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10 Mysteries Involving Families

by Simon Griffin
fact checked by Jamie Frater

The death or disappearance of an individual will usually torment their family for the rest of their days. Lives are permanently changed by such tragedies. It is arguably worst when a relative is simply missing, forever denying their loved ones closure.

In some cases, however, multiple members of the same family are lost at once, and on rare occasions, there is no family left behind at all. In situations like these, it is up to the rest of society to find out the truth. Below are ten family mysteries that are largely unsolved.

10 Allison And Marie-Josee Benitez

Photo credit: AFP

On July 14, 2013, 19-year-old beauty queen Allison Benitez and her mother left the house of Francisco Benitez, Allison’s father, after an argument and seemingly vanished from Perpignan, France. Francisco, a former member of the French Foreign Legion, told his wife’s friends that she and Allison had gone to Toulouse but would not be switching their phones on. He neglected to tell his estranged wife’s family anything. Allison’s friends grew concerned and reported the women missing before Francisco, who waited over a week to do so.

Despite Francisco’s claims, the women had not taken their car, and CCTV footage at the train station showed that they never traveled by train, either. Suspicion turned to Francisco, whose mistress, Simone de Oliveira Alves, disappeared in 2004 after breaking up with him. No activity was detected on the Benitezes’ phones or cards following their disappearance, and four weeks after they left, Francisco hanged himself, leaving behind a suicide note and video that claimed he could not handle being accused of foul play. Traces of Allison’s blood were found in Francisco’s freezer and washing machine, both of which he had cleaned after the disappearance.[1] No further trace of the two women has ever been found.

9 Cowden Family

On September 1, 1974, Richard and Belinda Cowden were camping with their two young sons in the Siskiyou Mountains in California. The family were due to have dinner with Belinda’s mother, who lived nearby, but when they didn’t show, the mother made a trip to the campsite, where she found cash, an expensive wallet, and the baby’s diaper bag, among other things. With no sign of the family, she alerted the police, but an extensive search turned up nothing.

Eight months later, two hunters stumbled across the remains of the entire family hidden away in a remote part of the woods.[2] All but Richard had clearly been shot, but no gun was found at the scene. How Richard died could not be determined, but police do not believe he was the killer.

Little to no progress has been made on the case since the discovery of the bodies, although police do have a suspect. Dwain Lee Little, who is currently incarcerated for another crime, was in the area at the time of their disappearance. At the time, he was on parole for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl and owned the same type of gun used to kill the Cowden family. Detective Dee Davis says that even if Little is in jail, justice will not be served until he is proven guilty of the murders, but the investigation was so botched that it may never happen.

8 Jividen-Adams Murders

In May 2014, Brandon Jividen went missing along with his girlfriend, Rebecca Adams, and her daughters Michelle and Jaracca, aged three and five. There was no sign of a disturbance at their Alaska home, which was just 0.8 kilometers (0.5 mi) from the site where the bodies were discovered.[3] The body of the family dog was also discovered at the site.

There is practically no evidence at all surrounding this case, other than the discovery of two handguns and five shell casings. Police say that both guns had been purchased by Brandon, whose body had two holsters on it when found, although only one of the serial numbers was a match. Despite the fact that they could ascertain no motive for the crime, police put it down to a murder-suicide plot and declared the case closed in June 2015.

7 Godard Family

Photo credit:

On September 1, 1999, Dr. Yves Godard left his Caen, France, home and rented a yacht with his wife, Marie-France, his six-year-old daughter Camille, and his four-year-old son Marius. None of them have ever been seen since.[4] The family car was left at the port of Saint Malo, and examination found traces of Marie-France’s blood. Apparently, Yves and Marie-France had had a fight before they left, as Yves believed she was having an affair, leading police to suspect there may have been foul play.

In the days following their disappearance, the yacht was spotted several times before various pieces from the boat were found washed up around the English Channel, including a life jacket, dinghy, and lifeboat.

Police received anonymous letters that Yves had been spotted with the children on the Isle of Man and then on the Scottish Isle of Lewis the following month, but these were never confirmed. Police suspect they may have been written by Yves himself to throw authorities off the trail. They also suspected that the pieces from the boat had been an attempt by Yves to simulate a shipwreck.

In January 2000, a bag belonging to the family was caught in a fishing net in the English Channel. Later that year, fishermen in the channel also discovered a human skull, which was later confirmed to belong to Camille. Another skull was also discovered by more fisherman, who threw it back in the water for some reason. Police believed Yves murdered the entire family and fled to start a new life. But then the mystery was further complicated in 2006, when his femur and tibia were found at the bottom of the English Channel.

6 Barbara And Patricia Grimes

On December 28, 1956, 15-year-old Barbara and 13-year-old Patricia Grimes of Cook County, Illinois, went to see the movie Love Me Tender, starring Elvis Presley. The two girls were due to meet their brother and sister at a bus stop after the film to travel home together but were never seen again. A major search ensued, with Elvis himself making a public plea for the girls to return home, as it was believed they may have run away. But on January 22, 1957, their naked bodies were discovered in the snow near an isolated country road not far from Bridewell Prison.

It was determined that the girls had died the day they were due to see the film, and pretty soon, a homeless man confessed to the murders, but this was quickly recanted, as he claimed his confession was coerced. The police decided not to pursue him as a suspect.

Shortly after the bodies were discovered, the girls’ mother Loretta received an anonymous phone call where a man claimed to have killed the teens and appeared to have private knowledge about the case.[5] When 15-year-old Bonnie Leigh Scott of Addison, Illinois, was murdered under the same circumstances the following year, Loretta received another call from the same man, again detailing the murders. The murder of Bonnie Leigh was solved, but a connection could not be made between the two cases. Despite being given a 99-year sentence, Bonnie Leigh’s killer was released after 11 years and has not been publicly identified. He died in 2010, meaning the case may never be solved.

5 Dupont De Ligonnes Murders

Photo credit: AFP

On April 21, 2011, French police discovered the bodies of Agnes Dupont de Ligonnes and her four children, aged between 13 and 18, buried underneath the terrace of their home. Along with their two dogs, the family had been shot and killed, most likely in their sleep. Their father, Xavier, a descendant of French nobility, was nowhere to be found. He was last seen seen leaving a hotel with his rifle on April 15.

In December 2010, Xavier had started going to a firing range and had written to the kids’ schools just before the murders to say that the family would soon be leaving the country. He had also told friends that he was a spy entering the witness protection program. Also at that time, Xavier’s businesses were failing, and he was forced to borrow money from the woman with whom he was having an affair.

Despite an extensive investigation, there was no sign of Xavier or any indication of where he may have fled to. Then, in July 2015, the case took a chilling turn when police received a signed note from Xavier that read, “I am still alive.”[6] There have been no developments in the case since then.

4 Ade Family

On the night of March 23, 1897, Justice Simpson of Paradise Ridge, Tennessee, noticed that his neighbors’ house was engulfed in flames.[7] Unable to help due to the fact that the home was already starting to crumble, Simpson alerted the other neighbors, as the blaze was beginning to spread. Rainfall extinguished the fire that night, and the extent of the damage was revealed.

Inside were the bodies of the Ade family, Jacob (60), Pauline (50), Lizzie (20), and Henry (13), as well as Rosa Moirer (10), a neighbor and family friend. The theory of accidental fire was quickly ruled out, and suspicion grew that it may have been a robbery gone wrong. This was also dismissed when it was discovered that Rosa’s body, which was only slightly burned, was missing part of her head and her hand, and cash was found in the house. The prevailing theory then became that the family was murdered and that the fire was to destroy the evidence. However, no motives or suspects were ever identified, and the case went cold almost as quickly as it was opened.

3 Sarah And Jacob Hoggle

Photo credit: WUSA

On September 7, 2014, Catherine Hoggle took her two-year-old son Jacob and three-year-old daughter Sarah to visit her mother in Montgomery County, Maryland. When she returned home later that day, she told their father, Troy, that she had dropped Jacob off at a friend’s house. The next day, he woke up to find that Sarah was also gone, and Catherine told him she was at day care.[8] But as the day progressed, he grew increasingly worried. Catherine, who has a long history of serious mental health issues, said she could not recall which day care their daughter was at. As Troy went to the police, Catherine slipped away and vanished.

Catherine was found wandering in a nearby town four days later and taken into police custody. When questioned, she said that she had left the kids with a friend, but she has refused to give any more details ever since. A large-scale manhunt was launched but turned up nothing. The missing persons investigation then became a homicide investigation, and Catherine was charged with two counts of neglect and abduction. However, given her mental health history, she has been repeatedly deemed unfit to stand trial.

Despite police believing that the children have been murdered, family members think that they may still be alive and that Catherine may have actually given them to friends in an attempt to run away with them. Absolutely no clues to the true fate of the children have ever been found, so anything is possible.

2 Edward Wheeler Hall And Eleanor Reinhardt Mills

Photo credit: New York Daily News

On September 16, 1922, a couple on a walk in New Jersey came across the lifeless bodies of a man and a woman, later identified as Edward Wheeler Hall and Eleanor Reinhardt Mills. The bodies had been arranged to look like a loving couple lying down together under an apple tree, her hand rested on his knee and his arm around her shoulder. But upon closer inspection, it became clear that they had been murdered. Edward had been shot once, with a hat covering his face to appear as though he was napping. Eleanor incurred a more gruesome fate, having been shot three times and slashed across the neck, with both her larynx and tongue removed. A scarf was used to hide this, but it was covered in blood.

Surrounding the couple were pieces of torn-up love letters. It became clear that the two, a pastor and a choir singer, had been having an affair.[9] The presence of the love letters seemed to imply that one of their scorned spouses may have been involved in the killing. Unfortunately, the case was mishandled by police from the get-go. They took so long to show up at the scene that a crowd had gathered and ruined a major piece of evidence, Edward’s business card, which had been carefully placed at his feet, by passing it around, destroying any hopes of recovering the killer’s fingerprints.

Suspects included the couple who discovered them, Edward’s wife and brothers-in-law, and even the Ku Klux Klan. 157 witnesses were called to trial, but ultimately, the grand jury decided not to charge anyone with the murders, and the case has remained unsolved ever since.

1 Donna And Richard Muller

Donna Muller, 49, and her 22-year-old son were found dead when police were called to their Philadelphia home on January 19, 2014. Both had been shot once in the head by a semiautomatic pistol, Donna in the hallway and Richard in a bedroom. There were no signs of robbery or forced entry, and police determined that their dog had neither barked at nor attempted to attack the assailant. Police determined that the murders were carried out by a lone individual and even recovered DNA at the scene.

There are two main theories as to why these seemingly harmless people were gunned down. The first is that it was an unfortunate case of mistaken identity, as police had no reason to believe anyone would want to kill the duo. The other theory is that the murders are related to other killings that occurred around the same time and place as the Mullers’.[10]

A few days after the Muller murders, a 32-year-old man was shot to death in his car. In early February, three more men were shot to death at their home nearby. However, in this case, two of the victims had been tied up, the house had been trashed, and multiple killers were involved. Police also believe the three men in this case were involved in the distribution of illegal drugs. Furthermore, the guns used and modus operandi of the subsequent murders did not match that of the Muller case.

Police have offered a $40,000 reward to anyone with information on the case, but nobody has ever come forward.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater