Guilt can completely gnaw away at someone, making them express themselves in strange ways. If what that person did was so bad they can’t confess it without risking jail, then they may resort to confessing in an anonymous letter. The following are 10 crimes where one possible clue is a letter that may, or may not, have been written by the killer.
10. The Kidnapping Of Diane Lucas
Dorothy Lucas, 22, was out grocery shopping with her three-month-old daughter Diane on August 23, 1937, in Chicago, Illinois. The store was busy, and Dorothy left Diane in a carriage outside the grocery store. When Diane came back outside, Diane was gone. At first, Dorothy thought it was a prank, but when the baby wasn’t returned, she got the police involved and a citywide search began.
Amazingly, baby Diane was found 23 hours after the police got an anonymous phone call leading them to the back steps of an apartment building. The baby was in good condition, and she was even dressed in new, clean clothes. The baby was returned to her parents, and the police looked for a suspect, but none was ever found.
Three days after the baby was returned, the Lucas family got a long letter confessing to the crime. In the letter, the writer identified herself as a 28-year-old woman whose husband and a child had died recently. Her husband had been killed in a car accident six months prior, and three weeks after that, her daughter died from convulsions. She thought that her depression had affected the baby while she was breastfeeding her.
When the writer of the letter saw Diane, she said something in her heart broke, and she decided to take Diane to raise her as her own. Then the author had a change of heart when she saw how devastated Dorothy was in the newspaper, and she knew that it was wrong to take Diane, so she returned her. The writer also said, “My only crime, if you can call it such, was too much mother love.” And instead of signing her name, the author signed off as “The Penitent Mother.”
Police said that the note was most likely real and offered a valid explanation for the strange kidnapping.
9. The Death Of Lynn Brett
On the night of December 28, 1999, 44-year-old Lynn Brett was out with friends in Hicksville, New York. At about 1:00 AM, Brett was crossing a street when she was hit by not one but two cars, and neither stopped. Brett died from her injuries, and it wasn’t obvious if the first or second car killed her.
The police appealed to the public for information, and the driver of the second car responded with an anonymous letter a short time later. The driver had seen what they thought was a bag of garbage in the street. The driver couldn’t see it well because the street wasn’t lit well, so they drove over the lump and was surprised when it felt more like a speed bump. When the driver got to the next stoplight, they got out and checked their car and didn’t see any damage.
A short time later, the driver took their car for its regular oil change. The mechanic showed the driver the underside of the car, where there was blood, hair, and an indentation. According to the letter, the mechanic simply cleaned off the evidence and changed the oil.
The police urged both the driver and the mechanic to come forward, but there was no report of anyone doing so.
8. The Death Of Robert Dirscherl
On Sunday, March 13, 1977, the Dirscherl family was getting ready for church in their Dunedin, Florida, home. Robert, 54, was practicing his reading that he was supposed to do at the service. After asking his wife how to pronounce a word, Dirscherl walked outside and spoke to his neighbor for a few minutes. He reentered the house, walked past his wife, and went into the bedroom. His wife heard a loud gunshot. She went to the bedroom and found Dirscherl dead in a pool of his own blood with a gaping shotgun wound in his chest. The gun lay beside him.
The police quickly ruled that Dirscherl committed suicide. They said that Dirscherl used his toe to pull the trigger of the shotgun while aiming it at his chest. But there were some problems with the ruling, like the angle of the gun wound. It was downward, making it seem like the shot came from above, as if Dirscherl were on his knees. Also, using the shotgun seemed like a lot of work considering there was also a handgun in the room.
Sixteen years after his death, Dirscherl’s son received a handwritten letter in the mail postmarked on the anniversary of his father’s death. The letter read: “I have AIDS. I am dying. I must make my peace with the Lord. I killed your daddy 15 years ago. He found me in his bedroom. I had no choice. Please pray for me.” The letter was unsigned and got some details wrong, but the family is sure that the confession is genuine. In fact, the language used in the letter made someone stick out in the minds of Dirscherl’s friends and family: a young man, a neighbor of the Dirscherls. The man, whose identity wasn’t released, had a criminal record for offenses like burglary, and he died from AIDS.
The police department that originally investigated the case had disbanded in 1995, two years after the letter was received. The new sheriff’s department reopened the investigation, but they were doubtful anything significant would ever come out of it.
7. The Death Of Larry Bradley
On December 2, 2014, Larry Bradley was hunting outside Morgan Township, Ohio. At about 8:30 AM, he called his wife and said that he needed help, and then she heard him gasping for air. The police arrived on scene, and they found Bradley dead in a tree stand. He had been shot in the back.
A few weeks later, around Christmastime, Gallia County Sheriff Joe Browning received a letter in the mail. In a shaky hand, the author had confessed to shooting Bradley. The shooter said that he had been trespassing while tracking a deer. He shot at the deer and then heard someone screaming. Afraid that he would get in trouble, he fled.
The writer said he was very sorry for the death of Bradley, who had served in the Iraq War and was the father of two and stepfather to two others. He said that he hadn’t told anyone about the shooting, not even his wife and children, nor does he plan to. He also said that he isn’t a bad person, just someone who made a mistake and got scared. His life would never be the same because the guilt was eating away at him like a cancer.
The family of Bradley says that the letter isn’t enough, and they want the author to come forward. The sheriff is unsure if the letter is an actual confession or just a disturbing prank.
6. The Death Of Gregory McRoberts
On December 12, 1991, 24-year-old Gregory McRoberts was riding his bike from his home to an inn in Lee Township, Texas. His car had broken down the day before, and he was going back to fix it. But McRoberts never made it to the car, and he seemingly disappeared. That was until January 4, 1992, when they found his dead body submerged in water in a ditch close to his house. His death was ruled a hit-and-run.
Over 13 years later, in March 2005, family members received a two-page anonymous letter taking responsibility for his death. The writer said that he was racked by guilt and empathized with their pain. The author talked about a fishing trip he had been on and how awful he felt when his brother went missing for a short time. The author also said that he had developed a substance abuse problem after the hit-and-run. He’d talked to a lawyer about coming clean, and the lawyer said there would be no criminal repercussions because the statute of limitations had run out. Despite this, the author never revealed himself.
McRoberts’s father says that he feels bad for the driver and thinks it was anaccident. He wants the driver to come forward to give closure to everyone.
5. The Murder Of Dorothy Thompson
After work on June 15, 1965, Arnfin Thompson returned to a horrible discovery in the Barkhamsted, Connecticut, home he shared with his 30-year-old wife Dorothy, his mother, and his young daughter. On the back porch, he found his wife’s badly beaten body hanging on the wall. Her jaw appeared to be broken, her left temple was smashed in, she had been stabbed, and then an electrical cord was wrapped around her neck, the cord tied to a nail on the patio. She was taken to the hospital but died a short time later.
Inside the house, the kitchen was stained with blood, but Arnfin’s mother and the couple’s daughter were unhurt and unaware of the brutal assault. The only thing that was missing from the house was a piggy bank with about $20 in it. A blood-covered hammer and rock were found behind the house.
Four days after the murder, Arnfin got a letter, supposedly from the killer. The author said he had murdered Thompson because they had worked at the bank together, and if he couldn’t have her, no one could. The writer had nailed the spike in the wall to hang her, and when he did, she fell, so he beat her with a hammer.
The case progressed slowly over the summer. By the fall, the detective on the case, Major Samuel Rome, concluded that Dorothy’s mother-in-law may have been involved in the murder. She was there during the time of the crime, but she was never charged. Instead, 20-year-old handyman Harry Solberg was arrested on March 15, 1966. Solberg was still in high school at the time of the murder. He was questioned and admitted to writing the letter, but he denied committing the murder, at first.
He said he did stop by the house to ask Dorothy a question about a paper he had to write for his economics class. When he arrived at the house, he found the front door open, so he went inside and found the kitchen was covered in blood. He said he left and then drove around in a daze. Later, after hours of interrogations, he said “I guess I stabbed her and beat her.” Also, handwriting analysis said it was likely that he did write the letter.
Maj. Rome, who was no longer on the case, didn’t believe that Solberg committed the crime. In fact, he testified for Solberg’s defense. In the end, Solberg went to trial twice and the conviction was thrown out because of police interrogation tactics. After the second trial, they didn’t choose to re-try him. Instead, Solberg agreed to plead guilty to writing the letter, and he received a sentence of 1–10 years in prison.
4. Judith Hyams
On September 13, 1965, 22-year-old Judith Hyams from Coral Gables, Florida, withdrew $300 from her bank account. The next morning, she was seen at her place of employment, the Jacksonville Medical Center, at about 8:30 AM. After that, it is unclear what happened, but Hyams disappeared. Her car was found a day later in Atlanta, which was about 1,000 kilometers (650 mi) away from where she was last seen. The car was left there on September 15 by a man with light hair in a crew cut and a bad complexion. The man returned to the car later with a young brunette who matched Hyams’s description, but witnesses couldn’t make a positive identification.
There were no signs of violence inside the car except for a small trace of blood in the backseat, and there were no clues to the whereabouts of Hyams. When police looked into the matter, they found that she had requested a pregnancy test at the medical center where she worked and asked for the results to be sent to a dentist named Lucien Gordon. Hyams had requested this test under a false name. According to police, Hyams and Gordon were dating, and Hyams became pregnant. The couple arranged an illegal abortion with a doctor named George Hadju, which was to take place on September 14. When police interviewed Hadju,he denied that Hyams had visited him.
The case went cold, and looking to dig deeper, the state’s attorney’s office subpoenaed Gordon a year after the disappearance, but he pleaded the Fifth Amendment 83 times, saying “I respectfully refuse to answer on the grounds that it may incriminate me.” Two years after the murder, Hadju was charged with conspiracy to commit an abortion for Hyams, but he jumped bail and was never seen again, bringing the case to a halt.
For the next 23 years, nothing happened in the case, but in 1990, the story took a strange turn. The captain of the Coral Gables Police Department was lecturing at a police academy in Omaha, Nebraska. After returning home, there was a message from a radio DJ in Omaha, and he wanted to talk to the captain about the disappearance of Judith Hyams. The captain called back, but the DJ denied calling him. Two days later, the captain got another call. This time the caller told him that Hyams was alive in Omaha.
A short time after the calls, a story appeared in the newspaper about the 25th anniversary of the disappearance of Hyams, and the captain got another call. This person said he was an FBI informant and had spent some time with their main suspect, George Hadju, in Budapest. The caller also gave the captain a phone number. The captain, in turn, called Interpol, and they traced the number to George Hadju, but the man was gone when they went to investigate.
The story caught the attention of Unsolved Mysteries, and after the segment was aired, the Coral Gables Police Department received a typewritten letter stating that Hyams died during complications during an abortion and her body was dumped in Biscayne Bay, near Miami. Police believe the letter to be a legitimate confession and do not think Hyams is alive in Omaha.
3. The Murder Of Roger Dean
On November 21, 1985, in Lone Tree, Colorado, at about 7:00 AM, Doris Dean was getting out of her bathtub in her upscale home when she was called to the bedroom. There, she found a masked gunman with his gun aimed at her 51-year-old husband, Roger Dean. The intruder forced Roger to tie his wife’s hands behind her back and then placed tape over her eyes. Then the gunmen tied up Roger and led him to a different room.
Doris believes that the plan was to take Roger to the bank to withdraw money. At some point, Roger broke free, and there was a scuffle. The intruder fired a shot that ricocheted and hit Roger. After being shot, Roger ran out of the house to his driveway. The masked man chased him, and then he opened fire and shot Roger five more times, killing him in front of his neighbors. The shooter fled to a car about a block away and drove off. It is believed that the killer had intimate details about Roger and was blackmailing him. Roger had just opened a $32,000 bank account, and before he was shot, he was heard screaming, “I’ll give you the $30,000, you . . . ”
After the murder, Roger’s daughter Tamara started receiving threatening phone calls. Out of fear, she and her husband moved to Arizona. Five years later, Tamara moved back to Lone Tree to help her mother, and in July 1990, shortly after her arrival, the threats started again. This time, the threats came in the form of letters mailed to Doris’s home. In the letters, the author took credit for the murder, giving details that only the killer would know. He wanted Doris to give him $100,000 or he would murder Tamara, referring to her as Doris’s only living family member. This clue hinted that the killer was somehow connected to the Dean family. Two years before Roger was shot, Doris’s son had been killed in a train accident, making Doris and Tamara the only two living family members.
The police were called, and they told Tamara to go along with the demands. On August 19, 1990, the money was dropped, but the letter writer never appeared to collect his money. He called Tamara and said that he’d seen the police. He said Tamara was as good as dead, and he could wait until the police weren’t protecting her.
Police do not have a suspect in the unusual case, but they do have his DNA from the home invasion. No match has ever been found. It is believed that the suspect was a white male, between the ages of 20 and 40.
2. The Disappearance Of Danielle LaRue
Danielle LaRue didn’t have an easy life. She was physically and sexually abused as a child and was put into foster care. This led her to run away at the age of 13, and she ended up living on the streets of Prince George, British Columbia. Over the years, she turned to drugs and ended up in Vancouver’s notorious Downtown Eastside. There, she worked as a prostitute to support her sister, her brother, and her drug habit. That was until November 2002, when she went missing without a trace.
The only clue to the 24-year-old’s disappearance was a computer-printed letter delivered to the Vancouver police department on New Year’s Eve. The author of the letter said that this was the second time he’d contacted them about a prostitute who disappeared in November 2002. He said that he couldn’t remember her name, and she’d had no ID on her. He then gave a physical description of her and then, in a blunt manner, he wrote “she is dead.”
The writer asked for the police to identify her in the newspaper The Vancouver Sun so he would know who she is. He also wanted someone to notify the family. He apologized to them and also said that he brought flowers to her grave and plans to do so every year that he is able to. He says it’s not much, but it is better than no visitors at all.
1. The Murder Of Nell Alma Tirtschke
On New Year’s Eve, 1921, 12-year-old Nell Alma Tirtschke was out running a routine errand for her family in Melbourne, Australia. She never made it home to see 1922. Her naked body was found in an alleyway; she had been strangled and raped. Her clothes were never found.
The murder sent panic through the city, and newspapers only exacerbated the situation with fearmongering. As a result, the police were under incredible pressure to solve the case. Police quickly focused their attention on wine bar owner Colin Campbell Ross, who was seen in the area at the time of the murder. The police interviewed him, and he spoke confidently about his whereabouts at the time, but no one could corroborate his alibi. Finally, the police searched his house and found some hair, which they thought might have come from Alma.
What happened next is considered one of the biggest travesties in the history of the Australian legal system. At Ross’s trial, witnesses included a prostitute/fortune teller who may have been paid by the state and an inmate who got his sentence reduced in exchange for his testimony. Then the results of the hair tests were presented, and the chemist said that they were not the same color or thickness as Alma’s. Yet Ross was found guilty and was sentenced to hang.
On April 23, 1922, the day before his execution, Ross received a letter from an anonymous author. The writer said he was the one who raped and murdered the 12-year-old girl. He said he couldn’t help himself and felt guilty for what he did, but it would hurt his family too much if he came forward and confessed. Ross’s lawyer tried to get a stay of execution based on the letter, but he had no luck. Ross was hanged the next day. He was 29 years old.
Ross wouldn’t be pardoned until 86 years later in 2008, and the real killer will probably never be identified.
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