Tuesday, September 20, 2022

List Series: Staged Crime Scenes

Many murderers/kidnappers/other criminals go through great lengths to cover up their crimes. One of many tactics a killer may use is to stage a crime scene in hopes of deflecting suspicion away from them. Some have staged a scene to make it appear that the victim's death was an accident or a suicide. Others may stage a scene to point responsibility at another person altogether. 

The following list contains seven cases in which the scene was staged in attempt to deflect suspicion away from the killer, kidnapper, and/or real perpetrator. Some of these cases have been solved, while others remain open - but all are confirmed to have been staged.

image source

Kathleen Savio was found dead inside her Bolingbrook, Illinois home on March 1st, 2004. The 40-year-old woman was discovered face down in her waterless bathtub. A medical examiner initially ruled that Kathleen's death was an accidental drowning - despite the fact that there was not any water in the tub at the time she was found.

Kathleen's death occurred just months after her divorce with ex-husband Drew Peterson was finalized. Kathleen had confided to many people that her relationship with Drew was toxic. The police had been called to their house several times between the years of 2002 and 2004 due to various domestic disputes. However, Drew himself worked for the local police department and was highly respected by many in the community. 

Drew married his next wife, Stacy, just days after his divorce to Kathleen was finalized. Stacy ended up adopting Kathleen's children after Kathleen's death. Then, in 2007, Stacy vanished under suspicious circumstances. Drew quickly became the prime suspect in her disappearance. At that point, investigators decided they needed to revisit Kathleen's death as well. Her body was exhumed, and upon a second examination, it was determined that Kathleen had been murdered, but the scene had been staged to make it appear like an accident. 

Drew was arrested and charged with Kathleen's murder in 2009. In 2012, he went to trial and was ultimately found guilty. To this day, Drew continues to deny killing Kathleen. His other wife, Stacy Peterson, remains missing.

It was shortly after 11:00 PM on August 18th, 2007 when Saline County police responded to a call about a shooting in at a home in Carrier Mills, Illinois. When officers arrived at the home, they found 18-year-old Jade Winston in a pool of blood with a single gunshot wound to the head. A 9mm semi-automatic pistol was found under her left leg. The clip from the gun was found in her left hand. It appeared that someone had placed the clip in Jade's hand after she was already dead - in an attempt to make her death appear to be a suicide. 

Fortunately, investigators were not fooled by this attempt to stage the scene. Jade's death was ultimately labeled as a homicide. Unfortunately, her case remains unsolved to this day. There has been a lot of speculation about the person(s) responsible for Jade's murder, and about the case in general. Still, no arrests have ever been made in her case.

image source

Diane Fields vanished under suspicious circumstances during November 2014. On the afternoon of November 6th, Diane's live-in fiancé reported a break-in at their home in East Dublin, Georgia. He told police that the back door to their house was kicked in, one of the bedrooms was in disarray, and a knife was laying on the floor of their hallway. Diane was nowhere to be found. 

Diane's fiancé said that he had last seen Diane at the house early that morning before he left for work. According to the fiancé, Diane herself decided to stay home from work because she was not feeling well. He told police that when he returned home, his house was in disarray and Diane was gone. 

When investigators arrived to search the home, they noticed that the scene appeared to be staged. One of the detectives told reporters that the back door was broken, but it appeared to be broken out - as if someone had kicked it from inside the home. Additionally, there was no blood or no other signs of a struggle found inside the house. This inevitably casts suspicion on Diane's fiancé, who is the last person known to have seen her. Investigators have labeled him as a person of interest, but he has not been charged with anything related to Diane's case at this time.

Diane remains missing today.

image source

On October 31st, 2014, police in Martinsville, Illinois received a call from a man named Connor Scott, who reported that his girlfriend, Kaylyn Whitaker, had shot herself.  When police arrived at Scott's residence, they found Kaylyn’s body with a gun in her hand. Her death was ruled a suicide.

As the investigation into Kaylyn's death continued, forensic experts questioned the suicide ruling. After analyzing Kaylyn's gunshot wounds, the experts doubted that Kaylyn could have shot herself based on spot the bullet entered her skull. Ten months after she was killed, Kaylyn’s death was reclassified as a homicide. Still, there were no arrests made in the case. Connor Scott was an obvious suspect, but police did not charge him with anything at that time.

Years later, on February 23rd, 2019, Connor walked into a Danville, Indiana police department and confessed to murdering Kaylyn back in 2014. It's unclear what drove him to confess, but Scott also admitted to staging the scene to making Kaylyn's death appear to be a suicide. He was subsequently arrested and extradited back to Illinois to face murder charges.

Despite confessing to the crime, Scott initially pleaded not guilty. Then, in October 2019, he accepted a plea deal and pleaded guilty. He was sentenced 37 years in prison.

image source

Michele Neurauter was murdered inside her own home on August 28th, 2017. The New York mother was killed by her ex-husband, Lloyd Neurauter. Lloyd was assisted by his oldest daughter with Michele, Karrie Neurauter. Karrie was only 19 years-old at the time.

Lloyd approached Karrie weeks earlier to enlist her help in killing Michele. He reportedly manipulated his daughter into believing he would kill himself if she did not assist him. Karrie acquiesced, and she listened as her father came up with a plan to murder Michele but make it appear that she had killed herself.

On August 28th, 2017, Karrie and Lloyd executed their plan. The two entered Michele’s home and unplugged all electronic devices to hide their presence in the house. Then, Karrie distracted her 14-year-old sister while Lloyd entered Michele’s bedroom and strangled her to death. Karrie then helped Lloyd stage the scene to make it look like Michele had hung herself.

Police immediately did not believe that Michele's death was a suicide. Over the following months, police gathered evidence before finally arresting both Lloyd and Karrie during January 2018. Lloyd was charged with first-degree murder, and he also initially pleaded not guilty. Just two weeks before his trial, though, he changed his plea to guilty and admitted to killing Michele. He also admitted to coercing Karrie into helping him by threatening suicide. Due to this admission, Karrie was able to plead to the lesser charge of manslaughter.

On December 4th, 2018, Lloyd was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Days later, Karrie was sentenced to 1-3 years.

image source

Sherri Papini’s case is by far the most bizarre case of a staged scene on this list. The mother-of-three vanished from her family’s home in Redding, California on November 2nd, 2016. Then then-34-year-old’s husband, Keith Papini, noticed that Sherri was missing when he returned home from work and she was nowhere to be found. Keith then used the Find My iPhone app to track Sherri’s phone. The app indicated that that the phone was less than a mile away from the residence.

When Keith went to that location, he found Sherri’s phone on the ground. Her headphones were also found on the ground, with pieces of her blonde hair tangled into the wires. Keith immediately called police to report his wife missing. Once Sherri’s disappearance hit the news, people began to speculate that she was kidnapped while jogging. However, many people questioned this as well. It appeared that her phone had been placed on the ground, rather than dropped or thrown – which immediately made some people wonder if the scene had been staged by either Sherri, Keith, or both.

Still, investigators maintained that their goal was to find Sherri safe. Then, about three weeks after she was reported missing, Sherri re-appeared in Yolo County. During the early morning hours of November 24th, several people called 911 to report a female who appeared to be bound running down the interstate. Police went to the scene, where they found a woman who identified herself as Sherri Papini. She was taken to a nearby hospital, where she was reunited with her husband.

Sherri told police that she was kidnapped by two Hispanic women who held her hostage in a room. She claimed they had cut her hair and branded her. The speculation about Sherri possibly faking her kidnapping was amplified by what many perceived as a bizarre and unrealistic story. Still, the police maintained that they believed Sherri and they wanted to find her abductors.

Finally, in 2022, police were able to confirm that Sherri had, in fact, made up the story about being kidnapped. She had been staying with her ex-boyfriend in Costa Mesa during the time she claimed to be held hostage. After years of suspicion, her ex-boyfriend finally confirmed the popular belief that Sherri faked her own abduction. Sherri was subsequently charged with making false statements to police and with mail fraud. She ultimately pleaded guilty and was recently sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Pamela Hargan and her daughter Helen Hargan were murdered inside their McLean, Virginia home on July 14th, 2017. When their bodies were first discovered by police, it was believed that their deaths were caused by a murder-suicide. More specifically, it was originally reported that 23-year-old Helen had shot her mother before turning the gun on herself. However, as police continued to investigate, they found evidence that suggested otherwise.

Through phone records and other digital evidence, investigators were able to prove that Helen was in a different room when Pamela was shot – making it impossible for her to have been the one to pull the trigger. After Helen herself was shot, her body was posed in such a way to make it appear that she had shot herself. Police eventually revealed that both Pamela and Helen had been murdered – and their case was not a murder-suicide.

Over a year later, Pamela’s older daughter/Helen’s older sister Megan Hargan was arrested and charged with their murders. It is believed that their deaths were motivated by jealousy and for financial reasons. Megan went to trial during 2022 and was ultimately found guilty. She was given two life sentences.

image source

Jeannie Quinn was reported missing in Levelland, Texas on April 15th, 2018. Two days later, the 20-year-old’s body was found hanging in a wooded area in Abilene. Jeannie’s body had white bags tied around her hands and a hard wire around her neck. It appears that Jeannie’s killer intended to make it appear that she had died by suicide. However, investigators were not fooled – and her death was labeled as a homicide and staged hanging.

A man named Ricky Don Henderson is a suspect in Jeannie’s murder. Henderson, who was 37 years older than Jeannie at the time they were dating, was the last known person to have seen her alive. He is currently incarcerated on unrelated charges, and he remains the prime suspect in Jeannie’s murder – but he has yet to be charged with anything related to her case. Henderson’s ex-wife also vanished back in 1993 and has never been seen or heard from again. He remains the prime suspect in that case, too.

It’s unclear why investigators have been unable to charge Henderson, but it appears that most people close to the case are certain that he killed Jeannie and then staged her body to make it appear that she had taken her own life. Investigators are still hoping to receive a final tip or piece of evidence that can finally help the case move forward.

No comments:

Post a Comment