Wednesday, May 15, 2019

List Series: Cases with Dead Suspects

In any given crime, investigators want to question persons of interest/suspects as soon as they are identified. Unfortunately, though, there are quite a few cases in which a POI or suspect is identified, but said POI/suspect is deceased. This makes it especially difficult for investigators to solve cases; especially missing persons cases. These cases are often frustrating for the family's of victims, as these situations often leave more questions than answers. Below is a list of 5 such cases, where the identified suspect is deceased.

5. The Disappearance of Pearl Pinson

Pearl Pinson (15) was last seen by her family members on May 25th, 2016. That morning, Pearl left her family’s Vallejo, California home shortly before 7am to walk to Jesse Bethel High School. Minutes into her walk, Pearl was violently abducted by Fernando I. Castro (19). Witnesses, including someone who recognized Castro from high school, reported seeing Castro, armed with a gun, dragging Pearl along a pedestrian walkway that crosses over Interstate 780. She was bleeding from her face and screaming for help. In the broad daylight in front of numerous witnesses, Castro forced Pearl into his car. Witnesses reported hearing a single gunshot before he drove off.

The following day, Castro was spotted driving in San Luis Obispo County. He led police on a high-speed pursuit that ended in Solvang with an exchange of gunfire, leaving him dead. Pearl was not in the car with him, but investigators found a small amount of her blood in the trunk. Additionally, a note was found with directions to Jenner, an area along the Sonoma County coast. A search for Pearl was conducted in that area, but nothing was found. Since Castro was killed during the high-speed chase, police were unable to question him about Pearl’s whereabouts. She still remains missing today.

Forensic searches of both Castro and Pearl’s cell phones reveal that the two had never communicated via text, call, or Facebook. Castro lived just a few blocks away from the Pinson’s home, and it is possible that Pearl and Castro had seen each other in passing before the abduction; however it is not believed that the two personally knew each other. To this day, investigators are still unaware of what Castro did with Pearl after abducting her. [read more]

4. The Disappearance of Brittney Wood

Brittney Wood vanished at the age of 19 on May 30th, 2012. The young mother was last seen that day in Mobile, Alabama. Brittney told her loved ones she was going to visit her uncle, Donald Paul Holland Sr., in the Styx River area. She reportedly got a ride from him, and was seen getting into his vehicle around 7:30pm. Brittney never returned home and has never been seen or heard from again. Her parents reported her missing days later, on June 2nd, 2012. 

Once news about Brittney’s disappearance began to spread, it was soon revealed that the person she was last seen with, her uncle Donald, had died by a self-inflicted gunshot wound on June 1st, 2012--a day after Brittney was last seen. Officials found Donald’s body inside his truck, and they found Brittney’s cell phone battery inside the vehicle as well. This inevitably made many people suspicious towards Donald, especially because he was being investigated for possible sex crimes shortly before his death. In fact, multiple members of Brittney’s family were being investigated for various sex crimes including rape, incest, sodomy and production of child pornography. Authorities believe that Brittney had been a victim of sexual abuse at the hands of her family members, and they planned to question her--but she disappeared before they could. [read more]

3. The Murder of Sidney Randall

Sidney Randall (14) was last seen by her loved ones of the evening of March 9th, 2013. Her mother, Denise Cornell, awoke the next morning and realized that both her husband, John Cornell and Sidney were missing from their Walnut Ridge, Arkansas home. However, John returned to the house shortly thereafter, without Sidney. Denise let him know that Sidney was missing, and John once again left the house, after saying that he was going to file a missing persons report. After hours passed without any sign of John, Denise decided to report Sidney missing herself.

The following day, on March 11th, 2013, John was found dead in a field on the side of the road. It was determined that he died of a self-inflicted gunshot. Sidney was still nowhere to be found, and by this point, it was believed that John was involved in her disappearance. The search for Sidney expanded all throughout Lawrence County--and Denise eventually announced that she, too, felt that John was involved in Sidney’s disappearance. 

Around two months later, Sidney’s body was found in the Black River. An autopsy determined she died of blunt force trauma. Additionally, investigators found the DNA of John Cornell on Sidney’s body and underneath her fingernails. From this, investigators were able to conclude that Sidney died at the hands of her own stepfather. Sidney’s case is an example of a case that was able to be closed even with the deceased person of interest, however if her body had never been found, it is unclear if her case would have ever been closed. [read more]

2. The Disappearance and Murder of Kristen Anderson

Kristen Anderson (24) was attempting to leave her abusive husband James Anderson when she vanished on October 1st, 2006. A week prior, Kristen took her two sons from their Wheeling, West Virginia home to stay with a friend in Martins Ferry, Ohio. However, James knew of their whereabouts, and during the early morning hours of October 1st, he showed up at the friend’s apartment. An argument ensued, and Kristen was reportedly overheard saying “don’t hit me!”. When Kristen’s friend woke up the following morning, Kristen was nowhere to be found. 

It was immediately suspected that James was involved and Kristen’s disappearance, and those suspicions were confirmed days later, when investigators obtained surveillance footage from the Anderson home on October 1st. In said footage, James was captured carrying Kristen’s lifeless body and placing it in the trunk of his car. James eventually found out about the incriminating footage, and committed suicide shortly thereafter. He left behind a note, stating that Kristen’s body would never be found. To this day, those words remain true--Kristen’s remains have never been uncovered. [read more]

1. Sapphire Wiggins

Sapphire Wiggins (23) disappeared in Atlantic City, New Jersey on October 17th, 2014. At the time of her disappearance, Sapphire was dating an older man named Kevin Shelton (50). Sapphire was reportedly very happy in their relationship and had told her family and friends that she wanted to marry him. There was a slight problem, though: Kevin was already married, and he had three children by wife his of 30 years. It’s unclear whether or not Sapphire was aware of this.

Kevin is the last known person to have seen Sapphire before she disappeared. During the morning hours of October 18th, 2014, Kevin spoke on the phone with his son, Eric. He told him that he was in trouble because things got out of hand. When Eric asked Kevin what he meant, Kevin said that he was going to jail for the next 10 to 15 years for domestic violence. Kevin made a few other phone calls that day, the last one being at 12:45pm. 15 minutes later, at 1pm, Kevin’s wife found him hanged in her basement. He left behind a suicide note that contained loving messages for his wife and children, however there was no mention of Sapphire at all. Despite this, investigators have stated that they have “basically solved” Sapphire’s case. They believe that Kevin killed Sapphire the night of her disappearance and then disposed of her body. Sapphire's blood was found inside Kevin's car, and both Sapphire and Kevin’s phone pings indicate that their phones were in the same place throughout the entire night of the 17th, in several different locations. Authorities believe that if Kevin Shelton were still alive, they would have convicted him without a body. Unfortunately, with Kevin deceased, they may not ever find Sapphire's location. [read more]

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