Endless Possibilities, No Answers

Hey guys! Sorry about the unexpected hiatus. I’ve been extremely busy with other things lately and I haven’t had the time to write. I’ll hopefully be able to focus more on this project soon but I don’t know how I’ll upload.

Sometimes a case just sticks with you. I personally do a lot of research on unidentified decedents, and no matter how many NamUs or Doe Network profiles I browse through, there’s some that I’m likely never going to forget about.

This poor lady known only as the St. Croix County Jane Doe was one of these. Her head- the only part of her body discovered- was found in a plastic bag in Houlton, Wisconsin in 2002. Her remains were badly decomposed and her cause of death could not be determined, yet it could very well be a homicide.

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Reconstruction of the St. Croix County Jane Doe.

The woman was determined to be between thirty-five and sixty, probably under fifty. She was likely of Asian descent although she could have been Native American or a mixture of White and Hispanic. She had short, dark brown hair and had been missing all of her teeth for a while prior to her death. Her head had been in the bag for about a year.

The most curious thing about the Jane Doe was her face. She had widely set eyes, a broad nose, and flat facial features. This would have been obvious to those who knew her and may have been consistent with a mental disability. It is widely thought that her disabilities were severe and she may have lived in an institution or group home.

Yet this physical description is all we know about this woman. Nobody knows who she was or how her severed head ended up in a plastic bag in a remote area of Wisconsin. No strong leads have emerged on this case and all theories are only speculation, although some are definitely worth investigating further.

The Disability Connection

Finding out the extent of this woman’s disabilities- if she was even disabled in the first place- could be a key factor in identifying her.

It’s not known if she was determined to be disabled solely by her facial features or by something more concrete such as an examination of her brain (which there likely wasn’t much of when she was discovered, since her head had been in the bag for a year) or brain cavity, or from genetic testing that could reveal a chromosomal or genetic abnormality. If this is the case, her specific condition has not been disclosed. Her DNA is on file but it is unknown if it has been examined to look for markers that could result in her having a mental disability. If the only indication of a disability was her facial features, than it can not be for certain that she was actually disabled. She could have had a condition that affected her physical appearance but not her intellectual development (think Waardenburg syndrome) or her facial features could have been naturally occurring and inherited with no link to a medical condition.

So its there a strong possibility that Jane Doe was disabled? Certainly. Can we know for sure? No. However, two of the three theories below correlate with her having a mental disability.

Theory #1: Death in an institution

I haven’t seen this theory brought up before, but I feel as if it could be a genuine possibility as to what happened to Jane Doe.

The idea that Jane lived in an institution has been brought up time and time again, with it being considered as a possibility by the St. Croix County Sheriff’s Department. While institutions for the disabled were once commonplace, their popularity faded after cases of severe abuse and neglect were discovered in the ’70s and ’80s and they had largely fizzled out by the turn of the century. This isn’t to say that institutions for the disabled no longer exist, they just aren’t operating on as large of a scale as they once were, and the care they provide their patients has substantially improved.

Jane could have been placed in an institution after her parents aged and became unable to care for her. Elderly or deceased by the time their daughter died, there would be nobody to notice she was gone after she passed away in an institution. The possibilities of how she died are endless in this theory: she could have been accidentally killed by another patient or died of natural causes. She could have died of neglect, drowning in a bathtub or choking on food while being left unattended. She could have been intentionally murdered by an employee of the institution. No matter how she died, the institution’s employees covered their tracks and disposed of her (possibly to hide negligence or abuse on their part) rather then reporting her death. If she had escaped or wandered away from the institution, responsible staff would have certainly noticed that she was missing, suggesting that the institution itself had contributed to Jane Doe’s death in some way.

There is no evidence suggesting that institutional records were searched for a woman matching Jane’s description and there is no proof to back up this theory. However, it would explain how nobody had reported missing a severely disabled woman who could not care for herself.

Similar to this theory is the possibility she was murdered by a caregiver, likely the person in charge of her well-being after her parents were unable to care for her. As with the institution theory, she may not have been intentionally murdered, perhaps dying of an untreated illness or from neglect. The caretaker likely viewed Jane Doe as a burden, with killing her being the only way they could free themself.

Theory #2: Serial killer targeting disabled women

Reddit user WillySquonka suggested that Jane Doe’s death could be connected to that of an unidentified, possibly mentally disabled woman found beaten to death in July of 1999 in Racine County, Wisconsin. She had been held captive and tortured for weeks before she finally succumbed to her injuries. The counties in which the two women were found were only a few hours away from one another, and it indeed seems like an odd coincidence that two unidentified, disabled women were found in different parts of rural Wisconsin three years apart.

The St. Croix County Jane Doe’s decapitation seems like a stark change in M.O. from the Racine County Jane Doe, who was left in in a field, but it is possible they met similar fates since the decapitated woman’s cause of death was never discovered. However, a connection to the Racine County Jane Doe means this case could also be linked to yet another disabled woman found tortured to death in the Midwest.

Mary Kate Sunderlin (also known as Mary Kate Chamizo) was a developmentally disabled woman found months after the Racine County Jane Doe in December 1999 in a forest preserve north of Chicago, Illinois and was not identified until 2006. Three men were arrested for her murder, and while one died in prison, the other two were exonerated after it was discovered that forensic evidence did not match with their (likely coerced) confessions. Her case remains unsolved, but Sunderlin was known to have been in contact with two women who had allegedly manipulated and exploited the disabled and elderly.

Our Jane Doe might have been lured in with a similar promise. Her disabilities would likely be less severe as they were thought to be in the ‘institution theory’, being able to make decisions for herself and her disappearance being thought of as voluntary by her loved ones. But if the mysterious women were connected to Sunderlin’s murder, did they lend a hand in the deaths of either of the Jane Does? And if the same killer was behind the deaths of all three women, why change their M.O. so drastically for the last victim? Could all three murders have been committed by separate people, the victims’ disabilities nothing more than a coincidence? Could the same killer be responsible for the deaths of the Racine County Jane Doe and Mary Kate Sunderlin but not the St. Croix County Jane Doe? Could a serial killer have claimed the lives of all three?

Even if this theory is nothing more than wild, coincidence-based speculation, the death of our Jane Doe could still be the work of a serial killer.

Theory #3: Yet another serial killer

Good ol’ Wisconsin isn’t particularly synonymous with serial killers who chop up their victims, but there’s a curiously high amount of dismembered women who have shown up in the state.

The first was a still-unidentified woman found in Vernon County in 1984, described as being in her fifties or sixties with a stocky build, greying brown hair, and blue eyes. She had been beaten to death and her killer had cut off her hands. This was likely done to prevent identification via fingerprints. Her clothing- a plaid jacket and a blue and black dress- may have also been distinctive enough to lead to her identification, as the killer had cut out the tags. Her body was dumped at the scene and nothing is known about her killer except that he was likely male and may have driven a yellow car, as one was seen driving away from the crime scene around the time she was dumped.

The next two bodies were found just a year apart and shared the most similarities. Rhys Marie Pocan’s body, sans head and hands, was found in Lyndon in 1989. Another woman’s dismembered remains were found in Black River Falls in 1990, with her torso in one trash bag and her limbs in another. Unidentified at the time, the murder was thought to be related to Pocan’s, and things only got stranger once the Black River Falls victim was identified in 2015.

Now known to be Julia Baez, a missing woman from Milwaukee, her residence was within walking distance of Pocan’s. Eerily enough, Pocan had once lived in Black River Falls, where Baez’s body was found. Neither of the women’s heads have been found, and when the St. Croix County Jane Doe showed up in the form of nothing more than a severed head it was briefly thought to belong to the Black River Falls Jane Doe (now Baez). Despite the fact that the two sets of remains were found over a decade apart, it was thought that the head could have been frozen or otherwise preserved before being dumped. However, at this point in time it is obvious that the St. Croix County Jane Doe is not the missing head of Julia Baez.

There’s certainly a large gap in time between the deaths of Baez and Jane Doe, and there haven’t been any other dismembered women found in the area in between their deaths or after the discovery of the Jane Doe. At the end of the day, there’s still a woman without hands, a woman without a head, a woman without a head or hands, and a head without a body all dumped in rural areas of Wisconsin. The similarities and time frame in between the murders of Pocan and Baez could have very well been committed by the same people, but the connections between these murders and those of the Jane Does are a long shot. However, more information on the manner all four women were dismembered could be very helpful to connect them- the tool used, precision, and skill level necessary to sever the heads and/or hands of the women could be used to determine if the mutilations could have been performed by the same killer.

As with the other theories, there isn’t any actual evidence to prove or disprove the idea that a serial killer who dismembered his victims’ bodies was responsible for the death of Jane Doe. It should also be noted that Jane Doe’s disability would not be a contributing factor to her death in this theory. As none of the other possible victims were disabled, than it is likely that Jane Doe was either not disabled or she had a relatively mild disability.

A true mystery

Between the circumstances that this Jane Doe was found under and her possible disabilities, it is surprising just how little coverage her case received. Perhaps some actual leads would emerge if her case was broadcast to a wider audience, but for now we can only speculate as to we can speculate on who she was and exactly what happened to her. Even if she was not intentionally murdered, someone attempted to conceal her death. Somebody severed her head and left it in a plastic bag in rural Wisconsin.

With such distinctive facial features, she would likely have been identified quickly if she had been reported missing. So how did she fall through the cracks? Did she die in an institution with no family to notice her absence, was she murdered by the person or people who were supposed to keep her safe? Was it thought by her loved ones that she disappeared voluntarily, or were the true circumstances something vastly different? Without any leads or forensic evidence, the identity of Jane Doe- and her killer- will likely never be discovered.

Links of Interest

St. Croix County Jane Doe:

St. Croix County’s article

Doe Network profile

WebSleuths thread

Reddit thread

Racine County Jane Doe:

Doe Network profile

Mary Kate Sunderlin/Chamizo:

Article by Dan Hinkel and Steve Mills

Vernon County Jane Doe:

Article by Kevin Millard

Doe Network profile

Black River Falls Jane Doe/Julia Baez:

WebSleuths thread

Rhys Pocan:

1991 article

Too Close To Home: The Colt Family

Incest may be the ultimate taboo. While other acts seen as dastardly among humans- murder and cannibalism, for instance- run rampant in the animal kingdom, even plants avoid incest. There’s something embedded inside of us that makes incest repulsive, something only practiced out of absolute necessity. And in a world of over seven billion, it would seem that any need for it, any circumstance that it would be necessary, would be diminished.

But that isn’t to say that there aren’t exceptions to this rule. Maybe necessity isn’t the motive with these cases, but nonetheless incest continues into today’s society.

“My sister is pregnant and we don’t know which of my brothers is the father”

Those were the words uttered out of a primary schooler’s mouth in rural Boorowa, New South Wales, Australia. The school officials were familiar with the child and her young relatives- they rarely attended school, and when they did, they were filthy and underweight. Reports had already been filed for child neglect against the family, and when they were discovered to be living on a squalid, isolated farm, officials demanded that living conditions be improved- and apparently they had. But the girl’s remark called for a reevaluation.

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One of the buildings the family was living in.

What investigators found was perhaps more disturbing than they could ever imagine. The extended family was living on the same farm, a compound of trailers, sheds and tents with no running water and unsafe means of electricity. Piles of trash were scattered across the property, a gas stove meant for outdoor was found enclosed in one of the trailers, and the children’s beds were soiled.

Yet their appalling living conditions turned out to be the least of investigator’s concerns.

Most of the twelve children living on the property were developmentally disabled, some had hearing, speech and/or vision problems or heart defects. Many had misaligned eyes or other physical deformities. They all had extremely poor hygiene with gum disease or fungal infections. They were underweight and had no sense of hygiene- they did not know how to shower or brush their teeth and they had never seen toilet paper. And they were all- including children as young as five- hypersexual.

A Twisted Family Tree

Upon further investigation, the family was traced back to a single couple, a brother-and-sister union that produced a daughter called June (all of the names have been changed for privacy reasons). June later married a man called Tim Colt, and they had seven children, five daughters and two sons (nicknamed Martha, Frank, Paula, Betty, Cherry, Rhonda, and Charlie). From there, June’s incestuous upbringing seemed to come full circle. The siblings engaged in sexual relations with one another, and at times even with their own parents and other family members. In total, the Colt siblings had twenty-four children. At least ten of these children were born out of incest. Another died shortly after birth, with her father unknown. As it is unknown how many of the grown children were genetically tested, the true number may not be known.

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The Colt family tree. Keep in mind that not all of the adults have undergone DNA testing and the true number born out of incest may be higher.

Even for the children born to unrelated parents, incest was ingrained on them. Two of Betty’s adult children, Tammy and Derek, had three daughters together, one of whom died from a rare genetic condition in infancy. As the sibling-couple was not living at the farm, their children were not counted in the total, although they were also removed from their parents. Another of Betty’s daughters had a thirteen-year-old daughter who was removed from the farm. The girl, Kimberly, claimed that she had the same father as her mother and grandmother, probably none other than Tim Colt. However, it is unknown whether or not Kimberley’s mother was born out of incest, so her true father remains unknown.

In total, twelve children under the age of sixteen were removed from the Colt property- five of Martha’s, five of Betty’s, Betty’s granddaughter Kimberly, and Rhonda’s daughter Cindy, who was the only one of the children whose parents were not related. From what the children told social workers, the farm was a sexual free-for-all. Charlie and Martha shared a bed as a married couple would (four out of Martha’s five living children were fathered by Charlie), and young boys would torture and mutilate the genitals of animals. The women were forced to give birth on the farm. Kimberly admitted to performing oral sex on her nine-year-old uncle Dwayne and claimed that several of her other uncles tied her to a tree and had sex with her. She was also observed inappropriately touching her nine-year-old aunt Carmen. The youngest, five-year-old Cindy, attempted to kiss her male caretakers and was found masturbating in the shower of her foster home. They were sexually inappropriate with each other, their foster siblings, and their schoolmates.

The adults on the farm- the original seven Colt siblings and some of their adult children- condoned the actions of the children, even engaging in sexual relations with them. When Kimberly complained of pain after having sex with her uncle Dwayne, her mother Raylene simply scolded her for choosing a partner who was ‘too big’.

All in all, Martha, Betty, Rhonda, Charlie, and Betty’s daughter Raylene were all arrested for child abuse. They all denied any wrongdoing. Raylene claimed that Kimberly’s father was a backpacker from Sweden, while Charlie continued to insist that none of the children were born out of incest even after DNA testing proved otherwise and at least one of Martha’s children said that he was her father.

But the Colts were not going to go down without a fight. Charlie fled to the United Kingdom after a warrant was put out for his arrest. While her children were in foster care, Betty hatched a plan to kidnap two of her sons and sent sexually explicit text messages to fifteen-year-old Bobby. Her sons knew of and were willing to go along with the plan.

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Betty Colt on her way to court.

Charlie eventually returned to Australia in November 2014 and was arrested. In the same month, Betty was sentenced to twelve months in jail for attempting to kidnap her sons. It is unknown if Betty received further jail time for the sexual abuse of her children or the sentences Charlie, Martha, Rhonda or Raylene received. However, Charlie and Raylene seem to have been released, as police have released Apprehended Violence Orders against them in regards to Betty’s daughter Petra. Petra was not amongst the children removed from the farm; her age and whether or not she was born from incest is unknown.

It is unknown what became of the other adults on the farm. A family tree claims that Tammy Colt is deceased, although no other evidence of this. Her brother and the father of her children, Derek, was known to be abusive towards her but it is not known if he faced criminal charges. Nothing is known of the other adults (Betty and Rhonda each had four other children who were not mentioned).

Sure, the Colt case was a shocking example of how so many children in a developed country could fall through the cracks, but justice seems to have not been truly served. Two of the family members seemed to be released only to go back to terrorizing their young relative. Twelve months seems shockingly light for an attempted kidnapping, especially when the offender (Betty) was known to be neglectful and sexually abusive. One can only hope that the Colt children can move on from their shocking pasts and go on to live relatively normal lives.

Links of interest

Owlcation article

Daily Mail article

Sydney Morning Herald article

Thejournal.ie article

New Zealand Herald article

 

 

In the Shadow of Jack the Ripper: The Thames Torso Murders

Perhaps it isn’t a surprise that many other unsolved cases in Victorian London are little more than an afterthought. After all, in comparison to Jack the Ripper, these were all pretty tame, right?

Perhaps not.

There may have been another serial killer terrorizing the London area at the time, with his method of disposal being just as, if not more, morbid than the Ripper’s. While the true body count of the so-called Thames Torso Killer may never be known- not much information is available for some of these murders- he certainly left behind a terrifying legacy.

The Murders

The first murder possibly committed by the Thames Torso Killer dates all the way back to 1873, when a woman’s dismembered body was found scattered across the Battersea area in London. First thought to be a prank by a medical student involving a stolen cadaver (the crimes of Burke and Hare were a few decades in the past, but not forgotten), it turned out to be something much more sinister. The woman had been murdered, sustaining blunt force trauma to the back of the neck before having her throat fatally slit. She had been scalped, her nose had been cut off, and part of her chin and one cheek had been carefully cut out. Most curious of all was the manner in which the limbs were removed, which occurred shortly after the woman’s death. Her limbs were opened at the joints and removed intact with almost surgical precision, with only larger bones being sawed through. The victim was never identified and the case went on to be known as the ‘Battersea Mystery’.

Another woman was found dismembered in the River Thames a year later, yet not much is available on this murder. The remains consisted of a torso and one leg; the rest of the body was never found. Her spinal cord had been opened, although no information has been found on how she was dismembered or if a degree of anatomical or medical knowledge was necessary. Her remains had been covered in lime to advance decomposition; her cause of death could not be determined. While there is not enough information (aside from the location and that they were both dismembered) to link them, either one of the women could have been the first victim of the Thames Torso Killer.

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1873 newspaper illustration detailing the discovery of the first Battersea victim.

The murders subsided for a decade- either the person(s) behind the Battersea murders went dormant or a new killer emerged. Either way, in 1884 a woman’s torso showed up behind a near constantly patrolled armoury; the killer had apparently disposed of the remains during a changing of the guards. More body parts belonging to the same woman were found were found across the Tottenham Court area, including a skull and an arm with a tattoo on it, which suggested the victim was a prostitute. According to the coroner, she had been dismembered with precision.

Not much on the so-called “Tottenham Court Road Mystery” is available today, another murder was connected at the time to this case. In December of the same year, an arm and the feet of a woman were discovered wrapped in a parcel. According to a Dr. Jenkins, a surgeon who had conducted a review of the remains, she had been ‘skillfully dissected’. He also determined that they belonged to a different woman than the one that had been found mutilated earlier in the year.

Yet again, the killer went dormant. Unlike Jack the Ripper, whose spree was over in a matter of months, the Thames Torso Killer was more methodical. Not only did he take longer periods between kills, he took victims who were already on the fringes of society (as evidenced by the Tottenham Court victim) and made them even harder to identify. He also killed his victims at a secondary location before taking daring approaches to disposing them.

He resurfaced yet again in 1887. The lower torso of a woman was pulled from the Thames in the village of Rainham, wrapped in some sort of paper or fabric. Eventually more of the woman’s remains were found across London. Only her head and upper torso remained undiscovered. The police surgeon who examined the body, Dr. Thomas Bond, determined that while some medical knowledge was likely required to perform such a dismemberment, but it was not done for anatomical purposes. Despite the grisly disposal of the body, no signs of antemortem violence was discovered on the woman, and there was not enough to prove she was murdered. Because of this, the case was never investigated further.

Could this alleged victim actually be a prank by a medical student, as the first Battersea victim was originally thought to be? Possibly. As previously stated, her head and upper torso were never found. If she sustained trauma to the these areas (keep in mind that the 1873 victim, the only thus far whose cause of death had been proven, sustained trauma to her neck before having her throat slit), it would not be visible from the remains that were discovered.

The next year was the infamous year of Jack the Ripper’s killings, and it seemed the Torso Killer took some inspiration from him. The frenzy that the Ripper conjured up and the amount of press dedicated to him, compared to the minimal coverage dedicated to his crimes, perhaps motivated the Thames Torso Killer. Likely in September 1888, in the midst of the Ripper’s murders, the Torso Killer struck again, planting a woman’s torso, wrapped in paper,  where part of the now famous Scotland Yard was under construction (perhaps in lieu of the Tottenham Court victim, who was discovered in a heavily patrolled armoury). Her arms were later found in the River Thames. Dr. Thomas Bond, the same surgeon who conducted the autopsy of the Rainham victim, concluded that she had indeed been murdered, likely due to some sort of blood loss. He noted ‘several incisions’ around the woman’s shoulders to remove the arms, and, like the other victims, she had been dismembered with a degree of precision. A second doctor concluded that the killer likely had some sort of medical knowledge.

On June 4th, 1889, a woman’s body parts, wrapped in cloth, were found in the Thames. Unlike the other victims, her stomach was cut open, with her internal organs removed and her genitals mutilated. Some of the remains were found in Battersea Park, eerily close to the first victim.

The mutilation suggested that the woman had undergone an illegal abortion, with whoever performed it hiding what he had done after the woman died of complications. However, this theory was disproven. It also pointed that she may have been a Ripper victim- a letter signed ‘Jack the Ripper’ was delivered to the press. However, since there had definitely been some forged Ripper letters in the past, it didn’t carry much merit.

The woman was identified as a prostitute named Elizabeth Jackson. With the abortion theory unlikely and the disposal and dismemberment different from the Ripper’s, the motive or the cause of her death was never known.

But the Torso Killer was active in Battersea. His victims of choice were prostitutes. He wrapped his victims’ remains in paper or fabric and disposed many of them in the Thames. While the abdominal mutilation stands out in this case, the Torso Killer mutilated the face of the first Battersea victim. There is no information on Jackson’s cause of death or the level of skill necessary to perform her dismemberment, but there is enough evidence to tentatively label her as a Torso Killer victim.

In September of 1889, he struck again. London residents were finally moving on from the Ripper’s crimes, and the discovery of a woman’s torso, with arms attached, under a railway arch struck fear that he may have resurfaced. However, everything about this murder seems to show that there was still another serial killer on the loose.

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Newspaper illustration on the discovery of the ‘Pinchin Street Torso’.

Dubbed the ‘Pinchin Street Torso’ from the road she was found on, she is the only Torso Killer victim included in the Whitechapel muders (a series of women, including Jack the Ripper’s victims, murdered between 1888 and 1891 and considered as being Ripper victims at the time). However, as the case was investigated, it was determined that she was more than likely not a Ripper victim and similarities between this case and the Torso Killer’s victims were quickly pointed out. She was discovered by a patrolling constable, and was apparently placed at the scene when the constable was out of sight. No other parts of the woman’s body were found.

What is particularly odd about the case is that the coroner did not believe the killer had any anatomical knowledge, which contradicts the other torso cases. She was not wrapped in fabric or paper; instead a chemise was thrown over the body. The arms were also still attached to the body, as opposed to the other murders, where they had all been carefully removed. It could be that the killer had less time with this victim and therefore dismembered her more quickly. Or this murder could have been isolated, committed by someone trying to cover their tracks by emulating the Ripper or Torso Killer. Overall there are still enough similarities between the Pinchin Street Torso and the other Torso Killer victims to consider her a likely victim.

With this victim the Torso Killer’s reign of terror seemed to finally end. He may have been institutionalized or imprisoned for an unrelated crime. He may have skipped town. He may have passed away. Even if his spree spanned over two decades and he took the lives of up to eight women, there is still not enough information to draw conclusions on who the killer might have been. His medical knowledge suggested that he may have attended medical school or he learned the craft from someone else, possibly a family member. He could have attended public anatomy lectures where cadavers were dissected.

Yet we may never know what drove this man to kill. All but one of his alleged victims remain unidentified, and with the police and press dedicated to Jack the Ripper, important information on the killer may have been passed up or looked over. It seems a case that is now impossible to solve, yet it is an interesting and surprisingly little-known mystery.

Links of Interest

Article by Gerard Spicer

Quester Files article

The Murder of Elizabeth Jackson by Debra Arif

Dr. Thomas Bond’s report on the 1888 victim

1889 inquest into the Pinchin Street Torso

Who Was Little Jane Doe?

The date was February 28th, 1983. Two men were searching for scrap metal in the basement of an abandoned apartment building in St. Louis. Their search was uneventful until one of them lit a cigarette- and the light from that revealed something a lot more profound than metal.

On the ground was the headless body of a young girl, dressed only in a bloody yellow sweater. Police were on the scene within minutes. It was determined that the girl was bound and strangled to death, and was decapitated post-mortem before being dumped in the basement. It seemed like an open and shut case (a murder and dismemberment this brutal, especially of a child, isn’t one to go unnoticed), but there were a few problems. There were no missing children matching the description of the child (an African-American girl, aged eight to eleven, and tall for her age at a height of 4’11” to 5’6″), and there were no girls who had transferred out of the school district who matched that description either. Nobody came forward with any leads or tips, and the girl’s head was never found. She remains unidentified to this day.

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The building where the body was found. It has since been demolished.

“Little Jane Doe,” as authorities called her, stands out among the cases of other unidentified children. With few exceptions, they all follow the same pattern: these children are much younger than Little Jane, too young to be in school, and all signs point to the families being involved. Many appeared to have been abused and/or neglected, and with the responsible party never reporting their child missing, they can easily slip through the cracks. (See the cases of Erica Green, Jon-Niece Jones, Anjelica Castillo and Bella Bond, formerly unidentified children that fit into this pattern).

But Little Jane was old enough to be in school, where teachers would have noticed her absence. She was well-nourished, and no scars or previously broken bones were found. With no previous signs of abuse or neglect, her murder seemed to be an isolated event. It is likely that the killer knew the St. Louis area well, but Little Jane was proven to not be native to the area. Isotope testing conducted in 2013 revealed she had lived most of her life in Georgia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Texas, Alabama, or Michigan.

All evidence shows that her killer may have known her or her family, but her direct family was likely not involved. Her disposal was methodical, and because her head was never recovered, she has never been forensically reconstructed. Whoever killed her did not want her to be identified; she was not dismembered out of convenience. Even the sweater she wore had its tags cut out so its brand or where it may have been from could not be determined. She may have been taken a great distance to her disposal site.

st-_louis_jane_doe

The sweater the victim was wearing and the rope used to bind her hands.

Could Little Jane have never been reported missing? Could her family be protecting the killer if they happened to be someone close to them? Both are possible, but aspects of this case make it seem that she was reported missing and the body was simply too unrecognizable to be connected to any missing girl (a tall African-American preteen isn’t much to go off of). Somewhere, her family may still be looking for her. Her story was broadcast widely throughout the country, and her fingerprints were collected, but children aren’t commonly fingerprinted and the body itself wasn’t that helpful without a reconstruction or a head to match it to. Her DNA wasn’t processed until 2013, and many missing girls from the time Little Jane was discovered have no DNA on file.

No persons of interest (whether they be the suspect or the victim) have been officially tied to the case. Serial killer Vernon Brown has been theorized by some to be her killer. He was active in Missouri and Indiana (the state of Little Jane’s discovery and a state she may have been from) in the early-mid 1980s. He was charged with the murder of nine year old Janet Perkins, who he lured into his St. Louis home, sexually assaulted and strangled her, and dismembered her post-mortem. There are certainly some similarities between the murders of Perkins and Little Jane. They were both African-American and in the same age range, and they were both strangled to death. Perkins was sexually assaulted, and while there was no definitive evidence that Little Jane was, she was nude from the waist down. They were both dismembered, yet this is a looser connection. Little Jane was decapitated with a  long-bladed knife, her head was never found, and she was well hidden in the basement of an abandoned building. Perkins was more crudely dismembered (the tool used to do this was not specified), and all of her body was recovered. She was found in two trash bags in an alley near Brown’s home, so her disposal was not nearly as methodical as Little Jane’s. The exact year of Perkins’s murder is also not specified, although Brown was active between 1980 and 1986, so he could have theoretically murdered Perkins first and gained more finesse with his disposal method by the time he killed Little Jane. So while there are some things that point to Little Jane being murdered by Vernon Brown, her method of disposal seems much more sophisticated.

Brown was sentenced to death and was executed in 2005.

So who was she?

A few missing girls have stuck out as possibly being Little Jane Doe, yet they have all been ruled out through DNA or fingerprints. I’ve searched NamUs for African-American girls age 6 to 14 (a few years give or take from her age range) and none of them stuck out to me. So Little Jane could have not been reported missing, or her file may have simply not been added onto NamUs.

All it would take is one person to blow this case open. Little Jane certainly had friends, classmates, neighbors, family members- at least one of these people would notice she was gone. If only one of them could step forward, wondering whatever became of that little girl, she might get her name back.

Or she already has people looking for her and missing her. As sad as it seems, the disappearance of one girl may have slipped through the cracks, especially in a time before any sort of missing persons database. Her loved ones may be deceased by now, or have simply given up on trying to find her. Unless someone comes forth with information, her case may never be solved.

Links of Interest

Fox News article

St. Louis Today article

Reddit thread connecting Vernon Brown to the murder

Vernon Brown on Murderpedia

 

Everything We Know About Robert Evans and the Bear Brook Murders

The small town of Allenstown, New Hampshire was in for a shock when two dismembered bodies were found in a barrel in Bear Brook State Park in 1985. They were determined to be a woman and a female child, aged five to eleven, and maternally related–likely mother and daughter. They both were murdered by blunt force trauma to the head. Despite the gruesome nature of the crime, the victims were never identified.

And things just kept getting weirder.

The Bear Brook case, as it came to be known, was reopened in 2000, and the initial crime scene was reexamined. The investigation took an unsettling turn when another barrel was discovered, hosting another two bodies. They were both young girls, one two to four and the other one to three. They had likely been killed at the same time as the victims discovered in 1985 and also died from head trauma. The youngest girl was related to the first two victims, probably also the woman’s daughter, but the middle child was not maternally related.

Despite these new revelations (and new victims), investigators got no closer to discovering the culprit. An entire family had been brutally murdered and nobody seemed to notice. Forensic reconstructions were released of the victims, yet nobody recognized them. Other missing people were ruled out as being the decedents. It seemed as the case would go cold yet again.

And it did until until October of 2016 (the information became released to the public in January 2017). DNA tests had been run on the victims, confirming that the woman and two of the children were related as well as pinpointing where they may have lived. The three related victims were likely native to the Northeast, but the other girl may have been from as far away as Wisconsin. DNA evidence was also able to eventually identify the father of this girl, blowing the case right open.

His name was Robert Evans. He was convicted for the 2002 dismemberment and murder of his wife, Eunsoon Jun, and died in prison in 2010. He was also a suspect in the disappearance of his girlfriend Denise Beaudin. The three vanished along with Beaudin’s infant daughter in 1981 (the Bear Brook victims were likely killed between 1978 and 1984). While the daughter was found alive and abandoned in an RV park in 1986, Beaudin was never found and Evans seemed to go off the grid until the murder of Jun in 2002.

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1985 mugshot of Robert Evans.

The Bear Brook case is still active and developing, yet surprisingly little has been discovered. Evans was known to use multiple aliases (Robert Evans might not be his legal name) and absolutely nothing is known about his personal life, and the four Bear Brook Victims are still unidentified. But this is what we do know:

  • All four victims died in between 1978 and 1984 (likely during or after 1980), and were likely placed in barrels and dumped at the same time. The second barrel was overlooked during the first investigation, as the area was a popular dumping ground for chemicals and other hazardous materials.
  • Denise Beaudin and her infant daughter disappeared from Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1981. It is unknown which event took first- this one or the Bear Brook murders.
  • Beaudin’s daughter was discovered alive in California in 1986. She was determined not to be Evans’ biological daughter, yet he kept her alive and traveled with her for years. She was later adopted and is living under a new identity. She is known to news sources as ‘Lisa’.
  • Beaudin was thought to have disappeared voluntarily and was not reported missing until December 2016.
  • The adult Bear Brook victim is not Denise Beaudin.
  • ‘Lisa’ is not related to any of the Bear Brook Victims; Beaudin is not the mother of the middle child.
  • Evans is only the father of the middle child.
  • The middle child is not related to the other two children or the woman.
  • The middle child’s mother is not known or accounted for and may have also been murdered.
  • Evans was a drifter who was known to have lived in at least eleven states, plus Quebec, Canada. He was an alcoholic and may have been ex-military.
  • He was known to have used the aliases Curtis Kimball, Gordon Curtis Jenson, Gerry Mockerman, and Lawrence “Larry” William Vanner.
  • After an arrest in 1980, Evans stated that he was married to a woman named Elizabeth. This may have not been her legal name, and her true identity and whereabouts are unknown. She could have been the adult victim or the mother of the middle child.
  • Evans had previously been arrested for driving under the influence and child abuse, but was not connected to any murders until he killed his common-law wife Eunsoon Jun in 2002. Like the Bear Brook victims, Jun was killed by head trauma. She was found buried under cat litter in the crawl space of the couple’s house.
  • Evans died in prison of natural causes in 2010.

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Latest forensic reconstructions of the Bear Brook victims. Robert Adams’ daughter is on the top right.

Everything points to the fact that Robert Evans- or whatever his real name might be- is more than likely the culprit behind the grisly murders in Allenstown. Yet unmasking the killer is only part of the puzzle in this case. The identities of the four victims are still unknown, and there are no leads as to who they may be. And this discovery posed even more questions. What happened to Denise Beaudin? Who and where is the mother of the middle child? Did Evans claim more victims? This wave of new discoveries seems to have brought more questions than answers.

Links of Interest

Fox 25 article

CBS Article

Forensic Magazine article

WMUR article

Israel Lipski: Murderer or Victim?

His last name went on to be used during the time as a slur towards those of the Jewish faith. But was Israel Lipski deserving of this legacy?

The truth may never be known.

It all started in London on June 28th (some sources state 29th), 1887. The body of Miriam Angel, who was pregnant at the time of her death, was found in her room at the lodging house where she lived. She was killed after being forced to drink nitric acid.

If detectives had not arrived when they did, there may have been two corpses in the room. Israel Lipski, a twenty-something umbrella salesman, was found unconscious underneath Angel’s bed, also with burns from nitric acid in his throat. Though badly injured, he was able to recover.

It seemed like an open and shut case. Lipski and Angel lived in the same lodging house, so it was likely they were acquainted. For whatever reason he entered Angel’s room with the intent to kill, forcing her to drink the acid before crawling under her bed and attempting suicide by consuming the same poison.

Yet Lipski maintained his innocence. He claimed that he had heard a ruckus in Angel’s room to find two of his co-workers, Harry Schmuss and Henry Rosenbloom, in the room with her already dead body. They, too, forced him to drink the poison before throwing him under the bed. Investigators never believed him, and he eventually cracked, confessing to the murder. He claimed he planned to rob Miriam Angel as she was asleep when something went awry. To add on to the doubt of innocence, a shop manager reported seeing Lipski buying a bottle of nitric acid the morning of the murder. Prosecutors alleged his motive was both robbery and sexual assault. He was sentenced to death and was hanged on August 22nd, not even two months after the murder.

israel-lipski-penny-illustrated

1887 newspaper illustration on the Lipski case.

The problem with the Lipski case is that we know so little. An almost empty bottle of nitric acid was found in the mattress, although it was closer to Angel to Lipski, and no evidence was reported that he did or did not consume the acid willingly, although burns were also found on his hands. And if his motive was robbery, why did he attempt suicide? He would had not had a chance to benefit from what he planned to take. Again, there is no information on whether or not the room had been rummaged through or if any valuables were missing (or found with Lipski). It is not known whether or not Angel had been sexually assaulted either.

An alleged motive for the eagerness to pin the crime on Lipski was Antisemitism. Born in Poland, he was one of many working-class Jewish immigrants living in London. Locals of of the mostly Christian city were unhappy with the wave of immigration, claiming they did nothing to benefit London. City officials, even those who were against capital punishment, seemed more than happy to execute Lipski without question. He was only portrayed in a negative light in the press, with his alleged guilt never being questioned.

Again, there is not enough evidence in either direction to show if Lipski was truly guilty or innocent. Eyewitness accounts are not always reliable, and his fate was already sealed at the time of his confession– he may have have been hopeful he could have been spared from the noose if he confessed. And why did Lipski claim to see Schmuss and Rosenbloom, two men he knew well, in the victim’s room? These two men were never interviewed further or considered, and it was not known whether or not they knew Angel.

So What Really Happened?

There are three possibilities as to what what happened on the night of June 28th:

  1. Israel Lipski killed Miriam Angel after a botched robbery (and/or botched sexual assault) and later attempted suicide.
  2. Lipski interrupted Schmuss and Rosenbloom and became a victim of circumstances.
  3. Lipski was targeted and framed by Schmuss and Rosenbloom in a possible Antisemitic hate crime.

The third theory is highly circumstantial, as it suggested all four of the people involved were connected. Lipski and Angel were neighbors, and Lipski, Schmuss, and Rosenbloom were coworkers, so Angel and the men could have theoretically met through Lipski. In this case, Israel Lipski could have actually meant to been the target of the attack. They could have known Lipski would come to Angel’s aid if he heard something out of the ordinary, and they may have intentionally framed him as the murderer. It could have been rooted in Antisemitism or pure convenience, or there may be no merit to this theory at all. Although if Schmuss and Rosenbloom wanted to pin the blame on someone other than themselves, they certainly succeeded.

However, too much time has passed, and the true killer of Miriam Angel- and the real circumstances around the crime- may never be known. The case of Israel Lipski has largely been overshadowed by other mysteries in Victorian London, it is still a truly interesting story.

Links of Interest

Israel Lipski on Murderpedia

Article by Richard JonesArticle by Richard Jones

True Crime Library article

Randy Kraft: The Scorecard Killer

Although his name isn’t particularly synonymous with serial killers in the United States, there’s something gripping about the case of Randy Steven Kraft. Although officially convicted of the murders of sixteen men, his total body count may be over sixty. It’s likely some of these victims would have never been tied to him if he had not kept track of most of them through a cryptic list, a ‘scorecard’ of words and phrases found in the trunk of his car following his arrest in 1983.

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Kraft’s scorecard.

Now in his seventies and residing on California’s death row, Kraft maintains his innocence, stating that the list consisted of nicknames and information about his friends. However, the evidence begs to differ. Over seventy photographs of unconscious or dead men were also found in his car, and personal belongings from some of his presumed victims were located at his residence. The most damning of all was the body of Terry Lee Grambel, found in Kraft’s car when he was arrested.

The Scorecard

Some of Kraft’s victims were easy to confirm, as they were either identified through the photographs or by personal belongings found during the investigation. Others were connected through the scorecard.

All but two of his confirmed victims were tied to the scorecard in various ways. Edward Daniel Moore was listed by his initials EDM, while MC HB Tattoo likely referred to Robert Loggins, a Marine with a large tattoo on his arm who was last seen at the Huntington Beach Pier.

While he was only convicted of sixteen murders, several more connections were made through the scorecard and Kraft’s known modus operandi. Although most of his victims were suffocated or strangled, Kraft was known to drug his victims with excessive amounts of alcohol and antidepressants, sometimes causing fatal overdoses. He would also torture his victims while they were still alive, emasculating them or otherwise multilating their genitals, burning them, and shoving objects up their rectums- socks, sticks, pens, and in one case a man’s own severed genitals. Several of his victims were dismembered post-mortem. At least thirty other murdered or missing men were officially listed as being possible victims through the scorecard.

However, there are some entries never connected to any unsolved cases. Some are speculated to be but not conclusively tied to missing or unidentified person cases, and Kraft’s two victims not thought to be on the list technically could be on it with no known link. Aside from the first few murders, there seems to be no order to the names on the list.

Unanswered Questions

There are 19 entries on the scorecard, possibly referring to 21 victims, that could not be linked to a known case. They are, in the order they appear on the list: Angel, Hari Kari, Marine Down, Van Driveway, 2 in 1 MV to PL, LB Marina, Diabetic, Portland, Navy White, User, Iowa, 2 in 1 Hitch, Front of Ripples, Carpenter, MC Dump HB Short, Oxnard, MC Plants, England, Oil, and What You Got.

The 2 in 1 entries seem to refer to double murders, as referenced by confirmed victims Geoffrey Nelson and Rodger DeVaul, who were listed under 2 in 1 Beach. Even if the two confirmed victims with no known spot on the list are actually on it with some unknown connection, this still leaves nineteen potential victims unaccounted for. These could refer to missing people who have yet to be discovered, remains so decomposed that no trace of Kraft’s modus operandi could be detected, or even attempted or intended victims or ‘dummy’ entries meant to throw off authorities. Some of his victims were homosexuals or male prostitutes, and the stigma surrounding this when the murders occurred might have prevented surviving victims from coming forward. However, as Kraft still maintains his innocence, the truth behind these entries may never be known.

The Unidentified

The unconnected entries on the scorecard aren’t the only mysteries surrounding the Randy Kraft case. Four of his alleged victims are still unidentified, with a fifth confirmed victim being identified after the 1988 article detailing the scorecard.

latest-1

Forensic reconstruction of the ‘Wilmington’ John Doe.

The first of the unidentified victims on the scorecard, known as Wilmington, was a young man found by the side of a road in Wilmington, California in 1973. He was strangled to death and a sock was found in his rectum. He was likely between 17 and 24, standing at 5’8″ and weighing about 140 pounds. His hair and eyes were brown and he had multiple scars on his lower right leg.

Another California victim, called 76, was found dismembered behind a Union 76 gas station in Long Beach in 1979. He was decapitated with his limbs severed; only his head, torso, and left leg were recovered. He was described as a white male between eighteen and thirty, six feet tall and 140 to 160 pounds, with brown hair and eyes. He had a chipped front tooth and a scar on his left knee. His cause of death is either unknown or has not been released.

The last of Kraft’s unidentified victims was either known as Portland Eck or Portland Elk, was found in 1980 in Marion County, Oregon. Investigators are unsure what the latter part of the nickname could be. He was on the older end of his victims, at 35 to 45, and was 5’6″ and 160 pounds. He had balding brown hair and a moustache, with blue eyes. He did not appear to be tortured or mutilated, but he was strangled with a ligature and had high levels of alcohol and antidepressants in his system.

The fourth unidentified person is actually second of the unidentified victims on the list, taking place shortly after the ‘Wilmington’ murder in 1973. It is also possibly the strangest of all of Kraft’s victims in its circumstances. With the exception of the scorecard, the 1988 article, and a graphic newspaper article from the time of the body’s discovery, there is no record of this man, known as Hawth Off Head, ever existing. There is nothing to suggest he had been identified but there is no NamUs or Doe Network page for him either, nor has a coroner’s report been made public. All that is known is that he had been emasculated and strangled, and his dismembered remains were found across the Wilmington and Long Beach areas. No physical description of this man is known to exist.

Links of Interest

Pertaining to case in general:

Los Angeles Times article from 1988

Article by Charles Montaldo elaborating on the names on the scorecard

‘Wilmington’ John Doe:

NamUs

Doe Network

’76’ John Doe:

NamUs

Doe Network

‘Portland Eck/Elk’ John Doe

NamUs

Doe Network