Interesting evidence released in Margaret Fox case

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

National Hispanic Heritage Month: Ana Guevara Valdez

In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month I’m featuring a Hispanic missing person every day from September 15 to October 15. Today’s case is Ana Daisy Guevara Valdez, missing from Los Angeles, California. Very little is known about the case, even the exact date she was last seen. Only the year is known: 1974. She was about twenty.

I think Ana might have been an immigrant. She was working in Los Angeles and kept in regular touch with her family, until suddenly she didn’t anymore. I’m not sure how much time passed before they reported her missing.

Ana would be about 64 if she is still alive. But no one has heard from her in over four decades.

Thinking out loud today

  • Uh, where are Tarasha Benjamin‘s ears on the 2013 AP I found?
  • So it seems pretty obvious that “Larry Wilson” killed William Joseph Davis at that house that day, but I wonder what the motive would be? I’ve seen female real estates disappear under these circumstances, and usually the motive is a sexual attack, but this is less likely here. Robbery maybe?
  • Per articles at the time, several other adults disappeared from Hillsborough County in the same time period as Brian Lee Jones did. There was no indication the cases were related, though, and all the others, except Jones and one other, seem to have turned up. As for Jones… I can’t figure out what was going on there. How far away was that “secluded wooded area” from the ABC Lounge? Were the “possible bloodstains” on the pillow ever tested? Obviously DNA testing would have been impossible in 1981, but they could have at least determined whether it the stains were human blood or not.
  • I found frustratingly contradictory information about Tai Yung Lau‘s disappearance. One news account said he had no car and couldn’t drive, and other that his car disappeared at the same time he did. The new page for Hillsborough County missing persons, however, says Lau sold his car and said something about returning to China. But the thing is, if the story about him escaping from a forced labor camp during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution and eventually getting working papers in the U.S. is true, there’s no way in hell he would have returned to China; they’d have killed him.
  • I originally read about Jack Donald Lewis‘s disappearance in this book; the author interviewed Carole Lewis (now Carole Baskin) and she mentioned that her husband just walked out of the house one day and never came back. As for Jack’s disappearance, I know there has been talk online that Carole killed him, but I am not going to venture a guess as to what caused his disappearance. The articles I found called Wildlife on Easy Street a “sanctuary,” but it didn’t have a very good reputation back in the nineties. I don’t know if things have improved now or what. On a side note, earlier this month Joe Exotic, who runs a horrible traveling petting zoo, was charged with trying to hire someone to kill Carole.
  • Despite Carlos Melgar-Perez‘s case being local to me, I never heard squat about it until I saw him on the Fort Wayne Police Department and began looking up info on his own. Apparently the police only interviewed his friend one time. The circumstances of his disappearance seem strange, to say the least. There aren’t any nearby bodies of water sufficiently large/deep/fast enough to have concealed his body for this long.
  • I found Eva Marie Ridall‘s dad’s obituary and noted that he was divorced from his kids’ mother and lived in Ohio when he died. I have to wonder if maybe she was going to Ohio to see her father, but I’ve got no proof that he lived in Ohio in 1977. I found some stuff about her disappearance online from her sister, and all indications seem to be that she did run away, but it’s been over 40 years; what happened?
  • About that extortion attempt in Cynthia Lynn Sumpter‘s case: was the man charged with molesting her in jail when she disappeared? If he wasn’t, have the police verified his alibi 100%?

And finally, I found the following article about something Peter Joseph Bonick did a full five years prior to his disappearance. I’m guessing the reason he was living in a children’s home when he went missing is because he continued on the delinquent path.

bonick

Much ado about nothing?

So I wrote earlier about how they were digging up a suspected mass grave in Michigan, and thought as many as five missing girls might be there. I’ll list them again:

  1. Cynthia Coon, 13, missing from Washtenaw County since January 19, 1970
  2. Nadine Jean O’Dell, 16, missing from Inkster since August 16, 1974
  3. Kimberly Alice King, 12, missing from Warren since September 16, 1979
  4. Kim Marie Larrow, 13, missing from Canton since June 8, 1981
  5. Kellie Marie Brownlee, 17, missing from Novi since May 20, 1982

Well, after a solid week out there with shovels and relatives pitching in (!), the dig is finished and they found…nothing. No human remains.

Obviously this is a profound disappointment for everybody and I have to wonder if there’s anyone out there at all. The police haven’t given up, at least not officially; they stated they quit in part because of weather and in part because they were “evaluating today what our next step is.”

The start of an interesting “Unsolved” series

Starting yesterday, First Coast News has begun an “Unsolved” series about the disappearances and murders of five girls in a three-month period in 1974 in the Jacksonville, Florida area.

Two of the girls, twelve-year-olds Virginia Suzanne Helm (missing on September 27) and twelve-year-old Rebecca Ann Greene (missing October 12) were found murdered. Nine-year-old Jean Marie Schoen (missing July 21) and the sisters eleven-year-old Annette Anderson and six-year-old Mylette Anderson (missing August 1) were never located.

Of course, one inevitably wonders about a serial killer, and Paul John Knowles confessed to the murders of the Anderson girls. The other cases remain a mystery, however.

Cleveland Hill is maybe dead

So someone sent a message to the Charley Project’s Facebook page to say that Cleveland Hill, who is the prime suspect in the disappearances of Margaret DashRetha Hiers and Donyelle Johnson, has died. He was never charged in any of the women’s cases.

I found an obituary for a Cleveland Hill Jr. who died last month, but I don’t think it’s the right one, as the state is wrong and so is the date. My informant (who might be a relative of Hill’s; they have the same surname) says he died earlier this week in Virginia.

So consider this info unconfirmed, but I don’t have any particular reason to doubt it.

Hill was totally a serial killer. NO ONE is so unlucky that not one, not two, but three of their girlfriends disappear without a trace and under suspicious circumstances over a fifteen-year period. And Hill had a documented history of violence; he did time for assault after he shot his wife and mother-in-law.

Flashback Friday: Belinda VanLith

This week’s Flashback Friday case is Belinda VanLith, a 17-year-old girl who disappeared from the Little Eagle Lake area of Wright County, Minnesota on June 15, 1974. (I wrote an Executed Today entry set in Wright County.) She disappeared from a neighbor’s residence where she was house-sitting.

I looked up the name of the suspect, Timothy Joseph Crosby, in Newspapers.com and found several articles that mentioned him. He was very young when Belinda disappeared, only seventeen or eighteen, but according to court documents he’d already started abducting and sexually assaulting young women. This article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press talks about Belinda’s disappearance. As of 2013, anyway, Crosby was off the streets as a civilly committed “violent sexual recidivist.”