Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Who Strangled 15-year-old Joanne Dunham?

50 years later, murder is still unsolved

From the New Hampshire Department of Justice website:

"On June 11, 1968 at approximately 7:10 a.m., Joanne Dunham, age 15, was last seen while walking from her home at Raiche Mobile Homes in Charlestown, NH enroute to her bus stop on her way to school.  She never got on the bus.  Her body was found at approximately 4:15 p.m. the following day on a roped-off dirt road on Quaker City Road in Unity NH approximately 5½ miles from where she was abducted.  An autopsy determined that Joanne died of asphyxiation."

Although Joanne was sexually assaulted, it is unknown if DNA is available for testing.

If you have information on this case, contact:

Cold Case Unit
NH State Police Major Crime Unit
33 Hazen Drive
Concord NH 03305
Telephone: 603-271-2663
Fax: 603-223-6270
E-mail: coldcaseunit@dos.nh.gov

Saturday, May 5, 2018

"Enveloped in Mystery"
Compiled by Robert A.  Waters

In 1895, a gruesome murder occurred in the backwaters of Florida.  A few national newspapers published brief stories about the case, but never followed up with a conclusion.

Aucilla, Florida, located in Jefferson County, was home to only a few hundred residents, many of whom worked for local lumber and turpentine companies.  Before air conditioning, it took a hardy soul to live in the backwoods of the state.  This brief compilation of stories about the rape and murder of Stella Johnson shows that Florida, then as now, could be a dangerous place.

********************
Young Girl Murdered: Atrocious Crime Reported from Aucilla, Florida

Janesville (MO) Daily Gazette

September 7, 1895--Sometime last Tuesday night, Stella Johnson, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a widow who lives near here was kidnaped. 

This morning the nude corpse of the girl strapped to a log and horribly mangled was found floating in a small lake about six miles from her home.  The girl's neck had been broken and her throat cut from ear to ear.  Her right arm had been severed from the body at the shoulder and no trace of it can be found.  Several young men who had been paying attention to the girl are under suspicion.  In the girl's room was found a mask which had been torn from one of her assailants.  The coroner is investigating and if the inquest confirms the suspicions entertained three men will be lynched.

********************
Examination showed that the girl had been outraged.

Philadelphia Times

September 6, 1895 (Aucilla, Florida)--On the shore of the lake there is a small cabin, and when it was searched, evidence was discovered which indicated that it was the scene of the outrage and murder.  In the hut was found the night gown of the girl, that being the only garment she wore when she was kidnapped.  The gown was covered with blood, as was the floor of the cabin.  From the cabin down to the lake a bloody trail led.  Beyond a few bloody footprints on the door of the cabin, the fiends who committed the crime had left no trace.  The crime is enveloped in mystery.

The girl and her mother had lived alone.  Tuesday night, according to Mrs. Johnson, Stella retired at the usual hour, and about 12 o'clock the mother heard her daughter screaming.  She rushed to Stella's room and found it vacant.  The mother gave the alarm, and since then, posses have been searching for the young girl, but in vain until this morning. 

Several young men who have been paying attention to the young girl are under suspicion, and it is hinted that the mother knows more than she had told.

********************
Her Neck Broken, Throat Cut. Right Arm Severed and the Body Strapped to a Log In a Pond.

Columbus Daily Herald

Jacksonville, Fla., Sept. 6, 1895--A special from Aucilla, Fla, says: Last Monday night Stella Johnson, the 14-year old daughter of a widow who lives near here, disappeared.  The mother said the girl had been kidnaped and posses have been searching for her.  Thursday the girl's nude and mangled body was found strapped to a log in a pond some distance from her home.  Her neck was broken, throat cut and right arm severed from the shoulder.  The arm could not be found.  She had also been outraged.  The coroner is investigating.  Several persons are suspected and the story of the mother is regarded as peculiar.

********************
If anyone has additional information concerning this case, please contact me.

NOTE: The photograph used is from the Florida Memory Project.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


"I had to defend myself and my family..." 
by Robert A. Waters 

The following police report describes an incident that could have turned deadly.  It happened in my hometown of Ocala, Florida.  This chilling report is printed verbatim. 

After responding to a 911 call, Marion County Sheriff's Deputy Paul Bloom wrote: 

"On 1/31/2014, I responded to 6075 NW 31 Avenue, Ocala, Florida, in reference to a call from a homeowner stating that they found an unknown man in their 7-year-old daughter's bedroom upon returning from dinner. 

"Upon arrival, I observed the mother, victim Heather Smith, running from the home toward my car with her three small children.  Victim Heather stated that her husband, victim Jesse Smith, was inside holding the subject at gunpoint until I could arrive. 

"I entered the home and observed the victim Jesse standing in the kitchen holding a pistol pointed at the defendant.  The defendant, later identified as Paul Matheny, was lying on the floor of the adjoining bedroom hiding under a blanket.  Victim Jesse was advising me as I approached him that he 'has no idea who this man is.' 

"I ordered the defendant to show me his hands from under the blanket at which time the defendant refused to do so.  At that point, I pulled the blanket off of him and ordered him to place his hands behind his back.  He further refused and rolled onto his stomach, tucking his hands into his chest.  I then grabbed the defendant's right arm and was able to place a handcuff on him, however, as I grabbed his left arm, he pulled away and attempted to roll away from me.  Seeing the struggle, victim Jesse offered to assist me in handcuffing the defendant.  However, after a brief struggle, I was able to place his left hand in cuffs also. 

"It should be noted that I arrived at this call in a marked patrol car, in duty uniform and clearly identified myself as a law enforcement officer to the defendant. 

"The defendant openly stated, 'This is my house.'  I asked him what his address was and the defendant replied 3030 NE 18 Court and that his phone number 352-622-8862.  I advised him that this was not the address where I found him tonight.  He continued to state, 'But this is my house.  I built it.'  The defendant's driver's license indicates an address of 3112 NE Jacksonville Road, Apartment # 5, Ocala, FL 34479.  Further investigation revealed that the defendant is most likely homeless. 

"The defendant had apparently entered the home through a side door that victim Jesse says does not always close properly.  He stated that when he returned home with his family from dinner, the door was closed but not locked.  He did not become alarmed because of the ongoing trouble with the door lock. 

"Victim Jesse stated that as his wife Heather was getting their 7-year-old daughter ready for bed, she entered the child's bedroom with the daughter and 'saw the blanket on the floor begin to move.'  She and the child screamed, at which point victim Jesse responded from another room in the house and held the defendant at gunpoint until my arrival.  The homeowners stated that nothing appeared to be missing and that the defendant had apparently came in the home, turned on the television, drank a soda and took a blanket from the sofa into the child's bedroom and went to sleep on the floor. 

"The defendant did have a slight smell of an alcoholic beverage about him during my contact with him.  The defendant was arrested and transported to the Marion County jail without further incident." 

If that's not scary enough, it turned out that Paul Michael Matheny had three previous convictions for exposing himself to others.  In an interview with the Ocala Star Banner, Smith recounted that Matheny was lying next to his daughter's clothes.  "I had to defend myself and my family," Smith told staff writer Austin L. Miller. 

In Florida, more than half its twenty-one million residents owns at least one gun and one and-a-half million have concealed carry permits (not counting several hundred thousand out-of-state visitors).  At any restaurant in Florida, several patrons are likely to be carrying handguns.  Armed robbers have been shot by customers or business owners.  Burglars and home invaders have a good chance of encountering an armed homeowner, as happened in this case.   

Matheny should consider himself lucky he didn't get shot. 

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Can You Help Solve these Cold Cases?

Julie Fuller

Two decades-long mysteries  
by Robert A. Waters 

A Sad End for Baby X 
Rupert, Idaho has a population of nearly 6,000 souls.  This quiet town near the Snake River seems an unlikely place for a gruesome mystery to unfold.  But on November 17, 1989, Robert Boseiger located a burned-out 50-gallon drum near the Minidoka Landfill.  Peering inside, he saw what he thought was a dead monkey.  When sheriff's deputies arrived, they determined the remains were those of a child.  Lawmen reported that the three-week-old female victim "had been disemboweled, was missing both hands, missing her right arm, had her abdominal organs cut out, was possibly skinned, and then burned."  After nearly 30 years, no one has identified the child that became known as "Baby X." 

During that time, lots of theories surfaced.  Was the baby sacrificed by a devil-worshipping cult?  Worse yet, was the child bred and born specifically to be tortured and murderedOr was the case as simple as Minidoka County Sheriff Ray Jarvis's theory that a "migrant worker" gave birth to a child who died of pneumonia or some such natural disease.  Not being fluent in English, and from a culture that fears authority-figures, maybe the mother and her family placed the body in the barrel and burnt it so they wouldn't have to report it to cops.  And maybe, he continued, animals ate the hands and arms and its internal organs.   

Who knows?  One thing is certain: this case is as cold as it gets, and, unless some guilty soul confesses, the true answer will likely never be known. 

Who Murdered Julie Fuller? 
On July 27, 1983, in Arlington, Texas, eleven-year-old Julie Fuller stepped outside of her room at the Kensington Motel to take trash to the dumpster.  Less than a minute later, she was gone.  Vanished.  Julie's family, which had recently immigrated to the U. S. from England, launched a frantic search of the area, then called police.  The next day, her nude body was found in Fort Worth, raped, strangled and discarded in a ditch.  Thirty-five years later, the case is still unsolved. 

Recent advances in DNA technology have allowed investigators to create an image of what the killer might have looked like.  It's called phenotyping, and can predict physical appearance, including eye color.  Ft. Worth police recently released pictures of what the suspect may have looked like at various ages.  A detective stated that since there were no eyewitnesses to Julie's abduction, they hope these images can spark someone's memory.