Crimes,  Mysteries

10 Weird True Crime Mysteries

As a Frenchman living in the United States, I always argue with my European friends that daily life is much safer here than in some of the old continent’s megalopolises such as Paris, Brussels or Birmingham, for example. However, it has to be said that the volume of serious and even appalling criminal cases in the USA is incomparable to that in Europe. In this article, I review ten particularly bizarre crime puzzles.

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The bike and the Polaroid. The chilling disappearance of Tara Calico

Tara Calico disappeared on September 20th, 2006 while biking on road 47

On September 20, 1988, Tara Calico, an athletic 19-year-old American girl, left her home in Belen, New Mexico, to go cycling on Route 47. She never returned.

The next day, investigators found traces of Tara’s bike on the ground, along with the remains of her walkman and empty beer cans, a few miles from the young woman’s home. Witnesses reported the erratic movement of a white van in the area.

In June 1989, a disturbing photo was found in a supermarket parking lot in Port Saint Joe, Florida, after a white van had left. In the photo are two people bound and gagged. Some recognized Tara Calico flanked by an unidentified young teenager. However, the authenticity of the photo has never been confirmed.

A strange photo was found in a parking lot in Florida. Was it Tara Calico?

Despite the best efforts of investigators and Tara Calico’s family, the case remains unsolved. In 2008, the sheriff of Valencia County, where Tara disappeared, declared that the case was “cold” and that there were no new developments.

In 2013, a woman claimed to be Tara Calico and said she had been abducted and held captive for years. However, DNA revealed that the woman was not Tara Calico. In 2018, the case was reopened without leading to any solid new leads.

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The Bible and the graffiti. Was Cynthia Anderson in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Cynthia Anderson was abducted on August 4, 1981

On August 4, 1981, Cynthia Anderson, a 20-year-old legal secretary working for the federal government and nicknamed Cindy, disappeared in Toledo, Ohio, while alone at work. In the weeks leading up to her disappearance, Cynthia had been receiving strange, malevolent calls at the office, and had confessed to having dreams in which she was abducted and then killed by an unknown man. Cynthia will soon have to leave her job to study theology, as the Anderson family is very religious.

Somebody wrote I love you Cindy by GW with a graffitti in front of Cynthia Anderson's office

Investigators discovered that a graffiti had been spray-painted twice on a wall facing Cynthia’s office windows, a few weeks before she vanished. It read “I love you Cindy. Signed GW”. The tags had added to the young secretary’s stress, as she felt she was being watched. No suspects with these initials have come to light.

A month later, a female voice told the police that Cynthia was being held captive in a white Toledo house next to another white house, on an anonymous call. The caller added that both houses belonged to the same family, before hanging up. Despite an intense search, the houses were never located.

In the fall of 1995, José Rodriguez Jr. confessed to the murder of Cynthia Anderson and claimed that it was revenge against Richard Neller, Cynthia’s employer, for not having defended him properly in a trial. The Rodríguez investigation led to the conviction of Neller and Rodriguez for their involvement in drug trafficking, while exonerating Rodriguez of the kidnapping and probable murder of Cynthia Anderson.

Despite the best efforts of the police and the FBI, no trace of Cynthia has ever been found. The case has remained unsolved for more than four decades, with many speculations and theories about the culprit and his motives.

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From Florida to Wisconsin. What happened to Tim Molnar?

Tin Molnar disappeared on January 25, 1984

On January 25, 1984, Tim Molnar, a 19-year-old aeronautics student, failed to show up at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona Beach, Florida, after dropping off his 14-year-old brother at his college. The following night, his panicked parents received a phone call in which all they heard was breathing and no words were spoken.

Two weeks after Tim’s disappearance, the investigation revealed that he had filled up with gas in Lake City, 150 miles northwest of Daytona Beach, using his parents’ credit card. The gas station attendant stated that Molnar was alone. Meanwhile, his bank account had been emptied and showed a balance of ten dollars.

Tim Molnar didn't show up at Embry-Riddle in university

Four months later, Tim’s car was found in a parking lot adjacent to the bus station in Atlanta, Georgia. Inside the vehicle, the young Floridian’s papers, credit cards and a few other belongings were in evidence.

Ten years later, Tim’s parents decided to raise the case on Unsolved Mysteries, convinced that he was alive and may have disappeared on purpose. On the first broadcast, no conclusive leads were uncovered. But the January 31, 1996 rebroadcast led to a new twist, with a call to the show’s editorial team. Viewer Steven Cull claimed to have recognized Tim Molnar’s clothes, since they matched those worn by a corpse he had discovered ten years earlier in a snowy Wisconsin woods.

Tim’s DNA confirmed the identity of the body found in 1985 over 1,250 miles from Daytona Beach. However, the cause of death remains undetermined to this day.

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The farewell drink. Brian Schaffer’s last night

Brian Shaffer vanished in 2006 when having fun in a bar

On March 31, 2006, Brian Shaffer, a 27-year-old medical student, was out with friends at a bar called Ugly Tuna Saloona in Columbus, Ohio. This is the last time he was seen. The bar’s security cameras showed Brian entering the bar with two friends but never leaving. Nor did the cameras show Brian leaving the bar via another exit.

An intensive search was conducted for Brian, but no trace of him was found. Investigators questioned witnesses, combed surveillance footage and searched the city’s sewers, all to no avail.

Brian Shaffer spent some time at Ugly Tuna Saloona and vanished

Some theorized that Brian could have been hiding in the bar, but extensive searches turned up nothing. Other theories suggested that he may have been the victim of a violent attack, or that he may have left town voluntarily. A building site adjacent to the bar was searched, to no avail. It seems that Brian vanished into thin air in a crowded bar that evening in March 2006, with no witnesses.

More than twenty-five years after the event, no trace of Brian has been uncovered, despite the continuous and renewed efforts of the investigators. A large number of customers have been questioned, the bar’s owners have been interviewed and every square foot of the premises has been searched. Brian’s family and friends remain distraught.

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The hotel and the note. The improbable fall of Rey Rivera

On May 16, 2006, Rey Rivera, a 32-year-old writer and director, was reported missing by his wife, Allison. He had left their home the day before and had not returned. On the following May 23, Rivera’s body was discovered in an abandoned conference room at the Hotel Belvedere. It seems that he had fallen from a height of fourteen stories and suffered very serious injuries, as some of his personal belongings were found on the roof of the hotel.

The initial investigation concluded suicide, but Rey Rivera’s family contested this conclusion and requested a reopening of the investigation. Several troubling elements surround Rey Rivera’s death, including conspiracy theories, cryptic messages left by Rey before his disappearance and questions about the possibility that he was the victim of murder. Strangely, Rivera was not spotted on the Belvedere Hotel’s CCTV footage.

A few days after Rey’s death, his wife discovered a note written in her husband’s handwriting and placed in a plastic pocket held together with tape behind Rey’s computer. The note was strange, to say the least:

“My brothers and sisters. All over the world, volcanoes have erupted. What a magnificent sight. I cherish the secrets”

Rey then listed the names of deceased people such as actor Christopher Reeve and director Stanley Kubrick, as well as people known to Rivera. He demanded that he and these individuals be made five years younger. Then he added that life is a test to see if you can control your mind. “Enjoy the festivities and take care of yourself”. Allison recognized the names and titles of movies that made an impression on her husband. She searched the Internet and became convinced that this had something to do with the Freemasons.

Some voices have since been raised that Rivera’s injuries are consistent with those left by a moving vehicle rather than a fall from a great height. In 2019, the case was featured in Netflix’s documentary series Unsolved Mysteries, reigniting public interest in the case and sparking further speculation. To this day, the Rey Rivera case remains unsolved, and the truth about his death remains a complete mystery.

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The basketball game and the cabin. The strange end of the Yuba City Five

On February 24, 1978, five young men went to a basketball game in Chico, California. After the game, they hit the road to reach their homes in Yuba City; it was only a fifty-minute drive. But they never returned home.

A few days later, their car was found abandoned in a remote mountain area. Inside, investigators found evidence that the men had been stranded in the snow for several days. Strangely enough, their vehicle had taken the opposite direction to Yuba City.

Four of the five men were found dead over the following months, but the fifth, Gary Mathias, remained unaccounted for. The investigation revealed that the men had left their car and headed for an abandoned cabin nearby. They apparently spent several days in the cabin before freezing and starving to death, some miles away in the surrounding woods.

However, there are several troubling elements to this case, including the fact that the men had food and warm clothing in their car, but didn’t use these resources to survive. What’s more, Gary Mathias’ body was never found. However, his shoes were found in the middle of the woods by the investigators.

Several theories have been put forward:

  • The accident theory: according to this hypothesis, the five men got lost in the mountainous region and were stranded in the snow for several days. They finally left their car and headed for the abandoned cabin nearby, where they spent several days before freezing to death and starving to death
  • The collective psychosis theory: some have suggested that the men were victims of a collective psychosis, perhaps caused by drugs or medication. This theory is based on the strange behavior of the men, who left food and warm clothes in their car without using them
  • The murder theory: others have suggested that the men were the victims of a murder, perhaps committed by hunters or drug dealers operating in the area. This theory is based on the fact that the men’s bodies were found in different locations, suggesting that they had been separated or even pursued
  • The conspiracy theory: finally, some have suggested that the men were victims of a government or military conspiracy, perhaps linked to secret experiments being carried out in the area. This hypothesis is based on the fact that the area was used for military testing, and that the five men were found in an area that had been closed to the public

To this day, the case of the Yuba City Five remains unsolved, and the truth about what happened to these five men remains an enigma.

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The poison and the two-dollar bill. The execution of Charles Morgan

Charles Morgan, 39, a tax agent in Tucson, Arizona, disappeared on March 22, 1977 after dropping his daughters off at school. His body was found 11 days later near his new Mercury Cougar, 40 miles west of Tucson. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest and belt, and a $2 bill with several Hispanic surnames and a map of the area were found pinned to his underwear.

In his car, Pima County Sheriff’s investigators also found a cache of ammunition, several weapons, CB radios and one of Morgan’s teeth wrapped in a handkerchief. The car had been modified so that it could be unlocked through the fender. Morgan appeared to have died from a bullet that passed through his skull from the back to the front of his face.

Morgan’s wife said that in early March her husband came home one evening with his hands handcuffed and a plastic collar around one ankle. He had pointed to his throat before scribbling a note explaining that he couldn’t speak because his tongue had been coated with a hallucinogenic drug that could cause severe internal injuries or even kill him.

Morgan had recently testified as part of a secret state investigation into illegal activities on both sides of the Arizona-Mexico border, and had told callers that he was working undercover for the Treasury Department. The Pima County Sheriff’s Office classified the case as a suicide, but the county coroner’s office insisted on classifying the death as one of undetermined causes, even though a bullet passed through his skull.

There have been allegations that Charles Morgan helped illegal organizations launder their loot. On the other hand, he testified about certain financial frauds, which may have led to revenge on the part of convicted criminals. Almost fifty years later, the Charles Morgan case remains a mystery.

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The stepmother and the science class. Who hurt Kyron Horman?

On June 4, 2010, 7-year-old Kiron Horman disappeared from Skyline Elementary School in Portland, Oregon. His stepmother, Terri Moulton Horman, brought him to school that day and was the last person to see the little boy.

The case was initially treated as a disappearance for nine days, before the authorities announced that it was a criminal matter. No charges were ever laid in the case. However, investigators repeatedly questioned Kyron’s mother-in-law and analyzed her whereabouts. Her schedule for the morning of June 4, 2010 raises questions. Moreover, there are several incriminating elements against the mother-in-law:

  • Several witnesses reportedly saw Kyron leave the school with Terri Horman and her young daughter on June 4, 2010, the day of her disappearance
  • Terri Horman washed Kyron’s jacket and backpack on the day of his disappearance
  • The day before Kyron disappeared, Terri Horman e-mailed a friend to tell her that she intended to leave her husband and take her little daughter with her
  • Terri Horman had an unexplained leg injury, a good-sized gash below the knee, which she said was caused by a weight falling on her leg at the gym
  • Terri Horman failed two separate polygraph tests concerning Kyron’s disappearance
  • Terri Horman allegedly offered her landscaper “a lot of money” to murder her husband, Kaine Horman, before Kyron disappeared

In 2012, a Multnomah County court judge labeled Terri Horman a “prime suspect” in this bizarre case. Terri Horman has since moved to California and remarried. She continues to deny any wrongdoing. The case remains open and active, and investigators are using advances in software, digital forensics and geospatial technology to support and advance their work.

In 2017, Terri Horman’s ex-boyfriend claimed she was involved in a murder-for-hire scheme that targeted him nearly 30 years ago. Terri Horman has been arrested several times on unrelated charges, including stealing a gun and driving a stolen car. Kyron’s mother, Desiree Young, still suspects Terri of being involved in her son’s disappearance. Kyron Horman’s body was never found.

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The cottage and the marginal. How did Joshua Maddux die?

Joshua Maddux vanished in 2008

Joshua Maddux, an 18-year-old boy, disappeared in May 2008 in Woodland Park, Colorado, after telling his father he was going for a walk in the woods. No trace of Joshua was found for over seven years. In August 2015, his remains were found in the chimney of an abandoned cabin, two blocks from his father’s home.

The coroner concluded that Joshua had died accidentally, probably after getting stuck in the chimney. However, some people question this conclusion, and several factors make the circumstances of his death strange, starting with the way the young man’s corpse was found wearing only his underwear, whereas his other clothes were discovered folded inside the cabin, which had been locked and disused for years.

Joshua Maddux's body was found in a chimney

In fact, Joshua Maddux’s body was found as a result of renovation work initiated by the owner. What’s more, access to the chimney through the roof was difficult, as a heavy plank of wood had been affixed to the flue. This led to speculation that Joshua had been murdered, and that his body had been placed in the chimney to hide the evidence.

Rumors circulating among the local population and deleted posts on social media point to a disturbed outsider who bragged about killing Joshua. Joshua’s friends reportedly tried from the outset to get the police to investigate this man named Andrew, but were told that Joshua was probably alive and living elsewhere. Relatives of Andrew, the accused outsider, are said to have heard him boast: “I put Josh in a hole”. Unfortunately, the investigators were never able to find this Andrew.

Another theory is that Joshua attempted to break into the cabin when he became trapped in the chimney. However, some of the circumstances surrounding his death, such as the presence of a large wooden plate blocking the chimney from the inside, do not seem compatible with the thesis of an accidental death.

Joshua was a creative, free-spirited person who loved music and writing. He had a high IQ and was well-liked by his classmates. His older brother, Zachary, had committed suicide a week before his high school graduation, which had a profound effect on Joshua.

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The scout and the photo. Did Jared Negrete have a bad encounter?

Jared Negrete, 12, disappeared on July 19, 1991 while on an excursion in California’s San Bernardino National Forest. He had gone on his first overnight camping trip with his fellow scouts and had become separated from his group, probably after falling behind schedule and taking a wrong turn on the trail.

During the search for Negrete, twelve shots were developed from a camera that was discovered and may have belonged to him. Most of the photos on the film depict the surrounding landscape, while the last image is a close-up of Jared’s worried face. Only his eyes and nose are visible in the photograph, which appears to have been taken at night.

Shoe prints were found some 2 miles away and matched those of Negrete. Investigators also found his backpack, as well as beef jerky and candy wrappers, but Negrete himself has not yet been located.

Several hypotheses have been put forward:

  • Jared simply got lost and succumbed to the elements
  • Jared wandered into a place he wasn’t supposed to go, such as a known area for its drug-trafficking activities
  • Jared was kidnapped after being left behind by his scout group
  • Jared ran away as the group broke up with him
  • Jared was murdered by a criminal roaming the area

Despite an extensive search, Jared Negrete is still missing in 2023.

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