Charles is a true crime addict and has been watching and reading about crime for more than 15 years.
Identifying a homicide victim is the first key to solving a crime. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always come on a silver platter. Most killers know the significance of victim identification and go to great lengths to mask their victims. Murderers are well-schooled in criminal investigations and recognise that identifying and piecing together the last moments of a victim’s life are crucial to solving a case. They, therefore, try to conceal their victims in rivers, parks, swamps, deserts, seas and even mountains where there is very little chance of them being discovered. Even when these victims are lucky enough to be found, there is a high probability their bodies will have deteriorated thereby making identification by DNA or fingerprints very challenging. Some deranged killers go over the top and undertake extreme measures like mutilation, incineration, and the use of acid baths to ensure their victims are totally eradicated from the surface of the earth. However, sometimes forensic technology and a little bit of luck can help reveal the identities of victims which killers have tried so desperately to hide.
1. Barbara Mullenix was Identified With the Help of her Breast Implants
Physical confrontations between Barbara Mullenix and her 17-year-old daughter, Rachael, was nothing new. Her daughter had even gone to the extent of attacking her with a knife. When she and Rachael moved to California to be with her ex-husband, the confrontations continued. This time it was because of Rachael’s 21-year-old boyfriend, Ian Allen, who Barbara was not fond of. The situation escalated when Rachael wasn’t home at her 1 o’clock curfew. Barbara drove down to Ian's house and made a scene by screaming and banging on the door to wake everybody which really embarrassed her. Rachael and Ian couldn’t take it anymore and decided that Barbara, the only person that stood between their happiness, should be eliminated.
When Rachael’s dad was away on a business trip, the pair decided to put their plan into action. They waited till Barbara was asleep and savagely attacked her with a knife stabbing her over 50 times. After she was dead, they bundled her body in an empty television box and dumped it in the ocean.
Investigators were alerted of a dead woman in the harbor of a yacht club in California and were shocked at the brutality of her murder. Initially, they had no idea of the identity of the victim which hindered the progress of the investigation. However, during the autopsy, it was discovered that the victim had had breast implants. Through the serial numbers and other details on the implants, they were able to identify the victim as Barbra Mullenix. This set the investigation in motion.
2. Ronald Joseph Platt was Identified With the Help of his Rolex Watch
When Ronald Platt was invited by his friend, Albert Walker, on his boat for a day of sailing, he didn’t know that it would be his last time alive. Platt was knocked unconscious with a blow to the back of his head with a blunt instrument and heaved overboard while he was alive with an anchor attached to his belt. Walker used the anchor to anchor his friend at the bottom of the English Channel in the hopes that his terrible secret would never come to light. However, sometimes fate has a way of bringing the worst criminals to justice.
When John Copik, a fisherman of more than 30 years, hauled in his net one fateful day, he had no idea he was in for the biggest surprise of his life. His catch of the day was a dead man with no apparent identification. Copik immediately alerted the coast guard who first had to proceed with the arduous task of identifying who the victim was.
After a thorough examination of the victim, the only item that stood out was an expensive Rolex watch on his wrist. Rolex keeps extraordinary records on their watches worldwide. Every Rolex watch comes with a serial number. It is hidden on the watch, but detailed records are kept for everyone who owns that watch forever. The Rolex company was contacted which helped in the identification of Platt. With the first hurdle cleared, investigators were later able to piece together all the other evidence which led to the arrest of Walker.
3. Being a Methamphetamine Addict Helped in the Identification of Norman Klaas
Perhaps this is the only positive thing that came out of Norman Klaas being a meth addict and dealer. Norman was brutally murdered by his friend and fellow Meth dealer, Graham King, after he had had an affair with his girlfriend. After murdering him, he mutilated his body and tossed his body parts in various garbage dumpsters throughout the city.
A man searching through a garbage dumpster was shocked to find a severed human leg in a bag. The police were called to the scene and they searched the other dumpsters in the vicinity in the hope of finding the other body parts but unfortunately they couldn’t. With only a leg, investigators were now faced with the most challenging criminal investigation in their careers.
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The muscle from the thigh of the leg was analyzed and in the screening for the common drugs of abuse, significant levels of methamphetamine was found. Investigators now had a hunch that they were dealing with someone who was involved in meth, possibly a dealer.
When a woman called to report her boyfriend missing and also added that he was a meth dealer, investigators knew the leg they found was possibly from him. Further evidence would confirm that the leg was indeed that of Norman Klaas and subsequent investigations would eventually lead to the arrest of Graham King.
4. Florence Yvette Hildreth was Identified With the Help of her Mailbox and House Keys
Florence had her whole future ahead of her. She was a high school senior who was president of the student union and a member of the honor roll. Her dream was to study medicine. Unfortunately, her dreams were cut short due to the sick fantasies of a close family friend by the name of Rodney Berryman. Berryman was an unemployed young man who was living with Florence’s uncle and had a criminal past with several arrests for drug-related crimes.
Florence was walking home late one night from her cousin’s house and was offered a ride by Rodney. She didn’t think twice about hopping in his car since he was a family friend and hence trusted him. This would turn out to be the worst decision of her life. Instead of taking her home, Rodney drove her to a deserted farm where he sexually assaulted her and then stabbed her to death.
A farm worker discovered her nude body on his farm and went ahead to alert detectives. The first priority of detectives was to identify who she was but unfortunately, she had no identification and didn’t match any person in the missing report. The police found a pair of jeans close to her body with keys in the pocket. The police knew that the only way they could possibly identify the victim was to somehow trace the mailbox and house keys in the jeans.
With no other clues to follow, they checked the mailboxes of every apartment building in Delano and their persistence finally paid off. The key fit mail box number 3 in an apartment building in a working-class neighborhood in Delano. The apartment belonged to Christine Hildreth and she was able to identify the victim as her 17-year-old daughter Florence. This would be the first crucial step in a long chain of events that would eventually lead to the apprehension of Rodney.
5. Katie Poirier was Identified With the Help of the Unique Properties of the Filling in her Tooth
Donald Blom, a vicious sexual predator, executed one of the most brazen abductions and thought he had covered his tracks and eliminated any potential evidence. With the help of a single tooth, his 19-year-old victim was identified which eventually led to his murder conviction.
Katie was a lovely girl who was recently engaged and was looking forward to a happy future as a police officer or a game warden since she loved animals. She worked as a clerk at a convenient store to support herself. One night, around midnight, when she was working the night shift alone, a customer called the police to report that the store was open but there were no employees around.
When police checked the store’s security cameras, it revealed a man forcing Katie out of the store. Unfortunately, the quality of the picture was too poor to identify the kidnapper. The tapes were sent to NASA which helped a little in revealing some important details of the abductor. Based on this, a police sketch artist released a rough drawing of him to the media.
A woman recognised the drawing and description as a janitor at her place of work by the name of Donald Blom. When detectives dug into his past, they found out that he had a past history of sexual assault and kidnapping. He therefore became the prime suspect. His vacation property was thoroughly searched and they discovered a number of fragments that appeared to be bone in a fire pit. When the fragments were sent to the lab, they were identified as pieces of human bones and a charred portion of a human tooth. The tooth was examined by dental experts and it was established that the filling of this tooth portion matched that of a rare filling material used by Katie’s dentist.
© 2017 Charles Nuamah