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10 Disturbing Unsolved Cases Of Missing Heads

Robert Grimminck


Decapitations are unsettling simply because they’re gruesome. Yet, despite the barbaric nature of the act, there are plenty of reasons why someone chooses to decapitate another person. It’s even more disturbing when someone’s head is cut off and the head is never found.

10 Robert Hollis

On the afternoon of June 4, 2015, 75-year-old Robert Hollis’s son was checking in on him after neighbors grew concerned because they hadn’t seen the elderly man, affectionately nicknamed “Mr. Bojangles,” in a few days.

When the son entered his partially blind father’s Inglewood, California, apartment, he made a gruesome discovery: His father was dead and decapitated. Even more disturbing, the killer took Hollis’s head when he or she left the apartment. It has never been found.

Hollis’s family is unsure who would have killed the elderly man because he didn’t have any enemies. He was even friends with his ex-wife. His family also said that valuables in the house were untouched.

Police are still looking into the death. The mayor of Inglewood also arranged a $50,000 reward for information regarding the murder. Despite this, no arrests have been made.

9 The Cheltenham Torso Mystery

On February 3, 1938, fishermen on the Severn River near Cheltenham, England, found a man’s torso tangled up in their nets. When it was examined, officials said that it appeared to be the torso of a well-fed, middle-aged man. One arm had been removed cleanly, but the other one had been hacked off with an axe.

The river was dragged. The man’s legs and arms turned up, but no head or hands could be found. Without them, police weren’t able to identify the body or determine the cause of death.

Speculation arose that the body belonged to 52-year-old Captain William Butt, who had lived in Cheltenham with his invalid wife and her live-in nurse, Irene Sullivan. Butt had gone missing in January 1938.

The theory was that Irene Sullivan and her 28-year-old son, Brian, were arranging illegal abortions. Brian, who worked as a dancer and a gigolo, was also having a sexual affair with Butt. At some point, something went wrong with the relationship, and Butt threatened to expose the illegal abortion ring.

Two weeks after the torso was discovered, Brian committed suicide by gassing himself inside his home. Under some flagstones on his property, police found Butt’s keys and his coat, which was covered in blood.

As the body was never identified, the case remains unresolved.

8 Wallingford Body In A Box

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On the morning of August 8, 1886, a man was walking his dog in the township of Wallingford, Connecticut, when he came across a box that was 75 centimeters (30 in) long and 30 centimeters (12 in) wide. It looked like the box was full of shoes.

As the dog got closer, it became interested in the box. But the man could smell an awful aroma emanating from it. The man went home, gathered up some neighbors, and they went back to the box. They opened it and found that the box was lined with tar paper. Inside, there was also a man’s torso.

The medical examiner found no marks on the chest that would indicate how the man died, and there was not much decomposition. During the autopsy, it was discovered that the man’s stomach was full of arsenic. So the medical examiner believed that the man had been poisoned. The ME also thought that the man had been about 30 years old and had probably weighed around 80 kilograms (175 lb).

After the murder, the townspeople found a bag at the bottom of a well. But when they returned the next day to retrieve the bag, they couldn’t find it. The only evidence that it had ever been there was a piece of human scalp that was found next to the well.

It was believed that the killer was hiding near the well and then moved the bag after it was discovered. Later, in September 1886, the legs and arms were found near the body wrapped in paper similar to the tar paper that had lined the box.

The police traced the box from a shoe company in Fall River, Massachusetts, to a wholesaler in Chicago. The wholesaler had kept the box in the backyard of his store until it was purchased by a young man who supposedly disappeared.

Any eyewitnesses either recanted their stories or refused to answer any questions. Eventually, all the leads went cold.

7 Russell And Shirley Dermond

Russell Dermond, 88, and his wife, Shirley, 87, lived in a waterfront gated community on Lake Oconee in Georgia. They had been married for 68 years.

On May 6, 2014, some friends went to the Dermonds’ house. Inside the garage, they found Russell’s headless body, but Shirley was missing. Ten days later, her body was pulled from the lake by a pair of fishermen. She had been killed by multiple blows to the head, possibly with a hammer.

Police said that they had forensic evidence but no suspect to whom they could match it. They believe that the motive for the double murder of the couple was most likely robbery or extortion.

They also think that the killer or killers arrived at the house via a boat. This is how the killers would have avoided cameras at the gated community.

Police believe that at some point, the killer went into the yard where he was seen by eyewitnesses. But no description was given, except that it was a man.

6 The Norfolk Duchess

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On August 27, 1974, near Swaffham in Norfolk, England, a man walking on the beach found a badly decaying woman’s body wrapped in a plastic sheet that was bound with some rope.

When the police opened the plastic sheet, they found that the victim was headless, her hands and feet were bound, and she was wearing a pink 1969 Marks & Spencer nightdress. The medical examiner said that the woman was probably between the ages of 23 and 35.

Besides the body, the police had a few unique clues to investigate. The plastic sheet had the National Cash Register’s logo printed on it, and it was one of only six sheets made.

The rope was also unusual. It was made using four threads, but most rope is made from three or five threads. Yet, after a long investigation, the sheet and the rope didn’t lead anywhere.

In 2008, the body was exhumed, and tests were performed. They learned that the woman had probably given birth, had drunk water in Scotland, and had eaten a lot of fish and crab. From reports, it is believed that she might have been a prostitute, known only as The Duchess, who came from Denmark and worked the Great Yarmouth docks.

The Duchess disappeared around the time that the body was found. Police are hoping that DNA will help them to identify the woman’s family in the near future.

5 St. Louis John Doe

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Photo credit: Warren County Sheriff’s Office via foxnews.com

In 1987, a hunter came across the headless and handless body of a man in a wooded area near St. Louis, Missouri. Police believe that the man was between 35 and 45 years old. He was white and had seven broken ribs. He also had a scar on his abdomen, possibly from an old gunshot wound that wasn’t treated professionally.

The man was dressed well. He was wearing a dark blue T-shirt from that year’s Rose Bowl. It declared the Michigan Wolverines as the champions. He was also wearing new, white Nike high-tops and Oscar de la Renta jeans. In his pockets, there was 82 cents and a token from the Kansas City International Airport.

There were also traces of alcohol and cocaine in his system, leading to some speculation that the headless man was involved in the drug trade. It was also believed that he had died four or five days prior to being found and then his body was dumped in the wooded area.

In March 2015, the body was exhumed with the hopes that further tests would help to identify the victim. If he was identified, that information has not been made public as of February 2016.

4 Julia Baez

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Photo credit: Jackson County Sheriff’s Office via wqow.com

On October 10, 1990, body parts of a woman were found in two shallow graves in an industrial park in Brockway, Wisconsin. The dismembered body parts were wrapped in garbage bags, but the head was nowhere to be found.

The recovered body parts were buried, and the case went cold. The woman would remain a Jane Doe for 25 years until her body was exhumed in 2015 and a DNA test was performed.

When compared to a database for missing and unidentified people, they discovered that Jane Doe was really Julia Baez, a 36-year-old mother of four from Milwaukee. Her home was about a three-hour drive from the grave where her body was found.

The last time anyone had seen Baez was in June 1990. Her family had spent years looking for her, and her children had given their DNA to the database, which is how investigators made the match.

Police hope that identifying the victim will give them new leads as to who is responsible for Baez’s death and dismemberment.

3 The Kharkiv Beheadings

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Photo credit: Dmitry Sleduk

On the night of December 15, 2012, police believe that at least two people entered the home of Volodymyr Trofimov. He was a judge in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Once inside the home, the intruders attacked the judge, his wife, Irina, his 30-year-old son, Sergei, and his son’s 29-year-old girlfriend, Marina Zoueva.

The judge, Irina, and Marina were all killed and then beheaded with some type of long blade. Sergei, on the other hand, was decapitated while he was still alive. Their heads were never found.

There are three main theories as to why the judge and his family were murdered. According to the first theory, the attack was symbolic.

In Ukraine, December 15—the day of the deaths—is known as Judge’s Day, a day to celebrate the country’s judges. Ukrainians were unhappy with their justice system at the time of the murders. So the decapitations could have been a symbolic attack against the justice system.

The second theory is that the murders could have been revenge for any number of cases that Trofimov presided over during his 30 years as a judge.

The final theory is that the murders occurred as part of a robbery. The judge was a world-renowned collector of coins and antiques. A number of antiques were stolen after the murder, but it is unclear if that was actually the reason for the murders.

With so many theories and not enough clues, the high-profile case has gone cold.

2 Peter Levine

After school on February 24, 1938, 12-year-old Peter Levine of New Rochelle, New York, was walking home with a friend. Along the way, Peter stopped off at a hardware store. After he left the store, he disappeared.

Peter was from a well-off family. His father was a high-end New York lawyer. The family received three ransom notes demanding $60,000. Peter’s father tried to follow the instructions on the notes, but the kidnapper(s) went silent.

The kidnapping made national headlines. It was made into movie reels shown in movie theaters, and it was talked about on national radio programs.

On May 29, three months after the kidnapping, Peter’s headless and mutilated corpse washed up on the shore of Glen Lake, not far from where he had disappeared. His hands and feet were also missing.

The boy’s body was bound in copper wire, and he was wearing the same clothes that he had been wearing when he went missing. Stitched into his clothes was his name, confirming that it was Peter.

The FBI investigated the kidnapping and murder, but no suspects were ever named.

1 St. Louis Jane Doe

On February 28, 1983, a car carrying two men broke down near an abandoned apartment building in St. Louis, Missouri. The two men ventured into the building looking for a pipe to repair their car.

Instead of finding what they needed, the men came across the headless body of an African-American girl. The medical examiner believed that the girl was 7–12 years old.

She had been strangled three to five days before her body was found. After her death, she had also been decapitated with a long-bladed knife. Her hands were bound, but it wasn’t clear if she had been sexually assaulted. Lastly, she died and was decapitated elsewhere, and then her body was dumped in the building.

The police checked all of the schools in the area to see if any children were missing, but everyone was accounted for. When no one claimed the body, she was buried as a Jane Doe. The case went cold, but it wasn’t forgotten.

In 2009, the police tried to exhume the body. But the cemetery had become defunct over the years, and the donated marker was placed on the wrong grave. So no one knew the actual location of the body.

A group of volunteers finally found the grave, and the body was exhumed in summer 2013. Through mineral tests, it was determined where the girl had probably spent most of her life because of the water she had drunk.

It is believed that she probably lived in one of 10 states in the Southeast: Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, North Carolina, or South Carolina.

The identity of the girl, the whereabouts of her head, and the person or persons involved with her murder remain a mystery.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or on Pinterest, or visit his website.