Death in the Desert

On June 18, 1977, the body of 39-year-old businessman Charles Morgan was found in the desert approximately 40 miles west of his Tucson, Arizona, home. He had been shot once in the back of his head. The investigation into his death would prove one of the most complicated in Arizona history. Morgan himself emerged as a murky figure who may have literally been running for his life.

The life and death of Charles Morgan and the investigation into his murder sounds like a story concocted by Hollywood screenwriters. But this movie does not yet have an ending.

Who was Charles Morgan is a hard question to answer. Who killed Charles Morgan is a question that may never be answered.

Tourism is one of Arizona’s biggest industries as it attracts some of America’s wealthiest people. It is important for the economy, but it also brings some unsavory characters.

During the 1970s, Tucson became a favorite mafia haven as more than five-hundred racketeers moved to “The Old Pueblo,” including former New York crime boss Joseph Bonanno. The warm climate was pleasant, but for the dons, the best feature of the Grand Canyon State was its criminal justice system. One particular state law allowed the mafia leaders to buy land through numbered blind trust accounts, allowing them to remain anonymous as they laundered money.

Charles Morgan was the President of his own real estate escrow agency in Tucson. He is known to have done escrow work for at least one Mafia “family,” and he was a potential witness in a land fraud case involving an organized crime boss.

After driving two of his daughters to school on March 22, 1977, Morgan disappeared. At 2:00 a.m. on March 25, he stumbled into his home, discombobulated and unable to speak. He was missing one shoe, had one plastic handcuff around his ankle, and both hands cuffed. He could not talk but managed to write a note to his wife, Ruth, saying his throat had been doused with a hallucinogenic drug.

Morgan wrote if the drug didn’t kill him, it could drive him terminally insane or destroy his central nervous system. He adamantly conveyed to Ruth that she was not to call the police because, he said, if she did, “they” would kill them both, along with their four daughters. Morgan refused to say who “they” were.

For the next week, Ruth nursed her husband back to health. Before his voice returned, he alluded to a secret identity. Ruth said her husband wrote, “They took my treasury identification.”

Morgan explained that he had been secretly working for the United States Treasury Department for 2-3 years.

Two months later, in May, Charles Morgan disappeared again. Nine days later, Ruth received a phone call from a woman who said Charles was all right and would be home soon. The woman, who refused to identify herself, quoted the Bible passage Ecclesiastics 12: 1-8.

12 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them;

While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain:

In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened,

And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low;

Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets:

Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern.

Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.

Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity.

Three days later, Morgan again returned home, this time he was uninjured. He refused to say where he had been and insisted the authorities not be contacted.

Three weeks later, Charles Morgan disappeared for the last time. He came home in a coffin.

On June 18, 1977, Morgan was found shot to death in the desert approximately 40 miles west of Tucson. He had died from one gunshot wound to the back of his head. The bullet had come from his own .357 magnum, which was beside him. No fingerprints were found on the gun. Morgan was also wearing a bulletproof vest and a belt buckle, which concealed a knife and holster.

Items found inside Morgan’s car indicated the businessman was preparing for war. Besides containing a cache of ammunition and weapons, Morgan’s car had been modified so it could be unlocked from the fender. Also found inside the vehicle were several CB radios and a pair of sunglasses not owned by Morgan.

The crime scene had the appearance of suicide. Still, investigators had a hard time fathoming that a successful businessman and happily married father of four would have put on a bulletproof vest to drive 50 miles from his home to the Arizona desert in the middle of the night and, once there, shoot himself in the back of the head. The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Morgan’s death a murder.

As the medical examiner removed the clothing to conduct an autopsy, he found a $2 bill clipped inside Morgan’s underwear. Seven Spanish names, numbered 1-7, were written on the front of the bill.

Written above the names was the same Ecclesiastics biblical reference the unknown female had quoted to Ruth.

On the back of the bill, the Declaration of Independence’s signers were numbered 1-7.

On the back of the bill was a crudely drawn map of several roads between Tucson and the Mexican border. All roads led to a place called Robles Junction. From there, they headed south to the town of Sasabe and ultimately to a ranch with landing strips likely used for drug smuggling.

On June 20, two days after Morgan’s body was found, an anonymous woman calling herself “Green Eyes” phoned the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. She told them Morgan had met her at a motel shortly before his death and that she was the same woman who had contacted his wife, Ruth. “Green Eyes” claimed Morgan had shown her a briefcase containing what she guessed was between $50,000-$100,000. Morgan told her the cash would buy him out of a contract that had been put on his life.

“Green Eyes” has never been identified, and her relationship with Charles Morgan has never been learned.

Phoenix investigative journalist Don Devereux began investigating the Morgan murder in 1986. He found Morgan lived a double life as he was on the edges of a couple of large crime families at his death.

Morgan was known to have done real estate escrow work for at least one mafia family, but Devereux believes that was only the tip of an illicit iceberg. Devereux concluded the Mafia was using Morgan for escrow work for gold bullion purchases and platinum, convenient means to launder money. These transactions existed only on paper. The money changed hands by changing escrow accounts in Los Angeles and Atlanta banks.

Devereux believes organized crime, worried about Morgan’s testifying against them in an upcoming trial, put out a contract on his life. Devereux theorizes a hitman told Morgan about the deal referenced by “Green Eyes,” and Morgan acquired the money to pay him off. However, when the two men met in the desert, the hitman double-crossed Morgan by killing him and taking the money. In a perverse way, Devereux believes Morgan paid for his own death.

Devereux concluded Morgan was working for someone in the government who blew his cover. Using the Freedom of Information Act, Devereux contacted the FBI to get more information on the Morgan case. He said the FBI denied knowing who Morgan was, even though agents had interviewed his lawyer.

Devereux’s investigation determined Morgan was extensively involved in money laundering activities through his escrow company. From 1973 until his murder in 1977, Devereux says Morgan facilitated illegal gold and platinum transactions in excess of $1 billion. Much of the loot appeared to be coming from southeast Asia, beginning at the end of the Vietnam War.

Devereux contends many intelligence community operatives appear to have been involved, including renegades in the CIA and Defense Department. Perhaps they were operating undercover for the agency, but they were more likely lining their own pockets. Devereux says exiled Vietnamese officials may also have been involved.

The case of Charles Morgan was profiled on Unsolved Mysteries on February 7, 1990. Don Devereux was interviewed in the segment, and his articles about his investigation into Morgan’s death were soon published.

Three months later, just after midnight on May 15, Doug Johnston of Phoenix was found dead in his car in the company parking lot of ICM Inc., the computer graphics company where he worked. He had been shot once behind his left ear.

Similar to the Charles Morgan crime scene, Doug’s death appeared to be a suicide at first glance. However, no gun was found, and his hands contained no residue. The only evidence at the scene was a .25 caliber bullet casing. The murder weapon has never been found. Johnston’s death, ruled a homicide, is still unsolved.

Devereux’s office was across the street from ICM Inc. He was struck by several similarities between Doug Johnston and himself. The men resembled each other, and they drove similar Toyotas. Devereux’s home and Doug’s work address differed by only one number.

Six months later, in November of 1990, Devereux was contacted by a fellow investigative journalist who told him he had heard from a “high place” CIA source that Devereux’s suspicions were correct; the bullet that killed Doug Johnston was meant for him. According to the journalist, the “source” said there was still a contract out on Devereux’s life because of his investigations involving the CIA and organized crime, i.e., the Charles Morgan case.

Devereux says two other sources, one from the CIA and the other from Israeli intelligence, later confirmed the death threats. He has the warnings from the sources on tape.

In August 1991, Devereux was contacted by Washington, D.C. investigative journalist Dan Casolaro. Casolaro told Devereux that he had uncovered information about Charles Morgan’s illegal gold transactions while researching another story. Casolaro agreed to share the information with Devereux. Shortly after that, Casolaro was found dead under strange circumstances.

Devereux believes the same network of people, including the mob and the renegade intelligence community officials involved in the 1970s money laundering transactions, killed Dan Casolaro and tried to kill him for his investigation into Charles Morgan’s murder.

Charles Morgan claimed he was working against organized crime, but it appears he was instead involved with the mob. He probably started legitimately but could not resist the bribes and temptations. Perhaps he tried to go straight but was coerced into staying in the Mafia’s pocket. By the time he tried to get out, it was too late.

Charles Morgan was in way over his head, and for that, he got a bullet in his head. Forty-three years later, his murder remains unsolved, and no suspects have been named.


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:
Unsolved Mysteries

Verses taken from Bible Gateway


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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


The Disturbing Disappearance of Shirley Hyman-Hickman

Shirley Hyman – Hickman

A young single mother goes missing from a local bar in Philadelphia 38 years ago. Her daughter was a teenager who couldn’t understand why no one was actively pursuing this case. Why didn’t anyone care about her mother?

 Shirley Hyman-Hickman Was last seen leaving the Park Avenue Cafe Bar in Philly on August 28th, 1981. Witnesses say she was upset and crying and left with two men in a Blue Van. She had been at the bar playing pool with friends and family members, but they ended up leaving the bar before Hickman. Police found the two men when they were questioned, but both claimed to have dropped Shirley off safe and sound.

 She lived only a short distance away and could have walked home. Why did she get into the van with these men? How did she know them? Did she know them? Why was she upset?

Shirley was raised in a big family with many siblings, but her lifestyle didn’t match that of her loved ones. She had trouble with men and was now an unmarried single mother. Back in the 80s, this wasn’t overly accepted, and life was challenging, to say the least. Her daughter went to stay with her family, fully expecting to see her mother in a day or two. When she didn’t show up, she never could understand what happened. She couldn’t understand why the police weren’t bringing her mother home. She couldn’t understand why no one seemed to actively pursue this case. To this day, she is still not sure why no one seemed to help her mother.

 Very little is known on this case, but we know that 38 years have passed without Shirley. For a while, the family wondered if Hickman had been a victim of the infamous serial killer Samuel Littles. she resembled some of his drawings, but when they reached out, Little verified that she wasn’t one of his victims. Now, after four decades, they’re right back at the beginning.

 If you have any information on this case, please reach out and contact someone. You can submit a tip anonymously if you so choose. But please reach out this family needs answers. I recently interviewed the family for my YouTube show. Check out the video for more information. And please share this story so we can bring some answers to this family.

Award-winning crime writer, Synova Cantrell interviews the family of Shirley Hickman about her disappearance nearly four decades ago.

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The Secret Service’s First Female Fatality


The United States Secret Service is synonymous with the protection of the President. The legislation creating the agency was on Abraham Lincoln’s desk when he was assassinated on the evening of April 14, 1865, and the organization was formally established ten weeks later.

The Secret Service, however, was not initially given the task of protecting the President; that responsibility came thirty-seven years later following the assassination of President William McKinley.

As the Civil War ended in April 1865, a currency war was still being fought. Over a third of the currency in circulation was believed to be bogus. The Department of the Treasury established the Secret Service to combat the counterfeit currency crisis. Though it is now under the Department of Homeland Security, investigating counterfeiting crimes is still one of the Secret Service’s primary responsibilities.

Twenty-six-year-old Julie Cross was one of the few female Secret Service Special Agents in 1980. While investigating a counterfeiting operation on June 4, she became the first female Secret Service Special Agent to be killed in the line of duty.

Julie Cross seemed destined for a law enforcement career, first in her community and then serving her country. Her interest in police work started when she was young. She lost both of her parents by age ten and was raised by her brother, a reserve police officer.

After graduating with a Criminal Justice degree from San Diego State University, Julie became an officer with the San Diego Police Department. Three years later, she was accepted by the United States Secret Service.

On June 1, 1980, Julie was assigned to a team of agents investigating a man suspected of producing counterfeit currency in Los Angeles.

Three days later, on June 4, eight Secret Service Agents were scattered in a section of Westchester, an area of Los Angeles near the International Airport. The agents were staking out the apartment complex of the suspected counterfeiter.

Julie and her partner, Special Agent Lloyd Bulman, were in an unmarked car at the street’s end. They were assigned to follow the suspect if he exited the apartment and entered his vehicle. Another Secret Service Agent sat in an unmarked van across the street from the residence.

The agents were awaiting word that the warrant had been signed to arrest the suspect. Agents Bulman and Cross noticed a brown vehicle, either an early ’70s Buick or Pontiac, drive past them and turn a corner. Approximately five minutes later, they saw the same vehicle drive past them again, but this time the driver parked 100 feet in front of them. Two black men exited the vehicle and went into a different apartment complex from the one under surveillance.

Approximately five minutes later, the agents saw the men exit the apartment complex, enter their vehicle, and drive off again.

Five to ten minutes later, after darkness had fallen, Agent Cross, sitting on the passenger side of the surveillance car, noticed a man with a gun approaching from the rear. Another armed man approached the driver’s side of the vehicle. Julie was able to exit the car and get her gun drawn on her assailant. She had him place his hands on the vehicle, but the second gunman got the drop on Agent Bulman and held a gun on him before he could get out. A standoff ensued.

With his gun aimed at Bulman, the driver’s side assailant ordered Agent Cross to let his partner go; she refused. Bulman tried to reason with his assailant; the gunmen seemed surprised and panicked when he told them he and Cross were Secret Service Agents.

Agent Cross’s assailant came to the driver’s side of the car, took the key out of the ignition, and removed a shotgun from inside. Agent Bulman did not see what occurred, but the assailant had somehow freed himself from Agent Cross.

What happened next is also not clear. The next thing Agent Bulman noticed, his partner jumped into the front of the car, and three gunshots rang out. As Bulman then fought with his assailant outside the car, Agent Cross’s assailant shot several times but did not hit him. Bulman pretended he had been hit and feigned being dead. As he did so, the assailants made their way to their car and fled.

Bulman ran back to his car to radio for help. None of the other Secret Service agents had heard the gunshots, which were drowned out by the roar of low-flying jets.

Police and ambulances arrived quickly, but not in time. Special Agent Julie Cross was pronounced dead three days after beginning her assignment in Los Angeles.

She was the first female Special Agent to be killed in the 115-year history of the Secret Service.

The attackers made off with two weapons from the agents, a Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum Revolver and a Remington Model 870 shotgun.

Under hypnosis, Agent Bulman recalled details enabling composite sketches of the suspects to be developed. Both assailants were black. One stood around 6’2″ and the other around 5’10”. Each weighed approximately 180-190 lbs.

The men were driving a brown 1970-72 Buick or Potomac two-door car.

In 1992, twelve years after the murder of Julie Cross, Andre Alexander was arrested for a 1978 triple murder in Palms. The victims, coincidentally, were involved in counterfeiting.

Alexander was operating a money-order forgery scheme and had not paid his cohorts. After they threatened to go to the police, he murdered them. Alexander was convicted of the triple murder.

In their investigation of Alexander, authorities found evidence suggesting his involvement in the murder of Julie Cross twelve years earlier. He bore a resemblance to the composite of one of the suspects, and a pair of prescription glasses found at the scene was identical to a pair he wore in 1980.

Lloyd Bulman identified Alexander as the passenger-side assailant from a photo line-up. Vehicle records showed Alexander drove a medium-sized faded brown car at the time of the murder.

At his trial, Alexander’s former girlfriend testified a blood-splattered Alexander arrived at her house on the evening of the murder carrying a shotgun in a blood-soaked bag. She also said he told her he had murdered someone near the airport but pressured her not to say anything.

Terry Brock, a long-time friend of Alexander, was identified by Special Agent Bulman as the second gunman. At the time of the shooting, Alexander’s girlfriend was Brock’s sister.

Andre Alexander was convicted of the murder of Secret Service Special Agent Julie Cross in 1996 and was sentenced to death. His final appeal was exhausted in 2010. He remains on death row and is incarcerated at California’s infamous San Quentin prison.

I could not find any source stating what punishment Terry brock received.

Investigators are certain the murder of Secret Service Agent Julie Cross was a random act unrelated to the counterfeit operation she was investigating.

It was only a coincidence that Andre Alexander was later involved in counterfeiting. I found nothing indicating he was associated with the counterfeiter Special Agents Cross and Bulman were staking out on the evening of her murder.


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:

Associated Press
United State Secret Service
Unsolved Mysteries


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

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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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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


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


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

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.

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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.

SIGN UP HERE


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