Famous Unsolved Murders and Crimes that Still Leave Us Wondering
Last Updated: 5/4/2021
The advances in forensics technology have made ‘the perfect crime’ almost impossible to pull off in modern times, even for the most brilliant, diabolical criminal minds.
With DNA evidence and connected databases that law enforcement can use to track and match criminals, it’s no wonder law enforcement agencies have gotten so good at catching the bad guys in recent decades.
However, this wasn’t always the case, and there are still head-scratching unsolved crimes that historians will continue to debate and agencies will continue to piece together as long as we live.
Let’s take a look at some of the most famous unsolved murders and crimes that still leave us in wonder. We won’t go into the most famous unsolved mystery of all: the identity of Jack the Ripper, who tormented the streets of London in 1888.
The following unsolved crimes are just the tip of the iceberg of mysteries that still haunt us today.
- The whereabouts of DB Cooper. If you haven’t heard of DB Cooper, it’s probably because he didn’t go on a mass killing spree that included puzzles, gore, or intrigue that often make front page headlines and hang around the public psyche forever. Instead, he pulled off a feat so impressive and daring, that you almost have to respect the courage it took to pull off.
In 1971, a man who is still unidentified hijacked a passenger airplane and extorted a $200,000 ransom before allowing the plan to take off while he was still in it. On the way to its destination, he parachuted from the plane in-between Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington. You would think it wouldn’t take long for authorities to locate and arrest him. But no such luck.The identity and location of this individual, as well as his fate, remain a mystery today.
- The whereabouts of DB Cooper. If you haven’t heard of DB Cooper, it’s probably because he didn’t go on a mass killing spree that included puzzles, gore, or intrigue that often make front page headlines and hang around the public psyche forever. Instead, he pulled off a feat so impressive and daring, that you almost have to respect the courage it took to pull off.
- The murder of JonBenet Ramsey. On Christmas Day, 1996, while most children were celebrating the most anticipated holiday of the year, 6-year-old JoneBenet Ramsey was found murdered in her parents’ basement. She was killed by strangulation by a still unknown killer.The news of this young pageant queen’s death shocked the nation and her picture was on the cover of hundreds of news publications across the world. Even though her parents were indicted in the case, and accused of child abuse, there has never been a conviction, and the case remains officially unsolved to this day remaining one of the most famous unsolved murders of the modern era.
- The disappearance of Adam Walsh. On July, 27th, 1981, a young boy named Adam Walsh was abducted from a Sears store at a mall in Florida. After an extensive search, his body was found decapitated 130 miles away by two men who were fishing. At first, a man named Ottis Toole was thought to be Adam’s killer. He described Adam’s killing to police, but was never charged in the case because of lost evidence. He died in prison while serving time for other crimes he committed. While many people are confident he was the killer, there has also been debate that world famous killer Jeffrey Dahmer was Adam’s real killer.One bright spot in this case, if there is one, is that Adam’s father, John Walsh went on to become one of the most relentless pursuers of unsolved crimes. His show America’s Most Wanted ran for 24 years on Fox television network. He helped solve countless crimes across the nation while the show aired.
- The Zodiac Killer. San Francisco in the late 1960’s was held hostage by a creative, taunting, killer, who is thought to have murdered five people in the Bay Area between 1968-69. Even though police think his killing spree ended before the turn of the decade, he still taunted police with letters until 1974.The first killings took place on a night that was supposed to be romantic, as two teen lovers were shot and killed on a road where they parked on a date night. Over a year later, another couple was killed on a similar abandoned road in the Bay area while they were parked. About an hour later, a man called the local police department and confessed to the crimes. Then, he sent letters to the San Francisco Examiner newspaper with details that only the person who committed the crime could know.He was responsible for the death of a cab driver in October, 1969, which was the last crime he was known to commit- although there have been other murders that some speculate he may be responsible for. This case still fascinates the public today and is one of the most famous crimes of the last century, and has spawned many movies, including the 2007 film, Zodiac.
- Tupac “2Pac” Shakur and Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Smalls. There is a reason why Nick Broomfield’s 2002 documentary ‘Biggie & Tupac’ investigates the murder of these two famous rappers in the same film – and why we include them both in the same entry on this list.In the mid-1990’s, the feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers was in full effect. Although these rivalries were often thought to be created to generate album sales, there was reason to believe the bad blood between Tupac and Biggie was real. On September 7th, 1996, Tupac was shot to death after leaving a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas. Speculation immediately began to pin the blame on Notorious B.I.G. due to his feud with Tupac over leaving his East Coast record label for Death Row, operated by the infamous Suge Knight, who many actually believe to be the man behind Tupac’s death.Rumor has it that Tupac was about to leave Death Row, and Suge wanted to keep his unreleased music in the catalog and make millions on it after Tupac was killed. Either way, in retaliation, B.I.G. was gunned down on March 9, 1997, by a still unknown killer. Critics of the deaths also claim that the FBI and LAPD was partially responsible for their deaths, which are still unsolved today.
We may never know the real killers behind these murders and famous crimes, or the whereabouts of DB Cooper. But we do know the advancements in the field of criminology will continue to make it harder and harder for these kinds of crimes to be committed.
If you are interested in helping to solve unsolved crimes like those above, check out our forensic science programs and get started in this field by earning your degree. You can find schools and programs below.
10 mysterious police cases that are still unsolved
By Uniform Stories
Everybody loves a good mystery. But what happens when a mystery never has its satisfying ending – that Scooby-Doo unveiling of the culprit? The following unsolved police cases are strange, creepy, and frustratingly without a conclusion. They are some of the most baffling unsolved mysteries of our time.
Let's start with one of the most publicized unsolved cases, so popular, there's even a website dedicated to tracking this murderer down.
1. The Zodiac Killer
Most people are usually quiet about their crimes, but "Zodiac", as he dubbed himself, was anything but. From 1968-1969, he terrorized San Francisco with his murder spree, taunting the police with his coded letters to the local paper. He had at least five killings directly connected to him, although he claims to have killed 37 people. His terror began when Betty Lou Jensen, 16, and David Arthur Faraday, 17, were found lying outside of their bullet-peppered car. Jensen was found dead at the scene with five gunshot wounds to her back, while Faraday died of a bullet to the head en route to the hospital. Half a year later, a couple who parked their car four miles away from that crime scene was also gunned down, one injured and one killed. The survivor, Michael Mageau, was able to give a description of the killer. He described a heavyset white man around 5'8". It would be the Zodiac Killer himself that would give the police the remaining evidence.
At 12:48 a.m. that same night, police received a strange call:
"I wish to report a double murder. If you go one mile east in Columbus Parkway to a public park, you will find the kids in a brown car. They have been shot with a nine-millimeter Luger. I also killed those kids last year. Good-bye."
A month later, newspapers received the first letter from the Zodiac Killer. He demanded them publish the letter on the front page or he'd go on a killing rampage. The letter described the murders, all written with mysterious ciphers that seemed to form a code. This was a common theme with the other letters he would send, all signed with a crossed-circle symbol. One such letter was decoded by a high-school teacher and his wife. It read:
"I LIKE KILLING PEOPLE BECAUSE IT IS SO MUCH FUN IT IS MORE FUN THAN KILLING WILD GAME IN THE FORREST BECAUSE MAN IS THE MOST DANGEROUE ANAMAL OF ALL TO KILL SOMETHING GIVES ME THE MOST THRILLING EXPERENCE IT IS EVEN BETTER THAN GETTING YOUR ROCKS OFF WITH A GIRL THE BEST PART OF IT IS THAE WHEN I DIE I WILL BE REBORN IN PARADICE AND THEI HAVE KILLED WILL BECOME MY SLAVES I WILL NOT GIVE YOU MY NAME BECAUSE YOU WILL TRY TO SLOI DOWN OR ATOP MY COLLECTIOG OF SLAVES FOR MY AFTERLIFE EBEORIETEMETHHPITI."
The Zodiac Killer would go on killing and leaving frustrating evidence for the police– coded letters, anonymous phone calls, the crossed-circle written on victims' cars, sending over blood-stained shirts, accounts from survivors– but the police never found him.
Read more about the Zodiac Killer here.
2. The Taman Shud Case
The Zodiac Killer wasn't the only one who loved to use codes. On the morning of December 1st, 1948, a body was found on Somerton Beach in Adelaide, Australia. The man's body was in perfect condition, with no injuries to be found. He was well dressed, although all the labels on his clothes were missing. In his pocket was a train ticket to Henley Beach, never to be used. It would be a month later when they would find a suitcase linked to him at Adelaide Railroad Station. Its label was removed as well as those on the articles of clothing inside it. Unfortunately, it led to no clues, just like his autopsy, which reported no foreign substance in his body that could directly link his death to poisioning. A month later they would find the most substantial but puzzling evidence in a secret pocket in the man's trousers. It read, "Taman Shud."
Public library officials called in to translate the phrase. They concluded that it meant "ended" or "finished", which can be found in a collection of poems entitled The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Immediately police ran a nationwide search for the book where this scrap paper was torn from. A man came forward, claiming that he found the book in the backseat of his unlocked car a week or two before they discovered the body. On the back of it was a strange code scrawled out in pencil. A phone number linking to a nurse was also discovered, though the nurse said she had given a copy of the Rubaiyat to an army officer named Alfred Boxall. Both the man who found the book and the nurse denied any connection with the dead man. They never got any further with the case, although many suspect it may have been a suicide since the book's theme was about having no regrets when life ends. Others think he may be a spy. And until there are any breaks in the case, his grave will remain reading, "Here lies the unknown man who was found at Somerton Beach 1st Dec. 1948."
Read more about The Taman Shud Case here.
3. The Tara Calico Case
On the morning of September 20th, 1988 in Belen, New Mexico, it seemed like a perfect day to ride a bike. Tara Calico borrowed her mother's pink bike to go out for a spin. Extroverted and active, she worked as a bank teller and was studying to become either a psychologist or psychiatrist. She planned to play tennis that afternoon and asked her mom to drive out after her in case she got a flat tire and didn't return home by noon. She never did return. Every lead went to a dead end until a year later, when a photo was found depicting a young woman her age and a missing boy, both gagged.
The Polaroid photograph was found in a parking lot outside a Junior Food Store in Florida. The nine-year-old, Michael Henley, went missing in the same area as Calico in April of 1988 when he was hunting turkeys with his father. They appeared to be in the back of a van, with a copy of a book written by V.C. Andrews, Calico's favorite author, lying right beside the girl. Initially, Tara's mother didn't think the girl was her, but the girl in the photograph had a scar identical to Calico. But still, due to the lack of evidence, many experts dismiss the photograph. In 1990, Michael Henley's body was found in Zuni Mountains where he was hunting, which strongly disconnects the theory that the two were abducted and taken to Florida. Calico's parents would eventually die, never finding out who took their daughter.
Read more about the Tara Calico Case here.
4. The Severed Feet Mystery
In 2007, a girl was roaming a beach in British Columbia when she found a sneaker. To her horror, as she opened up the sock, she found that a human foot was inside. Since then, a number of severed feet have washed ashore. The feet have been connected to five men, one a woman, and three of unknown sex. Throughout the years, with a hoax foot thrown here and there, the case has never been completely closed, with many theories floating around as to who the feet belonged to.
The Vancouver police managed to identify one foot in 2008, matching its DNA to a man who was described as suicidal. They later were able to match two other feet to a woman who was also believed to have committed suicide. Because of these findings, many speculate that the feet belong to those who jumped off a bridge to their deaths. However, because of the rarity of only feet and no other body parts showing up, some believe that the feet were connected to a plane crash by a nearby island. Other suggest they were those of the victims of the Asian Tsunami in 2004, since the make of the shoes were all manufactured before 2004. Whatever sources these feet are coming from, they have left the world baffled for years.
Read more about The Severed Feet Mystery here.
5. The Dead Woman Who Named Her Killer
Although this case has been solved, how it was solved remains a mystery. In 1977, a respiratory therapist in Chicago was murdered in her apartment. Teresita Basa was found under a flaming mattress, a butcher knife buried in her chest. Police attempted to track her stolen jewelry with no luck. They also failed in trying to link any of the suspects to the crime. It seemed impossible to find the perpetrator, that is, until Remy Chua, a co-worker who barely knew the victim, involuntarily became a leading source of information.
Chua began having frequent visions and nightmares about Basa. It started in the locker room of her work, where she experienced seeing a man's face behind Basa. This would repeat in her dreams. Chua then began channeling Basa's spirit when conversing with her husband. While channeling Basa's shirit, Chua told her husband the entire story of Basa's murder. She claimed an orderly at the hospital named Alan Showery was helping Basa with her television when he assaulted her. He then killed her and set her mattress on fire. The spirit was even able to give the details of what happened to her jewelry, which was given to Showery's common-law-wife. Mr. Chua convinced his wife to give these details to the police.
The police were skeptical at first, but after seeing the Basa's jewelry on Showery's wife (Basa's cousin was able to confirm it just as the spirit said she could), the police were able to convict the man for fourteen years in jail. Unfortunately, there was not enough evidence to convict him longer. But was it really Basa's ghost who named her killer? Perhaps Chua had knew some facts in the case and disguised it as a spirit possessing her? What ever led police to the killer remains to be a mystery.
Read more about the case of The Dead Woman Who Named Her Killer here.
6. The Boy in the Box
It was the year 1957 in Philadelphia when a hunter found the bruised body of a boy in a JC Penney box. The boy, around four to six years-old, was nude and wrapped in flannel. He seemed to have died from blows to the head. Fearing his muskrat traps would be confiscated by police, the hunter didn't report the body. It was two days later when a college student found the body, that the police started on the case of "America's Unknown Child." It immediately attracted the media's attention, and flyers of the boy were seen throughout Pennsylvania.
Although police received thousands of leads, they were never able to uncover the identity of the young boy. They tried tracing back the JC Penney box and checking the boy's fingerprints, but everything led to a dead end. However, there were two promising leads of note. One lead involved a foster home located 1.5 miles away.
A medical examiner, who pursued the case until his death, had a psychic lead him to the foster home, where he found a bassinet similar to the one that was sold in the box. Hanging on the clothesline were blankets much like the one wrapped around the boy. He believed the boy belonged to the stepdaughter of the man who ran the home, and she didn't want to be found as an unwed mother. Police interviewed the couple, but closed the investigation.
In 2003, they opened the case again when interviewing a woman identified as "M" who claimed her abusive mother bought the child back in 1954. According to her, her mother killed the boy in a fit of rage. Because "M" was mentally unstable, the investigation was closed as well, leaving the boy to remain "America's Unknown Child."
Read more about The Boy in the Box here.
7. The Jeanette DePalma Case
Usually people connect witches to Salem, MA, but for this particular case, the witches were in Springfield, New Jersey. It all started in 1972 when a dog brought home a decomposed forearm home. This prompted a police search and a body was soon found afterwards atop a cliff in Springfield. The body was identified to be that of Jeanette DePalmer, a 16-year-old who had gone missing for six weeks. Immediately, rumors began spreading as to the cause of her death. The hill where she was discovered was covered with occult symbols and many believed her body was placed on a makeshift altar. Many locals, even some police members, blame a coven of witches, otherwise known as Satanists, who used DePalma for a human sacrifice.
Because of a flood, much of the case's details have since been destroyed. However, some reports from local papers mention that police couldn't determine the cause of death due to her badly decomposed body. They had also investigated a local homeless man who was a prime suspect, only to find no connection with the killing. As for the occult theory, many believe that DePalma may have provoked a group of Satan worshipping teens at her high school when she was trying to evangelize them. She was involved with a group who helped drug addicts by finding faith in Christ. The reverend who ran the group theorized that she was selected as a sacrifice to the group because of this. Was she a human sacrifice? Or did these suspicions help hide the real killer? Perhaps no one will ever know.
Read more of The Jeanette DePalma Case here.
8. The Glico-Morinaga Case
Okay, brace yourselves, because this case is as twisted as a TV crime show. It deals with the Japanese companies Ezaki Glico, best known for its Pocky snacks, and Morinaga. In 1984, two armed men in masks broke into CEO Katsuhisa Ezaki's mother's home and bound her, taking the house key of Glico's CEO. Entering his house, they also tied up his wife and daughter. Mrs. Ezaki attempted to negotiate money with the men, but they were after something else. Cutting off the telephone cords, they raided the bathroom, where Ezaki and his other two children were hiding. They abducted Ezaki and held him hostage at a warehouse. They issued a ransom for 1 billion yen and 100 kilograms of gold bars. Their plans were discovered when Ezaki managed to escape three days later.
A few weeks later, just when the company thought it had escaped extortion, vehicles in its headquarter's parking lot were set on fire. Then, a container with hydrochloric acid and a threatening letter addressed to Glico were found in Ibaraki, where the warehouse was located. This began a string of letters from a person or group that dubbed itself "The Monster with 21 Faces," named after a villain in a Japanese detective series. The letters threatened the company's products, claiming that their candies were laced with potassium cyanide soda. Glico was forced to pull the products off the shelves, resulting in a $21 million loss and the layoff of 450 part-time workers.
After months of tormenting Glico, the Monster with 21 Faces decided to look for fun someplace else. Their final letter towards the company read, "We forgive Glico!" With that abrupt ending, they turned their sights on the food companies Marudai Ham, House Foods Corporation, and Fujiya. In exchange of stopping their harassment towards Marudai, one of its employee was to hand them ransom money on a train. That was when an investigator, who disguised himself as an employee, saw the prime suspect, known as the "Fox-Eyed Man." The man was well-built, his hair cut short and permed, with "eyes like those of a fox." After dropping the ransom as instructed, he and another investigator attempted to follow the Fox-Eyed Man, only to lose him. They would get a second chance later on, but he again evaded them.
After continuing harassment towards the police, a year later Police Superintendent Yamamoto committed suicide by setting himself on fire, ashamed of his failure to capture the Fox-Eyed Man. Five days following the death, the Monster with 21 Faces sent its final letter to the media:
"Yamamoto of Shiga Prefecture Police died. How stupid of him! We've got no friends or secret hiding place in Shiga. It's Yoshino or Shikata who should have died. What have they been doing for as long as one year and five months? Don't let bad guys like us get away with it. There are many more fools who want to copy us. No-career Yamamoto died like a man. So we decided to give our condolence. We decided to forget about torturing food-making companies. If anyone blackmails any of the food-making companies, it's not us but someone copying us. We are bad guys. That means we've got more to do other than bullying companies. It's fun to lead a bad man's life. Monster with 21 Faces."
And with that final statement, the Monster with 21 Faces disappeared, never to be heard from again.
Read more about the Glico-Morinaga Case here.
9. The SS Ourang Medan
Ghost ships aren't just portrayed in legends and movies such as The Pirates of the Caribbean. In this true story, the entire crew mysteriously perished. It all started in 1947, when ships traveling the straits of Malacca (located between Sumatra and Malaysia) heard a troubling distress call:
â€œAll officers including captain are dead, lying in chartroom and bridge. Possibly whole crew dead.â€ Following the message was some indecipherable Morse code and then finally, â€œI die.â€
An American ship called Silver Star answered the distress call and found the Ourang Medan, but there were no signs of the crew on the deck, even when they tried to call to them. And so they boarded the ship, only to find themselves in a horror scene. Scattered across the deck were the corpses of the Dutchmen, their faces construed in such a way one would think they had witnessed something ghastly before their demise. Even the dog was dead, its face also contorted in agony. The captain's body was found on the bridge, while the communication officer was still at his post, his cold fingers still pressing the telegraph. The American crew went down to the boiler deck to find the same situation. Despite it being over a hundred degrees down there, a cold chill came over them.
Retreating to their ship again, they decided to tow the Ourang Medan to port. But as soon as they attached the tow line, smoke began billowing out of the ship. Moments later it exploded, sinking into its watery grave, taking all its secrets along with it. What horrible thing did the crew witness? Some believe it was the work of the paranormal. Perhaps a band of ghost pirates raided the ship or aliens decided to drop in. Such unexplainable things do happen, as firefighter and EMT Mick Mayers have experienced in his firehouse. Others, however, have more scientific explanations.
Many theorize that the Dutch ship was smuggling hazardous materials such as potassium cyanide and nitroglycerin. Sea water may have interacted with the cargo, causing the toxic gases to be released and poison the crew. The nitroglycerin would later cause the explosion. Or maybe there was trouble in the boiler room and carbon monoxide killed the crew and a fire got out of hand and destroyed the ship. What is most troubling is the fact that, although the Silver Star is very real, there isn't any registration records of the ship. Did the ship even exist, or is it merely a sailor's tale?
Read more about The SS Ourang Medan here.
10. The Cape Intruder
This final unsolved case is not a famous case, but a local one that I remember from years ago, occurring in a neighboring town. If not for a brief mention of it in an old clip archive regarding a neighborhood watch, I might have thought it was just my imagination. Back in 2005, in the affluent town of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, the community experienced something unnerving. During the night, victims who kept their doors unlocked, would wake up in the morning to catch a brief glimpse of a man staring at them. Before they could react, the man would flee the scene, leaving the house just as it was before he entered it. Nothing was stolen. Nobody was injured or killed. All that he took was their privacy when he snuck into their bedrooms to watch them sleep.
A rough sketch depicting a man in his early twenties played on the local news. Everybody seemed to think they knew who it was and the police received a number of calls from concerned citizens naming possible suspects. Although two people named the same person, the police never did catch the "Cape Intruder". After some intrusions in August, December, and February, he never did break in again. Perhaps he had his fill of staring at sleeping bodies during that time period. But the thought that such a person existed and still walks among us is enough to give anyone the chills. And of course, serves as a grim reminder to lock our doors.
History’s greatest unsolved crimes
Nothing haunts the mind and stirs the imagination like a real-life whodunit. Gory details, large sums of money or sexual overtones pique the public's interest, while authorities struggle, sometimes for decades, to crack the case. Who killed the beauty queen? Where is the body buried? How did the heist unfold? Such questions might never be answered, but here's a mystery resolved below: What are history's 10 greatest unsolved crimes?
Everyone knows who murdered five (maybe more) prostitutes during 1888 in London's Whitechapel district: Jack the Ripper. The mystery is his real identity. In 2002, crime novelist Patricia Cornwell concluded a $4 million investigation by fingering painter Walter Sickert. Other suspects include Queen Victoria's grandson Prince Albert Victor, royal physician Sir William Gull, and even "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" author Lewis Carroll, who most Ripperologists conclude was a weird guy, but probably not a killer.
The 1947 slaying of 22-year-old aspiring starlet Elizabeth Short, dubbed the Black Dahlia for her dark hair and wardrobe, unfolded like a film noir. In an empty Los Angeles lot, Short's body was found mutilated, sliced in two and drained of blood, all with surgical precision. The LAPD dismissed many suspects, including a handful who confessed, and never cracked the case. Several books have claimed to name the murderer, including 2003's "Black Dahlia Avenger," in which author Steve Hodel convicts his own father, a former L.A. doctor.
Cleveland neurosurgeon Dr. Sam Sheppard was charged with the July 1954 murder of his 31-year-old pregnant wife, Marilyn, while their 7-year-old son slept in the next room. Sheppard maintained his innocence and implicated a dark-haired intruder — the "one-armed man" of "The Fugitive" TV series and movie this case inspired. Nonetheless, Sheppard was found guilty. He appealed, and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court overturned his conviction on the grounds that excessive publicity unfairly influenced his trial. He was acquitted at a retrial. Until his death in 1970, Sheppard sought to find his wife's killer, a mission his family continues to this day.
The Zodiac Killings
Creepiness incarnate, the Bay Area's Zodiac Killer shot to death two teens in December 1968 who had parked on a rural road to make out. Six months later, he fired at another couple. Although one victim survived that attack, his witness account failed to yield a suspect, and the Zodiac would kill seven people before ending his spree in October 1969. (He might also have slain others in years before and after his attributed crimes.) But he would taunt police for a decade with coded, clue-laden letters to San Francisco newspapers. His final note arrived in 1978, although there’s debate over its authenticity. Some investigators believe the Zodiac Killer might still live in California.
On Thanksgiving Eve, 1971, D.B. Cooper, the passenger in seat 18E on Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 305 from Portland, Ore., to Seattle, threatened to blow up the plane unless he received $200,000 cash. Cooper collected his ransom at Seattle's airport, and demanded the pilot fly back toward Oregon. Just north of Portland, Cooper opened the rear door and parachuted into the dark from the airborne 727 with 21 pounds of $20 bills strapped to his torso. Neither he nor the money (except for $5,880, found years later along the Columbia River) was ever seen again. The case remains the FBI's only unsolved airplane hijacking.
Deposed Teamsters president Jimmy Hoffa vanished in July 1975 from a Detroit restaurant. Guessing the whereabouts of his corpse (Hoffa was declared dead in 1982) has since been a national pastime. Under Giants Stadium, down a Pennsylvania mineshaft or buried in Northern Michigan are popular options. Thanks to his strong-arm tactics, Hoffa had many enemies, including government officials, labor leaders and mobsters, who presumably rubbed him out. The 2004 book "I Heard You Paint Houses" claimed that the late hit man Frank Sheeran shot Hoffa outside Detroit, and left the body there.
This past July in Juaréz, Mexico, authorities found the body of Alma Brisa Molina Baca, a 34-year-old factory worker who had been raped and strangled. She was the latest victim in a decade-long pattern of killings that has claimed, by some estimates, 370 women — most of them poor workers at nearby maquiladoras, most of their bodies dumped in the desert. That staggering statistic, plus outrage with what human-rights advocates call half-hearted law enforcement, has sparked Amnesty International and other worldwide groups to urge authorities to find the killers.
Art historians have been cringing since St. Patrick's Day, 1990, when two men stole 13 paintings worth an estimated $300 million from Boston's Gardner Museum. Cringing because the artworks were hacked from their frames. Cringing because the museum was uninsured. Cringing because the unarmed thieves, dressed as policemen, simply knocked on the door late at night, and security guards let them in. Cringing because a $5 million reward and an investigation that has touched upon the Massachusetts mob and even the Irish Republican Army has failed to crack the world's biggest art heist.
Tupac Shakur, Biggie Smalls
A drive-by shooter killed 25-year-old rapper Tupac Shakur in September 1996, in Las Vegas. Six months later, March 1997, rival Biggie Smalls, 24, was gunned down in Los Angeles. The victims were former friends who became entangled in hip-hop's East Coast (Smalls) vs. West Coast (Shakur, who'd switched teams) feud. In 2002, a Los Angeles Times investigation suggested Smalls paid the Southside Crips gang to assassinate Shakur, while documentarian Nick Broomfield implicated Shakur's record-label chief, Suge Knight, who allegedly had Smalls erased to confuse authorities. Both cases remain open.
A murder made in tabloid heaven: Six-year-old beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey, daughter of a wealthy Boulder, Colo., executive and his socially ambitious wife, was found dead in the basement of the family home after Christmas, 1996. An odd ransom note left at the scene and clashes between family, police and district attorney fanned the media frenzy, while public speculation centered on parents John and Patsy Ramsey. Eight years later, still no arrest. (Side note: John Ramsey ran unsuccessfully this year for a seat in Michigan's legislature.)
Ian Hodder is a freelance writer living in New York.
The most famous unsolved crimes in history — and who historians think did it
True crime TV shows aren't new, but that hasn't stopped different shows like "Mindhunter" and "Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G." from coming to the small screen. These shows aren't always historically accurate, but many use real-life stories as inspiration. And although some people like theorizing "whodunnit," in real life, there isn't always justice at the end of it all.
These nine famous crimes are all unsolved — but that doesn't stop historians, police, and the public from coming up with their own theories as to who was responsible.
Here are some of the most famous unsolved crimes in history.
The Black Dahlia murder case
Aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, nicknamed "The Black Dahlia" after her death, was just 22-years-old when she was found dead in Los Angeles in 1947. The murder case was sensationalized in the media because Short was part of the Hollywood circuit and Short's body was drained of blood with cuts on the sides of her mouth reminiscent of a clown.
Although confessions poured in for the murder, the police didn't file charges — and the case is still open today. According to Fox News, Piu Eatwell — a British lawyer and author of "Black Dahlia, Red Rose" — believes one of Short's ex-boyfriends, Leslie Dillon, was her killer. Dillon was a former mortician's assistant and an aspiring writer.
Meanwhile, a retired police detective thinks that his deceased father Dr. George Hodel was actually the killer. USA Today reported that Dr. Hodel was initially a person of interest in the case, although police didn't arrest him. The doctor's house where he allegedly murdered Short was sold for £3.5 million — around $4.2 million at today's conversion rates — in February 2018, according to The Sun.
Art Heist at the Gardner Museum
In March of 1990, 13 pieces of art were stolen from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. According to NPR, men disguised as policemen tied up two night guards at the museum before taking off with the works of Flinck, Manet, and Degas, among others.
In 2015, the FBI claimed they identified the thieves as two local mobsters who died shortly after the heist, according to the Boston Globe. They refused to name the men, however, and are still looking for the unrecovered works today. The Boston Globe also reported that the FBI believes the artwork circulated around Philadelphia through organized crime families.
The murders of the Grimes Sisters
Chicago sisters Barbara and Patricia Grimes went to see theElvis Presley movie "Love Me Tender" in December of 1956, before disappearing. Police found their bodies a month later on a country road.
Investigators questioned and charged a "local drifter" with the murders, but he recanted his statements and was never formally charged.
The connection of the Grimes' death to Elvis Presley made the sisters a front-page story. Theories on their disappearance — before the finding of their bodies — ranged from the girls having secret lovers, to the girls running away to visit Memphis, Presley's hometown. Police followed other leads for the next few years but the case eventually went cold.
The identity of the Zodiac Killer
The Zodiac Killer has inspired tons of movies, books, and TV show episodes. And the theories on who the actual killer was are just as varied.
The self-proclaimed Zodiac Killer is responsible for murders in the San Francisco Bay area in the '60s. He "taunted" police and newspapers with encrypted letters until 1974.
Since then, the case has remained open although numerous people have claimed they know the identity of the killer. This includes Dennis Kaufman who believes it was his stepfather Jack Tarrance and Gary Stewart who believes his biological father Earl Van Best was the Zodiac killer, CNN reported.
As far as the police are concerned, there were two main suspects as of 2017 — Ross Sullivan and Lawrence Kane. Fox News reported that the librarian and Navy veteran had some red flags, making them persons of interest. It seems, however, that new suspects and claims are always popping up — but police have yet to make an arrest.
The murder of JonBenét Ramsey
JonBenét Ramsey, a 6-year-old pageant contestant from Colorado, was found dead in her home the day after Christmas in 1996. Her parents apparently found her in the basement of their home, strangled and hit in the back of the head. The most popular theory is that JonBenét's mother, father, or brother were responsible for her death.
Her mother, Patsy Ramsey, reportedly found a ransom note in their home which police believe was written by a woman thus leading to speculation that Patsy was involved. As for JonBenet's father, John, he moved his daughter's body from the basement and covered her with a blanket. In 2008, however, both parents were cleared of any wrongdoing thanks to DNA evidence, Rolling Stone reported.
Burke Ramsey, JonBenet's brother, was another suspect at just 9-years-old. Some people theorize that he threw a flashlight at his sister and that his parents helped cover up her death. According to CNN, other suspects includeRamsey's housekeeper as well as the man who portrayed Santa Claus at a holiday party that she attended.
The kidnapping and murder of Amber Hagerman
Amber Hagerman was 9 years old when she was kidnapped and killed in 1996. NBC News reported that her body was found five days after someone grabbed her from her bike in the parking lot of a grocery store in Arlington, Texas. Although there was a witness to the crime, the description of the person didn't lead to any arrests. Neither did the nearly 7,000 leads in the case that have been investigated since, Yahoo News reported.
Shortly after Amber's funeral, Diana Simone — a Texas mom who hadn't met Amber — called a local radio station and suggested an alert for when a child is abducted. This lead to the eventual creation of the Amber Alert.
"It's a shame my daughter had to be butchered and had to go through what she went through for us to have the Amber Alert," Amber's mother Donna Williams told Yahoo News. "But I know she would be proud of it."
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Unsolved crimes top
Top 10 Unsolved Crimes From Around The World
The one thing more spine-chilling than a grisly murder is an unsolved grisly murder. There are some crimes out there that are so mysterious and packed with so many confusing details that even after years and years, they’re still no closer to being solved.
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Each country has its own unsolved crime that still haunts the local population. In some places, there is an abundance of unsolved crimes, each more enigmatic than the last. Keep reading to find out what the 10 top unsolved crimes from around the world are.
10 Tokyo: The Setagaya Family Murders
In one of the most mysterious and horrific crimes to plague Japan, the Miyazawa family of four was murdered in Setagaya, Tokyo, in December 2000. A neighbor found the family dead after the parents and daughter had been stabbed and the son strangled, all by an unknown killer.
One theory is that an acquaintance murdered them to steal their money, as they had just received a large government payout. The case is still open nearly 20 years later, with a reward of around 20 million yen for any information.
9 Rio De Janeiro, Brazil: The Men In The Lead Masks
Back in 1996, two deceased repairmen were discovered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Wearing lead eye masks and dressed in suits, the men were soon dubbed the “Men in the Lead Masks”. There were a few clues to what might have happened left with the men, including a notebook containing messages such as “swallow capsules.”
Readers Digest reports that despite the clues left behind and the toxicology report, nobody has been able to work out what happened to the men in the masks, and why it happened. It remains one of Brazil’s strangest mysteries.
8 London, England: Jack The Ripper
The figure of Jack the Ripper has been haunting the streets of London for over a century. Following the gruesome deaths of several women in London’s Whitechapel area in the late 1800s, locals became paralyzed with fear. In a letter supposedly written from the killer himself, the assailant was named Jack the Ripper - a title that has stuck for more than 100 years.
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There have been numerous theories as to the identity of Jack the Ripper, including that he may have been a Polish immigrant, a doctor, or even related to the Royal Family. But as of 2019, there is no conclusive evidence that tells us exactly who the killer was.
7 Los Angeles, USA: The Black Dahlia
The Black Dahlia wasn’t always known by such a captivating title. She was born Elizabeth Short, and only became known as the Black Dahlia after she was found murdered in Los Angeles in 1947. The title likely refers to the dark hair of the aspiring actress.
The case of who murdered the young actress has never been solved, but police still theorize that it may have been someone with surgical knowledge, considering the way her body was mutilated. There were more than 150 suspects investigated by police, but the identity of the killer is still a mystery.
6 Adelaide, Australia: The Beaumont Children
The city of Adelaide is often thought of as Australia’s murder capital. Home to such horrendous crimes as the Family Murders and the Snowtown Murders, Adelaide is also the city where the three Beaumont Children were last seen alive.
In the most famous missing person’s case in Australian history, Jane, Arnna and Grant Beaumont took the bus to Glenelg Beach on Australia Day in 1966. They never returned home.
Over the years, there have been numerous suspects and clues, including the fact that the children were last seen near the beach with a blonde man. But police still don’t know what happened to them. Sadly, Nancy Beaumont, the children’s mother, passed away in 2019 at the age of 92, never knowing what became of Jane, Arnna, and Grant.
5 Nuremberg, Germany: Kaspar Hauser
The legend of Kaspar Hauser remains one of the most fascinating stories to grip Nuremberg. Kaspar arrived in Nuremberg holding a letter claiming that he had no parents, but had been raised by an unknown person. The author of the letter claimed that if he traveled with Kaspar to Nuremberg, it would have cost him his neck.
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At 16, Kaspar had the motor skills of a toddler, could hardly speak, and would only eat bread. He had never seen his reflection in a mirror and did not know what fire looked like. Eventually, Kaspar learned to talk and revealed that he was brought up in a prison cell.
He was fatally stabbed by a stranger who lured him to a park and the truth behind his life and death was never discovered.
4 Toronto, Canada: Ambrose Small
Ambrose Small was an entertainment tycoon who disappeared from Toronto, Canada back in 1919. He wasn’t a particularly loved member of the community, making it difficult for police to pinpoint exactly who was responsible for his disappearance. He was known as a gambler, and though he was married, he was also a womanizer. This led to his wife Theresa becoming a suspect.
Theresa did not report that Ambrose was missing, claiming she had feared a scandal. There were soon stories that he’d been kidnapped by a gang in New York, and that he’d run away to Boston, but none of these were proven true.
3 Rwanda: Dian Fossey
American primatologist Dian Fossey was carrying out her work in Rwanda when she was murdered in December of 1985. Her body was found in her cabin, having been bludgeoned and slashed with a machete. The cabin was completely ransacked, but valuables had not been taken, leading investigators to believe that the motive was not theft.
Fossey’s killers have not been caught, though many speculate that she was murdered by gorilla poachers. Her entire staff was arrested after her death, but all were eventually released, except for a tracker who had previously tried to murder Fossey.
2 Chevaline, France: The Al-Hilli Family Murders
The al-Hilli family murders took place in Chevaline, France on September 5, 2012. Saad al-Hilli, an Iraqi-born British citizen, was shot along with his wife, Iqbal, and her mother-in-law, Suhaila al-Allaf. French cyclist Sylvain Mollier was also found dead with the family near Lake Annecy.
Police suspected that Zaid al-Hilli, Saad’s brother, committed the murder as the two brothers were in dispute over a money issue. Other suspects were also named, including high-profile murderers and ex-soldiers, but the mystery remains unsolved.
1 Stockholm, Sweden: The Atlas Vampire
In one of the most notorious cases to ever take place in Stockholm, a 32-year-old working woman named Lilly Lindestrom was found dead in her apartment in 1932. What made this case particularly unusual was that, after killing her, the murderer drank Lilly’s blood.
At the time, there was a lack of forensic technology available, so investigators were not able to link the crime back to a definite suspect. Although they did interrogate a list of suspects, they never found enough evidence to charge anybody with Lily’s murder.
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NextThe Ultimate Utah National Parks Road Trip GuideAbout The Author
Vanessa is a 25-year-old freelance writer based in Adelaide, Australia. She loves Johnny Cash and thinks 'realistic' is an ugly word.
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