10 Unsolved Mysteries That Took Place At Gas Stations
It’s the ultimate horror film scenario: running out of gas at night while driving in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, there are gas stations everywhere these days, with many open 24 hours. So the odds of that scenario happening in real life are quite low. But service stations can still be ominous places where bad things happen.
10The Disappearance Of Kelly Dove
On the evening of June 18, 1982, 20-year-old Kelly Dove was working the graveyard shift alone at the Imperial gas station in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Sometime during the night, Kelly vanished without a trace but not before she reported some disturbing incidents of harassment to the police.
Shortly after midnight, Kelly called 911 to report that she was receiving obscene phone calls. She asked the police to check on her, but they never showed up. Later, Kelly phoned the police again to report that she was being harassed by a male customer, implying that he had indecently exposed himself to her.
At approximately 2:30 AM, a frightened Kelly called 911 for the third time to report another obscene phone call. She also claimed that the same customer had pulled into the parking lot in a silver Ford. The police finally decided to check on her, but Kelly was gone when they arrived two minutes later. Her purse had been left behind, but there were no signs of any struggle or robbery.
The police received criticism for not going to the station until Kelly’s third 911 call. They also neglected to close the store or dust for fingerprints after her disappearance. Kelly’s family has always believed that a former high school acquaintance of hers with a history of indecent exposure and obscene phone calls might be responsible for the disappearance. But no evidence has ever tied him to the scene.
Kelly Dove remains missing after more than 30 years. But perhaps the most tragic part of her story is that she had traded shifts with her sister and wasn’t even supposed to be working that night.
9The Disappearance Of Susan Swedell
At approximately 4:00 PM on January 19, 1988, 19-year-old Susan Swedell left her place of employment in Oak Park Heights, Minnesota, and was driving to her home in Lake Elmo. Susan was about 2 kilometers (1 mi) from her destination when she was forced to stop at a gas station because her car was overheating.
According to the attendant on duty, Susan then climbed into another car at the station that was driven by an unidentified man. That was the last time anyone ever saw her.
As Susan disappeared on a cold, snowy day, it seemed strange that her car overheated. However, an examination of her vehicle revealed that the petcock on her radiator had been loosened. One theory is that the unidentified man at the gas station had sabotaged Susan’s car earlier so that he could follow her from her workplace and offer her a ride once she had car trouble.
The case took another strange turn when Susan’s mother visited her apartment and found the red pantsuit Susan had been wearing at work on her bed. Did Susan or another individual visit the apartment at some point after she disappeared? Sadly, after 27 years, there are still no answers about what happened to Susan Swedell.
8The Disappearance Of Tangena Hussain
At approximately 9:00 PM on October 2, 2008, Jamrul Hussain visited a gas station in the Hamtramck suburb of Detroit. According to Jamrul, two-year-old Tangena Hussain was in his vehicle. Even though they shared the same surname, Tangena was not Jamrul’s child, but he was dating Tangena’s mother, Nilufa Begum.
Jamrul claimed that he left Tangena in the locked vehicle to purchase a few items at the gas station’s convenience store. When he returned to his car a few minutes later, Tangena was gone. Even though there were surveillance cameras at the station, Jamrul’s car just happened to be parked out of camera range, so there was no way to verify what happened to Tangena. It wasn’t long before suspicion started to fall upon Jamrul.
Instead of searching for Tangena or calling the police after the girl went missing, Jamrul made the inexplicable decision to pick up Nilufa at her workplace. He acted strangely when she asked where her daughter was. Tangena’s disappearance was not reported to the authorities until after Jamrul drove Nilufa back to the gas station.
After the case received media coverage, the story took a bizarre turn when a 15-year-old girl came forward to claim that Jamrul had kidnapped and raped her earlier that same year. An investigation revealed that Jamrul and the girl had likely been involved in a consensual relationship. The kidnapping charge was dropped, but Jamrul was charged with statutory rape. In December 2009, he received a prison sentence of 18 months to 15 years. Jamrul is still considered a person of interest in Tangena’s disappearance, but the child has never been found.
7The Murder Of Leo Lamontagne
On September 7, 1957, 19-year-old Leo Lamontagne was working the overnight shift alone at the Hub Service Station in Winnipeg. At approximately 4:20 AM, a police officer stopped by the station and was shocked to discover Leo slumped over the office desk in a pool of blood. He had been struck on the head three times with a blunt object. Although Leo momentarily regained consciousness, he was unable to describe what had happened. Leo was rushed to a nearby hospital, but he passed away four days later.
A pool of blood was found in the garage, indicating that Leo was probably attacked there. He had managed to make it to the office but passed out before he could call for help. Money was missing from the register, and some gas had also been stolen. The last confirmed sighting of Leo was approximately 2.5 hours before he was found.
However, something suspicious did happen during that time. At 2:30 AM, two young men pulled into the station to get some gas, but nobody came out to serve them. Finally, they saw a man entering the station’s office. He approached the young men and told them that he was washing cars in the garage and that the pumps were currently closed.
That man appeared to be in his thirties and was definitely not Leo Lamontagne. It’s likely that he murdered Leo during a robbery attempt, but the killer has never been identified.
6The Disappearance Of Cheryl Scherer
In 1979, 19-year-old Cheryl Scherer was employed as an attendant at the Rhodes Pump-Ur-Own service station in Scott City, Missouri. Originally, she had worked the night shift, so her family was relieved when her shift was changed to 6:00 AM to 2:00 PM. But in a cruel twist of fate, Cheryl vanished in broad daylight.
At some point between 11:40 and 11:50 AM on April 17, Cheryl disappeared while working at the service station. Her vehicle and purse were left behind, but $480 was missing from the register. So it seemed likely that she was abducted during a robbery. The station was located next to a grocery store that was usually busy. But in another strange twist of fate, the store was closed that day because the owner was attending his mother’s funeral.
On the surface, Cheryl’s case seemed like the perfect crime. But it was eventually linked to serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole. After Lucas was arrested in the 1980s, he claimed that he and Toole had once abducted and murdered a young woman near Scott City before disposing of her body. Cheryl’s disappearance was the only unsolved missing person case from the area during that time period.
It was established that Lucas and Toole were in Scott City on the day Cheryl went missing. However, after looking at her photograph, Lucas denied that she was the victim. As Lucas and Toole are now deceased and both men were notorious for confessing to crimes they didn’t commit, the full truth about Cheryl Scherer’s disappearance remains a mystery.
5The Disappearance Of Kelli Cox
On the morning of July 15, 1997, 20-year-old Kelli Cox went on a field trip to the Denton Jail as part of her criminology class at the University of North Texas. As she wasn’t allowed to bring personal items into the jail, Kelli locked her purse and car keys inside her parked vehicle. She hid a spare key under the fender, planning to use that key to unlock the car after the field trip ended.
However, when Kelli returned to her vehicle, her spare key didn’t work. She hoped to use the phone inside the jail to call for assistance, but they wouldn’t let her make a long-distance phone call. Instead, she left to use a pay phone at a nearby Conoco gas station.
Kelli phoned her boyfriend, Lawrence Harris III, and asked him to bring her another spare key. Sometime around 12:30 PM, Lawrence arrived at the gas station. Her vehicle was still parked in its original spot, but there was no sign of Kelli anywhere.
After Kelli was reported missing, the police suspected that Lawrence was involved. He was forced to pass multiple polygraph tests before he was cleared of any involvement in Kelli’s disappearance. Her family has always been critical of the investigation, believing that the police focused too much energy on Lawrence.
According to the family, the timeline made it impossible for him to have abducted Kelli. The police also failed to dust her car for fingerprints and may have missed crucial evidence. Nearly two decades have passed, and Kelli Cox’s baffling disappearance remains unsolved.
4The Disappearance Of Andy ‘Joe’ Lepley
On May 30, 1976, 18-year-old Andy “Joe” Lepley showed up for work at a Texaco station in Colorado City at 6:30 AM. Within the next half hour, he became a missing person. When the station’s owner showed up later that morning, Joe was nowhere to be found, even though his pickup truck was still parked out front with the keys in the ignition. However, approximately $100 was missing from a cashbox, and the microphone had been ripped out of the station’s citizens band radio.
It’s been theorized that Joe entered the station while someone was committing a burglary. Shortly before Joe’s disappearance, waitresses spoke to an unidentified, middle-aged man at a cafe connected to the service station. The man asked what time the service station opened and claimed that he needed gas for a trip to Wyoming.
This man drove a flashy Pontiac Grand Prix that was attached to an unusual plywood trailer covered with a tarp. He was spotted near the gas station after Joe arrived for work and was seen driving away at around 7:00 AM. No one knows if this man had any involvement in Joe’s disappearance, but he was never located. Andy “Joe” Lepley remains a missing person.
3The Disappearance Of Amy Sue Pagnac
On August 5, 1989, 13-year-old Amy Sue Pagnac left her home in Maple Grove, Minnesota, to spend the day at the family farm in Isanti County with her stepfather, Marshall Midden. At approximately 5:00 PM, Amy and Marshall were on their way home. But even though they were only 3 kilometers (2 mi) from their residence, Marshall pulled over at the Holiday gas station in Osseo to use the restroom. According to Marshall, Amy stayed in the vehicle while he went inside. When he returned, Amy had disappeared without a trace.
As Amy had a history of running away from home, authorities initially thought she’d return. But she never did. Amy also had a history of seizures, so there was speculation that she might have suffered a seizure, causing her to become disoriented and wander off while her stepfather was in the restroom.
In May 2014, the case was back in the spotlight when authorities performed extensive searches of both the Pagnac family’s residence and farm. Although police didn’t disclose what compelled them to perform the search or what they were looking for, nothing of interest was found. Amy Sue Pagnac’s strange disappearance remains unsolved.
2The Union 76 Gas Station Victim
On August 29, 1979, a gruesome discovery was made inside a dumpster behind a Union 76 gas station in Long Beach, California. Two trash bags and a cardboard box from the dumpster contained the dismembered remains of a young, white male who appeared to be between 18 and 30 years old.
These remains included the victim’s head, torso, and left leg, but the rest of his body parts were never found. A sock was stuffed inside his rectum. Although the murdered man was never identified, his case was eventually connected to notorious serial killer Randy Kraft.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, Kraft was responsible for the rape, torture, and murder of numerous young men, mostly in California. Eventually, Kraft was convicted of 16 murders, but experts believe he may have killed over 50 additional victims. He’s currently on death row.
Kraft was nicknamed the “Scorecard Killer” because he had a coded list with cryptic references to his crimes. The list contained 61 items. While some of them have been matched to his known victims, it’s likely that there are also references to unsolved crimes.
The 30th item on the list was the number “76.” As the crime fits Kraft’s profile, this may be a reference to the Union 76 gas station where the dismembered remains of the young man were found in 1979. However, Kraft has never been officially charged with that murder, and the victim’s identity is still unknown.
1The Disappearance Of Jessica Heeringa
On April 26, 2013, 25-year-old Jessica Heeringa was working the evening shift alone at the ExxonMobil gas station in Norton Shores, Michigan. The last confirmed sighting of her occurred at 10:55 PM when a female customer purchased a lighter at the station.
Approximately 15 minutes later, another customer arrived and discovered that the station was unattended. Sometime during this brief window, Jessica had mysteriously disappeared. All of her personal items were left behind, and there were no signs of any struggle or robbery. But there was a small drop of blood outside the rear door.
In a bizarre turn of events, one of the biggest leads came from the gas station’s manager and the manager’s husband, who were traveling through the area on their motorcycles at around 11:00 PM. They claimed to have seen a silver minivan parking near the gas station and noticed an unidentified man opening and closing the van’s rear door before driving away.
As the manager didn’t see anything suspicious, she never went into the station to check on Jessica. Surveillance cameras from nearby businesses confirmed the existence of this van driving through the area at that time. One possible suspect is a convicted rapist named Brad Mason, who was living in a halfway house only a few kilometers from the gas station. He had no confirmed alibi on the night of Jessica’s disappearance.
In February 2014, police showed up at Mason’s apartment to arrest him for the abduction and rape of another woman. Mason responded by pulling out a toy gun and was shot dead in an apparent case of “suicide by cop.” If Mason had any knowledge about the disappearance of Jessica Heeringa, he took that information to his grave.
Robin Warder is a budding Canadian screenwriter who has used his encyclopedic movie knowledge to publish numerous articles at Cracked.com. He is also the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and recently wrote the award-winning script for a short film called Indefinite Late Fee. Feel free to contact him here.