As 2020: the Movie continues to roll on, many of us are learning to roll with the punches. Punches that seem delivered from every angle. Precision punches that never seem to miss their target. This has been a strange ride.
So, last week, when I called an Uber at 4 in the morning to take me to work, I was looking forward to a mundane, ordinary commute. From my apartment to work is about five or six minutes, but those blips on time’s radar were anything but ordinary.
The driver was young and friendly. Those traits serve him well in his line of work. We joked a little about life. You know- work, rest, repeat. We chatted about 2020 being quite the learning experience. Then he inquired what I do for fun. I casually mentioned my podcast, Sinister Silhouettes, and explained that I talked about true-crime and conspiracies.
Then, this stranger did something I didn’t expect- he asked me why I liked those topics. I’ve been interested in this subject for over thirty years! He asked me if I like “love”. What the fiddlesticks? Of course I like love! “So why not talk about that?” he asked.
That made me think. It made me think about what I’m putting into the universe. It made me wonder why I intentionally inundate myself with misery and suffering and- EVIL. I tell myself that there are stories that need to be told, that there is an audience for these conversations, that I may be HELPING someone in the world. All of that is true. I don’t have any plans to quit talking about crimes and conspiracies. But, is that all I can talk about?
The answer to that is a resounding and emphatic NO!! I am an informed person by nature- I’m curious about history, politics, social issues, science, sports, movies, the universe- God, so many things really interest me.
I started a different podcast in 2018- a full year before Sinister Silhouettes. The name of it is After The Snap. On it, I discuss sci-fi, fantasy, and comic book movies and TV. I kind of abandoned it last year, but I’ve started it back up- in part, because of this conversation. I also am considering lending my voice to other topics that interest me- I want to be a positive inspiration to people. I want to add some happiness to the world. I want to answer questions that I didn’t ever think to ask. I want to improve someone’s day- teach them something- in the space of sixty minutes.
I’d love to say that I was on this trajectory of my own volition. That I just “decided” to inspect what I expect. The truth of the matter is, this epiphany came about because of that conversation.
Please, for the sake of the kids, stand up and take back your streets. The next huge crime weeekend is upon us: Independence Day. Last year over the Independence Day weekend, close to 70 people were shot, six of them fatally. We’re heading into July, and it’s only going to get hotter.
Before I get into this special report, I’d like to thank Indie Drop-In for sponsoring today’s episode. A special thanks to Always Angry 94, Mack Tape, and Paige 87 for your very kind reviews. If you haven’t yet, please send your five star reviews to Apple Podcasts. They really help the show get noticed.
I can remember being a kid in Gary, IN. Gary sits right outside of Chicago- a kind of unofficial suburb of the Windy City. We had a blast in the summers. We played outside the whole day and part of the evening. Hide and seek, kickball, double dutch, and my favorites- football and basketball. That was many years ago, but in my mind, it was yesterday. I watched my son make the same type of memories- hanging out with the boys who would become like brothers to him. It saddens me to think that those memories are out of reach for this generation of Chicago’s youth. It is becoming difficult for today’s children to have a sense of innocence- they are increasingly being caught in the crossfire between the feuds of young adults. They have to be hyper-vigilant about their own safety. It’s literally a matter of life and death, and it isn’t fair.
In this season of protest against the brutality many people of color face from police, it is only right to shed a light on the many victims of inner-city violence, particularly in Chicago. Please, don’t mistake my message as getting on a soapbox, spouting the “black-on-black” crime rhetoric. The truth is, I want us to care about us. Our enemy is not only the subset of law enforcement who abuse their power- but it is also the cowards who are robbing our children of a future.
The weeks continue to get more and more deadly. In fact, Chicago has surpassed the most deaths on a single day since they have kept records of this statistic. The last day of May recorded 18 homicides, the most in 5 decades. In fact, throughout May, 2020, there were over 1100 victims of gun violence. Eleven hundred in just the first five months of the year. If history is our guide, there will be an increase in homicides and shootings as the weather gets warmer.
Father Michael Pfleger, a longtime activist against gun violence, has always had his ear to the ground on the South and West sides of the city. He told the Chicago Sun Times that the word on the streets on that deadly weekend in May was that the police weren’t out patrolling. Remember, that weekend was the beginning of the George Floyd protests. Simultaneously, there were groups of crusaders marching for a worthwhile cause, and would-be murderers seeking their adversaries.
There are areas that are over-policed- usually inner cities and disadvantaged neighborhoods. I understand that a police presence may loom over these communities like a dark cloud- almost like they are just looking for a reason to pounce. There are also neighborhoods like the South and West sides of Chicago. It seems that these communities need an increased police presence because they can’t be trusted to police themselves. How many children need to die?
********Indie Drop-in******** .
I am from a place that believes in the “no snitches” rule. I can also remember when, as a teenager, a group of us were heading to the corner store to get snacks on our way to play basketball. A well-known drug dealer was in the parking lot. He basically told us to keep it moving because some shit was about to go down at the store. Without question, we continued on our way. Am I putting this thug on a pedestal for giving us a heads up? In a way, I guess I am. Those were guys who lived by a code- if they knew you weren’t about that life they didn’t aim to make you part of it. Another time, a different drug dealer came to a group of us who were hanging out under the streetlight after dark. He told us to go in the house. I wanted to argue, because we were having a great conversation, but the look on his face told me that something was about to go down in the street and I didn’t want to present for it.
I never found out why either of these men had warned us to leave the area, but I lived to play another day. These “so-called” gangsters and drug dealers today have no code. They have no scruples. They are ruining lives and destroying families with impunity. These are NOT the type of people the hood needs to protect. The hood needs to take its streets back- even if that means calling the police to your hood.
A toddler and a 10-year-old child were killed in two separate incidents of gun violence in Chicago this weekend.
The 10-year-old girl died from her injuries on Sunday after she was shot in the head by a stray bullet that came through the window of her Logan Square home Saturday night, Chicago police said. She was transported to John H. Stroger Hospital where she later died, police told CNN.
Separately, a 20-month-old boy was fatally shot in the chest and his 22-year-old mother was grazed by a bullet while the two were driving home from the laundromat Saturday afternoon, according to Chicago Police and reports from CNN affiliate WBBM.
As of June 14, there have been 268 murders in Chicago, a 22% increase from last year’s total but slightly below the murder totals of 2017 and 2016, according to Chicago Police data. Over Father’s Day weekend, 11 people were killed, including four children, and 67 others were wounded in shootings.
Brown on Saturday urged the public to offer any information they have on the shooting.
“We cannot compartmentalize the violence that is tearing families and communities apart. Someone knows something,” Brown said. “For the sake of Chicago’s children, please come forward to help bring the trigger pullers to justice.”
While we are discussing gun crime in Chicago, please be reminded that there are zero gun merchants in the city. The question on many people’s mind is: where are these guns coming from? As of 2018, 95% of the weapons used to commit crimes are not owned by the original purchaser. In fact, Illinois’ gun laws are among the toughest in the country. The state requires citizens to have a permit to buy firearms and to report stolen or lost guns. Residents who want to sell their guns privately are also required to solicit a background check from state officials and to submit documentation of the sale.
This is where lax laws in other states come into play- namely, my home state of Indiana. It is relatively easy to obtain a weapon in Indiana. Any Illinois resident can quickly go over the state line and purchase a gun illegally from gun traffickers. Gun shops also routinely get robbed- those guns are then distributed on the streets. When they are eventually used to commit crimes, the roads never lead back to the black market sellers. In most cases, the gun has changed hands several times before law enforcement gets ahold of it.
Then, finally, the criminal organizations in Chicago may have help from the inside. It is not unusual for some officers to have gang affiliations. This isn’t a conspiracy theory- it is a fact that there are some officers who serve two masters. To further compound things, the NRA and other super-PACs have tremendous sway over politicians. Our federal laws are terribly weak when it comes to gun control. Even with the ever-present threat of gunmen attacking children at school, little is done to ensure weapons don’t get into the wrong hands.
Going into the conspiracy theory realm, there are many who believe that the ATF or CIA are dropping guns off in poor neighborhoods. It’s said that they are hopeful that they can catch someone with one of these illegal weapons and make them a full time employee of the penal system. There is no evidence that this is true- unless you take into account the following case, as reported by the Chicago Sun Times:
John Thomas, a resident in his 30s resorted to setting up illegal gun sales to help provide for his daughter.
Working through an informant, the ATF enticed Thomas to set up small gun deals by offering to buy weapons for a high price. All of the guns Thomas brokered deals for were actually purchased by the ATF.
Cases like Thomas’ begs the question of whether or not the ATF is eliminating gun dealers, or creating them. Then there are the often reported claims that the CIA was supplying crack in inner cities in the 80s and 90s. The truth is, the U.S. Justice Department and its agencies were aware of the Nicaraguan Contra-linked drug trafficking operations and allegedly thwarted local police investigations and blocked the prosecution of the Contra-linked cocaine traffickers. Technically, they were complicit. And if the government can do that, is there any wonder that a) black people believe that it would indeed supply weapons to warring gangs to fill prisons and b) we don’t really trust them?
This brings us back around to Chicago- is it shameful that there are innocent lives being lost? Of course it is. It’s even worse when the president of the United States compares the city to Afghanistan. Is Chiraq the most dangerous city in the country?
Although Chicago is probably the first city that springs to mind when you think of crime in Illinois, the Windy City is actually not even the most dangerous place in the state. With a violent crime rate of 1,386 incidents per 100,000 people, Rockford stands as the most dangerous city in Illinois. The murder capital of America isn’t Chicago, but it is in Illinois for the second straight year. With nearly one murder per 1,000 residents, last year’s murder capital is East St. Louis, IL and has a murder rate 17.5 times the national average, and 4 times Chicago’s murder rate.
Of course, the murders in Chicago become big news because it is a major city- and I’m directing most of my comments to the Chi because it’s so close to home. I could easily insert other large cities every time I say Chicago- Stockton, California; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Cleveland, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; Detroit, Michigan- to name just a few.
I am saying this to everyone within the sound of my voice- just like we want to hold law enforcement and elected officials accountable when lives are lost because of their actions; we need to hold our neighbors and ourselves to the same standards. Our children are not only our most precious possessions, they are our future. We are letting them down.
I had to speak on this because the crime rate in Chicago is still astronomical, but with a minimal amount of research, I have found proof that there are cities in worse predicaments. I understand why the communities are frustrated and afraid to speak up. Black people, people of color, and poor people of any race have far too many examples of being let down by not only law enforcement, but the govenment on both the state and national levels. The news will lead you to believe that there is no more dangerous city in the US than Chicago when a quick Google search will shed a unique light on the city.
My challenge to you is to be a change in your community. When you see something, say something. Sometimes, the politicians and police don’t feel how dire your situation is because they don’t live there. You have to know that if your ten-year-old can’t dance in front of a window without catching a stray bullet, there is a huge problem. If a baby is shot while strapped in his car seat, that is an issue. These kids deserve hide-and-seek. They deserve to play kickball and double-dutch. They should be able to chase the ice cream truck without dodging bullets. The safety of your own community starts with you!
My hope is that while we are lamenting the deaths of so many people at the hands of police, we also plan for how we will protect the babies. When these rival factions terrorize neighborhoods with impunity, there is little incentive for them to stop. Please, for the sake of the kids, stand up and take back your streets. The next huge crime weeekend is upon us: Independence Day. Last year over the Independence Day weekend, close to 70 people were shot, six of them fatally. We’re heading into July, and it’s only going to get hotter.
I know that this message is unpopular amongst my brothers and sisters. Many feel like I’m siding with police but that’s the furthest from the truth. I am siding with the young lives that are in danger every day. I’m siding with the parents who are trying to raise children in a pressure cooker. And, yes, I’m siding with officers who take the pledge to serve and protect our community seriously. My words aren’t politically motivated because I have no political affiliation. I am speaking truth, whether or not you want to hear it.
That’s it for my open letter to the Chi- I’m going to give you two things to think about before I get out of here. Crime Stoppers is an effective national program that collects anonymous crime tips. Anyone who wants to report drug activity can contact Crime Stoppers via phone or online. A national tip line is available 24/7, and the program also operates out of local offices. Witnesses to drug crimes can make an anonymous phone call or fill out an online form. What’s more, you can rest easy knowing that all Crime Stoppers workers are trained to protect the caller’s identity and, instead of caller ID, all incoming phone calls are assigned a numerical code. 1-800-222-TIPS
Also, On June 11th, Michael Hickson, a quadriplegic black man with COVID-19 was killed by a hospital in Austin Texas.
Doctors decided he had “no quality of life” and was not worth spending the resources to save.
Now, in this scenario that I read on Twitter, the race of the patient isn’t the most appalling aspect. If true, even more appalling is that America has come to this. The plug is being pulled on some of our most vulnerable citizens based on chance of a quality life. Doctors and hospital staff are being forced to decide who is worth saving. Why? Because people refuse to be socially distant from one another and/or wear masks. The protesters have begun being diagnosed with Covid 19- so have the people who go to the beach, the bar, etc. I’m begging you on behalf of my elderly father and my best friend who suffers from COPD and congestive heart failure- wear your damn masks. Protect your neighbors!
This dude was so serious about his horror that he laid out the rules to surviving a scary movie. 1. Stay a virgin 2. No booze or drugs and 3. Never, EVER say, “I’ll be right back”. It’s a good thing that none of us lived through a horror movie, huh?
So- what’s your favorite scary movie? Almost everybody has one. I can say with certainty that my sister’s favorite is The Exorcist. I’ve got a shortlist that includes IT, A Nightmare on Elm Street (the first one), the first installment of Scream, and A Quiet Place. I could name more, but you get the point. Now, my sister and her friends used to “play” exorcist with one another- hence, the whole LaToya Ammons situation from Episode 21. That’s about as close to reenacting a horror film that I’ve seen anyone do.
In the movie Scream, there was a true to life film geek named Randy. This dude was so serious about his horror that he laid out the rules to surviving a scary movie. 1. Stay a virgin 2. No booze or drugs and 3. Never, EVER say, “I’ll be right back”. It’s a good thing that none of us lived through a horror movie, huh?
Unfortunately for some Pocatello, ID students, they would be the unwitting stars of one such nightmare. Today, we discuss “The Scream Murders”.
We’re jumping in the way back and heading to Pocatello. The year is 2006. That year had a few brilliant horror movies released- Slither, The Hills Have Eyes, the third installment of the Final Destination series, and Scary Movie 4. Anyway, this city is in the top 50 small cities in the US. About a third of the population is of the Mormon faith.
September 22, 2006, started like any other Friday at Pocatello High School. Kids were scurrying to classes while making plans for the weekend. Cassie Stoddart was at her locker when her friends Torrie Adamcik and Brian Draper showed up at her locker. These two were Mormons and aspiring filmmakers. Most of the time they documented the day’s events with a camcorder. Today was no different- this morning, they aimed the camera at Cassie and told her to say “Hi”.
Cassie was an exceptional student, artist, and musician. She literally was the definition of the girl next door. As a junior in high school, she had aspirations to study law in college. She was cute and friendly to everyone. She had recently begun dating Matt Beckham. They’d been together a whole 5 months! Well, to parents that’s recent. To teens in love, that’s FOREVER.
That evening, Cassie’s aunt and uncle Frank and Allison Contreras, planned to go out of town for the weekend. They trusted Cassie to house sit for them while they traveled. Cassie and Matt planned to Netflix and chill. Well, maybe Blockbuster and chill? I don’t know- it seems like Netflix has been around forever. Point is, the couple would spend the evening watching movies until Matt’s 10:00 curfew.
At 6 pm, Matt arrived at the Contreras’ dream house. The couple watched a movie- I’ve heard that it was Kill Bill. About an hour later, Torrie and Brian showed up to watch the movie with them. They stuck around for about an hour. They decided they wanted to go to the movies- film geeks.
Now, Matt and Cassie are finally alone again. Matt’s curfew was slowly creeping up on them but before they could really savor the moment- the power goes out. This seems like something straight out of a horror flick. The lights go out. Boyfriend leaves to investigate the problem. Girlfriend is slaughtered by deranged psychopath. Repeat for two hours until we get to final girl against monster.
In this situation, Matt finds the circuit breaker has tripped and resets it. He returns upstairs to find his girlfriend in one piece. Needless to say, this spooked Cassie. She tells Matt that she is now afraid to stay in the house alone. Matt calls his mom and asks if he could stay with Cassie since she was afraid. His mom probably didn’t have to think about it much before she said no. In fact, she came to pick him up shortly after that call. Call it mother’s intuition, but she knew that nothing good could come from them spending the night together.
And now Cassie was all alone in the house her aunt and uncle loved so much. She laid down on the couch and watched TV. Suddenly, the power again goes out. Cassie was afraid to move- she didn’t want to go to the basement to reset the breaker, so she closed her eyes and tried to go to sleep.
Have you ever been asleep and felt like someone was in the room with you? Like you’re being watched? Then you wake up and it’s your creepy boyfriend standing in the shadows staring at you? No? Only me?
Well, Cassie got that feeling. She jumped up off the couch and came face-to-face, not with her boyfriend, but with a shadowy figure with a ghoulish mask on. Who knows how it went down after that. It seems as if she fought for her life but was overpowered. When the ordeal was over, Cassie’s lifeless body was left on the floor. She had been stabbed 29 times- nine of those wounds would have been considered fatal.
I can’t imagine what those last moments must have been like for her. She had to be so afraid and confused. This grotesque figure had ambushed her and extinguished one of Pocatello, Idaho’s brightest stars. She would lay there, alone, until her family returned from their weekend getaway.
On Sunday, when her uncle and his family returned, their 13-year-old daughter rushed into the house to see her cousin Cassie. Instead of being greeted by Cassie’s smiling face, she was confronted with the horrific sight of Cassie’s mangled remains. Upon entering the home, her uncle couldn’t believe his eyes. He rushed to call the police. His beautiful niece was dead.
Word quickly spread about the murder. Of course, law enforcement wanted to talk to everyone who was in contact with Cassie over the weekend. Cassie’s mom had called Matt on the phone and asked what he had done to her daughter. Real-life is just like every scary movie, the boyfriend is always the first suspect. The police interviewed Matt. They wanted to know everything that had happened during his visit with Cassie, when was the last he talked to her, and where he was in the days following the murder. Matt was very cooperative and even agreed to a polygraph exam. He explained that on Friday he and Cassie watched a movie, Torrie and Brian stopped by for about an hour, and he left shortly after 10 pm. Cassie was very much alive when he left, and when he got in his mom’s car he wasn’t covered in blood. He said he had been trying to catch up with her the next day, but she didn’t answer her phone. He asked Torrie to take him over to the house, but Torrie said he didn’t have enough gas in his car. The polygraph exam determined he was telling the truth.
The next people on the list for interviews were Torrie and Brian. They were questioned separately, but both of their stories were consistent. They were with Matt and Cassie for about an hour. They realized that no one else would stop by, so they left and went to the movies. They both had the ticket stubs to prove what movie they had seen. They hadn’t spoken to Cassie again, but they hung out with Matt on Saturday. Matt wanted to go check on Cassie, but Torrie only had enough gas to get him through the school week. With no evidence to hold them on, the police cut them loose.
Just like in the movie “Scream”, the town was on edge knowing that a killer was lurking among them. Everyone had their ideas about who that murderer could be. They pointed lots of fingers at Matt. Others thought it had to be a deranged stranger just passing through. Still others thought it was Torrie or Brian. Everyone had an idea- some thought of who could have done this to Cassie. Just like in the movie Scream, they would find out that the killer is closer than you think.
After the medical examiner autopsied the body, he determined that Cassie had likely died on Friday night. Like previously stated, someone had stabbed her 29 times in what was a frenzied attack. The M.E. also determined that there were TWO weapons used in the attack. That’s right, some wounds were made with a serrated knife, the others with a smooth knife. This shows law enforcement that there is a strong possibility that there were two assailants involved in this crime.
The investigators went back to their suspects. Matt’s mother was his alibi. She would have noticed blood on his clothing when she picked him up Friday night. We would like to hope that she wouldn’t cover for her son had he done something heinous. But Torrie and Brian? Their alibis were each other. There was no one else who could confirm their whereabouts for the evening in question. The police brought them in again for another round of interviews. They, again, were questioned separately. This time, investigators about the plot of the movie they had seen. Neither of them could remember the plot. When asked about actors in the movie, neither could answer. This is highly suspicious because these two were well known film geeks.
Ask me today about a movie I was so intrigued by that I paid money to see it in a theater. Tell me to describe Avengers: Endgame to you- I’ll be able to tell you damn near frame by frame what went on in that movie and how it ties to the greater Marvel storyline. I’m passionate about sci-fi/ fantasy films. I dissect them. I relate them to the world we are living in. They are almost always representative of some current event, even if they are showing how we overcome a failure of present society. I remember the key plot points because if there is EVER a part two (and in the world we inhabit, there is ALWAYS a part two) I know that these things become more important. In fact, even the sequel to Scream built upon the rules established in the first movie.
These aspiring filmmakers couldn’t remember a film they had watched only days earlier. That’s an enormous problem. That caused the police to want to look into them a little further. And the more they dug, the more they found out about the boys. Torrie and Brian wanted to direct films, but they were very interested in a certain genre. That genre? Horror.
Other students from Pocatello High offered similar observations of the boys’ personalities. Torrie and Brian regularly depicted acts of violence as their camera rolled. They rarely picked up on the discomfort of others as they acted out scenes from their favorite scary movies. Their peers had little doubt that they were capable of murder.
Investigators believed Brian and Torrie were responsible for Cassie’s horrible death. After several interviews, they discovered how right they were.
Brian cracked first. He told the police he was present when Cassie was killed, but didn’t take part in the murder. Law enforcement, aware that there were at least two perpetrators, allowed him to keep talking. He said he and Torrie agreed to prank Cassie and Matt. While at the house earlier that evening, he unlocked a back door. After leaving to “go to the movies”, they returned to the home. Donning their disguises, they hid in the basement. They accessed the circuit breakers, shutting the power out. When Matt came downstairs to reset the breaker, they saw him. They also heard Matt leave when his mom came to pick him up. They knew Cassie was alone.
According to Brian, the plan was to scare the crap out of Cassie. He said Torrie deviated by actually attacking her. After killing her, they disposed of the evidence. Brian was willing to lead officers to the site they had buried the weapons. And so, they went on a little field trip.
Brian led the officers to a site in Black Rock Canyon. He said they’d find the weapons there, but the police found so much more. There were masks, gloves, clothes, knives, and- A VIDEO TAPE! Our film geeks just couldn’t help themselves. They recorded their thoughts before and after Cassie’s death.
After viewing these videos, investigators now had irrefutable evidence that Torrie Adamcik and Brian Draper committed murder. Not only that, but they planned the act days in advance. They chose Cassie to die in the first act of their horror movie. They intended for there to be more victims- including Matt.
Booked just five days after slaying Cassie, the villains faced first degree murder charges. In the coming months, the young men went to trial separately. During trial, Brian stated the Columbine shooters, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris inspired him and Torrie. The movie “Scream” also influenced them. In 2007, both were convicted and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility for parole. They both appealed the decision, only to have their sentences upheld.
In 2010, the Stoddart family filed a civil lawsuit against the Idaho School District. They claimed that the school was negligent and should have known that Draper and Adamcik posed a threat to others. Both the civil court and the State Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying the actions of the killers were not foreseeable.
Over the years, a remorseful Brian has acknowledged the pain he caused and accepts his sentence. Torrie and his parents continue to downplay his involvement, despite evidence that points directly at him. In one video, even he looks surprised when his mother and father insist he is innocent.
The Supreme Court issued a ruling that mandatory life sentences without parole are unconstitutional for juvenile offenders. This requires states to re-examine hundreds of cases- including Adamcik and Draper in Idaho. For now, both are still held at the Idaho State Correctional Facility.
That there’s no motive for the would-be crime spree of two 16-year-olds is not at all surprising. In the movie “Scream”, the antagonists admit that having no motive is scarier.
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.
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 email@example.com! 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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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!
I’ve got great news! Beginning April 29, 2020, Sinister Silhouettes will be featured on the home screen of theAudioburst 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 forSinister Silhouettes on theAudioburst Mobile App on April 29!! Oh! And stay outta the shadows!
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.
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!
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!!