Georgia Bureau of Investigation Solves Cold Case

The GBI released this statement on the case Wednesday:

1974 Disappearance and Murder of Teenaged Warner Robins Girl Solved

Perry, GA-On August 1, 1974, Ima Jean Sanders, a white female then 13 years old, disappeared from Warner Robins, GA, where she resided. In April 1976, skeletal remains of a young female were found in a wooded area off GA Highway 96 in Peach County, GA. The remains could not be identified and were retained by the GBI Crime Laboratory in Atlanta. 

In January, 2011, DNA samples from Sanders’ biological mother and sister, now residing in Texas, were submitted by the Austin County Sheriff’s Office to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification (UNTCHI). There, genetic data derived from them were uploaded into the Relatives of Missing Person index of the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS)-a national DNA database containing known DNA of convicted criminals and missing persons; and questioned DNA from unidentified bodies and crime scenes.


This comparison indicated the genetic data from Sanders’ mother and sister was consistent with DNA submitted by the GBI into CODIS from the skeletal remains found in Peach County in 1976. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) was notified of this match in July, 2011 and informed the Warner Robins Police Department (WRPD), which had original jurisdiction for Sanders’ disappearance in 1974. UNTCHI confirmed the match with investigators in November, 2011, but admonished them to evaluate all associated case information before declaring the identity of the remains publicly.


WRPD investigators contacted the Peach County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) and the GBI Regional Office in Perry for assistance. The combined efforts of these agencies developed evidence to support the likelihood that Sanders was murdered in 1974 by noted serial killer Paul John Knowles. In 1974, Knowles went on a multi-state crime spree, committing at least 18 murders. It ended on November 17, 1974 when he was apprehended in a road block near McDonough, GA after kidnapping a Florida State Trooper and another man near Perry, FL and murdering them in Pulaski County, GA. Knowles was later shot to death by a GBI agent on December 18, 1974 while attempting to escape from custody.


During Knowles murder spree, he mailed audio taped confessions of his crimes to a Florida attorney. Following Knowles’ death, the release of these tapes was the subject litigation ultimately reaching U. S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals prior to District Court Judge Wilbur Owens allowing them to be reviewed by a federal grand jury in 1975. Although the tapes were never disclosed publicly, there were rumors they included Knowles confession to murdering a teenage girl near Macon.


In recent weeks, WRPD, PCSO, and GBI investigators attempted to locate copies or transcripts of these tapes to verify whether Knowles’ murdered Sanders. Meanwhile, the GBI Medical Examiner’s Office was confirming the circumstances of the DNA match along with the cause and manner of Sanders’ death.
Investigators spoke with current and former members of the U.S. Attorney’s office, the U.S. District Court, the FBI, the GBI, and other agencies involved in the original investigations of Knowles’ crimes and determined the only copies of the tapes and transcripts were destroyed after being ruined beyond repair in a flood of the Federal Courthouse in Macon several years ago. From GBI archives, however, investigators were able to retrieve a letter written in 1975 to the GBI by the then-U.S. Attorney that summarized Knowles’ taped confessions on the tapes of crimes he committed in Georgia. 

In one summary, the letter states:
“Sometime in August, 1974, Knowles picked up a white, female hitchhiker named Alma who represented her age as 13 or 14 but who appeared to be in her late teens. He carried this girl to a wooded area some distance from Macon, possibly west. He raped her and then strangled her and left her body in woods between trees. Approximately two weeks later, he returned to the location and found that the body had been moved eight or ten feet away apparently by animals. The body was greatly deteriorated and barely identifiable as a human being. Knowles found her jawbone and buried it in the area.”

Yesterday, the GBI Medical Examiner has confirmed the DNA match to conclude the skeletal remains are Ima Jean Sanders and determined the manner of death to be “homicidal means of undetermined etiology.” Consistent with Knowles’ claim; Sanders’ jaw bone was not recovered. For the reasons stated in this release, investigators are reasonably confident that Ima Jean Sanders was murdered by Paul John Knowles in August 1974. Her remains are being released to remaining family for burial.   

I am happy that this family can now have some closure.

HOUSTON – A Deer Park woman finally has some answers about the disappearance of her older sister more than 37 years ago.

But those answers are perhaps more disturbing than the decades of “not knowing” that came before.

Sharon Chessher was only four years old when Ima Jean Sanders told her goodbye.

Chessher remembers watching her then-13 year old sister walk across the grass and away from their home, near Macon, GA.

She was never seen alive again by anyone in the family.

Years later, Sharon Chessher’s mother and sister submitted their DNA to authorities.

And earlier this month, the family was summoned by detectives.

“They shut the door,” recalls Chessher. “He said, ‘I have news: we found Ima.’ And then he was like, ‘but.’ And it was just like…” Sharon Chessher shrugs. “He said it was a random act of violence by a man that went on a killing spree.”

That man, Paul John Knowles, apparently picked up Ima Jean Sanders, perhaps as the teen was trying to hitchhike home.

Knowles admitted raping and strangling her and then dumping the body, during a six-month multi-state murder rampage.

He bragged of killing more than 35 people and so far police have linked Knowles to 18 violent homicides.

In late 1974, Knowles was captured and a month later he was shot dead while trying to escape police custody.

Next month, Sharon Chessher is hoping to have her sister’s remains – a leg bone, an arm bone and a skull – returned to Texas for a private memorial.

More information and videos 

It is sad that it took so long for the pieces to come together.

Why? How?

Recently 2 different people that were thought to be victims of John Wayne Gacy were found alive. I kept wondering how they could just go missing and not contact their families. Other have asked the same thing.

Oregon Live spoke with the most recent person to be found and although it did not satisfy my curiosity I’m going to share it here. It does answer in a shallow way.

 More than 30 years ago, Theodore Szal abandoned his car at a Chicago airport and didn’t look back.

“I threw my keys away down the sewer grate so I couldn’t change my mind,” Szal said, 59.

When Theodore “Ted” Szal, then 24, disappeared in March 1977, his family did not report him missing to authorities because he had a history of disengaging from his family for periods of time, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.

In November, Cook County authorities sought to identify serial killer John Wayne Gacy’s remaining victims. The circumstances of Szal’s disappearance matched the Gacy victim profile, authorities said.

Authorities interviewed the family, only to find that there were no matches between Szal’s parents’ DNA and the seven remaining unidentified Gacy victims. Authorities then performed background checks on Szal and located him in Beaverton.

On Monday, Beaverton police confirmed Szal’s identity. A Cook County detective told Szal that his family in Chicago was looking for him.

Man thought to be John Wayne Gacy victim found alive in BeavertonMan thought to be John Wayne Gacy victim found alive in BeavertonTed Szal left Chicago in March of 1977, abandoning everything, and his family suspected he was a victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy. Instead his family found out this week he was alive, living in Beaverton.

Growing up, Szal said he felt like the “black sheep” of his family. While his three pretty sisters were cheerleaders in school, he was more of a class clown, he said.

After a family disagreement in which he felt betrayed, Szal decided to leave for good. 

“I just had to leave town,” Szal said. “I just had to go. ”

Szal rebuilt a new life, traveled through Colorado and lived in California for about a decade, working in construction.  In 1989, one of his jobs brought him to Springfield. He met and married a woman he met at a Safeway store that he was remodeling.

Szal and his wife, Debbie Szal, later moved to Beaverton and settled into an apartment near the downtown area. Szal worked maintenance jobs, while his wife worked as the property manager of their apartment complex.

john-wayne-gacyjpg-9389f1b8caa08d9e.jpgThe Associated Press John Wayne Gacy

During that time, he occasionally thought about calling or writing his family, but the pain of the betrayal was too great, he said. “Not just everyone writes their family off,” Szal said. “But I did.” He thought that with the advances of the Internet, his family could easily find and contact him.

His family didn’t forget about him. Szal’s father, Ted Szal Sr., carried a picture of his son in his shirt pocket since he left 34 years ago, he learned this week from a Cook County detective.

Szal relayed a message to his father from the detective: He was still fishing, just the way his dad taught him when he was growing up.

He has no other words for his family yet, he said. He’s still trying to digest everything that has happened. Yes, he left home, bitter and thick-headed, he said. But that’s changed. He didn’t know his family thought he may have been dead, and now he wants to make amends.

Give him a few days, he said, and he’ll call.

“I’ve forgiven them,” Szal said.

— Dominique Fong

I do not understand even still. I hope the disagreement was a doozy. I could never have done that to my family. If nothing else I would have called 1 a year or so just to try to piss them off. LOL

4 Murdered in Detroit, Online Dating Service Common Link

One week. Two car trunks. Four women dead.

Detroit police may be on the hunt for a killer who might be targeting escorts after it was discovered that three of the four women found dead this month are linked to sex-related advertisements on, police said Monday. The website includes dozens of come-hithers from metro Detroit escorts offering exotic fantasies and erotic playtime.

“This tie for us is disconcerting,” Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee Jr. said Monday. “We’re stopping short of calling it a serial pattern.” 

I’m not. This is a serial killer. The only other option I can think of is a pissed off pimp and I am not getting that feeling from this.

The women were found dead in pairs: Demesha Hunt, 24, and Renisha Landers, 23, both of Detroit, were discovered about 3 p.m. Dec. 19 in the trunk of a 2009 Chrysler 300C on the 14900 block of Promenade.

Two more women, their names not yet released by police, were found burned beyond recognition about 1 a.m. Sunday in the trunk of a 1997 Buick LeSabre parked in a garage on the 14900 block of Lannette, according to Godbee. They were 28 and 29.

Detroit police spokeswoman Sgt. Eren Stephens declined Monday to say how police figured out the escort connection or who owned the cars the bodies were discovered in. The cause of death has not yet been determined, police said, but they are treating the incidents as suspicious deaths and have homicide investigators working the cases.

Considering the bodies were locked in trunks and at least 2 were burned I should hope that the police were not considering natural causes.

Godbee said during a news conference Monday that police had a “moral obligation” to share the information about the deaths with the public. “With the vast increase in the utilization of social media and the Internet, we must continue to be vigilant in identifying any website which may potentially pose a threat to individuals,” he said. is like Craigslist, offering ads ranging from pets for sale and computer services to real estate and body rubs.

The Detroit Police Department had not made contact with the website’s administration, Godbee said Monday.

Chicago attorney Samuel Fifer, a lawyer for, declined to comment Monday night.

The website is owned by Phoenix-based Village Voice Media. Efforts to reach relatives of Hunt and Landers by phone or via Twitter were unsuccessful.

“They’re devastated,” Godbee said, describing the reaction of the victims’ families.

At the Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office, an unidentified employee declined to comment on any details surrounding the four deaths.

This is not the first time has turned up in a criminal matter. Earlier this month, a woman was indicted in federal court in Detroit after police said she sent a 16-year-old girl on hundreds of sex dates and pocketed 40% of her earnings. The FBI learned about the woman, Satoria Youngblood, after responding to an ad on that read: “New To Your Town — Hot! Sexy! & The Best Around.” Turned out, the escort was a minor, who was caught in an undercover operation Nov. 4 at the Extended Stay Hotel in Southfield, records show. Her arrest triggered child pornography charges against Youngblood, who remains incarcerated pending trial. was not charged in the incident.

A similar tale recently unfolded in Missouri. However, in that case, a minor sued, saying the website aided in child prostitution by allowing her pimp to post nude photos of her in ads, records show. In August, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, holding that while the minor endured “horrific victimization” at the hands of her pimp, was protected by the Communications Decency Act, which shields online companies from liability for what others post online. Meanwhile, the pimp in the Missouri case was sentenced last December to five years in federal prison after pleading guilty to prostitution charges.

Tampa attorney Paul DeCailly, who represents escort services in a variety of litigation, said he strongly doubts that will face any liability in the Detroit deaths, should it turn out the women were targeted because they were escorts. “The ads are what bring two people together,” he said. “To start holding everyone liable for what happens in response to that ad would be quite an extension of liability.”

Last September, Craigslist yanked its ad section for sex-related services after years of pressure, including a letter from 17 state attorneys general who argued the site was rampant with prostitution ads.

With Craigslist out of the picture, became the new leader in adult services ads, making $24.3 million in the last 12 months in revenues from those ads, according to research from the Advanced Interactive Media Group in Altamonte Springs, Fla.

In October, 36 clergy ran a full-page ad in the New York Times, demanding Village Voice Media remove the adult ads from A coalition of 21 attorneys general, including Michigan’s, made a similar request in a 2010 letter. refused and contended on its website: “ is committed to preventing those who are intent on misusing the site for illegal purposes.”

On Monday, Godbee advised that if you are thinking about meeting someone from the Internet, tell someone you know exactly when and where you plan to meet the person — and then do so in a public place. “Deciding to meet unknown persons via the Internet can be extremely dangerous,” he said. “Our sole purpose is for the public to be cognizant of this website when engaged in adult activities.”

At 7:57 p.m. Monday, someone posted a warning on In part: “Never go any where with just anybody … If U no some crazy person that U have seen recently & he tried to really harm U, I would contact the Detroit Police Department.”

More than two dozen women who posted ads on did not return calls from Free Press reporters seeking comment.

Map and Source

This is not the first time has been linked to a “possible” serial killer. Kylan Laurent (Louisiana) also mt women using it.

In the Jefferson Parish cases, Laurent is thought to have contacted women who posted advertisements on the website, met them at their motel rooms, bound their hands and choked them. Only the Harvey victim survived, and officials said she has since identified Laurent as her attacker. As in McDonald’s killing, Laurent didn’t have sex with Hudgins or the Harvey victim, the Normand said.

Full story here.

Pictures and more information on the dangers of Craigslist and Backpage here

Video Here

For $33,000 Shermantine Will Talk

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – A convicted serial killer claims he can lead police to the remains of dozens of murder victims, but he has demanded thousands of dollars before he will give out the information.

Sacramento-based bounty hunter Leonard Padilla and Calaveras County Sheriff’s deputies began searching a remote area Thursday in an attempt to find the remains of 16-year-old Stockton girl Chevy Wheeler, who disappeared in 1985 and may have been buried in the area, if a letter from death row inmate Wesley Shermantine is to be believed.

“I buried Chevy on my parent’s property, out where Chino lived on the other side of the dam,” Shermantine wrote, including a crude hand drawn map to the location.

Shermantine further claimed in the letter that more than two dozen cold case murders could be solved if he reveals the location of a “bone yard” belonging to his childhood friend and convicted killer Loren Herzog, who was released on parole in the San Joaquin Valley earlier this year.

“Once Chevy is recovered, I expect my restitution to be paid, then I will take the next step in recovering Herzog’s bone yard,” Shermantine added.

Shermantine wants a total of $33,000 for the information — $18,000 to pay off his victim’s restitution and another $15,000 to buy headstones for his parents and provide spending money in prison.

Shermantine was convicted along with Herzog for a 15-year-long methamphetamine-fueled killing spree that earned them the name “Speed Freak Killers.” Herzog was originally sentenced to 78 years in prison but had his sentenced reduced to 14 years after an appeals court ruled that his detailed confessions were illegally coerced.

“We believe that now we can find the bodies,” Padilla said. “He’s on death row. His whole world right now is the next candy bar.”

Padilla has been offering Shermantine cash for the last 12 years in an effort to crack the cold cases, arguing that the closure of knowing what happened to missing persons would be priceless for the victims’ family members.

Shermantine has maintained his innocence against all accusations of murder, but witnesses have stated that he bragged about killing as many as 19 people.

According to published reports, the family of Chevy Wheeler does not believe Shermantine has any useful information.

There is a slight chance that Shermantine will eventually tell the truth and even release the information about the bodies. It has to be killing him that Herzog is out. Herzog betrayed him and was then released. Shermantine’s anger and his desire for Herzog to ‘pay’ might push him to talk.

I doubt (hope there won’t be) there will ever be an agreement to give him the money that he is asking for. I don’t care what he claims the money will be for. He has pulled this before, asking for more money, art supplies or to be released. It is a game to him.

The only way that he will get that money is if those bounty hunters give it to him in the hopes of fame and glory. I doubt that they would get what they pay for though. If he gets the money he will be comfortable for a while and probably not tell them anymore information. He enjoys the attention, the cat and mouse game he gets to play. He feels powerful and knows that he is causing pain to the families and he gets off on that.



Serial Killer Case Causes Changes in Police Department

SUFFOLK COUNTY (WABC) — The incoming Suffolk County Executive says that he’s cleaning house in the police department because of what he calls dysfunctional leadership.

That’s the word from Suffolk County Executive-elect Steve Bellone.

Bellone says he’s been astonished at the public bickering sparked by the police commissioner’s claim that just 1 killer is responsible for the murders at Oak and Gilgo Beaches.

“When we have the highest profile case the department’s had to deal with in years, maybe ever, and it’s not being handled the way it needs to be handled that indicates a much deeper problem,” said Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County Executive-elect.

Suffolk County Executive-elect Steve Bellone says he’s been astonished to witness the public dispute the county’s two top law enforcement officers: outgoing Police Commissioner Richard Dormer, who told Eyewitness News the 10 Ocean Parkway bodies were the victims of a single killer, and DA Tom Spota who issued a stern rebuke Wednesday.

“We all have theories of how something occurred. But we don’t advance those theories publicly,” Spota said.

Spota says Dormer’s own detectives disagree with their boss, and believe, as Spota does, that the bodies could have been dumped by two, or even three separate killers.

“Believe me, I am well aware of the fact that matters like this shouldn’t be discussed publicly, but I just felt I couldn’t let the police commissioner say what he was saying. Many theories and they didn’t make sense to me,” Spota said.

For Bellone, who’s been supervisor of the town where the crime scene lies, it’s just the latest reason to clean house at police headquarters.

It’s lately buffeted not just by the beach bodies case, but also by an ongoing federal investigation into its policy on hate crimes.

“When you couple that with the fact that the police department is still under justice department investigation, it starts to paint a picture of a problem in the department that is systemic, rather than just an isolated example. So it concerns me as I’m about to take office,” Bellone said.

Starting the first of the year, Dormer and several top deputies will be out.

Temporarily taking his place will be Chief Edward Webber, a 40-year veteran, who will hold down the fort while Bellone searches the country for a commissioner, who he says will stabilize a department that’s taken quite a beating.

Video and more here.



Man believed to be victim of serial killer John Wayne Gacy found alive

Your comments (optioA man whose family thought he had been murdered by serial killer John Wayne Gacy has been found alive and living in Oregon, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said Wednesday. For 35 years, Theodore “Ted” Szal’s family thought they had lost him. But this week they learned he actually was alive and had willingly disappeared years ago while going through a divorce. “I believe Christmas has come early for the Szal family,” Sheriff Dart said. “Being able to tell an 88-year-old father that……..

Another Gacy victim found alive.

This Just In

A man whose family thought he had been murdered by serial killer John Wayne Gacy has been found alive and living in Oregon, Cook County Sheriff Thomas Dart said Wednesday.

For 35 years, Theodore “Ted” Szal’s family thought they had lost him. But this week they learned he actually was alive and had willingly disappeared years ago while going through a divorce.

“I believe Christmas has come early for the Szal family,” Sheriff Dart said. “Being able to tell an 88-year-old father that his son, whose picture he has been carrying around for 34 years in his breast pocket, has been found alive is something special.”

The sheriff’s office confirmed that Szal, now 59, is living in Beaverton, Oregon, and left town when he was 24 years old.

“He was not reported missing to authorities because Ted had a history of disengaging from his family for periods of time and…

View original post 450 more words

Gary Hilton Trial Delayed

ASHEVILLE — With more than a half million documents available for review by attorneys for serial killer Gary Michael Hilton, a judge has again delayed the trial to give them more time to prepare.

U.S. District Court Judge Martin Reidinger set a hearing date of Feb. 27, according to court documents filed this week. Hilton’s next court appearance had been set for Jan. 4.

The court filings also indicate the possibility of a plea deal with federal prosecutors in the kidnapping and killing of a Henderson County couple.

“Counsel has been diligently reviewing and indexing all documents in this matter, as well as conducting plea negotiations in this matter,” attorney Joseph VonKallist wrote. “Counsel does not believe that review of the discovery and further plea negotiations can be realistically conducted before the start of the upcoming criminal term.”

Hilton, 65, was charged in July with the slayings of John and Irene Bryant, who disappeared while hiking in the Pink Beds area of Pisgah National Forest in Transylvania County on Oct. 21, 2007.

Prosecutors have filed court papers indicating they plan to seek the death penalty. The trial is to be held in federal court in Asheville.

VonKallist said he has obtained more than 250 CDs and 44,000 pages of text related to the case against Hilton.

“Counsel has been given access to an additional 500,000 documents prepared and gathered by the prior defense team who represented Mr. Hilton in Florida,” he said in the request for a continuance.

Hilton has already been sentenced to death in Florida for the murder of a nurse out for a hike in that state, and he was sentenced to life in prison for the slaying of a hiker in Georgia. Authorities said those cases have similarities to the killings of the Bryants.

Searchers found the body of Irene Bryant, 84, near a trail off Yellow Gap Road in the national forest north of Brevard. She died of multiple blows to the head and had her right forearm severed, according to an autopsy.

Someone used the Bryants ATM card in Ducktown, Tenn., the day after she was killed.

The skeletal remains of John Bryant, 80, were later found by a hunter about 30 yards down a bank off a U.S. Forest Service road near Franklin. An autopsy determined that he died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Article here 



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