In 2011 there were around 16,238 murders in the US; this averaged out to around 44 murders per day. Most of these crimes were solved, or at the very least a suspect identified, but what of those that remained unsolved? Murder cases frequently go unsolved not only for decades, but for centuries and for many people this fact is just as disconcerting as the crime itself.
From serial killers who have (so far) escaped justice to people who seemingly vanished without a trace, the following 9 unsolved cases have not only fascinated us in their sheer brutality as much as the puzzling mysteries they have left in their wake.
1. The Zodiac Killer
The serial killer that terrorized California in the late 1960s and early 70’s is one of the most notorious unsolved crimes in history. There have been a string of movies, TV specials and books dedicated to the Zodiac Killer and who he may be. With at least five confirmed victims of the Zodiac, this number only appears to only scratch the surface, as the killer himself claimed to take over 30 lives during his killing spree. The Zodiac would leave cryptic and taunting messages to police in the form of newspaper articles and letters, they included three different codes that the Zodiac claimed would reveal his identity. Then the San Francisco Examiner received a letter, in which the killer referred to himself as the Zodiac for the first time, writing, “This is the Zodiac speaking.” garnering himself the nickname.
The Zodiac continued sending letters, but then stopped in 1971. But in 1974, he sent one last letter, in which he claimed to have killed 37 people. While there were many suspects, due to lack of sufficient evidence, no-one was ever arrested for the killings and the identity of this notorious killer remains a mystery to this day.
2. The Lead Mask Case
A Brazilian boy stumbled upon the bodies of Manoel Pereira da Cruz and Miguel José Viana while flying a kite in a field 1966. They were dressed in their best suits and wore lead masks on their faces. The situation baffled police, as there appeared to be no violence against the men. A notebook was found with the bodies, but when they pieced together the men’s day, more questions than it answered.
According to the notebook, the men were to meet at the location, take capsules, put on the masks and wait for an event. It’s unclear what they expected to happen, but the lead masks were designed to protect against radiation poisoning. One of the men also had a coupon to return the water bottle they were using, which all indicates that they were not planning on committing suicide. Because their organs were not properly preserved, it was impossible to tell whether or not they were poisoned. It’s even possible that no crime was committed; but still, what were they waiting for? and more importantly, did it happen? We may never know.
3. The Oakland County Child Killer
A serial killer, targeting at least four children in the late 1970s remains anonymous to this day. The children who were killed were Jill Robins, Mark Stebbins, Kristine Mihelic and Timothy King, all ranging from ages 10-12. Two of the children were also sexually assaulted. A short time before the bodies were discovered, King’s parents expressed to the media that if their boy came home, they’d serve him his favorite food, KFC. When his body was found in a shallow grave a week later, the postmortem showed that Timothy had eaten fried chicken just before he was murdered.
4. The Imposter
Thirteen-year-old Nicholas Barclay went missing in 1994. It was initially suspected that he ran away, but he remained missing for three years until his family got a call from Spain. It was Nicholas, claiming that he had been forced into child sex trafficking in Europe. His sister went to get him, confirmed his identity and they went home.
The problem was that Nicholas had changed. From his hair and eye color to his accent, the boy was completely different. Still, the family was adamant that they had found their missing son. That was, until a DNA test confirmed that their fifteen-year-old was actually a 23-year-old French man, Frederic Pierre Bourdin. In the 2012 documentary, The Imposter, Bourdin expresses his theory that one of the Barclay’s killed Nicholas, and the family was using his existence as an alibi. He felt they were far too willing to accept his far-fetched story, and Bourdin felt that Nicholas’ sister came to coach him on family names and pictures before his FBI interview. The real Nicholas Barclay remains missing.
5. The Springfield Three
After a circuit of graduation parties in June of 1992, Stacy McCall and Suzie Streeter went back to Streeter’s mother’s house for the evening. Sherrill Levitt, Suzie’s mother, was home and the three were assumed to retire for the evening. The following day, Stacy’s mother contacted police after her daughter failed to come home and the three were reported missing.
After searching the house, police discovered that Sherrill and Suzie’s beds appeared to have been slept in. Suzie’s TV was on. The family dog was still in the house and was unharmed. All three of the women’s purses were heaped together in Suzie’s room with all three sets of car keys. Suzie and Sherrill’s cigarettes were still there. All three cars were still parked in front of the house. The front porch light was on and Suzie’s graduation cake was found still sitting in the fridge. Since that fateful night in 1992, no-one has seen the three women and their mysterious disappearance remains unsolved; and other than speculative rumors of their death, there appear to be no active leads in this puzzling case.
6. The Disappearance of Dorothy Scott
In 1980, the 32-year-old Dorothy Scott started receiving calls at her work from a man who claimed to be in love with her. The man would alternate between expressing his love and threatening violence. He told her that he was following her, and provided details to support the fact. On May 28, the situation came to a climax as Dorothy was driving a coworker to the emergency room. As the coworker emerged from the hospital, she saw Dorothy’s car speeding in the opposite direction, veering erratically. Her car was later found, burned, with no sign of Dorothy.
Over the next four years after her disappearance, her family received calls from an unknown source, claiming to be holding Dorothy. A call also came into a local radio station, from a man claiming to have killed her. This man provided details about her disappearance that only the police or perpetrator could have known. When her body was found in 1984 the family received a final call, asking, “Is Dorothy home?” Her killer and the source of these calls were never found.
7. The Taconic Parkway Crash
At 1:30 PM in July of 2009, Diane Schuler and five adolescent passengers were in a head-on collision on the Taconic State Parkway. Diane and four of her passengers died, as well as the three occupants of the SUV she crashed into. At the time of the crash, Diane’s BAC was a 0.19 and there were also traces of THC in her blood. This seems to explain why Dianne was driving in the wrong direction, exceeding 60 MPH. The timeline, however, complicates matters.
Dianne made multiple stops on her way, and was sober at each one. It wasn’t until around 1 PM, when her brother received a call from Schuler’s phone. Schuler’s nieces claimed that Diane was having trouble seeing and speaking, and Diane took the phone and reiterated this. Her brother told her to stay put, and left to go pick her up. About a half hour later, the fatal crash happened. Was she truly intoxicated? If so, how did she get this way so quickly, and why didn’t she wait for her brother? The only survivor of the crash remembers little, but this case does not seem as simple as the autopsy suggests.
8. The Jamison Family Mystery
This case is one of the most prone to speculation. There was no clear reason why the Jamison family from Eufaula, Oklahoma disappeared in October of 2009. After a state-wide manhunt, their truck was eventually found containing their family dog (nearly dead from lack of food), their IDs, phones, wallets, and $32,000 cash. Their bodies weren’t found until 2013 by two deer hunters, three miles away from where their truck had been.
The skeletal remains of two adults and a child, which were found laying side by side face down in the dirt. The remains would later be positively identified through anthropological and forensic pathological testing as those of the Jamison family, although they were so badly decomposed that a cause of death could not be identified. Speculation swirls around this case, from the involvement of a Mexican cartel, a meth deal gone bad to witchcraft and even Satanic cults but the cause of death and perpetrator(s) have yet to be discovered.
9. The Sodder Family
It was Christmas Eve in 1945 when five of the six Sodder children were presumed dead when the family’s house caught fire. George, their father, attempted to save them but was unable to reenter the burning house. When the fire went out 45 minutes later, the rubble showed no signs of human remains. Although this was the initial hypothesis, it’s impossible for five bodies to be completely cremated in a fire of this magnitude.
20 years later, in 1968, Jennie Sodder received a photo of what appeared to be Louis Sodder (who was nine at the time of the fire), with an inscription on the back. A private detective was sent to find the source of the note, but was never heard from after he left to investigate. Sylvia Sodder, the last remaining member of the family, believes that her siblings were not killed in the fire, but there is still no indication as to why or how they disappeared on the night of the fire, or where they went.
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