a life vest.

The state said the lividity of Debbie’s blood following her death was toward her back, which is consistent with floating in the water with a life jacket without a raft. An expert testified for the prosecution that the particular life jacket worn by Debbie would have kept her face-up on her back, as she was found, while she floated after her death.

On his attorneys’ advice, Larry Race did not testify on his own behalf at his trial.

In November 1983, he was found guilty of the first-degree murder of his wife Debbie and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 17 years.

After his conviction, Larry hired a new team of lawyers for his appeal. They argued Larry should be granted a new trial because of ineffective legal counsel and subsequent mechanical problems aboard the Jenny Lee.

Following his trial, Larry sold the Jenny Lee to help pay his legal bills. In June of 1984, the small boat again malfunctioned on the waters. The new owner, familiar with Larry’s case, contacted authorities. They had an independent mechanic, unfamiliar with the case, examine the boat.

The mechanic said the engine was worn and would have caused an intermittent starting failure akin to the one Larry says occurred. He could not say that the problem existed on the evening of Debbie’s death two years earlier.

The appellate court ruled the ex post facto mechanical difficulties aboard the Jenny Lee as irrelevant and denied a new trial request.

In 1992, two men claimed to have seen a life raft floating on Lake Superior approximately one year after Debbie’s death. The men said the raft was blue and yellow, the same colors as of the recovered raft from the Jenny Lee.

The men’s stories were inconsistent. In some instances, they claimed to see the raft in 1983, but they later seemed to think it was much later. Furthermore, they gave differing accounts of where the raft was found, sometimes saying it was in Lake Superior but at other times saying it was found in a nearby river. As a result, their contentions were deemed insufficient in warranting a new trial.

Larry Race’s multiple appeals for a new trial were all denied, as was his first attempt when he became eligible for parole in 2001. In May of 2005, after serving over 21 years in prison, Larry Race was granted parole. He continues to maintain his innocence in the death of his wife, Debbie.


More photos for this case can be found on Synova’s Patreon page! Check them out here:


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


More Info:
Star Tribune
• Unsolved Mysteries


Support Synova’s Cause:

EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.


Blind Injustice: A Former Prosecutor Exposes the Psychology and Politics of Wrongful Convictions 

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

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More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)


ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Back to Attack


Her family took a trip to Mexico, but Janelle Cruz stayed at Irvine, California, home. Eager to pick up some hours at her part-time job at a pizza parlor, the 18-year-old was getting her life in order after years of struggling with depression.

On the evening of May 4, 1986, while Janelle and a friend watched movies at the Cruz home, they heard several noises outside, which sounded like a door or outside gate closing. When they looked, they saw nothing. Though a little spooked, the young women dismissed the noises. The friend left Janelle’s home at 10:45 p.m.

Around 5 p.m. the following day, a real estate agent who had planned to show the home to potential buyers found Janelle bludgeoned to death in her bed. An autopsy determined she had been raped.

Authorities believe Janelle was the final murder victim of one of America’s most infamous serial killers.

The Golden State Killer committed at least 12 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 through 1986. He committed crimes throughout the state and acquired various monikers in different regions before DNA evidence connected the same person’s crimes.

Other monikers include:
East Area Rapist
Original Night Stalker
Visalia Ransacker
East Bay Rapist
Diamond Knot Killer

Before the murder of Janelle Cruz in 1986, the last homicide linked to the Golden State Killer occurred in 1981. The killer apparently took a hiatus from 1981 until mid-1986 before returning for one final thrill before apparently calling it quits.

On April 25, 2018, authorities announced the arrest of 72-year-old Joseph James DeAngelo Jr., a former police officer, on eight counts of first-degree murder based on DNA evidence. They believe him to be the Golden State Killer, responsible for at least 12 murders, more than 50 rapes, and over 100 burglaries in California from 1974 through 1986.

In addition to the eight murder counts, DeAngelo has also been charged with 13 related kidnapping/abduction attempts. More charges may be coming, but due to California’s statute of limitations on pre-2017 rape cases, he cannot be charged with the 1970s rapes.

Preliminary hearings are currently being held in Sacramento in preparation for DeAngelo’s trial. Prosecutors will seek the death penalty, and the judge has ruled that cameras will be allowed inside the courtroom during the trial.

On June 29, 2020, DeAngelo pleaded guilty to 13 counts of first-degree murder. On August 21, he was sentenced to twelve life sentences in prison plus an additional eight years.

Among the murders of which DeAngelo was convicted was that of Janelle Cruz. She is, as far as authorities know, his final victim.

DNA found at one of the crime scenes was checked against genetic profiles from GEDmatch, a site where people enter their DNA profiles or genealogical data. Investigators searched family trees generated through the public profiles, and DeAngelo emerged as a suspect. They then placed him under surveillance, collected a sample of his discarded DNA, and had a match the following day. The DNA was soon matched to that found at other crime scenes.

Since DeAngelo’s arrest, several concerns have been raised. The ethics of the secondary use of personally identifiable information has been called into question, particularly given California’s Online Privacy Protection Act and in the wake of last year’s Facebook scandal.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


More Info:

CNN
FBI
Los Angeles Times
New York Times
Sacramento Bee
Washington Post


Support Synova’s Cause:

EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.


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

SIGN UP HERE


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


More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)

Check out Synova’s Work on Amazon Here

ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

“Dr. No” Preys on Prostitutes


A man using the CB handle “Dr. No.” has been linked to at least 9 murders in Ohio. Approximately 150 unsolved homicides nationwide fit the same basic pattern. Who is Dr. No?


During the 1980s and early ’90s, several female bodies were found in ditches in seven different Ohio counties. Each woman had been beaten or strangled to death, and each had jewelry and clothing removed from her body. All were found alongside a major interstate, frequented truck stops, and were either known or suspected prostitutes. Several victims were killed by different perpetrators. But, some cases remain unsolved and are believed to be the work of a killer who preys on prostitutes.

Prostitutes make ideal targets for a serial killer because they are transient and their disappearances are often not reported. Some people believe law enforcement doesn’t diligently investigate a working girl’s murder because of her profession.

Investigative apathy was not an issue in the Ohio murders. But still, nearly four decades after discovering the “Buckskin Girl” in 1981, many of the murders remain unsolved.

In the 1980s, a sex-for-sale industry permeated truck stops across the buckeye state. Using C.B. radio, a prostitute would give her handle and a catchphrase; the trucker answered by giving his location at the truck stop. Once services were rendered, the girls used that trucker’s C.B. to radio her next customer.

A man identifying himself as “Dr. No” always said yes when the madams called.

The first victim believed to be linked to ‘Dr. No’ was discovered on April 24, 1981, near Troy, just north of Dayton in Miami County. After attempts to identify her failed, she was nicknamed the “Buckskin Girl,” after the tasseled buckskin jacket she was wearing at the time of her murder.

On April 9, 2018, the “Buckskin Girl” was identified as 21-year-old Marcia King of Little Rock, Arkansas. In addition to being strangled, she suffered trauma to the head and neck, had a lacerated liver, and was placed along the road in a fetal position. There where were no signs of sexual assault, rape, or other sexual activity.

Although Marcia lived a transient lifestyle, there is no evidence she was involved in prostitution, leading many investigators to question whether she was a victim of the so-called prostitute killer. Though her identity is unmasked, Marcia’s murder remains unsolved.

Marcia Matthews, 25, was last seen at a truck stop in Mansfield. Her body was found June 12, 1985, just off I-70 in Richland County. She had been beaten to death.

Twenty-three-year-old Shirley Taylor was last seen at a truck stop near Austintown, just south of Cleveland. On July 22, 1985, her body was found in a rest area off Interstate 76, three miles from Interstate 71 in Medina County. She was found behind a guardrail and had been beaten and strangled to death.

April Barrett, 18, was found strangled and dumped behind a guardrail on I-71 in Ashland County on December 3, 1985.

Anne Marie Patterson, 27, was last seen getting into a black or dark blue Peterbilt truck at a stop in Austintown. On February 8, 1987, twenty-five days after she was last seen, her body was found along Interstate 71, north of Cincinnati, approximately 150 miles from where she was last seen. An autopsy revealed that she had been killed within 48 hours of her disappearance. Her killer appeared to have kept her body in a refrigerated truck for almost a month.

All of the victims were known prostitutes who lived transient lifestyles. All had been beaten or strangled to death, and all were found partially or fully naked. When last seen, all of the women were wearing jewelry, but none was found on their remains.

Patrice Corley was beaten to death in Hebron, Ohio, near Columbus on April 19, 1990. She was known as “Licking County Jane Doe” until she was positively identified in 2017.

Three other women found along Interstates in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York are also considered possible victims of the alleged prostitute killer.

Twenty-six-year-old Jill Allen was found strangled to death in Springfield, Illinois, on December 19, 1986. Nineteen-year-old Lamonica Cole was found with a scarf stuffed in her throat at t a truck stop in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, on November 22, 1987. Thirty-one-year-old Terry Roarke was found dead in Saratoga County, New York, on March 29, 1988. She died of blunt force trauma to the head.

In the 1990s, three truck drivers were arrested in three separate murder investigations involving prostitutes. None of these truck drivers could be connected to the Ohio murders, but all are still considered persons of interest.

Alvin Wilson abducted, raped, and choked an Akron, Ohio, prostitute to death in 1991. However, he was in jail when one of the earlier Ohio murders occurred. Nothing has been found connecting him to any of the other murders in Ohio or the murders in Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New York.

In 1993, truck driver James Cruz murdered 17-year-old Dawn Birnbaum in Pennsylvania. Investigators noted that the Ohio victims were killed in a similar manner. However, Cruz has not been connected to the Ohio murders or the murder of Lamonica Cole in Pennsylvania.

Sean Goble murdered several prostitutes in Tennessee and North Carolina in 1995. His victims were killed in a manner similar to the Ohio victims.

Goble also drove a Peterbilt truck, the same truck believed to been driven by the Ohio killer. However, nothing has been found connecting him to the Ohio murders.

Another suspect emerged in February of 2019 when forty-nine-year-old truck driver Samuel Legg was arrested after DNA evidence linked him to three murders in the late ’80s and early ’90s, two in Ohio and the other in Illinois (but not the murder of Jill Allen.) All of Legg’s victims were found near truck stops, either nude or partially clothed.

Though a promising suspect on the surface, Legg would have been only 15-years-old when the first victims were found in 1985. He was definitely too young to be a truck driver.

If the murders were the work of one person, he was skilled. Most serial killers leave their victims’ bodies in areas with which they are familiar, which often leads to their capture. Instead, the Ohio prostitute killer scattered his victims’ bodies, leading some investigators to believe he could be a security guard or a former police officer who knows law enforcement investigative techniques. He likely also knew it would be more difficult to connect the crimes by scattering the bodies in different police jurisdictions.

Two of the victims, Ann Marie Patterson and Shirley Taylor, were last seen getting into a black or dark blue early 1980s Peterbilt tractor, similar to the one below, possibly pulling a refrigerated trailer. The driver may have used the C.B. handles Dr. No, Stargazer, or Dragon. In the 1980s, he was believed to be 25-40-years-old, dark-haired, and possibly having a mid-eastern accent. Small traces of semen were found at several crime scenes, which authorities hope will ultimately lead to his identity.

Approximately 150 unsolved homicides nationwide fit the same basic pattern as the Ohio prostitute murders.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


More Info:

Wikipedia

Crime Junkie Podcast

Unsolved Mysteries


More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)


Support Synova’s Cause:

EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.

Get Your own Fedora!

Amscan 390156 White Pinstripe Fedora Black Fabric Hat


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

SIGN UP HERE


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


Check out Synova’s Work on Amazon Here

ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Retired Lawman Blames Fellow Officers for Attack – The Doyle Wheeler Story


It is often said that an attack on one policeman is an attack on all policemen. Law enforcement officers usually support one another when a perpetrator targets one of them. When such instances occur, the brethren in blue are generally unanimous in their support of their fellow lawman.

Such was not the scenario, however, for a former San Diego Police Lieutenant. When Doyle Wheeler was attacked in his Suncrest, Washington, home in April 1988, many of his former colleagues dismissed the incident, believing it a farce orchestrated by, in their view, a disgraced former lawman.

Doyle Wheeler had been a decorated Lieutenant with the San Diego Police Department. But he was forever changed by one of the most infamous incidents in southern California history.

On July 18, 1984, sniper James Huberty killed 21 people. He injured nineteen others at a San Ysidro McDonald’s restaurant, immediately north of the United States-Mexican border and about 12 miles from downtown San Diego. The San Ysidro Massacre was, at the time, the deadliest mass shooting in United States history.

Wheeler was one of the first police officers on the scene, in charge of the SWAT team. He ordered officers to fire on Huberty, and they ultimately did so, but not before a deadly delay. For reasons that are still unclear, Wheeler’s order to fire was not executed until 26 minutes after it was issued. Wheeler believes four teenagers were shot to death by Huberty during this delay.

The San Ysidro massacre had such a traumatic effect on Wheeler’s emotional health that he attempted suicide in March of 1985. He recovered, but in October, he was forced to retire from the San Diego Police Department because of a stress-related disability. In June of 1986, Wheeler and his family moved to Suncrest, Washington, a suburb ten miles north of Spokane.

On April 19, 1988, Wheeler said two men broke into his home, tied him up with a rope, and held him at gunpoint. The men then dragged him to an upstairs office where they beat him and burned him with cigarettes. The former lawman says the assailants then threatened to harm his family and forced him to write a note: 

“To the San Diego Police. I lied at the trial about Donovan Jacobs and the Police Department. I’m sorry. I make this statement of my own free will. Doyle F. Wheeler.”

On April 24, 1986, Wheeler was subpoenaed to testify at the murder trial of Sagon Penn, a 22-year-old black man charged with killing San Diego Police Officer Thomas Riggs and wounding officer Donovan Jacobs. Penn claimed Jacobs had beaten him with a nightstick after pulling him over for a traffic violation. Penn said he grabbed Jacobs’ gun and fired the shots in self-defense against both officers.

Wheeler testified for the defense. He described Jacobs as a “hothead” and accused him of previously being “overly aggressive” in using excessive brutality on minorities. Several San Diego Police Officers corroborated that Jacobs had exhibited racist overtures, with one officer going so far as to say that Jacobs was “the most prejudiced white person I’ve ever known.” Other officers, fellow lieutenants, and administrative personnel, however, turned against Wheeler.

Penn was acquitted largely due to Wheeler’s testimony. After his acquittal, Penn was in and out of jail for the rest of his life. He committed suicide in 2002.

Donovan Jacobs soon left the San Diego Police Department.

Two months after his testimony at Sagon Penn’s trial, Wheeler moved to Suncrest, Washington. Shortly after relocating, he allegedly received death threats because of his testimony. Ten months later, in April of 1988, Wheeler was attacked.

Wheeler told Spokane investigators that after he was beaten and forced to write the note, one of the perpetrators dragged him to his family room, where he was placed on the floor with his hands and feet tied. Simultaneously, he could hear the other man ransacking his downstairs bedroom. While one man made a phone call, the other assailant shot Wheeler in the left side of the head. Wheeler played dead until he heard the men drive away. He then managed to free himself and summon help.

Phone records confirm a call was made from the Wheeler home at the time of the attack to the Narcotics Unit of the San Diego Police Department. The 30-second phone conversation, automatically tape-recorded, confirmed a male voice asked for Donovan Jacobs. However, before the call could be transferred, the caller hung up. The results of a voice analysis were inconclusive, with experts determining the voice was likely not Wheeler’s, but it was possible he “made the call and tried to disguise his voice.”

Two witnesses, however, seem to corroborate Wheeler’s account. A couple of hours before the attack, a neighbor noticed a blue Toyota, possibly an unfamiliar Celica hatchback parked across the street from Wheeler’s house. The neighbor saw the same car speed away several minutes before the ambulance arrived in response to the 911 call. The day before the attack, another neighbor noticed a car similar to the Celica hatchback parked 12 miles from Wheeler’s home. Four men were talking around the vehicle.

Suncrest investigators ultimately dismissed the San Diego Police Department’s suggestion that Wheeler had staged the attack on himself. The Suncrest Police are confident Wheeler was truthful in his accounts of his beating.

The two men who attacked Wheeler have never been identified. Wheeler thought he recognized the dark-haired assailant as an informant with the Narcotics Unit of the San Diego Police Department. Because the man worked undercover, his identity was protected.

In 1988, the dark-haired assailant was in his late 20s, 6’0″ to 6’2″ with a slender, athletic build, crooked teeth, and one large pockmark on his left cheek. The blond-haired man was also in his late 20s, 6’0″, thin, wore a gold earring in his left ear, and had a tattoo of a double lightning bolt (a Nazi symbol) on his left hand. He also a pockmarked face.

The men may have been driving a dark blue Toyota Celica hatchback. They would today likely be in their late 50s.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


SOURCES:

• Los Angeles Times

San Bernardino County Sun

Seattle Times

• Unsolved Mysteries 


More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)


Support Synova’s Cause:

EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.

Get Your own Fedora!

Amscan 390156 White Pinstripe Fedora Black Fabric Hat


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

SIGN UP HERE


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


Check out Synova’s Work on Amazon Here

ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


The Jean Moore Disappearance

Laughlin, Nevada, lies at the Silver State’s southern tip, straddling both the California and Arizona borders. Though its population totals just over 7,000 people, Laughlin is always packed with tourists because of Nevada’s gambling industry. Casinos fill the small town described as a scaled-down version of Las Vegas. Laughlin is the perfect locale for those who like to gamble but not deal with the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas.

Fifty-nine-year-old Jean Moore looked forward to a fun-filled few days in Laughlin in April of 1992. Instead, she became the center of a mystery, as she has not been seen in 28 years.

What happens in Vegas is said to stay in Vegas. Little brother Laughlin, however, has a secret of its own.

Al Henderson and Jean Moore were divorcees who had been dating for the better part of 20 years. They became engaged in December of 1991. Both were successful business people; Al had a multimillion real-estate business, and Jean was an escrow officer for a retail bank.

On April 6, 1992, Al and Jean left their home in Apple Valley, California, for a vacation in Laughlin, Nevada, approximately 200 miles away. The couple liked to play the slot machines at the Flamingo Hilton casino.

A waitress recalled serving Al and Jean at a coffee shop in Laughlin later that morning. From there, the chain of events is cloudy.

Al says he and Jean had a great time playing the machines on April 6, 7, and 8. The following is his account of the events of April 9.

Jean, Al says, wanted to play her lucky slot machine one last time before checking out on the afternoon of April 9. He says he left Jean at a side entrance of the casino and went to find a parking place. Unable to find one, he drove to the valet parking, where he told the valet he would give Jean the ticket and that she would pick up the car later.

Al entered the casino where Jean was waiting. He believes she had $600-$700 in cash in her purse, her winnings from the day before at her “lucky” machine. After giving her the valet ticket, Al claims he left the casino at 9:30 a.m. They planned to rendezvous at their hotel room at 11:45 a.m. Checkout time was 12:15 p.m.

After waiting for a few minutes and not finding a cab to take him back to the hotel, Al says he returned to the casino to play the slot machines with Jean. Because another person was using Jean’s favorite machine, he thought she might have gone shopping.

After searching the casino’s gift shops, Al returned to the casino’s slot machines to find Jean’s favorite game unoccupied. Al says he played that specific machine until approximately 10:15, believing Jean would return.

After Jean did not return, Al says he continued searching for her, unsuccessfully. He then returned to the hotel at 11:45 p.m. to meet her and check out. Not finding her there, he took a cab back to the casino to continue searching for Jean. Upon arriving, Al found the car still parked in the valet area; the valet said no one had brought a ticket for the vehicle.

Al says he then re-searched the casino’s lobby, the shops, and the gambling area, but again found no trace of his fiancee. He then reported her as missing.

Over the following few days, Al distributed thousands of missing person fliers of Jean in the Laughlin area, offering a $25,000 reward.

Al also paid $1,200 to charter a helicopter to fly over the desert area surrounding Laughlin. The chopper failed to turn up any leads.

Jean’s children from her first marriage, Joe Hamilton and Connie Christie, were skeptical of Al’s accounts. Joe pointed out the differences in Al’s statements. At first, Al claimed he dropped Jean in front of the casino and gave her the valet ticket there. Later he said he left Jean at a side entrance to the casino and gave her the ticket inside. I could not find anything from the police to verify or dispute Joe’s claim.

Her kids also found it strange that their mother left most of her jewelry, her engagement ring, and her purse behind in her hotel room. While she probably wouldn’t want to carry her bag around, why would she leave behind her engagement ring?

Jean’s children did not like Al, saying he often put their mom down in public. They had tried to dissuade her from marrying him, believing he did not love her. Joe and Christie were clearly biased against Al. Soon, however, an impartial witness would also cast doubt on Al’s statements.

Police viewed the Flamingo Hotel casino’s surveillance cameras, which monitored activity inside the casino nearly 24 hours a day. The cameras confirmed Al’s account of pulling into the parking lot at around 9:15 a.m. and record his entry into the casino.

From this point onward, however, the cameras seem to contradict Al’s claims.

One camera shows two views of the area where Al says he gave Jean the valet ticket and where he says they walked around. Neither camera showed any image of Jean. Besides, if Jean had been in the casino, four other cameras should have picked up pictures of her as she walked around the casino, but she was not seen on any of them.

None of the casino cameras showed Jean in the casino on April 6-8. The footage on these cameras is not great, but authorities believe it is good enough for them to have seen and recognized Jean if she had been in the casino.

The only person other than Al, who reported seeing Jean in Laughlin, was the waitress at the coffee shop on April 6, the day Al and Jean left their Apple Valley, California, home and arrived in Laughlin. No one else could recall seeing Jean in Laughlin or surrounding areas afterward.

One of Jeanne’s friends says she saw both Jean and Al at a gas station back in Apple Valley at approximately 4:30 p.m. on April 8, the day before Al reported Jean as missing. Al says the friend is mistaken, insisting he and Jean were in Laughlin at that time.

Phone records verify Al’s claims that calls were made from his Colorado Belle hotel room in Laughlin on April 8; one call was made at 3 p.m. and another at 7 p.m. Al says no one, other than he or Jean, was in their hotel room during their stay. The calls seem to confirm it was impossible for either he or Jean to have been in Apple Valley when Jean’s friend believes she saw them.

Al’s bookkeeper, Geraldine Fender, said Al and Jean called her from Laughlin on the evening of April 8. She says she spoke to both of them and that Jean was elated because she had a string of good luck on a poker machine. The call to Geraldine was less than 24 hours before Al reported Jean as missing.

The casino surveillance cameras seem to dispute Al’s account of events of April 9. Jean’s children believe Al was not being truthful in his intentions and suspect he killed their mother.

If Al did kill Jean, it seems odd that he would have done it before they were married. It would have been easier to obtain Jean’s assets or any insurance claims after tying the knot. Although Jean had sizable financial holdings, she was not as wealthy as Al. It seems as if money wouldn’t have been a motive in this case. Perhaps there wasn’t a pre-planned motive. She could have been killed in the heat of the moment during an argument.

Al Henderson died in 2001. Although he was never charged in his fiancee’s disappearance, he remains the primary person of interest.

The Flamingo Laughlin is now known as the Aquarius Casino Resort.

An attendant handles winnings over a certain amount. The winner has to go to the cashier window to present an ID for tax purposes and receive a W-2G form to claim the winnings. I do not know what the set amount would have been in 1992, but it seems that $600 would have been a large enough amount to have to do so. Jean was last seen in Laughlin by the coffee shop waitress on April 6. If she had won the $600-$700 on April 8 at the casino, I would think the casino would have had a record of her claiming the winnings, and that would confirm she was in Laughlin on April 8.

Jean Marie Moore has been missing since April of 1992. At the time of her disappearance, she was 59-years-old, 5’2″ tall, and weighed 125 lbs. She had a scar on her abdomen. Jean would today be 87-years-old.

If you have any information relating to the disappearance of Jean Moore, please contact the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department at 702-828-2907.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.

More Info:
Charley Project
Nevada Missing Persons Directory
Laughlin Nevada Times-Mohave Daily News
Reddit
Unsolved Mysteries


More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)


Support Synova’s Cause:

EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.

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


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ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Unlocking a Deadly Secret


Dinosaur bones were found on a Thermopolis, Wyoming, ranch in 1993. While this would typically be a big deal, the locals were still abuzz about the bones found the previous year.

The bones that diminished the dinosaur story had been unearthed on March 31, 1992, when Thermopolis resident Newel Sessions opened a long-forgotten footlocker. To his shock, a scattering of bones lay inside. Tests determined the bones in the footlocker were of a Caucasian male.

The footlocker had been left with Newel by former Thermopolis resident John Morris who moved to Texas in 1986. When contacted, Morris claimed only vague recollections of the chest, saying he thought he had bought it at a garage sale in Iowa in 1973. Morris also claimed he never opened his purchase because he did not have the right tools, and denied any knowledge of the man’s identity.

A rotted plastic bag bearing the Hy-Vee logo found in the trunk gave credence that the footlocker could have been in Iowa, the state in which the Hy-Vee Food Store chain was founded. The remains remained unidentified for a quarter of a century until his identity was finally confirmed in 2017.

Tests determined the bones were of a Caucasian male in his mid-50s to mid-60s. John Doe was approximately 5’8. Both of the man’s lower leg bones and one hand were missing. X-rays showed he had been killed shot. A bullet was still lodged in his skull, and he also appeared to have been shot in the chest. A three-dimensional clay figure was constructed depicting how the man may have looked.

After reading a newspaper article about the discovery, Des Moines, Iowa, resident Shelley Statler contacted the Hot Springs County Sheriff’s Office in 2017. She believed the man’s reconstruction bore a resemblance to several relatives. After obtaining a DNA sample from Shelley’s mother, the Wyoming state crime lab determined John Doe was Shelley’s grandfather, Joseph Mulvaney.

The circumstances of his murder will likely be an eternal mystery. Shelley and her mother suspect he was killed in Des Moines and initially buried in his back yard. Shelley believes her grandfather was either murdered by his wife or stepson, John Morris, who would have been sixteen-years-old at the time.

When Morris moved to Wyoming, he allegedly dug up Joseph’s remains and placed them in the footlocker. When he moved to Texas several years later, Morris left the footlocker with his neighbor, Newel Sessions.

John Morris’s fate is unclear. Some sources say he later moved to Mississippi, where he committed suicide, but in a 2019 Des Moines Register article, reporter Daniel Finney thinks he may still be alive and in his late 70’s.

Joseph Mulvaney was born in Illinois in 1921. In the 1930s, his family moved to Decatur, Iowa, where he attended high school. He enlisted in the National Guard in 1941 and served in Australia and the Philippines during World War II.

After the war, Joseph worked for several railroads that took him across America. In California, he married Des Moines native Mary McLees, and they had three children together. Mary also had a son, John Morris, from a previous relationship. The Mulvaneys moved to Des Moines in 1963, but Joseph disappeared shortly after that. Shelley’s mother was approximately six-years-old when she last saw her father. For reasons unclear, no one ever reported him as missing.

Joseph Mulvaney’s bones were cremated before his funeral on March 29, 2019, in Cody, Wyoming. He was laid to rest with full military rites, including a 21-gun salute.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


Further Reading:

Des Moines Register
Doe Network
Hot Springs County, Wyoming, Sheriff Department


More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra is a writer and a native Iowan now living in  Arkansas.Growing up, he enjoyed watching real-life crime shows and further researching the stories featured. He wrote about many of them on his personal Facebook page, and several people suggested he should start a group featuring his writings. Ian founded the Facebook group “Murders, Missing People and More Mysteries” in August of 2018 he writes about many cold cases. The group also features many current criminal cases in the news. When Ian isn’t writing, he enjoys exercising, traveling and collecting sports cards. He’s also a big animal lover (his Facebook nickname is “beagle lover.”)


Support Synova’s Cause:

EACH WEEK SYNOVA HIGHLIGHTS OBSCURE COLD CASES ON HER BLOG AS A VICTIMS’ ADVOCATE WITH MISSOURI MISSING ORGANIZATION. SHE NEVER CHARGES FOR HER SERVICES. IF YOU’D LIKE TO SUPPORT HER IN THIS WORTHY CAUSE, PLEASE CHECK OUT THE AFFILIATE LINKS ON THIS PAGE. BY PURCHASING ONE OF HER BOOKS, OR USING THESE LINKS YOU WILL BE SUPPORTING SYNOVA’S WORK ON COLD CASES AND WILL ENSURE HER ABILITY TO CONTINUE TO GIVE A VOICE TO THE VICTIM’S FAMILY.


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

SIGN UP HERE


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


Check out Synova’s Work on Amazon Here

ALL INFORMATION USED TO CREATE THIS CONTENT IS A MATTER OF PUBLIC RECORD AND CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE OR CAN BE VERIFIED BY THE GUEST BLOGGER. ANY PARTICIPATION OR ALLEGED INVOLVEMENT OF ANY PARTY MENTIONED WITHIN THIS SITE IS PURELY SPECULATION. AS THE LAW STATES, AN INDIVIDUAL IS INNOCENT UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY. I DO NOT OWN THE PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST. ALL PHOTOS ARE USED UNDER THE FAIR USE ACT. NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT INTENDED. ANY AND ALL OPINIONS ARE THAT OF THE GUEST BLOGGER AND DON’T NECESSARILY REFLECT THE VIEWS OF SYNOVA INK©2017-2019. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED


Mobster Monday: Nick Spero- The Hippy Mobster


In 1970, FBI agents installed a wiretap on the telephone inside the Columbus Park Social Club located at 5th and Troost. This club was deep in the heart of what most K.C. residents called “Little Italy.” After the western District of Missouri U.S. Attorney obtained an indictment on the boss Nick Civella, the mob learned a couple of big bettors were going to be called as witnesses. One of these bettors was a Chevrolet dealer named Lester Moore. A mob associate named Carl Spero had introduced Moore into the Civella gambling ring, and Nick held him responsible for Moore.

Nick Civella sent word that Lester Moore was to be “taken care of.” By this time, Kansas authorities had convicted Carl Spero of a large warehouse theft, and he was incarcerated. The duty to handle this witness fell to the eldest Spero brother, Nick Spero. After consulting with Carl Spero and his other brothers, Mike and Joe Spero, Nick sent word back that this was not their job and refused to murder Moore.

Nick Spero grew up in what was known as “The North End” or “Little Italy” during World War II. He came from a large family with three brothers and two sisters. The Spero bothers, and their cousins ran the streets like the Gopher boys of New York City. Nick, being the oldest, was always the leader. The North End looked like the Mulberry street neighborhood in Manhattan, complete with two mafia social clubs, several small Italian restaurants, and a corner store ran by a part-time gambler called Cheebay. Nobody knew his real name. The homes were townhomes built out of red brick in the 19th or early 20th Century Federal style. They were very narrow with two or three floors above ground, and many had two floors below the street level. A few had tunnels under the street to a relative’s house. They used these tunnels to transport alcohol during prohibition. Some homes looked more like storefront businesses than residences. The Spero brothers and their cousins knew the back alleys and streets between Little Italy, the City Market, and downtown. They often got work helping produce vendors unload vegetables. They were all enthralled with the older gangsters at the Northview Social Club, where men like brothers Nick and Carl Civella held court out front on the sidewalk on warm days. They saw these men had respect and power, and they wanted to be part of that mysterious thing that scared most other men.

Nick got his first jobs with trucking companies in the East Bottoms just a few blocks away. He was a natural leader, and soon, he had a crew of other Teamsters stealing small appliances, cigarettes, watches, film, booze, and other desired items from the parked trailers. He graduated to holding up drivers on the road. He knew the schedule and could tell his gang exactly how to intercept a truck loaded with easy to sell merchandise. The drivers knew better than to resist, so they just took a small payoff and reported it as a robbery to their superiors.

Nick was not just an ordinary thief. He wanted more power inside the Teamsters Union and hatched a plot to increase his value to the freight line, Yellow Freight. First, he had his crew steal a load of liquor, and then he went to his bosses and told them he could recover the load. When he returned the load, minus a few cases of bourbon, they promoted Nick to a supervisor’s job. Of course, thefts increased after this promotion. In the end, they offered Nick Spero a cash settlement to just quit.

During these years, as Nick Spero matured into his 30s, FBI agents started making observations that he was a frequent visitor to the Columbus Park Social club. They witnessed him having conversations with the local crime bosses, Nick and Carl Civella. Nick Civella was the leader, while Carl was more likely to deal with people like Nick Spero. Nick Spero was running a crew who burglarized jewelry and fur stores, clothing warehouses and robbing Yellow Freight and other truck lines during this time. Nick Spero was a rising young mobster, but the generation gap caught him in a bind.

Nick Spero was of an age that he wanted to dress like his hippy peers with bell bottoms and flower printed shirts. Spero grew his hair long and had facial hair. But the boss, Nick Civella, had a few ironclad rules for his made guys and all associates. The dress code included conservative shirts and slacks, clean cut hairstyles, and no facial hair. Nick Spero rebelled on all accounts. Nick Spero grew his hair out to almost shoulder length and sported a long Fu Manchu beard.

An FBI informant told his controller, “What the…? This guy dresses like a f^&*@ hippy.”

Despite his rebellious nature, Nick Spero was a good thief and had a successful crew, so he continued to operate as an associate. When Nick Civella ordered a man named Sam Palma killed, someone in the hit team got Nick Spero to help set up a scene where the murder would appear as a suicide. The next day Palma’s body and the murder weapon were found lying across the grave of his father. While this did not fool the authorities, the murdered mobster’s family bought the story.

Nick Spero grew in power among his fellow Teamsters. He bought an R.C. Cola and Nehi Soda soft drink dealership and hired several salespeople and drivers. When a storeowner did not want to install a soda machine or buy his brands, Nick Spero made a personal visit, and usually, they became customers.

In the early 1970s, Civella ordered the Spero brothers to take care of Lester Moore. Because of his position as a trusted Civella Family associate, Nick Spero was expected to carry out this order. But, Spero was building his power base within the Kansas City Local of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Union and the criminal community, so he refused. He sent word that Lester Moore was a Civella problem and not a Spero problem.

Later the FBI asked Spero why he hadn’t officially joined the Civella organization. His reply was, “I ain’t no jock strap and don’t want to be one. They use you until your stretch is all gone, then forget about you. I’ve always been my own man. The only man I listen to is my father, and he is dead”.

On April 11, 1973, a patrol car will find Nick Spero’s jockstrap yellow Cadillac convertible parked on a back road in a suburban neighborhood. The officers open the trunk to find the body of Nick Spero. He was dressed in combat boots, a silky patterned shirt, and bright green with yellow flower-patterned trousers. The autopsy stated someone shot Nick Spero twice in the body and once in the head.

The police or FBI will never solve this murder. They cannot get an informant to finger any specific person. Nick Civella forgot one thing, “When you set out to kill one brother, you had better kill them all.” This hit would be the start of the bloody Civella-Spero mob war in Kansas City.


THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. SYNOVA STRIVES TO CITE ALL THE SOURCES USED DURING HER CASE STUDY, BUT OCCASIONALLY A SOURCE MAY BE MISSED BY MISTAKE. IT IS NOT INTENTIONAL, AND NO COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT IS INTENDED.


Further Reading:

Gangland Wire Podcast


Recommended Works:

Brothers against Brothers: The Civella-Spero War
Nick Civella: The Kansas City Mafia and the Teamsters Union

About our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Gary Jenkins retired from the Kansas City Police Department in 1996. He served 25 years with 12 years in the Intelligence Unit investigating the mob. Jenkins attended the University of Missouri School of Law and was admitted to the Missouri Bar in 2000. He produced and released four documentary films. The most recent documentaries were Gangland Wire and Brothers against Brothers: The Civella Spero War. He wrote Leaving Vegas: The True Story of How FBI Wiretaps Ended Mob Domination of Las Vegas Casinos. This book recounts the inside story of the 1970s investigation into skimming from Las Vegas casinos. He created a Mob Tour app titled the Kansas City Mob Tour. He produces and hosts a mob-oriented podcast called Gangland Wire Crime Stories. The podcast can be found on all the usual podcast apps and at his website https://ganglandwire.com/

He can be reached at 

ganglandwire@gmail.com

Facebook @Ganglandwire