On July 30th of 2011, tragedy struck the family of 79-year-old Bill Wood and his 72-year-old wife Kay. Their rural Norwalk, Iowa home was destroyed by a fire that night and when the investigators found the bullet ridden body of Bill in the ashes, they knew something far more than an freak house fire had occurred. The body of Kay was not found and it was feared she was possibly kidnapped by the arsonist.
The couple had attended an auction that morning which had numerous expensive items up for grabs. The police and the Wood’s family began to fear and speculate that perhaps Bill had told someone at the auction of the extensive collection of pricey antiques he had acquired over the years and made his home a target.
The following day, the Woods’ Chevy Silverado pickup truck was found at an apartment complex in Kansas City, Missouri. Locals placed the vehicle as having arrived at the apartments prior to when the Woods home was started ablaze. Given that the two incidents occurred in two different states it would seem that two individuals maybe involved in the crime. A man was seen dropping the vehicle off and the police were able to get a vague description of him from eyewitnesses. Despite spreading a sketch of the man around online and on flyers, the person of interest has never been identified.
Kay is not considered a suspect in her husband’s murder. She has not been seen since the house fire. The case remains open and a reward is out for anyone who can help find Mrs. Wood and/or the arsonist/murderer.
In 1924, twenty-five year-old Janet Smith was serving as a housemaid for Vancouver’s Frederick and Doreen Baker. While under their employ, Smith was found dead in the home of the Frederick’s brother. She had burns and stains on her arm and was holding a gun in her hand. The police decided that her injuries weren’t suspicious and declared the death to be accidental. After an uproar over that ludicrous assessment by the police, the ruling was changed to one of suicide. Before long though, investigators began to consider the possibility that Smith was murdered and named the Baker’s houseboy Wong Foon Sing as the top suspect.
Sing was a Chinese immigrant and as such was subjected to the racial biases of the time. The police and associates of Smith went to the Ku Klux Klan in the area and informed them that they believed that Sing was smitten by Smith and when she spurned his overtures, he killed her. They tried to portray Smith as fearful and loathsome of Sing’s advancements but her diary showed she was mostly just amused and a bit flattered by the attention he adorned on her. Nonetheless, the Klan kidnapped Sing and spent the next six weeks attempting to torture a confession out of him. When he was finally released, the police arrested him for murder.
The prosecution had no evidence other than some witness hearsay about Sing’s affections and ultimately Sing was found innocent of the crime. He ended up returning to China eventually after suffering from a number of vigilante beatings from locals that left him partially deaf and vision impaired. The political sentiment of the time was that white women needed to be protected from other races, and some Canadian officials pushed for new laws that would prevent the Chinese from working in the same homes as white girls. The bill never came to pass.
Smith’s murder remains an unsolved case but some believe that it was her employer, Frederick Baker, in fact committed the deed. There is speculation that Baker was involved in smuggling drugs and that his housekeeper, Mrs. Smith, may have seen or heard something that forced him to silence her.
Nurse Jane Snow took her 8 and 9 year sons on a road trip on May 15th of 1979. After leaving from Grand Rapids, Michigan they stopped at the Loon Lake Rest Area near Gaylord, Michigan several hours later. All three headed for the restrooms. The boys came out and waited and waited for their mother to join them. Finally they decided to check in on her in the women’s bathroom. They were mortified to find their mother’s body riddled with twenty-three stab wounds. The boys were able to flag down a passing motorist, but their mother was already dead. The children had not seen or heard anything suspicious and thus provided little first person help once the police arrived.
Shortly after the murder, a state trooper was driving nearby when he saw a hitchhiker. He picked the man up and discovered his name was John McGawley and that he had warrants out for a bad check in Rhode Island. He took down McGawley’s info and dropped him off at his desired location. The trooper had noticed scratch marks on the man’s hands but without any knowledge that a murder had just taken place, the marks did not send off any red flags. Once Snow’s death became known, the police tracked down McGawley at a bar and found that his shirt had bloodstains on it. He claimed he had gotten into a fight with his wife and that was where the blood came from. Tests on the shirt would prove the blood was not Snow’s and ultimately the only evidence to link McGawley to Snow’s death was circumstantial and he was never formally charged. The case remained unsolved to this day.
Twenty-five-year old Philip Fraser intended to drive from his home in Anchorage, Alaska to his school of choice, Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. In order to do so, he had to cross the border into Canada and drive through many desolate roads. While at a pit stop at a cafe at 40 Mile Flats in rural British Columbia, two members of the wait staff watched as a hitchhiker stopped Fraser and appeared to ask for a ride. Fraser began to drive away but then stopped and allowed the man to enter his vehicle. That would prove to be the last time anyone saw Fraser alive.
Roughly eight hours later and over 250 miles away, a couple from the town of Kitwanga came across a motorist who was having car trouble. The couple later confirmed with police that the man matched the description given by the waitresses of the hitchhiker. He claimed his name was Philip Fraser and while dining with the couple he gave a backstory that would later be verified as a cliff notes version of Fraser’s own life. The man first tried to sell the car to the couple, but when they turned down his offer he merely fixed it and drove off. Twelve hours later the vehicle was found set on fire at a car wash in Prince George. The hitchhiker was not seen again.
Fraser’s body was discovered in a remotely located gravel pit in the town of Stewart five weeks after he was last seen. An abundance of his personal items, including his birth certificate and passport were never found. His murder remains unsolved despite the case airing on NBC’s Unsolved Mysteries.
In the sweltering July heat in 1973, a fifteen-year-old runaway named Mary Ellen Jones came to the police in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with a grisly tale. She claimed that her sixteen-year-old boyfriend, Mark Matson and her had been attempting to hitch a ride when a man named “Eric” stopped and picked them up. Eric was middle aged and seemed friendly until the couple went back to his home. Once there Eric forced them at gunpoint to perform sexual acts on one another as he took pictures. Matson attempted to fight back and went for Eric’s gun. He ended up being shot three times and died. For the next twenty-four hours Jones was held captive, chained in a sound proof room and raped numerous times. Eric ultimately let Mary free but warned her not to go to the police. Jones went right for the authorities anyway. The cops contacted Jones’ mother and were told that Mary had a long history of lying. With that knowledge in hand, the police decided the story was fake.
A few days later in Miami, a 44-year old building inspector named Albert Brust was found dead on his front porch. It was determined he killed himself by mixing milk laced with cyanide. Inside his home the police found Mark Matson’s dismembered corpse encased in cement inside of a bathroom wall. In the basement, the sound proof room Jones described was discovered, along with a journal in which Brust described his desires to capture a sex slave. His final entry expressed his disappointment in the actual experience of holding a woman captive and with his fantasies wrecked, Brust decided to take his own life.
I’ll be back soon with more tales of the murder and mayhem. Thanks for reading!
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