DIXIE MAFIA TALES – KILLER CHARLES “RUSS” HAMILTON – GUEST BLOG


I grew up in McNairy County, Tennessee, the home of Sheriff Buford Pusser of “Walking Tall” fame. Stories about Pusser and the Stateline Mob were as common to me as talking about my cousin who lived down the road. I fondly remember sitting on the sun-bleached, rain weathered front porch of my Grandparent’s log house and soaking in tales of mystery, intrigue, and murder. 

Maybe these were not the best choices of stories for young ears, but they are a part of my heritage and a part of me. I learned the chemical compositions that can dissolve a body by hearing about a man who killed his wife, put her body in an abandoned well and poured lye on it, so it would quickly dissolve. Bribery and bootleg whiskey was always a common topic. 

One tale, however, always stood out. In Chewalla, Tennessee, a neighboring town, there lived a man, who by today’s terminology, would be considered a serial killer. Russ Hamilton would meet his demise in 1968, in a Christmas Day shootout with Sheriff Pusser. This was two years before my birth, and certainly not a “hot” news story by the time I was listening to front porch storytelling. In fact, I never had a name to attach to the horrific tale of how he murdered one of his wives until I was an adult and began researching for my writing. As a child, my Grandfather would recount how in 1940, Russ tortured and killed Grace Burns, his “wife” (no one can confirm if they were, indeed, legally married), tied her up in the woods and left her to die. Body parts were strewn by animals through the woods, ultimately leading to her body being found. Other versions of the story state that he had dismembered her. At any rate, it was quite a lot for a child’s imagination. 

This is where the story takes a sharp left turn, not in the details of the horrific murder, but rather in learning how close a connection my Grandfather had to this man! They were “running buddies”! Grandpa, who had long passed when I began my research, is quoted as often saying that Russ, “…was the nicest man you would ever want to meet unless he had been drinking.” That seems to ring true, when you look at his life history, although I am not certain that bootleg whiskey, alone, was the catalyst for his callousness and evil temper. 

No one knows exactly when Russ started killing. It seems that he was an odd child and possessed the stereotypical serial killer characteristic of torturing and killing helpless animals. Family members, transients and lovers suffered unusual and untimely deaths or simply disappeared. The first documented murder was in 1931 when he killed Deputy John York in Chewalla, Tennessee. In 1933, he went to the Tennessee State Penitentiary for that killing but was paroled and pardoned in 1938. 

In late August/early September of 1940, he brutally tortured and murdered his wife, Grace, for which he would negotiate a plea deal of 2nd Degree murder with a ten-year sentence. However, he was paroled on June 29, 1948. In January 1951, his mother, Ben Ella Hamilton, was found dead and although he was never charged, it is commonly held that Russ 

killed her. While being questioned about her death, he was found to be in violation of parole and did go back to prison. (Maybe a measure of justice there.) He was paroled, again, on January 1, 1953, but was arrested for assault and battery, less than two months later and returned to prison until June of that year, when he was finally discharged. 

Russ tended to bounce between the McNairy County, Tennessee area and Lauderdale County, Alabama and it was there, in October of 1960, that he killed a co-worker, John G. Grossheim. He was found guilty of 2nd Degree murder and sentenced to 40 years to life. However, he was granted a new trial in 1963 and the jury returned a verdict of 1st Degree manslaughter with a ten-year sentence.

He was released in February of 1967 and went to live with a cousin, Don Pipkin, in Selmer, Tennessee, who owned a small apartment that Russ would rent for $20 a month. On Christmas Day, 1968, one of Russ’ drunken rampages would end his life. He fell through a plate glass window during a Christmas celebration and when Don took him home, he became belligerent and drew a gun on him. Don retreated and called the law. When Sheriff Buford Pusser arrived at the front door and announced himself, Russ started firing as he came through the door. Sheriff Pusser was wounded but returned fire and shot Russ right between the eyes. A lifetime of killing was brought to an end by one bullet. 


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The Blood Pact

ReganPoster

October 2014 – Iron River, Michigan
Chris Regan was finally breaking free from the little crime-ridden town of Iron River. Nestled amongst the vast forest lands and scenic lakes, it looked like a perfect place for an outdoors enthusiast like Regan. He worked at a local manufacturing company and there he met Kelly Cochran. After a while, the two would hook up at his apartment after work. Friends say he wasn’t “dating” Cochran and it was more about sex. They never ventured beyond Regan’s place. Small town gossip could be problematic, especially when Cochran was a married woman.

Chris Regan was an Air Force veteran with a weak knee. His job required him to stand all day and it was beginning to take a toll on his injury. In October, Chris landed a job in Ashville, North Carolina. He put in his two-week notice at work and was preparing to move. He was finally breaking out of this small town, but he wouldn’t escape. Regan had stepped into the grasp of a sadistic predator.

Just before leaving the state, Kelly Cochran invites Regan to meet at her house. He hadn’t been there before, so he had to jot down directions to find the place. Investigators would find this note in Regan’s abandoned vehicle a few days later. Before meeting up with Kelly, Regan made plans with a friend to have dinner on Saturday night. This friend would eventually be the one to file a missing person’s report when Chris Regan disappeared.

The rumor mill supplied investigators with the name of Chris Regan’s lover and investigators immediately visited the Cochran home. They note the strange behaviors of both Kelly Cochran and her husband Jason and proceed to request a search warrant for the home. Before this could be done, the Cochran couple left town leaving most of their possessions in the house. The house was a disastrous mess, but amazingly there weren’t many clues. If Chris Regan was murdered in that house, there wasn’t much left to go on.
While Iron River Investigators struggled to find the evidence needed to tie Kelly and Jason to the murder of Chris Regan, the Cochran couple were living in Hobart Indiana.

Two years would pass, and it looked like the case wouldn’t be solved, but then Iron River Investigators hear the news that would ultimately solve their own case. Kelly Cochran had been arrested in Indiana for killing her husband. That’s right. She murdered her husband by giving him an overdose of heroin and then suffocating him. She confessed to everything during a 70-hr interview with the Indiana police.

“I hated my husband because he took the best thing in my life,” Kelly told investigators. “It was revenge for Chris Regan.”

During the interview, the gruesome details of Chris Regan’s murder were discovered. Kelly had lured Chris to her house for sex and lasagna. After having sex with him, she walks him to the stairwell and positions him perfectly at the top. There Jason Cochran ambushed Regan shooting him in the back of the head with a long barreled .22 rifle. The couple pulled Regan’s lifeless body to the basement where everything had been covered in plastic. There they took an electric saw and mutilated the body and stuffed it into trash bags. They shoved Chris Regan into the trunk of his own car and drove him out to the woods and scattered his remains before leaving his car at a local Park & Ride.
If all of that weren’t bad enough, here is where the story takes a hideous turn. Years earlier Kelly and Jason had taken a blood oath. If either one of them had an affair, they were required to kill the lover. To make matters even worse, it would come out in a jailhouse phone call that Kelly may have killed 9 – 20 more men across four states over the years. These names haven’t been released to the public. If all of that wasn’t enough to make you sick to your stomach, one other tidbit would come out in Investigation Discovery’s new docu-series “Dead North.”
The Cochran couple hosted a neighborhood BBQ a few days after Chris Regan’s disappearance and some of the burgers didn’t come from a cow. For more information on this case check out the ID Channel’s docuseries “Dead North.”

When Rumors Destroy Cold Cases – The Jennifer Harris Story

Jennifer+Harris

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

 

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

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

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

Missing 26 years – no answers

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

On the night of June 6, 1992, it held three women just beginning new chapters in their lives. Sherrill Levitt, 47 was a newly divorced cosmetologist who was looking forward to starting a new life. Susie Streeter, Levitt’s daughter was a 19-yr-old newly graduated senior. Staying with them for the night was Susie’s friend Stacy McCall,18. Saturday had been a whirlwind day. The two teenagers had attended all the graduation breakfasts, dinners, and events before attending the official ceremony. After graduation, the two attended several parties with various classmates and planned to meet up with a group the next day. Together they would travel south to Branson and spend the day at White Water and Silver Dollar City.The last official sighting of Suzie and Stacy was around 2 am on June 7, 1992, when they left the house of Janelle Kirby. They promised to call Kirby when they woke the next morning, but the call never came. Back in the days before cell phones, Kirby and her boyfriend called the house but got the answering machine. They decided to drop in on the three women and see what happened. When they arrived they noticed all three women’s vehicles were parked in the driveway, so they assumed they were still there. Kirby knocks on the door but no one answers. The boyfriend notices the glass globe covering the porch light had been busted and lay shattered on the front porch. Without thinking he picks up a broom and cleans up the mess. Finding the door unlocked the two teenagers enter the house, but it is empty. The beds look like they were slept in, nothing was missing, and the women’s personal belongings were all accounted for. Strangely, the women’s purses were all lined up in a neat little row, but Sherrill’s still contained $900 and her cigarettes. The front room television was on, but turned to a channel that was nothing but “snow.” The teens turned to leave thinking the women must have stepped out and would return shortly. Before they closed the door the telephone rang. Kirby picks up the phone only to find a man’s voice making sexual innuendos. Aggravated, she hangs up, but the phone rings yet again before she could get out the front door. It was the same caller. The two teens continue on to Branson thinking they will meet up with the girls down there. They would never see their friends again.Several hours later, frustrated by her teenager’s lack of communication, Janis McCall drops by the little house on Delmar street looking for her daughter, Stacy. It would be Janis that calls the police to report the three women missing. Here is the most frustrating part of this case. The police don’t make it to the house until the next morning leaving the house unguarded for over 24 hours. It is estimated that at least ten friends and family members had trampled through the house before investigators arrived to secure the crime scene. Some friends even admitted to “picking up the place.” No one believed that three women secure in their home could just disappear. Surely they would return and this would all be cleared up soon. Unfortunately, that was not the case.After the missing person’s investigation began to take shape in the local news, an elderly woman came forward with a tip. She always sat on her front porch in the mornings and noticed an older model van pull into her driveway in the early morning hours of June 7th. A young blond woman was driving and looked stressed. She heard a man’s voice speak to the young woman from the back seat in a harsh tone. He said something along the lines of, “back out slowly if you know what’s good for you.” When the investigators showed the witness a photo lineup, she picked out Susie Streeter as the driver. All of this took place only a couple blocks from the Delmar house. Police immediately follow the clues trying to find this light green van. The woman said it looked like a late 1960’s to an early 1970’s model. Tips began to pour in about the van sighting. Investigators said at one point the suspected van had been every color of the rainbow. How could they tell which tip was credible and which tip was not? It didn’t matter. The police doggedly followed every semi-credible lead in hopes of solving this unbelievable case. Up until this case, Springfield was viewed as a safe community. Nobody locked their doors. Children played in the streets and walked to school alone in the mornings. No one wanted to believe this could happen in their town. Now the entire city reeled at the news.Without any physical clues at the crime scene, police began their investigation by digging into the backgrounds of the three women. Sherrill Levitt had just gone through a divorce and had recently purchased the home on Delmar Street. Could the ex-husband be a suspect? The police investigated him thoroughly and quickly ruled him out. Also, Levitt had an older son named Bart. He was nine years older than Susie and had a falling out with his mother recently. Bart also had a drinking problem. Could he be a suspect? Police quickly rule him out as well, but this wasn’t the end of the possible suspects connected to Susie Streeter. Streeter had recently broken up with a boy named Dustin Recla. Recla and his two friends, Michael Clay and Joseph Riedel had been in trouble with the law recently. Recla and his friends had been arrested for vandalizing a mausoleum at a local cemetery. They broke into the above ground grave, tore open several caskets, rummaged about the corpses and stole jewelry and gold teeth. It was said that they even stole a few skulls.Now it takes a sick individual to desecrate a grave, disrespect a corpse, handle human remains, and tear out their teeth. It is said that Susie Streeter found out and was going to be a witness against them. Could these teenage boys be capable of kidnapping the three women? Possibly.During a police interview, Michael Clay said he wished they were all dead. This was after they had been missing for quite awhile, so he couldn’t claim a lack of knowledge of this case. Despite this and the inability to verify the boy’s alibi, there isn’t any firm connection between the three missing women and the teenage boys. They remain suspects in this case to this day. Ok, so surely this is the end of this wild tale. Nope.This investigation has dug up several monsters that were hiding in the Springfield area in 1992. I will give you a short list and will highlight their particular crimes at a later date.Robert Craig Cox:
– Convicted kidnapper, murder suspect, living in the area at this time
– Worked at car dealership with Stacy McCall’s father
– Known to target teenage girls
– Made claims in a Texas prison that he knew what happened to the Springfield ThreeLarry Dewayne Hall & Gary Hall:
– Twin brothers that traveled around the country doing Civil War Reenactments, known serial killers
– Larry claims his brother Gary was stalking one of the teens that nightGerald Carnahan:
– Convicted killer of teenage girls
– Recently convicted of a 20-yr-old cold case through DNA evidenceSteven Eugene Garrison:
– Kidnapped, raped and tortured 20-yr-old college student in Springfield around the same time as this case
– Claimed his “friend” confessed to killing the missing women during a night of binge drinkingMore conjecture:
While all of these men could be viable suspects, there isn’t enough evidence to convict any of them at this point and this case remains as cold as the Arctic Circle. Theories, rumors, and even psychic revelations have sensationalized this case to the point where it is hard to distinguish facts from folklore. Psychics claim they are buried under the parking lot of a nearby hospital. Some claim the girls witnessed a drug deal during their night of partying and they were killed as a result. Others claim they are buried in the Mark Twain National Forrest, or in Arkansas. I get letters from people with all sorts of theories. I reviewed one such letter today. I hope someday a viable lead will turn up in this case and give the victims’ family some answers. As a native of this area, I know this case affected me growing up. When I went to start looking at wedding dresses for my wedding, I went to the McCall’s Bridal shop. It had been five years after the disappearance, but the first thing I saw as we walked in was the yellow poster pictured above this post. It changed this entire area. It changed me. As always, if you have any information regarding this case please contact the Springfield Police Department at (417) 864-1810.


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.


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The Misidentified Serial Killer

cleophus cooksey jr

Photo courtesy of Arizona Police Department

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

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

victims of cleophus cooksey jr

Photo courtesy of Arizona Police Department

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

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

December 13, 2017:
Latorrie Beckford, 29 was killed

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

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

Synova’s Rantings:

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

 

Missouri’s Madame Murderer

Missouri’s Madame Murderer

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

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

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

 

The Phantom Assassin

I-70sketches
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48155940

Is there such a thing as the perfect crime? The Golden State Killer got away with murder but was still caught 44 years later. But what happens when there isn’t any DNA to link the killer to the icy cold case?


This is what happened in the 26-year-old cold case of the I-70 serial killer. Many people confuse this case with the I-70 Strangler, but that guy was caught. His name was Herb Baumeister, and he targeted gay men.

 This case is strange in the fact that the killer walked into a store, shot his weapon, and walked right back out, leaving behind shell casings and the body of a petite brunette. That’s all. There weren’t any sexual assaults to leave DNA. He didn’t torture his victims. He simply wanted to kill.


April 8, 1992:


A 26-yr-old brunette woman opened the Payless Shoe Source shoe store in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her name was Robin Fuldauer. Register receipts show that sometime between 1:30 pm and 2 pm, a man walked into the store and shot Robin in the back of the head with a .22. A customer walks in around 2 pm and finds the place empty and calls the police. She hadn’t noticed Robin’s body face down in the back room. Strangely only a few dollars was stolen from the cash register. Police wonder if this was a botched robbery attempt. That theory would be dropped quickly when the Phantom Assassin found his next target.

April 11, 1992:

 Three days later & 700 miles east along I-70, the killer strikes again. This time there were two victims. Both women are petite with shoulder-length brown hair. They were busy closing the bridal shop and were waiting for a late customer to arrive.


Pat Majors and Patricia Smith had already shut off the lights and locked the door when a man knocked on the front glass. Patricia Smith unlocked the door with the customer’s order in hand. He had already paid, so she expected to hand it out the door. Instead, she was pushed inside and ordered to the back by the Phantom Assassin. The two women were quickly shot in the head, but before the killer could leave the customer showed up


The gunman tried to force the man into the back room, but instead, the witness entered a dialog with the killer. Somehow he was able to persuade the killer to let him go. The witness fled the scene and called the police. They arrived on site, not knowing what to expect. The two women were quickly found in the back room. One was declared dead at the scene, and the other died later in the hospital. The only clues left behind were the shell casings and the witness description. Surely that would be enough to catch the guy. Right? Wrong.

April 27, 1992:

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

May 3, 1992:

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

May 7, 1992:

 Four days later, the killer shoots Sarah Blessing in Raytown, Missouri. This time there were two witnesses. The suspect walked down the sidewalk looking in the windows and caught the gaze of a young man in an electronics store. The witness noticed the man was wearing a large, heavy coat and thought it was odd in the warm weather. A few moments later, the witness heard a loud pop next door. When he peered out the door, he saw the stranger calmly walking down the sidewalk in the opposite direction. The man ran next door to find Sarah had been shot. She died on the scene.

 A grocery store employee was out gathering shopping carts from the parking lot and noticed the suspect climbing the slight embankment towards I-70. Both witnesses gave the same descriptions that the police had heard before. He was a white man in his late 20’s – mid 30’s. He was small around 5’9” – 5’10” with sandy blondish hair. Some recall his hair having a dull red tint.

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

September 25, 1993:

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

November 1, 1993:

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

January 15, 1994:

 Vicki Webb was shot by an unknown killer while she worked alone in a Houston gift shop. A spinal abnormality caused the bullet to ricochet off the vertebrae and lodge in her head. The bullet paralyzed her but didn’t kill her. At that moment, she made a decision that would save her life. She chose to play dead. Webb could hear him rummaging through the cash register, and then he returned to her. He rolled her over and looked at her for a moment. Then he pressed the barrel to her forehead and pulled the trigger. The gun misfired. Almost as an afterthought, he pulled her pants down to her ankles and walked out of the store. Was he not buying her act? Was he planning to assault her sexually and was scared off by something? In later interviews, Webb said she really didn’t think he was aroused by pulling off her pants. It was almost as a last-minute idea. Maybe he was trying to throw off the cops, or maybe his MO was changing. Was he becoming a sexual predator?

 Vicki Webb lived, and after many surgeries and countless hours of physical therapy, she was able to walk again. She lived in fear that he would return to finish the job, and for decades, she kept her face out of the newspapers. It wasn’t until an episode of Dark Minds that she allowed an interview. She claims she wants to see her attacker in court to show him that she won. I hope she gets the chance.

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

Location:

 – All the hits were within easy access to a major interstate highway providing an easy escape

 – All the targets were working alone in a small storefront type store

Victims:

 – All the victims were shot execution-style in the back of the head

 – No torture

 – No sexual assault

 – No major reconnaissance beforehand

Weapon: Here is where some investigators question the connection.

 – The I-70 killer used a different .22 than the I-35 killer used

My explanations:

 During the 16-month hiatus, there was a big media blitz. My theory is that he saw something on the news that scared him. So he changed weapons and location.

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

wanted pic

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Further Reading:

Wikipedia

Unsolved Mysteries

Courier Press

Inside Hook


This week’s Recommended Reading:


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I-70sketches

Golden State Killer Caught after Four Decades

golden state killer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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