Cherrie Picked – The Disappearance of Cherrie Mahan


On February 22, 1985, a typically cold winter day in Butler County, Pennsylvania, eight-year-old Cherrie Mahan got off the school bus at approximately 4:05 p.m. Three other children got off with her and began walking to their homes on the outskirts of Cabot. None of them noticed anything unusual. Cherrie’s friends saw her walking toward her house, only about 50 feet away, but she never arrived.

Cherrie’s Mahan’s disappearance helped launch a program that has helped locate over 1,000 missing children, but she is not among them. For nearly three decades after Cherrie’s ill-fated bus stop, few leads surfaced, indicating what may have happened to her. During the last several years, however, police have received information claiming to know her fate. Unfortunately, if the tips are accurate, the final chapter in Cherrie’s story will not have a happy ending.

The most promising possible lead in Cherrie’s disappearance was a green or light blue van seen behind the school bus. A snow-capped mural of a man in red and yellow clothing skiing down a mountain made the vehicle hard to miss. No one recognized the van, and despite the distinctive painting, it was never located.

Because no one in the greater Pittsburgh area recalled seeing the distinctive van after Cherrie’s disappearance, police theorized the occupant(s) fled western Pennsylvania after Cherrie’s disappearance.

For nearly 30 years, few leads of substance surfaced. In 2014, police received several tips saying Cherrie was living in Michigan under another name. Investigators, however, determined it was another woman who resembled the computer-aged image of Cherrie.

In 2015, police announced they had received more promising information regarding Cherrie. They would only say the lead was from a person who “would have known Cherrie” and “has the potential” to lead them to specific people. Unfortunately, authorities say the tip makes it “highly unlikely that she is alive.”

In August 2018, Cherrie’s mother received an anonymous handwritten letter saying Cherrie was murdered. The letter, mailed around the time of Cherrie’s birthday, detailed who the author contends killed Cherrie, why they did it, and where her body could be found. The letter ended: “I pray you find some peace after you find her body.” It was signed by someone calling himself “Pastor Justice.”

Cherrie’s mother gave the letter to police who are still analyzing the contents to determine its credibility. They have refused any comment on the letter so far, saying they will discuss it once the analysis is complete. They have also not said if they believe the letter to be related to the information received in 2015 or to the van.

Investigators have said they received another tip, which led them to search an old mine shaft in Butler County and a junkyard near the city of Armstrong, 27 miles northeast of Cabot. Again, though, they have not yet released any information about the findings.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was founded in 1984, the year before Cherrie vanished. In conjunction with the direct-mail marketing company ADVO, they launched the “Have You Seen Me?” program. It helps locate missing children through the mass distribution of the children’s pictures on detached address labels. Vlassis, the company which acquired ADVO in 2007, continues the program today.

Cherrie Mahan was the first child featured on the labels. The program has been remarkably successful. Of the approximately 2,100 highlighted cases, nearly 1,200 children have been recovered. Cherrie wasn’t one of them.

The success of the ADVO program also led to missing children being featured on cardboard milk cartons.

Cherrie Mahan was declared legally dead in 1998. If she has somehow beaten the odds, she would today be 43-years-old.

If you have any information on her disappearance, please contact the Pennsylvania State Police at 412-284-8100.


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: 

Butler Dispatch

Wikipedia

NBC News


Recommended Reading:

Missing

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.


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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


The Oliver Munson Disappearance

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A man’s love for restoring cars leads to his disappearance. What happened to Oliver Munson after he unknowingly stepped into the middle of a chop shop ring?


A neighbor thought nothing as he waved to Oliver Munson on the morning of February 13, 1984. The 39-year-old bachelor was presumably on his way to the middle school, where he taught Industrial Arts. Little could the neighbor have known, he likely was the last person to have seen Oliver alive. When Oliver rounded the corner, he drove into oblivion.

Oliver Munson disappeared the day before Valentine’s Day, and his story involves love, not the love of another person, but the love of a hobby which likely led to his death. The beloved shop teacher may have been done in by a man running a different kind of shop.

Oliver Munson was an industrial arts teacher at the now-defunct Ellicot City Middle School in Catonsville, Maryland, 13 miles west of Baltimore. His colleagues respected him, and “Mr. Munson” was well-liked by his students.

Oliver’s hobby was buying and restoring run-down cars. In January of 1983, he eagerly bought a fully-loaded used, but classic, 1973 Datsun 240Z, from a man named Dennis Watson.

As a teacher, Oliver was strict about his students doing the homework he assigned, but he didn’t do his homework on Dennis Watson.

Dennis Watson had not sold the Datsun to Oliver in good faith. Watson was the ringleader of a car theft ring, and he had stolen the Datsun three months earlier, in October of 1982. The car garage Watson owned was a cover for his “chop shop,” where cars were dismantled for parts, or resold with fake papers. Watson had done the latter with the Datsun he sold to Oliver.

For several weeks, police had been gathering information and building a case against Watson. On March 16, 1983, they raided his shop and arrested him and his associates.

In searching the shop, police discovered illegal car titles, partially dismantled autos, and stolen vehicle I.D. tags. Oliver Munson’s name was found in the confiscated records.

Police confiscated the Datsun Oliver had purchased from Watson. After speaking with Oliver, the police were convinced he had no part in the operation and believed he had purchased the car, thinking it was legitimate.

Oliver reluctantly agreed to testify against Watson. Legal wrangling delayed the trial for eleven months, but it was finally set to begin on February 16, 1984.

On February 13, the neighbor saw Oliver, driving his regular Ford Pinto, depart from his home at 7:50 a.m. He turned onto the road leading to the Ellicot City Middle School, never to be seen again.

Three days later, on the day he was to testify at Watson’s trial, Oliver’s car was found parked on another road two blocks from his home. The right front tire was flat. Oliver’s touring cap, school papers, and a sack lunch were found on the front seat, but there was no evidence suggesting what had happened to him.

Dennis Watson became the focal point of the investigation into Oliver’s disappearance, and authorities discovered an ominous similarity to two other people associated with Watson.

Ten years earlier, in 1973, a man named Clinton Glenn was scheduled to testify in an armed robbery trial against Watson. The day before the trial, Glenn burned to death in a car registered to Watson.

Based on the testimony of another witness, Watson was indicted for the murder. That witness, however, soon died of a drug overdose investigators called “suspicious.” The murder charges against Watson were dropped.

On February 27, 1984, two weeks after Oliver disappeared, a man named Hilton Solomon contacted police. His car had been stolen only a few hours before Oliver vanished on February 13, and he happened upon it parked on a residential street.

The car was returned to Hilton, and while cleaning it, he found a hat that did not belong to him. It was determined to have been Oliver’s. Hilton also found several receipts from a video rental store that were signed in Oliver’s name.

Investigators examined the car and found a spent cartridge case beneath the track of the right front seat. They also found a red-brownish stain on the driver’s side and red smudges on one of the video store receipts. Tests revealed the stains were human blood, type O Positive. These findings suggested Oliver had met with foul play, but with no records showing his blood type, and no other hard evidence, the investigation stalled.

Police say despite the advances of DNA technology, the blood sample is now too deteriorated to be tested for a potential match.

Clinton Glenn was murdered the day before he was to testify against Dennis Watson. Oliver Munson disappeared and was likely murdered three days before he was to testify against Watson. Authorities did not think either event was a coincidence but could not make a case against Watson in either instance.

The witness who fingered Watson in Clinton Green’s murder was himself murdered, and Watson refused to talk to police about the disappearance of Oliver Munson. The only thing on which Watson could be charged was on running the auto theft ring.

Oliver’s disappearance had no apparent effect on the outcome of Watson’s trial. He pled guilty and was sentenced to ten years in prison. He was paroled in 1989, after serving half of his term.

Though his body has never been found, Oliver Munson was declared dead in 1985, ruled the victim of a “presumptive homicide.” Investigators believe the man who taught shop was murdered by those who ran a chop shop.

Oliver Wendell Munson has been missing since February 13, 1984, when he was 39-years-old. At the time of his disappearance, he was 5’10” tall and weighed 160 lbs. He had black hair and brown eyes. He would today be 75-years-old.

If you have any information on the disappearance of Oliver Munson, please contact the Baltimore County (Maryland) Police Department at 410-887-3943.


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

Baltimore Sun

The Charley Project


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.

Gifts For All Those True Crime Fans:

SignsAndTagsOnline Insured by Mafia You Hit Me We Hit You! License Plate Funny Mafia Auto Tag


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.

Synova’s Amazon Author Page


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


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Vanished – The Kyle Clinkscales Mystery

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Photo courtesy guest blogger

College dropout tries to go back a year later and finish but this time when he doesn’t show up it’s for a more dreadful reason. 44 years later, Kyle Clinkscales still hasn’t been seen.


John and Louise Clinkscales were frustrated but not overly concerned when their son Kyle did not attend his classes at Auburn University during the week of January 27, 1976. A familiar pattern was unfolding as the 22-year-old was trying collegiate life again. Kyle had dropped out the previous year after the academic demands proved too much. His second attempt was being met with similar results as his grades were still far below par.

It appeared Kyle was not college material. The elder Clinkscales believed their son had again become discouraged at not making the grade and had gone into seclusion to reflect on his life. When Kyle came out of his shell, whenever that was, John and Louise would be there to support their only child in whatever he chose to do. That day, however, never came.

Kyle Clinkscales has not been seen or heard from in 44 years. He had more significant problems than his academic struggles and is believed to have become entwined with an unsavory character.

His remains have not been found, but it appears that Kyle Clinkscales met a violent end.

Kyle was a student at Auburn University in Alabama and worked part-time as a bartender at the Moose Club in his hometown of LaGrange, Georgia, in the west-central part of the state, only a few miles from the Alabama border. He left the bar after finishing his shift at approximately 11:00 p.m. on January 27, 1976.

Kyle planned to drive the 35 miles to Auburn, but he did not attend classes for the week. On February 3, with still no word from Kyle, his parents reported him missing. The police investigation yielded few clues suggesting what happened to him.

In 1981, a man named Danny Moore contacted John and Louise Clinkscales, saying he believed he was Kyle. Danny told them he had gotten into a car accident in 1976, the year of Kyle’s disappearance. He claimed he was unable to remember any of his life before the accident.

Danny appeared to be the same age as Kyle and bore a physical resemblance to him. Dental records, however, confirmed he was not Kyle. A doctor said studies of Danny’s brain showed he had suffered a traumatic brain injury at some point in his life. Police believed Danny was sincere in his belief that he could have been Kyle.

In 1987, 11 years after his disappearance, Kyle’s Exxon credit card was found on a kayaking and canoe trail along Flat Shoal Creek, 11 miles south of LaGrange. No new evidence, however, surfaced from the finding.

Nearly three decades passed before police received a major break in the disappearance of Kyle Clinkscales.

In 2005, a man contacted Georgia State Police, saying Kyle had been murdered by Ray Hyde, the owner of a salvage yard in Kyle’s home county of Troup, Georgia.

When he was seven years old, the caller had witnessed Kyle’s body’s disposal, saying it was covered with concrete, stuffed into a barrel, and dumped in a private pond. The caller, whose identity has not been revealed, told police that his grandfather helped dispose of the barrel under Hyde’s orders. The caller said Hyde threatened to kill both his grandfather and him if either said anything.

Through information provided by the tipster, investigators learned Ray Hyde was a member of the Moose Club, where Kyle worked. They believe Kyle was murdered because of his knowledge of Hyde’s criminal activities, which involved car theft and drug dealing. Hyde died in 2001.

Information provided by the caller also led to the arrest of Jimmy Jones and Jeanne Johnson. Jones was charged with concealing a death, hindering a criminal’s arrest, and two counts of making false statements. Johnson was charged with concealing a death, making false statements, and obstructing justice.

Jones ultimately admitted to helping dispose of Kyle’s body, but he denied taking part in his murder. He told police he found Kyle shot to death upon arriving at Hyde’s home in the early hours of January 28, 1976. Jones admitted helping Hyde drag Kyle’s body into his shop but says Hyde later told him he moved the remains into the nearby pond and then to another location, which he refused to reveal, saying it would never be found. Hyde’s prophecy has proven true as drainage of the pond turned up no sign of the barrel or any remains. Investigators also dug up Hyde’s property, but that too produced no evidence. Kyle’s car, a white 1974 Ford Pinto, has also never been found.

Jimmy Jones was sentenced to nine years in prison for hindering the police investigation into Kyle’s disappearance. He has since been released, and authorities say there is no proof that he took part in Kyle’s murder.

Jeanne Johnson was confirmed as being at Hyde’s home on the evening of Kyle’s disappearance, but she was cleared of any involvement in Kyle’s probable murder. I could not find what sentenced she received.

Kyle’s father John wrote the book “Kyle’s Story: Friday Never Came” about his son’s disappearance and several other missing persons. The book was written in 1981, five years after Kyle vanished and is available on Amazon.

Sadly, Friday never came for Mr. Clinkscales as he died in 2007 without learning his son’s fate. Kyle’s mom, Louise, is now in her nineties and hopes her son’s remains will be found before she dies.

Kyle Wade Clinkscales has been missing since January 27, 1976, when he was 22-years-old. At the time of his disappearance, he was 5’11” inches tall and weighed approximately 155 lbs. He had brown hair, hazel eyes and had earlier fractured his ring finger.

Kyle’s car, a white two-door 1974 Pinto Runabout with the Georgia license plate number CEF-717 and the VIN 4T11Y207954, has never been recovered.

Kyle would today be 66-years-old.

If you have any information on the disappearance of Kyle Clinkscales, please contact the Troup County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Department at 706-883-1746 or 706-883-1616.

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THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. 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:
Associated Press
Charley Project
“Kyle Story: Friday Never Came”; by John Dixon Clinkscales


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.

Synova’s Amazon Author Page


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


MISSING IN VEGAS – THE AMANDA FRAVEL CASE

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CHARLEY PROJECT

A beautiful young woman disappears from Vegas in 1986. Her roommate seems to have fallen off the map. What happened to Amanda Fravel, and what was her roommate’s real name? You can’t find a guy if you don’t know his name. Maybe that was the plan.


Amanda (Mandy) Lee Fravel, 20 was an all American child of the ’80s. With big hair and an even bigger smile, she loved musicians and rock music. Although her home life was difficult, Mandy found refuge in Las Vegas, NV in the fall of 1985. At first, she moved in with a friend from high school, but Cammi was a newlywed with a new baby, so it was just a temporary arrangement. Mandy stayed about a month, but quickly found a place of her own. She lived by herself for a short time before answering an ad in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. A man named Lew Frank needed a roommate to share expenses. Mandy applied and was approved.

During her time in Vegas, Mandy ran into a musician named Xavier. The couple hit it off and began dating. Soon they found they were better friends, so they parted ways. The two remained close, but not close enough for Mandy to introduce him to her new roommate. It wasn’t until after her disappearance did anyone close to Mandy actually meet Lew Franks. And every one that met the guy was immediately uneasy about him. No one is even sure that is his name, and since no one can find the guy, Lew Frank was likely an alias.

On Friday, June 13, 1986, Mandy Fravel was supposedly last seen by her roommate. She reportedly left the apartment to go to her job at Taco Bell to pick up her paycheck. Then she planned to go to Xavier’s house. This story is corroborated by Xavier who said he had spoken to her on the phone and was expecting her to show up, but she never did. Despite the troubles at home, Mandy’s mother had sent her airfare to travel back to California. No one was sure if it were for a few days, or indefinitely. Xavier waited around for her to show up, but thought nothing of it when the hours past without seeing her. Perhaps she had changed her mind about stopping by. For you millennials out there, this was before the days of cell phones, and this type of thing was common. Xavier never thought anything about it until a few days later when Mandy’s mother called from California saying she never arrived. Mandy was gone.

Mandy’s parents flew in from California to begin searching for their daughter. They spoke to Cammi and Xavier and even visited the apartment Mandy shared with Lew Frank. Mandy’s stepdad, Tom took notes about his visit to Vegas. He was the one who wrote Lew’s name down. He was the person who chose the peculiar spelling. Now, over time, he cannot remember why he spelled it L-E-W. Tom was even put off by the man in his mid-forties. Why was he living with a 20-yr-old, and more disturbingly, why did he randomly mention that he wanted to move to a nearby county and start a brothel? Who says that during a missing person investigation?

When Tom visited the apartment, all of Mandy’s things were packed in boxes by the door as if they were waiting for someone to pick them up. Did Mandy pack them to move back to California? Did Lew pack them to give to her parents? From what I can gather by reading in between the lines, Lew didn’t even know her parents were coming, so how could he pack her stuff?

To make the mystery more unusual, no one has seen or heard from Lew Frank since Mandy’s disappearance. Internet sleuths have gone over all the online records looking for everyone named Lew, Lou, Lewis, and Louis, but nothing has been found. If he were in his late 40’s – early 50’s in 1986, he would be in his 70’s by now. He may not even be alive. Either way, no one can find the guy. This is where my love of Sherlock Holmes stories really kicks in. Lew Frank doesn’t sound right to me. Who would name their kid Lewis Frank? To me, it seems reversed. What if his name was Frank Lewis? This could provide the reason for the odd spelling of Lew. Maybe I’m wrong, but a quick internet search dug up three different men named Frank Lewis in the Las Vegas area. All the men were mid-late 70’s. Maybe you armchair sleuths out there can keep digging for me, and perhaps we can find Mr. Vanishing Act.

Whether Lew Franks is a suspect or a person of interest, he is still the last person to see Mandy Fravel alive. If you have any information, in this case, please contact the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (702) 828-3111 or 1-800-492-6565.


The following links are for the benefit of Synova’s readers and are not an all inclusive source listing.

Further Reading:

Unfound Podcast

Charley Project

Websleuths

Youtube


This Week’s Recommended True Crime Book:

The Battle for Las Vegas: The Law vs. The Mob


All information used to create this content is a matter of public record and can be easily found online. Any participation or alleged involvement of any party mentioned within this site is purely speculation. As the law states, an individual is Innocent until PROVEN guilty. ©2017-2019. All rights reserved.


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

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Taken At the Ballgame

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All Photos Provided by Guest Blogger

On the evening of June 9, 1995, Colleen Nick and her six-year-old daughter Morgan traveled to Alma, Arkansas, to watch the children of friends play in a Little League baseball game.

As darkness fell, Morgan and two friends lost interest in the game. Instead of watching young boys catch fly balls, the children wanted to catch fireflies. They asked their parents if they could go play in a nearby field. The play field was within eyesight of the ball field, near where the cars were parked. With reluctance following Morgan’s persistent begging, Colleen let her go with her friends. A grateful Morgan thanked her mom, hugged her and gave her a big kiss before setting off on her quest to nab the glowing critters. As the game wound down, Colleen periodically glanced to the field and saw Morgan playing. The last images she has of her daughter is of her gleefully playing in the sand.

At the ballgame that evening, far more than bases were stolen. In an instant, someone stole a child, and the ripple effect would be stolen innocence, stolen memories, and a stolen life. Morgan, who dreamed of performing in the circus when she grew up, had disappeared. News of her presumed abduction spread beyond Alma, through all of Arkansas, and then all of America. Twenty-four-years later, however, Morgan remains missing.

When the ball game ended at approximately 10:45 p.m., the children began walking from the playing field to the ball field. Morgan stopped at her mom’s car to clean the sand from her shoes. She told her fiends she would meet them at the ball field, but she never arrived.

By the time Colleen reached her car, Morgan was gone. The police were summoned and conducted a search of the area but found no trace of her.

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Morgan’s friends remembered seeing a man they described as “creepy” talking to Morgan in the playfield. Several people recalled seeing a man matching the girls’ description watching Morgan play on the field earlier in the evening. While Morgan was playing with a different group of children, the man approached them and asked a question. Police have not released any details about what was asked. The man was in a red pickup truck. By the time police arrived to search for Morgan, the truck was gone.

Earlier that day in Alma, the same man is believed to have attempted to entice a four-year-old girl into his vehicle. Her mother saw it happen and screamed. The man heard her, saw her running toward his vehicle, threw the girl out of the vehicle, and sped away– in a red pickup truck.

The following day in Fort Smith, 15 miles southwest of Alma, the same man is believed to have tried to entice a nine-year-old girl into a men’s restroom at a convenience store. He stopped when the girl resisted. The girl said the man was driving a red truck.

Because the man in both instances resembled the man believed to be Morgan’s abductor, and because the truck involved in both incidents resembles the one seen at the ball field that evening, police believe they are linked to Morgan’s abduction.

Police believe the man is a loner, with few friends. He had a scruffy beard and salt-and-pepper hair. He is Caucasian, and in 1995 was between the ages of 23-38-years-old and spoke with a “hillbilly” accent. He weighed approximately 180 pounds and stood about 6’0 tall.

The truck the man was driving was a low wheelbase, red Ford pickup with dulled paint and a white camper shell with curtains covering the windows. Witnesses noted the shell was too short for the bed and the rear passenger side was damaged.

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In 2002, seven years after Morgan’s kidnapping, police received a tip that she may be buried on a private piece of land in Booneville, Arkansas, 53 miles southeast of Alma. However, after digging on the property, authorities found no trace of Morgan or any evidence that she had ever been there.

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In August of 2012, seventeen years since the last trace of Morgan Nick, Tonya Smith was arrested for computer fraud after attempting to assume Morgan’s identity. She was sentenced to six years’ probation and fined $2,500.

Police believe Smith was not involved in or has any knowledge of Morgan’s disappearance.

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Acting on another tip, on November 15, 2010, investigators searched a vacant house in Spiro, Oklahoma, 35 southwest of Alma, for DNA evidence that Morgan had once been in the house. At the time, the property was vacant, but a former occupant who once rented a mobile-home on the property had recently been convicted of the sexual molestation of a child and was considered a person of interest in Morgan’s disappearance. The search produced nothing relative to Morgan.

Granted permission by the new owner, on December 18, 2017, investigators returned to the house to conduct another search after receiving another tip. This search proved deja vu as no evidence was found suggesting Morgan had ever been there.

The previous occupant, now jailed in Oklahoma for the rape and molestation, remains a person of interest in Morgan’s abduction.

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One year after Morgan’s abduction, Colleen Nick established the Morgan Nick Foundation, a non-profit organization that aims to prevent children from going missing and offers a support system to families who are facing the hardships of a missing child. The foundation has helped bring several children home safely, but its namesake child remains missing.

The state of Arkansas renamed its Amber Alert system after Morgan Nick.

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It is rare, but not unprecedented, that a child is found alive years after being kidnapped by a stranger. The rescues of Elizabeth Smart, Jaycee Dugard, and the Cleveland children Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight give hope, however faint, that Morgan could still be alive and will one day come home.

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Beginning with her establishment of the Morgan Nick Foundation, Colleen Nick has become a crusader in searching for missing children. She relentlessly searches for her daughter, confident her efforts will not be in vain.

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Police say over the years there have been hundreds of reported sightings of Morgan across the country, but none could be confirmed.

At the time of her disappearance, Morgan’s teeth were crowded and she would have needed orthodontic braces in adolescence. Police hope if she were kidnapped to be raised as another person’s child, a worker in the dental field will have recalled doing the procedure.

Morgan Nick would today be 31-years-old.

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Further Reading:
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
• Arkansas Times
Charley Project


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.


Recommended Reading:

For more stories of famous kidnappings check out these books on Amazon today.


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 Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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SIGN UP HERE


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


Synova’s Amazon Author Page


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 Racketeer Restaurateur: Guest Post Thursday

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All Photos courtesy of Guest Blogger

June 16, 1991

Affable. Bright. Caring. Loving. Sensitive. Those words were used by friends and acquaintances to describe Richmond, Virginia, restaurateur Leo Koury.

Manipulative. Vicious. Ruthless. Vengeful. Murderous. Those words were used by business associates and the FBI to describe Leo Koury.

Both descriptions were accurate as Leo Koury was a classic example of a Jekyll and Hyde personality. The devoted church goer and volunteer softball umpire was also an underworld boss and a cold-blooded killer.

For over a dozen years, Leo Koury was one of the most wanted men in America. He eluded detection by living a spartan existence while in hiding, enabling him to never answer for his crimes.

In the mid- 1970s, Leo Koury opened Richmond’s first nightclubs catering to homosexuals. In a time when gays were still frowned upon and could legally be refused service by businesses, Koury saw a great opportunity. His bars were venues where gays could gather and feel comfortable. Koury made a bundle as he was able to charge excessive prices because of his virtual monopoly on the homosexual bars. He became known as the “Godfather of the Gay Community,” and one associate described him as “the Jack Ruby of Richmond.” Koury himself was not gay as he was married with four children.

Rival bars catering to homosexuals soon opened, forcing Koury to lower his prices. The newer establishments were nicer than Koury’s “dives” and soon the patrons were flocking to them. Most of Koury’s bars became ghost towns. Koury, wanting to re-obtain his monopoly, attempted to buy out his competitors. When most would not sell, Leo became lethal, sending armed thugs into the rival clubs to terrorize the patrons. Three people were shot to death and more were injured. Chuck Kernahgan, a bouncer at a rival club, was also believed to have been murdered on Koury’s orders. Koury’s cohorts told investigators Kernaghan was shot to death after being lured to a home on the premise of discussing a business deal. His body was placed in a trunk, weighed down with the bumper from a 1957 Chevy, then dumped into the Rappahannock River. His remains have never been found.

The shootings were investigated as hate crimes until one of the gunmen, Eddie Loehr, was caught trying to kill, on Koury’s orders, rival club owner Jim Hilliard. In exchange for a lesser sentence, Loehr revealed he was a hired gun of Leo Koury. Loehr agreed to wear a wire enabling police and the FBI to gather information and build a case against Koury. After several months, Leo’s laundry list of crimes was exposed.

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With his Hyde side exposed, Richmond’s racketeer restaurateur went into hiding. The week before the indictments, Koury fled, allegedly with over $1 million stuffed into the trunk of his car. On April 20, 1979, he was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.

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Nearly 200 sightings of Koury were reported over the next dozen years. Among the most promising was that he was living the circus life, traveling with the carnivals along the east coast. Others suggested he had gone abroad and was living the good life in South America. Still, others claimed he had fled to Lebanon, from where his father had emigrated and where he had many relatives. None checked out, and as it turned out, the truth was far less glamorous.

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On June 15, 1991, over 12 years after Koury fled, a convenience store clerk known as Bill Biddle was admitted to a San Diego, California, hospital in failing health. The following day, he died of complications following a stroke. The hospital received an anonymous phone call, saying the name Bill Biddle was an alias; the man who had died was Leo Koury. The FBI made a positive identification and, after nearly thirteen years, was able to close the voluminous file on the senior member of its Ten Most Wanted List.

Richmond’s reputed racketeer had been living as a recluse in a small rent-controlled apartment in east San Diego. The Gay Godfather who was believed to have had millions of dollars had been working a minimum-wage part-time job at a convenience store. He did not own a car and he lived a very sheltered life, rarely socializing with anyone. As far as could be determined, “Bill Biddle” lived as Jekyll; the FBI found no evidence of criminal activity by Koury during his years on the lam.

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In the pre-Internet days, the FBI often used billboards in an effort to track down their most wanted.

In 1991, at the time of Leo Koury’s death, the FBI offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to the apprehension of a Ten Most Wanted Fugitive. Today, the minimum rate for a Top Tenner is $100,000.

San Diego County officials believed the county was entitled to the reward, because a county investigator had called the FBI, enabling them to confirm Koury’s identity. The FBI said the reward money applied only to the tips that led to the capture of fugitives, not to those leading to their remains. However, after some negative publicity, the FBI relented and agreed to pay San Diego County the $25,000.

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As a volunteer umpire, Koury worked several charity softball games in which FBI employees played. Jack Colwell, the FBI agent who would later be in charge of tracking Koury, played in one of those games. He described his later prey as an overall good umpire, though he thought Koury’s strike zone was a little too liberal.

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THIS LIST OF LINKS IS NOT AN ALL-ENCOMPASSING SOURCE CITING. ALL OF THE INFORMATION USED IN THIS ARTICLE CAN BE EASILY FOUND ONLINE. LINKS BELOW WERE USED AS SOURCES AND ARE RECOMMENDED READING FOR SYNOVA’S READERS. 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:
New York Times
Richmond Post-Dispatch
Washington Post
WTVR CBS Affiliate Channel 6 Richmond, VA


Recommended Reading:

For more FBI stories check out these books on Amazon today!


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 Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter. You will receive exclusive content directly in your inbox. As a gift for joining you will also receive the Grim Justice ebook free.

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SIGN UP HERE


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


Synova’s Amazon Author Page


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


Missouri Missing – Amanda Jones

Photo courtesy of FBI.com

A pregnant woman nearing her due date vanishes after a surprise meeting with the uninterested father of the unborn child. Although the man was named as a person of interest, he hasn’t been named as a suspect. Who could have taken this mother? Why is this case still unsolved fourteen years later?


August 14, 2005, Amanda Jones from Festus, Missouri, received a call from the man she claimed was the father of her baby. Although he wasn’t interested in a relationship with her, she hoped he would be interested in the child. Up until that point, he had shown no interest in either mother or baby.

It was a humid Sunday morning, and Amanda was on her way to church. She told the man she would meet him at the Hillsboro Civic Center around 1 pm after the Sunday Morning service. After church, Amanda drove her four-year-old daughter to her grandparent’s house. She told them she would be back in two hours and was never seen again.

Around 1:15 pm, Amanda received a phone call on her cell phone and wasn’t heard from again. According to Bryan Westfall, he met with the pregnant woman around 1 pm. They talked for an hour, then she excused herself to go to the restroom, and she never returned. He claimed he went out to his car around 5 pm and seen her sitting in her car.

Why would a pregnant woman sit in a hot car without an air conditioner for three hours?

Although this story is questionable, to say the least, Westfall hasn’t been officially named a suspect. He supposedly cooperated with the initial investigation but won’t talk about it anymore. A preliminary search was conducted on the family farm, but a thorough search needed a warrant. Police are hoping someone will come forward with the evidence they need to obtain the search warrant, but nothing has come in.

The family feels they already know who killed their daughter, but the police need evidence before they can do anything. If you have any information about this case, please contact your local FBI office.


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:

True Crime Daily

KSDK


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.


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 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.

2ndDIYpackage-templates

SIGN UP HERE


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

Synova’s Amazon Author Page


Guest Post Thursday – Mystery of Mel Wiley

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All Photos in this post are courtesy of our wonderful guest blogger Ian Granstra & his True Crime Facebook Group

For seven years, Mel Wiley served the people of Hinckley County, Ohio. After stints with the FBI and Defense Department, Mel joined the Hinckley Township Police Department in 1978 and became police chief in 1982. He was considered a dedicated cop who did his job well. By 1985, however, Mel appeared to tire of clamping the ‘cuffs on criminals. His real passion was putting pen to paper as he longed to be a mystery writer.

Mel told friends and colleagues he had started writing a murder mystery called “Harvest of Madness.” No one knows if he completed his novel because Mel is not here to tell. Instead of writing a great mystery, Police Chief Mel Wiley has been starring in a real-life mystery.

Unlike most of the missing people I have written about, however, Mel Wiley’s disappearance appears to be of his own choosing.

The morning of July 28, 1985, was like any other. Mel entered Hinckley’s K&K Doughnuts and ordered his usual sinkers and coffee. After jokingly grumbling the doughnuts were awful, he went on his way. No one, however, knows where “his way” took him.

Since exiting the doughnut shop that summer day, Mel Wiley seemingly vanished off the face of the Earth.

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That afternoon, Mel’s car was found abandoned on Lake Erie’s Lakefront State Park in Cleveland, 25 miles north of Hinckley. The car was locked and contained most of Mel’s pertinent belongings including his wallet, credit cards, and his police identification badge. A search of the area involving the Hinckley police and surrounding departments turned up no trace of the police chief.

The day before his disappearance, the divorced 47-year-old Mel told his girlfriend he was meeting an out-of-town friend to go swimming at the lake. He made plans for a date with her for the following day.

Authorities initially believed Mel had either drowned in Lake Erie or had been murdered by the unnamed friend. Evidence soon began surfacing… but not on the lake.

Mel’s trial ended in Cleveland, the “Mistake by the Lake.” But investigators believe it is a mistake to believe Mel lay in the lake.

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As he was the police chief, it was naturally wondered if someone Mel had previously arrested had done him in. However, during Mel’s tenure with the police department, the small Hinckley community had experienced few crimes of significance and no instances of major crimes. Investigators could find no one with an obvious motive to have the small-town police chief murdered.

The only person with a motive for Mel Wiley to disappear appeared to be the police chief himself.

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An analysis of the ribbon on Mel’s office typewriter showed he had written a letter, addressed to a friend, saying he was tired of his life and wanted to disappear. Mel said he would be 2,500 miles away by the time his friend received the letter, in which he wrote, “I will have, in one sense of the word, gone away. It’s a one-way trip, so I’m told, with no option of ever returning and perhaps that’s just as well for any and all concerned.” Mel’s friend, however, never received the letter, and it has never been found.

In the early 1960s, while in the military, Mel had been stationed at California’s Fort Ord and developed a love of nearby San Francisco. Investigators found, written in Mel’s handwriting, Greyhound bus schedules from Cleveland to San Francisco, a distance of roughly 2,500 miles.

Perhaps finding nonfiction preferable to fiction, the police chief decided to concoct his own mystery. Friends believe that having grown bored with his job and experiencing the frustrations every writer goes through, Mel said the hell with Hinckley and left his law career for a life of solitude and sanctuary in the city by the bay. As police chief, Mel had access to materials such as fingerprints and social security information which would aid him in assuming another identity. In addition, with his law enforcement background, he would know how to stay off the radar.

No trace of Mel Wiley has been found in the 34 years since his disappearance, nor has any evidence surfaced indicating murder or suicide. He was declared legally dead in 1993. If he is still alive, Mel Wiley would today be 81-years-old.

Is the former police chief living his golden years in splendid isolation from society? Perhaps, Mel, will one day return to write the final chapter to his own mystery. More likely, though, the former police chief will leave us to ponder the fate of the long-gone lawman.

If you believe you have any information related to the disappearance of Mel Wiley, please contact the Medina, Ohio, County Sheriff’s Department at 330-725-9116.

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If you happen to come across this post, Mel, shoot me a message. I would like to read “Harvest of Madness” if you have completed it, but even more, I would be interested in a Wiley lawman’s opinions on my writings, including in your own case.

Every mystery deserves a good ending, Mel. I would love, if you would give me the privilege, to write the conclusion to the tail of “The Long Gone Lawman”… on your terms and conditions of course.🧐

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

Akron Beacon Journal
The Huff Post
The Charley Project


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.


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.”)

Recommended Reading: 


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 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.

2ndDIYpackage-templates

SIGN UP HERE


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

Synova’s Amazon Author Page


Dana Bruce – A Mother Taken

Photo courtesy of Sedalia Democrat

She was a disabled single mother snatched from her children and family, first by him, then by drugs, and finally physically. What happened to Dana Bruce from Sedalia, Missouri?


October 4, 2008, a single mother broke away from her typical pattern and decided to take a night off. She leaves her toddlers at a babysitter’s house and goes out for a much-needed break. Dana Bruce, 23, was a devoted mom. She had no hobbies and no significant social life. Her life quite literally revolved around her two children.


Dana was once a fun-loving, somewhat mischevious teenager, but once she was introduced to Nathan Dotson, her life changed. She became a mother, and she was introduced to a drug-filled world. While Dana was disabled with multiple learning disabilities and blind in one eye, she had two little people who loved her unconditionally. Those two babies meant the world to her, and they were always with her.


Her relationship with the babies’ father was abusive and complicated, so Dana eventually ended up getting herself an apartment. Alienated from her family and many of her friends, Dana, became a target. Who targeted her? Eleven years later, we aren’t sure. Someone took the 98-lb woman, and she was never seen again.


September 2008, Dana broke down and called her stepmom, Rebecca. Although they weren’t blood-related, no one called her a step-mother. Everyone knew Dana as Rebecca’s daughter. Dana and her mother had lost touch a bit after Dana met Nathan, but she knew she could call mom if she got into trouble. That is exactly where she found herself in September. Her disability check had been stolen. She was out of diapers, her ex had broken her apartment window, and now she was being evicted. The worried mother had no idea that ten days later, her sweet Dana would disappear forever.

Public Timeline: October 4, 2008

  • Dana leaves her children at a babysitter’s house and heads out for a few drinks
  • She is seen leaving Malone’s Night Club around 11:30 pm
  • She leaves with a man in a RED Ford F-150
  • Dana stops by the babysitter’s house and asks if the kids can stay the night. She pays the sitter the extra fees and leaves with the man in the red truck
  • She is never seen again

Dana was seen with a man named Joe Rich from Atlanta, Georgia, at one point during the evening. He would become a “person of interest” after her disappearance. Police would even travel to Atlanta to question him, but nothing ever came of it. It was later revealed that Rich drove a WHITE truck. He claims he parted ways with her BEFORE she returned to Malone’s.

The rumor mill claimed she was with two local boys, and one was driving a borrowed red truck. Although law enforcement has followed dozens of leads, it seems they are no closer to solving this case than they were back in 2008. The rumor mill in the rural town has produced a horrific tale surrounding this mother, however.

Theory:

Dana Bruce was supposedly at a woman’s house with several other individuals. She had a few drinks with people she thought were her friends. A group of guys came in and shot her up with drugs inadvertently overdosing her. In a panic, they rolled her up in a carpet and threw her out by the road to die.

Although this is a very plausible story, family and law enforcement officials haven’t been able to find this poor woman. Where is Dana? All she wanted was to fit in and to be loved. Was she taken by drugs and then disposed of by people she thought cared about her?



Missing in Missouri is a podcast produced by a husband and wife team. They are from St. Louis County, MO and they are doing a great job digging into this case. I highly recommend everyone to listen to this podcast series if you’re interested in the case of Dana Bruce’s disappearance. Keep up the good work Zack & Morgan!

Listen to the series of podcasts here:

Missing In Missouri Podcast on Podbean


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.


Further Information:

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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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Every year Synova compiles the most popular blog post from the previous year into a case files book. In 2018, Synova Ink was filled with serial killer cases, cold cases, famous cases, and many obscure unsolved missing persons’ cases. Don’t miss this one. 

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Snatched From Her Lover’s Grasp – The Angela Hammond Story

angela hammond

She was kidnapped while on a pay phone talking to her boyfriend. Jumping in his truck and tearing down the street towards the payphone, Rob sees Angela in the kidnapper’s truck. Dropping a U-turn in the middle of the road the hero tries to chase down the kidnapper, but tragically this story is still looking for it’s happy ending 28 years later.


The disappearance of Angela Hammond, 20 has tormented Rob Shafer for nearly three decades. In April 1991 Shafer was a high school senior engaged to the beautiful Angie Hammond. She was four months pregnant and they were both looking forward to their life together. Both the Shafer’s and the Hammond’s families were eagerly awaiting the marriage and the birth of the new grandbaby. Life was going to be great.


Reality struck hard, however, on the night of April 4, 1991. Angie and Rob spent the evening at a BBQ before Rob had to return home to babysit his younger brother. The couple planned on meeting up again later. Angie promised she would call in an hour and left Rob on his doorstep. Back in the day before cell phones, Angie would call her fiancé from a local payphone. Today with all the crime shows on TV, no woman in her right mind would be alone at 11 pm talking on a payphone, but things were different in the rural town of Clinton, Missouri.


The entire community population was less than 8,000 people. Most were farmers, factory workers, or owned a small local business. Teenagers would cruise around the town square for fun and hang out in the parking lots of the local grocery store. The police station was only two blocks away and violent crime was unheard of. This naïve environment would be shattered before Angie and Rob’s phone call was completed.


Standing in the grocery store parking lot, the 20-yr-old Angie was chatting with her fiancé. She mentioned to Rob that a strange truck kept circling around the square. It was a late 60’s early 70’s model Ford F-150. Being a native of Clinton, she knew most of the vehicles that usually cruised the square. Neither caller thought much about it and their conversation continued. Angie stated that she was getting tired and decided to go on home instead of waiting around for Rob. Moments later Angie described the strange man that emerged from the two-toned truck. She said he was a dirty looking old white guy with a white beard and mustache. He had used the phone next to her and then returned to his truck, but he didn’t leave. This made Angie nervous. Suddenly the man returned, and Rob hears Angie scream. Dropping the phone in a panic, Rob runs out to his car and barrels down the road the seven blocks to the payphone. As he approaches the scene the old Ford pickup passes him on the road. Angie screams “Robbie” and Rob shoves his car into reverse and spins around in the road to give chase.


The hero saves the girl, beats down the bad guy, the police come and arrest the kidnapper, and everyone lives happily ever after, right? No. Reality is grim, and those sudden spins you see cars do in the movies are not real. When poor Robbie slammed his car into reverse and spun, it also destroyed the car’s transmission. The older model car gave chase for about two miles but died in the middle of the street. Robert Shafer was left to watch the truck disappear down the dark rural lane. Helpless and alone he made his way back to the police station to report what happened.


It is here that Rob discovered the sad truth about an inexperienced police department. With the low crime rate, the police had little experience dealing with violent crime. This would stall the process, but the case went forward. Of course, Rob was the first suspect, but after a week-long investigation, he was cleared. They ran checks on all the trucks in the area that might fit the description, but that too came to no conclusion. Rob was able to add to the truck’s description the fact that it had a window decal covering the back glass. The decal was of a fish jumping out of the water. Still, with this added info the truck seemed to vanish into the night.
Rob gave details to the police sketch artist about the truck’s driver. This is where details seem to differ from Angie’s description over the phone. This discrepancy caused some people to look narrowly at Rob, but investigators came to a different conclusion. Below is pictured the composite sketch of the driver as remembered by Rob.

angela_marie_hammond_10

You can clearly see that this man does not have a white beard and mustache. I would argue that the facial hair was fake. I will give you my theories later.


Almost immediately after Rob Shafer was ruled out as a suspect, the officials began to try to link this disappearance with two other missing women from Missouri. One woman was Trudy Darby from Macks Creek, Missouri. Darby worked at a local convenience store. On January 19, 1991, she had been robbed, kidnapped, and murdered. Her body was discovered two days later.


The second woman was Cheryl Ann Kenney. Like Darby, Kenney was robbed, kidnapped, and presumed murdered, but her body hasn’t been found as of this writing. Kenney was kidnapped from Nevada, Missouri.
Now it’s time for a geography lesson. It is 69 miles from Clinton, MO to Macks Creek, and 74 miles from Clinton to Nevada, MO. If you were to plot out a giant triangle on a Missouri roadmap the final side would be 83 miles from Macks Creek to Clinton. Although these aren’t great distances to travel, the way in which these crimes took place it makes me think they are not connected.

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

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

angela_marie_hammond_10
mcduff003a

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

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

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


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.


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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.


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

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SIGN UP HERE


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

Synova’s Amazon Author Page


Shattered: behind every story is a shattered life

Every year Synova compiles the most popular blog post from the previous year into a case files book. In 2018, Synova Ink was filled with serial killer cases, cold cases, famous cases, and many obscure unsolved missing persons’ cases. Don’t miss this one. 

Order your copy of Synova’s New Casefiles book HERE!


Synova’s Swag Store is now open check out her new merchandise by clicking on the Shop! link at the top of this page!

Come Quick!