Today the police released an interesting phone recording related to the unsolved 1974 disappearance of Margaret Ellen Fox, a fourteen-year-old girl who disappeared 45 years and one day ago from Burlington, New Jersey, after going to meet with a man who said he wanted to hire her to babysit.
After her disappearance was reported, the police tapped Margaret’s parents’ phone in hopes that someone would call with information or a ransom demand or whatever. Someone did, a man who said, “Ten thousand dollars might be a lot of bread, but your daughter’s life is the buttered topping.”
That caller has never been identified, and the police held back all that info — the fact that they recorded calls, the call itself, all of it — until today, forty-five years later.
You can listen to the clip here. It’s very short: that sentence, followed by someone else saying “Who is this?” I am not sure — and perhaps the police are being deliberately vague here — whether that’s the entire call and the caller then hung up, or whether that’s not the whole call but it’s all they were able to catch on tape, or whether there’s more to the call that they decided not to release.
I posted articles about this on the Charley Project Facebook page, and a few commenters groused about the cops waiting 45 years to release the recording.
However, to that I have to say two things:
- The internet barely existed at all in 1974 and social media was not a thing yet, so it would have been harder for the police to disseminate the recording to the public even if they had wanted to.
- The phrasing used by caller is unique, and the police would have been able to use it to screen out false confessors — but ONLY if the exact words in the call were kept a secret from everyone except the investigating officers and, perhaps, Margaret’s parents. If the police had released this recording at the time they got it, they would have lost that critical advantage.
Now, about the call itself.
For those who are unaware, The word “bread” is or was occasionally used as slang for “money”. (The Oxford English Dictionary finds the first usage in 1935 and notes it may be criminal slang.)
The call sounds a little rehearsed to me. It sounds like something a character in an action movie might say, not someone in real life, and when you actually analyze the statement, it doesn’t even really make sense. (Obviously the guy meant “$10,000 is a lot of money but your daughter’s life should be worth more to you” but buttered topping is no good without any bread to put it on, so his analogy just falls apart.)
I think whoever made that call thought up that phrase ahead of time, trying to sound impressive.
Which doesn’t, of course, mean that the call WASN’T from someone with knowledge of the case. The police obviously think there’s a good chance that it was, or they wouldn’t have made a big deal of releasing this recording.
I hope this leads to something, anyway. The abductor could very well be deceased, but if at the time of Margaret’s abduction he was under, say, forty years old, he could also still be alive. And even if the abductor is dead, perhaps he told someone Margaret’s fate before his passing. When people get old they often start to fear eternal judgment.
One of my problems is law enforcement holding back information especially certain violent crimes. Here is an example of them finally releasing the details of a phone call, allegedly demanding a ransom for the safe return of these missing girl. However, its 45 years later, anyone who might recognize the voice, may have moved, is deceased, or whatever.
We also don’t know if their were any follow-up calls. So, I agree with them holding it back, but after 5 or 10 years they could have released it. Now, someone in the agency decided it was a good idea to release the information. Also, was Margaret’s family very wealthy.
I don’t know about her family’s socioeconomic status.
Another thing you have to consider is that Margaret advertised for a babysitting job, and her abductor found her when he answered her ad and offered to hire her. So she came to him, rather than the other way around. Which wouldn’t make a lot of sense if he was some guy looking to kidnap a wealthy family’s kid for ransom.
I think the guy probably kidnapped her for the usual reasons men kidnap teenage girls.
Just wondering if the great teeth the guy described had could have been part of a disguise? Some of us believe that serial killer Edward Wayne Edwards killed Stephanie Bryan and JonBenet Ramsey. In both those cases there were “ransom notes” but the girls were killed. Burton Abbott went to CA’s death chamber in 1956 still declaring his innocence in the Bryan murder. In 1974 Edwards may have still been traveling the country declaring that he was a reformed felon (who had written a book “Metamorphosis of a Criminal.” He died in prison in 2011 after receiving the death penalty. He was convicted of 5 murders and investigators believe there were many more. I listened to the recording and it doesn’t sound like the voice of Edwards but the creepy wording does remind me of him.
Don’t look at me. I firmly believe Burton Abbott was guilty as hell.
If you’ve never seen it, the show “A Crime to Remember” did an episode on Stephanie Bryan’s case. Season 2, episode 7 titled “Cabin in the Woods”. Excellent!
I have seen it. I’ve also read the book about the case.
I was actually reading about this case today and wanted to send you some articles. Some very interesting stuff in here: The man originally called her 11-year-old cousin (who placed the ad with Margaret), the family got two ransom notes in addition to the phone call, and her dad actually spoke to “John Marshall”. Also, a man named JACK Marshall became an early suspect because he worked at the exact same supermarket where the payphone was located, and he coincidentally knew Margaret’s sister-in-law. However, he had an alibi that apparently checked out.
(And a slight correction: It was Margaret’s 11 y/o brother who took her to the bus stop. She didn’t have any sisters.)
Here ya go: https://imgur.com/a/H6cvVmY
It’s pretty stupid to only release it after forty-five years. I’d have released it on maybe the first, second or fifth anniversary. The clues will have dried up.
On top of that, I severely hope this isn’t another Wearside Jack.
The call should have been released earlier, but likely was forgotten about in the cold case file. At the time of the call, that response was probably kept from the public as a means of determining if someone confessing was telling the truth or just being crazy (ie, same as not releasing all details of a murder, instead holding back details only the killer would know.) Either way, blaming the police serves no purpose now.
Hi Meaghan, OT about the Joni Davis/Brian Goff case: I live in the area from which they went missing (my doctor’s office is in the same plaza as the Pizza Hut referenced in their case) and I think the source that said they were last seen driving on route 7 is incorrect. Route 7 isn’t in St. Clairsville, it’s further east and isn’t within the city limits at all. I read here that they were last seen on Route 9, which does run right through St. C. Minor point, but nonetheless worth noting.