(Drunken Rant) What can we do while black? We can’t eat ice cream in our home, play video games IN OUR HOMES, drive, exercise, shop, buy skittles, listen to music, go to work- what the fuck is safe to do while black? I’ve got a son, several nephews, brothers, cousins, friends- and I TRULY worry about their safety. Why? Simply put- because of white fear. Trust me- I’m scared shitless of white folks. Y’all say the word, and we are DONE. I almost feel like I can communicate with damn near anyone else- any other ethnicity- except white folks. If I speak so that I can be heard, I’m “angry”. If I say I matter, you remind me that everybody matters. If I don’t straighten my hair, I’m too “ethnic”. So what do you want us to do? Die? This is why I cover ALL crimes on my podcast- if you point a finger at me, there are three more pointing at you. Criminals come in all colors, not just shades of black. And even if any one of these victims was a criminal, as long as Ed Kemper, Gary Ridgway, Dennis Rader, and the rest of the serial killer lineup are alive they deserve their day in court! But instead we are burying our INNOCENTS.
Remember being a kid? In Gary, when I was a child, there were no buses that took us to Webster Elementary School.
If parents didn’t drop us off or pick us up, we endured the 15 to 20-minute walk with other children in the neighborhood. Of course, this was the late 70s early 80s. We all knew about stranger danger but rarely had to put those lessons into practical use. Rain, sleet, snow- we dressed for the elements and trudged back and forth to school. We never even gave a thought to NOT making it home.
The complexion of things began to change for us in 1984- but that’s another story for another time. I’ve been teasing it and I will eventually tell it. I just wanted to jump in the way back machine and take you with me. Today’s story starts off like so many. A normal, mundane afternoon that suddenly turned into the stuff of nightmares.
It was November 18, 1993, in St. Ann, Missouri. Angie Housman was nine-years-old. Like every day, she was excited to get home when she hopped off the bus after school. She lived about 5 minutes from the bus stop. Some days, she would run just to get home faster. Unfortunately for her, she would never make it to her home. There was a monster lurking, and he was one depraved and lucky son-of-a-bitch. Today we will discuss the heartbreaking case of Angie and how the police never gave up on bringing her killer to justice.
Thirty minutes after Angie’s normal arrival time, her mom and step-father began to grow concerned. It wouldn’t take her this long to get home even if she stopped and chatted with friends or neighbors along the way. This wouldn’t be completely out of the ordinary-the stopping and talking. Angie was known as a friendly child who was quick to make new friends. While this is an admirable trait, could it have also made her vulnerable to potential predators?
Just like my neighborhood, there were certain parents that lived close enough to the route children took to and from the bus stop who would serve as lookouts. They watched the kids and looked out for anyone who didn’t belong in the area. Two days earlier, a parent had complained to the police about a strange man loitering about. On this day, as luck would have it, none of those parents were at their usual posts. One was catching up on housework, the other caring for her sick parent. Angie was definitely on the bus and had gotten off on her usual stop. It was as though after that she just vanished.
Once a couple of hours passed with no sign of Angie, her parents, Ron and Diane Bone had sounded the alarm. The St. Ann police began to search for the second-grader. They called in help from the St. Louis Major Case Squad and the FBI when they determined that they were likely dealing with an abduction. These authorities, along with help from the community, began to look for evidence that would lead to her safe return.
There were appeals to the public and the abductor from the Bones. It was hoped that the kidnapper would see their tears and spare their child. Sadly, that would not be the case. On November 27, 9 days after her disappearance, two deer hunters stumbled upon a horrific sight. They called in the St. Charles County police about a body found at the August A. Busch Memorial Conservation Area. Nothing could prepare the officers for what they were about to see. In fact, I’m finding it very hard to describe the scene to you.
The child was nude and had duct tape wound around her entire face except for her nose. Her clothes and winter coat was neatly folded near her, along with her backpack. Her body showed signs of having been sexually abused and tortured by her abductor. She had been savagely beaten and starved over the week she had been missing. She was chained to a tree with her hands cuffed behind her back. The most awful part of this is that she had only been deceased for a matter of hours. This baby had survived these atrocities- having food and water withheld from her and the horrific sexual and physical abuse- only to die of exposure to the elements.
It goes without saying that this was the worst crime committed against a child in the area. Parents became extra vigilant over their children. St. Ann was on high alert. Then, the unimaginable happened.
On December 9, 1993, the body of 10-year-old Cassidy Senter was found by pedestrians in an alley in Hazelwood, which is very close to St. Ann. The child was wrapped in two comforters and a pink curtain. Her jacket and sweater were pulled above her chest. Her jeans were pulled down over her ankles, inside out. A sheet was looped around each of her ankles and then tied in the middle to hold the ankles together. Near her body were distinct tire impressions made by a U-Haul truck.
There was decomposition on the upper portion of her body and at least four tears to the scalp along with multiple fractures in the skull. She had bruises on her chin, right cheek, right shoulder, breast bone, abdomen, each side of her chest wall, and at the base of her neck. Numerous other bruises were found over her body.
The condition of Cassidy’s scalp indicated that she was alive when she received many of her injuries. The physician who performed the autopsy determined that there were at least five blows to her head and that the blows were significant enough to have caused death within half an hour.
In less than one month, two girls, about the same age, were presumably sexually assaulted and murdered. This made many people question whether there was a serial killer operating in their community. St. Ann police worked with the Hazelwood authorities to see if these two crimes were connected.
In Feb. 1994, the police in Hazelwood made an arrest in the Cassidy Senter case. Unlike the Housman case, on December 1, Cassidy had been seen by multiple people after school. She also had a personal alarm that she carried with her and her neighbor, Michael Goldbeck made sure it was working that day. She went off to visit with friends. Later, she stopped at the home of Cassandra Quinn to play with her children. Quinn’s brother, Thomas Brooks, answered the door. When little Cassidy asked if his nephews were home, he snatched her into the house.
Once inside, she fell down the steps to the basement which activated her alarm. Brooks threw it out into the yard. He then asked her to remove her clothes. Cassidy tried to escape and screamed at the top of her lungs. When he realized that she wouldn’t be compliant, Brooks beat her about the head and body with a slat from a bed.
It is said that his sister knew the body was in her home. She didn’t want to know anything about it and told him to dispose of it. A MOTHER. That is actually as fucking sick as her pedophile brother, in my opinion. Neighbors tipped off the police when they noticed a U-Haul backing out of her drive. Neighbors had also found the baby’s alarm nearby. In 1994, Brooks was convicted of his crime and sentenced to death. Unfortunately, this piece of shit checked out early. He died in prison in 2000.
The police were unable to establish any link between Brooks and the Angie Housman murder. The evidence just didn’t match. They continued to work the case but even though there were some strange leads, it grew cold.
One of the weird leads came from a teacher at Angie’s school. The day prior to Angie’s disappearance she told this teacher that she was going to visit the countryside with a relative. Even stranger is the reports that soon came in regarding Angie meeting an older gentleman (wanting to start a friendship) and this unidentified perv accepted the offer and told her to call him “Uncle.” This became a huge lead in the case of Angie’s abduction and murder, but the investigation quickly turned dry in relation to this tip.
Another crazy tip was said to come from a boy named “David”. On Thanksgiving in 1993- two days before Angie’s remains were found- 13-year-old David announced that he had a dream and knew where she would be located. Then, he went on to predict her location and HOW she’d be found. This definitely got back to law enforcement and “David” repeated his story. He was able to lead them to the approximate area where she was found.
The police figured that he knew a little too much for him to not be involved. They took fingerprints and hair samples from the boy and sent them to the FBI crime lab. All tests came back negative. David was quickly dismissed as a person of interest.
Other suspects that were investigated and cleared include:
Bryant Squires who, on his death-bed in 1996, confessed to several murders. He also implicated a “friend” of his. His nurses told police that Squires claimed Angie as one of his victims. Squires never named the friend although he had been known to keep company with Nathan Williams- also a convicted murderer and child molester. Apparently, it could not have been Williams who was an accomplice because he was serving time in prison at the time of Angie’s murder. Investigators followed this lead and determined that their evidence didn’t point to Squires.
Also, Texan Gary Stufflebean, became a suspect after he was linked to the sexual abuse and attempted abduction of an 11-year-old girl in Maryland Heights on Nov. 8, 1993. He pleaded guilty in that case. There was nothing to tie him to Angie.
In March 1994, John Wayne Parsons, a confessed child molester arrested in Bradenton, Fla., had newspaper clippings about Angie’s death in his possession. Parsons, however, was cleared of the killing.
Another 9-year-old girl was kidnapped and slain in Arlington, Texas, in January 1996. Again, no connection to Angie.
It’s hard to imagine that many creeps were out there then and that even more operate today! And, how do these pieces of shit find tag team partners? How do you realize that “Hey- this guy’s just as big a piece of garbage as me! Did we just become best friends?”
And so it went on, tips came in and were dismissed. The case grew colder and colder. The poor Bone family went on with no answers. One year. Five years. A decade. Two decades. The evidence of Angie’s gruesome death sat in an evidence locker. It seemed that despite their hardest work, the investigators continued to come up short. UNTIL-
Yeah- y’all knew there had to be light at the end of the tunnel. I can’t bring this baby back to life. The next best thing is reporting on JUSTICE. In November 2018, sources outside the prosecutor’s office told the media that evidence from the case was being processed in the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia. That included DNA from a pea sized sample found in Angie’s panties.
By June 2019, the results came back and revealed that there could only be one person in 58 trillion (about 7 times the population of the entire planet) that contributed the sample. I still must mention that he has not been convicted of this crime and in the US one is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. That said, a one in 58 trillion DNA match would be all the evidence I’d need. That person is currently sitting in a North Carolina prison for unrelated crimes. The sadistic fuck had been named- he was Earl Webster Cox. Sucker.
According to ksdk.com, Cox was born and raised in St. Louis and joined the Air Force in 1975. Five years later, he was court-martialed and served a sentence at Fort Leavenworth for sex offenses involving young children he babysat while stationed at an Air Force base in Frankfurt, Germany.
Cox was free on parole in 1985, which was revoked in 1992 after he was again arrested and charged with sexual abuse of a child. He left Fort Leavenworth again at the end of 1992 and moved back to the St. Louis area. Get this- even with his very disturbing history, this guy was NEVER on the authorities radar. No one would have connected him to the crime. The worst part is he lived just three blocks away from Angie and her family. Talk about too close for comfort.
Also, According to court documents, Cox was involved in a child pornography network starting in 1997. While living in Colorado, he was caught in an FBI sting operation where an agent posed as a 14-year-old girl online. He pleaded guilty in 2003 to trying to entice a minor across state lines for sexual activity, and to charges for the 45,000 images of child pornography FBI agents found on his home computer.
Cox has been in federal custody ever since. Though he had finished serving his sentences by 2011, federal authorities had held onto him, deeming the pedophile as a “sexually dangerous person,” according to court papers quoted by KMOV.
On June 5, 2019, St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar announced charges at a press conference at the St. Charles County Police Department. He was flanked by a dozen or more experts, investigators and scientists who have been involved over the years. Cox has been charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, and sodomy. It has been stated that there is reason to believe that Cox didn’t act alone. It makes me wonder if that death bed confession made by Bryant Squires could hold credence.
Still unknown, for instance, is where Cox kept Angie during her nine days in captivity, and whether he had assistance in concealing her whereabouts.
According to a June 7, 2019, New York Daily News article, Cox could additionally be implicated in at least one other case. He was accused of molesting two 7-year-old girls in 1989, but the charges were dropped. The prosecutor’s office in St. Louis County is considering new charges against Cox for that case.
After 25 years, little Angie Housman’s killer is finally caught up in the wheels of justice. May he be torn to pieces. It is remarkable that the evidence was well-preserved enough to be an integral part of bringing this pervert to justice. Hopefully, as science and technology continue to advance, more stories like this can be told. Even more optimistically, maybe knowing that they are a genealogy test away from being apprehended will persuade a would be murderer from committing the act. Sadly, Angie’s mom did not live long enough to learn the identity of the beast who took her baby away. She passed away three years ago after fighting cancer.
And that’s the tragic case of Angie Housman. One of the things I want each member of my audience to do is research just how many sexual predators live in their area. The results may be staggering. Let that number make you commit to holding your children and grandchildren close. Be present and alert- even for simple things like getting off the school bus. Create an army with other parents. Force a predator to think twice about operating on your block.
Because a lot of these stories are so tough to get through, I thought it would be different if each week I leave you with something to think about. It may be pop culture, random musings, quotes from famous people or what have you. If you want to participate send me anything on social media or to TCbyTB@gmail.com. I will share responses as they come in. This week’s something to think about is this:
Were there ever any black people on Friends? It’s hard to believe that there wouldn’t be. I really wasn’t a fan because we had “Living Single” which was Friends only before Friends, but I digress. I just don’t recall there being any black folks where they lived. In the early 2000s. Like none. Or I could be all wrong, so Friends fans- straighten me out. I promise I won’t just Google the answer.
On that note- please don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcatcher. I also need some new reviews on Apple Podcasts. Lastly, share the show with a friend. Or if you hate the show, share it with an enemy. Just share it okay? Thanks for hanging out, and until next week- stay the hell outta the shadows.
Sources & Shit
Q: When was Aretha Franklin NOT Aretha Franklin?
A: When she was Vickie Jones!
Music. It soothes the soul and tames the savage beast. Tell me if you’ve ever been in the funkiest of funky moods until “your jam” came on. Can I get a witness? Or if you have ever felt as if your life and the life of your favorite artist (through their music) somehow ran parallel? Please don’t mistake what I’m talking about with stalking and being delusional, I mean do you sometimes FEEL the sentiment coming through the song? For me, one such artist is Mary J. Blige. We are just about the same age.
After gaining some popularity, she began to hit fame’s rough patches. This was right around the time I was rising like a phoenix from some of the nonsense that I had been through. I couldn’t help but root for Mary because in a way it was like I was rooting on myself. She turned the corner on a lot of her issues in the early 2000’s- right about the time I was getting up on my feet. I matured with Mary. We were alike in many, many ways, except I can’t sing a lick!
Well, today’s story is kind of similar to that feeling of familiarity with a rising star. Set in the 1960s, the journey begins at a time of civil unrest in the United States. The Black population, mostly descendants of slaves, continued to face persecution and discrimination. A lot has been overcome since then, although we still have quite a bit of work to do. But this is a story of a people rising above inequality by any means necessary. This is about women using their God-given talent as a means to bring the nation together. It’s about kidnapping. It’s about fraud. And it’s about redemption. Spoiler alert- nobody dies but one woman learns what it means to live.
In 1967, we found two 27-year-old women on separate trajectories in life. Both became mothers at a very young age. Both married young and experienced violence at the hands of their husbands. Both were brought up in the Baptist church. And both had AMAZING singing voices. The similarities kind of end there, because one of these women was Aretha Franklin. This year, with her Baptist minister father’s full support, Aretha would make the jump to secular music. By 1969, she was a world-renowned artist, sold millions of records, and had already won four Grammys.
The subject of our story is the OTHER woman, Mary Jane Jones. I gave you the cliff notes version of Mary Jane’s life story but now I’ll fill in some blanks. She got married at 19 and soon after had a son. This wasn’t the abusive situation- in fact, it may have been a fairytale life for Mary had her husband not passed away. After life handed her this enormous heartache, she soon married again. This wouldn’t be a fairytale either- her new husband was a raging alcoholic with whom she had three more children. Eventually, Mary Jane and her children escaped their abuser leaving her to care and provide for the kids on her own.
Mary had less than a high school education and finding work to support her family didn’t come easily. But, she was a woman of faith. Raised to use her dynamic voice to praise God, for six years she was able to tour with her church choir, led by the Reverend Billie Lee. She and her children survived on government assistance and donations the choir received while traveling.
It became obvious that she would have to supplement her income somehow. She began performing Motown hits in local nightclubs under the stage name “Vickie Jones”. For each night, she received $10. That’s equivalent to about $80 per day in 2020. That is just about twice the amount United States citizens received as coronavirus relief aid recently. Once. Wasn’t much then and it’s not much now. But it was something and last Mary checked, something was better than nothing.
Mary Jane had to use the stage name so she wouldn’t jeopardize her standing with the church. Those Motown hits were considered the devil’s music. It was thought that the money and fame that came along with secular music was a satanic payoff to get people to turn their backs on God. She also disguised herself with wigs and heavy makeup as part of her onstage persona.
Her favorite artist at the time was Aretha Franklin. They were the same age, and like I previously described, their life-stories were similar. Mary Jane scoured the pages of popular Black magazines like Ebony and Jet to learn the trending fashion, makeup, and entertainment news.
It was in these magazines that she got an up-close and personal look at Aretha. She would recreate the various looks for her performances. Mary Jane would also open and close her set with Aretha’s hits. It has been said that Mary Jane indeed sounded remarkably similar to Aretha.
In the 1960s, very few people had the opportunity to see the hitmakers in full color. Most homes still had old black & white televisions that were far from high definition. When Mary Jane would appear at the Pink Garter nightclub, the audience would be just drunk enough to mistake her for Aretha. Nobody sang that mix of blues and gospel like Aretha- except maybe Mary Jane.
At the Pink Garter, Mary Jane performed alongside a James Brown impersonator named Lavell Hardy. Hardy made $200 a night with his act. He was awestruck by Mary Jane’s performances even stating, “She’s identical from head-to-toe. She’s got the complexion. She’s got the looks. She’s got the height. She’s got the tears. She’s got everything.”
After following her act at several nightclubs, Lavell asked Mary Jane to tour with him in Florida. Mary Jane refused. She had children to care for and, furthermore, couldn’t afford a bus ticket. Then Lavell held out his carrot- she would be opening for Aretha Franklin and would be paid $1000 for 6 shows. That’s equal to about $7200 in 2020. Needless to say, Mary Jane made arrangements for her mother to take care of her kids and borrowed money from anyone she could for a ticket to Florida. That salary would change her family’s life and she would be able to meet her musical inspiration, Aretha. She left Mary Jane behind. When she boarded that bus she was Vickie.
After hours of travel, Vickie arrived at the venue in Melbourne, Florida. Marquees announced “Aretha Franklin Performing Tonight”. When she met with Lavell, wondering when she could see Aretha, he dropped a nuclear-sized bomb on her. SHE was Aretha. He had tricked her into coming all this way to IMPERSONATE Aretha Franklin.
Vickie was shocked and understandably pissed that she had been lured away from her family under false pretenses. She refused to perform. Lavell reminded her that she was miles away from home. He also threatened to feed her to the gators if she didn’t cooperate. Vickie would sing as if her life depended on it because it did.
Because of the times, the ruse worked! Vickie sounded so much like Aretha Franklin that, to concert attendees who had never seen her in person, no one doubted their ears. Fake Aretha would finish her sets and rush offstage to her dressing room. Then, it was likely off to the next city to do it all over again.
Between shows, Vickie was locked in hotel rooms. She was fed two hamburgers a day. In the meantime, Lavell Hardy was booking more shows. She was held there, far away from her family, against her will. Even in the 60s, Florida was still Florida. She didn’t dare call the police for help. Just a few months earlier, Florida police had shot and killed three Black residents when a rally turned into a riot. Some things never change.
Lavell booked a 1400 seat venue in Fort Myers called the High Hat Room. The show sold out quickly, even with tickets costing $5.50 a pop (equal to about 40 bucks in today’s money). This was too many people to fool- Vickie wanted to tell the truth, but Lavell continued to threaten her into silence. The packed house saw Fake Aretha and some felt like something wasn’t right. There was something about the look. But when the band started and Vickie belted out “Since You’ve Been Gone” the audience shook away all doubt. That HAD to be Ms. Franklin!
This was Vickie’s dream. To sing in front of a packed house of adoring fans. But she realized that this was a counterfeit version. These people weren’t there to see Vickie Jones, they were there to see Aretha Franklin. This wasn’t HER dream. It was Aretha’s- and here she was stealing it from her.
It could have been Stockholm Syndrome that kept Vickie cooperating city after city. She may have subconsciously enjoyed being the center of attention. It didn’t matter much, because soon the jig was going to be up. See, while Fake Aretha was touring Florida, Real Aretha was heading there to wait out her divorce from her abuser, Ted White. While there she received some much-needed therapy and even booked a few shows. In today’s internet age, Lavell would have known that Real Aretha was heading their way. He may have been able to get a head start out of Florida. Twitter and Instagram were nearly 40 years away, though. Lavell had booked a 4200 seat venue for “Aretha Franklin” while the real Aretha was booking her own concert in Florida.
Just like all the shows prior to this one, the one in Ocala, Florida sold out. This was the biggest venue yet. I’m sure Lavell was licking his chops, thinking of the huge payday he’d receive at the end of the night. I say that “he’d” receive because Vickie didn’t get one dime of the money that was swindled from unsuspecting audiences. Lavell figured that if he gave her money she may attempt to get back to Virginia- back to her kids. So, he didn’t give her anything but two hamburgers a day and enough threats to keep her compliant.
What Lavell didn’t count on was Aretha’s team getting word that “she” would be performing in Ocala. Her attorneys reached out to authorities, some of whom had tickets to that evening’s show. When “Fake Aretha” and her small entourage arrived at Southeastern Livestock Pavilion they were greeted not by legions of fans but by police, who quickly took the pair into custody.
The world was finding out about the fraud these people had perpetrated in the name of Aretha Franklin. To be honest, I’m not sure how they pulled it off for so long. Vickie didn’t look enough like Aretha to fool all these people. SOMEBODY had to know that she was fake- but money talks, right? Lavell was trying to fast talk his way out of ending up in prison. He didn’t see what the big deal was. Vickie didn’t tarnish Aretha’s reputation- she actually represented Re-Re well!
While Lavell attempted to con the authorities, Vickie was singing a different song. She had no money, so she couldn’t hire an attorney. She pleaded her case with the prosecutor of Marion County, Gus Musleh. She told him of the threats, of being locked in those grimy hotel rooms, and of those god-awful hamburgers. She didn’t want to pretend to be Aretha Franklin- she loved Aretha! She only wanted to get back home to her family.
Lavell had $7000 on his person at the time of his arrest. He hired an attorney who assured Gus Musleh that Lavell had learned his lesson. See, this attorney took Lavell for every cent he had. The courts let him go under the condition that he get the fuck out of Florida.
Gus now had to figure out what to do with Vickie. He listened to her story about basically being kidnapped. The lady didn’t have any cash, unlike her “manager”- and I use that term very loosely. She had no way to get back to her children in Virginia. Still, he wanted to know how she fooled so many people.
Gus asked her to sing right there in his office. And sing she did. She felt as if she were singing for her freedom, and her voice reverberated through the courthouse. Everyone within earshot was mesmerized by her song. And Gus let her go. He was 100% convinced that the voice he heard was Aretha Franklin’s even though he KNEW it wasn’t.
Aretha herself held no ill will towards Vickie. She wanted Lavell to pay for forcing this young woman, so much like herself, to participate in the charade. This didn’t happen in the court of law, but Lavell was now seen as just a washed up James Brown impersonator. Just like that his career was over.
When Vickie left the courtroom, there were throngs of people waiting for her on the courthouse lawn. Among them was Ray Green- a white guy- who was an attorney and entrepreneur. He signed her on the spot and gave her $500 to get back home to West Petersburg. Vickie was soon reunited with her family having survived her ordeal.
Oh, yeah- I promised fraud, kidnapping, and redemption. There was redemption. See, Vickie went on to tour various cities, singing for huge crowds that were there to see HER. She was accompanied by Duke Ellington and his band. There’s even a picture of her and Duke on the cover of Jet Magazine.
She once admired the style and beauty of Aretha Franklin on its pages, now she was on the cover! She traveled on planes instead of buses. She ate steak instead of hamburgers, She even had her own impersonator who was quickly caught. Just like Aretha, she forgave the young singer.
She was able to send thousands of dollars back to her family. Unfortunately, her mother had sent her children to their father when she became unable to care for them any longer. He hadn’t changed one bit. He told the kids that their mama wasn’t coming back for them. Once Vickie found out what he had been filling their heads with, she left the limelight. She wanted to rescue her babies.
This time, she left Vickie Jones behind. She returned to West Petersburg as Mary Jane Jones, mother of four. She had the memories and the stories- good and bad- and no one could ever take that away from her.
That’s it, that’s all for That Time Aretha Franklin Wasn’t Aretha Franklin. Please- let me know what you thought about today’s episode. I’m dying to hear from you! You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org! You know I’m tcbytb on all of the things including the website, tcbytb.com. I’m looking for art- do I have any artists out there? If so, sketch me a pic. I’d love to see what you come up with and I may feature it on a t-shirt or coffee cup. As always, rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts- those reviews really help the podcast get discovered and they make the host feel good! Next episode we’ll get back to murder and mayhem so get your minds right. I thank you all for hanging out with me and until next week- stay outta the shadows. Peace.
Sources & Shit
Facebook Hangout- Part Deux!
We had SO much fun last week that we’re going to do it again!
This Friday, May 8, join Tasha for an open discussion on Lori Vallow, Letecia Stauch, UFOs, and more! Bring your case suggestions with you. Tell a friend to tell a friend. If you guys continue to show up, we’ll make this a thing!
You are cordially invited to a watch party!
Attire is casual.
Hosted by me, Tasha Pierce.
Time: 8pm CST/9pm EST
Be there or be square!
This is the latest installment of the Tales From My Hood segment. Today I’m going to tell you about the weirdest story that Gary, IN has to offer. This situation made international news and even had a documentary to cover the case. To make things even more interesting, I knew the family this shocking story revolved around. Grab your wine, light a fat one, and pull up a chair because this week we discuss “The Exorcisms of LaToya Ammons”!
A Tale From MY Hood
What’s up to my Faithful Few and a big welcome to any newcomers to Sinister Silhouettes! I’m your host, Tasha, and do I have an awesome story to share. This is the latest installment of the Tales From My Hood segment. Today I’m going to tell you about the weirdest story that Gary, IN has to offer. This situation made international news and even had a documentary to cover the case. To make things even more interesting, I knew the family this shocking story revolved around. Grab your wine, light a fat one, and pull up a chair because this week we discuss “The Exorcisms of LaToya Ammons”!
First, let me explain how I know the players. It was Gary, IN circa 1986 and I had recently lost my mother to cancer. My dad was a steelworker and his job required him to work varying shifts. That meant that he would need help ensuring that us kids had proper supervision as he did shift work. He placed an ad in the classified section of the Post Tribune, our local paper. After interviewing dozens of people and even testing a few out on a trial basis with us (some of them were some real characters- I should probably write a book) he came upon Rose Campbell. She was a thirty-something mother of 3 back then. Out of all the women that my dad hired to be our caretaker, she was the one I was most fond of.
At the time, I was about 13-years-old, my sister was 8, and my only brother who was still at home was 16. Rose had a daughter, Latoya, who was roughly the same age as my sister. You guys kind of informally met my sister when she pod bombed us in a previous episode. She was an odd little girl, and I say that with nothing but love. My sister and almost all of her friends were absolutely OBSESSED with horror movies! She loved Children of the Corn, all the Freddy Krueger movies, People Under the Stairs, Amityville and the Exorcist- at 8 years old! So, while Rose’s daughter hung out with my sister, she was introduced to the absolute worst horror movies of the time.
Before anyone comes for my family about how irresponsible it was for us to be exposed to that level of horror at such a young age- DON’T. The worst horror in the world was losing our mom. We survived that. The second worst thing we survived was coming of age in Gary, IN! Trust me, you don’t want that for yourselves. But anywho-
Time went on, and my dad met a lady that he fell in love with. She was a single mother of one daughter and after dating for a while they moved in with our family. Suddenly, she was doing all the things that Rose was being paid to do, so we didn’t need a nanny anymore. Over the years, we would still stay in touch with Rose and my sister stayed in contact with LaToya at school.
Now, we’ll fast-forward many years. In January, 2014, I was reading the Post Tribune while having my morning coffee. We were sitting under about 10” of snow and it was bitterly cold. You know- a regular winter day in Gary. However, what I read in that morning’s paper made my blood run colder than the wind chill factor on the lakefront. The story went like this:
In 2011, LaToya Ammons and her three young children- along with her mother, Rose- rented a home on 38th and Carolina. After living there for a while, strange things began to happen.
It began with huge black horse flies swarming around the home in the dead of winter. Rose stated that they would kill them and kill them- but they kept coming back. Shortly after, the children began to display troubling and violent behavior. Their eyes would roll back in their heads, and they would speak in growling voices. The family would hear thudding footsteps throughout the home and even would find muddy footprints on the floors where no one had been. Then shit really got real. The children were being hurled across rooms by invisible forces. The violence intensified, with one son threatening to kill the other and choking him until he was pried off. LaToya’s daughter was found levitating her bed before descending back on it. This was apparently witnessed by a house full of guests- people who never returned to visit the Ammons family at the home.
At this point, Rose realized that they may be dealing with supernatural forces and she implored her daughter to reach out to people who could deal with this type of situation. LaToya reached out to churches in the area, but no one took her seriously. In the meantime, the attacks on the children became more frequent and more bizarre. The spirits in the home would torment them all day and night. LaToya’s 12-year-old daughter had to get stitches after a headboard flew across the room, striking her in the head.
LaToya finally found a pastor who visited the home. He told her there were spirits there. Latoya was told to anoint her children’s head and feet with oil, as well as all the doors and windows. He also recommended cleaning the house with ammonia and bleach, burning sage, and reciting the 91st Psalm. She and a friend performed the ritual and for three days all was quiet. This must have pissed those evil spirits off because they came back with a vengeance! Rose would find her 6-year-old grandson sitting in the closet talking to someone only he could see.
After the ritual failed to have lasting results, the family turned to two clairvoyants. The witches told them to get the fuck out of that house because it was inhabited by 200 demons. I guess they took a headcount or some shit, but one fucking demon is too many for me. But Ammons couldn’t afford to break the lease to leave. She had to find a way to protect her family until they were able to get out of there.
The demonic activity was a huge disruption in the lives of the family. Now, Rose said that she was immune from attack because she was born with a “protector” that prevented her from being possessed- although she did claim to have seen a shadowy figure pacing in the living room. The rest of the family was constantly being harassed- so much so that the children were missing a lot of school.
LaToya then reached out to Dr. Geoffrey Onyeukwu. He was a primary care physician- in fact he was my doctor for many years. She explained what was going on with the children and insisted that they were possessed. Dr. Onyeukwu is a man of science, though. He believed that there had to be a reasonable explanation for the children’s behavior. He visited the family’s home to observe them and was shocked by their behavior. He deemed it necessary to call law enforcement when they cursed him, began to thrash about, and finally passed out. The children were transported by ambulance to Northlake Methodist Hospital. One of the boys came to and acted regularly. The other was still violent and had to be restrained.
When the police responded to the situation, they listened to the doctor’s complaint and gave Rose and LaToya an opportunity to explain their situation. A representative from DCS and a psychologist also were present to get to the bottom of things. In the tiny exam room, Rose held her grandson by the hand as she answered the DCS worker’s questions. It was then that the 7-year-old began growling and showing his teeth. His eyes rolled to the back of his head and then- in front of the caseworker and psychologist- the child walked backward up a wall to the ceiling and flipped off the ceiling onto the floor. At that point, the caseworker and doctor got the fuck up out of there.
It’s time to throw the whole kid away. I mean, he can’t come back home with me after I see some shit like that. Hell, forget trying to break the lease. I’m burning the whole house down if I see some shit like that- but I digress.
The children ended up being temporarily removed from the home. Rose and LaToya returned and still were haunted by the unseen forces at work in the house.
Enter Father Michael Maginot. He was called to the home to investigate whether they were dealing with an actual demonic possession. While in the tiny 3 bedroom home, Maginot was greeted by a flickering light. Each time he approached the light, the flickering stopped. The blinds in the home began to move as if being blown by a breeze. There was no wind entering the windows- no air current to explain the phenomena. Maginot also noted the manifestation of wet footprints on the hardwood floors. Neither he nor the women had walked through any water upon entering the house. He had seen enough. He told Rose and LaToya to leave the home because it was not safe. There was at least 1 demonic presence in the house. The two ladies packed a few belongings and stayed with a relative.
They weren’t gone long. One week later three police officers, the DCS worker, and Rose went to the house so that the caseworker could inspect the home. Rose escorted the group throughout the home including the basement. In her professional opinion, this was the epicenter of the demonic activity. There was an altar set up on a small table. A ring of salt was placed around it to dissuade the evil spirits. Directly under the stairs was an area that was dug up to expose dirt. The police were using digital recorders and their phones to record the visit. Suddenly, the voice recorder’s batteries drained completely. The officer who held it mentioned that he had just put fresh batteries in that morning. When he later listened to the audio he captured, he heard an other-worldly voice whisper “Hey”. In photos captured, another officer claims that ghostly figures appeared that were certainly not visible to the naked eye. These officers were now convinced that some top tier bullshit was happening at that house.
LaToya’s children remained in state custody until she could find suitable housing since her place was crowded with her family and the 200 damn demons. In the meantime, she was visited by the three officers who had initially accompanied the DCS caseworker, Father Maginot, two new Lake County police officers and a canine, and a new caseworker. The original case manager refused to go back to the home. If they were looking for supernatural activity, the demons didn’t disappoint. After going into the basement, the caseworker noted an odd liquid dripping on a wall. She touched the fluid. It was slippery and sticky at the same damn time. The group went back upstairs and looked at each bedroom. In one bedroom there was a film on the blinds. Father Maginot didn’t notice it there earlier, so the officers cleaned it off the blinds then sealed the door to the room.
At about this time, the caseworker began to have a strange sensation on the fingers that she used to touch the unknown fluid. When she looked at her hand, it was ghostly white. Then it began to feel as if it were broken. Ten minutes later, she was in a full-blown panic attack and was removed from the house. Father Maginot thought that there may be something under the stairs that could explain the unusual activity. The officers went downstairs with a shovel to uncover anything that might be used in satanic rituals- particularly a pentagram or human remains. After digging a 4-foot by 3-foot hole beneath the stairs, unearthing a pink press-on fingernail, a white pair of panties, a political shirt pin, a lid for a small cooking pan, socks with the bottoms cut off below the ankles, candy wrappers and a heavy metal object that looked like a weight for a drapery cord, police raked the dirt back over the hole.
Where are my Creole chicks at? Y’all know what they say about burying personal effects- specifically underwear. Could someone have put roots on LaToya? There were rumors that she had been in an abusive relationship. Would a jilted ex be sinister enough to put a curse on her and her family?
Well, there were now a large number of witnesses to unnatural events in the home. But wait- there’s more! Remember that room the police sealed off? Before leaving, they opened it up. To their absolute horror, the film had returned on the blinds! Maginot told the officers that the oil was a manifestation of evil energies or a demonic presence. He knew what he had to do. He would petition the bishop to perform the rites of exorcism on LaToya Ammons and conduct an intense blessing of the home. That same day, Maginot performed a minor exorcism on Ammons. The ritual consisted of prayers, statements, and appeals to cast out demons.
Two police officers and Ilic, the DCS family case manager, attended the ritual. lic said she left believing that something was going on, although she wouldn’t go as far as saying it was demonic. She said she got chills during the nearly two-hour rite.”We felt like someone was in the room with you, someone breathing down your neck.”
Ilic said she had a string of medical problems after visiting the home. A week after she visited the house for the last time, Ilic said she got third-degree burns from a motorcycle. Within 30 days, she also broke three ribs Jet Skiing, broke a hand when she hit a table, then broke an ankle running in flip-flops.” After breaking three ribs, I’m pretty sure I would have wrapped myself in bubble wrap and sat the fuck down somewhere. Less than 30 days later, she was RUNNING? In flip-flops? Unless someone was chasing her ,that’s next level crazy. She later said, “I had friends who wouldn’t talk to me because they believed that something had attached itself to me. I’m already evil. They try to find something that’s not evil and corrupt it. They wouldn’t waste their time on me.” Nice to know a woman who has the power to remove your kids from your home and turn your life on its head considers herself “evil”. I know- that’s low-hanging fruit, but I digress.
After the ritual, Father Maginot told LaToya to look up the names of the demons who were tormenting her. He told her that there was power in those names. Now, this seems like it would be a job for a priest, but LaToya and a friend pored the internet looking for names of demons that matched the type of harassment she was experiencing. The internet kept shutting down, the computer turned off several times, and LaToya was sick as hell, but they found some names. They also discovered (I’m not sure how) that LaToya had several high-ranking sergeant and lieutenant demons assigned to her.
After the minor rite, Maginot said Bishop Melczek gave him permission to exorcise Ammons. The ritual is the same as the minor exorcism but more powerful because it has the backing of the Catholic Church, Maginot said.
Father Maginot ultimately performed three major exorcisms on LaToya – two in English, and the last one in Latin – in June 2012 at his Merrillville, IN church. Maginot said his voice continued to get louder and more forceful until the demon weakened. He said he could tell how strong the demon was by how much LaToya convulsed.
Two police officers, who had kept in touch with Maginot since the home investigation, stood nearby in case LaToya needed to be restrained.
She said she prayed with Maginot until it became too painful.
She said she felt as if something inside her was trying to hold on and inflict pain at the same time. She said it was different from a natural pain but felt as intense as giving birth.
Before her third exorcism, LaToya and Rose moved to Indianapolis. They put a whole lot of miles between themselves and the demons. They still had to go back to Gary because the kids were still in DCS custody. Father Maginot performed the final exorcism of LaToya Ammons in Latin. She convulsed as the priest condemned the demon and compelled it to leave her. She was still and responsive while Father Maginot prayed over her. Then she fell asleep. The rites lasted two hours. When they were done, Father Maginot’s assistant wrote the very long name of a demon on a sheet of paper. They sealed it and put a barrier of salt around it. If LaToya had any more issues with old what’s his name, they would burn the paper. Rose and LaToya headed back to Indianapolis. That night, LaToya experienced horrendous nightmares. She called Father Maginot. The paper was burned. And with that, the entire ordeal was over. She eventually got her children back and things went back to normal.
Nahh- no the fuck it didn’t. The story got out. The local, then national, then international media started sniffing around 3866 Carolina Street in Gary, IN. Of course, by this time the homeowner had rented the home out. The tenants were not very happy to have all this activity around their home all day and all freakin night. But media gonna media- shit was an absolute clusterfuck for months. People the world over were talking about the “Demon House” and this caught the attention of paranormal investigators everywhere.
Enter Zak Bagans. Zachary Bagans is an American paranormal investigator, actor, television personality, museum operator, and author. He is the principal host of the Travel Channel series, Ghost Adventures. Zak had heard the stories. He. Wanted. That. House.
You know- money talks, bullshit walks. Zak rode into Gary with $35K and left with the deed to the crown jewel of the paranormal universe. He was seeing nothing but opportunity. He wanted to film the shenanigans that he could get into with 200 motherfucking demons! Big fun, right? Well, it’s all fun and games til somebody gets hurt. Y’all know what that means, right? I came to bring the pain hardcore to the brain.
Now, I’m gonna laugh an awful lot at the shitshow that was the “Demon House” documentary. I think I felt some kind of way because old Zakky boy jumped the whole thing off with a whole lie. See, he said that he had to wait to begin filming because there were “squatters” in the house. In reality, those are the people who were getting tired of the press camping out in front of their rental. If a director would lie about something so fucking insignificant, I can’t believe shit that comes after that. I took that shit personally. Cause in Gary, IN you don’t call motherfuckers paying rent “squatters”. You call them tenants. So, now I have to pick Zak’s shitty documentary apart on principle.
First of all, fuck yo bitch and the clique you claim… Nah- I don’t have to go that hard on Zak. But, I will point out that he couldn’t score an interview with LaToya and her mom. Seems they had sold the rights to their story to a big production company. He was able to talk to Gary Police Captain Charles Austin, who was one of the officers present for some of the paranormal activity. This guy would be believable if he didn’t sound like a complete lunatic as he described his experiences. He provided the photos and audio that was recorded in the house during his visits. Present in the photos, were sinister silhouettes (get it?) but they could have been from anything. Have you ever heard of pareidolia? Pareidolia (/pærɪˈdoʊliə/ parr-i-DOH-lee-ə) is the tendency for incorrect perception of a stimulus as an object, pattern or meaning known to the observer, such as seeing shapes in clouds, seeing faces in inanimate objects or abstract patterns, or hearing hidden messages in music. Pareidolia can be considered a subcategory of apophenia. Apophenia (/æpoʊˈfiːniə/) is the tendency to mistakenly perceive connections and meaning between unrelated things. And these motherfuckers were perceiving connections from bursts of light and shadows because they expected to see an apparition. I guess I‘ve shown my hand. I don’t believe any of this nonsense. Now, I know that my audience will likely be split about this- I welcome your correspondence on this and any matter, but for now, I’ll continue to hate on the whole damn story.
Zak tries to convince us that on his first night in the home with his crew, he was overcome with an aggressive energy that made him attempt to assault his cameraman. Unfortunately, this encounter was only captured by the home surveillance system so there was no audio. We have to take his word that this little spat wasn’t about something else entirely. And right now, Zak’s word ain’t worth much to me. That tends to happen when you start a relationship off with a lie- but anywho.
We later see an apparition in the bathroom of the house that looks remarkably like the shadow of someone’s hand around the lens. Don’t worry, though- Zak turns the footage over to an expert who assures us that this is definitely not a hand. I don’t believe you. You need more people.
Then, a lady named Meka caught up with Zak, telling him that she used to live at 3866 Carolina Street. She visited the home with her three children out of curiosity. In fairness, Zak warned her about bringing her kids to a home said to have 200 demons that consistently preyed on children. But hey, there’s only 15 minutes of fame so the whole family had to get in front of the camera. At least one of them would be a star.
Predictably, one of the children takes an evil spirit home with her. The mother frantically called Zak three weeks after their visit. She tells him that her daughter had become uncharacteristically combative with her and also attempted suicide. Yep- shit escalated QUICKLY. The biggest question I had was why the FUCK did the mother call Zak before the police arrived to her house? I’m not sure he should have been at the top of her mind. Meka- this has the smell of HOAX all over it. Now, I’m not positive that this child fabricated this story at the urging of her mother to play a bigger part in this documentary but- if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck- QUACK, QUACK- it’s a duck, man. It’s a duck.
I’m also not saying that I didn’t ponder showing up at the Demon House in full makeup and dressed like I was going to the damn Soul Train Awards. I may have considered it. But I wouldn’t involve my son in my deception. Supported by nothing but gut instinct, I feel Meka’s story is a bit contrived.
Zak met back up with the family to discuss what had happened. The “possessed” child claimed to have no recollection of even meeting him. Meka was all smiles when she talked about the horror of her daughter’s suicide attempt. Her whole affect was off- it seemed like she was talking about a birthday party instead of a near death experience. She also stated that this same daughter also inexplicably had the number 6 carved in her back because why not?
Then there was the exorcism of this child. I swear when Father Maginot (still on the clock for his 15 minutes), prayed over her she was literally holding back laughter. If you’ve seen the documentary tell me if you agree. After the demon was successfully cast out, we don’t see Meka and family again.
After one of Zak’s camera crew, apparently besieged by evil entities, goes berserk in their hotel, he is forced to fire him. At this time another crew member had already quit. The demon house had already made Zak behave antagonistically. For some reason, after seeing all this crap go on, Zak decides to have himself boarded into the house overnight and alone.
We see snippets of Zak yelling for the spirits to leave him alone. He hears a woman’s voice clearly but there is no one else in the house. Of course, we shouldn’t just assume that this is a neighbor’s voice, we are led to believe that this voice was coming from within the room that Zak was sleeping in. Zak, baby, Gary is the city that never sleeps. I’m not sure where he is from, but we kinda expected to hear things at night. I’d rather it be voices than gunshots.
At some point before morning, Zak’s eyes had begun to cross and he had double vision. After seeing his doctor, he learned that this would forever be a part of his life. He has an eye condition that causes him to have horizontal double vision. He was told that the surgery required to reverse this ran a risk of leaving him blind. He opted, instead, to wear prism glasses to correct his vision. The condition could be caused by neurological damage or disease, but Zak is 100% positive that it had something to do with being in that house.
By the end of the show, Zak decided to just tear the house down. Who cares if the 200 demons attach themselves anywhere else, right? I guess Gary has so many demons, these new ones would have to get in line. Still, after all he had been through, Zak Bagans couldn’t let the house go entirely. He kept several “mementos”, including the stairs that led to the basement.
There are just a couple more pieces of evidence that may give a little insight into the case of LaToya Ammons. First of all, in 2009 she had a DCS warning given to her. Why? Her children were missing too much school. This was 2 years BEFORE moving to the so-called “Demon House” at 3866 Carolina. Second, her landlord said all the demon talk started when she fell behind on the rent. No tenants before or after ever spoke of unusual happenings in the house. Third, her step-mother has gone on record stating that she doesn’t believe her. She thinks that there may be mental health issues. The stories were making life difficult for LaToya’s siblings. They all wanted to distance themselves from the entire ordeal. Lastly, LaToya has been in the local news since her experience with the house. Why? She claims her apartment in Indianapolis is covered in mold and affecting her family. What is it with this family and houses?
No matter what, I appreciate everything Rose did for my family in the 80’s, but there is one more thing that is truly baffling to me about this story. If the paranormal activity centered mostly around the children, why did LaToya have three exorcisms? That is one of the dumbest parts of this whole thing. In fact, this is just one of many things that make it a conspiracy and a true-crime. It’s so dumb to me that it’s criminal.
At the end of it all, there is one person to blame for this whole fucking spectacle- my sister, Felicia. But how could she know LaToya would take those movies so seriously?
That’s it, that’s all for The Exorcisms of LaToya Ammons- this week’s Tale From MY Hood. Tell me what you think about this. Make a believer out of me- if you have had paranormal experiences that you’d like to share shoot me an email at email@example.com. My social media handles are tcbytb on all the things. The website is where you’ll find a shitload of sources- tcbytb.com. Beginning April 29, Audioburst will be featuring Sinister Silhouettes as a featured podcast on its app- I hope my Faithful Few will download the app and listen. Do me favor and tell a friend. Last but certainly not least, please rate and review Sinister Silhouettes on your platform of choice. The name change is going to make every review super important so the show can be discovered! Thanks so much for all your support, guys! I can’t wait to get together here again next week. Until then, stay outta the shadows!
Sources & Shit
I’ve got great news! Beginning April 29, 2020, Sinister Silhouettes will be featured on the home screen of the Audioburst Mobile App! That’s an excellent chance to grow our community- it’s kinda a big deal. I’ll be featured for one month. Please, if you haven’t already, download the app on your phone and listen to Sinister Silhouettes (and all your faves) IN THE APP! That way, Audioburst will know that I have support from my audience and may feature us again. Also, this would be an absolutely perfect time to share the app with friends- and of course, suggest Sinister Silhouettes!
I know things are tight right now. Some of you wish you could do more for the show. This is your chance to do something that costs nothing and means a lot. Continue to rate, review, share, and support! I appreciate you taking out part of your week to hang out with me.
Remember, look for Sinister Silhouettes on the Audioburst Mobile App on April 29!! Oh! And stay outta the shadows!
The Most Dangerous Animal of All
Earl Van Best Jr. was 27 years old when he met Judy Chandler, 13 at the time. It was October 1961 and they were in front of an ice cream shop in San Francisco. He became fixated on the teen, but Van Best knew he was far too old to be trying to court Judy. Worse, she had a less than ideal home life- her father was said to be abusive which made her a prime target for a guy who knew how to say all the right things.. Van Best did continue his pursuit and the two began sneaking to see one another for months. The couple was soon found out, and the whole city was disturbed to know a pedophile was operating and grooming young girls in their area. After running away together, Van Best and Judy eventually eloped in Reno, Nevada.
Their illicit relationship was tabloid news in the ‘60s and in July of 1962, Van Best ended up behind bars for statutory rape. The marriage was annulled and Chandler was sent to a juvenile facility. In February of 1962 true perversion prevailed and Van Best got Chandler to again run off with him to Mexico. While there, Chandler became pregnant and Van Best began to show his true colors. He was having problems holding down a job and according to Judy, he asked her to turn tricks while she was pregnant. Before the baby was born, the couple continued to elude the law- they made stops in California and finally settled in Louisiana for a while.
Judy was all alone when she gave birth to Earl Van Doren Best, Jr, on Feb 12, 1963, when she was just 15 years old. Van Best was not going to win father of the year when the baby was born- in fact, he would routinely lock the crying child in a footlocker. Judy would do everything she could to protect her son, and she had considered leaving Van Best because of his complete disinterest in the baby and his constant abuse of her. She got in contact with her mother, who allegedly told her that she could come home but the baby couldn’t come with her.
Their son was 1 month old when Van Best announced that the baby had to go. He jumped on a train from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Around 11:30 am, Van Best found himself at 736 North Boulevard where he entered the building with the baby and came out without him. Baby Van Best had been abandoned in the stairwell of a building by his father. He was found by a woman about 5 hours later.
Upon finding out that Van Best really did get rid of her baby, Judy found the strength to leave. Amazingly, the pedophile called the authorities on Judy and she was promptly arrested. Of course, she had dirt on him as well so he ended up back in the slammer.
The whole saga was constantly reported on by San Francisco media outlets, most scathingly by Paul Avery at the San Francisco Chronicle (?).
The poor baby was adopted into a very loving family. Loyd and Leona Stewart renamed the infant “Gary Stewart” and treated him as their own, but their son still wanted to know who he was and where he came from.
The Ice Cream Romance could be a true crime episode all by itself, but today it serves as the prelude to a possible conspiracy to cover up the identity of one of the most notorious serial killers of all time. In his quest to find his birth mother, Gary Stewart believes he stumbled upon the name of the Zodiac.
The Zodiac killer has been covered extensively in episodes of well-known podcasts, on documentaries, and even on the big screen most recently in 2007’s Zodiac (starring Robert Downey, Jr as Paul Avery, Mark Ruffalo, and Jake Gyllenhaal). I’ll eventually tell the entire story of the murders committed by the Zodiac, but today I want to give my full attention to Gary Stewart and his journey.
After years of both of them searching, Gary found his birth mother. She was Judy Gilford (formerly Chandler). As one could imagine, Gary had many questions for his birth mother, but it seemed like she couldn’t give him all the answers he had hoped for. He did find out that she never meant to give him up. That may have been somewhat of a relief to Gary, finding out that his mother did love him. When he heard what his father had done, he initially had no desire to find out where he was. In time, however, curiosity and that incomplete feeling washed over him again. He wanted to meet the man who abandoned him all those years ago. He felt a need to clear the air.
Judy was a big help to Gary because she had connections in law enforcement. Her husband Rotea Gilford was a cop in San Francisco before his death in 1998. Through her connections with the police, Gary was provided with his father’s name, date of birth and social security number.
According to Gary, after getting that information, the police became hesitant to give him any other leads pertaining to Earl Van Best.
Gary had enough info to discover he had siblings on his father’s side of the family who lived in Austria. When he reached out to them, they politely declined to provide any details about dear old dad, except that he had abandoned the family years ago.
After that rejection, Gary decided he would call off his search. One day, while watching TV, Gary and his son Zach were floored by what they saw on Cold Case Files. A police sketch of the Zodiac Killer from 1969 was on the screen. Zach remarked that this guy bore a striking resemblance to Gary. Gary thought he looked like someone else entirely. He went to his folder of research on his birth father, then took out a photo and could not believe his eyes. He was looking at a face, from that era, that matched the sketch.
From that moment on, Gary dug up everything he could on the Zodiac. He claimed that he had proof that Van Best’s movements in the late 60’s- early 70s lined up with the murderer’s. He said he could trace his father’s involvement with Anton La Vey- head of the church of Satan and Charles Manson. He had proof that Earl Van Best’s father was a codebreaker who exercised his son’s brain by challenging him to solve cryptograms. It was well known that Zodiac liked to use ciphers to taunt the police and the public. Gary also claimed that Earl Van Best’s name was hidden in one of the ciphers. Van Best had a grudge against Paul Avery for his embarrassing coverage of the Ice Cream Romance. Avery was the only journalist to receive a personal threat from Zodiac. Gary dug up Judy and Earl’s marriage certificate. He found a handwriting analyst who ascertained the writing on that certificate matched the handwriting of the Zodiac. He also submitted a DNA sample that he says indicates he shared genetic markers with DNA from a stamp that was used on a letter sent to newspapers by Zodiac. There were more claims made by Stewart that seemed to point to the fact that Zodiac was indeed Gary’s biological father, Earl Van Best.
So, if Gary has all this circumstantial evidence that points directly to his father, why would the police NOT consider his research to close this ice-cold case? Gary submits that the San Francisco police (including Judy Gilford’s deceased husband, Rotea) bungled the investigation. They allegedly had interviewed Van Best and Gilford noted that he was the pedophile who had kidnapped, abused, and impregnated his now-wife. For some reason, the case was botched and buried because of this. If this was true, not only had Gary unmasked Zodiac but he had also stumbled upon one of the biggest cover ups ever.
The police may have ignored Gary’s findings, but Susan Mustafa- a true-crime author- found them to be intriguing. She and Gary pored over his research and before you know it she was set to co-author a book with him. This story was sure to make a shitload of money because EVERYONE who is about this true crime life wants to know the identity of the Zodiac. Of course, armchair detectives around the country were all pissed off because every good web sleuth has their own theory about the Zodiac. They mostly dismissed Gary’s claim because it didn’t line up with their own speculations. I myself would be thrilled to know who this fucker is- just like I was when the world found out that Joseph DeAngelo is allegedly the Golden State Killer (I can’t wait till that bastard pleads guilty so I can remove that “allegedly”). But, I digress. So, what happened after the book was published in 2014?
Duh- it became a New York Times bestseller, that’s all!
It has a rating of 4.1/5 on Amazon’s reviews.
Just like the true-crime community in general, the reviews are pretty divided.
A user named 2broke2shop wrote:
Reviewed in the United States on October 12, 2016
I could not put this book down. The whole story is so well written and put together. I am completely convinced that Earl Van Best Jr is the Zodiac killer. I did not think that I would be so thoroughly convinced. I am really surprised that so many people are being critical about the “lack of evidence.” Back in the day and even now, without DNA, many cases are won if you have enough convincing circumstantial evidence. Nowadays, most of us prefer DNA, or both, but honestly, just comparing his picture to the sketch, and taking into account his unique scar on his finger which matched a fingerprint left behind from one of the Zodiac crime scenes alone was huge!
The very next review, from Chardee Macdennis, read
Reviewed in the United States on October 31, 2018
It lacks significant evidence. All the victims looked like mom…I don’t see it. EVB Jr photo and Zodiac sketch …many people could have be seen as be as bearing a resemblance to a sketch. Perhaps there is something to the handwriting but too small sample of EVB Jr writings in my opinion to give so much potential of a match even from a Professional. Lastly, no DNA TEST. AND the cyphers, seems that many people have found various names with no definitive answers with confidence.
Despite the varying opinions, the book was a huge success. Earlier this year, FX and Hulu teamed up to give us a 4 part docu-series that takes a deep dive into the life of Gary Stewart, an adoptee who needed to find himself and the research he did that apparently uncovered the Zodiac. It was directed by Academy Award nominee Kief Davidson and Ross Dinerstein. Wow! We met law enforcement officers, the handwriting analyst, Susan Mustafa, Judy Gilford (who is now estranged from her biological son after he wrote that book without giving her a heads up) and so many more people who Gary says substantiate his story. The series was well done and I found myself wondering if this was it. Had the Zodiac finally been named?
Sadly, it appears he has not. The documentary fairly laid out Gary’s evidence and told his story of searching for his identity. It shed light on the struggles of many adoptees who have little to no knowledge of who they are. It made me scratch my head and ponder whether there was a conspiracy to keep Zodiac’s identity a secret. It made me look forward to the final episode aptly titled “The Truth”. In it, we learned that Gary Stewart was an unreliable narrator. And it finally revealed enough truth to make me doubt not only Gary’s story but his motivation.
It seems that Gary saw that sketch on Cold Case Files and immediately became married to the idea that his dad was a serial killer. All the evidence he “found” was carefully manipulated to fit his narrative. Yes- Earl Van Best resembled the sketch, but -real talk- half of the white guys in this documentary resembled the sketch. The marriage certificate was filled out by the judge presiding over his parents’ marriage, NOT by Van Best. The handwriting analyst who definitively said that the certificate was filled out by the Zodiac was debunked by his own peers. The DNA Gary submitted was never matched against the known sample of the Zodiac. All of the evidence that placed Van Best in the areas that Zodiac was known to be in was stretched by Gary to fit times and dates. Susan Mustafa and Gary turned on one another, each blaming the other for failing to check and double-check the facts surrounding the case. Gary accused his biological mom of selectively forgetting details of her life with Van Best- and if she did, could you blame her? She was a REAL victim of Van Best, also. Yep- the final episode was a real shit show. Thus, I spent 4 hours watching this show and the only thing I’m sure of is that Gary Stewart was obsessed with the thought that Earl Van Best was the Zodiac Killer. Obsession is one of those things that lets you see what you want to see. Gary NEEDED his biological father to be a MONSTER. It would explain why he took him to 736 North Boulevard and left him in a stairwell. It would explain why he never looked for him. It would validate his worth if the person who threw him away was a fucking MURDERER. Even if Van Best is not the Zodiac, he was a terrible person. If his only crimes were against Judy and Gary, that qualifies him as a shitty individual. And shitty individuals deserve shitty endings. Earl Van Best got his.
He died in 1994, choking on his own vomit in a bar in Mexico City, Stewart said. He was buried in an unmarked grave where Gary and his son were the first visitors. That’s it, that’s all- The Most Dangerous Animal is finally in the books.
What do you think of Gary’s story- also, who is your favorite Zodiac suspect? Let me know! I’m still TCbyTB on all the things, including my blog at TCbyTB.com where you’ll find sources and shit. There’s also a little donate button in case you are so inclined. My email is still TcByTb@gmail.com if you’d like to catch up with me that way. I can’t wait to holla at you all next week- until then Stay outta the Shadows. Peace!!
Sources & Shit
If you'd like to donate to Tasha for a cup of coffee, quick lunch, or to help pay these BILLS here's your chance! Really- just give me the change in your sofa. I'll make it enough.
This week I would like to discuss True Crime stories that have been dominating the headlines. Most of us have opinions on these cases, but my goal today is to review what we KNOW so far. Just like every other case I break down, I will share my thoughts as well. Please note that all of the players are innocent until proven guilty. If I was seated on a jury and presented evidence that would lead to reasonable doubt, I believe I would be able to vote accordingly. I hope the same goes for the members of my audience.
The first case I’d like to talk about is Gannon Stauch. For those who don’t know, Gannon is an 11-year-old Colorado boy who has been missing since January 27, 2020. He was reported missing to the police by his stepmother, Letecia Stauch. In her statement to law enforcement, she said her stepson left home sometime between 3:15 and 4:00 to visit a friend. He didn’t return. For some reason, Gannon was referred to as a “juvenile runaway” until his status was changed to “missing and endangered” on Jan. 30. At this point, the sheriff’s office asked for the public’s help with providing info that could assist in locating the child. Between Jan. 30 and Feb. 3, online rumors began circulating about Letecia. The chatter caught her attention and she made a public statement addressing the rumors that she was somehow involved in Gannon’s disappearance. “I took care of Gannon for the last two years in our home. I would never, never, ever hurt this child. And I know there are some questions out there … that’s up to the investigations — when they end up letting you guys know — but I’ve cooperated with them,” she told KKTV. “We are going to find Gannon, and that’s the main goal that we all have. I’m just ready for Gannon to come home.”
She also said that death threats had been made against the family.
The FBI Child Abduction Rapid Deployment, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Colorado Springs Police Department conducted ground and aerial searches and turned up nothing.
The case got a huge assist from Roderick Drayton, a neighbor of the Stauch’s. He went through footage recorded by his home surveillance system and came up with some absolutely astonishing footage. The clip showed Gannon and Letecia getting into a red pickup truck at 10:13 a.m. When the truck returns four hours later, Letecia is alone. Roderick stated to ABC News that he showed the footage to Gannon’s father, Albert Stauch, and he broke down crying. ‘She lied. She lied about the time. He didn’t go to a friend’s house,'” Drayton said.
On Feb. 5, Gannon’s family (dad Albert, mom Landen Hiott, and sister Laina) appeared in a YouTube video pleading for information that would lead to finding him. They didn’t address the rumors or the surveillance footage- they just want their child back.
After weeks of public speculation, March 2 Letecia was arrested in connection to Gannon’s disappearance, but the charges are interesting. On March 11, Letecia appeared in court to be formally charged. The charges are first-degree murder of a child less than 12 by one in a position of trust; child abuse resulting in death; tampering with a body; tampering with evidence.
At this time, Gannon or his remains have not been recovered. Letecia remains held without bond.
The next case that is getting headlines is that of Evelyn Boswell, the 15-month-old missing Tennessee girl. This one will give you Kaylee Anthony vibes- little Evelyn was last seen on DEC. 10, but wasn’t reported missing until Feb. 18! An AMBER alert was issued on Feb. 19 after her grandfather called Tennessee’s Dept. of Children Services to report that he hadn’t seen her for two months. Feb 21 a BOLO was issued for a silver BMW. The drivers of the vehicle were thought to be involved in the toddler’s disappearance. The public still wanted to know why it took two months to report her missing. The press caught up with Evelyn’s mom, Megan Boswell as she was leaving juvenile court. They asked the typical questions that one would ask the mother of a missing child. She responded with- well, just listen to the clip. Add clip of this dumb ass lady saying the same shit over and over. Note that she is saying she last saw her baby the day after Christmas. We’re sticking with the original timeline of Dec. 11 because I don’t trust a goddamn thing this girl is saying.
Meanwhile, in Wilkes County, North Carolina, authorities caught up to that BMW. Seems that it was stolen. The occupants of said vehicle were Evelyn’s grandma, Angela Boswell, and her boyfriend, William McCloud.
Unfortunately, they don’t have Evelyn with them. Shit is getting convoluted, right? After appearing in court, they get extradited back to Tennessee.
Next, we’ve got Megan Boswell once again speaking to the media. She says that she is pregnant so she can’t take a polygraph test. Turns out nobody asked her to take one. That same day, she was arrested by the Sullivan County Sherriff’s office for false reporting. When the media made inquiries as to pregnant inmates in custody at the Sullivan County jail, there were none listed. Apparently, Megan was lying to get out of being asked for a polygraph.
That takes us to Feb, 28- at this point, the search is still on for the baby. There have been no sightings of the child while her mom and grandma are locked up. Grandma Angela bonds out. We see a flurry of court appearances over the following days- William and Angela for theft. Megan for false reporting. Angela thanks the public for their help in searching for Evelyn and William bonds out.
On March 6, the remains of Evelyn Boswell were found at Megan’s father’s home. Yes, the same grandfather that reported her missing in the first place. The cause of death is unknown and the autopsy was sealed. It has been reported that along with the baby, authorities found diapers and toys that were thought to have been Evelyn’s. Reminder, there have been no arrests in connection to the death of Evelyn Boswell- everyone involved is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
I guess you can say that I saved the most twisted story for last. I’m sure most of you know what’s coming- the disappearance of JJ and Tylee Vallow. This case has so many twists and turns it should really be an episode all by itself. It jumps off with a set of grandparents who haven’t seen their grandchild since Sept. They contacted police to conduct a well-being check at the home where their 7-year-old grandson, JJ Vallow, lived with his adoptive mother, Lori, and sister, Tylee who is 17. But, to totally see the full picture, we need to travel further back in time to Feb of 2019. That’s when Charles Vallow, the children’s father, filed for divorce from Lori Vallow. He claimed that she had begun to act erratically and refused to get help. In early March, he pulled JJ out of school and took him to Texas to be near family. By June, Lori re-enrolled JJ for summer classes. This had to be a difficult time for him because JJ is autistic. A routine is very important to him.
On July 11, Charles was at the home of Lori and the children when he and Lori got into an altercation over his cell phone. He caught her going through it and an argument ensued. Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, was there and he claims that he and Tylee intervened in the fight. Tylee supposedly grabbed a bat and was using it to defend her mother. The bat was apparently snatched by Charles and he struck Alex in the head with it. At this point, Alex retrieved his handgun and shot Charles, killing him. He then called 911 and reported that he killed his brother-in-law in self-defense. The police came and did their report, noting that Lori seemed really nonchalant about the death of her ex-husband. In fact, that same day, she hosted a fucking pool party.
August 30th, Tylee facetimed with her older brother. This was the last time he would see her. His mother would make excuses for why Tylee was unavailable when he tried to reach her after this date. On this same day, Lori arranged to have JJ’s autism service dog picked up. This was a strange request because JJ needed the dog to calm him and help him cope with anxiety. The dog also assists him in being independent and performing regular daily activities.
On Sept 5, JJ was once again pulled out of school by Lori. She claimed to be moving to California to start a new job. Instead of Cali, the family moved to Rexburg, Idaho although the date is a bit fuzzy. We do know that Tylee was alive on September 8, 2019, because a photo of the family was taken at Yellowstone National Park. This is, however, the last public sighting of Tylee. On Sept. 17, a neighbor’s doorbell camera records JJ playing in the yard in Idaho. Neighbors were keeping an eye on him, as it seemed that he was left unattended for hours at a time. On Sept. 19, Lori hires a babysitter to watch him (where’s Tylee?). JJ attended school in Idaho for the last time on Sept. 23. By the 24, Lori told the babysitter her services were no longer needed and also told the school that she would homeschooling JJ. At the beginning of October, Lori rents a storage unit. Inside are some of the kids’ belongings and photo albums, among other things. On Oct.2, Brandon Boudreaux, ex-husband of Lori Vallow’s niece, Melani Boudreaux, says he was shot at in a drive by. Brandon says the shooter was Alex Cox, and he was driving Charles Vallow’s Jeep.
Tammy Daybell, wife of Chad Daybell, dies in Idaho. The coroner originally declares the cause of death as natural causes and she is buried a few days later.
Police begin surveillance of Lori Vallow. Detectives report never seeing Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow once during the month of November
Chad Daybell and Lori Vallow get married in Hawaii.
Rexburg police say they receive a request for a welfare check on Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow at a home in Rexburg. After arriving at the home, officers say Lori and Chad tell officers the children are with a family friend in Arizona.
After the children are not located in Arizona, police return to the townhome with a search warrant to find Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow. Officers say they find the house empty, and learn after further investigation that Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell had left Rexburg, possibly without the children. Police also search other homes in Rexburg looking for the children and the storage unit that Lori had rented.
Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell fly from Los Angeles to the island of Kauai. Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and Tylee Ryan do not fly with them.
The family friend in Arizona tells police that both Lori and Chad had asked her to lie and tell officers Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow was with her. The friend says she declined the request.
Tammy Daybell’s body is exhumed so investigators can conduct an autopsy and tests to determine cause of death.
Alex Cox, Lori Vallow’s brother, dies at a home in Gilbert, Arizona . The cause of death has not been released to the public.
Rexburg Police, and other agencies, issue a press release asking for the public’s help locating Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow and Tylee Ryan.
Rexburg Police ask for the public’s help locating Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell. Police say the two are wanted for questioning in connection to the children’s disappearance.
Rexburg police update the public on Facebook with details from the case. Police believe Lori knows the location of the children or what happened to them, but say she refused to work with officers.
The credit card Lori Vallow used to rent the storage facility is declined when the business tries to bill her.
Deputies execute a search warrant at Chad Daybell’s home in Fremont County, Idaho.
Larry and Kay Woodcock, the children’s grandparents, offer a $20,000 reward for information.
The State of Idaho files a protection order in Madison County on behalf of the children, ordering Lori Vallow to produce them.
Police on the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands give Lori Vallow the Idaho court order to produce the children to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare within five days.
Kauai police execute search warrants on Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell and their SUV, finding numerous things belonging to the children, including their birth certificates. Police also search their condo.
Larry and Kay Woodcock file for temporary guardianship of Joshua ‘JJ’ Vallow.
The deadline to produce the children to Idaho authorities is missed by Lori. No charges or warrants are filed at the time.
The case gets featured national coverage on NBC’s Dateline in a two-hour special on Valentine’s Day. Reporter Keith Morrison calls the story “one of the most bizarre stories, bizarre situations I’ve encountered in this business.”
Maui police say they have been advised that Lori Vallow and Chad Daybell traveled to the island of Maui from Kauai, but also say that they are not involved in any investigation of the couple.
Lori Vallow is arrested by Kauai police on multiple charges, including desertion and nonsupport of dependent children.
Lori Vallow makes her first court appearance in Hawaii. Her attorney asks for her bond to be lowered from $5 million to $10,000. The judge refuses.
At a court hearing, a judge denies Lori Vallow’s request to reduce her bond amount from $5 million. It is also announced that Vallow has agreed to be returned to Idaho to face the charges filed against her.
After leaving Hawaii late on March 4, she arrives in Idaho the afternoon of March 5, landing in Boise before being taken to Rexburg.
Lori Vallow is booked into the Madison County Jail in Rexburg, Idaho.
Where are the children?
Updates & shit
“Ready to Glare” on YouTube gives us an update!!
She doesn’t share my theory that the kids are possibly alive, but her commentary is A+!
So, what do you think? More on the Vallow case as it unfolds.