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10 Criminal Cases Cracked by Children
Thanks to the Home Alone franchise, millennials would know what is possible if a family with 11 children takes off for the Christmas holiday and a single child is left to fend for himself, all the while two dangerous criminals try to break in and steal everything they can get their hands on. Home Alone has inspired a generation to play around with traps and seek interesting and exciting ways to thwart a crime. And it’s all thanks to Mcauly Cualkin and his somewhat violent and dangerous antics.
The reality is that children aren’t often hailed as the heroes in crime, and more so often find themselves victims of the horrors of evil. Sometimes, however, truth becomes better than fiction, and children play important roles in solving crimes while faced with real-life danger.
Here are ten crazy examples of criminal cases being cracked, thanks to children.
10 Drawings of the Scene
Artistic prowess is often identified in young children, but for most of us, the drawings of children look like scribbles and a jumble of incoherent, uncoordinated lines. Sometimes, though, they can be used to solve crimes.
In 2017, two boys, aged eight and nine, were on their way home in the little German town of Oer-Erkenschwick when they witnessed a driver back up into a parked car. The driver doubled back, surveyed the damage, and then drove off, leaving no personal information. The boys drew a detailed map of what happened, and the police were able to nab the perpetrator.
In a different case, four children, Luisa, Romy, Celnia, and Luis, all aged six, each sketched them waiting for a pedestrian light when a vehicle struck a post. The pictures eventually formed part of the investigation file.
9 Stick Figure Sketch
Rebecca DePietro, an 11-year-old from Connecticut, solved a crime with her art prowess and her willingness to help.
After police visited the DePietro household after a spate of house burglaries, which included their own home, they asked if anyone had seen anyone suspicious. DePietro provided a basic stick-figure sketch to the detectives, not thinking it would be of any worth. But with a bit of police work, the sketch helped the brass nab a man who ultimately confessed to 10 burglaries in the area.
DePietro was later honored for her service at an official ceremony where she admitted to thinking the sketch would have been thrown out and then went on to credit her art teacher.
8 Theft Ring Collapse
Back in 2012, before all the criminals had caught wind of the latest tracking technology Apple had to offer, an 8-year-old from Nashville, Tennessee, had his heart broken by a thief.
When Landon Crabtree had his Playstation, most of his games, and his iPad stolen, he took matters into his own hands because nobody comes between a boy and his video games. The insurance paid out to replace the stolen items, and Crabtree decided to use the “Find My iPhone” app to pinpoint the location of the stolen goods.
After alerting the authorities, police, with the help of Crabtree, tracked the location to a few miles away from Crabtree’s home, where they found not only the iPad but several other items of value. Police arrested John Docherty, who had to face charges of burglary.
7 Human Arrow
One quiet Sunday afternoon, families gathered in a small town named Capel, Surrey, just outside of London, for their annual Easter egg hunt. The festivities did not get far, however, when the buzz of police helicopters distracted the jolly hunters from their mission.
An intrusion at a nearby building had brought the police choppers out in a dramatic attempt to find the perpetrators. While families took notice of the helicopter circling overhead, two men were seen racing over an open field and past the group, who realized the runners must be the targets.
With some ingenuity and quick thinking, the group of 30 participants quickly devised a plan. The children lay down on the ground in the shape of an arrow pointing in the direction of where the men had fled, allowing the chopper to give chase and alert the ground team.
The two men were arrested shortly after that.
5 It’s in the Eyes
Tragedy struck when a mother of two, 35-year-old Kelley Clayton, was found dead in her New York home. Kelley had been battered to death by her husband, Thomas Clayton, and his former employee, Michael Beard, whom Thomas paid $10,000 for his help in the murder. The whole plan was to collect insurance money.
But what led to the arrest is equally tragic and fascinating. When police went to investigate the murder, they found a little eye witness in the form of Clayton’s seven-year-old daughter, Charlie. She gave an account of what had transpired that night as she accounted that men were hurting her mom.
When investigators prompted Charlie to explain how she knew it was a man who attacked her mother, she told them, “Because his eyes look just like daddy’s.”
5 The Oldest Cold Case
Although the crime wasn’t technically solved by a child, Kathy Sigman had to rely on her memory as a small nine-year-old girl who had lost her dear friend Maria Ridulph to identify a killer.
In what is believed to be the coldest case ever solved, Maria was abducted and found dead at the tail end of 1957, leaving her friend Kathy behind with years of doubt and PTSD. After a full-blown investigation, the trail went cold, and so did the case. For 55 years, the case file lay gathering dust.
In 2011, when police reconsidered the evidence and used a few more modern forensic techniques, the case came back to life, and a suspect, Jake McCullough, was identified. Kathy was able to provide detailed testimony about her recollections of the day, which was consistent with the evidence gathered. McCullough was convicted in 2012.
4 Home Detective
When Jessica Maple’s late great-grandmother’s home was ransacked by thieves, Jessica did what most members of the public would—she phoned the cops. Police notified Maple that it was likely an inside job as the robbers had to have a key, considering the size of the items that were stolen and the lack of evidence suggesting a forced entry. Jessica was having none of it.
The curious 12-year-old had been spending time over the summer at the Junior District Attorney Camp and decided to put her own skills to the test. Jessica, knowing her parents had the only keys, found broken glass from a broken window in the garage and found clothes strewn across the floor.
Jessica visited local pawn shops in the area, where she found some of her great-grandmother’s furniture up for sale, and even visited a suspect’s home where he allegedly confessed to the crime. However, much to her dismay, the police never acted on her intel.
3 Missing Person
When Glenneta Belford, a 97-year-old diagnosed with dementia, went missing from her care home, the local police requested via social media that the community help with finding the woman.
A group of young friends aged 10-11 years, prompted by Logan Hultman, joined the search once they heard an announcement from the helicopters. After gaining permission from their parents, off they went, searching the woods first, then a dinner break before setting off again.
Hope Claiborne was able to identify a woman strolling aimlessly down the road from a photo her father texted her and called 9-1-1. The police responded within minutes and returned her safely to the home by nightfall.
2 Lego Setup
A cold case has left police puzzled since 1991. When Lucille Johnson was brutally murdered in her home in Salt Lake City, police soon lost the scent. Strangled in her house, police found pieces of Lego in her home and on the driveway but had no way of knowing how it tied in with the murder.
Fast Forward to 2014, and the case was reopened. With new technology and a fresh eye, police tested residue found under the victim’s nails for DNA, connecting it to John Sansing, a convicted murderer already serving a prison sentence for an unrelated case.
They also tested the Lego for fingerprints and found prints matching that of Sansin’s 5-year-old son, leading police to believe he used his son to gain entry into the house.
1 Pedophile Hacker
Brad Willman was drawn into the world of computers at age 5, and at the ripe young age of 14, he had taught himself to hack. For his own entertainment, Willman used a Trojan Horse virus to gain access to other computers. Into the early hours of the morning, he monitored hundreds of targets, reading their emails and watching their online presence.
A few years later, Willman began to target sex predators online, collecting evidence and building cases before reporting them to the police. Willman received threats from perpetrators and intense scrutiny from privacy advocates who suggested the right to privacy is paramount.
By the time Brad Willman was 19, he had infiltrated over 3,000 computers. He aided the police in arresting several suspected child predators. A young Cyber Hero.