Missing Bones of Murdered Missouri Woman Found in Classroom

…at the University of Arkansas, where they were being used as teaching tools in an anthropology class.

The available evidence included clothing, shoes and bindings found with the body but not the skeletal remains, which [Detective Lorie] Howard said were sent to an anthropologist at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville 20 years ago for his help in creating a profile of the victim.

Howard contacted the anthropologist in 2009 but he could not remember the case or what had become of the bones.

The cold case was becoming colder until recently, when the anthropologist’s successor discovered that some bones the school had been using as teaching aids were those Howard had been searching for.


6 thoughts on “Missing Bones of Murdered Missouri Woman Found in Classroom

  1. Kat April 15, 2011 / 6:18 pm

    So who was it…did it impact an ongoing investigation?

  2. Tracey Reitterer April 16, 2011 / 1:05 am

    How awful. I only hope her family had already passed on so they didn’t spend all those years waiting & wondering what happened to her, while those screw-ups were going on. 😦

  3. Tracey Reitterer April 16, 2011 / 1:17 am

    Hi Meaghan:
    This is one of the oldest missing persons cases I’ve ever read about. Wasn’t sure if you’ve ever reported on this one yet.
    Tracey in MD


    New Novel Suggests Fate of Judge Joe Crater, Class of 1910

    April 14, 2011
    Looking Back: New Novel Suggests Fate of Judge Joe Crater, Class of 1910
    posted in Alumni, News and Features
    tagged with Archives, Class of 1910, Historical

    Judge Joseph Crater, Class of 1910

    Just over 100 years ago, Easton, Pa., native Joseph Force Crater graduated from Lafayette and went on to become a New York State Supreme Court Justice, appointed in 1930 by then-Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Then four months later, he disappeared. One of the most notorious unsolved missing-person cases in history, two books and numerous magazine articles have probed the mystery, including a flurry of coverage in 2005 when a long-sealed letter revealed new information.
    In The Man Who Never Returned (Overlook, 2010), novelist Peter Quinn imagines what became of Judge Crater. When he began his research, the New York City Police Department’s Missing Persons Squad discovered three accordion files that had been left on top of a file cabinet. Quinn, familiar with the case due to his father’s interest, realized that the files revealed details that had not been published. His father was a justice at the same Foley Square courthouse where Crater worked. In the novel, private investigator Fintan Dunne is hired by a media tycoon in 1955 to solve the case.

    Crater was a snappy dresser, known for his tailored suits. When he disappeared he was wearing pearl-gray spats, a double-breasted brown suit with thin green stripes, and a Panama hat cocked at a sporty angle. He wore an old-fashioned detachable choker collar of starched linen and a gold Masonic ring.

    Judge Joseph Crater, Class of 1910
    Crater grew up in the house at 503 Ferry St., Easton, which was restored in 1988. He graduated first in his class at Easton High in 1906 and won a scholarship to Lafayette. He received his law degree from Columbia University.
    As the story goes, on Wednesday, Aug. 6, 1930, Crater entered Billy Haas’s restaurant at 332 West 45th St., just beyond Eighth Avenue and met his friend, William Klein, attorney for the Shubert brothers, and Sally Lou Ritz, a Shubert show girl. He had a ticket for Dancing Partner, playing at the Belasco Theater. They all departed about 9 p.m. Crater hailed a taxicab heading west on 45th; Klein and Ritz reported later that they watched it depart and then they headed east toward the Shubert office.
    Crater was never seen again.
    At the time, his wife, Stella Wheeler Crater, whom he married in 1917, was at their summer home in Belgrade Lakes, Maine. Crater had been with her until he received a disturbing phone call on Sunday, Aug. 3. He left for New York by train and promised to return the following Saturday, Aug. 9. When he didn’t return, Stella hired a private detective to find him. Carter’s law firm, Wagner, Quillinan, and Rifkind, was also searching for him. Finally, on Sept. 3, Simon H. Rifkind went to police headquarters and made a full report.
    A huge investigation began, with the city offering a $5,000 reward. The results revealed that he was involved with a number of chorus girls, one of whom, Vivian Gordon, was murdered by gangland assassins shortly after Crater’s disappearance and just before she was scheduled to testify against the policy in an unrelated corruption case.

    Judge Joseph Crater, Class of 1910, disappeared mysteriously more than 80 years ago.
    On the day of his disappearance, Crater gathered a stack of files and folders from his office, and along with his personal assistant, took them to his apartment. He also gave his assistant two checks, for $3,000 and $2,100, and asked him to cash them for bills of large denominations. Crater put the envelopes in the inside pocket of his suit jacket.
    When Stella returned to their New York apartment on Jan. 21, she opened a secret drawer in her dresser and found three envelopes with cash, stock certificates, and several insurance policies on her husband’s life. The fourth contained a confidential memo to her, which ended with “Am very weary, Love, Joe.” She reported all to the district attorney.
    After three years, the city withdrew the reward and the police’s missing persons bureau only followed leads in the metro area. Tips from farther away were relayed to local police for investigation. In 1939, Stella had Crater declared legally dead. In her book about the incident, The Empty Robe (1961), she declared that her husband was true to her and that the reports about the other women were lies. The case was closed in 1979.
    In Vanishing Point: The Disappearance of Judge Crater and the New York He Left Behind (2004), Richard J. Tofel chronicles the Crater story in the context of the decline and fall of Tammany Hall, the New York County Democratic Party machine.
    A year later, a letter sealed in an envelope marked “do not open until my death,” was found by family members in the safe deposit box of Stella Ferrucci-Good who died April 2. She claimed that her late husband, Robert Good, told her on his deathbed that he had overheard a conversation between New York policeman Charles Burns, and his cab driver brother, Frank Burns, who with several accomplices had killed Crater and buried him on Coney Island, under the boardwalk near West Eighth St., current site of the New York Aquarium.
    An Aug. 20, 2005, New York Times article by William K. Rashbaum reports that police were not able to find records of any bodies found in the area, which was excavated in the mid-1950s for construction of the aquarium. He also reported that Tofel expressed skepticism about the version of events in the letter. Tofel said he was not able to find any accounts of witnesses who saw the judge get into a taxi.

  4. Justin May 10, 2012 / 8:49 pm

    She is on NamUs now at https://identifyus.org/en/cases/5321 and the webpage for the composite is at http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2005775183330&set=a.1532614714614.71845.1212153052&type=3&l=5c0910cc42&theater

    The badly decomposed body of “Grace” was discovered on Dec. 2, 1990, in some weeds beside an abandoned house on Oscar Talley Road, between Anderson and Pineville. But it is believed that she was probably killed in October — possibly even Halloween night, to be exact. By the time the remains were found and reported, about a month later, there wasn’t much left but a partially scattered skeleton, some hair and some leg tissue. Based on the anthropologist report, McDonald County Sheriff’s Detective Lori Howard knows the victim was probably in her mid-to-late 20s, stood between 5-foot-1 and 5-foot-4 and was of a slender build.

    At the time of her murder, Grace was also hogtied with six different types of material: Nylon rope, lead rope, coaxial cable, telephone cable, parachute cord and clothesline. Because of the way she was bound, both hands behind the back and tied to one leg and a shoelace, Howard believes that Grace was also raped before she died.

    Grace was transported to the abandoned house on Oscar Talley Road, murdered there and dumped in the tall weeds near the house’s carport. The house has since been demolished, Howard said.

    How Grace was murdered isn’t entirely certain. There were no bullets or knife or bludgeon marks ever found. It points to either strangulation or suffocation.

    Howard does not believe the unknown murdered woman was local. She has a “hunch” she may have been from the South but no real evidence to prove it. Whoever the victim was, tracked down dental records reveal she had had extensive dental work performed before her death. It consisted of things like braces, straightening and overbite corrections. Tellingly, certain teeth had been surgically removed to allow for the normal growth of other adult teeth, something that typically would have been done when the victim was a teenager or even before, Howard said.

    Any DNA link at all would have been impossible except that Howard stumbled upon a fingernail among lab work that had never even been opened. In 1990, she explained, the crime lab wasn’t focused on DNA, but blood type, which wouldn’t have been that helpful in the case anyway. The fingernail was sent off to the University of North Texas Health Science Center, which had previously declined to help because of the lack of remains. From that fingernail, mitochondrial DNA has been established.

    “It’s parentage DNA is what it is,” Howard explained. “That is in the system now for Grace.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s