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10 Haunting Unsolved Mass Murders

by Robert Grimminck
fact checked by Jamie Frater

There aren’t very many unsolved mass murders, because most of the time the perpetrator either commits suicide or is unable to escape at the end of their rampage. If they do try to go into hiding, the community is always outraged and there is immense police pressure to bring the killer to justice. However, there are still a few terrifying mass murders that may never be solved.

10The Saint-Jean-De-Losne Retirement Home Fire

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In April 1980, a seniors’ home in Saint-Jean-de-Losne, France started to go up in flames. The workers at the home tried to evacuate the building but, sadly, 14 women and 7 men lost their lives in the fire, and 10 more were seriously injured. In fact, only three residents of the home made it to safety without injury.

While investigating the blaze, authorities discovered that the fires had deliberately been set in four different areas in the nursing home. One of the fires was started with an old coat, and another began when a Bible, a crucifix, and a cloth chalice cover were set alight. The police believe that it was the work of a mentally disturbed resident, but admit that none of the residents had a history of mental illness. No suspects were ever arrested in connection with the deadly blaze.

9The Bear Brook Murders

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In 1985, a barrel was found in Bear Brook State Park in New Hampshire. Inside were the remains of a small girl and a young woman who was probably between the ages of 23 and 32. Both appeared to have died from blunt force trauma to the head before being stuffed in the barrel. Police tried to investigate the murders, but they were unable to identify the bodies and the case eventually went cold.

In 2000, a detective who reopened the case went back to the site where the barrel was found and discovered another barrel only 90 meters (300 ft) away which contained the bodies of two young girls. They tested the bodies and found that they were murdered around the same time as the victims from the other barrel. DNA testing proved that the woman from the first barrel was definitely related to at least two of the children, and probably all three.

One mystery is how a young woman with three small children could disappear and not be reported missing. On June 13, 2013, The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released a 3-D reconstruction of the heads of the victims in the hopes that someone would recognize one of them. Currently, they are the only unidentified murder victims known to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s homicide unit.

8The Burger Chef Massacre

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On November 17, 1978, four young staff members were working at the Burger Chef in Speedway, Indiana. None of them ever made it home. When police investigated, they found that the restaurant was also missing $500. The police originally thought, rather optimistically, that the crew had just taken the money and gone out partying.

Saturday came and went with no sign of the crew. On Sunday, their bodies were found in a field 32 kilometers (20 mi) away from the Burger Chef. Sixteen-year-old Daniel Davis and 17-year-old Ruth Shelton were both shot, 20-year-old Jayne Friedt had been stabbed to death, and 16-year-old Mark Flemmonds had been beaten to death with a chain.

Police believe that at least two men came to rob the store as the crew was closing for the night, and the employees’ deaths were the result of the robbery going wrong. No one has ever been arrested in connection with the horrific mass murder.

7Massacre Aboard The Investor

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In September 1982, the fishing boat The Investor was found on fire in a cove near the town of Craig in southeast Alaska. On board, authorities found the bodies of the skipper, Mark Coulthurst, his pregnant wife Irene, their two children, four-year-old John and five-year-old Kimberley, and four teenage crewmen. Some of the victims were so badly burned that they could only be identified through their dental records, but authorities believe that all of them were shot before the fire was started.

The police investigated the crime and, two years after the massacre, they charged John Kenneth Peel, who had once been a crewman on the boat. Eyewitness testimony put Peel near the area where The Investor was anchored and then again near the cove where the boat was found burning. Peel was tried twice and was acquitted at the second trial. It turned out that he had been working on another boat at the time of the murder. No one else has ever been arrested in connection with the murders.

6The Fager Family Murder

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On December 31, 1988, Mary Fager returned home to Wichita, Kansas after visiting family for three days. When she walked in the door, she found her husband dead with two bullets in his back. In the basement, she found her nine-year-old daughter Sherri naked and strangled in the hot tub, while her 16-year-old daughter Kelli had been tied up with electrical tape and drowned.

During the ’70s and ’80s in Wichita, there was a sadistic serial killer active who had already massacred a family in 1974. He was known as the BTK killer, later to be identified as Dennis Rader. A few days after the murder, the police got a letter from BTK that said he was a fan of the murderer, but he wasn’t the one who had killed the Fagers. After Rader’s arrest in 2005, it was confirmed that Rader was indeed the one who had written the letter.

The main suspect in the case was a man named William Buttersworth. He was a contractor who had been doing renovations on the Fager’s house at the time of the murder. He was last seen December 29, 1988, and he was found on January 2 driving the Fagers’ car in Florida. He claimed that he couldn’t remember the last two days, so the judge allowed him to be put under hypnosis during the trial. In a hypnotic trance, he admitted that he had been at the Fager’s house, where he’d heard a disturbance and then seen the bodies in the house. Traumatized, he took off in the Fager’s car—to a different state. After a long trial, he was acquitted when only two jurors found him guilty. Simply put, he’d had no motive and there were no witnesses to testify against him. The case remains open to this day, with Buttersworth being the only suspect. His whereabouts are unknown.

5The Lane Bryant Shooting

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Photo credit: Zac145

On February 2, 2008, an African-American male with a tall, husky build walked into the Lane Bryant outlet store in Tinley Park, Illinois. He was posing as a delivery man and, once inside, he announced that it was a robbery. At gunpoint, he forced the store manager, a part-time sales clerk, and four customers into the back room and tied them up. The manager was able to phone the police, but it was too little too late. The man opened fire on all six female employees, killing five of them.

Police arrived and tried to lock the mall down, but the gunman had already fled. To this day there have never been any arrests made in the mass murder, despite lots of media exposure. Barack Obama even released a statement about the tragedy. There’s currently a $100,000 reward for information leading to the identity of the killer.

4The Walker Family Murder

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In 1959, the Walker family was getting ready to spend their second Christmas together as a family of four. At around 3:30 PM on December 19, 24-year-old Christine pulled into the family farm after running a few errands. It was later discovered that she hadn’t parked in her normal spot because there had probably been a second car there, someone whom Christine knew. Not suspecting a thing, she opened the door and let him into the house. Once inside, he raped the mother of two before shooting her twice in the head.

Cliff and the two toddlers, Jimmie and Debbie, arrived at the house at about 4:35. As soon as Cliff walked in the door, he was shot in the head. The killer then shot Jimmie in the head before turning his gun on Debbie. He fired his last bullet at her, but when that didn’t kill her he was forced to improvise. He carried the toddler into the bathroom and drowned her in the bathtub. Afterward, he left the bodies in the house and left the scene. Their bodies were found by Cliff’s hunting buddy the next morning. The killer left behind plenty of clues, including a thumbprint on the bathtub, a bloody cowboy boot, and cellophane from a cigarette packet, but none of these helped the police in the investigation.

There have been 587 suspects in the case over the years. They include Perry Smith and Dick Hickock, who murdered the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, a crime which became the subject of Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood. But when Smith’s and Hickock’s bodies were exhumed in 2012, they could not find a match between their DNA and the samples from the Walker farm. The bloody mystery remains unsolved to this day.

3The Moore’s Ford Lynching

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On July 25, 1946, four African Americans—28-year-old George Dorsey, his wife Murray, his sister Dorothy Dorsey Malcom, and her husband, Roger Malcom—were in a car driven by the men’s boss, Loy Harrison. They were on their way home when they encountered a mob of white people who were blocking the Moore’s Ford bridge in rural Georgia. The mob pulled the two men out of the car and started to beat them. When one of the women recognized the leader of the lynching, the women were also pulled out of the car. They were taken off the road and tied to a tree, where the mob fired over 60 rounds into the two couples.

Despite there being witnesses, and the fact that the brutal murder took place in broad daylight, no one has ever been arrested for the crime. One possible motive behind the lynching was that George, who had returned 10 months prior from serving in World War II, was “acting uppity” by talking talking to white women.

The crime made national headlines and the FBI investigated, but despite their best efforts, they were unable to get anyone to confess and no witnesses came forward. In 2001, the case was officially reopened, but no one has ever been convicted of the mass murder.

2The Burnham And Wayne Family Massacres

Around 2:00 in the afternoon on September 20, 1911, in Colorado Springs, the bodies of Alice May Burnham, her six-year-old daughter, and her three-year-old son were found dead in their beds. Alice’s sister, who discovered the bodies, ran to the road, attracting the attention of all the neighbors except for the Wayne family, who lived next door. When people went to check on them, they too were found dead in their beds. The young Wayne family consisted of 30-year-old Henry, 25-year-old Blanche, and their one-year-old baby.

Sometime in the night, the killer had climbed in through one of the windows, knocking over a bottle of ink. He then grabbed an axe, leaving a handprint on the handle from the ink. One by one, he beat the victims to death with the blunt side of the axe. He then neatly made the beds, tucking the still-warm corpses into their bedsheets, and left, leaving the axe in the house.

When the murders were discovered, A.J. Burnham, who was Alice’s husband, was arrested but not charged with the crime. Using the handprint left on the axe, cold-case researchers are still looking into the crime. One investigator believes that the murders were committed by a serial killer who rode the rails and claimed the lives of 25 people across the Northwest.

1The Oklahoma Girl Scout Murders

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On June 12, 1977, eight-year-old Lori Farmer, nine-year-old Michelle Guse, and 10-year-old Doris Milner were camping with their Girl Scout troop at Camp Scott in Oklahoma. It was the first day of camp, and early in the evening there was a thunderstorm, forcing the girls to stay in their tent. Sometime during the night, someone kidnapped the three girls. They were raped, beaten, and strangled before being stuffed into their sleeping bags. Their bodies were discovered the next morning by a counselor after she realized that the girls were missing.

Gene Leroy Hart was charged with the shocking murders. He was an escaped convict who had been on the lam since 1973 and had grown up near the camp. He was originally arrested for kidnapping and raping two pregnant women, along with burglary charges. However, he was acquitted of the charges when he was brought to trial. He died a short time later from a heart attack at the age of 35 while in prison for unrelated charges.

After the murders, the camp was shut down. DNA was found on one of the girls’ pillows in 2007, but experts said that the sample had deteriorated too much and they could not pull enough information for a positive identification.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian crime fiction writer. You can follow him on Twitter or on Facebook or visit his website.

fact checked by Jamie Frater