There are many cases that we all think we know. As the media sensationalise the story and assign names to both the victims and the killers, the story becomes almost fiction. There is disbelief at viewing the details and times when you have to remind yourself that these are real people and real victims. This is not a television program to entertain, but a real horror. These five cases stand out for me as some of the most famous. Cases that have been told multiple times and even dramatized. But do we know all the facts?
JonBenet Ramsey was a six-year-old beauty pageant contestant, that was found murdered in her home after a bizarre kidnap plot. When she went missing her mother found a strange two-page ransom note on the stairs to the basement and the police were called. The note bore resemblance to one from a crime film. During the initial search, however, her body was found, by her father, in that same basement. She had been strangled using a garrotte made from her mother’s paintbrush.
There are many theories on what happened to this beautiful young girl. Some say that the house was broken into, the child kidnapped and murdered and then left where the parents could find her in the basement. A sex offender, Gary Oliva was also linked to the case through a droplet of blood on Ramsey’s underwear. He was also found to possess photos of her.
Michael Helgoth became a suspect when he took his own life two days after the police announced they were closing in on a suspect. He was an electrician at the time working close to the family home. The families housekeeper, Linda Hoffman was implicated in the murder as a kidnap gone wrong. A local school teacher confessed to strangling her whilst he was being held in Thailand on pornography charges.
None of these stories seems as likely though as the fact that the parents may have had something to do with the murder. Although their family were exonerated in 2008, there remains many unanswered questions. If an intruder had entered the house, why were there no footprints in the snow surrounding the building? Why despite being told not to move the body did her father take his daughter’s body from the basement into the house. He then covered it with a blanket, removing the tape from her and destroying all evidence.
The most likely scenario is that Patsy Ramsey her mother, became angry with her daughter, after another bed wetting incident. There was evidence at the scene that a wet bed had been covered up. The family then staged the kidnapping to cover the murder. If this is true it is a secret that Patsy took to her grave, she died thirteen years ago from ovarian cancer.
Elizabeth Short — The Black Dahlia
On January 15th in 1947 a woman’s body was found sliced in half at the waist. Betty Bersinger thought she saw a mannequin whilst walking with her daughter. As she approached it became clear that it was a body. The body had suffered extensive mutilation including a cut from ear to ear. This gave the corpse what is commonly known as a Glasgow smile.The body was identified as a twenty-two-year-old Hollywood hopeful Elizabeth Short. Short who had been arrested seven months earlier for underage drinking still had her fingerprints on file.
The Los Angeles police suspected the perpetrator was a man skilled in dissection as the body was clean cut. It was clear that from the evidence the murder had occurred elsewhere and the body dumped. The intestines had been removed and placed elsewhere and the whole body had been washed clean. No evidence was left.
One of the less known facts of the case is that the murder could have links with the Cleveland Torso killer, which is also unsolved. Many similarities are present. One month after Short’s murder, another mutilated body was found in LA. On the stomach in lipstick was written ‘fuck your B.D.’ This case is also unsolved.
It is unclear where the name Black Dahlia came from, it is thought the media invented the nickname from a Raymond Chandler film, Blue Dahlia. The case caused so much interest at the time over five hundred people would confess to the killing.
Sharon Tate was an actress and model who was married to director, Roman Polanski. On 8th August 1969 shortly after midnight, she was murdered by members of the Manson family. They were discovered by the housekeeper. When she was murdered Tate was eight months pregnant with Polanski’s child.
The couple who married in January 1968, was starting to make their name in Hollywood. They had rented a home in Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles. Polanski was travelling abroad so Tate was staying with friends. Wojciech Frykowski and his girlfriend, Abigail Folger and visiting hairstylist Jay Sebring.
On the night of the murder, Manson ordered members of his cult to enter the house and kill everyone as brutally as possible. He was likely intent on murdering Terry Melcher, the previous owner of the house. Melcher had turned Manson down for a music career.
On the night of the attack, the suspects gathered the victims in the living room. Tate and Sebring were tied together by the neck with a rope. Sebring was then shot and stabbed to death. Frykowski and Folger managed to free themselves and were shot dead whilst running for help. Finally, Tate was stabbed and using her blood the suspects wrote ‘Pig’ on the front door.
Initially, Detectives considered the murder a drug deal gone wrong. It was after the Manson family were captured that they boasted about killing Tate and the murders were linked to him.
The Lindbergh Baby
Charles Lindbergh Junior was twenty months old when he was kidnapped on March 1st 1932. He was the son of the aviator, Charles Lindbergh. On the day of the kidnap, the perpetrators climbed a ladder into the second story building. They removed the toddler from his nursery, a ransom note asking for $50000 was left.
A search of the house uncovered the ransom note on the open window sill. There was also muddy footprints walking away from the house towards the woods. During the time of the kidnapping, two more ransom notes would be received each demanding more money. A cat and mouse game started between the kidnappers and professionals Lindbergh Snr. had hired.
This led to the ransom being paid, and a location for Lindbergh junior being obtained. When the family went to the location at Martha’s Vineyard no one was found. Sadly the toddler’s body was discovered on May 12th only five miles from the Lindbergh house. The autopsy found that the infant had died shortly after being kidnapped.
The discovery of the body prompted the FBI to take over the case. Until then they had only been advising. Through tracing the banknotes and bonds that had been used for the ransom they were led to Bruno Hauptmann. Hauptmann was arrested on 19th September 1934, with a banknote on his person. Further investigation would lead to over $13000 of the ransom being discovered in his garage.
Although there was only circumstantial evidence against Hauptmann, he was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed on 3rd April 1936. He had always denied involvement in the kidnapping.
The high profile case caused a change in the law. The Federal Kidnapping Act, known as Lindbergh law would state that kidnapping across state lines would now be treated as a federal offence, punishable by death.
Strangely many people will report they believe that Lindbergh was never found. This has been connected to the phenomenon known as the Mandela effect.
Nicole Brown Simpson
Nicole Brown met OJ Simpson when she was eighteen. At the time, he was married to his first wife. He divorced her in 1979 and went on to marry Brown in 1985. Brown was described as a devoted mother. She would often be seen doing the school runs or taking the children to karate.
Simpson in contrast was an abusive and unfaithful husband. During New Year’s Eve in 1989, he threatened to kill Brown. During their marriage, he was charged with spousal battery, which he pleaded no contest to. In 1992, Brown could take no more and filed for divorce.
After the divorce, the trouble started. Simpson took to stalking his ex-wife. She reportedly told her mother that she was scared because everywhere she went Simpson would appear.
On 13th June 1994, Brown was found brutally murdered outside her LA house, along with her friend 25 years old, Ron Goldman.
Police say that they found the bath in the master bedroom lit with candles. The television was on and a half-melted tub of ice cream sat downstairs. Both the children were upstairs asleep. Brown was found sprawled on the sidewalk outside her house, she had been stabbed twelve times. Goldman was found near her, he had been stabbed twenty-five times.
The evidence was substantial. Simpson’s blood was found at the crime scene. Hair and fibres from Brown and Goldman were found both in Simpson’s car and home. A bloody glove was found, one outside Brown’s house one outside Simpsons, bloody footprints at the scene matched those of Simpson.
Despite this evidence, Simpson was found not guilty of murder. His defence team stating he had been set up by a racist police officer. He, however, was later found liable for both deaths in a civil court and made liable to pay damages to the victims’ families.
In a strange twist of fate, he was charged on October 2008 for breaking into a hotel room, to steal sports memorabilia. He was sentenced to thirty-three years, being released in 2017 he has remained out of the media.
When viewing these cases it is important to keep in mind that the victims, left family and friends behind. Their death may have caused a media storm, but they were real people who lost their lives at the hands of killers. Some of the cases have been solved, others remain unsolved. It is interesting to think that the Simpson case is unsolved as no one was found guilty. However, most people view this case as closed, even though justice was not done.
Legendary tales such as Jack the Ripper and The Black Dahlia take on their own persona, almost mythically. Authors sensationalise the stories and theories, I am guilty of this as a writer. At all times though when I write I try to remember the victims in all these cases. The media can sensationalise stories as much as they want, but we need to remember the nine people who lost their lives through these crimes.