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10 Coincidences and Connections in the World of True Crime

by Annie Jones
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Life is full of everyday coincidences that seem to mean nothing. However, a closer look at the murky world of true crime throws up several baffling similarities and eerie connections between the cases. Coincidence or something else? You decide.

Related: 10 of the Most Bizarre Crimes From Around the World

10 Suzy Lamplugh and Steve Wright

Crimes That Shook Britain Full Episode | Suzy Lamplugh (True Crime TV Series)

In the early 1980s, a young woman named Suzy Lamplugh worked on the QE2, a luxury cruise ship. Crew members regularly socialized below deck, and Lamplugh formed a friendship with steward Steve Wright.

Back in London, the pair met for drinks but eventually lost touch when Wright went back to sea and Lamplugh stayed in London to work in real estate. After parting ways, 25-year-old Lamplugh was to become the most high-profile missing person in Britain, while Wright became a prolific serial killer known as “The Suffolk Strangler.”

Lamplugh had vanished from a busy street in 1986 while on her way to meet a client. The only clue was the name “Mr. Kipper” scribbled in her diary. She has never been found and is now believed to have been murdered by her kidnapper.

Wright returned to the UK and was working as a fork-lift truck driver and cruising red-light districts by night. In 2006, he murdered five women over a six-week period and is now serving life in prison. Wright is not believed to be responsible for Lamplugh’s murder as he targeted sex workers and does not fit the description of the mysterious “Mr. Kipper.” [1]

9 Lois Duncan and Kaitlyn Arquette

APD connects suspect to cold case murders of Althea Oakeley, Kaitlyn Arquette

Lois Duncan was a popular writer of young adult fiction. Her teen audience was gripped by her stories of murder and suspense with titles such as Don’t Look Behind You and They Never Came Home. Her 1973 novel I Know What You Did Last Summer was adapted into a film in 1997 and became a classic teen slasher movie.

Duncan also wrote poetry and was a mother of five. In 1989, her youngest child Kaitlyn Arquette was murdered when a motorist pulled up alongside her car and shot her twice in the head.

Duncan wrote a best-selling non-fiction book called Who Killed My Daughter? about the mystery. She had vowed to never write another crime novel after the tragedy, and Duncan died in 2016 with the case still unsolved.

In 2021, a homeless man, Paul Apodaca, reached out to University of New Mexico campus police and Albuquerque PD to confess to killing Arquette as well as two other women around the same time in the late 1980s. He had been present at the scene of the shooting, but police had never formally interviewed him.[2]

8 Lars Vilks

Lars Vilks: Swede who lived under police protection after drawing Prophet Muhammad dies in crash

In 2007, Swedish artist Lars Vilks became the subject of a hate campaign after publishing a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad depicted as a dog. The drawing caused huge offense and earned Vilks multiple death threats, and terror group al-Qaeda placed a $100,000 bounty on his head.

Vilks went into hiding under police protection and survived every attack on him. When two men set fire to his house in 2010, he escaped unhurt. In 2013, a U.S. woman was jailed for hatching a plot to kill him. In 2015, Vilks was a guest speaker at a freedom of speech event in Copenhagen when a gunman opened fire, killing one person and injuring three. Vilks was ushered out of the event unharmed, and the gunman was shot dead by police.

In 2021, Vilks was traveling in an unmarked police car with two plain-clothed protection officers when their vehicle swerved and crashed into the path of an oncoming truck. Vilks died instantly along with his protection team, and the truck driver was flown to hospital with injuries. The crash is under investigation, but authorities do not expect to find anything more than this being a tragic accident.[3]

7 Konerak and Keison Sinthasomphone

The 14 year old left in the hands of Jeffrey Dahmer

Konerak Sinthasomphone was the final victim of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. In 1991, aged 14, he was lured to Dahmer’s apartment, where he was drugged and then attacked with a drill. Konerak managed to escape and ran onto the street, where two women phoned the police after finding him dazed and bleeding. Dahmer persuaded the police that his victim was an adult, and they were just having a domestic dispute. Dahmer was allowed to return home with the child who died from his injuries shortly afterward.

A simple ID check by police could have saved Konerak’s life as it would have revealed that at the time, Dahmer was on probation for child molestation. This offense had taken place in 1988, but this time the 13-year-old boy had survived. His name was Keison Sinthasomphone, and he was the older brother of Konerak. Dahmer served 10 months in jail for this attack before being released on probation. The Sinthasomphone family had not been informed of his early release, and Konerak had no idea who Dahmer was.[4]

6 Nyleen Marshall and Monica Bonilla

Cold Case: What happened to Nyleen Marshall?

Nyleen Marshall, aged 4, vanished on a family picnic in rural Montana. Volunteers searched the area, but the barefoot child was never found. Seven years later, in 1990, Nyleen’s case featured on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. This prompted a school official from Vancouver, British Columbia, to call in about a pupil who they believed could be Nyleen.

FBI agents arrived at the girl’s home in Washington and discovered her real name was Monica Bonilla—another kidnapped child who had been missing since 1982 when her father had snatched her from the family home and changed her identity. Monica was reunited with her mother, but Nyleen has never been found.[5]

5 Kay Wenal

Sneak peek: Solve this case: Who killed Kay Wenal?

In 2008, Kay Wenal was murdered in her home in Georgia by an unknown assailant. A neighbor reported seeing a strange man lurking in their quiet street days before the crime and helped to compile a detailed sketch of the suspect. Kay’s husband Hal offered a $250,000 reward for information, but no one came forward, and Hal died in 2010.

After his death, relatives sorting through his possessions discovered some old photos of Kay and Hal posing happily with a man who looked exactly like the suspect in the sketch. None of the family recognized him, and despite appeals, the mystery man has never come forward.[6]

4 Kristin Smart and Laci Peterson

The Murder of Laci Peterson: Sneak Peek | Premieres August 15 | A&E

Four students who all attended California Polytechnic State University at the same time were destined to become part of two infamous murder cases. The women involved did not know each other, but they would both disappear, years apart. As for the two men—one became a prime suspect and the other a notorious killer.

In May 1996, freshman Kristin Smart was last seen walking home from a campus party with fellow student Paul Flores. After the weekend, her roommates reported her missing, and Flores became a person of interest.

At the same time, Laci Rocha was a senior who had been dating another student, Scott Peterson, since 1994.

After Smart’s disappearance, police contacted potential witnesses who may have been at the party that night—including Peterson. He wasn’t interviewed, and Scott Peterson became just another name in a case file. Years passed with no leads.

Peterson and Rocha both graduated, and they married in 1997. By 2002, Laci was pregnant with their first child, a boy who was to be named Conner. When Laci vanished on Christmas Eve, her disappearance made national news, and suspicion grew over Scott’s involvement. Laci’s body was found in April 2003, when it washed ashore in the San Francisco Bay, followed by the remains of baby Conner.

Scott was arrested and eventually convicted of both their murders in November 2004.

In 2021, Flores—now aged 44—was arrested for the murder of Kristin Smart. The college connection resurfaced when Flores’s lawyers announced plans to call Peterson to testify. They believe that Peterson was at the same party as Smart that night, and he could be a suspect in her murder.

Flores remains in custody, awaiting trial. Peterson is serving life in San Quentin prison; his death sentence was overturned in 2020. [7]

3 Scott Peterson’s Grandfather

Photo credit: San Diego Union

Scott Peterson was found guilty of the murders of his wife and unborn son, but on closer inspection, his family history reveals another violent murder.

In 1945, Peterson’s maternal grandfather, John Harvey Latham, owned a salvage yard and tire shop in San Diego. On December 21, an employee discovered Latham’s body lying in a pool of blood outside the premises. He had been repeatedly struck in the head by a rusty pipe and robbed of $400.

A former employee, Robert Sewell, boasted about his involvement, telling his wife that they had “struck it rich.” He was found guilty of the murder and sentenced to life imprisonment at San Quentin jail, where he died in 1951.

At Peterson’s trial in 2004, his mother Jacqueline spoke of the trauma that the whole family had suffered due to her father’s murder.

Peterson today resides at San Quentin—the same jail that was home to his grandfather’s murderer some 50 years earlier.[8]

2 Mary Shotwell Little and Diane Shields

CSI Atlanta: Cracking the cold cases of Mary Shotwell Little and Diane Shields

Mary Shotwell Little had been married for just six weeks when she went missing in October 1965. While her husband Roy was out of town, Mary had dinner with a co-worker from the bank where she was a secretary and then went shopping in Lenox Square, Atlanta.

The next morning, Mary’s concerned colleagues at C&S Bank phoned police when she failed to arrive for work. Mary’s car was found at the shopping center, although security guards did not remember it being there all night. Inside, police found her underwear and small traces of blood. Her car had been driven for 41 miles that night but was still parked in the space where Mary had left it. Mary’s husband had a solid alibi, but there were some sightings of her that night at various gas stations in the company of two men.

The case grew cold, and eventually, the bank hired a replacement for Mary. Diane Shields was 22 and was given Mary’s old desk to sit at. She even shared a room with Mary’s friends.

In May 1967, Diane went missing. When her car was found, Diane’s body was discovered inside—she had been suffocated, and a page torn from a phone book was placed in her mouth.

Mary has never been seen again and Diane’s murder remains a mystery—as does any connection between the two women.[9]

1 Peter Alphon and James Hanratty

Murder Casebook James Hanratty

Peter Alphon and James Ryan were staying at the Vienna Hotel in London during August 1961. The two had never met.

On August 22, Michael Gregsten (who was separated from his wife) took his girlfriend, Valerie Storie, to dinner. After the meal, they drove to a nearby field when a man tapped on the window, brandishing a gun. The couple was taken hostage by the man who sat in the backseat and ordered Gregsten to drive to an isolated spot named “Deadman’s Hill.” Here, Gregsten was shot and killed. Storie was then assaulted, shot, and left for dead. Amazingly, she survived the attack but was left paralyzed from the waist down.

The manager of the Vienna found cartridge cases in the room used by Alphon. They matched the murder weapon, but Storie failed to identify Alphon in a line-up.

Meanwhile, Gregsten’s widow was in a London shop when she noticed a man in the street. She had never seen him before but was overwhelmed by the feeling that he was her husband’s killer. Police tracked the man down—it was James Ryan, the second man from the hotel, and his real name was James Hanratty. Storie identified Hanratty as her attacker, and the trial began in 1962.[10]

Hanratty was found guilty and became one of the last people in Britain to be hanged for murder. He protested his innocence until the end. Alphon confessed to the murder several times to various journalists and even apologized to the Hanratty family.

In 2001, Hanratty’s body was exhumed, and DNA extracted from his remains. It matched DNA found at the crime scene, meaning Hanratty was the killer—as Storie had always believed.[11]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen