Carrying on the true crime vibes for another week!
1. the identification of the boy in the box
This is a case that’s fascinated me for years. He was a little boy found in February of 1957. He had been beaten to death before being wrapped in a blanket, put in a box, and then left in the woods near Philadelphia, PA. No one ever claimed him, nor did anyone report a missing child that matched his description. While his crime is not yet solved, he has been identified. In December of 2022, the boy in the box was given back his identity. He was Joseph Augustus Zarelli, and he was four years old.
2. the murder of Brittanee Drexel
Brittanee went missing during spring break in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina in 2009 when she was just 17 years old. She had gone without her parents’ knowledge with some acquaintances who essentially left her on her own once there. Her body was found in May 2022, more than 13 years after she disappeared. In October, Raymon Moody pled guilty to her kidnapping, rape, and murder.
3. Adnan Syed exoneration
In 2000, Syed was convicted of the 1999 murder of Hae Min Lee, his high school girlfriend. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison but maintained his innocence. Finally, in September 2022, a federal judge vacated his conviction and set him free, although prosecutors asked for a new trial. However, in October, all charges were dropped as advanced DNA testing proved that Syed was in no way involved with the murder.
4. the kidnapping of Melissa Highsmith
In 1971, at 22 months old, Melissa Highsmith was kidnapped by a babysitter in Fort Worth, Texas. For decades, her family and law enforcement searched for her. It wasn’t until November of 2022 that a DNA test from 23andMe linked Highsmith’s children to her biological family. Her bio dad had entered his DNA into the system which matched him to her three children. She was reconnected to her parents later that month. The bittersweet part? She’d still been in Fort Worth all those years. Her time with her “mother” had been difficult, fraught with abuse, until she ran away at age 15 to live in the streets. The kicker? The statute of limitations on kidnapping charges has passed. But if certain criteria are present, federal kidnapping charges could still be filed, as they have no such limitations. Her “mother” changed her name to Melanie, but now she plans on changing it back. A lovely part? She is planning a new wedding so her father can walk her down the aisle. <3
5. the identification of Little Miss Nobody
Little Miss Nobody was the name given to the burned remains of a little girl found on July 31, 1960, in the desert near Congress, Arizona. She was wearing a blouse and shorts, the sandals on her feet adult-sized that had been cut down to fit her. In March of 2022, she was finally given back her name. She was Sharon Lee Gallegos, age 4. She’d been abducted from her grandmother’s backyard in Alamogordo, New Mexico, more than 500 miles from the desert where she was found. Her family claims that her abductors and murderers may be a couple who’d been stalking the little girl.
6. the identification of Baby Holly
In 1981, an unidentified couple was found murdered in the woods near Houston, apparent victims of murder. Their bodies were not identified until 2021, due to forensic genealogy. Their identification as Tina and Harold Clouse led to further questions, most importantly… what happened to the couple’s infant daughter? There was no infant found with the deceased couple. But in June of 2022, Baby Holly was found alive in and well in Oklahoma, and has since been reuinited with her remaining family. Although the murder has not been solved, what is known is that Baby Holly was left at an Arizona church by members of a suspected nomadic religious group.
7. the identification of the lady of the dunes
The remains of the Lady of the Dunes were found on July 26, 1971 in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Several teeth had been removed, as well as both hands. She’d been beaten to death, and police suspected, by the lack of defensive wounds, she’d either been asleep at the time, or she had known her attacker. In 2018, Richard Hanchett decided to look for his birth mother, who’d put him up for adoption in 1958. He learned that she’d been reported missing decades earlier. But it wasn’t until October of 2022 that the FBI was finally link that missing woman to Hanchett’s mother. She was then identified as Ruth Marie Terry. In November, police announced that they were looking for information on a man, now deceased, named Guy Muldavin in connection with her murder. It is believed that Terry may have married him just months earlier.
8. the identification of the I-65 killer
Between 1987 and 1990, four women were attacked along 1-65 between Indiana and Kentucky. One of the four women survived. The three women who lost their lives were all shot after being sexually assaulted. The fourth lived when the man changed his MO and stabbed her after robbing and raping her, leaving her to help police with a composite sketch, as well as providing the DNA evidence that linked her attack to the other three. But it wasn’t until April of 2022 that the killer/attacker was identified posthumously as Harry Greenwell.
9. the identification of Palm Beach County Jane Doe
The Palm Beach County Jane Doe was a 15yo girl that disappeared near Fort Lauderdale, Florida in 1972. Her remains were found two years later, tied to a mangrove tree with wire on Singer Island. In June of 2022, she was identified as Susan Gale Poole. Police believe that she was murdered by serial killer Gerard Schaefer, a former cop who lived in the area where she was last seen. He was known to pick up hitchhiking girls, later to rape and murder them. He died in prision in 1996.
10. the “kidnapping” of Sherri Papini
On November 2, 2016, in California, Sherri Papini was reported as missing by her husband. She was found a few weeks later on a highway… bruised, underweight, covered in scratches and cuts, even branded. She told police that two Latina women had kidnapped and tortured her, later receiving more than $30K from the California Victim Compensation Board. But in March of 2022, she finally admitted that she’d faked the whole thing, instead hiding out at an ex-boyfriend’s home and self-inflicting her “injuries.”
11. the murder of Christopher Hervey
On January 4, 1996, Christopher Hervey was stabbed to death in his apartment in Santa Ana, California. His girlfriend, Jade Benning, told police that a Black man had forced his way inside to attack him before fleeing. Witnesses told police about a loud argument in the apartment, but the case went cold. In 2020, an anonymous letter was sent to the Santa Ana PD, implicating Benning in the murder. The police refocused on the case, and in May of 2022, Benning was arrested by US Marshals in Austin, Texas.
12. the murder of Lindy Sue Biechler
On December 5, 1975, 18yo Biechler was found stabbed to death in her apartment in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. She was sexually assaulted and then stabbed 19 times. The case went cold for almost 50 years until July of 2022 when a suspect had finally been arrested. It was a former neighbor named David Sinopoli, now 63. He was caught because of DNA evidence collected from the crime scene, and then linked to a coffee cop Sinopoli threw away.
13. the murders of Amina and Sarah Said
On January 1, 2008, Amina and Sarah, aged 18 and 17 respectively, were found shot dead in their father’s taxi in Texas. Their father, Yaser, was immediately a suspect. Yaser, an Egyptian and strict Muslim, had strict rules for both girls, including a prohibition on dating. There were also allegations of both physical and sexual abuse against both girls. Reports also state that he routinely spied on them via video and audio without their kowledge. When Amina was only 16, he arranged a marriage for her, which she rejected. Days earlier, on December 21, Amina sent an email to her history teacher, telling the teacher she was scared of her father, afraid that he would kill her. He had recently informed Amina that he was arranging another marriage, and that there would be no rejecting it. It would take place during 2008. Eleven days later, Sarah called 9-11 as she was dying, reporting that their father had shot them. He immediately fled, spending several years on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. He was finally captured in August of 2020 at a home in Justin, Texas. In August of 2022, Said was found guilty of capital murder.