I had an ET entry posted today for three boys who were hanged in Ohio on this day in 1880: George Mann, Gustave Ohr and John Sammett. They were between the ages of fifteen years and eighteen years plus one day when they died. Mann and Ohr had run away from home and were riding the rails when they hooked up with a fellow tramp, robbed and killed him. Sammett had robbed a store with another boy who agreed to turn state’s evidence against him. Sammett shot and killed him to prevent him from testifying.
I noted that Mann and Ohr’s gallows ballads were suspiciously similar to the ballad published by another murderer whom I wrote about on Executed Today, Christopher Rafferty, who was hanged in 1874. And Rafferty’s ballad in turn appears to have been plagiarized from the 1858 ballad for James Rogers.
A friend of Diana L. Leone‘s sister asked me to run her case for Select It Sunday. Diana was 35 years old when she disappeared from Las Vegas in February 2000. Her longtime boyfriend, David Morgan, said she’d run off with another man, leaving all her stuff behind. She wasn’t reported missing until October.
Morgan had a history of brutal domestic violence against Diana — he’d once been charged with attempted murder in connection with his abuse of her — and police believe he’s a serial killer. His second wife, Marie Morgan, and her lover, Gabriel Vincent, disappeared under suspicious circumstances in 1979 and were never found. A business associate of Morgan’s, David Cowan, disappeared in 1982 and was also never found. (Cowan and Morgan aren’t on Charley cause I have no photos or physical information for them.)
Morgan was actually charged with Vincent’s murder in 2007, but five years later, before he was tried, the charges were dropped for lack of evidence because one of the key witnesses had died. Police are pretty sure Morgan killed Diana as well, but he has never been charged. I’m not sure he’s even still alive.
This week’s FF case is Colleen Vanita Simpson, a fourteen-year-old who disappeared from her Clearfield, Iowa home on October 5, 1975, exactly ten years before I was born. She’s classified as a non-family abduction but I’m not sure why — it doesn’t appear there were any witnesses or other evidence of foul play, and most teen girls who disappeared during that time period were written off as runaways.
I really don’t have any details on Colleen’s disappearance, alas. One thing not written in her casefile is that her father was a police officer; in fact I think he might have been the chief of police. Clearfield is a VERY small town, btw. Wikipedia says the 2010 census gave its population as 363.
I’m trying to write up an MP case to post today and I’m really having trouble with the tattoo descriptions as given by NamUs and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
For Texas DPS we’ve got:
a butterfly on her hand, “Shawn and Rose” on her left chest area, “Gemini” on her lower back.
Okay…is that the WORD “Gemini” or the astrological sign for Gemini? And is that the phrase “Shawn and Rose” or two different names, “Shawn” and “Rose”? It looks like it’s probably “Gemini” the word and “Shawn and Rose” the phrase, but I’m not 100% sure on that.
Meanwhile, on NamUs:
TAT L BRST TAT HAND 0F A BUTTERFLY,TAT LEFT BREAST 0F SHAWN 0R R0SES T0 C0VER THE NAME
The plot thickens. So maybe there’s no “Rose” or “Shawn and Rose” at all. Maybe it’s a tattoo of the name “Shawn” covered by a tattoo of roses.
And NEITHER source mentions the leopard spots on this lady’s shoulder, which are plainly visible in this photograph.
I am SO not in the mood for this kind of thing.
Per this article, the authorities have finally identified Rudy Redd Victor, a 20-year-old Native American man from New Mexico, 43 years after his disappearance. (The article gives his date of disappearance as June 15, 1974; the Charley Project has it as July 21. Shrug. Perhaps July 21 is the date he was reported missing.) Anyway:
A decade after he fled the car during a fight with his girlfriend, who Victor was traveling with on their way back to his family’s home in Colorado, a skull was turned into the Lewis and Clark County coroner.
The skull was actually first found two years prior in the same canyon by a brand inspector, who kept the skull as a souvenir of sorts after locating it while wrangling cattle on the steep hillside in 1982.
Investigators visited the hillside and found more remains, including the lower jaw. They also found a cross with a turquoise center and remnants of a red T-shirt next to a pine tree.
Air Force investigators traveled to Wolf Creek to see the hillside where Victor’s remains were found. They, alongside the county coroner, a detective in the original case and others, climbed the steep terrain to the tree where it is believed Victor died. During the initial investigation into the case, officials found a wire noose hanging from the tree. Suicide is suspected…
The official death certificate lists the cause of death as undetermined.
All I can say is…never say never.
When I initially wrote up the 1978 disappearance of Gary Dale Mathias and the deaths of his four friends several years ago, the case seemed, although incredibly horrific and tragic, to be pretty self-explanatory:
Five mentally disabled guys get lost while driving around in a blizzard, get their car stuck in the snow in a wilderness area, try to hike to safety but instead wind up dying slowly and horribly of exposure and starvation. Only four bodies are found, but that’s no surprise, given the timeline and the wilderness surroundings.
Sad, but not all that mysterious.
Then a little over a week ago I stumbled across this Washington Post article about the disappearance of Mathias and the deaths of his friends (Jack Madruga, Jackie Huett, Theodore Weiher and William Sterling), and I realized the case was a LOT weirder than I had originally thought.
Let’s break down some of the weirdness here:
- At least two of the five men were higher-functioning than I had originally believed. Although they were all enrolled in a day program for mentally handicapped adults, Mathias wasn’t (contrary to what I’d heard) mentally handicapped but instead had schizophrenia. And he was apparently quite high-functioning when he was on his meds. Madruga was considered “slow” but hadn’t been diagnosed as mentally disabled. Both Mathias and Madruga had served in the Army and had driver’s licenses.
- The group’s car, although it was stopped in the snow on a mountain road, was NOT truly stuck. The engine worked, the car had gas, it was still on the road, and if the men had tried they could have gotten it going again.
- There’s evidence to suggest that whoever was driving that car at the time it was abandoned was not lost and knew what they were doing. All the maps were in the glove compartment — you’d think that if they had been lost they’d have consulted the maps. Furthermore, the article notes, This heavy American car, with a low-hanging muffler and presumably with five full-grown men inside, had wound up a stretch of tortuously bumpy mountain road – apparently in total darkness – without a gouge or dent or thick mudstain to show for it. The driver had either used astonishing care and precision, the investigators figured, or else he knew the road well enough to anticipate every rut. Except this definitely doesn’t apply to Madruga, Mathias or any of the five.
- They found Weiher’s body in a forest service trailer nearly twenty miles from where the car was abandoned. He’d died of starvation and exposure. Yet inside or near to the trailer were matches, propane, items that could be used for fuel (books etc.), and enough food to last a year.
- Next to Weiher’s body in the trailer was a watch that didn’t belong to any of the five men.
- Perhaps strangest of all, there was a witness who may have seen the men on the mountain road the night they disappeared. A guy named Joseph Shones drove up the road at 5:30 p.m. and his car got stuck in the snow, just 50 meters from where Madruga’s car was later found. While he was digging himself out, he keeled over from what turned out to be a mild heart attack. He got inside his car and waited there for several hours, with the lights on and the engine running, and at some point he heard “whistling” noises and saw what he thought were a group of men and a woman with a baby, walking in the light of another vehicle’s headlights. Shones called for help and the lights turned off and the whistling sounds stopped. A few hours later he saw flashlight beams outside his car and called out for help again, but immediately the lights went out. Shones stayed in his car until it ran out of gas, then walked eight miles down to get help, passing Madruga’s car on the way. He didn’t think much about what he’d seen until he heard about the disappearances.
The whole thing has me scratching my head — I don’t understand how these young men could have fallen so badly to pieces that they would have abandoned an operable vehicle in the middle of a blizzard, and then starved and froze for months in a building with food and fuel, then abandon said building when one of their number died. And the business with Joseph Shones’s account throws an even bigger monkey wrench into it.
I wonder if they saw something, or thought they saw something, that night that scared the bejesus out of them and made them behave this way. Perhaps some kind of group psychosis.
There’s no evidence of foul play here and no evidence that Gary Mathias somehow survived. I just wonder what caused all this to happen.
Let’s talk about it.