He Almost Got Away With Murder!

Guest Blogger’s FB True Crime Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/631752367223887/

The Murder of Brenda Bowen He lived life on the run for four years and almost got away with murder! He stole the identities of homeless men and burnt the fingerprints off his fingers with acid trying to avoid the law.

Guest Blog Post: https://mytruecrimestories.com/2021/08/03/bowen-on-the-river-the-murder-of-brenda-bowen/

Silenced by the Dixie Mafia – Part 1: Buford Pusser Story


Photo courtesy Wikipedia: fair use

The movie Walking Tall tells the Hollywood version of the real-life story of Sherriff Buford Pusser’s war with the Dixie Mafia. A two-hour film cannot possibly explain the entire story, nor can it relate the stories of all the secondary characters. Unfortunately, the story of murder, betrayal, and cover-ups didn’t end with the death of Sherriff Pusser. I will try to relate this massive tale to you, but it may take more than one post.

The Dixie Mafia was known as the State Line Mob and was led by Carl Douglas “Towhead” White. White was in prison when his lover, Louise Hathcock pulled a gun on Sherriff Pusser and was killed. Upon hearing the news, White called his friend Kirksey Nix, Jr and ordered the hit on Sherriff Pusser and his wife, Pauline.

August 12, 1967:
Sherriff Pusser received a disturbance call in the wee hours before dawn. Pauline Pusser decided to ride along with her husband as she had done on many occasions. The pair drove out to New Hope Road to check it out. The disturbance was a ruse to ambush the young sheriff and his wife.
Pusser passed the New Hope Methodist church looking for the reported disturbance but continued driving when he found the place quiet. A black Cadillac pulled out from behind the church and followed the sheriff with its lights off. As the two cars reached a narrow bridge, the Cadillac flashed on its headlights and came racing up beside the officer’s car.
The Cadillac’s passenger opened fire hitting Pauline in the head. The sheriff ducked stepped on the gas. The engine roared to life, and the car lurched ahead of the assassins. He sped up the road a couple of miles until he was sure he had lost his tail, and then pulled over to check on Pauline. Moments later the assassins again found their mark and gunshots rang out hitting Sherriff Pusser in the face and jaw blowing it apart. Somehow the sheriff would survive the attack, but Pauline was killed.
At first, Pusser declared he knew precisely who was responsible and named Towhead White, George McGann, Gary McDaniel, and Kirksey Nix. After 18 days in the hospital and a dozen surgeries to repair his face, Pusser declared he couldn’t tell who had shot him.

Was it the trauma that caused his amnesia or was the hard-nosed police officer going to exact his own revenge?

Time would witness the deaths of three of the conspirators, but Kirksey Nix would remain on the loose. Legends would be told about the great Buford Pusser, but the story didn’t end with his death in a 1974 car wreck. Kirksey Nix continued and became the head of the Dixie Mafia. By 1987, Nix would be embroiled in another major hit.

Here is where the side stories start creeping into this case. The Dixie Mafia and the State Line Mob were prevalent in the area due to the payoffs of local officials and the coverups by local police departments. This allowed the mob to rule without much interference. Although a few shady officers corrupted the police departments, other lawmen were threatened into silence. At this point in the story, I would like to interject one officer named Lieutenant Dan Anderson of the Harrison County Sherriff’s Department.
Six weeks after the ambush of Sherriff Pusser on New Hope Rd, Lt. Dan Anderson’s son, Ronnie Anderson was shot and killed in his apartment. The case was immediately ruled suicide despite massive evidence to the contrary.

What happened to this 17-yr-old polo victim in leg braces?

What kind of threat could he really have been?

I will dive deeper into the case of Ronald Anderson next week and follow up with the murder of his father, Dan. Along the way, we will highlight the nationally publicized case of the slaying of Judge Sherry and his wife. All these bizarre murders are tied together with a delicate string. That string is the Dixie Mafia. Find out more next week when this cold case story continues.

FBI vs Hazel Head – Guest Post Thursday

Guest Post by: Ian Granstra

In 1991, Head fled Lincoln, Nebraska, after she was charged with burning down her former boyfriend’s mobile home. Seven years later, she was believed to have shot another boyfriend to death and absconding with his money.

Unfortunately, one more alliterative label can be placed on Hazel Head; she has proven to be street smart. The wandering woman’s nomadic lifestyle has enabled her to stay one step ahead of the law for nearly three decades. An investigator descried the vagabond as “nearly impossible to track.”

Charles Barker was devastated when his wife was of ten years was killed by a drunk driver. After a couple of months of mourning, however, he snapped out of his funk and again began doing what he enjoyed: hunting, fishing and traveling. When the 69-year-old retired Benton, Louisiana, truck driver received a large insurance settlement from his wife’s death, he decided to use the money for a little fun. Charles began frequenting area casinos where he would forget about life for a while.

Charles was coming out of his shell, but he was still lacking one thing which he desired: companionship. He was ecstatic when a bubbly, younger woman engaged him in conversation at the Red River Casino.

The woman introduced herself as Deianna Ray and Charles was immediately smitten. The encounter at the casino led to a whirlwind romance and less than a year after losing his wife, Charles moved Deianna into his home.

Deianna Ray’s real name, however, was Hazel Head, and she was wanted in Nebraska for the arson seven years earlier.

Charles Barker, the lonely and vulnerable widower, had caught Hazel’s Head’s eye; the large amounts of cash he flaunted at the casino had turned Hazel’s literal head. Hazel Head, alias Deianna Ray, had latched onto her next prey.

Charles thought he had hit the jackpot at the casino; instead, he would soon be robbed of his money… and his life.   

After living together for only a couple of months, Charles confided in his two adult daughters that he and “Deianna” were having problems, but he did not elaborate.

In August of 1998, Charles’ daughter Jennifer Spoonts grew concerned after being unable to get a hold of her father for over a week. Jennifer lived nine hours away in Austin, Texas, and asked her aunt June, Charles’s sister, who lived in the area, to check on him. When June and her husband arrived at Charles’ home on September 2, they found him slumped over the bar of his home with dried blood on the back of his head.

Police believed Charles had been killed by a single bullet to the back of his head as he was reading the newspaper. He had been dead for at least five days. No signs of a struggle were found in the home, leading police to believe he probably had not seen the attack coming and had no chance to react.

Ballistic tests determined the shot came from Charles’ own gun, which he kept in a safe in his bedroom. Police found the safe open and all of the money, believed to be approximately $45,000, missing.

Also missing was Deianna Ray.

Police soon identified Deianna Ray as Hazel Head and learned she had operated several similar scams across the country of befriending men then swindling them. This was the first instance, however, in which Head is believed to have put a bullet in one of her lovers’ heads.

The following day, Charles’s car was found near the Shreveport airport, 15 miles from his home. Inside, investigators found pieces of clothing belonging to Head, as well as physical evidence, including DNA, linking her to the car.

Hazel Head was charged with first-degree murder. She, however, had nearly a week’s head start, which, for her, was an eternity.

Head is known to have robbed large amounts of money from several men and likely has committed other scams that have not been reported due to victim embarrassment. The Lethal Lady often lures her male victims by taking out personal ads in newspapers and lounging at truck stops.

Hazel Head is the typical “lot lizard” with one exception: she can be lethal. Because most truck companies have policies against picking up hitchhikers, police believe many truckers have not reported giving her rides.

For many years, Head was believed to be prostituting herself for rides and money, but the practice may no longer be as lucrative as she has aged.

Hazel Leota Head is now 69-years-old, the same age as Charles Barker when he was murdered. She has used at least a dozen different aliases and is believed to have married at least ten times.

The last confirmed sighting of Head was in December of 1998, at a truck stop near Wheat Ridge, Colorado, where she applied for a job as a waitress. She did not get the job, but she did get out of the town before authorities could nab her.

Over the years, sightings of Head have been reported in all 48 contiguous states. Police have never been able to locate a domiciled address for the fugitive, and it is possible she has not had one in her adult life.

Hazel Head is still singing hooray as she remains in hiding. Authorities are confident, however, there is a time a-comin’ when they’ll be able to say… they got Head.

If you believe you have any information on the whereabouts of Hazel Head, please contact your nearest FBI office or the Benton, Louisiana Police Department at 318-965-0579.

Charles Barker’s daughter, Cindy Barker Jefferson, is a member of Ian’s FB group. She believes another person aided Hazel Head in the murder of her father and that this person was not thoroughly investigated by the police.

Cindy also says she was told that Head, using an alias, was arrested in Oregon for public intoxication approximately seven years ago. She was released, however, before the police learned her true identity.


Further Reading:


Unsoved Mysteries


More About Our Wonderful Guest Blogger:

Ian Granstra

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: This Week’s True Crime Best Seller On Amazon

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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. Hurry the pre-order sale ends October 31st!

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Come Quick!

Vanished in Vegas – Amanda Lee Fravel Disappearance

fravel_amanda4 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



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.




“I killed the wrong Sharon Jones” – A Murderer’s Phone call


On the day of the funeral, a grieving sister received the worst of phone calls.

“I’m sorry. I killed the wrong Sharon Jones,” the caller hung up before she could get more information. What happened to the ECSU student in dorm room #125 on March 4, 1984? How did she end up strangled with a belt and tied to her own bedpost? Almost four decades have past and still no one knows why Sharon Jones was killed.


Sharon B. Jones, 21 returned to the ECSU campus early from spring break to prepare for her student teaching job. She arrived around 9:30 pm and spoke to the Assistant Housing Director, Herbert Williams to gain entry into the Mitchell Lewis Dorm on the S.E. side of the campus. Williams and his cousin Adrian Douglas escorted the woman to her room.

Monday morning Sharon’s body was discovered in the room. She was naked and lying face down. She had been strangled with a white belt tied to a bedpost. There was evidence of blunt force trauma above the right eye and bruising above the left ear. Strangely the window was broken from the inside of the room leaving glass outside on the ground. A small amount of blood was found on the windowsill. Detectives found a bloody dumbell under one of the beds when searching the room.

It seemed like the case was doomed from the beginning. Williams and Douglas told investigators that Jones was nervous walking to her room alone when she noticed a light above her dorm room when no one was supposed to be there. Investigators researched the light and found there was one other woman who had stayed on campus during spring break. Her name was Angela Jones. (No Relation)

Angela was dating a 31-yr-old man by the name of Delantry Terrial Tafton. Tafton was somewhat of a campus troublemaker and had recently received a 14-week suspension. Although he wasn’t supposed to be on campus, he had spent the night with Angela and left around 7 am the next morning. Both Angela and “Tee” claimed a stranger had knocked on their door around 11 pm asking for their names.

The police chief stated within days that the motive must have been malice or jealousy since they couldn’t find evidence of a robbery and the sexual assault tests were inconclusive. They dialed in on Tafton and refused to look elsewhere. This hasty rush to a motive effectively eliminated other possible suspects and is most likely the reason why this case is still cold 35 years later.

During the chaos that engulfed the campus after the brutal murder, the funeral arrangements were made for Sharon Beatrice Jones. On the day of the funeral, Sharon’s sister Lisa gets a phone call from a stranger. The man sounded young. Before she could say anything, the man pleaded his case.

“I’m sorry. I killed the wrong Sharon Jones.”

Before the confused woman could respond the line went dead. Lisa didn’t know what to think and now three decades later no one knows why Sharon died or who killed her. I realize Tafton shouldn’t have been on campus, but I’m wondering why no one thought it was suspicious for two men to escort one girl to her dorm room all because of a light. Did anyone investigate Williams and his cousin? Why was his cousin there anyways? Did he work there?

If you have any information on this case, please contact the Elizabeth City Police Department at (252) 335-4321



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. ©2017-2021. 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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Murder Mystery – Room 1046 – Part 2




Roland T. Owen walked into the Kansas City hotel carrying a comb, a brush, and a tube of toothpaste. After several strange encounters with hotel staff, Owen would be carried out on a gurney a few days later. Blood covered the walls and bed in room 1046, and investigators say it was already solidified leading them to assume Owen had been bleeding for over six hours. Who tortured and killed this man? Why was his door always locked from the outside? Who were the anonymous benefactors that paid for his burial?


Last week I quickly highlighted this Alfred Hitchcock style murder mystery for my readers. This story was so strange and mysterious; I knew it would take more than one post to cover it. If you haven’t seen that post, you can follow this link to read Part One of the mystery.


Strange Sighting: (Thursday, January 3, 1935 – 11 PM)

Robert Lane was driving down 13th Street when he saw a man dressed in trousers and an undershirt. The man’s attire seemed strange in the cold winter weather of January. He was running and waving frantically. Robert Lane pulled over, and the stranger ran up to the door. He looked surprised.

“I’m sorry. I thought this was a taxi. Can you take me to where I can find a cab?”

Lane agreed, and the man climbed into his back seat. The man looked as if he’d been in a scuffle and Lane made a remark about this. The man mumbled, “I’ll kill that__________ in the morning.”

While all the newspapers were too proper to write the actual word that was uttered, 84 years later it could have helped investigators if there was some sort of record of this remark. Was the stranger talking about a male or a female? Who knows?

Lane noticed the man had a large cut down his arm and was cupping his hands trying to catch the blood. As the car reached a nearby intersection, the passenger jumped out and ran across to a parked cab. Seeing the driver wasn’t with his car, the stranger honked the horn. Presently, the cab driver rushed out of a nearby, and that was the end of Robert Lane’s interaction with the stranger.

Police disputed this story since no one noticed Owen leaving his room. Police would discount this and take the investigation in different directions. I find this odd because no one ever saw Owen coming or going from his room. Who was locking the door from the outside if Owen was still sitting inside? At one point the housekeeping staff walked into the room thinking it was empty to find Owen laying across the bed fully clothed and staring into the darkness.

To understand this story, you must understand the hotel’s door locking mechanism. The door could be locked from the inside and could not be opened externally. It could also be locked from the outside with a key, and the hotel staff could use the passkey to open the door and clean. On more than one occasion this outer lock was used while Owen was still inside the room.

By Friday morning the staff noticed the phone was off the hook in Owen’s room. The first contact that was made by the hotel staff was around 7 am. Evidence would later show that Owen was already beaten, stabbed and bloody by this time. That’s when the bellboy heard a voice call through the door and say, “Come in. Turn on the light.” Was this Owen trying to get the man to come in and help him? We’ll never know.

To make the story, even more, perplexing the second time a bell boy was sent to the room that morning, he opened the door with the hotel passkey. This, of course, means that between the bell boy’s first contact and second contact someone had left that room and locked it from the outside. The attendant used his key and opened the darkened room. He noticed the side table was knocked over, and the phone was on the floor. A shadowy figure of a naked man lay sprawled across the bed. The bellboy would later note that there were dark shadows on the sheets around the man, but he didn’t turn on the light. Instead, the bellboy replaced the phone, closed the door, and reported that the guest was drunk on the bed. Could this man have saved Ronald T. Owen if he had taken a moment to check on him?

An hour and a half later the phone was still off the hook, and finally, the bellboy had lost his patience. He opened the door and switched on the lights to discover a horrific scene. Owen was two foot from the door and naked with a rope tied around his neck, wrists, and ankles. He was on his knees and elbows. His bloody head was in his hands. When police asked who did this Owen replied, “Nobody.” He would slip into a coma on the way to the hospital and die shortly after midnight on January 5th.

Strange Clues:

The police immediately began searching for evidence in Room 1046 but found it had been stripped. Owen’s clothes, all of his belongings, even the hotel’s shampoo and soap were missing. The only things found in the room were: a hairpin, a safety pin, a label from a tie, a bottle of undiluted sulfuric acid, and two glasses. One broken glass was in the bathroom sink and was missing a shard of glass. Four little fingerprints were found on the lampshade leading the investigators to believe they could have been from a woman.

Anonymous Benefactor:

Investigators quickly realized the name Roland T. Owen was an alias and began digging for the man’s identity. In the meantime, the body was transported to the local morgue where it was placed for public viewing in hopes of getting a definite identification on the man. Many people came forward thinking they knew the victim, but all were dismissed. This is when Robert Lane came forward and confirmed the man in the morgue was the man he had picked up on that Thursday night. Authorities claim they can’t prove this, but I find it the most credible. Owen didn’t look overly normal. With his height and scars, he was a rather imposing figure which would make him hard to forget.

After much ado, the papers announced the unknown victim with the alias Roland Owen would be buried in a pauper’s grave since no one claimed him. This prompted another series of strange events. Before the body could be buried the funeral director received an anonymous call from an unknown male. He asked them two wait a little longer in burying Owen and he would send money for a proper burial. A few days later the funeral home received an envelope filled with cash wrapped in newspaper. The donor requested the body to be buried in Memorial Park Cemetary so he could be next to the donor’s sister.

“Love Forever, Louise”:

The florist received an anonymous phone call around the same time from an unknown male. He requested 13 roses to be sent to the grave of Ronald T. Owen and the card should be signed, “Love forever, Louise.” The florist tried to ask a few questions, but the man simply stated that he was just doing this for his sister.

Another phone call:

After the newspaper article about this case was printed, the editor received a phone call from a woman. She said the report was wrong and Roland’s funeral arrangements were paid.

Searching for Don:

During one of the interchanges with the hotel staff, Owen was heard speaking on the phone to a man he called “Don.” Another time the housekeeper saw a note with the same name. Was Don a friend? Was he a Mafia Don? Investigators searched for years and couldn’t find the true identity of Don.

Artemus Ogletree:

Eighteen months after the newspaper article about this mystery a woman saw the pictures and claimed Roland T. Owen was her son Artemus Ogletree. Although original reports claimed he was in his mid-20’s, Ogletree was 17 at the time of his death. To make matters more mysterious, Mrs. Ogletree had received three separate letters from her son. They were all typewritten which she thought was strange since her son didn’t know how to type. Also, these notes used a lot of slang terms Mrs. Ogletree had never heard her son use. After researching this story, she realized those three letters could not have been from her son. Someone out there not only knew what happened Roland T. Owen in that hotel room, but they also knew his real name and his mother’s address.

One More Mysterious Caller:

If that wasn’t enough of a mystery for you, there was a new chapter to this tale that happened to a Kansas City Librarian in 2003. John Horner spent a lot of time researching this case and writing it up for the library’s blog. One day he too received a strange phone call. It was an out of state caller claiming to be going through a deceased relative’s belongings. They found a large box of newspaper articles from about the Roland T. Owen case and in the box was a specific object that had been referenced in the original newspaper article. Then, the line went dead. What was in the box? Who were the mysterious caller and their relative? Was it the woman Louise? Was it Don? Like all good mysteries. We may never know the truth in this strange tale.

Despite spreading this case across two blog posts, there are even more details I couldn’t include here. Below are some links for further reading on this strange tale.

KC Library Archives

Shot in Savannah – The Brandon Tyree McCullough Cold Case

brandon tyree mccullough

He stepped outside of his apartment to smoke his last cigarette. No, he wasn’t quitting the habit. He would be shot and killed with the lit cigarette still hanging from his mouth. Who would kill the beloved Brandon Tyree McCullough? Why was he beaten up the week before his death? Who was the man seen fleeing the scene? Most importantly, why has this case gone unsolved for nine long years?

Brandon T. McCullough was the eldest son of Audry McCullough, and like all mothers, she had high hopes and dreams for his future. Unfortunately, those dreams would be destroyed when she got the news that her son had been shot in the head outside his apartment building.

On December 27, 2009, Tyree, as he was lovingly called, stepped outside of his apartment to smoke a cigarette never knowing that it would be his last. A lone gunman walked up to the man and shot him point blank in the head with a .38 caliber weapon. The police report stated there were powder burns on Tyree’s hat. Tyree slumped against the wall and witnesses reported seeing a tall, slender black male with dreadlocks fleeing the scene. Witnesses also describe seeing a two-toned Ford F150 pickup with the driver matching the previous description.

Tyree was taken to a nearby hospital but died a few hours later. During the investigation, another witness claimed she had witnessed a Gray Gallant with four black males before the shooting. She found it odd because as soon as she stepped out into the breezeway, the car hurried away. This witness also reported an incident that happened a week before the death of Tyree. She saw a tall black man running from the breezeway just moments before Tyree stumbled down the stares with a torn shirt and a shoulder injury.

Could this man be the shooter? Who were the four men in the gray Gallant and why did only one of them return?

If you have any information, in this case,, please contact the Crime Stoppers Tip Line (912) 234-2020

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.

Don’t forget to sign up for Synova’s Weekly True Crime Newsletter and recieve her popular e-book, Grim Justice for FREE!

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Each week Synova highlights obscure cold cases on her blog as a victim’s advocate with the Missouri Missing organization. She never charges for her services. If you’d like to help support Synova in this worthy cause, please check out the affiliate links below and on the sidebar of 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. Thank you.

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Vietnam War Hero Killed – Where’s the Justice?

jack l robinson
Jack was one of the lucky ones to survive Vietnam. He retired from the Air Force as Technical Sergeant and went on to work at the Moncrief Army Health Clinic. At 65, Jack Robinson lived a tranquil life spending his retirement volunteering. It was what most Vietnam Vets wanted. Peace. Why then was this war hero murdered near an obscure boat ramp on the edge of the Congaree River? Twenty-two years later his daughter is still asking this same question.


Jack L. Robinson was born on July 24, 1931. Jack spent 25 years in the U.S. Air Force, and upon his retirement, he went to work at the local army clinic. Jack would eventually retire from the clinic as well. He had one daughter from a former marriage named Tammy. By 1996, Jack was newly retired and spent his time volunteering with his local democratic party, and at the local homeless shelter.

Three weeks after his 65th birthday on August 17, 1996, Jack Robinson drove ten miles to the Rosewood Boat Landing. This obscure boat ramp was nothing more than a concrete slab jutting down into the Congaree River. Even most locals didn’t know of its existence. A wooded area surrounded it, and there was a rock quarry nearby. There was a gravel parking lot of sorts and here is where three witnesses were parked waiting for a nearby concert to begin.

Rosewood boat ramp pic 2

This wooded area is where Jack Robinson headed on his last day. He parked his car and witnesses said that he spoke to a Hispanic man. The two men walked off into the woods together. A moment later they heard a loud argument. They heard Jack say, “I can get you money,” and, “What do you want from me?”

Rosewood boat ramp pic 1

A moment later Jack stumbled from the woods clutching his stomach. He had been stabbed in the stomach three times and was bleeding profusely. An ambulance arrived and took him to the hospital, but he would pass away a short time later.The three witnesses gave their statements to the police, and together they came up with a composite drawing of the murderer.

According to the eyewitnesses, the man was a short, Hispanic male only about 5’5” tall. He wore aviator sunglasses, had olive colored skin, had a mustache, and was between the ages of 25-35. By all accounts, he was a small man weighing around 150-180lbs.

jack l robinson - suspect sketch

Despite three reliable witnesses, the police are at a loss trying to find suspects. A year later a suspect is handed to them on a silver platter. Unfortunately, he wasn’t the right one and years would be spent trying to chase leads that didn’t exist.November 1997, Max Knoten sexually assaulted and killed a family friend named Kimberly Brown, 30. Kimberly’s sister was having problems and so Kim was caring for her niece indefinitely. Knoten put Kim’s body in the trunk of the car then took her three-year-old niece, Layla with him to “look for your aunt.” Investigators would find the bodies of the two along the Congaree River.Knoten was arrested relatively quickly after his alibi fell apart and he admitted to seeing the victim the night she went missing. He also immediately became a suspect in the Jack L. Robinson murder case. Admittedly there are a few coincidences, but there is very little in the way of evidence to link the two cases.

Links between crimes:

  • Knoten dropped the bodies off in the Congaree River.
  • Kimberly Brown had worked at the same army health clinic as Jack Robinson
  • The scent dogs led investigators from the spot of Jack’s murder to a nearby business. Knoten happened to work there.

Discrepancies between crimes:

  • Knoten is not Hispanic. He is a lighter-skinned African American
  • Knoten wasn’t 25-30 at the time of Jack’s death. He would have been 19.
  • He didn’t have a mustache at the time of Jack’s murder.
  • He is 6’ 1” and has a large build
  • Although his victim may have known Jack Robinson, there is no evidence to tie Knoten to Jack.

Despite these discrepancies, the authorities ran with this lead for years and even let Jack’s daughter, Tammy think that if Knoten ever got out of prison, they would put him on trial for her father’s death. Tammy believed this and went on with her life the best that she could. Years would pass, and in the mid-2000’s she was internet surfing trying to find some relatives when she came across her father’s case. Instead of showing it as solved, it was plastered all over the cold case page. His case was classed as “victim killed by the unknown suspect, no motives determined.”Tammy was in shock. She felt as if she was transported by to 1996 and was starting all over. After researching further, she found the charges against Max Knoten had been dropped three years after his arrest. Cold case investigators now think the man was in this country illegally and think that’s why they are struggling to find him.A little information on the area in 1996:Up the road from where Jack was killed was a large open-air vegetable market. These markets tended to employ a lot of illegal aliens, and the owners would house and shelter them. This was a well-known fact, but it also clouds the investigation drastically. I contend, if the murderer was an illegal alien and was being sheltered by locals, then someone knows this man. Although investigations have been ongoing, no one has been to the market to spread flyers or interview the market owners.Jack was also a volunteer at the local homeless shelter. Could the man have been from the homeless shelter? No one will ever know. It seems while the investigators were distracted with Knoten that no one ever visited this shelter to inquire about Hispanic males staying there. A lot of these shelters don’t keep excellent records, and most wouldn’t have those records 22 years later.

Another possible wild goose chase?It would seem that once the investigators stopped focusing on Max Knoten on this case they turned their focus to the gay community. While the daughter is out doing interviews and trying to get media attention, the police are saying that her father was killed by a jilted lover. No one can verify this, but that’s the theory the investigators seem to be stuck on now.My thought is whether the man was gay or not the investigators need to question the nearby business that hired illegal Hispanic males. That’s the first obvious step. Then question those that worked at the homeless shelter. Whatever this man’s sexual preference every avenue needs to be checked out.

What can be done now?It’s a well-known fact that most cold cases are solved one of two ways. New advances in DNA testing will sometimes lead to the perpetrator. Unfortunately, DNA testing, in this case, has brought no answers. The other way to solve a cold case is to have new witnesses come forward. That is our best hope with this case. People don’t come forward for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they are afraid. Sometimes they don’t realize the information they have is valuable. In reality, they may hold the one tiny piece that fits the entire puzzle together. Somebody knows this man. Please come forward.


Jack L. Robinson was willing to sacrifice his life in Vietnam for your freedoms. Don’t let this man’s death go unsolved. Where is the justice for this hero?

jack l robinson - military pic 2

If you have any information, please contact the Richland County Sherriff’s Department(803) 576-3000 or 1-888-CRIME-SC

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Further Reading: 

Unsolved Mysteries

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Recommended Reading: Jack’s case was included in two different books.

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Black Gold Runs Blood Red in Texas: Finale

Last week we left wondering who in the world owns Janice Willhelm’s 7-acre farm just outside of Centerville, Texas. Her husband, Gerald Willhelm, had died mysteriously less than a week after he gave an interview to the media. While there is no one left to contest his sudden heart attack and cremation, Janice’s family still fights for justice in this greedy land grab.

Although, the lawsuits were still pending Gerald’s will was quickly probated and pushed through the system. He left his wife’s farm to a blond banker from town and one of the witnesses that signed off on Janice’s forged will. While the banker’s mother swears her daughter just had a “Father/Daughter” type relationship with Gerald Wilhelm, Janice’s family refuse to believe such a thing. It will be proven in court one way or another, but in the meantime, Janice’s children are still fighting.

Janice Willhelm’s will was a blatant forgery, and this has been verified by two different handwriting experts. The will was pushed through without the children’s knowledge. This is one battle for the Robeson family, but sadly, there is more.

Morris and his wife Mable raised their grandson as their own child and treated him accordingly. Unfortunately, this seems to have driven a wedge between their eldest son and their unofficially adopted one. Before Morris’ murder, the uncle began to wage war on the grandson, and it continues to this day. After the death, Mable sold her grandson a part of the property on the contingency that she could live out her days in the home. Of course, he agreed. This, unfortunately, drove the wedge deeper causing the uncle to file lawsuit after lawsuit trying to pry the property from his nephew’s hands. The vindictive man even used his own mother’s name to file a lawsuit. When contacted, however, Mable was shocked by it and demanded that it be dropped. If I went into every detail of this family feud, this blog series would last for another year. After reviewing all the evidence, I am left with one question that I will relate to you.

Was this uncle so greedy that he would cause, or allow the murders of his own father and his sister?

When his daughter was caught talking, she was suddenly found dead in her home from an overdose. Yes, she was an addict, but it seems strange nonetheless. Everyone that crosses the uncle seems to end up in endless litigation or six feet under the Texas dirt.

This case continues and continues to fight for justice. This case has been appealed all the way up to the Texas Rangers only to hit a brick wall there as well. The only hope at this point may be the FBI and the media. If you have been a victim of corruption in Leon County, Texas, you can visit http://texaspubliccorruption.com/ and submit your story anonymously.

Don’t let the saying “Texas Justice” stand for bullying by corrupt officials. Let Texas Justice stand for truth and the good ole’ American way. 

Black Gold Runs Blood Red in Texas: Part 4

Janice Willhelm

Part four of this saga leads us back to the beginning of this tragic tale; the strange death of disabled, Janice Robeson Wilhelm. Just to recap, Janice was found dead from a gunshot wound to her neck. She was sitting up in her recliner with her hands tucked neatly under her lap blanket.

The .45 caliber bullet entered the back left-hand side of her neck and traveled downward passing into her lungs and severing her spinal cord. This caused instant paralysis. Despite this, the authorities would have you believe that she threw the gun six foot away from her chair, and tucked her hands back under her blanket.

Below are two pictures of the crime scene. The only changes that were made to these photos are the addition of the blacked out portions hiding the graphic details of the deceased’s wounds.

Notice the following:

  • The gun is laying 6 – 8 feet away from the deceased. If this had been a suicide, then the weapon would have fallen directly beside the chair, not six foot away in front of the couch.
  • The shell casing is found several feet away behind the couch. Again, this wouldn’t be the case in a suicide. The casing would have landed in the chair or amongst the blankets.
  • It has been reported that the blood under the recliner was already coagulated. Why? If this happened as Gerald claimed, then the police arrived 12 – 15 minutes later then there is no way that blood would be in such a state.
  • A gunshot residue test was done on Janice Wilhelm’s hands but was somehow lost in transit between the Dallas Medical Examiner’s office and the Leon County Sherriff’s office.

Blatant Lies:

Gerald claims in the 911 call that Jan killed herself because she was out of pain medication and they couldn’t afford more. This was proven false. The crime scene photos clearly showed Janice’s medication sitting on the table beside her chair, and the toxicology reports state she had pain meds in her system at the time of her death. Also, the children were able to prove that not only were Janice’s medicines mostly covered by Medicare, and the small remainder only amounted to a $5/month copayment.

The report states that Janice left a suicide note. It was later determined that the so-called note was nothing more than a diary of her symptoms and the medications she had taken. These standard nursing notes were what they claimed to be a suicide note.

Final Proof of Homicide:

July 2001:

Janice Wilhelm was admitted to the Baylor Richardson Medical Center surgery. A large tumor measuring 4″ x 4 3/4″ x 3″ was removed from the upper portion of her left arm leaving the muscular tissue and tendons severely damaged. This surgery saved her life but left her dominant arm nearly useless. Janice would no longer be able to lift her arm above her chest.

June 2015:

Vincent J.M. Di Maio, M.D. a forensic pathologist out of Dallas, reviewed Janice Wilhelm’s medical records and determined that it would be impossible for her to have committed suicide in such a manner. 

Aftermath & Motives Revealed:

The family waited for word of a will but were repeatedly told that Janice didn’t leave one. Then, suddenly within a couple months of her death, Janice’s will was quietly pushed through probate court.

After fighting to get a copy of her mother’s will, Janice’s daughter was surprised at the supposed signature of her mother. It wasn’t even close to her mother’s signature, and yet there it was, and two people had witnessed it.

Finally, it was determined that both so-called witnesses had not seen Janice sign the documents at all. They were pre-signed before being presented for a witness signature. 

Why would anyone want seven acres of farmland in this area? Oil

Despite the will being a blatant forgery and the lawsuits pending, Gerald Wilhelm signed off, and the oil companies came in. An oil well and a gas well were fully functioning within a year of Janice Wilhelm’s death. The Clayton #1H well generated $400,000 worth of royalties within the first eight months of its existence. Can we say motive?

Cold Case did a segment on this case in 2010, and Gerald Wilhelm actually agreed to an interview but refused to let it be recorded because of the pending lawsuits. Strangely, he was dead within a week after the show aired. He supposedly died of a heart attack, but there was no autopsy, and he was cremated before anyone could request one.

I wish I could say that was the end, but there are a few more twists in this homicidal tale. I will leave you with one question.

Who owns that land and oil wells now?

I will give you a hint. It’s a toss-up between a blond banker, a ranch hand, and a false witness. Mix that with an extramarital affair, a vindictive family member, and big oil, and you will have the tale coming next week.

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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Each week Synova highlights obscure cold cases on her blog as a victim’s advocate with the Missouri Missing organization. She never charges for her services. If you’d like to help support Synova in this worthy cause please check out the affiliate links below and on the sidebar of 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. Thank you.

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Janice Willhelm