William Suff – The Riverside Prostitute Killer

William Suff, also known as the Riverside Prostitute Killer and the Lake Elsinore Killer, is an American serial killer.

Early crimes

In 1974, a Texas jury convicted Suff and his then-wife, Teryl, of beating their two-month-old daughter to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals later reversed Teryl’s conviction but upheld Suff’s, finding insufficient evidence to convict her as either the primary actor or a principal in their baby’s murder. Though Suff was sentenced to 70 years in a Texas prison, he served only 10 years before his 1984 release on parole.


Suff subsequently raped, tortured, stabbed, strangled, and sometimes mutilated 12 or more sex workers in Riverside County, beginning in 1986. On January 9, 1992, Suff was arrested after a routine traffic stop.

Described as a mild-mannered loner, Suff worked as a county stock clerk who allegedly delivered supplies to the task force investigating his killing spree. He liked to impersonate police officers and cooked chilli con carne at office picnics. It was alleged that he once used the breast of one of his victims in a chilli con carne contest and won.


On July 19, 1995, a Riverside County jury found Suff guilty of killing 12 women and attempting to kill another, though police suspected him responsible for as many as 22 deaths. During the penalty phase that followed, the prosecutor presented evidence linking Suff to the 1988 murder of a San Bernardino sex worker, as well as evidence that despite his prior Texas prison term for murdering his first daughter, he abused and violently shook his three-month-old daughter by his second wife. On August 17, 1995, after deliberating for only 10 minutes, the jury returned verdicts of guilty on all 12 murder counts. On October 26, 1995, the trial court followed the jury’s recommendations and ordered Suff condemned to death. Suff resides on death row at San Quentin State Prison.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article William Suff, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

John List – The Bogeyman of Westfield

John List was an American mass murderer and long-time fugitive. On November 9, 1971, he killed his wife, mother, and three children in their home in Westfield, New Jersey, then disappeared. He had planned the murders so meticulously that nearly a month passed before anyone suspected that anything was amiss.

As he eluded justice for nearly 18 years, List assumed a new identity and remarried. He was finally apprehended in Virginia on June 1, 1989, after the story of his murders was broadcast on the Fox television program America’s Most Wanted. After extradition to New Jersey, he was convicted on five counts of first degree murder and sentenced to five consecutive terms of life imprisonment without parole.

List gave critical financial problems, and his perception that his family was falling away from God, as his rationale. Killing them, he allegedly reasoned, would assure their souls a place in Heaven, where he hoped eventually to join them. He died in prison custody in 2008 at the age of 82.

Personal background

Born in Bay City, Michigan, List was the only child of German-American parents, John Frederick List (1859–1944) and Alma Maria Barbara Florence (Hubinger) List (1887–1971). Like his father, he was a devout Lutheran and a Sunday school teacher. In 1943, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in the infantry as a laboratory technician during World War II. After his discharge in 1946, he enrolled at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in accounting, and was commissioned a second lieutenant through ROTC.

In November 1950, as the Korean War escalated, List was recalled to active military service. At Fort Eustis, in Virginia, he met Helen Morris Taylor, the widow of an infantry officer killed in action in Korea, who lived nearby with her daughter, Brenda. John and Helen married on December 1, 1951, in Baltimore, and the family moved to northern California where List served as an Army accountant.

After completion of his second tour in 1952, List worked for an accounting firm in Detroit, and then as an audit supervisor at a paper company in Kalamazoo, where their three children were born. By 1959, List had risen to general supervisor of the company’s accounting department; but Helen, an alcoholic, had become increasingly unstable. In 1960, Brenda married and left the household, and List moved with the remainder of his family to Rochester, New York, to take a job with Xerox, where he eventually became director of accounting services. In 1965, he accepted a position as vice president and comptroller at a bank in Jersey City, New Jersey, and moved with his wife, children, and mother into Breeze Knoll, a 19-room Victorian mansion on Hillside Avenue in Westfield.


On November 9, 1971, List methodically murdered his entire immediate family, using his own 9mm Steyr 1912 semi-automatic handgun and his father’s Colt .22 calibre revolver. While his children were at school he shot his wife Helen, 46, in the back of the head, and then his mother Alma, 84, above the left eye. As his daughter Patricia, 16, and younger son Frederick, 13, arrived home from school, he shot each of them in the back of the head. After making himself lunch, List drove to his bank to close his own and his mother’s bank accounts, and then to Westfield High School to watch his elder son John Jr., 15, play in a soccer game. He drove the boy home, then shot him repeatedly in the chest and face.

List placed the bodies of his wife and children on sleeping bags in the mansion’s ballroom. He left his mother’s body in her apartment in the attic. In a five-page letter to his pastor, found on the desk in his study, he wrote that he saw too much evil in the world, and he had killed his family to save their souls. He then cleaned the various crime scenes, carefully cut his own picture out of every family photograph in the house, tuned a radio to a religious station, and departed.

The murders were not discovered until December 7, nearly a month later, due in part to the family’s reclusiveness and refusal to socialise, and in part to notes sent by List to the children’s schools and part-time jobs stating that the family would be visiting Helen’s mother in North Carolina for several weeks. He also stopped milk, mail and newspaper deliveries. Neighbours noticed that all of the mansion’s lights were illuminated day and night, with no apparent activity within. Finally, as the lights began burning out one by one, they called police.

The case became the most notorious crime in New Jersey history since the kidnapping and murder of the Lindbergh baby. A nationwide manhunt was launched. Police investigated hundreds of leads without success. All reliable photographs of List had been destroyed. The family car was found parked at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City, but there was no evidence that he had boarded a flight. Alma was flown to Frankenmuth, Michigan and interred at the Saint Lorenz Lutheran Cemetery. Helen and her three children were buried at Fairview Cemetery in Westfield.

Eighteen years later, on May 21, 1989, the murders were recounted on the Fox television program America’s Most Wanted, which at the time had been on the air less than a year. The broadcast featured an age-progressed clay bust, sculpted by forensic artist Frank Bender, which turned out to bear a close resemblance to List’s actual appearance. List was located and arrested in Virginia less than two weeks after the episode was broadcast.

Relocation, arrest and trial

In 1971, as the FBI later discovered, List had travelled by train from New Jersey to Michigan, and then Colorado. He settled in Denver in early 1972 and took an accounting job as Robert Peter “Bob” Clark, the name of one of his college classmates (although the real Bob Clark later asserted that he had never known List). From 1979 to 1986 he was the comptroller at a paper box manufacturer outside Denver. He joined a Lutheran congregation and ran a car pool for shut-in church members. At one religious gathering, he met an Army PX clerk named Delores Miller and married her in 1985. In February 1988, the couple moved to Midlothian, Virginia, where List, still using the name Bob Clark, resumed work as an accountant.

On June 1, 1989 he was arrested at a Richmond accounting firm after a Denver neighbour viewed the America’s Most Wanted broadcast, recognised the profile, and alerted authorities. He continued to stand by his alias for several months, even after extradition to Union County, New Jersey, in late 1989; but finally, faced with irrefutable evidence—including a fingerprint match with List’s military records, and then with evidence found at the crime scene—he confessed his true identity on February 16, 1990.

At trial, List testified that he was faced with grave financial difficulties in 1971: he had lost his job at the Jersey City bank. To avoid sharing this humiliating development with his family, he spent each workday at the Westfield train station, reading newspapers until it was time to come home. He skimmed money from his mother’s bank accounts to avoid defaulting on his mortgage. He was also dealing with his wife’s alcoholism and her untreated tertiary syphilis, contracted from her first husband and concealed for 18 years. According to trial testimony, Helen had pressured List into marriage by falsely claiming that she was pregnant, then insisted that they marry in Maryland, which does not require blood testing to obtain a marriage license. Though her health progressively worsened, she said nothing to List or her physicians until 1969, when a thorough workup revealed the diagnosis. By then the disease and her excessive alcohol consumption had, according to testimony, “transformed her from an attractive young woman to an unkempt and paranoid recluse” who frequently—and often publicly—disparaged List, comparing his sexual skills unfavourably with those of her first husband.

A court-appointed psychiatrist testified that List suffered from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and that he saw only two solutions to his situation: accept welfare or kill his family and send their souls to Heaven. Welfare was an unacceptable option, he reasoned, because it would expose him and his family to ridicule and violate his authoritarian father’s teachings regarding the care and protection of family members.

On April 12, 1990, List was convicted of five counts of first degree murder. At his sentencing hearing he denied direct responsibility for his actions: “I feel that because of my mental state at the time, I was unaccountable for what happened. I ask all affected by this for their forgiveness, understanding and prayer.” The judge was unpersuaded: “John Emil List is without remorse and without honour,” he said. “After 18 years, five months and 22 days, it is now time for the voices of Helen, Alma, Patricia, Frederick and John F. List to rise from the grave.” He imposed a sentence of five terms of life imprisonment, to be served consecutively — the maximum permissible penalty at the time.

List filed an appeal of his convictions on grounds that his judgement had been impaired by post-traumatic stress disorder due to his military service. He also argued that the letter he left behind at the crime scene—essentially his confession—was a confidential communication to his pastor and therefore inadmissible as evidence. A federal appeals court rejected both arguments.

List later expressed a degree of remorse for his crimes: “I wish I had never done what I did,” he said. “I’ve regretted my action and prayed for forgiveness ever since.” When asked by Connie Chung in 2002 why he had not taken his own life, he said he believed that suicide would have barred him from Heaven, where he hoped to be reunited with his family.


List died of complications from pneumonia at age 82 on March 21, 2008, while in prison custody at St. Francis Medical Center in Trenton, New Jersey. In reporting his death, the Newark Star-Ledger referred to him as “the bogeyman of Westfield.”

Home arson

Breeze Knoll was destroyed by arson on August 20, 1972, approximately 10 months after the murders. The crime remains officially unsolved. Destroyed along with the home was the ballroom’s stained glass skylight, rumoured to be a signed Tiffany original, worth at least $100,000 at the time (equivalent to $590,000 in 2017). A new house was built on the site in 1974.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article John List, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Karen Wetterhahn

Karen Wetterhahn was a professor of chemistry at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, who specialised in toxic metal exposure. She died of mercury poisoning at the age of 48 due to accidental exposure to the organic mercury compound dimethylmercury (Hg(CH3)2). Protective gloves in use at the time of the incident provided insufficient protection, and exposure to only a few drops of the chemical absorbed through the gloves proved to be fatal after less than a year.


Wetterhahn was born in Plattsburgh, New York, and had degrees from St. Lawrence University and Columbia University. She joined Dartmouth’s faculty in 1976 and published more than 85 research papers. In 1990, Wetterhahn helped establish Dartmouth College’s Women in Science Project (WISP), which helped to raise the share of women science majors from 13 to 25 percent at Dartmouth College and has become a national model.

Accident and death

On August 14, 1996, Wetterhahn, a specialist in toxic metals, was studying the way mercury ions interact with DNA repair proteins, and she was investigating the toxic properties of another highly toxic heavy metal, cadmium.

Dimethylmercury was a compound used, almost exclusively, as a reference standard for Hg nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) measurements, a particular type of specialized chemical analysis.

Wetterhahn would recall that she had spilled one or two drops of dimethylmercury from the tip of a pipette onto her latex-gloved hand. Not believing herself in any immediate danger, as she was taking all recommended precautions, she proceeded to clean up the area prior to removing her protective clothing. However, tests later revealed that dimethylmercury can, in fact, rapidly permeate different kinds of latex gloves and enter the skin within about 15 seconds. The exposure was later confirmed by hair testing, which showed a dramatic jump in mercury levels 17 days after the initial accident, peaking at 39 days, followed by a gradual decline.

Approximately three months after the initial accident Wetterhahn began suffering brief episodes of abdominal discomfort and noted a significant weight loss. The more distinctive neurological symptoms of mercury poisoning, including loss of balance and slurred speech, appeared in January 1997, five months after the accident. At this point, tests proved that she was suffering from a debilitating mercury intoxication. Her urinary mercury content had risen to 234 µg per litre; its normal range is from 1 to 5 and the toxic level is > 50 μg/L.

Despite aggressive chelation therapy, her condition rapidly deteriorated. Three weeks after the first neurological symptoms appeared, Wetterhahn lapsed into what appeared to be a vegetative state punctuated by periods of extreme agitation. One of her former students said that “Her husband saw tears rolling down her face. I asked if she was in pain. The doctors said it didn’t appear that her brain could even register pain.” Wetterhahn was removed from life support and died on June 8, 1997, less than a year after her initial exposure.

There had been previous documented cases of death due to dimethylmercury poisoning. In 1865, two English laboratory assistants died several weeks after helping to synthesise dimethylmercury for the first time. In 1972, a 28-year-old chemist in Czechoslovakia had suffered the same symptoms as Wetterhahn after synthesising 6 kg of the compound.


Wetterhahn’s death shocked not only the entire chemistry department at Dartmouth, but also regulatory agencies, as the accidental exposure occurred despite her having taken all required measures known at that time. These included the use of latex gloves, a fume hood, and adherence to standard safety procedures. After Wetterhahn’s mercury poisoning was discovered, her colleagues tested various safety gloves against dimethylmercury and found that the small, apolar molecule diffuses through most of them in seconds, much more quickly than expected. As a result, it is now recommended to wear highly resistant, flexible, plastic-laminate gloves when handling dimethylmercury and other similarly dangerous substances. For increased protection, such thin gloves can be worn under long-cuffed, heavy-duty outer gloves made of, for example, neoprene.
At the time, dimethylmercury was the common calibration standard for Hg NMR spectroscopy because it has certain advantages over the alternatives that exist. As a consequence of Wetterhahn’s accident, safety recommendations have been revised, and the use of dimethylmercury for any purpose has been highly discouraged.

Dartmouth College has since established an award in Wetterhahn’s name to encourage other women to pursue careers in science. Whenever possible, preference in granting the award is given to a woman. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences also maintains an annual award, for a graduate student or post-doctoral researcher, in honour of Karen Wetterhahn.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Karen Wetterhahn, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

The Killing Of A Serial Killer

Neal Falls was an American suspected serial killer shot and killed by Heather Saul in West Virginia. Falls had been stopped by police in over 20 states during his life but did not incur any serious criminal charges.

Death and Discovery

After entering Saul’s residence, Falls held her at gunpoint. Saul describes the struggle that ensued as follows: “When he strangled me, I grabbed my rake, and when he laid the gun down to get the rake out of my hands, I shot him…I grabbed the gun and shot behind me.” Falls died at the scene.

Four sets of handcuffs were retrieved from his body. When police officers searched the inside of his car, they allegedly found a machete, axes, knives, a shovel, a sledgehammer, bleach, plastic trash bags, bulletproof vests, clean white socks and underwear.

Police are now investigating whether Falls could possibly be connected to the murder or disappearance of ten women across eight states including Ohio, Illinois, and Nevada. All the alleged female victims were documented escorts, most of whom advertised online.

Evidence linking Falls to multiple homicides includes an item found with dismembered bodies outside of Las Vegas, where Falls is rumoured to have resided while working on the Hoover Dam. This is similar to an item found in his car. A pair of legs were found in the woods near Divernon, IL by a young man that are believed to belong to one of Falls’ victims.

In a statement of speculative belief, “It’s likely that Mr. Falls is a serial killer,” said Steve Cooper, Chief Detective at Charleston Police Department.

Police suspect a post-it found in Falls’ pocket, detailing the names of six females along with ages and phone numbers, may have contained the names of potential or future victims

Possible victims

Possible victims of Neal Falls [yet to be supported by evidence] include:

  • Jodi Brewer
  • Lindsay Marie Harris
  • Misty Marie Saens
  • Tiffany Sayre
  • Shasta Himelrick
  • Charlotte Trego
  • Tameka Lynch
  • Wanda Lemons (missing)

Previously speculated victims

  • Timberly Claytor
  • Jessica Edith Foster (missing)
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Neal Falls, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Saved from the Titanic

Saved from the Titanic is a 1912 American silent motion picture short starring Dorothy Gibson, an American film actress who survived the sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. Premiering in the United States just 29 days after the event, it is the earliest dramatisation about the tragedy.

Gibson had been one of 28 people aboard the first lifeboat to be launched from Titanic and was rescued about five and a half hours after leaving the ship. On returning to New York City, she co-wrote the script and played a fictionalised version of herself. The plot involves her recounting the story of the disaster to her fictional parents and fiance, with the footage interspersed with stock footage of icebergs, Titanic’s sister ship Olympic and the ship’s captain, Edward Smith. To add to the film’s authenticity, Gibson wore the same clothes as on the night of the disaster. The filming took place in a New Jersey studio and aboard a derelict ship in New York Harbour.

The film was released internationally and attracted large audiences and positive reviews, though some criticised it for commercialising the tragedy so soon after the event. It is now regarded as a lost film, as the last known prints were destroyed in an Éclair studio fire in March 1914. Only a few printed stills and promotional photos are known to survive. It is Gibson’s penultimate film, as she reportedly suffered a mental breakdown after completing it.

Gibson’s voyage on the Titanic

The 22-year-old Gibson was a passenger aboard Titanic’s maiden voyage, joining the ship at Cherbourg in France on the evening of April 10. She had been on vacation in Europe with her mother when her employers, the Eclair Film Company, recalled her to New York City to participate in a new production. On the evening of the sinking, she was playing bridge (this would have been bridge whist, a predecessor to today’s game) in a first-class saloon before retiring to the cabin that she shared with her mother. The game was later credited with saving the lives of the players who had stayed up late to finish it, despite it being (as one American writer put it) “a violation of the strict Sabbath rules of English vessels.” The collision with the iceberg at 11:40 pm sounded to Gibson like a “long, drawn, sickening scrunch”. After going to investigate, she fetched her mother when she saw Titanic’s deck beginning to list as water flooded into the ship’s boiler rooms.

Two of the bridge players, Frederic Seward and William Sloper, accompanied Gibson and her mother to the lifeboats. The group boarded lifeboat no. 7, the first to be launched. Around 27 other people were on board the boat when it was lowered at 12:40 am, just over an hour after the collision. The lifeboat’s plug could not be found, causing water to gush in until, as Gibson later put it, “this was remedied by volunteer contributions from the lingerie of the women and the garments of men.” Around 1,500 people were still aboard Titanic when she sank, throwing them into freezing water where they soon died of hypothermia. As they struggled in the water, Gibson heard what she described as a “terrible cry that rang out from people who were thrown into the sea and others who were afraid for their loved ones.” The sinking deeply affected her; according to Sloper, she became “quite hysterical and kept repeating over and over so that people near us could hear her, ‘I’ll never ride in my little grey car again.'” The occupants of the lifeboat were finally rescued at 6:15 am by the RMS Carpathia and taken to New York.


Only a few days after she returned to New York, Gibson began work on a film based on the disaster. The impetus may have come from Jules Brulatour, an Éclair Film Company producer with whom she was having an affair. According to Billboard magazine he sent “specially chartered tugboats and an extra relay of cameramen” to film the arrival of Carpathia. The footage was spliced together with other scenes such as Titanic’s Captain Edward Smith on the bridge of the RMS Olympic, Titanic’s sister ship, images of the launch of Titanic in 1911 and stock footage of icebergs. On April 22, the resulting newsreel was released as part of the studio’s Animated Weekly series. It was an enormous success with sold-out showings across America. President William Howard Taft, whose friend and military aide Archibald Butt was among the victims of the disaster, received a personal copy of the film.
The success of the newsreel appears to have convinced Brulatour to capitalize further with a drama based on the sinking. He had a unique advantage – a leading actress who was a survivor and eyewitness to what had happened. Gibson later described her decision to participate as an “opportunity to pay tribute to those who gave their lives on that awful night.” Jeffrey Richards suggests that it was more likely that Brulatour persuaded her that the disaster offered an opportunity to advance her career. The filming took place at Éclair’s studio in Fort Lee, New Jersey and aboard a derelict transport vessel in New York Harbor. It was completed in only a week and the entire process of filming, processing and distribution took only half the time normally required for a one-reel film – a sign of the producers’ eagerness to get the film onto screens while news of the disaster was still fresh. The film was only ten minutes long but this was typical of the time, as feature films had not yet become the norm. Instead, a program typically consisted of six to eight short films, each between ten and fifteen minutes long and covering a range of genres. Although newsreels were the main vehicle for presenting current events, dramas and comedies also picked up on such issues. There was very little footage of Titanic herself, which hindered the ability of newsreels to depict the sinking; however, the disaster was an obvious subject for a drama.

Gibson was plainly still traumatised – a reporter from the Motion Picture News described her as having “the appearance of one whose nerves had been greatly shocked” – and she was said to have burst into tears during filming. To add to the film’s air of authenticity, she even wore the same clothes that she was rescued in. Nonetheless, as well as starring as “Miss Dorothy” – herself, in effect – Gibson is said to have co-written the script, which was based around a fictionalised version of her own experiences. Her parents and (fictional) fiance, Ensign Jack, are shown waiting anxiously for her return after hearing news of the disaster. She arrives safely back home and recounts the events of the disaster in a long flashback, illustrated with newsreel footage of Titanic and a mock-up of the collision itself. Titanic sinks but Dorothy is saved. When she concludes her story, her mother urges Dorothy’s fiance to leave the navy as it is too dangerous a career. Jack ultimately rejects the mother’s advice, deciding that he must do his duty to flag and country. Dorothy’s father is moved by his patriotism and the film ends with him blessing the marriage.

The film’s structure aimed to promote its story’s authenticity and credibility through the integration of newsreel footage and the presence of a genuine survivor as the “narrator”. Audiences had previously seen survivors of disasters only as unspeaking “objects” shown as part of a story told by someone else. Gibson, by contrast, was a survivor given voice as the narrator of what was ostensibly her personal story.

Release and reception

Saved from the Titanic was released in the United States on May 14, 1912 and was also released internationally, in the United Kingdom as A Survivor of the Titanic and in Germany as Was die Titanic sie lehrte (“What the Titanic Taught Her”). It attracted a positive review in The Moving Picture World of May 11, 1912, which described Gibson’s performance as “a unique piece of acting in the sensational new film-play of the Éclair Company … [which is] creating a great activity in the market, for the universal interest in the catastrophe has made a national demand.” The review went on:

Miss Gibson had hardly recovered from her terrible strain in the wreck, when she was called upon to take part in this new piece, which she constructed as well. It was a nerve-racking task, but like actresses before the footlights, this beautiful young cinematic star valiantly conquered her own feelings and went through the work. A surprising and artistically perfect reel has resulted.
The Motion Picture News commended the film’s “wonderful mechanical and lighting effects, realistic scenes, perfect reproduction of the true history of the fateful trip, magnificently acted. A heart-stirring tale of the sea’s greatest tragedy depicted by an eye-witness.” However, some criticized the questionable tastefulness of portraying a disaster that had so recently occurred. “Spectator” in the New York Dramatic Mirror condemned the venture as “revolting”:

The bare idea of undertaking to reproduce in a studio, no matter how well equipped, or by re-enacted sea scenes an event of the appalling character of the Titanic disaster, with its 1,600 victims, is revolting, especially at this time when the horrors of the event are so fresh in mind. And that a young woman who came so lately, with her good mother, safely through the distressing scenes can now bring herself to commercialise her good fortune by the grace of God, is past understanding…


Saved from the Titanic is now considered a lost film, as the only known prints were destroyed in a fire at Éclair Studios in March 1914. Its only surviving visual records are a few production stills, printed in the Moving Picture News and Motion Picture World, showing scenes of the family and a still of Dorothy standing in front of a map of the North Atlantic pointing to the location of the Titanic. Frank Thompson highlights the film as one of a number of “important movies that disappeared”, noting that it was unique for having “an actual survivor of the Titanic playing herself in a film” while wearing “the very clothes . . . in which she abandoned ship”:

[T]hat all this was committed to film within days of the disaster is enough to make any Titanic enthusiast sigh with frustration. No matter what melodramatic hocum found its way into the film – and the synopsis suggests that there was plenty – Saved from the Titanic is an irreplaceable piece of Titanic lore.

It was also Dorothy Gibson’s last film, as the effort of making it appears to have brought on an existential crisis for her. According to a report in the Harrisburg Leader, “she had practically lost her reason, by virtue of the terrible strain she had been under to graphically portray her part.”

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Saved from the Titanic, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

Gloria Ramirez – The Toxic Lady

Gloria Ramirez was a Riverside, California woman dubbed “the Toxic Lady” by the media when several hospital workers became ill after exposure to her body and blood. She had been admitted to the emergency room while suffering from late-stage cervical cancer. While treating Ramirez, several hospital workers fainted and others experienced symptoms such as shortness of breath and muscle spasms. Five workers required hospitalisation, one of whom remained in an intensive care unit for two weeks.

Shortly after arriving at the hospital, Ramirez died from complications related to cancer. The incident was initially considered to be a case of mass hysteria. An investigation by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory proposed that Ramirez had been self-administering dimethyl sulfoxide as a treatment for pain, which converted into dimethyl sulfate, an extremely poisonous and highly carcinogenic alkylating agent via a series of chemical reactions in the emergency room. Although this theory has been endorsed by the Riverside Coroner’s Office and published in the journal Forensic Science International, it is still a matter of debate among the scientific community.

Emergency room visit

About 8:15 p.m. on the evening of February 19, 1994, Ramirez, suffering from the effects of advanced cervical cancer, was brought into the emergency room of Riverside General Hospital by paramedics. She was extremely confused and was suffering from tachycardia and Cheyne–Stokes respiration.

The medical staff injected her with diazepam, midazolam, and lorazepam to sedate her. When it became clear that Ramirez was responding poorly to treatment, the staff tried to defibrillate her heart; at that point several people saw an oily sheen covering Ramirez’s body, and some noticed a fruity, garlic-like odour that they thought was coming from her mouth. A registered nurse named Susan Kane attempted to draw blood from Ramirez’s arm and noticed an ammonia-like smell coming from the tube.

She passed the syringe to Julie Gorchynski, a medical resident, who noticed manila-coloured particles floating in the blood. At this point, Kane fainted and was removed from the room. Shortly thereafter, Gorchynski began to feel nauseated. Complaining that she was lightheaded, she left the trauma room and sat at a nurse’s desk. A staff member asked her if she was okay, but before she could respond she also fainted. Maureen Welch, a respiratory therapist who was assisting in the trauma room was the third to pass out. The staff was then ordered to evacuate all emergency room patients to the parking lot outside the hospital. Overall, 23 people became ill and five were hospitalised. A skeleton crew stayed behind to stabilise Ramirez. At 8:50 p.m., after 45 minutes of CPR and defibrillation, Ramirez was pronounced dead from kidney failure related to her cancer.


The county health department called in California’s Department of Health and Human Services, which put two scientists, Drs. Ana Maria Osorio and Kirsten Waller, on the case. They interviewed 34 hospital staff who had been working in the emergency room on February 19. Using a standardized questionnaire, Osorio and Waller found that the people who had developed severe symptoms, such as loss of consciousness, shortness of breath, and muscle spasms, tended to have certain things in common. People who had worked within two feet of Ramirez and had handled her intravenous lines had been at high risk. But other factors that correlated with severe symptoms did not appear to match a scenario in which fumes had been released: the survey found that those afflicted tended to be women rather than men, and they all had normal blood tests after the exposure. They believed the hospital workers suffered from mass hysteria.


Possible role of dimethyl sulfoxide

Gorchynski denied that she had been affected by mass hysteria and pointed to her own medical history as evidence. After the exposure, she spent two weeks in the intensive care unit with breathing problems. She developed hepatitis and avascular necrosis in her knees. Riverside Coroner’s Office contacted Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to investigate the incident. Livermore Labs postulated that Ramirez had been using dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO), a solvent used as a powerful degreaser, as a home remedy for pain. Users of this substance report that it has a garlic-like taste. Sold in gel form at hardware stores, it could also explain the greasy appearance of Ramirez’s body. The Livermore scientists theorised that the DMSO in Ramirez’s system might have built up owing to urinary blockage caused by her kidney failure. Oxygen administered by the paramedics would have combined with the DMSO to form dimethyl sulfone (DMSO2). DMSO2 is known to crystallise at room temperature, and crystals were observed in some of Ramirez’s drawn blood. Electric shocks administered during emergency defibrillation could have then converted the DMSO2 into dimethyl sulfate (DMSO4), the highly toxic dimethyl ester of sulphuric acid, exposure to which could have caused some of the reported symptoms of the emergency room staff. The Livermore scientists postulated on The New Detectives that the change in temperature of the blood drawn, from the 98.6 °F (37 °C) of Ramirez’ body to the 64 degrees Fahrenheit (18 °C) of the emergency room, may have contributed to its conversion from DMSO2 into DMSO4.

Alternative conclusion and burial

Two months after Ramirez died, her badly decomposed body was released for an independent autopsy and burial. The Riverside Coroner’s Office hailed Livermore’s DMSO conclusion as the probable cause of the hospital workers’ symptoms, while her family disagreed. The Ramirez family’s pathologist was unable to determine a cause of death because her heart was missing, her other organs were cross-contaminated with faecal matter, and her body was too badly decomposed. On April 20, 1994—ten weeks after her death—Ramirez was buried at Olive Wood Cemetery in Riverside.

Status of technical forensic analysis

The possible chemical explanation for this incident by Patrick M. Grant of the Livermore Forensic Science Center is beginning to appear in basic forensic science textbooks. In Houck and Siegel’s textbook, the authors opine that, although some weaknesses exist, the postulated scenario is “the most scientific explanation to date” and that “beyond this theory, no credible explanation has ever been offered for the strange case of Gloria Ramirez.”

Grant’s conclusions and speculations about the incident were evaluated by professional forensic scientists, chemists, and toxicologists, passed peer review in an accredited, refereed journal, and was published by Forensic Science International. The first paper was very technically detailed and did, in fact, give two potential chemical reaction mechanisms that may possibly have formed dimethyl sulphate from dimethyl sulfoxide and dimethyl sulfone precursors. The second communication gave supplemental support for the postulated chemical scenario as well as insight into some of the sociology and vested interests inherent in the case.

However, the dimethyl sulfoxide theory has come under scrutiny in the scientific community for several reasons, the primary reason being that the proposed dimethyl sulphate generation could not be replicated in laboratory trials. Also, the symptoms displayed by the nursing staff members who fell ill while caring for Ramirez are not consistent with dimethyl sulphate exposure. Another reason the dimethyl sulphate theory is unlikely is that the odour observed by the staff was described as “ammoniacal”, but dimethyl sulfate is described as having a faint odour reminiscent of that of onions.

One of the letters proposed the production of toxic chloramine gas due to urine mixing with bleach in a nearby sink. This hypothesis, previously proposed to the investigators and to the medical personnel involved in the incident, was apparently never considered by all involved. The noxious effects of this gas are documented in the New England Journal of Medicine. Grant later addressed this chloramine scenario in his 1998 Response, and found it did not come close to fitting the ER incident.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Death of Gloria Ramirez, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

The 1945 Katsuyama Killing Incident

The Katsuyama killing incident in 1945 was a killing of three Marines by Okinawans from the Katsuyama village near Nago, Okinawa, after the Battle of Okinawa, shortly before the end of the war in the Pacific. Many years later some of the villagers confessed that every weekend three United States Marines had allegedly been visiting the village around that time and every time they violently took the village women into the hills with them and raped them. When the Marines started to confidently carry out their weekly ritual unarmed, the villagers reportedly overwhelmed the men one time and killed all three. Their bodies were hidden in the nearby cave out of fear for retaliation against the village, a village secret until 1997.


Villagers revealed long after the attack that the Marines were so confident that the villagers were powerless that they came to the village without weapons. Taking advantage of this, the villagers ambushed them with the help of two armed Japanese soldiers who were hiding in the nearby jungle. Shinsei Higa, who was sixteen at the time, remembers that “I didn’t see the actual killing because I was hiding in the mountains above, but I heard five or six gunshots and then a lot of footsteps and commotion. By late afternoon, we came down from the mountains and then everyone knew what had happened.”

To cover up the deaths, the bodies were dumped in a local cave that had a 50-foot (15-m) drop-off close to its entrance.

When the men did not return to their Marine Corps posts, they were listed as possible deserters in the summer of 1945. After a year with still no evidence of what happened to them, they were declared missing in action.


Kijun Kishimoto was almost thirty during the incident and grew up in Katsuyama. He was away from the village when the men were killed. In an interview, he said, “People were very afraid that if the Americans found out what happened there would be retaliation, so they decided to keep it a secret to protect those involved.”

Finally, a guilty conscience led Kishimoto to contact Setsuko Inafuku (稲福節子), a tour guide for Kadena United States Air Base in Okinawa, whose deceased son Clive was also a victim of sexual assault, and who was involved in the search for deceased servicemen from the war. The two searched for the cave in June 1997, but could not find it until August, when a storm blew down a tree which had been blocking the entrance. The local Japanese police were informed but they kept it secret for a few months to protect the people who discovered the location of the bodies.

When they finally told Marine officials, the USMC located the bodies in the cave. Using dental records all men were identified as the 19-year-old Marines who went missing in 1945. Their names were Pfc. James D. Robinson of Savannah, Ga., Pfc. John M. Smith of Cincinnati, and Pvt. Isaac Stokes of Chicago. The cause of death could not be determined for any of the Marines that had been recovered from the cave.


No plans were made to criminally investigate the incident by either the United States military or the Okinawa police.

After the Battle of Okinawa, the island chain was occupied under the United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands until 1972. At that time, the U.S. government returned the islands to Japanese administration. Under the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, the United States Forces Japan (USFJ) have maintained a large military presence: 27,000 personnel, including 15,000 Marines, contingents from the Navy, Army, and Air Force, and their 22,000 family members are stationed in Okinawa.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article 1945 Katsuyama killing incident, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

The “Murder” of Connie Franklin

Connie Franklin was an American man who became widely known in the United States for testifying at his own murder trial in 1929. Franklin was known in the popular press as the “Arkansas Ghost”.


In January 1929, Connie Franklin moved to the town of St. James in Stone County, Arkansas. At the time, he claimed to be 22 years old, and worked cutting timber and as a farm hand. Soon after his arrival in the area he began courting a local 16-year-old girl, surname Ruminer, whose given name is reported variously as Tillar, Tillir, Tiller, and Tillie. In March 1929, Franklin disappeared. After an investigation, Sheriff Sam Johnson presented Bertha Burns and Tillar Ruminer as his evidence to a grand jury, but as there were at that time no witnesses willing to testify, the Grand Jury took no action in the case.

In the autumn of 1929 Bertha Burns, who had found the bloody hat that supposedly belonged to Franklin back in the Spring, contacted Johnson and brought him to a pit of ashes not far from her home, claiming that there might be the evidence of Franklin’s murder in the pit. Johnson found some bone fragments and teeth, which he took to the Arkansas state health officer, Dr. C. W. Garrison, who determined that at least one of the shards came from a human skull.

Some months after Franklin’s disappearance, Johnson intercepted a note which provided him with some information about the case, and he renewed his efforts to find witnesses. Ruminer had told the Sheriff in May 1929 that she and Franklin had been attacked by “night riders” on March 9, 1929. She explained that she and Franklin intended to marry, and en route to the Justice of the Peace they were attacked by four men; Hubert Hester, Herman Greenway, Joe White and Bill Younger. According to her statements, Hester and Greenway took her into the woods and raped her, while the others tortured, mutilated, and then burned Franklin alive. When Ruminer was questioned about her delay in reporting these crimes, she said that she had kept quiet due to the violence inflicted upon her and the threats of further violence made against her: “One of the attackers threatened to kill her, whipped her father and mother, carried away her brother as a hostage.” Without bones, or witnesses, they could not issue arrest warrants. On November 18, 1929, the Grand Jury issued indictments for first degree murder for Alex Fulks, Joe White, Herman Greenway, Hubert Hester, and Bill C. Younger following the discovery by Bertha Burns of a fire pit and bones near her home, eight and a half months after the alleged crime. A trial date was set for December 17.

Connie Franklin Returns

On December 5, the Arkansas Gazette ran a headline claiming that Connie Franklin had been seen alive after the supposed murder. A farmer, Elmer Wingo, reported that Franklin had worked for him and for his neighbours, the Philpotts, as a farm hand in the past, and that he had passed through the area in March 1929 looking for work. Shortly after his return to Saint James, however, the case was further complicated when Johnson discovered that the man claiming to be Connie Franklin was actually Marion Franklin Rogers, who had a wife and was the father of three or four children. Further investigation revealed that in 1926 Rogers had been admitted to the State Hospital for Nervous Diseases, whence he had escaped three months later. Two days after this story broke, Rogers was found at a farm belonging to Murry Bryant near Humphrey, 100 miles to the south, and subsequently brought back to Saint James. There Rogers was examined and quizzed by those who had known Franklin. Coleman Foster, a cousin to Tillar Ruminer and a friend of Franklin asserted that Rogers was not Franklin. Ruminer and her father also denied that Rogers was the same person as Franklin, at first hesitantly, and then more assertively during the trial. But Rogers was able to identify Ruminer and her father, while others in the community, including the accused men, asserted that Franklin and Rogers were the same person.

Unable to find any witnesses to Franklin’s identity who did not have an interest in the case, the prosecutor decided that a trial was the only method of resolving the issue. A grand jury was convened at the same time to establish the identify of Rogers. Doctor J.E. Luther confirmed he was the same man through comparison of his military and state hospital records and first hand examination.

During the trial, prosecuting attorney Hugh Williamson was opposed by Ben Williamson, his younger brother, acting as chief defence counsel. Judge S. M. Bone presided. The prosecution submitted burned bones as evidence of Franklin’s death, but as a temple bone had been mislaid, the state health officer Garrison refused to swear that the remains were human. In addition, both Garrison and a dentist testified that the teeth found at the site were not human. Ruminer testified that Rogers was not the same man as Connie Franklin, and recounted her version of the events of March 9. Her testimony was corroborated by a deaf mute, Reuben Harrell, a nephew to Coleman Foster, who had come forward as a witness to the crimes.

The defence presented witnesses who claimed that Rogers and Franklin were the same person. During his testimony, Rogers claimed that he had been out drinking with the defendants on the day of the “murder,” fallen off his mule, and had not seen Ruminer until the following day. At that point, he claimed, Ruminer had said she wanted to postpone the wedding until the fall, to which he replied that if she didn’t marry him immediately she would never see him again. She would not, so he left town and worked in nearby Humphrey AR, not to return until he heard that others were on trial for his murder. He made efforts to explain the story had its roots in the liquor wars between the Hess family and the Younger and Greenways. The defence also claimed that enemies of the accused had used Franklin’s disappearance to frame them for murder, including placing animal bones in a fire in the woods. In the end, the trial lasted two days.

Initially, the jury reported they were deadlocked. Judge S. M. Bone told the jury that the trial had already cost the county $8000 and instructed them to try again to come to a verdict. The next day, they returned a verdict of “not guilty.”

After the trial

In December 1932, three years after the trial, Rogers was found lying beside a road outside Clarendon and died of exposure three days later. Medical reports show he had appendicitis.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Murder of Connie Franklin, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

The Poe Toaster

Poe Toaster is a media epithet popularly used to refer to an unidentified person (or more probably two persons in succession, possibly father and son) who, for over seven decades, paid an annual tribute to American author Edgar Allan Poe by visiting the cenotaph marking his original grave in Baltimore, Maryland, in the early hours of January 19, Poe’s birthday. The shadowy figure, dressed in black with a wide-brimmed hat and white scarf, would pour himself a glass of cognac and raise a toast to Poe’s memory, then vanish into the night, leaving three roses in a distinctive arrangement and the unfinished bottle of cognac. Onlookers gathered annually in hopes of glimpsing the elusive Toaster, who did not seek publicity and was rarely seen or photographed.

According to eyewitness reports and notes accompanying offerings in later years, the original Toaster made the annual visitation from sometime in the 1930s (though no report appeared in print until 1950) until his death in 1998, after which the tradition was passed to “a son”. Controversial statements were made in some notes left by the post-1998 Toaster, and in 2006 an unsuccessful attempt was made by several onlookers to detain and identify him. In 2010 there was no visit by the Toaster, nor has he appeared any year since, signalling an end to the 75-year tradition.

In 2016, the Maryland Historical Society selected a new “Toaster” to revive the tradition in a less mysterious—but still anonymous—form.



Poe died at the age of 40 in Baltimore on October 7, 1849, under mysterious circumstances. The Poe Toaster tradition may have begun as early as the 1930s, according to witnesses, and continued annually until 2009. Each year, in the early hours of the morning of January 19 (Poe’s birthday), a black-clad, presumably male figure carrying a silver-tipped cane, his face obscured by a scarf or hood, entered the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground in Baltimore. At the site of Poe’s original grave—which is marked with a commemorative stone—he would pour a glass of Martell cognac and raise a toast. He then arranged three red roses on the monument in a distinctive configuration and departed, leaving the unfinished bottle of cognac. The roses were believed to represent Poe, his wife Virginia, and his mother-in-law Maria Clemm, all three of whom were originally interred at the site. The significance of the cognac is uncertain, as it does not feature in Poe’s works (as would, for example, amontillado); but a note left at the 2004 visitation suggested that the cognac may have represented a tradition of the Toaster’s family rather than Poe’s. Several of the cognac bottles are kept at the Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore.

A group of varying size composed of reporters and Poe enthusiasts observed the event each year. A photograph, reputedly of the Toaster, was published by Life Magazine in 1990.

The notes

On several occasions, the Toaster left a note along with the roses and cognac. Some notes were simple expressions of devotion, such as “Edgar, I haven’t forgotten you.” In 1993, a cryptic message stated, “The torch will be passed.” In 1999, a note announced that the original Toaster had died the previous year and had passed the tradition to “a son.” Subsequent eyewitnesses noted that the post-1998 Toaster appeared to be a younger individual.

A note left at the 2001 visitation, which happened to occur a few days before Super Bowl XXXV between the Baltimore Ravens and the New York Giants, spurred controversy in Baltimore: “The New York Giants. Darkness and decay and the big blue hold dominion over all. The Baltimore Ravens. A thousand injuries they will suffer. Edgar Allan Poe evermore.” Never before had the Toaster commented on sports or other current events, nor could anyone explain the negative reference to Baltimore’s football team, whose nickname was inspired by “The Raven,” Poe’s most famous poem. The prophecy, a play on the last line of “The Masque of the Red Death” (“And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all”), proved inaccurate, as Baltimore won the game 34–7.

The Toaster’s 2004 note was apparently critical of France’s opposition to the war in Iraq: “The sacred memory of Poe and his final resting place is no place for French cognac. With great reluctance but for [sic] respect for family tradition the cognac is placed. The memory of Poe shall live evermore!”

Jeff Jerome, former curator of the Poe House and Museum, has suggested that the 2001 and 2004 notes may have reflected an unwillingness of the son (or sons) to take the tradition as seriously as had the father. A final note—left sometime between 2005 and 2008—was so dismaying, Jerome said, that he decided to fib and announce that no note had been left. He declined to reveal its contents, other than that it was a hint, in hindsight, that an end to the tradition was imminent.

Events leading up to Poe’s bicentenary

In 2006, a group of onlookers unsuccessfully attempted to detain the Poe Toaster as he departed the Burial Ground. Aside from that incident, spectators never interfered with the Toaster’s entry, tribute ritual, or departure, nor was any concerted effort made to identify the individual.

In 2007 a 92-year-old man named Sam Porpora claimed that he had started the Poe Toaster tradition. A former historian for Baltimore’s Westminster Church, Porpora claimed that he invented the Toaster in the 1960s as a “publicity stunt”, to reinvigorate the church and its congregation, and then falsely told a reporter that the visitations had begun in 1949.

However, published reports of the annual visits date from well before the 1960s; for example, a 1950 article in The (Baltimore) Evening Sun that mentions “an anonymous citizen who creeps in annually to place an empty bottle (of excellent label) against the gravestone.”

Porpora’s daughter said she had never heard of her father’s actions, but that the story was consistent with his “mischievous nature”. Nevertheless, Jeff Jerome pointed out that the details of Porpora’s story seemed to change with each telling. “There are holes so big in Sam’s story, you could drive a Mack truck through them,” he said. Jeff Savoye of the Edgar Allan Poe Society also questioned Porpora’s claims, but admitted he could not definitively disprove them. While never retracting his story, Porpora later acknowledged that it was not he making the annual visits, that someone else (he knew not who) had made the tradition his own.

In 2008 Jerome reported that nearly 150 gathered to observe the Toaster’s appearance. In 2009, the 200th anniversary of Poe’s birth, the crowd was smaller than in previous years—despite the bicentenary milestone—and the Toaster left no note.

End of original tradition

In 2010 the Poe Toaster failed to appear. Jerome, who had witnessed every visitation from 1976 on, had no explanation, but did speculate that if the Toaster intended to end the tradition, the 2009 bicentennial would mark a logical ending point.

The 2011 anniversary saw only the appearance of four impostors—immediately dubbed “faux Toasters”—identified as such because all four walked in clear sight of waiting observers (contrary to the real Toaster’s secretive nature); none gave the secret signal that only Jerome knows, a gesture the Toaster predictably made each year at the grave; and none arranged the roses in the unique pattern established by the Toaster. The faux Toasters’ appearance sparked controversy: While some preferred that the tradition die a “dignified death”, others urged that it be carried on, by imitators if necessary.

In 2012, once again, there was no appearance by anyone identifiable as the “original” Toaster. Jerome (who has denied rumours that he himself was the Toaster) proclaimed the tradition “over with”. “I would have thought they would leave a note for me saying it was over,” he said. “That does annoy me a little bit, but they are under no obligation to [do so].”


In 2015, the Maryland Historical Society organised a competition to select a new individual to resurrect the annual tribute in a modified, tourism-friendly form. The new Toaster—who will also remain anonymous—made his first appearance during the daylight hours of January 16, 2016 (a Saturday, three days before Poe’s birthday), wearing the traditional garb and playing Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre on a violin. After raising the traditional cognac toast and placing the roses, he intoned, “Cineri gloria sera venit” (“Glory paid to one’s ashes comes too late”, from an epigram by the Roman poet Martial), and departed.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Poe Toaster, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.

The Redhead Murders

The “Redhead murders” are a series of unsolved homicides believed to have been committed by an unidentified serial killer in various parts of the United States, including Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia It is presumed that the killings occurred between October 1978 and the 1980s, but they may have continued until 1992. The victims, many of whom have never been identified, usually had reddish hair and their bodies were abandoned along major highways in the United States; presumably, they were hitchhiking or engaged in prostitution. Authorities are unsure of how many people were responsible for these murders, if they were all performed by the same perpetrator(s), or how many victims there were. It is believed that a total of six to eleven victims were involved.


Wetzel County victim

The body of a white female was found naked alongside Route 250 near Littleton, Wetzel County, West Virginia on February 13, 1983. A pair of senior citizens reported that they thought the remains were a mannequin before discovering it was a human corpse. The body had been placed at the area recently, as the snow was on the ground and absent on the body. Tire tracks and footprints indicate she died at a different area and was transported to the location where she was found. It is presumed that she had died two days before. She had not been an apparent victim of sexual assault, although foul play may have been involved in her death. This woman’s cause of death was not officially determined, but she is a possible victim, as she may have been suffocated or strangled. This woman was one of the older victims, as her age range was between 35 and 45. The woman’s hair was auburn, which matched the criteria for the killer. Her height was estimated to be approximately five feet six inches (168 cm) and weight as 135 pounds (61 kg). Her eyes were presumed to be brown, although decomposition made it difficult to accurately determine eye colour. She had two distinct scars, including one found on her abdomen from a Cesarean section, indicating she had at least one child and another found on one of the index fingers. The woman’s legs and underarms were shaven, indicating an attention to grooming not characteristic of a transient or hitchhiker. A person of interest has emerged in this case, believed to be a middle-aged white male at the height of approximately five feet ten inches (178 cm) and weighing 185 to 200 pounds (84 to 91 kg). The man was seen near the area where the body was found and could have been involved with disposing of her body. The victim herself may have been seen alive in Wheeling, West Virginia as an employee or customer at a bar. She was subsequently buried after a funeral took place.

Lisa Nichols

The body of 28-year-old Lisa Nichols, who also used the last name of Jarvis, was found on September 16, 1984 along Interstate 40 near West Memphis, Arkansas. She was a resident of West Virginia and authorities were not able to come into contact with family members for some time, indicating she was estranged from them, resulting in her remaining unidentified for nearly a year. Her body was not identified until June 1985, nine months after she was strangled and left wearing only a sweater. Nichols is believed to be a part of the Redhead Murders, as she was found along a highway and had strawberry-blond hair at the time of her demise. Her remains were identified by a couple from Florida, who had allowed her to stay with them for a period of time. Nichols may have been murdered after leaving a truck stop along the highway and may have attempted to hitchhike.

Campbell County victim

On January 1, 1985, another victim was found near Jellico, Tennessee, in Campbell County on interstate 75. Although her murder occurred three days before, presumably on December 30, 1984, she was already in an advanced state of decomposition. Like the others, she was white and had short red hair, which was somewhat curly. She was likely between the ages of 17 and 25, although she may have been as old as 30 at the time she was murdered. The victim was found clothed, with a tan pullover, a shirt and jeans. The Jane Doe had green or hazel eyes, which could not be positively confirmed as a certain colour because of the state of her body. The young woman also had freckles, various scars and burn marks on her body and was two and a half to five months pregnant when murdered by an undisclosed method. She had no evidence of dental work, except for a partial denture holding two false teeth on her upper jaw. It is believed that she was between five feet one and five feet four inches (163 cm) when she died and was approximately 110 to 115 pounds (50 to 52 kg), although The Doe Network and the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System state her body was too decomposed to estimate the weight of the victim.

Second Campbell County victim

The second Campbell County victim was found on April 3, 1985, but her hair colour is unknown, which does not immediately indicate she was a victim of the Redhead Murderer. She was believed to have died between 1981 and 1984, one to four years before. Unlike the other victims, she was younger, between 9 and 15, when the others were estimated to be over 16. She was located by a passerby about 200 yards off Big Wheel Gap Road, four miles southwest of Jellico in Campbell County, some distance from interstate 75, near a strip mine. The cause of this girl’s death is unknown, as her remains were partial, but still may be homicide. Thirty-two bones, including her skull, were all that were recovered from the scene. Her skull allowed facial reconstruction. She wore a necklace and bracelet made of plastic buttons from clothing. There were a pair of boots recovered that were size 5, which may not belong to the victim, and a few scraps of clothing. Due to the condition of her body, her height, weight, eye colour and hair colour were not possible to estimate.

Cheatham County victim

The skeletonized body of a red-haired female was located on March 31, 1985 in Pleasant View, Cheatham County, Tennessee. She was believed to have died three to five months before, due to an unknown cause. However, her case is possibly linked to the redhead murders because her remains were found at the side of a highway, interstate 24. Unlike some of the other victims, she wore clothing: a shirt, sweater, pants and underwear. She was white, between five feet and five feet two inches (157 cm) tall with an inestimable weight. By examining her teeth, the victim had some evidence of crowding and overlapping of her teeth. This woman was believed to be between the ages of thirty-one and forty at the time of her death.

Knox County victim

The body of a woman who had died by suffocation was found in a white Admiral refrigerator in Gray, Knox County, Kentucky on April 1, 1985, alongside Route 25. The refrigerator had a decal of the words “Super Woman” on the front. The victim had been dead for a few days, and was nude except for two distinctive necklace pendants, one of a heart and the other of a gold-coloured eagle, and two pairs of socks; one white, and the other white with green and yellow stripes. There were reports that the victim may have been soliciting a ride to North Carolina over CB radio. Five hundred people attended her funeral, which was also televised. The case was a local sensation in Gray, as the town was a “quiet” and “sleepy” place where little out of the ordinary usually happened. Distinguishing features of the body included a number of moles (on the right side of her neck, near one ankle, and below each breast), a yellow-stained upper incisor, and a scar and other marks on her abdomen, indicating that she had borne a child. Her eyes were light brown and her hair was red and nearly a foot long, which fit the pattern of the redhead killer. After her autopsy, she was determined to be between 24 and 35 years old and approximately 4 feet 9 to 4 feet 11 inches tall. It is also possible that she owned a pair of boots found near the refrigerator. Several missing persons have been eliminated as possible matches for the victim. After the case was publicised in January 2013, the police received some tips, but it is unknown if they became solid leads.

Greene County victim

On April 14, 1985, a young white female’s body was located in Greenville, Greene County, Tennessee. She had died by severe blunt-force trauma and possibly a stab wound three to six weeks before and was an advanced state of decomposition. However, her fingerprints were possible to obtain, as well as her DNA and dental information. She had been approximately six to eight weeks pregnant shortly before she died, but had miscarried recently. She was estimated to be 14 to 20 years old (possibly as old as 25) and was five feet four inches to five feet six inches (168 cm) tall at a weight of 130 to 140 pounds (59 to 64 kg). She had a slight overbite and had some fillings in her teeth, showing that she had dental care in life. She had also painted her fingernails pink. Because she had light brown to blond hair with red highlights, it is possible that her case could be related to the Redhead murders. Authorities hoped in late April 1985 that they would identify her body through fingerprints but were unsuccessful, as she remains unidentified today. Six missing women were ruled out as possible identities of the victim.

Other possible victims

It is possible that the Rising Fawn Jane Doe, located in 1988 in Georgia may have been a victim of the Redhead Murderer, according to amateur sleuths online. This victim was sexually assaulted, and had been strangled to death; she was between 16 and 25 years old. She had red hair, like the other victims and was found near interstate 59. Also suggested as possible victims included the female victim of the Pemiscot County Does, found in Arkansas in 1978, the Desoto County Jane Doe, found in 1985, the Pulaski County Jane Doe, found in 1985 in Arkansas, the Hawayr County Jane Doe (identified as Priscilla Ann Blevins), the Roane County Jane Doe, found in 1987, the Benton County Jane Doe, found in 1990, the Hebron Jane Doe, found in Ohio in 1990 (identified as Patrice Corley in 2017) and the Simpson County Jane Doe, found in Tennessee in 2001.

  • The Mississippi County victim has an inconsistency with the murders since she was seen alive with a man, also unidentified, whose body was found in Missouri, but is believed to have been killed by the same person. She also had blond hair and was murdered by gunshot, years before most of the Redhead murders took place. She was, however, found alongside interstate 55.
  • Priscilla Blevins was located in North Carolina along interstate 40 in March 1985, 10 years after she disappeared from her home in Charlotte. Her remains were identified in 2012. Blevins’ cause of death has not been established, however, it is believed that she died in July 1975 at the time of her disappearance and that her body was dumped at the side of I-40 soon after her death, where it remained until discovered by a member of a highway work crew.
  • Although the Roane County victim was found in Tennessee and was white, her body had been burned, unlike any of the suspected victims. She also had a hysterectomy and tracheotomy, which none of the other victims had. Also, it has not been stated if her remains were located near a highway. Her hair colour was impossible to determine because of the condition of the body.
  • The Pulaski County Jane Doe was also found in 1985 alongside a road. She had auburn hair but was not located along a highway. Her cause of death is not known and she had died sometime earlier, as her body was reduced to bones.
  • The Benton County Jane Doe was found in 1990 along Highway 102 and was murdered by a gunshot wound. Her skeletonized remains had been set on fire and only some bones were recovered. It is known that she was shot before she was burned during the same year she was located. She was found near interstate 102.
  • The Hebron Jane Doe, a suspected prostitute, was located in Ohio in 1990, which is a considerable distance from most of the states where the red-haired victims were found. She was also killed five years after most of the murders happened, but had red hair and was left near an interstate. She had also had sexual intercourse shortly before her death.
  • April Lacy was murdered in 1996 and left along a road in Texas. Some believe she may have been a victim of the same killer, although the date of her death was not around the same time as the other victims.
  • The Simpson County Jane Doe remains largely inconsistent with the time span of the murders, as she died in 2001, as decomposition suggests. She was, however, found near interstate 75 and had reddish-coloured hair.


It is believed that most of the victims remain unidentified due to being estranged or not close with existing family members or may not have been native to the states in which that they were found. In 1985, not long after the Greene County victim was found, the states of Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas and Mississippi requested the Federal Bureau of Investigation for assistance with the cases. There were inconsistencies with some of the victims, as some were found with or without clothing and some had a sexual encounter before their murders. During the conference, it was stated that four victims found in Texas and a victim found in 1981 in Ohio, nicknamed “Buckskin Girl,” were ruled out as possible victims in 1985.

A possible suspect emerged in the mid-eighties when a 37-year-old trucker attacked and attempted to strangle a woman with reddish hair, but was later dismissed, although he had left her lying near a highway, presuming she was dead. Another suspect was a 32-year-old trucker in Pennsylvania who was questioned after kidnapping and raping a young woman in the state of Indiana before she managed to escape. This suspect was also dismissed, after being questioned by Tennessee police.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Redhead murders, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.