Al Capone. Zoot Suit Riots. Watts Riots. Bloody Christmas.
Nightmare On Elm Street. The Long Goodbye. Caged Heat. LA Confidential.
These make up only part of the story of of LA’s dark history…
The Lincoln Heights Jail operated from the 1930s to the 1960s before being decommissioned. Before its closing, the jail even housed Al Capone himself and became infamous for an incident later titled “Bloody Christmas”. The jail was then used for various things such as a popular filming site for big Hollywood movies and music videos, and even home to the Bilingual Foundation Of Arts. Despite plans to redevelop the imposing structure, Lincoln Heights Jail currently sits empty and abandoned.
The Lincoln Heights Jail, located near the Los Angeles River, was built in 1927 and cost a massive $5 million. It opened its doors in 1931 and was initially made up of 5-stories with space to house 625 prisoners. Things had changed rapidly by the early 1950s though, with the jail growing to hold 2800 prisoners. In 1951, the unwarranted and unprovoked beatings of seven prisoners. This is what became known as Bloody Christmas. It all started on Christmas Eve of 1951 when LAPD officers Julius Trojanowski and Nelson Brownson headed out to a call that had reported minors drinking. When they arrived, the so-called minors were seven adult men. Daniel Rodela, Elias Rodela, Jack Wilson, William Wilson, Raymond Marquez, Manuel Hernandez, and Eddie Nora. The men produced their identification documents showing their age but still, the officers said they had to leave. The men all refused. The officers then tried to forcefully remove them and a fight broke out. The one officer needed stitches and the other got a black eye. Seven hours later the men were arrested. 6 were taken to the jail. Daniel Rodela however, was horrifically beaten by multiple police officers. On Christmas morning, a rumor broke out between a large number of drinking officers at a Christmas party that Julius Trojanowski had lost an eye. The 6 prisoners were then taken from their jail cells and beaten for 95 minutes by approximately 50 officers. All of the men received severe injuries. A cover-up attempt followed and shockingly the results of the eventual trial were as follows: 8 officers were indicted and tried between July and November of 1952. Five were convicted, but only one of the men got a prison sentence of more than a year. 54 other officers were transferred and 39 were temporarily suspended without pay.
Al Capone was detained at Lincoln Heights Jail along with other notable individuals such as those arrested during the Zoot Suit Riots and the Watt Riots. Lincoln Heights Jail also had a high number of LGBTQ+ inmates. These inmates were all kept in a separate wing. The Los Angeles Police Department had a heavy crackdown on LGBTQ+ activity during the 50s and 60s. Undercover officers would go to bars and parks that were known hangouts for members of this community and then arrest anyone they suspected of soliciting non-heterosexual sex and prostitution.
The jail was officially decommissioned in 1965 after the LA City Council and LA County Board of Supervisors decided to rather consolidate inmates to nearby county jails as it would be more cost-effective. In 1979, Lincoln Heights Jail became the home of the Bilingual Foundation of Arts as well as a gym. This arrangement lasted until 2014, the operations were closed after asbestos and lead paint were discovered at the building. Mysteriously, before this happened the gym’s owner was found dead at the bottom of an elevator shaft.
In 1994, a local boxing champion, Johnnie Flores, fell to his death in the elevator shaft after leaving the Los Angeles Youth Athletic Club. The community champion and amateur boxer was found at the bottom of the service elevator shaft just steps away from the boxing gym he founded and where he spent most of his days. This boxing gym made use of the former jail cells and holding tanks to provide athletic training for local youth.
The Lincoln Heights Jail has served as the backdrop to many of our favorite movies since its closure. These include The Nightmare of Elm Street, Caged Heat, The Long Goodbye, L.A. Confidential, and American History X and more.. It has also been used by musicians such as Lady Gaga and Blink-182 as the setting for their music videos.
Various film and TV crew members as well as building staff and visitors have reported experiencing unexplained or paranormal activity.
In 2016, there looked to be a new lease on life on the horizon for the Lincoln County Jail after the City of Los Angeles issued a Request for Interest to garner development ideas for the property. Permission was granted to Lincoln Property Company and Fifteen Group to redevelop the prison. The Lincoln Heights Jail was set to become Lincoln Heights Makers District. The space was going to have commercial and manufacturing spaces, recreational areas, an office space, live-work housing, and an amphitheater with green space. But, March 2020 saw things come to a halt after the site was put on hold due to environmental issues. There was hazardous material and trash that needed to be removed that apparently required more effort than initially expected.
As of 2022, the Lincoln Heights Jail is littered with graffiti and there seems to be no work being done on it. At the moment, it is off bounds for the public and is surrounded by a chain-link fence and protected by security guards. It is unclear what the future plans are for this historic building.
15 miles from Ithaca, New York is Dryden: a quiet, cloudy upstate town with a population of less than 2,000 people. In fact, it’s rumored that Frank Capra was inspired by Dryden when scouting locations for “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Still, the dark days aren’t just the cloud cover, it’s a pallor over the town that’s existed in earnest since the mid-1990s, when a series of truly horrifying and morbid deaths all connected to the local high school changed the town forever.
Dryden High School was a nice place for an education- the red brick building is welcoming and statuesque, it has a vibrant sports program including running tracks, an expensive football field and a skating rink. Its enrollment at the time was around 732 students, who would show school spirit by throwing bonfires in the fields and woods close by.
On September 10th, 1996, spirits were …high. Dryden Football team was coming off of a division championship the previous year, and the team had just won the local Preseason Invitational football game. The day culminated in practice, lasting until about 6:30 pm. Scott Pace attended that practice, and he’s a pretty big deal. Popular, handsome, and one of the most talented football players ever to attend Dryden high, really, the unofficial leader of the team, rushed out of the school after practice to meet his parents and… is immediately killed in a car crash.
It’s a tragedy in and of itself. But what makes it even more bizarre is that Scott’s older brother, Billy- similarly beloved and talented on the football field- was ALSO killed in a car crash almost EXACTLY One YEAR before!
Everyone is absolutely fucked up by both Billy and Scott’s death. People use words like “recovering from tragedy” community and “pulling together, but the truth is, it feels like a greek tragedy. But it’s only the beginning.
Three weeks later, Dryden had another home football game. This is Friday, October 4th, 1996. 17 year old Tiffany Starr, captain of the Dryden cheerleaders, arrived in pigtails in her purple uniform. She’s a math honors student, on student council, is the point guard on the girls’ basketball team, and has been voted “Best Actress” and “Class Flirt” by her peers. She’s preceded by her equally loved twin sisters, Amber and Amy, who graduated from Dryden two years before. If I haven’t emphasized what a big deal it is to be a cheerleader at Dryden, here’s a quote from Tiffany’s sister, Amber:
“Being a cheerleader at Dryden is the closest thing to being a movie star as you can get. It’s like being a world-class gymnast, movie star, and model all in one. It is fabulous! Fab-u-lous! It’s so much fun! Because we rule.”
They did rule. The Dryden High squad won their region’s cheerleading championships a whopping 12 years in a row. The leadership and spirit of the three Star sisters might be credited to their father, Stephen, the former Dryden High football coach. We’ll jump back to the Starrs in a bit, another missing piece of this whole nightmare puzzle…
So on Friday, October 4th, 1996. Tiffany walked in, and huddled with her quad. One of them makes note that their friends and fellow cheerleaders, Jennifer Bolduc and Sarah Hajney, never showed up to school that day. Jennifer and Sarah are juniors and Tiffany is close with them- so much so that Tiffany knows that Sarah’s parents were out of town the night before, and that Jen spent the night at Sarah’s house, located in nearby McLean. The two would never miss a game, considering how high profile the cheer team is, and also, just knowing the girls themselves.
Jen Bolduc was 16, tall, popular, a varsity track star, a champion baton-twirler, and a volunteer at Cortland Memorial Hospital.
Sarah Hajney was as dependable and loved, beautiful, on varsity track and did volunteer work for children with special needs.
The football team loses the game, and the anxious cheer team decides to spend the night at the Starr house. As they head back, New York state troopers William Foley and Eric Janie are inside Sarah Hajney’s house. Both live in Dryden- they know the family. But they aren’t alone in the house.
“There are a lot of people, concerned family members, inside the house,” says Janie. “And the first obvious fact is: There’s a problem in the bathroom.”
In the bathroom, they see a shower curtain pulled down and the soap dish is broken off. On the towel rack is Jen’s freshly washed purple-and-white cheerleading skirt. Sarah’s skirt is discovered twirled over a drying rack in the basement.
Seeing signs of struggle, Janie and Foley treat the area like a crime scene, and Sarah’s parents- who were vacationing in Bar Harbor, Maine, are on their way back home.
Seven miles from the house in a fly fishing store parking lot authorities find The Hajney’s Chevy Lumina. Inside the car is mud, pine needles, charred wood, blood, and diamond-patterned fingerprints suggesting the kidnapper wore gloves. Inside the trunk…is evidence that two bodies have been there. But nothing else.
Waiting outside the Hajney home for information, along with many others, is Sarah’s best friend, Katie Sorvino. What nobody knew yet is that Katie had made plans to spend the night with Sarah and Jen but, at the last minute, decided to stay home.
So the town is losing their mind even more. State Troopers are everywhere, the high school is in an even higher state of tragedy and the investigation begins in earnest as to what happeend to the girls. The first people to be questioned are the Hajney’s neighbors- John and Patricia Andrews. Their six-year-old son, Nicholas, attends Dryden Elementary. From the Andrews’ upstairs bedroom, one can look down easily into the Hajneys’ bathroom.
John Andrews is acting weird and it doesn’t look good at all. And his questionable history is reason for suspicion.
Andrews is a shy, car-loving guy who went to Dryden High and came from an unstable family. His father is an abusive alcoholic who later commits suicide. John, trying to escape is situation, quickly marries his high school sweetheart, Patricia and then joins the Air Force. Twice at his German base, John attacks two young blonde women who are his neighbors. He’s found guilty of the second assault, dishonorably discharged and then buys a house for his family in Mclean.
A year later, in August 1996, the Hajney’s buy the house next door to the Andrews, and John quickly becomes obsessed with their beautiful, outgoing daughter Sarah.
The search for the killers of Sarah and Jen alarms Tiffany Starr and the whole cheerleading squad. “We keep hearing different rumors all day. The house where I live is five minutes from the place where Sarah and Jen have been kidnapped. Of course I go wild, thinking they’re coming to get me next. We’ve been imagining that they’re after cheerleaders. And Saturday night and Sunday it’s just me and my mom at home, and everybody knows that. By Sunday, I’m freaking out. And I say, ‘Mom, we have to leave now! We have to get out of here!’ And my mom says, ‘Okay, let’s go.’ And we throw our stuff in a bag. I can’t be in that house another minute. I’m terrified. I’m sure somebody is gonna break in, and we just get in the car and go.”
To fully understand Tiffany’s absolutely warranted fear, we need to go back two years and examine what happened December 29th, 1994. We’ll definitely do that, after the BREAK.
On December 29th 1994, things feel good with the Starr family. Tiffany is a sophomore, her sisters are seniors, and their father, Stephen is the star Dryden High football coach….
The Starrs live in Cortlandville, which, like McLean, feeds into Dryden High.Stephen Starr is happy being the football coach along with teaching sixth grade, loves his wife judy and his three successful daughters- whom he affectionately called Pinny, Bamber and Shrimper. It’s a good life.
After a dinner with his family, Stephen Star grabs a plate of cookies and milk. Says Amber:
“So I’m on my way up to bed, and he’s on his way downstairs, he has a glass of milk and a plate of cookies, and for some reason this really overwhelming feeling comes over me. And I say, ‘Dad! Wait!’ And I say, ‘Stop! I love you!’ And I give him this really big hug, and he’s like, ‘I love you too, kiddo.’ And he goes on downstairs. And that’s the last time I see him alive.”
Yes, Another person affiliated with Dryden High is killed.
Earlier that year, a moody teenager named J.P. Merchant moves from Truxton, New York to Dryden, and meets the charming and beautiful Amber Starr. She’s aggressive, dynamic, intelligent. J.P falls in love with her, and Amber…while finding him attractive in that emo way, doesn’t reciprocate the feeling. They date briefly but she breaks it off wit him, and things quickly starts to get weird. He calls, shows up at her home, harasses her friends. He says if they dont’ get back together he will kill himself. Amber is accommodating; she talks to him, is still nice to him, tries to let him down gently. But she moves on, and soon starts dating someone else. J.P. doesn’t like that- and in late december he threatens to kill Amber’s new boyfriend. Tiffany and her mom go to the County Sheriff on December 27 and file a complaint.
The sheriff arrests JP, but his family posts the $500 bail. Right after his release he threatens amber AGAIN, and this time Amber goes with Tiffany and their mom back to the Sheriff’s department, begging for help and protection.
On December 29, a sheriff’s officer watches the Starrs’ house during the day time, but after his shift ends, Stephen starr returns from a conference and the whole house is unguarded. That’s where Stephen Starr says goodnight to his kids, eats his plate of cookies, drinks a single beer and heads to bed. Hours later, J.P. Merchant shoots the locks off the Starr’s back door, climbs the stairs, and sees Tiffany standing in her bedroom doorway.
At that point, he aims the Ithaca 20-gauge shotgun at her. “I am ready to die,” Tiffany says. “I think for sure this is it. But something as simple as shutting my door keeps me alive. He is not after me. He wants Amber. He just isn’t going to let anyone get in his way. And I don’t try. I shut my door and let him go.”
Seconds later, J.P. wakes Amber up and Stephen, hearing movement, runs to protect his daughter. Turning, J.P fires two shots and kills Stephen Starr.
The girls and their mother scramble out of the house, and Merchant reloads his shotgun and follows. He fired into the woods at the edge of their house, thinking they were hiding there. But the family goes in the opposite direction instead, racing across the yard to a neighbor’s. J.P. spotts them and almost follows…but instead, he drives to the grave of his high school sweetheart, Shari Fitts. Shari committed suicide three years before this, while she was dating JP. There, he puts the gun to his head, pulls the trigger, and kills himself.
Let’s get back to October 6th, 1996. After Sarah and Jen go missing, Tiffany and Judy pack their backs and go to TIffany’s grandparent’s house in Pennsylvania, not wanting to deal with any more tragic and fatal bullshit. At the same time, the police are narrowing the suspects for Jen and Sarah’s murder down to four—the Hajneys’ neighbor, John Andrews, and three others. At 10 P.M.a call comes in from a woman in her early 30s named Ann Erxleben, another Dryden alumni. She works with Cheryl Bolduc, mother of Jen Bolduc.
Ann and her fiance own a cabin out in the country, and a friend of theirs is staying there over the weekend. This friend notices a red puddle on the floor- something that looks suspiciously like blood. They go up to the cabin to check it out, and call a trooper because the puddle does, indeed, look like blood. THe trooper asks if anyone else had been to the cabin recently, and Ann searches her memory, realizing actually…her brother had been there not long before. Her brother was… wait for it…John Andrews, the Hajney family’s neighbor.
John Andrews is arrested the next day and troopers start to find body parts all around the cabin.
His confession is…chilling, and soon the story unfolds: Three days earlier, the day the girls never show up to the football game, John Andrews ducked under the Hajneys’ garage door and cut the phone wires. Wearing a ski mask and rubber gloves and carrying a bag with duct tape, six knives and even more gloves, Andrews entered the unlocked door from the garage to the kitchen, and crept down the steps to Sarah’s room. He tied Sarah up and putsduct tape on her mouth.
Turning, he saw Jen, who had just taken a shower. Naked, she fought back as he ties her up too, and put both girls in the back of the Chevy Lumina. He drives an hour to Ann’s cabin, builds a bonfire and by the light of the bonfire tortures the two girls and cuts them into small pieces. He drives back down to civilization, throwing bloody body parts and his own clothes out the window as he goes.
On Monday, October 7, Dryden High administration sends ominous notes to teachers in each first period classroom. “Each teacher has to read to the students that Sarah and Jen have been found and that they are definitely dead,” says Tiffany. “When the teachers read the notes to the classes, people jump out of their seats and run down the hallways, screaming. Everybody gathers in the gym and just screams and just cries and cries. And then people speed out to the parking lots, and they just, like… leave.”
Superintendent of Schools Donald Trombley is quoted in The Ithaca Journal: “It is unbelievable hysteria.”
Katie Savino, Sarah’s best friend, is taken out of class and told privately- after she hears, she runs toward Sarah’s locker and collapses.
On Saturday, November 2, one day after being indicted on 26 counts of murder, kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, auto theft, burglary, and criminal possession of a weapon, John Andrews hangs himself in his jail cell with his shoelaces.
Afer this, things get quiet…for a bit. Scott and Tiffany’s class graduates in 1997.Sarah and Jen’s class graduates in 1998. In June 1999, Gary Cassell, the young Dryden High athletic director and the man who became a surrogate father to the Starr sisters, dies of a sudden heart attack. Three days later, Judy comes home from work and sits down Tiffany and Amy, telling them that their friend and fellow cheerleader- the one survivor of of that fateful night of Jen and Sarah’s murder- Katie Sorvino is dead.
Katie had been a huge part of what helped Dryden feel a little normal after Jen and Sarah’s murder. But on on June 11, 1999, 19-year old Katie Sorvino is killed by her college friend Cheryl Thayer in a drunk driving accident. Cheryl was pulled out of the burning car by a truck driver, but he couldn’t grab Katie in time, seconds later the car exploded.
Twenty-three hundred people attended the memorial service for the popular Katie Sorvino, who for the short rest of her life was haunted by her best friends’ deaths. Says Tiffany “when Sarah died, Katie took a lot of her clothes and wore them. She wore Sarah’s belt every day. I think it really terrified her that she was supposed to have been [at Sarah’s house the night of the kidnapping]. And then on top of it, she lost her best friend in the most painful way that you could possibly imagine.”
Three months later, Katie’s good friend Mike Vogt, the class clown and Dryden High’s Division All Star middle linebacker, was so depressed by both Scott Pace and Katie Sorvino’s death that he walks out to a cabin in the woods puts a 12-gauge to his head and shoots himself.
I think a quote from a student at the time sums this whole episode up: “We felt like we’re living in the Village of the Damned,” “We’re like, ‘When is this going to stop?’”
Stephen Starr, Billy, Scott, Sarah, Jen, Katie, Mike…“It’s weird, but young death almost seems to be the norm here,” says a mother of a Dryden Elementary School student. It’s insane, intense, bizarre, mythic, and horrifying, all these deaths that seem to be interwoven with one another. The community, of course, will never be the same.
On October 13th, 1982, concerned neighbors went to the house of the Salomon family, a well liked, social family on their Northridge, CA street. Noticing that the Salomon’s pool had overflowed and it was spilling into their yards, she and a group of concerned friends found a locked door, cars in the driveway and the family’s cocker spaniel, Mishmish, hanging out in a soaking back yard. It was a puzzling scene. But this was only the start to a ten year nightmare, spanning Southern California to London, spawning three trials and countless legal hearings exposing family secrets and heartbreak. This is the the mysterious and unsolved disappearance of the Salomon family.
In the late 80’s and early 90’s the puzzle based video game Tetris took America, and eventually the rest of the world by storm. However, the history of one of Russias finest exports, has a very dark, complex, and deadly history.
This is the story of the co-founder of Tetris, Vladimir Pokhilko, and unfortunately this story ends in murder.In 1984 in Moscow, Russian scientist Alexey Pajitnov developed the first version of Tetris on an Electronika 60 terminal computer while working at the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
Although Tetris had many versions, the Cold War born game found its way into the hearts of millions, as well as the Nintendo Game Boy, and made Tetris a household name. Tetris was released on June 14, 1989, and has sold more than 43 million copies worldwide.
Born in 1954, Vladimir Pokhilko was a Russian academic and entrepreneur. He worked as a clinical psychologist for many years using puzzles as psychological tests. This skill would prove quite useful when Pokhilko partnered with one of his close friends by the name of Alexey Pajitnov. Pajitnov demonstrated his invention to Pokhilko who would go on to convince Pajitnov that it would make an amazing video game. Tetris was based on an ancient Roman puzzle called Pentamino. Their final product would go on to become one of the greatest video games of all time, Tetris. Often referred to as co-creators and yet Pajitnov earned true fame and recognition as Tetris’ creator. Still living off its fame and wealth to this day while Pokhilko’s name quickly faded away. Even if you are to research the creators of Tetris on their own website you will not see Pokhilko credited.
Soviet authorities demanded that the pair sign over all rights to Tetris. After years of carefully searching for the right way to pitch their game to the right company they were able to broker a license agreement with Henk Rogers, whose Japan-based company Bullet Proof Software gained the rights to sell Tetris. In 1996, the Soviet restrictions expired and so full rights to Tetris moved to Pajitnov who had chosen to move to the United States five years before Pokhilko. The company that both Pokhilko and Pajitnov had made together, AnimaTek International Inc. would be led Pajitnov with Rogers as its chairman and largest stockholder. In 1996, when Soviet restrictions expired however, Rogers created a new company by the name of Tetris Co. Which bought the rights off Pajitnov for Tetris ultimately leaving Pokhilko completely uninvolved.
Through all the changing of rights, Pokhilko was left struggling with financial ruin. After moving with his wife Elena and 12-year-old son Peter to San Francisco to help run his software company AnimaTek he was slowly being pushed to the edge. A shortage of funds and the pressure to finance more “Hollywood” level computer effects led to a series of company problems. Polkhilko was left to watch as an outsider while Tetris rapidly grew in popularity and both Pojitnov and Rogers earned all the fame and wealth that came with it.
On September 24th, 1998, Pokhilko went on to murder his wife Elena, son Peter and then in the end himself. Within their family home in Palo Alto, Pokhilko bludgeoned his family with a hammer before then stabbing them each repeatedly with a hunting knife as they lay in bed sleeping. Once they were both dead, he stabbed himself once in the neck with the knife, ultimately ending his life as well. A close family friend later notified the police at 3:30pm the next day after failing to reach the family multiple times and arriving at home. Police found the bodies of Elena and Peter in their beds. No signs of a struggle possibly indicating that they were attacked while asleep. Pokhilko’s body was found in Peter’s room with the knife still in his hand. Along with a hammer later retrieved by police they also found a note. The note reads, “I’ve been eaten alive. Vladimir. Just remember that I am exist. The devil.” It is unclear if this note was intended as a suicide note from Pokhilko, or if it was written by someone else.
It is reported that the following Wednesday after the murders, large scale software company Squaresoft arrived at AnimaTek’s offices with an offer of $200,000 for the company’s services. This deal would have eased the company’s financial problems and possibly some of Pokhilko’s struggles. It is likely that due to Pokhilko’s actions his name has been steadily erased from most of the videogames industries’ history of any of his contributions. Pajitnov was able to regain the rights to Tetris and in turn earn his fair profits while Pokhilko was left to run a failing company alone. Without Pokhilko, it is likely that the world would not have ever seen Tetris, and without Tetris Nintendo’s Game Boy would not likely have been so successful.
The town of Poughkeepsie, NY had a trophy-collecting serial killer by the name of Kendall Francois in it’s midst in the late 90’s: The Poughkeepsie Killer (Kendall Francois).
When young women began to disappear without a trace in late 1996, in Poughkeepsie, NY, police eventually came to the conclusion they might have a serial killer on the loose. After all, all but one of the missing women had one thing in common: they had been arrested for prostitution in the past.
Still, as there were no crime scenes and no bodies, it was not easy for the detectives to move on with their investigation. And so, one by one, more women vanished, leaving behind only confusion and fear. Eventually, after two years and eight missing women, people were too afraid even to come outside anymore.
But then, on September 1, 1998, police hit the jackpot by chance. Detectives had pulled into a gas station when all of a sudden, a man came up to the car and told the police that a young woman had told him she had been assaulted just moments ago by a very large man. Luckily, police were able to locate the girl in question, who confirmed the story and gave the officers a name: Kendall Francois.
Kendall Francois was born on July 26, 1971, being one of four children of McKinley and Paulette Francois. Kendall was remembered by his neighbors as a large boy who taunted local children by his size but mostly kept to himself. By the time Kendall was 14, he had reached 6’4″ and weighed 250 pounds. Unsurprisingly due to his size, Kendall was part of both wrestling and football teams before joining the army after his graduation.
In 1994 Kendall was discharged, and he returned to Poughkeepsie. Just two years later, women began disappearing.
Now, another two years later, police located Kendall Francois and took him to headquarters. Over the next few hours, as Kendall admitted many things regarding the missing women, it became evident they had just found their serial killer. Kendall had taken all those women from the corners of the streets to his home before strangling them, sometimes just because of disagreeing about the payment for their services.
Kendall was arrested on August 25, 1998, and a search warrant was drawn up and signed by a Town court judge. Still, when a team of detectives and forensic investigators entered Kendall’s house at 99 Fulton Street, nobody was ready for the horrors they were about to find.
Kendall had hidden his victim’s bodies all over the house that he shared with his parents. Some were in the attic, some in the basement crawl space, many in such a bad stage of decomposition one officer reportedly ruined more than one pair of boots walking on human “sludge.” As if that was not enough, Kendall also kept his victim’s skulls in a plastic kiddie pool in the attic as if they were his trophies.
In August 2000, Kendall Francois was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. That life lasted until 2014, when he passed away from “apparent natural causes” while incarcerated on September 11, at the age of 43.
The Horror of Halloween Killer Ronald Clark O’Bryan
Halloween night on October 31, 1974, in Deer Park, Texas, was cold and misty. It had been raining that day, but 8-year-old Timothy O’Bryan and his 5-year-old sister Elizabeth were determined to go trick-or-treating. Their father, Ronald Clark O’Bryan, was watching over his children as they went from house to house looking for candy. With them were also two other minors and their father, Jim Bates.
Around 9 PM, Ronald told Timothy and Elizabeth that they could have one piece of candy before bed. Timothy picked out a sucker, but his father said:
“No, no. You don’t have time to eat a sucker. Here, try this Pixy Stix.”
Immediately, Timothy complained about the weird, bitter taste of the candy, which Ronald helped him wash away with a glass of Kool-Aid. Within moments Timothy experienced severe stomach cramps and violently vomited in the bathroom before going limp in his father’s arms. Ronald called for an ambulance, but unfortunately, Timothy died on the way to the hospital less than an hour after eating the powdered candy.
Timothy’s autopsy revealed he had been poisoned with potassium cyanide with a dosage high enough to kill two adults. Fortunately, the authorities were able to recover the remaining Pixy Stixs from the other children before they were consumed.
At first, everybody thought someone had a sinister plan to kill as many children that Halloween as they could. But when the man living in the house where Ronald claimed to have gotten the sweets in the first place had a solid alibi, the suspicion quickly changed to Ronald himself. The police discovered that he had recently taken out $30,000 life insurance policies on both of his children and had debts of over $100,000. When it was found out that Ronald had called the insurance company about collecting on his son’s policy just a day after Timothy’s death, authorities felt they had a solid case against him.
Ronald was arrested on November 5, 1974, and charged with one count of capital murder and four counts of attempted murder. He claimed to be innocent but was eventually found guilty on June 2, 1975, and sentenced to death. Right after midnight on March 31, 1984, the 39-year-old Ronald O’Bryan was executed by lethal injection. He maintained his innocence until the very end.
Even though Ronald’s crime was targeted at his own children and their friends, urban legends of randomly distributed poison candy live strong almost 50 years later. The so-called Candy Man truly left a stain on Halloween, as his own attorney said:
The Reality TV Murder | Ryan Jenkins & Jasmine Fiore | Megan Wants A Millionaire | True Crime
The reality television show Megan Wants A Millionaire and a grisly murder intersect in 2009.
The Reality TV Murder involved the death of model Jasmine Fiore occurred on August 15, 2009. Her body was discovered on August 15, 2009, strangled and stuffed into a suitcase. Her remains had been mutilated to prevent recognition; she was eventually identified by the serial numbers of her breast implants. Fiore was 28 years old.
Fiore was married within 48 hours to Ryan Jenkins, after a 48 hour courtship in Las Vegas. Jenkins recently was a contestant on VH1’s Megan Wants A Millionaire, and the only suspect and was formally charged with the murder. On August 23, 2009, Jenkins was found dead in a hotel room in Hope, British Columbia, Canada. Jenkins was 32 years old.
The Tragic Case of Charemon Jonovich & Robert Pastorelli
The Tragic Case of Charemon Jonovich & Murphy Brown actor Robert Pastorelli leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
The death of Murphy Brown actor Robert Pastorelli’s girlfriend in 1999 was an open and shut case. Until it wasn’t. Pastorelli’s overdose in 2004 was on the heels of his upgrade from grieving boyfriend and father, to suspect.
According to a story in the National Enquirer, “police were about to reverse the decision of death by accidental gunshot to murder, in the death of Pastorelli’s ex-girlfriend, Charemon Jonovich. The original claim was that Jonovich threatened to kill herself with the gun when it accidentally went off, but according to the story, “Insiders say the DA never believed Pastorelli’s version” of events, particularly when gunpowder residue was found on Pastorelli’s hands.”
How Curb Your Enthusiasm Saved Juan Catalan From Death Row
A 2004 episode HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm was instrumental in proving the innocence and exonerating Juan Catalan in the murder of Martha Puebla, saving him from a potential death row sentence.
From Thought Catalog, “On the night of May 12, 2003, 16-year-old Martha Puebla was shot to death outside her home in Sun Valley, CA. Only days before her murder, she had testified against young Mario Catalan involving a gang slaying in which Mario was charged as an accessory. Twenty miles away, Mario’s brother Juan was at Dodger Stadium with his six-year old daughter, watching his beloved Dodgers play the Atlanta Braves. Since an eyewitness identified Juan as the shooter and Juan had a criminal record from his teens, police arrested him and charged him with murder. He spent nearly six months in jail protesting his innocence while staring down the death penalty. It wasn’t until Juan’s persistent lawyer was reviewing hours of tapes and spotted Juan in the crowd during the Dodgers game based on outtakes from Larry David’s HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm that the DA was forced to drop the murder charges and award him a settlement of $320,000.”
The story of Juan Catalan and Curb Your Enthusiasm is illustrated in the Netflix Documentary Long Shot.
San Diego Tank Rampage | The Tragic Case of Shawn Nelson
On May 18, 1995, unhinged military vet Shawn Nelson stole a tank and went on a 23 minute rampage through the streets of San Diego.
Nelson’s spiral downward began in 1990, when he got hospitalized for both neck and back injuries he sustained from a motorcycle accident. He sued the hospital for $1.6 million, citing negligence, assault, battery, and false imprisonment. He also made the claim that he was forced to be treated without his consent. However, a superior court judge not only dismissed his case, but the hospital also counter-sued him for the $6,640 in medical fees and legal expenses.
In 1991, his wife of six years filed to divorce against him. By 1992, he lost both of his parents. Nelson also developed an addiction to meth. Shawn’s strange behavior continued, including digging a 17 foot deep in his backyard to mine for gold.
Then, things went downhill further. Nelson’s plumbing business got halted from the combination of his neck and back problems, as well as his plumbing equipment getting stolen. He then lost his new girlfriend to overdose.
Nelson lost his income, which resulted in both his utilities getting cut off and his house going into foreclosure.
The Tank Rampage
On Wednesday, May 17, 1995, Nelson reached his breaking point. He drove to the California Army National Guard Armory. The armory, located in the Kearny Mesa neighborhood of San Diego was easily accessible. He managed to start 57-ton M60A3 Patton tank.
For the next 23 minutes, Nelson led police on a televised chase through the streets of San Diego
Throughout Nelson’s rampage, the tank plowed through road signs, traffic lights, utility poles, fire hydrants. In addition to that, the tank also crushed several parked vehicles. The damage from the tank to multiple utility poles, power was out to at least 5000 customers of SDG&E.
While on Interstate 805, Nelson attempted to knock down a pedestrian bridge by repeatedly running into its support beams. Nelson then drove the tank southbound on Route 163 resulting in the freeway quickly getting closed down and blocked off. Thousands of motorists were also left stuck as the police continuing trying to stop Nelson whose rampage continued.
Nelson attempted to cross northbound into oncoming traffic. However, this was stopped when he got stuck trying to go over the concrete median divider .
With Nelson now stuck, four San Diego police officers climbed onto the tank. However, instead of complying, he attempted to free the tank by moving it back and forth to and resume. His attempt was ultimately stopped when, Nelson was shot through his shoulder officer Richard Piner.
With the rampage finally over, officials took Nelson to Sharp Memorial Hospital, where he ultimately died from his injuries.