Shocking Stories of the Most Infamous Unsolved Crimes
Every criminal dreams of committing the perfect crime. A crime that is so well executed, with clues and evidence so scarce, that even the experts are left baffled. The Killer Book of Cold Cases takes you behind the crime scene tape and deep into the investigations of some of the most puzzling and notorious cold cases of all timefrom murders to kidnappings to massive bombings that were open for years before the criminal was finally brought to justice.
*The New York City judge whose disappearance was so famous, his name became synonymous with cold cases
* The first use of DNA to help solve a murder case that had been cold for years
* The bomber who took down an entire plane of people, just to collect on his mother's insurance
* The legendary bank robber D.B. Cooper
* The murder of two cops in a small California town-a case that took more than SO years to solve
* The Mad Bomber, who drove New Yorkers half crazy in the fifties by planting bombs all over the city Bury yourself in these edge-of-your-seat tales, read chilling quotes, and test your crime IQ with cold-case trivia. You'll stay up wondering which criminals might still be on the loose!
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Tom Philbin and his brother Mike have been close to crime for many years. Tom is a long-time freelance writer who has written nine cop novels. He lives in New York. Mike Philbin is a musician; this is his fourth book. Mike lives in New Hampshire.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
It all started one sweltering night, July 21, 1957, when two teenage couples, returning from a night out in a 1949 Ford, decided to stop at a lovers’ lane in an oil field in Hawthorne, California. “Oil field” doesn’t sound romantic, but in the darkness, the lovers could feast their eyes on the Pacific Ocean, and on the far coastline, they could see glittering lights. The lane had been used by many couples, so the teenagers had no reason to feel fear that night.
Where Did the Term “Cold Case” Originate?
In his book Cold Case Homicides, a text for professional cold-case investigators, Richard Walton says, “The practical application of the phrase and of the concept of ‘cold-case’ homicide had been coined by the news media of the Metro Dade region of Florida.”
It started with the unsolved murder of a twelve-year-old girl in that area in the early 1980s. The murder drew so much media attention that the authorities assigned a team of a sergeant and two detectives to the case, and they succeeded in solving it. The team continued to work on unsolved cases, calling themselves the extremely dry “Pending Case Squad,” but a Miami reporter dubbed them “the Cold Case Squad.” Walton says the term “cold case” had been used before, such as in Western book or movie when a trail goes “cold.”
And although the term wasn’t used in law enforcement until the 1980s, police had similar squads working cases before that. For example, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has had the “Unsolved Unit” of its Homicide Bureau investigating cold cases since the 1970s.
But there was plenty to fear. At one point, the teens saw a hulking, shadowy figure approach the car on the driver’s side, and just like that, a gun was shoved in the window.
The sixteen-year-old driver said later, “I thought it was a prank of some sort. But it wasn’t, and then I thought he was going to kill us. But he said he wouldn’t.”
The stranger ordered the terrified kids to strip to their underwear, give him their watches and cash, and get in the backseat of the car. They did. He broke out some surgical and duct tape, and taped their mouths shut and their eyes sightless. Then he took one of the fifteen-year-old girls to the front seat of the car and raped her.
After that, he ordered all four terrified and crying kids out of the car and marched them toward the nearby woods. As he did so, he said, “I think I’m going to kill you.” Once they reached the woods, he told the teens to lie down.
They waited to be shot, but the next thing they knew, they heard him getting into the Ford, closing the door, and speeding away. The kids wandered around, looking for help.
The man drove about five miles to the junction of Sepulveda Boulevard and Rosecrans Avenue in El Segundo. The light was red. He stopped, and then perhaps eager to get as far as he could away from the scene of the rape and robbery, he went through the red light.
But someone else was around. Sitting on a side road in a black-and-white police car were two young patrolmen, Richard Phillips, twenty-eight years old, and rookie Milton Curtis, twenty-five years old. They had watched the car as it came to a stop at the red light, and then they saw the driver run the light.
Immediately, they pursued the car and pulled it over, making one of the most dangerous acts a policeman can do—a traffic stop. The reason traffic stops are so dangerous is that the patrolman never knows who he will encounter. The driver could be a murderer, an escaped convict, or, in this case, a man who had just committed a number of felonies including rape, assault, armed robbery, vehicular theft, and kidnapping. Someone, in other words, who could be very dangerous.
The man was ordered to get out of the car, and he did. One of the cops, Phillips, shined his flashlight into the car while the other wrote out the ticket. Playing his flashlight beam across the backseat, Phillips saw a yellow dress, a slip, and a sport shirt strewn over the seat.
As the young officers went about their business, another cop car passed by and slowed down to make sure everything was all right. Curtis looked up from writing the ticket and waved the ticket book at the passing officers, a signal that everything was under control.
Once the passing cops were out of earshot, the quiet, dark night was suddenly shattered by gunshots. The driver of the Ford shot Phillips three times in the back as he walked back to the squad car and then fired three more shots that hit Curtis, who by then was sitting behind the wheel of the cop car. Then the man raced to his own car, and as he did, the injured and dying Phillips, a police marksman, managed to fire several shots at the perpetrator and shatter the Ford’s rear window.
Meanwhile, the teens were wandering around the oil field still looking for help, which they found in the form of a night watchman. Police were notified, and the kids blurted out their story. Once the events—their assault and robbery and the shooting of the patrolmen—were connected, an army of cops descended on the scene of the shootings. The crime investigation subsequently spread out, like ripples from a rock thrown into a quiet lake. It became the single biggest manhunt in the history of California.
A pall settled over El Segundo, and permanent heartache settled into the homes of Richard Phillips and Milton Curtis. Years later, their young children would still remember the commotion at the door that night and how their mothers had wailed with grief. One of the slain patrolmen’s kids commented that his mom always said that Daddy had gone on a long trip, and then she said he had gone on the longest trip of all, to Heaven.
Three Partial Prints
The teens from the oil field were able to help an artist make a composite drawing. They described their attacker as a big man, six feet and 200 pounds, who wore his hair in the Elvis Presley-style wave of the time, but neither the description nor the drawing produced any viable leads.
Police didn’t have the investigative tools then that they have today, but the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department did have fingerprinting and a technician named Howard Speaks who did a very thorough job of trying to find prints.
Since the night had been hot and the perp might have been sweating, Speaks thought his best shot for a print was the steering wheel. His painstaking efforts paid off when he discovered and lifted a partial print off the wheel as well as two others—one from the door and another from a chrome strip inside the car. The prints were put into the California fingerprint database but failed to turn up any suspects.
Despite the massive efforts of cops on duty and volunteers from all over California and other states, no clues were found and the case gradually went cold.
What’s a Cold Case?
Different cops have different definitions for what characterizes a cold case. Some cops mark a certain year as the cutoff, saying that any unsolved homicide that occurred prior to that date—for example, 1990—is classified as a cold case. Others may dub a case cold if a long time has elapsed since a person disappeared and the person is assumed to be a homicide victim.
And while most people think of cold cases as being only unsolved murders, that is really not true. Kidnapping, rape, and missing-person cases that have gone unsolved for a long time can also be accurately characterized as cold cases.
The case of Judge Joseph Force Crater, who vanished on the night of August 6, 1930, is a classic cold case. His wife said he received a phone call and then left the house, first commenting that he was “going to straighten those fellows out.” He was never seen again.
Though many different definitions are used for a cold case, the bottom line is that a fairly long time has passed since the start of the investigation, and the original investigators have given up and moved on to other cases. Of course, there is no time limit on what constitutes a cold case. Decades can go by. Indeed, some cold cases have been solved after thousands of years.
A 5,300–Year–Old Cold Case
Certainly up there in contention as the oldest cold case of all time is that of the case of the Iceman. Two German hitchhikers discovered the “corpse”—the mummified, very well preserved remains of a male body—in 1991 in a glacier in the Ötztal Alps, which border Italy and Austria. The man was estimated to have died 5,300 years earlier and was about forty-six years old at the time.
After examining the body, scientists decided that the Iceman had probably died of hypothermia or perhaps drowned. He seemed to be armed with a dagger and a bow and arrows, because they were found strewn around his body. The only damage observed to his body was a broken-off arrowhead in his left shoulder.
Years passed before one of the hikers commented that when he first saw the Iceman, he had had a knife clutched in his right hand. Once they had this information, investigators started to consider other scenarios under which the Iceman could have died or been killed.
Further investigation revealed that the body had defensive wounds: a slash on the right hand, a cut on the forearm, and bruising on the torso. They also found blood on the dagger.
Then investigators took DNA samples from a variety of surfaces: the man’s cloak, the point of the arrow found in his body, the shaft of the arrow, and the blade of the dagger. All of those surfaces had DNA on them that did not belong to the Iceman. With that evidence, investigators postulated that the man was likely shot with an arrow from behind—from which he died of blood loss—while fighting with at least one other person.
Ultimately, then, the murder was a very, very old cold-case homicide.
Cops, of course, don’t forget their own, and a number of detectives were permanently assigned to the El Segundo case. Quite a few cops spent vacation time trying to track down the killer, but still with no luck.
As time went by, the case grew colder with no leads forthcoming. A couple of months after the killings, Doug Tuley’s wife was working in her Manhattan Beach backyard, perhaps a mile from the kill site, when she found something significant: a watch. Although the Ford from the crime spree had been abandoned not far way, she didn’t realize the watch’s importance to the murder case. Sometime after that, Tuley himself found part of a .22-caliber revolver. He did not attach any special significance to the gun, either, although he put it on a shelf instead of throwing it out.
A few years later, in 1960, Tuley’s son, Bob, discovered something else in the backyard—the gun’s rusty cylinder. It was then that the father made the connection. He knew that his house was only about a mile from the crime scene, so he called the El Segundo cops. Tuley figured that since the car had been found abandoned nearby, the killer probably had broken up the gun and tossed it in the backyard.
After running ballistics tests on the gun, cops determined that it had fired the bullets that hit the two cops. Detectives checked the serial number on the gun, and then two of them traveled 1,600 miles to a Sears Roebuck store in Shreveport, Louisiana. Records showed that the gun had been purchased there three years earlier for around thirty dollars by someone who signed the name “G.D. Wilson” in wide-spaced handwriting.
Surprisingly, the young clerk remembered the man, a big guy with a pompadour who spoke in a Southern drawl and seemed anxious to leave the store quickly. But that’s as far as the cops could go, and the case went cold again. For each of the next forty-two years, it got colder until it was ice. But, of course, it had not been forgotten, particularly by cops and the families of the slain officers. It was a bleeding, open wound in their minds.
While the case went nowhere for all of those years, forensics had advanced, particularly DNA, which could be extracted from hair, blood, and semen. In Los Angeles, two people had been appointed to try to clear as many cold cases as possible using this new science. One person was Lisa Kahn, head of the District Attorney’s Forensic Science Division, and the other was David Lambkin of the Los Angeles Cold Case Division, which used DNA and computerized fingerprint and ballistic records to try to identify perpetrators.
But there was no DNA from the double cop-killing. The rape victim’s dress had semen on it, but following procedure in those days, the cops had returned the dress to the victim after they finished examining it, and the dress was long gone.
The Case Opens Up
After a false lead in 2002 awakened interest in the case, investigators decided to run the partial fingerprints through the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or IAFIS. Federal law enforcement agencies and those from every state send criminal offenders’ fingerprints to IAFIS, forming a national database of more than 40 million prints.
What Is CODIS?
The Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) is an electronic database of DNA profiles administered through the FBI. The system lets federal, state, and local crime labs share and compare DNA profiles. Through CODIS, investigators match DNA from crime scenes with convicted offenders and with other crime scenes using computer software, just as fingerprints are matched through IAFIS.
CODIS uses two indexes: the convicted offender index, which contains profiles of convicted offenders, and the forensic index, which contains profiles from crime-scene evidence.
The real strength of CODIS lies in solving cases that have no suspects. If DNA evidence entered into CODIS matches someone in the offender index, a warrant can be obtained authorizing the collection of a sample from that offender to confirm the match. If the offender’s DNA is in the forensic index, the system allows investigators—even in different jurisdictions—to exchange information about their respective cases.—From the National Institute of Justice
Investigators working the 1957 case had the prints cleaned up and reprocessed digitally. Then they ran the prints through the database and waited. Lt. Craig Cleary, head of El Segundo’s detective unit, was speechless when the results came in. A crime-lab analyst said there was a “hit.”
Cleary reacted the way many people would react: “I thought he was kidding. But when I asked him if he was sure he said, ‘Yes.’”
Now with a suspect, police focused on him “like stink on shit,” as one cop crudely put it. They expected to find a hardened criminal, but that’s not what they encountered. The person who matched the prints was a family man and had a successful business. Gerald Mason lived in Columbia, South Carolina. His prints were available because he had been arrested for robbery in 1956, the year before the killings. That was the only time he had been charged with a crime. But the FBI’s IAFIS wasn’t established until 1999, and Mason’s prints took a long time to make their way into the database.
The cops did not consider the prints enough to “make” their case. They needed more, said David Lambkin. “I wanted to make sure, forty-six years later, that we had a rock-solid case before arresting someone who is a successful businessman and a pillar of his community.” Lambkin wanted a case that definitely “would go to trial and end with convi...
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Book Description Sourcebooks, 2012. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P111402253540
Book Description Sourcebooks, 2012. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX1402253540
Book Description Sourcebooks. PAPERBACK. Book Condition: New. 1402253540 New Condition. Bookseller Inventory # NEW6.1508212