The Murder of Marilyn Reese Sheppard

            On the morning of July 4, 1954, the Sheppard household was embroiled in traumatic events while the rest of the United States was preparing to celebrate Independence Day. The night before the murder, the Sheppards enjoyed drinks and dinner with their neighbors, the Aherns, and spent the evening watching the sun set over Lake Eerie. The two couples watched Strange Holiday, which was on one of the two only TV channels available. After some time, Sam Sheppard, who was a doctor and had worked a long shift in the emergency room that day at Bay View Hospital, chose to go to sleep. He went to sleep in a daybed the couple owned outside (Linder). In the early hours of that day, Marilyn was bludgeoned in her bed, blood splatter spreading throughout the room. While this was occurring, the family dog was quiet and their son, Sam Reese “Chip” Sheppard, 7, was sleeping soundly in his bedroom (Wikipedia).

            Sam Sheppard, Marilyn’s husband, called a neighbor, the mayor of Bay Village Spence Houk at 5:40 AM on July 4, 1954, calling for him to come over to his house (Linder). When Houk and his wife, Esther, arrived, they found Sheppard wearing no shirt and with a blood stain on one of the knees of his pants. He seemed to be in some kind of a daze. Upon investigation, it was found that several items were missing from the home. Sheppard fraternity ring, watch, and his keychain and key were all missing. Later, they would be found in a shrubbery outside the house, safely tucked away in a canvas bag (Wikipedia). The coroner,  Doctor Sam Gerber, who also worked as an investigator on the case, became suspicious of Sheppard immediately. While the home had evidence leading to robbery, he felt that the signs were too organized and were a set up. He investigated the case as a domestic homicide, meaning he was less focused on important evidence like fingerprints. He was also heard telling an officer at the scene that he thought, before the investigation was even really underway, that Sheppard was guilty. His interview with Sheppard was only 10 minutes long (Linder).

When questioned by police, Sheppard said he had been sleeping on a daybed when he was awoken by the sounds of his wife’s screams. He claimed to have run upstairs and come upon a white figure of some kind, before being knocked unconscious (Wikipedia). Police found Marilyn in a state of disarray on her bed when they arrived. She was pulled down the bed so that her legs hung over the end, her shirt was pulled up to reveal her breasts, her pants were pulled down to reveal her pubic area, and her head was turned towards the doorway. On her head they found over 20 deep, curved lacerations. Her time of death was determined to be approximately 4:30 AM, and it was determined during her autopsy that she was pregnant, near four months along. While the scene was still being worked on, an unexpected visitor stopped by, wanting to see what was happening at his neighbor’s home: Otto Graham, of the Cleveland Browns. Graham’s wife was friends with Marilyn and, while he was away training for the football season, Beverly Graham would join Marilyn and Sam water skiing on the lake. Graham was allowed to view the bedroom, and declared that it couldn’t have been just a couple blows. He said it looked as if someone had thrown paint around the room (Linder).

            The immediate after effect on Sam Sheppard was the news media, who practically declared him guilty of his wife’s murder before the investigation was really underway. By July 30th, just 26 days after the murder, the local newspapers had called for his arrest with titles such as “Why Isn’t Sam Sheppard in Jail?” and “Quit Stalling and Bring Him In.” He was brought in for interrogation that night. Many articles were ran that were later disproved or had no evidence to support, all demonizing the grieving husband. There was even a radio show in New York that reported on a woman claiming to be his mistress who also claimed to have his illegitimate child (Wikipedia). After more articles appeared calling for Dr. Gerber to hold a public inquest, Sheppard was brought to the Bay Village school gymnasium to be publicly questioned. Corrigan, Sheppard’s attorney, was forced to watch from the sidelines while Sheppard retold the same account he had given to police. Those watching felt that his telling was cold and detached. When the inquest continued the next day, focusing on Sheppard’s extramarital affair, Gerber pushed harder at him to try to get him to admit to the affair even though Corrigan had instructed him not to. Corrigan felt that the affair would be considered unrelated in court. When Corrigan spoke up to protest the continued grilling and the actions of the crowd, her were booing and loudly calling for Gerber to go harder, he was removed from the room (Linder). While the media was already sentencing Sam Sheppard, those who were his jurors were not sequestered from the media as they should have been. The jurors were found, years later, to have been biased due to press contamination (Wikipedia). Books were written about the case as well. The book published in 2001, The Wrong Man: The Final Verdict on the Sam Sheppard Murder Case, concluded that Sheppard was innocent of the horrific murder. The other book, Sam Sheppard on Trial: The Prosecutors and the Marilyn Sheppard Murder, concluded the opposite, however. Both books made forceful arguments (Linder).

            While investigating the case, prosecutors discovered that Sheppard had been having an affair – a three year long one with a nurse at the hospital he worked at, Susan Hayes. They argued at trial that this affair was the motive for the gruesome murder of Marilyn Sheppard (Wikipedia). Another motive brought forward was based hearsay from a neighbor of the Sheppards. This neighbor claimed that Marilyn had told them that Sheppard was sterile, from working closely with x-rays for too long. If this were true, her pregnancy would be considered motive as the baby would have been another man’s. Tests on the fetus disproved this theory (Linder). Despite there being little-to-no evidence that Sheppard had committed the murder, the lead prosecutor, John J. Mahon, focused his efforts on proving that he had done it. His main argument: Sheppard was in the house at the time the murder occurred. He argued that Sheppard’s story was inconsistent and that his inability to describe the person who killed her were signs that he was the true murderer. Along with these, he also argued that Sheppard’s t-shirt should have had blood on it from his struggle with the killer, but a shirt was never actually found to argue this point with. Sheppard also had no sand in his hair, and the daybed he was sleeping on was apparently on the beach. Mahon argued that he would have to have sand in his hair if he was really on the beach, and that the items stolen and found later outside were done to make it look like a burglary. Going further in speculation, the prosecutors had no murder weapon to work with, but the coroner claimed that, based on markings on the pillow under Marilyn’s head, the murder weapon had been some kind of double-bladed surgical instrument with teeth on the blades (Wikipedia). Doctor Lester Adelson was called to the stand and delivered a brutal slide show of the crime scene, as well as his evidence that Marilyn Sheppard had died violently. Sheppard asked to be allowed to leave the courtroom during the slide show, which was colored autopsy photos, but was denied and instead stood at the back of the courtroom facing away. Corrigan tried to argue on cross-examination that Marilyn choked on her own blood, but Adelson would not relent. As far as he was concerned, Marilyn died as a result of the brutal beating (Linder).

            When the trial began, the defense attempted to have the trial moved from Cleveland and have the trial stayed until the media circus died down, but the judge denied this (Linder). Sheppard’s attorney, William Corrigan, argued against the claims with the injuries Sheppard had sustained from his struggle with the intruder. According to Dr. Charles Elkins, a neurosurgeon that examined Sheppard, his injuries were severe and could not be faked. The injuries included nerve injuries, a concussion, and injury around the second cervical vertebra in the back of his neck. Corrigan and the defense also used how bloody the crime scene was to their advantage – Sheppard only had blood on his knee, after all. With a crime scene that bloody, they would have found some blood evidence somewhere else on him. It was believed by the defense that Marilyn had bitten her attacker, as two of her teeth had been broken and pulled from her mouth, though there are some who insist that the teeth being pulled from her mouth is consistent with the beating she endured. Criminologist Paul Kirk seems to agree with the defense on this, stating that, if the teeth were due to her being beaten, her lips would had been damaged and pieces of the teeth would have been found inside her mouth (Wikipedia). Paul Kirk also conducted his own investigation of the crime scene and came to his own conclusions. One, the killer must have been left-handed – Sheppard was right-handed. Two, he believed the murder weapon was actually a flash light, and a neighbor of the Sheppards did find a dented flash light in shallow water while swimming. Could this have been the real murder weapon? He claimed, on top of these two, that he had also found blood evidence that belonged to neither of the Sheppards (Linder).

            Sheppard took the stand during his trial and in his own words, gave his story on what happened. According to Sheppard, he heard his wife screaming, possibly calling his name, and ran inside. His first thought was that she was having a convulsive episode that she apparently had early in her pregnancy for their son. When he barged into the bedroom, he saw what he believed to be someone in a light-colored garment struggling or grappling with someone (it can likely be assumed that this was the attacker fighting his wife). He was seemingly struck from behind at this time, but tried to fight the person attacking his wife. He believed he was knocked out, and when he woke, he was sitting up next to the bed, facing the doorway. He checked his wife’s pulse before checking on his son. Somehow, though he wasn’t sure how, he determined he was okay and went downstairs due to a noise coming from there. He saw someone with bushy hair and chased them down to the Lake Eerie beach near their house and was knocked out again. Along with his testimony, the defense had 18 witnesses to his character and two who claimed to have seen a bushy haired person that night (Wikipedia).

            On November 3, 1954, the jury, along with Sheppard, were brought to the Sheppard household and toured the home. They were shown the desk that had been pulled open evenly by the intruder as well as the room where Marilyn met her gruesome fate. When they came to the room of Sheppard’s son, Chip, the man wept at the sight of his son’s teddy bear. The group were also lead outside, where they could see where Sheppard had struggled with the bushy-haired intruder (Linder).

            On December 21, 1954, Sam Sheppard was found guilty of second-degree murder and received a life sentence. His mother died by suicide not long after his conviction, shooting herself on January 7, 1955, and less than two weeks later, his father died as well of stomach cancer and a bleeding gastric ulcer. He was allowed to attend their funerals as long as he wore handcuffs, and later took part in cancer research that required cancer cells to be injected into his body. This may seem like the end; the killer is in jail, right? To many this sounded like an open-and-shut case of “the husband did it.” However, following several denied appeals by Corrigan, who died in 1961, F. Lee Bailey took the case and successfully filed a writ of habeas corpus on July 15, 1964. Habeas corpus is filed when it is believed by the filer that the detained is being wrongfully detained. It is a way to reopen cases that have not been closed to satisfaction (Wikipedia).

            The judge who approved the writ of habeas corpus ordered that Ohio release Sheppard on bond and gave the state 60 days to bring charges against Sheppard, or the case would be permanently dismissed. This ruling was overturned shortly after by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where it then was appealed again by Bailey to the Supreme Court. There, the conviction was overturned by a vote of 8-to-1 on July 6, 1966. The Supreme Court found that the trial had been tainted by the media and that fact that the juror hadn’t been sequestered. The judge at the time was also felt to be biased against Sheppard from the start. Essentially, Sheppard’s right to due process. Sheppard was released after spending 10 years in prison and, shortly after release, married the woman he had been corresponding with while in prison. The woman, Ariane Tebbenjohanns, was a German divorcee whose half-sister was married to Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi propaganda chief. She insisted she had no Nazi views and in 1969, she and Sheppard were divorced (Wikipedia).

            With the turnover of the conviction, a retrial was slated to begin. The jury was sequestered this time, meaning they had no access to the media during the trial. The prosecution fought the same battle as before, but Bailey was more aggressive with his cross examination and his fight to disprove the evidence the prosecution had. Bailey lead the coroner who claimed the murder weapon was a “surgical instrument” to confess that the murder weapon had never been found, meaning the claim was nothing more than speculation. The coroner confessed that the prosecution had no actual evidence against Sheppard. This trial, Sheppard didn’t take the stand, and his mistress Susan Hayes didn’t either. After 12 hours of deliberation, the jury delivered a verdict of not guilty in the case of the murder of Marilyn Reese Sheppard (Wikipedia).

            So, who did kill Marilyn Reese Sheppard? The answer may have come while Sam Sheppard was still serving time. A man named Richard Eberling, who had worked washing windows at the Sheppard house at the time of the murder, was arrested in 1959 for larceny. After finding a cocktail ring that belonged to Marilyn Sheppard in his home, police worked on a hunch and questioned him about his blood being found in the home. While Eberling didn’t know that his blood was not actually found, he immediately told a story about having cut himself while working their a few days before the murder occurred. Eberling agreed to a lie detector test and, at the time, was deemed as telling the truth when he declared he didn’t murder Marilyn Sheppard. However, later experts found the test to be inconclusive at best. After his arrest for grand larceny, Eberling paid a fine and did 90 days’ time before suddenly seeming to skyrocket up the social latter. His partner, Obie Henderson, was hired as an assistant to the mayor of Cleveland, and through this relationship Eberling was able to get a job decorating the mayor’s house. This lead him to an interior design business that did extremely well, even landing him a contract to restore the city hall of Cleveland. He was later fired from this position by a new mayor, Dennis Kucinich, who ran for president in 2004 (Linder).

            Eberling was known to have committed more crimes than just grand larceny, including defrauding the elderly, insurance fraud, and murder. Working as a nurse’s aide for Ethel May Durkin in the 1970s, and grew close to Durkin. In the early 1980s, it became known that he was reportedly making a new will for Durkin, and in 1983, Durkin died after being found comatose, face down on her kitchen floor. Posing as her nephew, Eberling claimed she had fallen suddenly. An examination showed that there had been a lengthy period of time between her injury and emergency responders being called, which raised suspicions. In 1989, Eberling was charged with her murder as well as fraud. He is also a suspect in the murder of her sister in 1962 – like Marilyn Sheppard, she was beaten on the head and strangled in her own bed (Linder). Eberling died in prison in 1998, after years of speculation on his roll in Marilyn’s death. When he was called to testify during the second trial, Sam Sheppard could not identify him as the bushy-haired intruder, but it is known that he wore toupees sometimes (Steer 2019).

            During the second trial, Bailey produced another theory: the Houks, whom Sheppard called the morning of the murder, were responsible for the death. Bailey theorized that Marilyn was having an affair with Spencer Houk and his wife, Esther, was enraged by this. If we are to believe that there were two attackers, this is possible. Anonymous letters would be found claiming that Marilyn and Spencer were engaged in an extramarital affair, but this was not proven. Bailey believed that the weapon used was fireplace tongs, and that Spender was wrestling with Sheppard while Esther beat Marilyn (Steer 2019).

            In the end, we have no true answer to the question of what happened to Marilyn Reese Sheppard, beyond the brutal details of her death. We have no unturned conviction, though we have theories that float around to this day. It has been 66 years since Marilyn Sheppard was beaten to death in her own bed, in her own home, by an unknown individual. It is likely that there will never be an answer to this case. Those who may have truly known, have since passed to the grave as well.

“Sam Sheppard.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 3 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Sheppard.

Linder, Douglas O. “Dr. Sam Sheppard Trials: An Account.” Famous Trials, www.famous-trials.com/sam-sheppard/2-sheppard.

Linder, Douglas O. “Who Killed Marilyn?: Evidence Concerning Richard Eberling– Was He ‘the Bushy-Haired Man’?” Famous Trials, www.famous-trials.com/sam-sheppard/10-evidence.

Steer, Jen. “Who Killed Marilyn Sheppard?” fox8.Com, fox8.Com, 14 Nov. 2019, fox8.com/news/who-killed-marilyn-sheppard/.

The Murder of Matthew Shepard

            On the night of October 6, 1998, one of the most well-known hate crimes against LGBT+ people was committed. Matthew Shepard, 21, was found beaten nearly to death and rushed to Poudre Valley Hospital, where he died six days later on October 12 as a result of the injuries he received from his attackers (Wikipedia).

            Matthew Shepard was born in 1976 to Judy and Dennis Shepard and had one younger brother born in 1981, Logan. He was known to be friendly as a child, but was often bullied because he was smaller and less athletic than other boys in his grade. In 1994, Dennis got a new job and the family moved to the Saudi Aramco Residential Camp in Dharan, where Matthew attended the American School in Switzerland. He graduated in 1995 and went on to attend multiple colleges (Catawba College in North Carolina and Casper College in Wyoming), eventually settling in Denver, Colorado. He was majoring in political science and minoring in languages. During his time there, he was the chosen student representative for the Wyoming Environmental Council. In that same year, Matthew experienced the traumatic events of being beaten and raped while on a trip in Morocco. This led to Matthew falling into a deep depression that resulted in drug use during his time at college as well as multiple hospital stays related to suicidal ideation (Wikipedia).

            On October 6, 1998 Matthew was on his way home with two other young men in their 20s, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who had offered him a ride home. The young men had met at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie, Wyoming, after Matthew had finished meeting with friends to plan a LGBT+ awareness week (Sheerin 2018), and left from there. On their way, the two men took Matthew to a more remote area, where they proceeded to rob and beat him, including pistol whipping him between 19 and 21 times which resulted in the head injuries that he later died from (Sheerin 2018). Matthew was subjected to torture and left tied to a barbed wire fence, where he was later found covered in blood except for where his own tears had washed it away (Wikipedia). He was also reportedly subjected to the torture of being set on fire (Bindel 2014). While McKinney and Henderson had intended, according to them, to go to Matthew’s home and steal from there after they left him, they returned to town and got into a fight with two other young men, Emiliano Morales and Jeremy Herrara. Morales and McKinney both ended up with head injuries and police were called. While attending the scene, an officer found Matthew’s shoes and credit card in McKinney’s truck after arresting Henderson and searching the truck. Along with Matthew’s belongings, the officer also found a gun with blood on it. While Henderson and McKinney tried to persuade their girlfriends to give them alibis, the girlfriends testified later that both were not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the attack (Wikipedia).

            By the time Matthew was discovered by a cyclist, who at first thought he was a scarecrow, eighteen hours after the attack, he had already slipped into a coma. He was sent to Ivinson Memorial Hospital in Laramie, WY before being moved to Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, CO, which had a better trauma unit. While at Poudre Valley, Matthew never regained consciousness and was deemed too severely injured to operate on. He had brain damage that affected his ability to regulate his heart rate and body temperature along with other vital functions, and had severe cuts all over his face (Wikipedia). His parents were in Saudi Arabia for his father’s job as an oil rig inspector and the two had to rush back to the states to be with their son. Matthew’s parents recognized him because of his dental brace, despite the fact that he was so badly beaten up that his face was barely recognizable (Sheerin 2018). Candlelight vigils were held across the world in his honor, and on October 12, six days after being attacked, Matthew Shepard died at 12:53 AM at 21-years old (Wikipedia).

            Before Matthew’s death, McKinney and Henderson were arrested and charged with attempted murder, aggravated robbery, and kidnapping and their girlsfriends, Kristen Price and Chasity Pasley, were charged with accessory after the fact. The attempted murder charge was upgraded to first-degree murder after Matthew’s death, which put the death penalty on the table for the two. In November 1998, Sergeant Rob Debree testified at McKinney’s hearing that McKinney admitted during an interview on October 9th that he and Henderson had marked Matthew as a target for robbery and pretended to be gay to gain his trust. Reportedly, the attack began when Matthew put a hand on McKinney’s knee, which, according to Price, triggered his personal feelings “about gays” and triggered the attack. Pasley plead guilty in December 1998 to accessory after the fact and Henderson plead guilty on April 5, 1999 to the murder and kidnapping chargers. He avoided the death sentence by agreeing to testify against McKinney and received in return two life sentences to be served consecutively. Henderson’s lawyer argued at the sentencing that the attack was not actually motivated by the fact that Matthew Shepard was gay. In October and November 1999, McKinney’s trial took place (Wikipedia).

            Testimony was presented at trial that McKinney and Henderson had pretended to be gay, as Price had stated, in order to gain Matthew’s trust and lure him to their truck to rob him. McKinney’s lawyer attempted to use the gay panic defense, which is still used in some states and claims that the defendant was sent into a temporary state of borderline-insanity due to sexual advances made by someone of the same sex, but the judge rejected this defense strategy. McKinney’s lawyer then tried another defense strategy: the two had intended to rob Matthew and not murder him, but Prosecutor Carl Rerucha argued for premeditated murder. Rerucha argued that the two attacked Matthew motived by their own greed and violence and not by Matthew’s sexuality. McKinney, in the end, was found not guilty of premeditated murder. He was instead found guilty of felony murder and thanks for Matthew’s parents, he was given two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole instead of the death penalty (Wikipedia). Neither McKinney nor Henderson were charged with a hate crime, as Wyoming law at the time meant it wasn’t possible (Bindel 2014).

            After his death, Matthew Shepard became known worldwide. The attack on him spurred action across the United States that resulted in good things for the LGBT+ community. Along with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which an online community for teenagers to discuss gender identity and sexuality and funds funds educational projects that is run by Judy and Dennis Shepard, there is The Laramie Project, a play that tells Matthew’s story and encourages campaigns against bigotry. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard Act into law; it states that crimes motivated by the identity of a victim are hate crimes (Bindel 2014).

            In recent years a new theory has risen about what triggered the attack on Matthew Shepard that has sparked some anger. This theory posits that it wasn’t homophobia that triggered the attack, but possibly crystal meth, which was rampant in the area. This theory has been largely dismissed, and the author behind the book it is presented in has faced much backlash including being boycotted. One of the United States leading LGBT+ journals, The Advocate, published a piece about refusing to read the book, which has also been called revisionist. The term revisionist is usually reserved for groups that deny things like the Holocaust, but can be used when talking about someone trying to rewrite something like the cause of a crime. Jimenez, the author of the book, began his research on the case shortly after Matthew’s death and reportedly discovered that Matthew was addicted to crystal meth and was being pimped out alongside one of his killers, McKinney. I cannot, at this time, find anything beyond Jimenez own statements and book that confirms these claims. The supposed drug abuse was not talked about during the trial, nor the idea that Matthew actually knew McKinney before the murder occurred. However, the officer who arrested McKinney and Henderson praised the book Jimenez wrote, as he believed that drugs were involved in the case and that McKinney and Henderson were after some they believed Matthew had at his home. The officer also claimed that the call of homophobia made no sense to him, as McKinney had apparently been found in compromising positions with men by officers before (Bindel 2014).

            In 2018, Matthew Shepard’s ashes were moved to the Washington National Cathedral, where he rests now among others such as Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, George Dewey, the man for which the rank of admiral was made, and Helen Keller. Matthew’s mother, Judy, reportedly thought the ceremony for his internment at the Cathedral would be more emotional for her than his funeral back in 1998, because she felt so numbed after his death. At his funeral, the well-known hate-mongers the Westboro Baptist Church picketed, and his father, Dennis, had to wear a bullet proof vest when he left the Episcopal church the ceremony was held at. The area was scoured by bomb sniffing dogs, to be safe, and the funeral was protected by SWAT and police snipers. Until his ashes were moved in 2018, his parents kept his ashes in an urn at their home, partially out of fear. They worried that any memorial they may have had put up would be desecrated, a reasonable fear given the homophobia and hate that still plagues our nation 20 years later (Sheerin 2018).

At the time of the sentencing in 1999, the Westboro Baptist Church returned to picket and were met by counter-protestors wearing white sheets draped over PVC piping and duct tape that resembled angels’ wings to block out the bigoted signs the church members were holding. In Laramie, there is a mural commemorating this protest only blocks away from where it occurred (Sheerin 2018).

“Matthew Shepard.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Shepard.

Bindel, Julie. “The Truth behind America’s Most Famous Gay-Hate Murder.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Oct. 2014, www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/26/the-truth-behind-americas-most-famous-gay-hate-murder-matthew-shepard.

Sheerin, Jude. “Matthew Shepard: The Murder That Changed America.” BBC News, BBC, 26 Oct. 2018, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-45968606.

The Central Park Five

            On April 19, 1989, Trisha Meili, 28, was jogging through Central Park in Manhattan, NY, when she was assaulted and raped. She was among eight cases that occurred that night from Central Park to The North Woods. Meili’s case in particular caught the attention of the nation. Her injuries were so severe that she was in a coma for 12 days after the attack occurred. While this happened in 1989, this case holds the distinction of being one of the most publicized cases in the 1980s, and is now seen as an example of the reality of institutional racism. Why? There were 10 arrests made in connection with the case, but five stood out. The confessions the group, now known at the Central Park Five, made were under interrogation without any counsel present. Before the trials even began, they recanted their confessions and maintained their innocence.  Despite the fact that DNA found at the scene – two samples from the same individual – did not match any of the Central Park Five, they were all found guilty. Four of the groups were under 16 and received sentences of six to seven years each, while the individual who was 16 was tried as an adult and served a total of 13 years in prison. The others who were arrested plead guilty before trial and were able to receive lesser sentences (Wikipedia 2020).

            Who were the Central Park Five, and how did such a miscarriage of justice occur? The Central Park 5 were all young men, black and latino, who happened to be in Central Park along with approximately 30 other teenagers on the night of the attacks. Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana, both 14, Anton McCray and Yusej Salaam, both 15, and Korey Wise, 16, were out in the park where undoubtedly there was trouble happening, but not caused by them. Richardson and Santana were the first to be taken in by the police, followed later by McCray and Salaam. Wise, however, was not there as a suspect and was actually there to support Salaam. For at least seven hours, without parents or counsel present, the young boys were interrogated by police. For any adult this would seem gruesome, so it should come as no surprise that false confessions were made. After all, after that long, people can be convinced they have done something they haven’t, or just confess to make it all stop. Four of the boys made their confessions on video (BBC 2019).

            While those false confessions were redacted, the boys were still found guilty and sentenced to years in prison for a crime they did not commit. Years later, in 2016, Salaam would say in a Guardian interview that he could hear Wise being beaten by police in the other room and the police interrogating him would tell him he was next. He talked about how afraid he, his friends, and his family all were at the time. There were adverts taken out by none other than Donald Trump, calling for the boys to be put to death. Reportedly, Trump spent approximately $85,000 on these adverts, which also called “Bring Back Our Police” while calling for the death penalty to be reinstated for the case (BBC 2019). Despite the boys being exonerated through DNA evidence and the confession of the true killer in 2002, Trump refused to apologize for the adverts and other vile statements regarding the five youths as of 2019. Not only has he refused to apologize in light of the true circumstances, he seems to still believe the victims of this injustice are at fault because they admitted guilt (under duress). He declared he felt the boys receiving a settlement for their wrongful imprisonment was a disgrace, because there were others attacked that night, though the Central Park Five have not been connected to those attacks (Rupar 2019). Back in 1989, he wrote, “I want to hate these murderers and I always will. I am not looking to psychoanalyse [sic]  or understand them, I am looking to punish them,”; it would seem that has not changed (BBC 2019).

            The boys, now men in their 40s, were able to receive a settlement of $41 million from New York City for the wrongful conviction, but this is likely of little solace to these men. New York refused to admit any kind of wrong doing in the situation, despite the fact that the entire case against the boys was based on coerced confessions, and the blatant racism that permeated the city at the time. It was by coincidence that Wise came into contact with the true perpetrator, Matias Reyes, while in prison. It was their meeting that lead to Reyes confessing to being the one who committed the heinous act against Meili in 1989 (Harris 2019). If Reyes had not confessed and the DNA hadn’t been tested, it is likely that none of the Central Park Five would have been exonerated without bringing significant public interest to the case. Due to the statue of limitations, Reyes was not charged with the crimes the Central Park Five spent time in prison for and is up for a parole hearing as of 2022 (BBC 2019).

            During the trial, the judgement passed by the media was immediate and intense. As happens even now, the then-teenage boys were demonized in the media, and while they awaited their trial date, they had already been judged in the court of public opinion: guilty, despite the lack of real evidence. The teenagers were described as a “wolf pack,” an image that immediately conjures images of animals on the hunt to the minds of many. Reports were made that “at least a dozen” young people were involved in the attack, dragging Meili down to an area of water known as the Loch and beating her and raping her there. This was obviously wrong, as we now know the perpetrator was actually Matias Reyes and not a dozen or more teenagers. Throughout the trial, the young boys were described across the media as “animals” and “bloodthirsty” as well as “human mutations” and “savages”; each word dehumanized and demonized boys aged 14 to 16. With that kind of press, the boys were doomed: no one would be an impartial juror. Beyond that, there was even more demonization in the media by columnists. Pete Hamill of the New York Times came out with the blatantly racist opinions that the boys hailed from a world of violence, crimes, and drugs, where there were no fathers and rich white people were the enemies (History.com 2019).

            What happened to the Central Park Five after being exonerated of these crimes, and what happened to Trisha Meili? Meili came forward in 2003 as the victim of the well-known case when she released her book, I Am The Central Park Jogger. After the attack, she has lost her sense of smell and still has scarring, but has gone on to become a motivational speaker and works with victims of sexual assault. Despite the attack, Meili is still running today (BBC 2019). Meili has no memory of the attack, likely due to the injuries sustained and being in a coma for nearly two weeks. Her injuries included a severe skull fracture and the loss of a majority of her blood (History.com 2019). In the time since being released from prison, Yusef Salaam has gotten married and has children of his own. He has spoken out about the fact that, during their interrogations, he and the other members of the group were denied food or water, and could not sleep for over 24 hours. In 2016, Barack Obama gave the life time achievement award to Salaam. Korey Wise, who was 16 when he was convicted and declared that Jesus would get the prosecutors for making the charges against him up, now works with the Innocence Project and advocates for the rights of those who have been wrongly convicted just as he was (Harris 2020). Just like Wise, Kevin Richardson now works with those who have been wrongly accused and the Innocence Project. Raymond Santana now lives in Atlanta with his daughter and now works as a filmmaker. He sold shirts with the names of the Central Park Five on them and the profits went to the Innocence Project (Harris 2020). As of 2012, Antron McCray was working as a forklift driver down south, where he lives and is raising his children. With the help of director Ava DuVernay, who also directed Selma (on Martin Luther King, Jr) and 13th, the Central Park Five were able to bring their story to more people through a Netflix series called When They See Us.

            The story of the Central Park Five is a story of a vast miscarriage of justice, fueled by the racist attitudes of the times. We would like to think this wouldn’t happen today, but the reality is that there is still a major problem with racism within our justice system. There was no DNA evidence, no eye witnesses, no evidence whatsoever connecting these innocent teenagers to this vicious crime, yet they served years in prison for it. They are far from the only ones this has happened to, but their case is a perfect example of what happens to so many. We still see people of various backgrounds get railroaded by the Court of Public Opinion, and inevitably also the actual justice system, just because of the color of their skin and not because of the evidence. Today, we have the Innocence Project, which aims to help those who have been wrongly convicted. If you would like to donate to the Innocence Project, you can donate here.

 “Central Park Jogger Case.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Park_jogger_case.

“Central Park Five: The True Story behind When They See Us.” BBC News, BBC, 12 June 2019, www.bbc.com/news/newsbeat-48609693.

Rupar, Aaron. “Trump Still Refuses to Admit He Was Wrong about the Central Park 5.” Vox, Vox, 18 June 2019, www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2019/6/18/18684217/trump-central-park-5-netflix.

Harris, Aisha. “The Central Park Five: ‘We Were Just Baby Boys’.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 30 May 2019, www.nytimes.com/2019/05/30/arts/television/when-they-see-us.html.

Harris, Chris. “The Central Park 5: Where Are They Now?” PEOPLE.com, 16 Feb. 2020, people.com/crime/the-central-park-five-where-they-are-now/.

History.com Editors. “The Central Park Five.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 14 May 2019, http://www.history.com/topics/1980s/central-park-five.

The Pulse Nightclub Shooting

            Four years ago, June 12, 2016, a nightclub in Orlando, FL experienced a tragic event that scarred the entire LGBT+ community. While my friends and I were home in bed, having gone to our first Pride parade that very day, those celebrating Pride at the club were gunned down in a place we are supposed to be safe. The effects of this event are still felt today, four years after the event. None of us went to Pride events without thinking of the possibility that we may end up attacked before the Pulse shooting. Afterwards, we couldn’t even go into places made for us, where we should have been safe, without thinking we may still be killed going inside. For us, the places meant to be for us, where we could be ourselves and be safe, were taken away by this event.

            The attack began to 2 AM, while the club was holding a Latin-themed night. With the club filled with more than 300 people, the gunman opened fire as the event for the night was coming to the end. He had an automatic rifle, meaning there was little that could be done by the clubgoers to stop him. Just minutes after the shooting began, the club Facebook page posted a message urging everyone to get out of the club and keep running (BBC 2016). I remember the questions on motive when this happened; was it homophobia, or was it racism that fueled the shooter? In the days that followed the shooting, the question would continue to baffle those investigating the shooting and the victims and their families.

            The shooter, Omar Mateen, was a native of Queens, New York, born to parents who immigrated from Afghanistan. Three years prior to the shooting, in May 2013, Mateen was brought to the attention of law enforcement as a possible danger to others. At the time, Mateen was working for a security firm and his coworkers reported that he claimed to have ties to known terrorist organizations, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah. While the investigation, which went on for 10-months, turned up no evidence the investigators could use, he was questioned by the FBI in 2014. A known associate of his had become a suicide bomber associated with the Nusrah Font. He was investigated again when a friend reported that he claimed to have been watching videos from al-Qaeda, but this investigation also went nowhere. Despite these investigations, Mateen was able to keep his license for firearms that he had had since 2007, and would have been able to receive one once his name was no longer on the Terrorist Watch List regardless (Ray 2020).

            In the days leading up to the attack, Mateen bought a Sig Sauer MCX semiautomatic assault rifle and a Glock 17 9mm semiautomatic pistol. Both of these guns would be used in the attack on the nightclub. When Mateen began shooting, an off-duty officer who was working security at the club began to shoot back, but relented due to being out-gunned. However, the officer, Adam Gruler, was able to call for back up and the club was quickly surrounded by the Orlando police (Ray 2020). The call came through just two minutes after the shooting reportedly began, at 2:02 AM, and the backup called in arrived at 2:04 AM (Zambelich & Hurt 2016). A triage center was set up across the street and the victims began to be brought over for treatment. While the victims who made it out were being treated, there were dozens more inside still. Some dead, some wounded, and some unable to escape. A group of officers, some of whom had SWAT training, used a broken window to enter the club and began to exchange gunfire with the shooter for approximately 10 minutes. During the next 20 minutes, the story began to immerge. While reports were being made, survivors were getting online and posting their first hand accounts of what happened. People were talking about hearing the shooting as the gunman made his way through the club. Mateen called 911 himself, to declare his “allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State” (Ray 2020).

            Victims inside the club tried to escape, some managing to get out and others not. Some hid in the bathroom stalls and texted their loved ones. Others, in hopes they would make it out, pretended to be dead and lay on the ground. According to survivors, Mateen paced around the club, laughing as he shot at the bodies on the ground (Zambelich & Hurt 2016).

            Eventually, the officers in the club were able to corner the gunman in the bathroom, where he remained for some time. For a total of 28 minutes, Mateen spoke with negotiators through the phone, as the situation had gone from an active shooter, to a hostage situation. According to his claims, a car outside had a bomb in it, and he was wearing a vest with explosives. While stuck inside the bathroom, he was regularly checking the internet to see what was being reported on his attack, and he was texting his wife as well (Ray 2020). While the gunman was trapped, responders were able to remove an air conditioning unit with the help of some of those trapped inside and allow a few more to escape the nightmare event occurring inside. This occurred at 4:21 AM, over two hours after the event began. As the police were working to break through the door, hostages saw Mateen getting more nervous. At some point, right as the police called for the hostages to move away from the wall, Mateen called to one hostage and shot them, then shot more (Zambelich & Hurt 2016). According to the victims fleeing, the gunman planned to use four of his hostages and put explosive vests on them. They told the responders he planned to have them on the hostages in 15 minutes, meaning they didn’t have much time (Ray 2020).

            It was at 5:02 AM, approximately three hours after the shooting began, that police set off the first of several small, controlled explosions that broke down the integrity of the building wall enough to drive an armored car through. While Mateen engaged several officers in a shootout, which resulted in his death, hostages escaped through the broken-down wall. After it was finally over, police discovered that the explosive vests were nothing more than a bluff. There had been no explosives in the bathroom at all (Ray 2020). Mateen was reported as down at 5:15 AM, and he was declared dead at 5:53 AM (Zambelich & Hurt 2016).

            In the days following the massacre, reports flooding the internet of men claiming to have seen Mateen on several gay dating apps and websites. These reports, however, were never substantiated, though his computer, online accounts, and phone were investigated. Even his 911 call where he claimed allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (from ISIS) was called into question, as he had made many contradicting statements claiming allegiance to other groups, the Nusrah Front, Syrian clients of al-Qaeda fighting Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah, a Lebanese Shi’ite militia allied with Assad. ISIS was known to be fighting against both these groups at the time. It seemed that Mateen was unable to understand the differences between the groups’ ideologies and had made his own identity between the three, resulting in a “lone wolf” terrorist (Ray 2020).

            Across the world, landmarks were lit up with six colors of the Gay Pride flag in honor of the victims of the Pulse shooting. The president, Barack Obama, and vice president, Joe Biden, met with survivors and their families, as well as the families of the victims who did not survive, and President Obama called again for gun control reform (Ray 2020). Mateen’s father condemned the attack, claiming that he did not know why his son did it, but knew he had recently started becoming enraged at the sight of two men kissing. Some of the victims at the club thought they had seen him at the club before, leading some to believe that Mateen may have been closeted. Others have posited that he could have been planning the shooting long before actually doing it, and could have been going into the club to plan (Zambelich & Hurt 2016).

            Mateen had a history of violence. His ex-wife divorced him due to the abuse she suffered at his hands. He claimed, along with his allegiance to ISIS, that he was friends with the Tsarnaev brothers, who committed the Boston Marathon bombings. While, unsurprisingly, many placed the blame on religion, specifically Islam, his father insisted that the attack was not motivated by religion. Despite the horrific acts that occurred on June 12, 2016, guns sales increased after the shooting, and a candidate for congress from Florida posted a contest to Facebook that was essentially a give away of an AR-15, a weapon very similar to the one used. Four separate gun-control measures were brought before the senate, but none of them passed (Zambelich & Hurt 2016).

            Four years later, the LGBT+ community still feels what happened the night. Every year, when I prepare for Pride, I remember the victims. I remember exactly what I felt when I woke up that morning and found out that so many of us were gone. 49 people died that night. Many more were injured. Bellow are the names of the victims.

Stanley Almodovar III, 23

Amanda Alvear, 25

Oscar Aracena-Montero, 26

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21

Martin Benitez Torres, 33

Antonio Brown, 30

Darryl Burt II, 29

Jonathan Camuy Vega, 24

Angel Candelario-Padro, 28

Simon Carrillo Fernandez, 31

Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25

Luis Conde, 39

Cory Connell, 21

Tevin Crosby, 25

Franky Dejesus Velazquez, 50

Deonka Drayton, 32

Mercedez Flores, 26

Peter Gonzalez-Cruz, 22

Juan Guerrero, 22

Paul Henry, 41

Frank Hernandez, 27

Miguel Honorato, 30

Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40

Jason Josaphat, 19

Eddie Justice, 30

Anthony Laureano Disla, 25

Christopher Leinonen, 32

Brenda Marquez McCool, 49

Jean Mendez Perez, 35

Akyra Monet Murray, 18

Kimberly Morris, 37

Jean Nieves Rodriguez, 27

Luis Ocasio-Capo, 20

Geraldo Ortiz-Jimenez, 25

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32

Enrique Rios Jr., 25

Juan Rivera Velazquez, 37

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24

Christopher Sanfeliz, 24

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado, 35

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez, 25

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34

Shane Tomlinson, 33

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25

Luis Vielma, 22

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37

Jerald Wright, 31 (Wikipedia)

“Orlando Nightclub Shooting: How the Attack Unfolded.” BBC News, BBC, 15 June 2016, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-36511778.

Ray, Michael. “Orlando Shooting of 2016.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 5 June 2020, www.britannica.com/event/Orlando-shooting-of-2016.

Zambelich, Ariel, and Alyson Hurt. “3 Hours In Orlando: Piecing Together An Attack And Its Aftermath.” NPR, NPR, 26 June 2016, www.npr.org/2016/06/16/482322488/orlando-shooting-what-happened-update.

“Orlando Nightclub Shooting.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 13 June 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orlando_nightclub_shooting#Names_of_the_deceased.

The Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

            The life of Martin Luther King, Jr, came to a sudden end on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, TN on April 4, 1968. On April 3, 1968, he had arrived in Memphis to help the sanitation workers who were currently on strike. The strike, which was not the first attempted strike by the sanitation workers, was sparked when two workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, died when a malfunctioning truck crushed them both. The response by the city was not taken well, and with a new mayor that year who had notably made things worse for the sanitation workers by not taking bad trucks out of service, it should be no surprise. The union, which had been started a few years earlier but had not been acknowledged by those in power, had demands: recognition of their union, a decent wage, and higher safety standards. The strike was supported not only by Doctor King, but also by the NAACP. The black community truly stood up for the strike when the strikers, doing a peaceful demonstration, were teargassed and maced (Kinginstitute 2018).

            When investigating the assassination, FBI investigators found 30.06 Remington Rifle in a bundle next to the boarding house across the street from where Doctor King died. At the time of the shooting, those on the balcony with him had pointed the building out as the place the shots had been fired from. Eventually, the investigation led the FBI to an apartment, where the found the fingerprints of James Earl Ray, a known criminal who had escaped prison a year earlier. There was also evidence, according to the FBI, that Ray had signed in to the South Main Street Rooming House on April 4th, and had a room with a perfect view of the Lorraine Motel. The declaration of James Earl Ray as the suspect led to an international manhunt that ended with Ray being extradited from Britain. He took a plea deal the next March, serving 99-years in prison for the assassination instead of the possible death penalty (Kinginstitute 2018).

            Why did James Earl Ray assassinate Martin Luther King, Jr? Or, is it possible he wasn’t the assassin at all, but a scapegoat? Theories abound as to if he was the real killer. It is known that Ray was spotted nearby around the time of the assassination and that is finger prints were found on the gun as well as at the apartment investigators were led to. When he was arrested in Britain, it was believed he was fleeing to Rhodesia, now known as Zimbabwe, which was reportedly a well-known safe haven for white supremacists. However, people had a hard time believing that Ray was actually the killer. After all, with his confession there was no trial, and without a trial, all the evidence against him didn’t see the light of day. Along with that, it was well known that the FBI had been following Doctor King and his followers, attempting to discredit the civil rights movement. Many believed that Ray did pull the trigger, but under the orders of someone – or some organization – outside of himself. Ray even later recanted his confession and claimed someone named “Raul” made him pull the trigger. He maintained that innocence until his death in 1998 (Waxman 2018).

            Ray reiterated his professed innocence to Dexter King, Doctor King’s son, as he was dying in 1997, which prompted the King family to begin a campaign to a new trial. While Ray died in prison before the campaign could go through, but his death didn’t change anything. It was decided that the trial would not happen, as there was apparently an insurmountable amount of evidence against Ray. Due to his unreliability, to investigate Ray and decide if he really was a reasonable suspect, they had to investigate the people he associated with. His lawyer, J.B. Stoner, was known to be a white supremacist, and Ray admitted to admiring Adolf Hitler. During the 1968 presidential campaign season, Ray also advocated George Wallace, a governor who supported segregation and was at the marches at Selma, Montgomery, and Birmingham to butt heads with Doctor King. While these facts point to Ray being a white supremacist who was likely against Doctor King’s message, they don’t explain the change in behavior. What happened to cause Ray to go from minor crimes, like theft and minor property damage, to assassination? That is what we still want to know (Waxman 2018).

            In an attempt to find some answer, Ray’s movements leading up to the assassination were also investigated. It is known that he made a trip to New Orleans for no known reason before going to Atlanta, GA. How these trips were funded is a mystery, and fuels the theory that Ray was either part of a group or hired by one that was bent on destroying the civil rights movement. There has, however, never been any evidence found to prove this theory. There are also known gaps in what we know about his movements before the assassination, during which times he could have met with just about anyone. In the 50 years since the assassination, a continued look into the evidence has resulted in nearly nothing (Waxman 2018).

            We cannot discuss Martin Luther King, Jr, without talking about an important truth: the Doctor King taught about in schools today is a watered-down version of who he truly was. In the years before his assassination, Doctor King became more radical than he had been before. He reminded those who worked for him that many white Americans were against desegregation of schools, and that white Americans had nearly annihilated Native Americans. He opposed the Vietnam War, against the suggestion of his advisors as well as against the civil rights establishment and the Johnson Administration. Doctor King brought the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) to Chicago to march, where they were pelted with rocks. He reportedly regretted that he couldn’t speak openly about democratic socialism and when he brought the SCLC into his Poor People’s Campaign, he surpassed the man he used as his meter for where too far was, James Bevel (Staff 2020).

            It wasn’t just at the end of his life that Doctor King began his more radical points. He was strongly against the racial disparages within American capitalism that gives to the rich and takes from the workers. He fought to change the system with his Poor People’s Campaign, aimed at changing national priorities from tax cuts and bail outs for the rich and funding the war complex, to things better for the people. Health care as a human right, ensuring every person had access to good education, and good jobs with livable wages. Doctor King was also close to President Kennedy, who sought his advice in secret after bombings at civil rights headquarters lead to a night of rioting in Birmingham, AL. Reportedly, Doctor King, who was called on a phone outside the main consultation room to keep others from knowing, advised that Kennedy condemn the bombings while he did his best to contain the rioting (Staff 2020).

            Martin Luther King, Jr, was far more radical than the whitewashed, sanitized version of him taught in schools today. He was much more than the “I have a dream” speech we all hear in school. He was at the forefront of the civil rights movement, leading marches that went up the streets to state buildings. When the first Black Lives Matter protests began, the protestors did the same thing, following in Doctor King’s footsteps, and unsurprisingly people were upset and claimed they should “protest like MLK did!” without truly knowing who Doctor King was and how he protested. Do not let the naysayers deter you, if you are out at the protests fighting against injustice. You are following in Doctor King’s footsteps, and perhaps as the protests continue, we will see the dream we were all taught about come true.

 “Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.” The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, 21 May 2018, kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/assassination-martin-luther-king-jr.

“Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike.” The Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute, 4 June 2018, kinginstitute.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/memphis-sanitation-workers-strike.

Staff, TIME. “10 Experts on What We Get Wrong About Martin Luther King Jr.” Time, Time, 16 Jan. 2020, time.com/5197679/10-historians-martin-luther-king-jr/.

Waxman, Olivia B. “Why James Earl Ray Killed Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968.” Time, Time, 3 Apr. 2018, time.com/5218982/james-earl-ray-martin-luther-king/.

The Death of Alice Hawkes

            If you search Google for Alice Hawkes, you can find the website dedicated to keeping her memory alive. On this site, alicehawkes.com, you can find everything on her case, put together by Mark Swett when he became enamored with her case while writing an article for the 21st anniversary of her death. Alice Hawkes, who would have been 56 this past week, was brutally murdered in 1987, and her murder is still unsolved (Swett). Beyond the webpage maintained by Swett, there is a surprising and somewhat disturbing lack of information available on the case. Alice Hawkes’ murder has been allowed to fall through the cracks of the media in the years since her untimely death, and that cannot be allowed. Lack of media attention can kill a cold case like this one, and I cannot allow that to happen. Alice Hawkes and her family deserve justice, and I hope that perhaps this short article can bring more attention to the case and reach someone who may be able to help.

            The Saturday of her death, Alice Hawkes followed her usual routine: go down to the local laundromat, Pratt-Abbot, down the street from her house on Spring Street in Westbrook, ME. Her boyfriend, Stephen Bouchard, had plans to go golfing with friends at the local golf club, Twins Falls Golf Club, after running some errands. The singular disruption to their day was that Bouchard accidentally locked his keys in his car and had to have Alice bring him his extra key. A witness was found who saw a man and a woman standing by a car in the area at the time, giving credence to the story of the keys locked in the car (Swett).

            Another resident of the apartment building Hawkes and Bouchard lived in remembered seeing her when she arrived home at approximately 11:00 AM, and helping her carry the large duffle bag of laundry she had with her. This resident is the last person known to have seen Alice alive, besides whomever her killer was. She put away some of the laundry she brought home and had a phone call with her mother that lasted approximately 40 minutes, to which her mother recalled her seemingly in a good mood. They had even planned to meet to do some holiday shopping the next weekend, but it never happened. Instead, Bouchard came home to find the door to their apartment deadbolted shut, which would not have been an issue if he had not forgotten his key to the deadbolt. The first clue that something was amiss was that, despite her car still being in the parking lot and the door being locked from the inside, she was not answering the door when he knocked. However, Bouchard surmised that she must have gone out with friends and continued to their golf game. When he and his friends returned later, the door was still locked and Bouchard went to his friend’s home in Portland, ME to wait for Alice to come home, and there he spent the night (Swett).

            The next morning, October 4th, their landlord let Bouchard into the apartment with an extra key and the police were quickly called to the scene. In the apartment, police found a large pool of blood and splatters that lead to Alice Hawkes body, on the bathroom floor. The apartment was a crime scene and soon the perimeter was established; all those who were not law enforcement and investigators were asked to leave the apartment but not leave the land the apartment building was on. The crime scene was thoroughly documented and speculation on her cause of death began immediately (Swett). It was noted at the time that, while Bouchard’s key to the deadbolt was found, Alice’s was missing. It is believed by some involved in the case that the missing deadbolt key will solve the case. Bouchard was spotted going through her purse at the scene, which obviously looked suspicious, but after he and his friends were questioned, they were allowed to leave. This is notably unusual due to the fact that they weren’t separated and questioned individually, but all together. By allowing them to leave together and not question them separately, they allowed time for possible alibi building. If Bouchard and his friends had been involved, letting them leave together meant they could take time to go over the story they told police. Another unusual turn was that Bouchard was reportedly never considered a suspect, despite the fact that he was her boyfriend and the first people investigated in many cases are the significant others. It is known now that Bouchard had his own list of suspects who he believes could be responsible (Viles 2019).

The first thought was that she may have been stabbed repeatedly in the chest, but when her body was moved for the examiner it wasn’t immediately obvious what had happened to her. While the apartment was shut down and being investigated and documented, Bouchard made the phone call to Alice’s brother, Jim, to inform him of her death. From there, Jim would make the notifications to the rest of their family (Swett).

            Unsurprisingly, rumors began to spread throughout Westbrook about what had happened. People said they had heard there was a cut on her body, but the official cause of death had not been released yet. Others heard rumors of knife wounds around her neck, but this was also unsubstantiated at the time (Swett). What was not heard, however, was what could be viewed as the “smoking gun.” Why was Alice targeted? Was this a crime of opportunity, or was this a premeditated attack on her? Police never released any information on if there was a reason behind the murder, and years later that is sited as one of the reasons this case remains unsolved (Viles 2019).

It wasn’t until after the funeral of Alice Hawkes that the coroner’s report was released and the true murder investigation was launched (Swett). According to the coroner’s report, Alice Hawkes’ had been undoubtedly murdered and that a kitchen knife had been the implement used. There was a cut to her torso when her body was found, but the cause of death was not released beyond “Homicide.” The family were unaware of the cause of death until they began to prepare her body for the funeral (Viles 2019).

            As days turned to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years, the Hawkes family became understandably frustrated with the lack of information or so much as a suspect in the case. In 1992, they hired a private investigator, retired State police detective Ralph Pinkham, and offered a reward of $5,000 for any information leading to an arrest in the case. The reward raised to $10,000 before being taken off the table in 2002 (Swett).  In 2016, one of the investigators said they had an idea who did it and what happened, but no name has ever actually been released. It seems that, over the just over 30-years since her murder, Alice Hawkes’ family has not been being updated as regularly as they had been when this all began, and this is another frustration on the family (Viles 2019).

            The surge in interest in true crime and in cold cases, as well as the increased trust in DNA and other techniques that were not available in 1987, has increased hope that this case may one day be solved. Perhaps, like in the case of the Golden State Killer, familial DNA will crack the case wide open and the murderer, who has gotten away with this for far too long, will finally be brought to justice. With a large portion of the population watching television like “Dateline” and “48 Hours,” cases like Alice Hawkes are getting more media attention and the chances that someone could come forward with new information is that much more (Viles 2019). If you believe that you or someone you know may have information that could help solve the murder of Alice Hawkes, please call the following numbers for the Maine State Police Major Crimes Unit:

            In State: 1-800-228-0857

            Out of State: (207)657-3030 (Ousarf 2016)

Swett, Mark. “Who Killed Alice Hawkes?” Who Killed Alice Hawkes?, www.alicehawkes.com/.

Viles, Chance. “32 Years Later, the Killing of Alice Hawkes Remains Unsolved.” Press Herald, 28 Sept. 2019, www.pressherald.com/2019/09/26/32-years-later-the-killing-of-alice-hawkes-remains-unsolved/.

Ousarf, Elle. “Unsolved Murders Maine: Alice Hawkes.” WCSH, 4 Oct. 2016, www.newscentermaine.com/article/news/local/westbrook/unsolved-murders-maine-alice-hawkes/328838591.

The Mysterious Hinterkaifeck Murders

            Roughly 43 miles north of Munich, Germany, lies the small cement memorial dedicated to what was once a normal farmstead. The farmstead, known as Hinterkaifeck, was the home to the Gruber family (Grundhauser 2014).  Andreas, 63, and his wide, Cäzilia, 72, their daughter, Viktoria Gabriel, 35, and the children she had with her late husband, Cäzilia, 7, and Josef, 2. Along with the Gruber family, there was also their maid, Maria Baumgartner, 44. While Hinterkaifeck was not the formal name of the family farm, the name literally meaning “Behind Kaifeck,” the town the farm was near, it is the name that popular culture has chosen to refer to the farm and the events that occurred as. It is worth noting that while Kaifeck was the town many associated with the farm, the farm actually belonged to another town, Gröbern. In 1971, the land now famous for the unsolved murders was incorporated into Waidhofen, where is remains today. The farm itself was actually demolished less than a year after the murders occurred (Wikipedia).

            Before the murders even occurred, people reported strange things happening around the farmstead. While the reasoning is unconfirmed, approximately six months before the murders occurred the family maid quit. Many claimed she quit because she thought the farm was haunted, having supposedly heard strange sounds coming from the attic. In March 1922, Andreas found a newspaper he didn’t subscribe to in the property. He didn’t remember buying it, either, and no one else in the area subscribed to the paper, which was from Munich, either. They also found footprints in fresh snow, leading up to the farm’s machine room where a lock was broken. What made these tracks unnerving was that there were no tracks found leading away from the farm, leading to the conclusion that whomever made those tracks was still on the farm. They heard footsteps in their attic, but a search of the home turned up nothing and Andreas refused to contact the police about these strange occurrences. Before the murders, young Cäzilia reportedly told others that her mother, Viktoria, had taken off from the home into the woods nearby after a particularly volatile fight and was found that same night. The family also reported seeing a man with a mustache observing them from the edge of the woods (Wikipedia).

            Maria Baumgartner arrived on March 31, 1922, to begin working for the family as their new maid. Her sister was the one who dropped her off, and likely was the last person to see the victims alive. It is speculated that the family was lured out into the barn that night and slaughtered one-by-one, before the killer took their weapon – a mattock, similar to a pickaxe – and went inside to kill Josef, the toddler, in his crib and Baumgartner in her bedchambers (Wikipedia).

            It was four days before the murders were discovered. There were two coffee merchants that visited the farm on April 1st, looking to place orders with the farm. When they were unable to get a response at the door, they walked through the farm. While they had taken notice of the machine room door being open, but left without checking out why it was open. It was noted that the family missed their regular Sunday services that Sunday, and that Cäzilia had been absent from school without any form of excuse.  When the mail was delivered on April 3, 1922, the mail man, Josef Mayer, took notice that the mail hadn’t been picked up by the family in a couple days. It wasn’t until a repair man came to fix one of their machines on April 4th that someone finally sent people out to the farm to look for the missing family. While searching the farm for signs of the family, the men who had come to search found the family members in the barn and, shortly after, found Josef and Baumgartner inside the house (Wikipedia).

            Cäzilia Gruber had been bludgeoned to death in a horrific attack, and like his grandmother, so had Josef. The toddler’s face had been entirely caved in by the blows rained down upon him by whomever it was that committed these murders. The side of Viktoria’s head was collapsed and there was a hit to the top of her head that shattered her skull, along with some other wounds as well. Andreas’s face was apparently shredded and there was bone protruding from the wounds, broken. Baumgartner’s wounds suggested she died quickly, with just a few blows. The worst of the deaths appeared to be Cäzilia Gabriel, Viktoria’s seven-year old daughter. The poor child had survived her initial attack and it is believed she was tearing her hair out as she watched the rest of her family beaten to death (Grundhauser 2014).

            Investigators came from Munich to investigate the case, though by the time they arrived the scene had already been greatly disturbed. Several people had come into the farm between the time of the deaths and the time of the discovery. On top of those people, the court physician, Johann Baptist Aumüller, had performed the autopsies in the barn and the bodies were moved before the investigators arrived. Unfortunately, it was found during the investigation that 7-year old Cäzilia was likely alive for several hours after being attacked, her hair pulled out in tufts where she was found lying. While the family was buried on April 8th of that year, their skulls were removed for investigation and later lost, likely in the bombings that occurred during World War II (Wikipedia).

            There were many people interrogated at the time, including craftsman, locals, and vagrants from the area. Anyone who was around at the time of the murders who may have been looking to rob the farm was interrogated, but no leads came from these interrogations. The robbery theory went the way of the dodo after large amounts of money were found in the house, likely meaning that no robbery had occurred. As far as the investigators could tell, whoever committed the murders must have remained at the farm for some time after the murders. Someone had been using the kitchen, including freshly cutting meat, and the cattle had been fed during the time as well. Along with the evidence within the house, locals also remembered seeing smoke rising from the farm during the days after the murders. The case was officially closed in 1955, though a second look was taken at the case in 1986, and no one was ever charged with the murder. Several people were arrested and released, and over 100 people were interrogated in relation to the murders (Wikipedia).

             There are theories, of course, as to how the family members were lured out into the barn during the night. Initial speculation was that the sounds of disturbed animals drew the family out, but it was later tested and it seemed that human screaming could not be heard up at the house. With only a total of five crime scene photos taken, a lot is not known of how the crime scene truly looked. Investigators could not find enough evidence to put together the sequence of events, but believed that Viktoria was the first one lured out to the barn. After Viktoria, her mother Cäzilia was likely next, followed by her father, Andrea, and her daughter, Cäzilia. Based on a reconstruction done, it was also determined that Baumgartner had likely been killed before young Josef was (Wikipedia).

            For a while, people believed that the murderer, or murderers, had been hiding in the attic due to the stories Gruber had been telling in the months leading up to the murders. Investigators found shifted roof tiles and strange spots in the hay in the attic that fueled this belief for some time, but allegations that Andreas and Viktoria were pursuing an incestuous relationship lead to a new belief that these discoveries were related to their attempts to hide this relationship. There were sightings of possible perpetrators in the days leading up to the discovery of the bodies. Michael Plökl, an artisan, was passing by Hinterkaifeck when he noticed that there was smoke that smelled foul coming from the house. Whomever was burning something in the house approached Plökl, blinding him with a lantern so he was unable to see them. He left quickly and this sighting was not investigated. Simon Reißländer, a farmer and butcher, saw two people standing by the forest who quickly turned away when they saw him. Albert Hofner, the repair man who was on the farm doing repairs for several hours after the murders occur, wasn’t questioned until 1925. According to what he told police, the house was locked and he saw no one while he was there, but he believed someone was at the farm. He could hear the dogs barking inside and as he was leaving, he saw that one of the dogs was outside and the barn door was open. At the time that the murders were discovered, the dogs were inside and the barn door was closed (Wikipedia).

            There were several suspects, despite the case still being unsolved 98 years later. Viktoria’s late husband, Karl Gabriel, was among the suspects, along with: Lorenz Schlittenbauer, Anton and Adolf Gump, Karl and Andreas S., Peter Weber, Karl and Anton Bichler and Georg Siegl, Josef and Andreas Thaler, and Paul Muller (Wikipedia).

            Karl Gabriel was reportedly killed in World War I, in Aras, France in 1914. Reportedly, his cause of death was a shell attack on the city that December, but his remains were never recovered. Due to this, many began to suspect that perhaps he hadn’t actually died in the war and had found his way back just to find that his wife had had a child out of wedlock, reportedly with her own father. People felt that he had faked his death by switching his identity with a fallen comrade and killed the family in revenge; this was bolstered by reports from people claiming to have seen him in the time since his death. During World War II, some prisoners of war claimed they had been released by a German speaking Soviet officer that many began to speculate was Gabriel. This soldier was initially reported to have claimed to be the Hinterkaifeck killer, but the soldier who reported on this Soviet officer did change their stories later. That did not, however, stop the continued dispersal of this story (Wikipedia).

            Lorenz Schlittenbauer was another possible father of Josef Gabriel. In 1918, he became a widower and was believed to have begun a romantic relationship with Viktoria Gabriel. His initials appear on Josef’s birth certificate, but it is possible that the L.S. that appears could be the initials of an attending physician. The reason Schlittenbauer came under suspicion was related to the fact that he was one of the men who found the bodies. A few days before the murders, a house key went missing. At the time that the bodies were discovered, the group of men couldn’t get into the house because it was locked. Right after they discovered the bodies in the barn, Schlittenbauer somehow came up with a key and let them into the house where Josef and Baumgartner were. While it is possible that Schlittenbauer may have been given an extra key, he was a neighbor and possibly Viktoria’s lover, it did draw suspicion. He entered the house by himself, apparently going to find his son, Josef, at the time and was known to have disturbed the bodies before investigators arrived. In 1925, a local school teacher claimed to have seen Schlittenbauer at the remains of the farm and heard from him that the reason the bodies had been left in the barn was actually because the killer couldn’t bury them in the frozen ground. While many people viewed this as a possible link between him and the murders, it is also possible he would have known this because he lived in the area and would know how the ground was at the time. As for his motive: people believed he killed the family because Viktoria demanded financial support for Josef. Regardless of if he was the killer or not, he won defamation law suits against several people for the rumors before his death in 1941 (Wikipedia).

            Much like Schlittenbauer, Adolf Gump also had a rumored relationship with Viktoria Gabriel. While these rumors were not substantiated, his involvement with the murders of nine people in Silesia was known. It meant he was capable of this kind of crime and he was asked for an alibi for those days in 1922 that the murders occurred. His brother, Anton, came under suspicion when their sister claimed her brothers committed the murders while she was on her death bed in 1951. Adolf had died in 1944, but Anton was still alive and was remanded to police custody. The case against him could not be proven and was dismissed in 1954 (Wikipedia).

            A woman named Therese T. wrote a letter in 1971 claiming that she experienced an event related to the murders when she was a child. According to her claim, her mother had gotten a visit from the mother of the brothers, Karl and Andreas S., who claimed that her sons were responsible for the Hinterkaifeck murders. Reportedly, she wrote that the mother had lamented a penknife that Andreas had lost during the murders. A penknife was found at the time that the farm was torn down, though no owner was able to be found. It is possible, of course, that the penknife had belonged to one of the victims, and the previous maid claimed she had seen the penknife around the house while working there (Wikipedia).

            A coworker of Peter Weber, Josef Bert, was the one who presented Weber as a possible suspect. While they worked together, Weber spoke frequently of the farm and how there was an old couple who lived there with a child and grandchild. According to Bert, Weber contacted him about looking to kill the family and take the money, but seemingly nothing ever came of this contact (Wikipedia).

            The Bichler brothers became suspects when the maid who worked at the farm before Baumgartner brought their names forward. One of the brothers, Anton, had worked at the farm during a potato harvest, meaning he would know the layout of the home and the grounds. According to the maid, Anton frequently spoke with her about the families living in the home and claimed he thought they should be dead. She believed that a person she was having late-night conversations with was his brother, Karl, and noted that the dog that barked at everyone, didn’t bark at Anton. Another worker, Georg Siegl, had broken into the house a couple years prior to the murders and stolen some items. She was sure he, along with the Bichler brothers, were the ones who committed the murders. Siegl also admitted that he was the one who carved the handle of the mattock that was used in the murders and knew where it was kept (Wikipedia).

            The previous maid also put forward the names of the Thaler brothers. The brothers were already known to have been involved in several smaller criminal actions in the area before the murders, and the maid claimed that Josef Thaler would come to her window at night and ask her questions about the family. Josef also was known to have claimed to know who slept in what rooms within the house, along with that the family actually had a lot of money. The maid remembered there being someone else nearby when they spoke, watching the machine room (Wikipedia).

            In 2017, Paul Mueller (also known as Paul Miller) was produced as a suspect in the case by Bill James, author of the book The Man from The Train. James claimed that Mueller was responsible for the crimes, which bear a striking resemblance to crimes he is suspected of having committed in America (Wikipedia). Mueller was a suspect in the Villisca Axe Murders, where a similar series of death occurred. He was a German immigrant and it is thought he may have fled to Germany when suspicion fell on him for those crimes. He was also the only suspect in the murders of a family he worked for in West Brookfield, MA. Like the Hinterkaifeck murders, the family in West Brookfield, MA also ran a farm (Wikiwand).

            Unfortunately for the victims of the Hinterkaifeck murders, it is unlikely that the case will ever be solved. The evidence has been gone over again and again over the years, but the case has gone unsolved for so long it is near impossible to clean any other insights from the evidence. The Gruber and Gabriel families will unfortunately never have the justice they should have gotten 98 years ago, and the murderer will likely never be confirmed.

Grundhauser, Eric. “Hinterkaifeck Memorial.” Atlas Obscura, Atlas Obscura, 27 Oct. 2014, www.atlasobscura.com/places/hinterkaifeck-memorial.

“Hinterkaifeck Murders.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 16 May 2020, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinterkaifeck_murders.

“Villisca Axe Murders.” Wikiwand, http://www.wikiwand.com/en/Villisca_axe_murders#/Paul_Mueller.

The Grisly Crimes of Amelia Dyer

            Baby farmers were people who would take custody of children and babies in the late Victorian Era, in exchange for payment. The term itself was actually a negative term for these people, and was usually used to imply that the person caring for the children was treating the children improperly (Wikipedia 2019). This is was Amelia Dyer was known for. While Dyer became one of the most prolific serial killers in British history, she didn’t start there. Born in 1837, to a popular shoemaker and a mother who suffered from mental illness, Amelia Elizabeth Dyer was the youngest of seven children after her two younger sisters died. By the time her father died in 1859, Amelia had become estranged from her family and had received no inheritance or rights to the business her father had run. Amelia wed a man much older than her, George Thomas, who told her he was 45 when he was actually 59. She had also lied about her age, telling him she was 30 when she was actually 24 at the time they were married; the two had one daughter together, with whom Amelia was close with throughout her life (Ward 2017).

 Amelia Dyer was trained as both a midwife and a nurse before becoming a baby farmer in the 1860s after meeting a woman who introduced her to the business during her training (Ward 2017). Starting in 1834, those who sired illegitimate children no longer had to support those children thanks to the Poor Law Amendment Act. Thanks to this act, many women were left with few options if they became pregnant before being wed. Raising the child themselves or paying a baby farmer to take the child were essentially it. Baby farmers were intended to temporarily care for children and find them new homes, but, like with Dyer, many children were mistreated and killed under the hands of baby farmers (Crime Museum).

            Amelia Dyer began her affairs with a boarding house, where she looked after pregnant women, who were unmarried, and helped them deliver their babies. After the deliveries, the women would leave their children with her and continue on with their lives. Some of these women would write Amelia, but she rarely replied (Ward 2017). When she began killing, she did so by allowing the children within her care to die through starvation, using an opium-laced syrup known as “Mother’s Friend” to keep the children quiet as they died. Unsurprisingly, Amelia would eventually begin killing in a quicker manner and draw attention to herself. A doctor, suspicious of the large number of children dying under her care, spoke out and Amelia was arrested and charge with neglect. She served six months of hard labor, which likely lead to her using aliases later on and moving around somewhat regularly. Along with these precautions, she also began to avoid the use of doctors (Crime Museum). Before her arrest, Amelia seemed to be enduring bouts of mental illness much like her mother had. She appeared to be having break downs and to be suffering from suicidal thoughts, but some believe she was faking these episodes to veer attention away from the babies dying in her care. She was known to have made one serious suicide attempt, ingesting two bottles of laudanum. However, after years of alcohol abuse, as well as opium us, she had likely grown a tolerance for such things and survived (Ward 2017).

            Amelia found her victims through the newspaper. She would look for young, unmarried women who placed advertisements looking for someone to take their child from them. She would contact these women and offer to take the children off their hands, for a fee. The fee was either £5 or £10, and she would either offer these women a way to pay in smaller portions, or would demand the fee upfront. When it became available, Dyer would also use wire transfers, as well as allowing cash payment through the mail (Ward 2017).

            It was easy for Dyer to get away with her crimes in Britain at the time. Poverty was common place, and many infants died due to starvation at the time. Young mothers who lived in poverty couldn’t send their infants away to a wet nurse the way mothers from higher classes could, and so those children died more frequently. By allowing the infants in her care to starve, her crimes were not as noticeable to those watching from the outside. After her six months of hard labor, Dyer began to kill the infants in a new manner: by strangling them with dressmaking tape. As soon as she was alone with the infants, she would begin to strangle them with the white tape. She reportedly enjoyed seeing them gasp for air as they died (Ward 2017). She apparently later claimed that she was an “angel maker” and thought she was returning children who were unwanted to Jesus (Carney 2019). Upon their deaths, she would wrap them in a cloth of some kind and either bury them, such as she did with the ones found in the garden of one of her boarding homes that were found in 1902, or she would weigh them down and drop them into the Thames (Ward 2017).

            While Amelia Dyer was killing infants, it was the infant that would some day become forensic science that lead to her capture. The bodies of two infants, a boy and a girl, were found floating on the Thames by a bargeman on March 30, 1896. The cloth she had wrapped them in was linked to her through forensics, and police began their investigation. They set up a false advertisement as exactly what Dyer looked for: an unwed young mother looking for someone to adopt her infant. April 3, 1896, Dyer fell for the trap and went to meet the young mother; she was subsequently arrested and the police raided her home. While they found no children there, they could smell rotting flesh and letters from young mothers, opium, telegrams, and the advertisements she answered. This was enough evidence for her to be arrested and charged with murder (Ward 2017). The police dredged the Thames after her arrest, and while many bodies were found, Dyer made sure to point out that her victims were only infants with white tape around their necks. When she confessed to the crimes, she made sure to convince the police that her daughter and son-in-law were not involved in her crimes. It is unknown if her daughter was innocent or not, but a couple years after her death a young couple who later turned out to be her daughter and son-in-law received an infant at their door step. It seemed that she may have been following in her mother’s footsteps and working as a baby farmer (Carney 2019).

            Dyer was found guilty on May 22, 1986, of the murders of three babies, and sentenced to death by hanging. She wrote a last confession so long, it filled five notebooks. It is believed she may have killed up to 400 babies during her career (BBC 2017), but only 14 deaths have actually been linked to her. She was hung at 9 AM on June 10, 1896. In the aftermath of her crimes, a call was made for stricter adoption laws and for the 1834 Poor Law Amendment Act to be changed or stricken from law. If the act was stricken, it would mean that men would be required to support their illegitimate children, and it would hopefully make crimes like Amelia Elizabeth Dyer’s harder (Ward 2017).

            Dyer’s crimes are still on the minds of the public today. In 2017, evidence was rediscovered by a relative of one of the arresting officers, and it made headlines. The evidence, which was brown paper packaging and a string of rope, as well as white dressmaking tape and an evidence tag, was actually the packaging the baby that would lead to her arrest was found in (BBC 2017). When looking at the packaging, you can actually make out a name and address. The name, Mrs. Thomas, was one of Amelia’s aliases, and the address was the boarding house she was suing at the time (Carney 2019). The evidence was found in an attic, and it should be no surprise: likely, during the Victorian era, police would be responsible for evidence making it to the court house. The name of the baby that would lead to her arrest was Helena Fry (BBC 2017).

“Amelia Dyer ‘The Reading Baby Farmer.’” Crime Museum, www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/serial-killers/amelia-dyer/.

“Baby Farming.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Oct. 2019, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_farming.

Ward, Donna P. “The Horrifying Truth of Britain’s Baby Butcher Amelia Elizabeth Dyer Revealed.” HistoryCollection.co, 20 Nov. 2017, historycollection.co/liked-watch-tape-around-necks-amelia-elizabeth-dyer-baby-farmer-serial-killer/.

“Victorian Baby Killer Amelia Dyer Evidence Found in Loft.” BBC News, BBC, 7 Mar. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-berkshire-39186837.

Carney, Ann. “Amelia Dyer: The Victorian Baby Farmer.” Owlcation, Owlcation, 4 Nov. 2019, owlcation.com/humanities/Amelia-Dyer-Victorian-Baby-Killer.

The Dupont de Ligonnès Murders (And Disappearance)

            The Dupont de Ligonnès were the descendants of French aristocracy, and were the world to be as it was before France banned social classes in the 1700s, Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès would have been a count (Doherty 2019). On April 21, 2011, all but one member of the Dupont de Ligonnès family were found wrapped in sheets and covered in quicklime under the patio of their house in Nantes, France. The deceased included the mother of the family, Agnès, 48, and her children, Arthur, 21, Thomas,18, Anne, 16, and Benoît, 13. Whomever killed the family also killed their two Labradors and buried them alongside their family. The killings had likely happened between April 3 and April 5, possibly by Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, who was nowhere to be found. Autopsy reports stated that the five family members had been killed with a .22 rifle in an execution manner and suggested that the children had likely been drugged beforehand (Ball 2019).

            Xavier, who was 50 at the time of the murders, is the main suspect in the murders. A neighbor called the police on April 13 when they noticed that the blinds in the house had been closed for a few days. By the time police began the investigation that eventually lead to the April 21 search of the home, on April 19, Xavier was already under suspicion (Ball 2019). During the search of the Dupont de Ligonnès home, police came across a severed leg that eventually lead to their search under the porch of the house. The leg was reportedly found under a terrace (Doherty 2019). Xavier had no history of criminal behavior, but when the bodies of his family were discovered without his present, suspicions would grow. He owned a .22 rifle and had bought digging tools, cement, and four bags of lime throughout Nantes, France in the days leading up to the murders. Along with these suspicious purchases, Xavier told friends he was a secret agent for the US being put into witness protection and told his children’s high school that he was getting a job transfer and moving to Australia (Ball 2019). Before the murders, he was known to have been doing target practice with his father’s rifle (Doherty 2019).

            On April 12, Xavier was seen in southern France, where he was reportedly booked into a luxury sweet. During this stay, witnesses say he ate alone and ordered half a bottle of burgundy. He was seen at Roquebrune-sur-Argens just a few days later, on April 15. Supposedly, he spent some time in a budget hotel that his car was found parked at, most likely abandoned (Ball 2019). In 2018, abandoned potassium mines and underground caves were searched by police for any evidence there might be of Xavier (Allen & Tahir 2019). These are the last confirmed sightings of Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès. Massive manhunts were performed, but no further evidence was found. According to friends, approximately a year before the murders they received suicide letters from Xavier. He was supposedly being crushed by financial debt and was thinking about killing himself and possibly the rest of the family, or “shooting up the house.” In 2015, bones were found nearby the last place Xavier was seen, but DNA proved they were not his bones. The headline making bones resulted in a letter being sent to journalist supposedly signed by Xavier and claiming he was still alive. (Ball 2019).

            October 2019 saw what was thought to be a true breakthrough in the case: an arrest was made in Glasgow, Scotland. Unfortunately, DNA proved that the man apprehended was not, in fact, Xavier, but someone else entirely (Doherty 2019). The man, Guy Joao, is a retired man form France married to a Scottish woman. He was detained at the Glasgow Airport after he was mistakenly identified as Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès.  Before DNA proved that Joao is not Dupont de Ligonnès, there was hope that they had caught him after eight years. Joao’s fingerprints happen to partially match Dupont de Ligonnès’ fingerprints. At the time of his detainment, police believed that his passport was a fake and that he was disguised. It has been believed for some time that Xavier may have stolen or faked papers of identification and disguised himself, so it shouldn’t be any surprise that there was speculation that that may have been the case. There have also been theories that Xavier underwent plastic surgery to disguise himself and had remarried in Scotland (Allen & Tahir 2019).

            In an unusual turn of events, at the time of the murders the bodies were prepared for burial at an abnormally fast pace and the extended family was not allowed to view or identify the bodies. Evidence was collected from the bodies in less than a week, and at the time of the funeral, which was attended by over a thousand people, the family had still been denied the chance to view the bodies of their deceased family members. The bodies were cremated afterwards, meaning that the family could not view the remains after the funeral either. Many family members believe that the bodies they put to rest were not actually those of their family. Part of this comes from a letter that Xavier left for his extended family instructing them to look after the belongings in the house and informing them that the family was moving to the United States. DNA tests were taken of the bodies, but only to confirm that the bodies were of related persons and not that the bodies were the Dupont de Ligonnès family (McCaw 2020).

            Whatever you believe, one thing is for sure: four people and two dogs died at the hands of a wannabe executioner at the Dupont de Ligonnès home in Nantes, France.  Whether you believe those found were truly the Dupont de Ligonnès or you believe they were all persons put their as some form of distraction, that fact will always remain. These people were murdered execution style with a .22 rifle and whoever did it, whether it be Xavier Dupont de Ligonnès, or someone else, has gotten away with it for eight years. Xavier may still be out there, hidden through plastic surgery or perhaps by family members, or perhaps he did what he had told his family long before: killed himself and took his wife and children with him. Until such a time comes as whoever is responsible for this crime comes forward, we will not have the answers we desire.

Ball, Sam. “Xavier Dupont De Ligonnès: Murder, Mystery and an 8-Year Manhunt.” France 24, France 24, 13 Oct. 2019, www.france24.com/en/20191012-xavier-dupont-de-ligonnès-murder-mystery-and-an-8-year-manhunt.

Doherty, Jennifer. “A French Aristocrat Suspected of Murdering His Family Eludes Authorities Once Again.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 12 Oct. 2019, www.newsweek.com/xavier-dupont-de-ligonnes-false-alarm-true-crime-1464828.

Allen, Peter, and Tariq Tahir. “Cops Arrest Wrong Man in Hunt for French Aristocrat Who ‘Killed Wife and Kids’.” The Sun, The Sun, 12 Oct. 2019, www.thesun.co.uk/news/10119239/xavier-dupont-de-ligonnes-killing-family-arrested-glasgow/.

McCaw, Jordan. “The Dupont De Ligonnès Murders and Disappearance.” Recount & Reveal, Recount & Reveal, 18 Mar. 2020, www.recountandreveal.com/blog/2020/3/17/the-dupont-de-ligonns-murders-and-disappearance.