Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Disappearance of Timmothy Pitzen

On May 11, 2011, six-year-old American boy Timmothy James Pitzen was dropped off at school in Aurora, Illinois, by his father James Pitzen. He was picked up shortly after by his mother, Amy Fry-Pitzen, who took him on a three-day trip to various amusement and water parks. Fry-Pitzen's body was subsequently found in a motel room in the city of Rockford, Illinois, having committed suicide, with a note stating that Timmothy was safe, but would never be found. Background: Timmothy Pitzen was born in Aurora, Illinois, on October 18, 2004, as the only child of James Pitzen and Amy Joan Marie Fry-Pitzen. On May 11, 2011, Timmothy's father dropped him off at his kindergarten class at Greenman Elementary School. His mother checked him out of class between 8:10 and 8:15 AM CDT, citing a non-existent family emergency. She dropped her vehicle off at a repair shop at 10:00 AM. An employee of the shop drove Fry-Pitzen and her son to the Brookfield Zoo. They returned and retrieved their vehicle at 3:00 PM, and drove to the KeyLime Cove Resort in Gurnee, where they spent the night. On May 12, 2011, the pair drove to Kalahari Resort in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, and were spotted on security footage in the checkout line at 10:00 AM the next day. Pitzen has not been seen since. Disappearance: Between 12:00 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. on May 13, 2011, Fry-Pitzen telephoned several family members, including her mother and brother-in-law, telling them that she and Timmothy were safe and not in any danger. Cell phone records indicated the calls were made from an area northwest of Sterling, IL, near Route 40. Fry-Pitzen failed to contact her husband, however, who had been attempting to locate the pair after being notified by his son's school that he was not present when he arrived to pick him up at the end of the school day on May 11. Timmothy was heard in the background during the calls, saying that he was hungry. At 7:25 p.m. May 13, 2011, Fry-Pitzen was seen, alone, on security cameras at a Family Dollar store in Winnebago, IL, where she purchased a pen, notepaper and envelopes. At 8:00 p.m., she was sighted at a Sullivan's Food store in Winnebago, IL, again unaccompanied. At 11:15 p.m., she checked into the Rockford Inn at Rockford, IL, where sometime that night or the next morning, she took her own life by slashing her wrists and neck and overdosing on antihistamines. At 12:30 p.m. on May 14, 2011, her body was found by a hotel maid along with a note. In the note, Fry-Pitzen apologized for the mess she had created, and explained that Timmothy would never be found, but was safe with people who would care for him. Investigation: Police found that the knife Fry-Pitzen had used to kill herself contained only her blood, but that "a concerning amount" of blood found in her car belonged to her son Timmothy. However, a family member later revealed that the stains were likely caused by a nosebleed Timmothy had suffered in the car earlier that month. It was also noted that Fry-Pitzen's cell phone was missing. An examination of her vehicle revealed that it had been parked in a grassy area, possibly near a stream, but close to a highway. In 2013, Fry-Pitzen's cell phone was located beside Route 78, but the discovery did not bring any new evidence. Fry-Pitzen's cellular phone was discovered "alongside the road on Illinois Route 78 north of Mount Carroll, according to police." James Pitzen has stated that he believes his son is still alive. The case was broadcast on the American television series Live PD on August 25, 2018, with guest Angeline Hartmann of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children showing viewers an age progression photograph of Timmothy at age 13. Reappearance hoax: On April 3, 2019, local residents in Newport, Kentucky called the police to report a teenager wandering the streets after running across a bridge over the Ohio River. When police found the shaken and distraught boy, he told them he was Timmothy. The next day, the Louisville office of the FBI revealed via Twitter that the boy in their custody was not Timmothy. Aurora Police spokesman Sgt. Bill Rowley said, "Although we are disappointed that this turned out to be a hoax, we remain diligent in our search for Timmothy, as our missing person's case remains unsolved." The man who claimed to be Pitzen was found to be 23-year-old Brian Michael Rini. He was released from Belmont Correctional Institution in Ohio less than a month prior to his claim, after serving about fourteen months on charges of burglary and vandalism out of Medina County. In 2020, Rini was sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of aggravated identity theft related to the hoax.

Disappearance of Dannette and Jeannette Millbrook

Dannette Latonia Millbrook and Jeannette Latrice Millbrook are fraternal twins from Augusta, Georgia, United States who disappeared on March 18, 1990 when they were 15 years old. Their surname is often misspelled as "Millbrooks" and Jeannette's middle name is often given as "Latressa" due to errors on police reports. The twins were last known to have been seen by a gas station clerk at the Pump-N-Shop gas station on the corner of 12th Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard around 4:30 pm. Their case was closed in 1991 and was reopened in 2013. Disappearance: On March 18, 1990, Dannette and Jeannette Millbrook walked to the local Church's Chicken restaurant for lunch. When they returned, they informed their mother, Louise, that a man in a van had followed them for part of their walk. Nothing further is known about this man. Later in the day, the twins walked to their godfather's house for the purpose of borrowing money to take a city bus to school the following week, as the teens and their family had recently moved to a new apartment further from their school. After receiving the $20 for bus fare and a little extra for snacks, the teens went to their cousin's house and asked her to walk home with them. The cousin's mother would not allow her to accompany the twins because it would be dark soon. After visiting their cousin, they made a stop at their older sister's home and stayed for approximately fifteen minutes. They also requested that their older sister walk with them, but she declined due to recently giving birth. After their disappearance, family members considered it unusual that the twins made multiple requests for company on the walk home that day. Next, they continued on to a local gas station, where they bought chips, candy, and soda. The clerk, Gloria, was familiar with the twins. She did not recall anything out of the ordinary about their behavior. She is the last person to see Dannette and Jeanette. Jeannette was last seen wearing a blue pullover shirt over a white turtleneck with a beige skirt, white stockings, and white sneakers. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5'4, and 125 lbs Dannette was last seen wearing a white shirt with an image of Mickey Mouse, white jeans, and black shoes. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5'6 and 130 lbs. Dannette has been described as "bowlegged". Both girls had pierced ears, shoulder-length hair styled in Jheri curls, and they both have a scar near their navals from a surgery shortly after birth. Dannette and Jeanette were enrolled as students at Lucy Laney High School. The twins were known to be good teens and were not troublemakers; they did not have a history of running away and there appears to be no motive for their disappearance. The twins did not have a history of misbehavior, outside of a single instance that occurred as a result of one of the twins being bullied at a bus stop. Investigation- Original investigation: After the girls were discovered missing, the family was told to wait 24-hours before making a report. Little is known about the initial investigation, as the original police file is reportedly lost. There is much debate as to why exactly the case was initially closed. The family reports that they were told the case was closed when the girls turned 17 because they had reached an age at which they could no longer be legally forced to come home if found. The original investigator claims that he was told by a juvenile case officer that the girls had been found, which led to both the case being closed and the girls’ removal from the national registry of missing children. Mistakes in reports from the original investigation, such as misspelling the last name as "Millbrooks" and listing Jeannette's middle name as "Latressa", have remained unchanged in case files and can still be found on associated databases today, such as The Charley Project and National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Reopened in 2013: Despite the case being closed in 1991, family members continued to persistently contact the sheriff's department to inquire about the whereabouts of the twins over the years. The family was given several explanations for the closure of the case, including the explanation that the girls had been removed from the home and placed into foster care, where they were eventually adopted. Further investigation revealed this to be false. A close relative did have children in the foster care system, leading the family to believe that this was the source of the confusion. These calls ultimately led to the case being reopened in 2013. In media releases the sheriff was quoted as saying, “We think a terrible injustice has been done for the last 20 years” which helped to fuel interest in the new investigation. The current investigating agency is the Richmond County Sheriff's Office. In 2017, the Sheriff's office met with the Millbrook family to discuss the case and collect familial DNA samples. Reward and billboard: The producers of the podcast The Fall Line have taken an active role in the search for Dannette and Jeannette, and helped raise a $10,000 reward. A meeting with the sheriff's department led the Millbrook family to believe the reward would be officially announced and matched by the sheriff's department, but the sheriff's department denies making this commitment. Concerned about the lack of publicity for the reward, the producers of The Fall Line and Unresolved podcasts worked together to raise money for a billboard to advertise the reward fund. As of March 2018, a little over $2,500 was raised and plans were in motion to create the billboard. 1993 Aiken County Jane Doe: Skeletal remains of an unidentified black female were found in Aiken County on January 25, 1993 and were believed to be the result of a homicide occurring sometime between 1990 and 1992. The remains were found near Shaw's Creek off of Highway 191 in Aiken County, South Carolina. This woman remains unidentified and has become known as one of the Aiken County Jane Does. The family strongly believes that facial reconstructions of these remains resemble and could be Jeannette. When the remains were originally found, the family was told that it was not either of the twins. However, the family was not given a reason why. As of August 2017, the coroner's office reportedly has plans to compare DNA from the Aiken County Jane Doe to familial DNA. Joseph Patrick Washington connection: Joseph Patrick Washington was active in the girls' neighborhood and some believe that he may have been involved in the girls' disappearance. Washington was sentenced to 17 consecutive life sentences in 1995 for numerous criminal convictions associated with abductions and sexual assaults of 5 women, three of whom survived. He faced the death penalty in the murder of Marilyn Denise Kelly and was suspected in the murder of Loretta Dukes but died in 1999 before the trial started. Family: The twins’ mother is Mary “Louise” Sturgis. She has been very involved in trying to find her daughters. Sister to the twins, Shanta Sturgis, has also become a vocal advocate in the search for her sisters. Persistent calls to the sheriff's department from Shanta prompted the case to be reopened in 2013. Shanta has been very critical of both the initial and current investigations. Dannette and Jeannette have 8 siblings. This caused some confusion after their disappearance, as their sister was often mistaken as one of the twins. In media- Podcasts: The first season of The Fall Line podcast explores the details surrounding the disappearance of the Millbrook twins. The case of the twins’ disappearance has been discussed on several other podcasts including, My Favorite Murder, Thin Air, The Trail Went Cold, and Unresolved. Podcast Episode Title: -The Fall Line Various -My Favorite Murder "Hither and Yon" -Thin Air "Jeannette and Dannette Millbrook" -The Trail Went Cold "The Millbrook Twins" Unresolved: -"The Millbrook Twins Pt 1: The Known" -"The Millbrook Twins Pt 2: The Unknown" -"The Millbrook Twins Pt 3: "The Now" -"The Millbrook Twins: Update" -Martinis & Murder: "The Disappearance of the Millbrook Twins - Part I" Television: -Oxygen Media aired a two-hour television special on the case, which premiered on November 23, 2019.

Murder of Margaret Fetterolf

Margaret Fetterolf was an American murder victim from Alexandria, Virginia, who was discovered on September 12, 1976, in Woodlawn, Baltimore County, Maryland. For 45 years, her body remained unidentified before being identified in September 2021 through DNA testing by National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Bode Technology, and Othram. Prior to her identification, she was known as "Woodlawn Jane Doe", in reference to the area of the county her body was found. The murderer, or murderers, have never been apprehended. Discovery of the body On September 12, 1976, at 10:20 a.m., the body of a 15- to 30-year-old woman was found partially wrapped in a white sheet. She had been beaten, strangled, and raped. The rape had caused bleeding that had seeped into her clothing. She likely died at a different location and had been transported to the side of Dogwood Road near the back gate of a cemetery. It is possible that a Ford Econoline van may be linked to the case, as one was seen near the location of the body an hour before it was found. The victim wore a turquoise-colored stone bead tied to a rawhide string as a necklace. Also in her possession were two brass keys (one believed to be for a house and the other for a "night latch") that were found attached to a safety pin in one of the pockets of a pair of tan-yellow jeans. She wore a white and tan shirt, a white bra, and distinctive knee-high socks with multi-colored stripes. A single, light tan moccasin with twine laces and a rubber sole was found near the body; it is believed to have been worn by the victim. Other pieces of cloth were also found on the body. Two bandannas and a bag for grass seeds were found over her face. These had been fastened behind her neck in a square knot. One bandanna was blue and white, and the other was orange and white. The orange-and-white bandanna was found to have holes cut in it to fit the locations of her eyes and nose. Besides the bag over her face, a piece of the grass seed bag was found in her throat. This was determined to have been the cause of her death, along with ligature strangulation. The bag read "Farm Bureau Association Grass Seed, Lexington, Mass." Additionally, the hands had been bound behind her back with some sort of "bandage" in noticeably high-quality knots. An extremely large amount of a sedative drug, chlorpromazine, was found in the victim's stomach. Chlorpromazine is used to treat schizophrenia, which led to a theory linking the victim, or those responsible for her murder, to a mental institution. Additionally, the sheet that was wrapped around her body was consistent with those provided at inpatient institutions. Examination: Examiners measured the victim and concluded that she weighed between 149 and 159 pounds and was 5 feet 6 to 5 feet 9 inches tall. The blood type of the victim was determined to be O positive. There had been evidence that she had been treated by a dentist. The victim had three of her molars removed and had fillings in the remaining five. Because of the amount and quality of the dental care, authorities surmised that she did not come from a background of poverty. One of her other teeth was crooked. A poorly tattooed pair of letters, possibly initials, was found on her left arm. It contained two letters, believed to be JP, SS, JB or a similar letter combination. She had her ears pierced and a scar on her upper right thigh. A widow's peak was noted on the victim's forehead. She had dark brown to black, shoulder-length hair with a wavy texture and brown eyes. She had a dark olive complexion. The exact race and ethnicity of the victim puzzled investigators and medical examiners, but it is believed that she may have been white. Investigation: Shortly after the body was found, fingerprint and dental information were collected to establish its identity. Her fingerprints were added to national databases, as well as her dental chart. Various investigations were subsequently conducted in the case. The victim has previously been linked to regions in Massachusetts and New York. Recent developments indicated she was possibly a teenage immigrant from Central or South America who had lived in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, although the family of the individual has yet to be located. In 2016, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released the detail that she may have used the names "Jasmine" or "Jassy" when alive. Many missing women from across the United States have since been eliminated as possible identities for Woodlawn Jane Doe. The county police department currently offers a cash reward of two thousand dollars for information about this case. A notable case was that of Maria "Mia" Anjiras, a teen that had run away from her Connecticut home in February 1976. The victim's face has been reconstructed multiple times for release to the public. Three versions exist that were rendered by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Other of her sketches also exist. The local police department provided an age-regression and an additional reconstruction, created by Eve Grant, hoping to provide an estimation of her appearance at a younger age (in case she was "a runaway" or someone knew her at an earlier period of her life). One of the keys which the victim carried was made in Fitchburg, Massachusetts and had "DB09212" stamped onto it. The grass seed bag was connected to a factory in Buffalo, New York. It had been sold exclusively in the Massachusetts cities of Waltham, Rochdale, Lowell, South Weymouth, and Greenfield. Years before the murder, production of this type of bag had been halted. Forensic pollen analysis of the items found with the body indicated she had spent time in a populous area, such as Boston, Massachusetts, or New York, New York. These results were aided by the detection of cedar and hemlock pollen, which possibly originated from a site such as the New York Botanical Garden or Harvard University. The case has been featured on America's Most Wanted. Leads were processed but did not lead to the victim's identity or to that of her killer or killers. A break in the case was announced in December 2015 by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children after the Baltimore County police received a tip. A suitable match was discovered, being described as a Puerto Rican or Colombian teenager that had moved to Boston, Massachusetts with her parents and as many as five siblings. The explanation for the tattoo of "JP" on her arm was announced to possibly be the initials for a part of the city, known as "Jamaica Plain" where the possible match lived, on "Forbes Street." Potential school locations were also included. The department has had difficulties finding the relatives of the girl, putting the investigation on hold. On the 40th anniversary of her discovery, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children released an updated reconstruction of the victim. Identification: On September 15, 2021, after further DNA testing done with the assistance of The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Bode Technology, and Othram, detectives identified the girl as 16-year-old Margaret Fetterolf from Alexandria, Virginia. Fetterolf went missing in the late summer of 1975, and at the time of her disappearance was a student at Hayfield Secondary School. She was reported missing by her family one year before her body was found. An investigation continues into who was responsible for her sexual assault and murder.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Death of Steven Crawford

Steven Alexander "Stevie" Crawford was a formerly unidentified toddler whose body was found in a reservoir in Ashland, Oregon, on July 11, 1963. He was identified in 2021 using GEDmatch. Discovery: On July 11, 1963, an Oregon man reeled in the remains of a toddler while fishing in Ashland's Keene Creek Reservoir. He initially thought he had discovered a blanket roll, not realizing what he found until after he removed it from the water. The man then reported his findings to the police. Initial investigation: Investigators discovered that the blankets, along with a quilt, were bound with wire and filled with heavy iron molds to keep the toddler's body from reaching the surface of the creek. The coroner performed an autopsy the next day, and estimated that the boy had died sometime after October 1962. The coroner labeled the cause of the toddler's death as unknown but probably suspicious. After a month of attempting to identify the child's remains and countless tips, investigators gave up and shelved his case. The child was buried at Hillcrest Memorial Park Cemetery in a $114 plastic casket with a gravestone that read "Baby Doe, Known only to God." The case was not investigated again for another 45 years. Renewed interest: In 2007, Detective Sergeant Colin Fagan asked Jackson County investigator Jim Tattersall to look through boxes in the Jackson County courthouse's basement for old files on cold cases. Doing this, he came across the unidentified young boy's case and informed Fagan. The two then committed to identifying the toddler. In 2008, the child's remains were exhumed, and his DNA was sent to the Combined DNA Index System. However, no profiles in the database matched the child. In 2010, investigators took the boy's skull to a dentist's office equipped with a 360-degree X-ray machine and photographed it. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children then took these images and created a facial reconstruction of the child. The dentists also told the investigators that the boy might have had Down syndrome. The skull was then sent to a forensic odontologist, who could not match any dental records in a database to the child. The case went cold again, and the child was reburied. Identification: In December 2020, the Jackson County Sheriffs Office submitted the boy's DNA to Parabon NanoLabs and GEDmatch for phenotyping and genealogical analysis with the help of GEDmatch's chief genealogist, CeCe Moore. She identified a half-brother living in Ohio and interviewed him. This led to her finding that the boy was two-year-old Steven "Stevie" Crawford, a boy who was born with Down syndrome. Crawford's family in New Mexico told detectives that he went missing after his mother took him on a trip with her. When she returned without Stevie, she told the rest of her family that they "would not have to worry about him anymore." She has since died. After the identification, the boy’s remains were again exhumed, and were reburied in a family plot in New Mexico.