Entries in mystery (5)


Alleged Zodiac Killer Unmasked in New Book

Amazon(NEW YORK) -- It’s been more than three decades since the puzzling case of the Zodiac Killer unfolded, and now a former California Highway Patrol officer is unmasking in his new book who he believes the killer is.

In The Zodiac Killer Cover-up, AKA The Silenced Badge, Lyndon Lafferty, 79, lays out 40 years of evidence to build an accusation that a 91-year-old recovering alcoholic and Fairfield, Calif., resident was the Zodiac Killer.

“This was a story that I inherited. I did not ask for it,” Lafferty told ABC News. “I am the only person who can testify under oath that these things were absolutely true. My satisfaction is telling my story as it happened.”

During the time of the murders, Lafferty claims he encountered the Zodiac Killer himself while on parole as a CHP officer in 1970. Since then, Lafferty has investigated the case along with six other law enforcement officers. In 2002, he began to compile his notes from the past 30 years and began writing his own story of the case.

“This has been our experience of over 30 years of very dedicated and consistent investigation,” Lafferty said. “I have one chapter devoted to 156 circumstantial factors of evidence that related to the Zodiac case and our suspect.”

The Zodiac killings, which occurred in the late 1960s in and around San Francisco, got their name from the suspect’s use of zodiac symbols as his signature on letters with cryptic messages to local newspapers. While the killer claimed he took the lives of 37 people, authorities were only able to link the suspect to five murders.

Lafferty said the Zodiac killer’s rage was driven by jealousy after he found his wife having an affair. As for why he’s coming out with his story 40 years later, he said the case was ignored by several police agencies and repressed by a judge who Lafferty claims was having an affair with the suspect’s wife.

“The police departments in general were acting under the authority of the Solona County Sheriff, so they were instructed you do not investigate this man until you have permission from the judge,” Lafferty claims. “It’s been very traumatic, and it’s been frustrating beyond belief.”

Lafferty’s book isn’t the first written on the Zodiac killings, and there was also a movie inspired by the unsolved mystery.

No one has ever been arrested in the case.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Skulls in Florida Backyard Belong to Peru, Date Back to 1200

ABC News(WINTER GARDEN, Fla.) -- The discovery of two skulls in a Florida backyard sparked questions of intrigue and murder when they were found in January, but now investigators say the origin of the bones is even more mysterious than they thought.

The two skulls, of a 10-year-old boy and older man, date to 1200 to 1400, and show signs of being from Peru or South America, thousands of miles and a millennium from Winter Garden, Fla.

"The mystery is how they ended up there," medical examiner Jan Garavaglia said Monday. "We don't have any way of finding out."

The skulls were discovered in January when a plumber installing an in-ground pool came upon a piece of bone and reported it to the police.

Garavaglia determined immediately that the bone was from the face of a young child, aged 10 or 11, and alerted authorities that because of human tissue found still intact on the bone, it could be a recently-deceased child, buried illegally. The skulls were found with shards of pottery and textiles and a scrap of newspaper dated 1978.

The bones, it turned out, had a lengthier history than the 30 years or so since they were buried in Florida. When x-rayed by the medical examiner's office, it was clear that the bones were hundreds of years old, and that the human tissue on the cheek of the skull had been mummified. The skulls featured an "Inca bone," a telltale sign of a human from the Incan culture of Peru, Garavaglia said.

"This was clearly a secondary burial site," she said.

Garavaglia enlisted the help of archaeologists and anthropologists from the University of Central Florida and Yale to try and trace the origins of the skulls. Researchers identified cloth items found with the bones as that of primitive slings and purses made of woven materials and non-human hair.

What the researchers cannot figure out, and Garavaglia says they probably will not figure out, is how the items came to be buried in Florida.

The archaeologists and anthropologists will continue to research the bones, which will become part of published scientific studies. Ultimately, the skulls could be returned to Peru.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Skulls in Florida Backyard Belong to Peru, Date Back to 1200


Baby in Road Leads to Grisly Crime Scene

Thinkstock/Getty Images(WORCESTER, Mass.) -- A baby found in a car seat in the middle of a Massachusetts road led police to a brutal crime scene in a case authorities are calling “very disturbing” and “peculiar.”

Two women are in the hospital in critical condition Monday and one man is dead in Worcester, Mass.

At 11:56 p.m. Saturday, police responded to a call from a driver who spotted a baby sitting in a car seat in the middle of the road. The 3-month-old baby boy was unhurt, but taken to a hospital for evaluation. Police began canvassing the neighborhood and knocking on doors in search for the parents. They were directed to a home at 326 Lovell St.

“Police knocked on several of the doors to that apartment, but did not receive an answer,” Worcester police said in a news release. “Police heard sounds of a person in distress inside the apartment, so a forced entry was conducted.”

Inside, police discovered a man and woman lying on the floor. The man was unresponsive and the woman was injured, police said. Another woman was found injured elsewhere in the apartment. A loose pit bull was also in the residence.

The man, later identified as 32-year-old Javier Maldonado, was declared dead and the two women, ages 36 and 18, were taken to the hospital where they are in critical condition, police said. The 18-year-old is the mother of the baby that was found in the street.

Police will not comment on what kind of injuries the women sustained and an autopsy is being performed on Maldonado.

Authorities are tight-lipped about the investigation.

“We’re trying to piece together why the child was left in the middle of the road. It was highly unusual,” Sgt. Kerry Hazelhurst told ABC News. “There are a lot of questions we have unanswered right now.”

Hazelhurst called the baby in the road “very disturbing and unusual and peculiar.” He could not comment on how or why the baby was left in the street.

Police have not made any arrests and are “trying to cultivate” a list of suspects.

The baby was unharmed and is in the custody of the Department of Children and Families. The pit bull was taken by a Worchester Police animal control officer.

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Dispute Erupts in Search for Victims of 'Speed Freak Killers'

Joseph Devenney/Getty Images(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Cops searching for victims of the "Speed Freak Killers" are digging in the wrong well, according to a bounty hunter who says he convinced one of the killers to confess where they hid the bodies.

Wesley Shermantine, who is on death row for his role in the death of as many as 20 people in the Sacramento area, drew a map of two wells for bounty hunter Leonard Padilla after Padilla promised to pay Shermantine for the information.

Police digging in the first site found the bones of two missing women that Shermantine and his accomplice Loren Herzog were suspected of killing in the 1980s and 1990s.

Digging in a second well has turned up 1,000 bones over the past week, but Padilla told ABC News that those bones are from cattle and the police have not read Shermantine's directions correctly.

"We told (the sheriff's officers) you're digging in wrong place. It looks good on television, but actually there could possibly be another body just a quarter mile east of where he dug," Padilla said. Padilla said he had gone over the map that Shermantine drew meticulously to ensure that he knew which well the serial killer was describing. There are thousands of wells in the area, Padilla noted.

The sheriff's department did not return calls for comment.

Since Shermantine began disclosing where he dumped the victims of his drug-fueled killing spree, police have located the bodies of Chevelle "Chevy" Wheeler, 16, and Cyndi Vanderheiden, age 25.

In 2001, Herzog was released from jail on charges of manslaughter for his role in one of the murders. But he killed himself last month after finding out that Shermantine was preparing to disclose the locations of their victims' bodies.

Shermantine, who is on death row, provided the information first to Padilla and Scott Smith, a reporter for the Stockton Record, leading to the sheriff's excavations.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Grand Piano Mystery Solved: Biscayne Bay Confession

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MIAMI) -- Over the past couple of days a baby grand piano, parked on a sliver of a sandbar in Miami's Biscayne Bay, launched a thousand ships --okay, little pleasure boats -- Twitter accounts and countless rumors.

Was it the work of a master artist like Cristo, who once covered the islands in red cloth? The magic of David Copperfield or a relic of a botched hip hop music video shoot?

Perhaps it was the work of a clever fellow at the New World Symphony conservatory, trying to promote Tuesday night's opening of a $170 million Frank Gehry-designed campus?

Nope. This little installation of junk art, as it's known, was the brainchild of a 16-year-old.

Nicholas Harrington is a junior at Mast Academy in Key Biscayne.

His accomplices were his brother, Andrew, and neighbor Julian Roots, both 18.

They'd hatched the scheme before Christmas.

Harrington's grandparents had a grand piano in their garage. They wanted to get rid of it.

Harrington pondered. Perhaps hang it on a tree? Set it on fire?

Finally the "Piano bar" idea came to him.

So, on New Year's Eve the family threw a bash.

They burned the family Christmas tree and then partially set fire to the piano.

The next morning, on New Year's day, in broad daylight, they hoisted the baby grand onto Harrington's father's boat, and motored out to the sandbar, unloaded the 300-400 pound piano - and waited.

Two weeks later, a National Geographic photographer snapped an iconic shot of pelicans perched on it. But few people noticed it until residents alerted authorities and the Miami Herald.

When ABC News hired a boat and voyaged out to the sandbar -- just 200 yards from shore, the piano had lost its bench and was trashed.

But the burning question on the minds of bloggers, Miamians and humorists, is why?

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio