I’ve compiled my own top ten list of fascinating yet unsolved crimes. Some are quite well-known, others maybe not so much. What do you think? Let me know which unsolved crimes would make your list…
In no particular order:
- Zodiac Killer
Zodiac taunted the San Francisco area from December 1968 to October 1969, though his killing spree may have started before this, and continued long after. He killed seven people and taunted the police with coded, clue-laden messages that he sent to San Francisco newspapers for over a decade. Over 2,500 suspects were investigated by the police, but the case remains unsolved and open to this day. So was he inadvertently arrested for something else? Did he die? Has he continued killing people in different ways so as not to link them to this case? Who knows…
Why it made my list: The brazenness of Zodiac and the way he taunted the police, media and the public for so long.
- The Women of Ciudad Juarez
Also called the City of the Lost Girls, Juarez is a destitute border town in Mexico where hundreds of women (one report states 370) have been raped, tortured and then killed over the past decade. Many of the women work in the numerous factories or live in Juarez because of its proximity to the U.S. border, where they can cross for work. Amnesty International has pleaded with the Mexican authorities to find the perpetrators, but with an ever-intensifying drug war taking place throughout the country, and a corrupt government, the women of Ciudad Juarez are unfortunately a low priority.
What astounds me the most: The sheer number of women. It’s no longer secret that the killer (or killers) target factory workers. Am I first person to suggest some form of security around these factories? Just perch some kids in trees as lookouts… Maybe it’s the Mexican version of natural attrition…
- The Lead Masks Case
In 1966, a Brazilian boy flying a kite happened upon the bodies of two engineers lying next to each other in the grass. The two males were lying next to each other. Each wore a formal suit, a lead eye mask, and a waterproof coat. There were no signs of trauma and no evidence of a struggle. Next to the bodies were an empty bottle of water and a packet containing two wet towels. A small notebook was also identified, with cryptic instructions, in which the English translation amounted to “16:30 (04:30 PM) be at the agreed place. 18:30 (06:30 PM) swallow capsules, after effect, protect metals, wait for mask signal”.
I love this one because: The most plausible theory is that the men overdosed on drugs. They were known to belong to a group called “Scientific Spiritualists” who often took drugs in an attempt to trigger spiritual experiences. This is up there with Taman Shud… small pieces of a puzzle that don’t quite fit. But enough information that it’s intriguing and you can’t help but let the mind wander as to what might have happened.
- Taman Shud
An unidentified man was found dead on December 1, 1948 on Somertonebeach in Adelaide, South Australia. The case received world-wide attention but despite the best efforts of numerous governments around the globe the identity of the man was never determined. The only clue was a piece of scrap paper in his pocket that had two words written on it from the final page of the Persian book The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: ‘Taman shud’, which translates to ‘ended’.
As if that wasn’t enough of a mystery, the police noticed that all of his clothes’ identification labels had been removed. They painstakingly traced one of his jackets back to the United States, however his dental records and fingerprints didn’t match anyone who’d ever lived there, or anywhere else in the world.
One lead, as recent as November 2013, suggests the man was seen knocking on the door of nurse Jessica Thomson in the area, before he headed toward the beach. Jessica’s unlisted phone number was also found in the Rubaiyat.
The kicker: Ok, so it’s reasonable that in 1948, forensic science hasn’t advanced to the point where every death is explainable. But the intrigue in this one stems from the mysterious scrap piece of paper in his pocket with the words ‘Taman Shud’, the clothes with the tags ripped off, and the fact he was never identified. Not only was the death and circumstance unexplained, but it was like the man never existed in the first place…
- Jaidyn Leskie
Jaidyn Leskie was born in 1996 in Victoria, Australia to Bilynda Williams and Brett Leskie, and kidnapped and murdered in 1997. Despite several leads, and the arrest and trial of a prime suspect, Leskie’s murder remains unsolved. A decision was made in 2002 not to hold an inquest into Jaidyn’s death, but the case remained in the news and an inquest was held in 2006 implicating the mother’s boyfriend, Greg Domaszewicz, who at the time had Jaidyn in his care. Jaidyn was kidnapped from Domaszewicz’s house, who was babysitting at the time. The circumstances around his disappearance and death were never clear, and were complicated by a pig’s head being thrown at the house and other vandalism on the evening of the toddler’s disappearance, plus the body wasn’t discovered until January 1998. Leskie is believed to have died of head injuries. After a missing person’s search, believed to have been one of Australia’s largest, Jaidyn’s body was found on 1 January 1998 at Blue Rock Dam. His body had been preserved by the cold waters of the lake through winter and the clothing he was wearing was subject to a DNA test in an effort to solve the crime. Greg Domaszewicz was charged with murder but he was found not guilty and the case remains unsolved.
Where did this one get interesting? The pig’s head. A pig’s head being thrown at the house the same night Jaidyn goes missing. Possibly a coincidence… but strange nonetheless.
- JonBenet Ramsey
JonBenet Ramsey was the six-year-old beauty queen of a wealthy Colorado couple. In 1996, her body was found eight hours after she was reported missing, in the basement of the family home, during a police search of the home. She had been struck on the head and strangled. According to Patsy Ramsey she discovered her daughter was missing after finding on the kitchen staircase a two-and-a-half-page ransom letter demanding $118,000 for her return – almost the exact value of a bonus her husband had received earlier that year. She telephoned the police and called family and friends. The local police conducted a cursory search of the house, but did not find any obvious signs of a break-in or forced entry. Public speculation centered on the parents John and Patsy Ramsey. They appeared in media channels for years defending their innocence and demanded justice for their daughter, until they were cleared from any involvement in 2008 through the newly discovered DNA evidence. Who the real culprit was, however, remains a mystery.
Why hasn’t this been solved? JonBenet was reported missing but found dead inside the family home 8 hours later. The figure of the ransom throws up an interesting question as to why it was so specific. Surely they could pinpoint the guilty party within the family…
- Tylenol Poisionings
Around September/October in 1982, seven Chicago natives died from Tylenol pills laced with cyanide. A man by the name of Adam Janus was experiencing chest pain. He took a few Tylenol and fatally collapsed an hour later. That night, his younger brother and sister-in-law, grief-stricken and achy, popped a few of Adam’s remaining pills, not realizing what had killed him earlier that day. They both died. A 12-year old girl took some Tylenol on account of a cold. The final death toll was seven and hysteria predictably followed. Police cruisers took to the streets of Chicago and blared warnings over loudspeakers. The drug was removed from shelves. Vague copycat incidents led several communities to ban Halloween trick-or-treating. One man was arrested after he tried to extort Johnson & Johnson for $100,000, though he was never charged with the murders. Tamper-proof seals became the norm but the case was never solved.
The mystery: It’s fascinating that most killers prefer to observe the damage they inflict on their victims. Poisoning in this manner doesn’t give the perpetrator that pleasure but he/she was still able to spread immense fear around the city. The bigger mystery for me is why it suddenly stopped? Even though Tylenol was taken off the shelf, it wouldn’t have been difficult to lace something else.
- The Case of the Disembodied Feet
Since August 2007, five human feet have washed ashore near Vancouver, British Columbia. No bodies, no heads, no clothes, just 4 left feet and 1 right foot. Most clad in sneakers. Canadian authorities have yet to determine how the feet ended up there or why, though DNA tests resulted in one match to a man who had been missing for a few months. Coroners familiar with the case have indicated ocean currents and decomposition could have naturally separated the feet from their owners however one theory is that the remains belong to four undiscovered victims of a 2005 plane crash off Quadra Island.
When I first read about this case, the number of feet were at 5. I just read that the 15th foot washed up on 6 May 2014. This has now been ongoing for almost 7 years.
What I find most interesting: This is a no-brainer. Washed up feet! The sheer oddity of feet washing up onshore without any reasonable explanation. Sounds like someone organized a not-so-fun-run on a remote island off Canada… Definite movie script in there somewhere?
- The Boy in the Box
Even more than fifty years after his death, the young boy has yet to be identified. The naked body of a small boy, aged somewhere around four to six years, was found naked and beaten in a cardboard box in a dirty, little-populated area of Northern Philadelphia, United States in 1957. Although he appeared malnourished at the time, he was clean and his toenails had been recently clipped. His arms were folded carefully across his chest. Due to the cold weather, the best estimate forensics could give as to the time of the death was between two days and two weeks. The detectives had numerous leads to go on. The blanket he was wrapped in was linked to a local department store, and they had the boy’s footprints, which they compared to ones on file in local hospitals. However, they all led to dead-ends. The nameless victim became known as “The Boy in the Box”.
Authorities eventually decided to bury the boy in a field outside Philadelphia. His grave reads, “Heavenly Father, Bless This Unknown Child.” His body was eventually exhumed in an attempt to extract DNA though the sample was too small to make a conclusive match. The boy was reburied in a donated coffin.
Would this happen in 2014? Just like Taman Shud, it’s amazing that someone in the world can exist yet never be identified.
- D. B. Cooper
On December 24, 1971, a man traveling under the name of Dan Cooper boarded a plane at Portland International Airport bound for Seattle. He wore a black suit, raincoat, and sunglasses and he sat in the back of the plane. After the plane took off, he handed a flight attendant a note claiming he had a bomb in his briefcase. In the note, Cooper demanded several parachutes and $200,000 in unmarked bills when the plane landed in Seattle.
The FBI agreed to the swap. The plane landed in Seattle, where Cooper sipped a bourbon cocktail and waited for his money. When all was delivered, the plane took off again under Cooper’s orders to fly towards Mexico at an altitude of under 10,000 feet.
Over the southern part of Washington, Cooper strapped on a parachute and jumped out of the plane. He was never seen again.
The case has baffled everyone since the hijacking. There were more than 1,000 possible suspects considered over the past four decades. Nine years later in 1980 just north of Portland on the Columbia River, a young boy was digging in the sand at a place called Tena Bar. He uncovered three bundles of cash just below the surface, with the rubber bands still intact. There was a total of $5800, the Cooper serial numbers matched, and it was the first evidence that surfaced since 1971.
Good old-fashioned heist: The only case that doesn’t involve death and the one where I don’t mind if the perp got away with it. It was gutsy and no-one got hurt!
So how does your list compare? Leave a comment and let me know!