I found out the other day that they discovered an itty bitty piece of Richard William Moss‘s body: a single vertebra (one of the sections of your spine) not far from where his car turned up a little over a year ago.
I think this is the smallest partial remains recovered where I resolved a case. I have a case up where they found a woman’s finger, but you can easily live without that.
Frankly I’m surprised they found even that much of Moss. He accidentally ran his car off a cliff in coastal California known as the Devil’s Slide in May 2017, but the accident wasn’t witnessed and no one realized what had happened until July. The rest of him has presumably been claimed by the ocean.
Moss isn’t the only person on Charley who met his end at the Devil’s Slide. In 1945, a 14-year-old girl named Thora Chamberlain was murdered and thrown off there. They never found her body, only her socks, wedged in the cliff face. Her murderer was identified, confessed and was executed.
I’ve had a few entries run recently on Executed Today that I hadn’t mentioned on this blog yet, so here goes:
- January 14, 1792: John Phillips hanged for robbery in Dublin, Ireland. Little is known about the case, but he would probably have been reprieved but for a little snafu with the paperwork.
- January 18, 1884: Maggie and Maggie Cuddigan lynched in Ouray, Colorado. They had adopted a little girl from an orphanage and proceeded to starve, neglect, maltreat and abuse her for months until she finally died.
The outrage must have been tremendous even by lynch mob symptoms — how often do you hear of white women, particularly visibly pregnant ones, getting lynched? The dead man’s own brothers did nothing to help him, though they might have been able to stop the lynching, and afterwards, the local priest refused to perform the funeral service and none of the local cemeteries would accept their bodies.
- February 20, 1948: Thomas Henry McGonigle gassed in California for the 1945 murder of fourteen-year-old Thora Chamberlain.
This was a murder-without-a-body case, one of the first in the state. (Though, after I’d already written the entry, Tad DiBiase told me it wasn’t actually THE first.) Thora is featured on Charley.
I’m really glad they took the risk of prosecuting this. They had a very strong case, but many prosecutors wouldn’t have wanted to touch the case without Thora’s body. McGonigle was clearly a very dangerous man and sounds like a serial killer in the making if he wasn’t one already.
This week’s “Let’s Talk About It” case is Ricky Jean “Jeannie” Bryant, a child who disappeared from Mauston, Wisconsin on December 19, 1949, five and a half weeks after her fourth birthday.
Jeannie was one of four children. The day she disappeared, the two oldest kids were in school and Jeannie’s grandma was watching her and her brother. That day a fire broke out at the Bryant home and I think the house was a total loss. One of the things that got lost was Jeannie.
Although what happens appears to be no mystery at all, Jeannie’s family thinks she did not die in the fire and was abducted by a strange well-dressed woman whom her five-year-old brother claims he saw that day. The theory is that Jeannie’s biological father was not the same father as her siblings’, and she was taken to be raised by her father and his family.
I don’t know that much about the case — why her family thinks that, whether there’s any evidence that she was illegitimate, any of that. As far as I can tell, it’s been years since there’s been any press coverage about the case.
What do y’all think? Was this a tragic accidental death, or is Jeannie alive and well and a grandmother, even a great-grandmother, not knowing who she is? If she’s alive she would be 71 today.
Let’s talk about it.
Another Executed Today entry by me, the day after my previous one: Charles Ford Silliman, for the poisoning of his wife and young daughter.
And another ET entry: Henry Hagert, executed in 1945 for the cold-blooded killings of two thirteen-year-old boys. He was only seventeen himself at the time. A panel of psychiatrists hired by the state declared Hagert was insane, but the state was so afraid of him that they impaneled a different, more compliant set of shrinks who said he was accountable for his actions.
Speaking of Executed Today, the Headsman (the guy who runs the site) sent me a cool $200 for my birthday! He also sent a funny card which had a picture of the Grim Reaper on it. It was actually a Halloween card but he crossed out “Halloween” and wrote “birthday.” I have spent some of his gift already on a lovely long blue tie-dyed skirt. His present only works out to be a little more than $2 for every entry I’ve written for his blog thus far, but I’m in it for the fun.
Another Executed Today entry from me: Johann Georg Elser, who tried to kill Hitler in 1939. He was on my earlier list of 12 superheroes. That list wasn’t done in any particular order, but if it had been, Elser would have been at or near the top.
That’s three ET entries in three days from me. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I won’t have another for more than a month.