Monday, June 20, 2016

12 - Misty Copsey (Part One)


The year is 1992. The setting: a small town barely on the radar of the world. Puyallup, Washington, most well-known for the fair of the same name that pops up twice a year: once in the fall and again in the spring. It happens to be my hometown, but during this time period, I was just a toddler living states away, unaware of the town's odd name and it's even-odder spelling. Just like many towns in Washington state, it originated from a Native American tribe that lived in the area.

For many, Puyallup is a suburb that serves as an extension of the larger city to the west: Tacoma. And while Puyallup has grown in size significantly over the past few decades, back in 1992, it had a population a hair above 25,000.

Just north of Puyallup, in the southern reaches of King County, an unknown serial killer has been terrorizing young women for the better part of a decade. All along the Sea-Tac strip, approximately half an hour north, prostitutes and other low-class women have been found, raped and murdered at the hands of an unknown assailant. This unidentified person - or persons - has managed to rack up a body count well into the dozens, and has shown only the slightest sign of slowing down.

But one man in Puyallup is hoping to change all of that. He's a man with no police background, no media credentials - just a lone investigator, hoping to do some good in the word before he dies. Whenever that may be. He's a private investigator in every sense of the word: no one has hired him, and very few are aware of his ongoing crusade.

Cory Bober is his name, and he has spent the better part of the last few years piecing together his case. He has gathered as much evidence as possible, and if one could ask him the rather minute details of his case, he could recite it from the top of his head. One might even go as far as calling him an expert of the case, a title that he would undoubtedly enjoy hearing, but he has no information that the police don't.

Cory Bober


Bober has spent a large chunk of his free time - in between odd jobs, which included a good stint as a small-time weed dealer - dedicated to finding this unknown serial killer. He has tracked down a suspect, after hours upon hours of personal investigations, and has even started harassing the local police department to take his claims seriously. For the better part of a decade - since the killings began in 1984 - Bober has made it his personal mission to pin one man for the crimes.

Bober does his best to lay out the case as clearly as possible, which is hard. Bober tends to speak in circles, taking an hour to finally get to the point, in which case the person he's speaking to has long since checked out of the conversation.

No matter how often or how roughly Bober harries the local PD, they don't seem to take him seriously. To them, he's a kook - a guy with an undiagnosed mental condition becoming overly obsessed with police matters. He wouldn't be the first, and he wouldn't be the last.

But over the past few months, Bober has begun to identify a pattern emerging. Two teenage girls from his hometown, Puyallup, have been killed over the past couple of years. Kim Delange, a fifteen-year-old, was murdered in July of 1988, and Anna Chebetnoy, a fourteen-year old, was killed in August of 1990.

Kim Delange

Anna Chebetnoy

To Bober, who has admitted to having a case of obsessive-compulsive disorder, this is a sign. An omen, in his mind. The killer, whoever it is, is about to strike again. Two years and one month separated the prior two murders, so it's as clear as day.

Bober, convinced of this truth, tries to contact the Puyallup police department to inform them of the upcoming tragedy. They have no record of these notifications, but Bober has written reminders in his many ledgers and journals. He thinks - no, he *knows* - that he did his best to warn them of what was coming:

Tragedy. Heartache. Death.

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Welcome to the Unresolved Podcast, a podcast dedicated to telling true stories which have no clear-cut ending.

As I stated, this episode takes place in my personal hometown -Puyallup, Washington. This story is one that I was just made aware of a few months ago, revealing a dark, seedy underbelly to the suburban town I grew up in and still think of as home.

While this story shares a familiar setting, the Puyallup of 1992 is a far cry from the world I grew up in, just years later. While the locations sound familiar, the cast of characters that are revealed to me are brand-new, and reveal a rich-yet-tragic story that was unfolding in the background of my youth. Almost every person involved in this story is flawed, almost to a fault, leading to a tug-of-war of responsibility and truth in the aftermath of a personal tragedy: the disappearance of a teenage girl.

This is the story of Misty Copsey, and the investigation to find out what happened to her.

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Misty Copsey


Misty Copsey was born in 1978, to two parents in the middle of a separation.

Diana Smith and Buck Copsey would divorce just months after Misty was born, so she would go on to spend most of her time with her mother, Diana, who would become her primary guardian.

Misty was an excellent student, and spent a lot of her free time involved in student athletics. She played softball, basketball, and volleyball, all while keeping up A's and B's at school.

She was also pretty popular, largely part to her charismatic personality and goofy sense of humor - which endeared her to her many friends, the closest of which was Trina Bevard, whom she referred to as "Bean." The two were so close that they had given each other pet nicknames: Trina was Bean, and Misty was "Bunyan." How they came upon these nicknames, only they would know.

Misty and Trina


But Misty was the kind of kid that everyone adored. People at high school wanted to be close to her, not only because of her popularity, but because of her friendliness.

Misty grew up with her mother, Diana, in a Puyallup mobile park called Green Meadows. This is where Misty met most of her friends, whom she would keep in touch with even after she moved away.

Diana, wanting Misty to have a better home than a trailer, would move to a duplex in Spanaway in 1992. Spanaway is a stone's throw away from the suburb they lived in - right on South Hill - but it was still a new environment, and caused Misty to enter a new neighborhood where she knew no one.

Diana would often be gone nights, working as the caregiver for a woman in her late 90s, and Misty would be left home on her own.

She would stay in touch with many of her friends from Green Meadows, however, and would still constantly hang out with them, especially when left to her own devices.

One of the many friends she carried over from Green Meadows trailer park was an older boy named Rheuban Schmidt. He was 18, a scrawny high school dropout that had a one-sided interest in Misty.
Misty liked Rheuban because he had a car - a green 1974 Chevy Nova. But Rheuban had an attraction to Misty, a girl four years his junior. Almost anyone would call this type of attraction unhealthy - for an adult man to be so interested in a junior high girl - but that was underestimating how Misty's mother, Diana felt.

During one phone conversation between Misty and Rheuban, Diana recalled overhearing something very disconcerting. She heard Rheuban telling Misty how horny he got just looking at her, a piece of information she didn't want to hear and one that caused her to demand Misty to hang up.

Needless to say, Misty didn't feel the same way about Rheuban. While boys had been interested in her, she was just starting to develop crushes of her own: almost all of which were athletic "pretty boys," guys like Jason Priestley from "Beverly Hills 90210." She wasn't interested in Rheuban, who was, by all extents, trailer trash.

Rheuban Schmidt


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Things between Misty and Diana were what'd you expect from a teenage girl and her mother. They had their issues, but were otherwise on good terms.

Personally, Diana had a bit of an alcohol problem, but nothing that kept her from living her life or inhibiting Misty.

The two shared an incident, sometime over the summer, in which Diana couldn't track down her daughter, and filed a missing persons police report. She would later find Misty in her bedroom, having gotten home some time beforehand, but it was later summed up having been an error of confusion. This was the time before cell phones became prevalent, an era even I have a good recollection of.

Apparently, Diana was too embarrassed by the whole situation to inform the police that the missing persons report was unnecessary, so it remained on file. One has to question whether her battle with alcoholism played a part in this, but that's just me blindly speculating.

Besides this one incident, in the months before her disappearance, things between Misty and Diana were good. Diana had just bought Misty a brand new stereo and a mess of new clothes, which only did good things for their relationship, and made Misty very happy with her home environment. She was given those items, in addition to all of the personal freedom a teenage girl could want, and was more than satisfied to be living with her mother: a fact that would later be brought into question.

Things were going well for Misty, and she had just started another school year at her school, Spanaway Lake Junior High. Things were going well, and as summer was coming to an end, the local Puyallup Fair was starting up once again.

Misty and her best friend Trina started to make plans to go to the fair together, a day that would surely bring them nothing but fun. Unbeknownst to them, the day would end in tragedy.

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For almost a decade, Cory Bober had worked tirelessly to convince Pierce County and King County detectives that his suspect - a man named Randy Achziger - was the Green River Killer. His suspicions arose during a conversation he once had with Achziger - a former acquaintance of his - in which the other man revealed a vital clue of the Green River killings.

Randy Achziger

Achziger would claim that he heard this from a drunk Auburn police captain, but that didn't cut it for Bober. For this man to have such a vital clue of the case put him on the map, and Bober would spend the rest of his life trying to convince others of this supposed "truth."

During his personal crusade against Achziger, Bober would begin to utilize the media as a tool of the investigation. Some would classify it as a weapon, but Bober would try and pin the media against the investigators, making it seem like they were covering up the truth, or refusing to investigate leads.

For a while, it paid off. Both of the neighboring counties eventually looked into Achziger, adding him to the list of Green River Killer suspect list. He became a person of interest, who they investigated thoroughly. But, unlike Bober, both counties took him off of that list, and began to look into other suspects.

This was not what Bober wanted. He wanted his suspect - Achziger - arrested. He began to hound both counties, as well as local jurisdictions, in an effort to get his suspect caught. He even threatened to "take care" of Achziger if the counties wouldn't arrest him - so assured of his guilt, he was threatening vigilante justice.

Eventually, the police just started to get sick of Bober. Simple as that. Puyallup Police Sergeant Herm Carver was one of the many that began to tune out Bober's demands and threats.

Bober began to escalate his investigation into Achziger, trying to utilize less-than-legal methods to trap him. He had ex-girlfriends record phone calls, he would sneak around Achziger's property in search of clues, things like that. Achziger was becoming aware of Bober's personal vendetta against him, and was becoming personally infuriated.

This was in 1992, and Bober had just begun to notice the pattern of Puyallup killings. He claims to have warned local detectives of the upcoming murder, but can you blame them for ignorning him? By now, he had been harassing their offices with threats of doom and gloom for close to a decade, so much so that they were personally familiar with him.

Needless to say, Bober's warning fell on deaf ears. He would supposedly warn detectives that a Puyallup girl was going to be murdered and found alongside Highway 410, where the prior two victims had been discovered.

This was September of 1992.

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Puyallup Fair


September 17th - Misty Copsey had finally convinced her mother, Diana, to let her go to the fair without adult supervision. She was going with her best friend, Trina, but would have to find a ride back home.

This was okay to Misty, who figured that she could catch the bus back home, or could call one of her friends for a ride. The plan that Misty sold to Diana was that she was going to take the bus back home, but Diana was complicit in a lie told to Trina's parents, who believed she was giving both girls a ride there and back home.

Unfortunately, Diana was going to be working her job as an elderly caretaker all night long, so she wouldn't be able to drive them home. But she was willing to tell a white lie if it allowed her to be the "cool parent" for a night or two. As long as the two teenagers caught their bus at the right time, they'd be okay.

Misty had borrowed a pair of Diana's jeans, a new pair that were very fashionable at the time. Baggy, stonewashed, faded, and much too big for Misty, who had to roll up the leg sleeves in order for them to fit.

Puyallup Fairgrounds stage


Huey Lewis and the News were playing at the fairgrounds that night, which ensured that there was going to be a steady stream of people visiting and socializing. Puyallup is a rather small town in nature, but the Fair is a huge draw for the surrounding area, nearly quadrupling the local foot and road traffic.

The weekend was in sight, and Misty was happy to spend a night with her best friend, and enjoying a further increase in freedom.

Both girls planned on taking the 8:40 bus back home, which would take Misty from downtown Puyallup to Spanaway. That meant that they had an entire afternoon and evening to have fun and enjoy themselves.

And enjoy themselves they did - so much so, that when 8:40 rolled around, the two missed the bus. It was the last trip the Puyallup-to-Spanaway bus would be making, so Misty needed to find another ride back home.

Trina lived in Sumner - a town in the opposite direction - so when things began to get stressful, she revealed that she could just walk home. The Puyallup Fairgrounds, which exist in the downtown valley of the town, lies just next to Sumner. But Spanaway lives atop South Hill, an insurmountable walk for Misty.

At 8:45, Misty made a call to her mother, revealing that she had missed her bus. Diana was upset, but understandably so. Unable to leave her job, lest something happen to the 97-year-old woman she was caring for, Diana told her to fetch a ride from a friend.

Misty immediately blurted out that she'd get a ride from Rheuban - her eighteen-year old admirer - but Diana told her no. She didn't like that boy, and made it painfully obvious.

In the recent months, Misty had gotten an electronic organizer, which Diana told her to look through in acquiring a ride.

Diana made Misty promise to call her back once she had gotten a ride, and let her know who it would be.

That call never came.

Diana never spoke to Misty again.

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Approx. location of fairgrounds marked in red


Diana, concerned that she didn't get a follow-up phone call, spent the rest of her work night in worry. Unfortunately, there was little she could do; Misty had called from a payphone, and until she heard from her, she could only assume that Misty had found a ride home. If the ride had come from Rheuban, then she would just have to deal with that later.

Diana would return home a few hours later, expecting to find Misty watching TV, or sleeping in her bedroom.

Unfortunately, she found a quiet, empty house. Misty wasn't home, at least not yet.

Diana began making phone calls, calling everyone that she knew to call: Trina, Rheuban, her own mother - Misty's grandma- other friends, and eventually even 911.

Trina's family didn't answer, not this early in the morning, and Misty's grandma had been a dead end. She hadn't heard from Misty at all that night. Rheuban did answer, and told Diana that Misty had called him, asking for a ride, but he didn't have the necessary gas needed to pick her up and get back home.

This was in the morning, and Diana began to panic. She called 911, but was informed that she had to wait 30 days to report Misty as a missing person. Until then, she was a supposed runaway.

Diana spent the better part of her day in a panic: looking for her teenage daughter, who had disappeared, and didn't show up at school the next morning. She drove to Trina's house, leaving a note on the front door for Trina to give her a necessary phone call.

Diana would eventually file a report with the Pierce County Sheriff's department at roughly 1:30 that afternoon, and would find out that the 911 dispatcher had been off-base with the "30 days" remark.

But now, after trying to track down her daughter for the better part of a day, she was left with a jurisdiction headache - Misty had disappeared in Puyallup, which meant that Pierce County couldn't intervene without the Puyallup PD's go-ahead. The same police department that had told her Misty was officially a runaway until a month had transpired.

Diana would cover a tremendous amount of ground that day, trying to retrace her daughter's footsteps while also contacting every family member or friend of Misty's that she knew of. Panic was beginning to turn into heartache, which would further compound with Trina finally returned her phone call after getting home from school and seeing the note on her door.

Trina told Diana what had happened the night beforehand: the two separated while Misty was on her way to her bus stop, and she began walking home to Sumner. Apparently, Trina hadn't heard from or seen Misty since.

On a hunch, Diana called Rheuban again. He was gone, but his teen-aged roommate, James Tinsley, answered. He told Diana that Rheuban HAD, in fact, gone with his uncle to pick up Misty the night before.

This was a dramatic turn of events, and gave Diana more than enough reason to begin suspecting Rheuban.

Diana called again later in the afternoon, and Rheuban was home.

"Where's my kid?" she demanded to know.

Rheuban would explain that his roommate, James, had it all wrong. He hadn't gone to pick up Misty, but had actually gone with his uncle to a party, and then woken up hours later.

One immediately has to question how his story changed so dramatically in just a few hours: from being too poor to afford gas, to now going to a party and being gone for a good chunk of the evening.

But it's understandable why someone would overlook this gap, amidst the panic of a missing child.

Diana would spend the next few days praying for her daughter's safe return. If the Puyallup police were correct, and she was a runaway, she'd hopefully be returning home or making contact soon. Diana didn't believe that story for a moment, but she had to hold out hope.

Just like the night of Misty's disappearance, that phone call would never come.

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Diana Smith's life had changed dramatically overnight. Just days beforehand, she had been the hard-working mother of a loving teenage daughter that she doted upon. Now, she was a woman desperately looking for any sign of the one person she shared her life with.

She would make a series of fliers, which she would begin to post up all over town, especially the downtown area where Misty had disappeared.

She would make contact with Misty's friends, pleading with them to contact her should Misty pop up her head at any time. She promised no repercussions on them should that happen - just to know that Misty was safe and sound was enough to forgive any small slights.

A few days later, she would track down the bus driver that had been servicing the route to Spanaway that night. He told Diana that he remembered seeing Diana on the night in question, but he had been finishing up for the night and wasn't headed up to Spanaway again. He recalled telling Misty to catch the next bus to Tacoma - ten or so miles out of the way - which had a bus to Spanaway that she could catch.

Some family members and friends would drop by her house or call, asking if the police were any closer to tracking down Misty. Rheuban Schmidt was one of those few, asking if the police had uncovered anything about the case. Diana remained suspicious of him, as the hours made way for days.

Misty had now been missing for the better part of a week, and Diana was finally able to file a missing persons report with the Puyallup Police Department, who held jurisdiction on the case. This was on September 23rd, six days after Misty went missing.

Diana recalls the mood of the police officers dealing with her that day. They were all assured that Misty was a runaway, and would either be returning home soon or making contact soon. They came pretty close to guaranteeing it.

At least, that would explain why they started off Misty's investigation the way they did.

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Sergeant Herm Carver, the Puyallup Police officer that had previously had run-ins with Cory Bober, was in-charge of overseeing the investigation.

He would task some detectives to investigate the area around the fairgrounds, in hopes that someone had seen Misty. No one had, so they moved on to investigating Diana.

Diana Smith


What they found was a woman with a couple of DUI's on her record, and a prior conviction for welfare fraud. Diana was the first to admit that she wasn't an angel, and had had a battle with alcoholism for most of her adult life, but had openly admitted to collecting food stamps while working. She was a single mother in her 20s, at the time, and had admitted her crimes to the welfare office in exchange for a deferred sentence.

But in digging up Diana's skeletons, they also found the prior missing persons report from months prior, which Diana had been too embarrassed to close. Carver was seeing Diana as having less-than-a-stellar reputation, and someone with a history of dishonesty.

On September 29th, Carver met with Diana at Misty's junior high school, and would speak to a couple of eighth graders. These kids had been circulating rumors for a few days, in which they had spoken to or seen Misty since her disappearance. One claimed to have gotten a phone call from Misty - who was safe and sound in Olympia - and another claimed to have seen Misty at the Color Me Badd concert on September 21st - four days after her disappearance.

However, it should be mentioned that neither of the kids were friends of Misty's. They were just some teenagers that knew Misty as a school acquaintance.

Carver immediately judged the case as bollocks. As he left the school with Diana, he told her that he was removing Misty from the missing persons database, and later added her as a runaway to the police report.

To Diana, this was a punch in the gut. She knew that Misty wasn't a runaway - she was a good girl, who was happy with her home life.

It should be noted that, when questioned years later, one of the girls claims that she made up her statement to simply feel more popular. So take of that what you will.

The next day, Sergeant Herm Carver spoke to a Seattle radio station, informing them that Misty Copsey, who had referred to as a missing child by the local media, was a runaway. He also claimed that her mother, Diana, knew exactly where she was and that she was safe and sound.

With this interview, it all came undone. The investigation froze, the fliers were taken down, and everyone stopped looking for her.

Well, almost everyone.

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Cory Bober had a stroke of luck. In the latter days of September of 1992, his mother informed him that she had found out about a missing girl from Puyallup - a decision that she, to this day, regrets.
When he was handed the missing persons flier with Misty's picture on it, Bober had a moment of clarity. THIS was the thing he had been waiting for.

He immediately contacted Diana, and began to fill her in on his life's work. The Green River Killer, his suspect, the police being unwilling to listen or do their jobs... all of it.

To Diana, this was what she had been waiting to hear. Someone who was interested in trying to find out what had happened to Misty, and not just in an official capacity.

But in spilling out his theories, Bober had to reveal the dark side of the coin he had just given to Diana. He told her that, in all likelihood, Misty had been abducted and murdered by this suspect of his. She was another victim, and the odds of seeing her alive again weren't just low - they were at zero.

To Diana, this was more than a punch in the gut... it was the death of her hope, the crushing of her future dreams and goals. She had maintained hope with the police's runaway theory that Misty would return to her, but Bober was telling her everything she wanted to hear and everything she didn't. He was speaking to a receptive audience, for the first time in years.

The two became allies in a battle to find out what had happened to a teenage girl, and would begin speaking for hours almost every day. Well, Bober did most of the talking, but this was a good way for Diana to begin combating her grief.

As Diana began to slip into a bottle, Bober was gearing up for war. Now that he had an ally in his war against Randy Achziger, he had been refueled and was getting prepared.

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On October 5th, Bober made contact with Sergeant Herm Carver of the Puyallup PD, who distinctly recalled the man's personal vendetta.

Carver insisted to Bober that Misty Copsey was a runaway, and informed him that her case had been handed over to the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.

Deputy Brian Coburn was in charge of the investigation, but Coburn had basically been given a folder of details from Sergeant Carver, who almost believed with 100% conviction that Misty was a runaway.

In their first conversation together, Coburn revealed to Bober that if he were to find Misty's whereabouts, the last people he'd tell would be Bober or Diana, Misty's own mother. He believed Diana to be a troubled drunk with a history of breaking the law, and Bober was simply a psychotic thorn in the side of law enforcement.

Bober continued to dig and dig, all the while threatening to get the media involved if law enforcement wouldn't begin to take him seriously. It was a threat he had loved to utilize, and it had worked well for him in the past.

Unknown to Bober, though, the Puyallup police had finally had enough of it. They would arrange a drug bust on Bober, who was a small-time weed dealer at the time, and he would later be facing up to four years in prison.

However, despite this hiccup threatening to send him away from the investigation from an indefinite period of time, Bober persisted.

Behind the scenes, though, a tug-of-war was being established. Bober was on one side, and the police on the other. Diana was caught in the middle, a grieving mother with a plethora of character flaws that was becoming a pawn to both sides.

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With Bober's arrest slowing down his progress in October, the police department played their hand, trying to convince Diana to drop Cory from her side. Both Sergeant Herm Carver and Deputy Brian Coburn insisted upon it. To them, Bober was bad news and would only hurt her pursuit of her daughter.

One can only guess as to their intentions, if they really believed that or they simply wanted to neuter Bober's investigation. Without Diana on his side, Bober had nothing... he went back to being the crazy dope-smoker with an odd fascination in serial killers.

They eventually convinced her to file a restraining order against Cory Bober, after reactivated Misty Copsey's name on the missing persons report. However, this was a formality - an act done for every person missing for more than 30 days. Nonetheless, the restraining order was filed against Bober, and successfully scared him off - Diana had confided in Carver and Coburn, revealing the illegal lengths of which Bober had gone in trying to pin his suspect, Randy Achziger, for his supposed crimes.

However, Diana would drop the restraining order two weeks later, in early November. She realized that, despite his occasional insanity and suspicious nature, she needed Bober. In the weeks after Misty's disappearance, he had listened to her and conversed for hours over the phone, acting as the only shoulder she could cry on. He had also gotten her in touch with support groups and other helpful organizations. He was also the only person looking into the investigation that believed she was something other than a runaway... that, in itself, meant a lot to Diana.

She decided that, if she was going to have to choose a side, she'd choose Cory Bober. At least he was looking for an answer, even if it wasn't what she wanted to believe. She still had her doubts about Rheuban Schmidt, but Bober didn't agree with that. He had his suspect, Randy Achziger, and was so assured of his guilt that he wouldn't hear anything else.

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Cory Bober felt vindication in November of 1992, when King Couny officials revealed that that they were officially reopening up the Green River Killer case, and were now tying the two murdered Puyallup girls - Kim Delange and Anna Chebetnoy - to the case.

Obviously, Misty Copsey couldn't be added, since she had been missing for just two months and no body had been found, but this was proof to Bober, at least, that he was barking up the right tree.

He continued his investigation until he managed to corner an investigator at the Medical Examiner's office, and was able to coax out of him the location that the two Puyallup victims had been found: a little off of Highway 410, near mile marker 30. He would organize weekend search parties through most of November, taking groups of roughly twenty people out into the woods where the prior two girls had been found, to try and find any trace of Misty.

On December 2nd, nearly three months after she had gone missing, Pierce County Sheriffs offically declared as "missing under suspicious circumstances," which was a significant upgrade. The runaway tag was beginning to be torn away from Misty's case file like a reluctant band-aid, adding further fuel to the investigative fire.

A week later, Bober handed off a written theory of the case to Puyallup investigators, and informed them that a news story would be running the next day. The story, published in the News Tribune, detailed Diana Smith and the search parties into finding her, just off of Highway 410. It also tried to connect Misty's disappearance to the previous two Puyallup murders. Bober believed that it might instigate the killer into lashing out, or better yet, leave behind a vital clue.

But nothing happened that day. Or the next. Misty had been missing for nearly three months, and after a run-in with Rheuban Schmidt at the grocery store, in which he ran away from her upon confrontation, Diana didn't know what to think.

Bober's theory had failed. No further killings or disappearances had occurred in the weeks since the article, and whoever the killer was likely hadn't even noticed it.

Later in December, as the holidays approached, Diana tried to kill herself by mixing alcochol with pharmeceutical antidepressants. They failed, and she woke up in the hospital, but had to return to her empty home just days later.

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In January of 1993, "Northwest Afternoon" aired on the local ABC affiliate, KOMO, in which Diana appeared with Misty's teenage friend, Trina Brevard. Also with them was King County Detective Jim Doyon, who had investigated the Green River Killer, along with the two murdered Puyallup girls.

Throughout the airing, the station opened up the phone lines to potential tips and clues, and one was received: a woman claimed that she had witnessed Misty walking down Meridian, the main Puyallup drag that cruises past the fairgrounds, and passing by a 7-11 that lies just across the street. This alleged sighting had taken place closer to ten o'clock than nine, which would push back the possible timeline of Misty's disappearance an entire half-an-hour.

This woman would never be questioned or interviewed by Puyallup or Pierce County detectives, and whoever she was remains lost in time. Footage of this taping can no longer be found, having been lost by Bober, Diana, and the KOMO network itself.

The next day, Jim Doyon would go to the Highway 410 dumping ground, near mile marker 30, and begin snooping around. He found nothing, but it was a good sign that an established detective was interested in the case - even though he had no jurisdiction and worked for the neighboring county, any sign was a good sign for both Diana Smith and Cory Bober.

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January 10th, 1993 - four months after the Misty Copsey's disappearance.

Five blocks away from where Misty had disappeared, at approximately two o'clock in the morning, a fifteen-year old is walking along Meridian in downtown Puyallup. A Red Camaro pulls up, and a man inside the car begins calling out to the teenager.

He begins making lewd jokes, asking for sexual favors, but the teenager tries her hardest to ignore him.

The man, named Robert Leslie Hickey, gets out and forces the girl into his car. He drives her to a secluded area nearby, and rapes her.

Fearing police repercussion, Hickey takes the girl and drops her off of a ravine, hoping that the fall will kill her.

Fortunately, it didn't. She survived, and Hickey was later convicted of first-degree rape. However, his sentence would only be for seven years, and he would be eligible for early parole. Detectives would take note of his crimes, and the proximity to Misty Copsey's disappearance, but would never list him as a suspect or question him in conjecture to the crime. He would be released just five years later, and go on to strike again.


Robert Leslie Hickey

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Cory Bober began to wonder what he was doing wrong. He had believed, in his heart of hearts, that a sign of Misty was going to be found any day now, he just had to keep digging and searching the area where the other two Puyallup girls had been found years beforehand.

Bober leading the search parties


Bober had managed to track down his supposed suspect's whereabouts on the night in question. On September 17th, the night Misty disappeared, Randy Achziger had been just a stone's throw away from the fairgrounds, at the Puyallup Good Samaritan Hospital as his sister was giving birth.

Bober questioned the medical examiner's office again, asking if they had the location correct. It turns out, that Bober's hunch was correct - he WAS doing something wrong. Him and his team had been investigating the wrong side of the freeway entirely. While they had been investigating the north side, they had been unaware that the bodies of the two prior victims were found on the south side of the highway.

To Bober, this was a sign. He began hyping up the upcoming search to the media - which was to be held on Saturday, February 7th. He gave the information to a reporter, believing that even thought it had failed last time, it would work this time. It had to. He had spent the past decade searching for proof of Randy Achziger's misdeeds - this time, surely, it would work.

Diana Smith with the search party


The article was released, and then days later, Bober and Diana Smith led a group of family, friends, and family friends into the woods on the south side of Highway 410's mile marker 30, just a few miles outside of Enumclaw. They began combing the forested area, looking for any sign of Misty.
Surprisingly, they found something.

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 What they found, is the end of the runaway rumors.

The pair of jeans that Misty had been wearing the night of her disappearance - the faded, baggy pair she had borrowed from her mother - were found in those dark woods on Februrary 7th.

The found clothing

While Diana died inside, Bober had trouble containing his excitement. He had finally - after years of turmoil and battling the police for any sign of respect - been proven right. Even though the drug dealing charge still hung over his head, he finally had something to show for all of his years of effort, and it was something that he could throw right into the face of the police that had belittled him.

Found with the jeans were a pair of socks and underwear that may or may not have been the articles she was wearing on the night in question, but her mother confirmed that they were indeed hers.

While Diana had been courting tragedy for some time, this was the sinking feeling of truth; the truth that she had held out hope wasn't real. She now knew it in her heart of hearts; Bober's claims were most likely true. Her daughter, Misty, was gone.

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This is the end of part one, and the story will be continued in a follow-up episode very, very soon.

As I said in the intro, this is a hometown mystery, so I feel like I'm personally involved in the story. While Misty disappeared when I was just a toddler, and years before I even step foot in Puyallup, I feel attached to the story, in a way. It's hard for me to believe that this story was unfolding in the background of my youth.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the News Tribune and Sean Robinson in particular, who wrote the multiple-part "Stolen Child" articles, which gave a lot of detail about the story. This episode wouldn't be possible without Robinson's hard work (and the assistance of the Tribune, which is sourced heavily for this story), which hopefully pays off some day. I can only hope this podcast furthers his effort.

As I say at the end of every episode, I need to personally thank Tyson Nordgren for being the awesome whiz that he is. He handles the production end of the podcast, including almost all of the music you've heard. I know I've definitely made some improvements to my end of the podcast, but he's responsible for almost everything you've been hearing.

Speaking of music, a track was contributed to the podcast from the artist Millimeters Of Mercury. You can find a link at the podcast website, and I'll also try and throw something up on the Facebook and Twitters.

As I said, the story of Misty Copsey's disappearance will continue in part two, to be released very, very soon. Stay tuned for that, and stay safe, everyone.

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Links

Youtube - "253 Crimestoppers: Misty Copsey"

The News Tribune - "The Stolen Child: Part I"

The News Tribune - "The Stolen Child: Part II"

The Charley Project - "Misty Donna Copsey"

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

11 - The Beaumont Children (Part Two)



Welcome to the Unresolved Podcast. I am your host Micheal Whelan, and this is part two of the Beaumont Children story.

On January 26th, 1966, the three Beaumont children - nine-year-old Jane, seven-year-old Arnna, and four-year-old Grant - went missing after visiting their local beach. They were seen by a multitude of witnesses in the presence of a strange man, who was never identified.

In the years that followed, rumors nipped at the heels of the story but never led to anything productive. It has now been over seven years, and on August 25th, 1973 a similar incident begins to unfold just miles from where the Beaumont children went missing.



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On this afternoon, a Saturday, a football match is raging at the Adelaide Oval, a large stadium located twenty minutes inland in northern Adelaide.



Amidst the chaos of the match itself, and the fifty-thousand people sitting around them, two families are sitting next to each other. Both family, season ticket holders, have seen each other regularly for months now, if not years. They're familiar with one another, and one could say that they've even become friends.

Among them are two young girls: Joanne Ratcliffe, an eleven-year old that attended the weekend matches with her parents; and four-year old Kirste Gordon, barely old enough to understand the game itself but who went to this match with her grandmother.



While the match was in-progress, Joanne announced to her parents that she needed to use the restroom. The parents gave her leave to visit the restroom, but Kirste's grandmother asked if she could take the four-year old girl along with her. The two returned minutes later, seemingly unharmed, and all was well. The match continued, and the roar of the thousands around the two families drowned out any concerns of strangers.

Roughly half an hour after their first bathroom visit, Kirste told her grandmother that she needed to use the restroom again. Joanne, being a caring and motherly-type at her young age, offered to take Kirste, and the pair walked off towards the direction of the bathroom at approximately 3:45 PM.
Minutes began to pass, with no sign of the girls returning to their families. This worry eventually turned into panic, and while the match was still ongoing, Joanne's parents began to make their way to the restrooms to try and find the two girls. Kirste's grandmother remained at the seats, in case they returned there.

Approximately twenty minutes after the two girls departed, Joanne's mother found her way to the secretary's office, and asked if they could make an announcement over the PA system. This request was unfortunately denied, and she was given the explanation that any such announcement couldn't be heard over the noise of the crowd itself. Mrs. Ratcliffe would later remark that she believed the workers there just didn't want the match interrupted.

Over the next hour, the Ratcliffe parents would try and search every nook and cranny of the Adelaide Oval, looking for their eleven-year-old daughter Joanne and four-year-old Kirste. Their search was fruitless, but a request for a stadium announcement was granted roughly an hour later, after Mr. Ratcliffe got in touch with the secretary of the South Australia cricket association.

At 5:12 PM, the girls were reported missing to the local police force, who immediately began a search of the area. Their efforts were just as rewarding as the Ratcliffe's.

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The information gathered by the police hours after the disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon was disconcerting. And, frankly, it was quite alarming.

Multiple witnesses had seen a man with the two girls, but the context is the alarming part. By and large, the description of the man matched up with the one that had been seen seven years beforehand, at the Glenelg Beach along with the Beaumont children. He was tall, gaunt-looking, and their sketches (which you can find online) look similar to one another.



Three of the witnesses that saw the girls after their disappearance recount seeing a man carrying the smaller of the pair, much to the older girls resistance. This led police to believe that this potential abductor had seized an opportunity to grab Kirste, but Joanne hadn't liked that one bit, and followed the man, kicking and screaming at him as much as possible.

At one point, the man, carrying Kirste, had turned to Joanne and told her to "take off," but Joanne had continued nipping at his heels and pleading to let them return to their families.

At least four sightings were made of the two girls, with one of them as much as three kilometers away from the Adelaide Oval. The last sighting took place roughly ninety minutes after their disappearance, which matches up to when the police had just started to look for the pair.

Sadly, Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon would never be seen alive again. Just like the Beaumont children, the two girls would disappear from the face of the planet, leaving their family with more questions than answers.

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Years would begin to pass, with no word of the Beaumont case or the Adelaide Oval abduction getting any kind of conclusion. As far as we know, no credible witnesses or valuable evidence would even be discovered during the next decade or so, and things would begin to stagnate into both investigations.

Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont would now be old enough to become teenagers and adults. If they were still alive, and had any memory of their former lives as children, they would have surely returned home or at least made contact with their parents, who were still worried sick about them.

Jim and Nancy Beaumont continued to live at their home on Harding Street, for fear that if their children were still alive, they would return to the home that they had once all happily lived in. In fact, Nancy would recall that there was a muddy palmprint left on a sliding glass door that she would refuse to wash off for years afterwards... it was one of the final pieces of her son that she had, and she would refuse to let it just get washed away.

Jim and Nancy Beaumont would go on to divorce, eventually leaving behind their house on Harding Street and the public eye for good.

Likewise, the Ratcliffes and the Gordons had to adjust to life without their daughters. As months began to turn into years, the likelihood of their children being returned safely began to turn into little more than a dream.

Both cases would stagnate over the next decade, or at least until 1979, when tragedy began to compound upon tragedy. The heartache of Adelaide wasn't over yet... it was just coming to light.

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In 1979, the body of a 17-year-old young man would be found in the South Para Reservoir, located in Northeast Adelaide. This would begin a dark period of Adelaide history known to many as the Family Murders, a story as dark and mysterious as any, and deserving of its own episode.

To try and summarize the story of the Family Murders would be to do the victims injustice, but I will try my best: starting in 1979 and supposedly ending in 1983, at least five victims, all teen-aged boys and young men, would be found. All of them would be discovered having suffered terrible torture and mutilation, each of them having been sexually abused to a drastic degree before their deaths.

As I said, the Family Murders are without a doubt a story deserving of its own episode. But the murders of these five young men led many to believe that there was an organized effort to kidnap, torture, mutilate, and kill them. I'll try and refrain from going into too much detail on this episode of the podcast, but let's just say that reading about the crimes committed against these poor men made me, a true crime fanatic, feel absolutely squeamish and sick to my stomach.

But after the bodies began to pile up, and the known victims became known to the public, a case began to grow. When drugs were discovered in the bloodstream of the fifth victim, who was killed and his body discovered in 1983, the case found itself a suspect: a man known only as Bevan Spencer von Einem.



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To call Bevan Spencer von Einem "evil" would do the term "evil" injustice.

He was a roughly-forty-year old accountant charged with the kidnapping, torture, sexual assault, and murder of Richard Kelvin, a fifteen-year old boy. During the questioning, von Einem's story had changed several times, becoming less likely throughout each incarnation. He had no alibi for the night Kelvin disappeared, claiming he had been sick with the flu at home, by himself. But when fibers of his clothing were found on Kelvin's body, along with hairs that later be confirmed to be his, he claimed that Kelvin had been there on the night he disappeared, for purely innocuous reasons.

Needless to say, von Einem was convicted of the charges piled against him, the evidence
overwhelmingly on the prosecutor's side. He was sentenced to life in prison, and give a no-parole period of 24 years, which was later increased to 36 years, an Australian record at the time. The state had no evidence that von Einem had committed the other four abduction-murders that had taken place in the months and years beforehand, but he was away for life and would never confess to the crimes. He still hasn't, to this day, despite the overwhelming evidence.

The Family Murders, as they would later begin to be called, would fall off of the radar. The police began to believe that the supposed organization behind the crimes, of which von Einem was just a member of, began to lie low after his conviction, but had been responsible for many more disappearances in the Adelaide area.

In the years following his conviction, many have begun to theorize that von Einem himself was responsible for the abduction and disappearance of the three Beaumont children.  This was made possible by a witness known to the public only as "Mr. B," a former friend of von Einem that had been heavily involved in the gay community of Adelaide. He would claim that von Einem had confessed to the murders of both the Beaumonts and the two girls at the Adelaide Oval years earlier, which led to a split in their friendship at a time where von Einem began to fall in with what would later be called "the Family."

According to Mr. B's testimony, von Einem had claimed to, in his words, "connect" the three children. To many, this brings about thoughts of the recently made movie "The Human Centipede," and the disturbing mental image that comes with that. This testimony claimed that one of the children had died during the process, and all three had been disposed of in one way or another.

I feel odd telling you about this, because this is all backed up by absolutely no evidence and should be taken at only a surface level. Mr. B, as he has been known by the public, was a drug user with a history of lying and criminal actions on his own part, who may have been trying to simply cop a plea deal by offering up these sensationalist details. So please take this theory with a grain of salt, if at all.

The idea that von Einem can be connected to the Beaumont children is tentative at best. The suspect who had been seen with the children the day of their disappearance was aged in his mid-thirties, while von Einem would have been only twenty at the time. Photos of him at the time show that von Einem looked older than he was, but he had darkish brown hair, which stood in direct contrast to the blonde hair declared by the witnesses.

To this day, Bevan Spencer von Einem is still serving his life sentence, and is unlikely to ever be a free man again. In 2007, the South Australia Premier Mike Rann vowed to enforce new legislation to make sure von Einem would never leave prison alive.

He is one of the most hated figures in all of Australia for his connection to the vile Family Murders, but his illegal activities didn't end with his conviction. In 2009, he plead guilty to creating child pornography by writing fictitious stories in prison, and has had many similar charges filed against him since his incarceration. He will undoubtedly be in prison until he day he dies, but our story doesn't end there.

Does this photo, taken on the day of the Beaumont disappearance, look like a young von Einem? 


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In 1998, "Crimestoppers" aired a segment about the 1970 murder of two young girls in Townsville, a town along the northeastern coast of Queensland, Australia. The two girls, five-year-old Susan and seven-year-old Judith MacKay, had been waiting at their school bus stop on the morning of Wednesday, August 26th, 1970.



Two days after the girls' disappearance, their bodies were found in a dry creek bed with their school uniforms folded neatly in their school bags next to them. Both sisters had been raped, stabbed, and strangled.

For almost thirty years, their murders remained unsolved in northeastern Australia, an entire continent away from the Beaumont and Adelaide Oval disappearances. The family of the MacKay sisters was left in anguish for decades, at least until the airing of that "Crimestoppers" episode in 1998.

After watching that episode, the "Crimestoppers" phone line received a phone call tip from someone who claimed to be loosely related to an alleged suspect. The person on the other end of the phone had seen the description of the suspect at the time, and realized that it matched that of her cousin's husband; she had also been a former molestation victim of said man, and was well-accustomed to his illegal and illicit activities.

Arthur Stanley Brown was now-86, and had been living in Townsville for most of his life. As detectives began to dig into him as a suspect, they found a not only a closet full of skeletons, they found a graveyard.



Over the next few months, Australian detectives amassed over 45 charges against Brown, which included molestation, sexual assault, pedophilia, and, of course, the murders of the MacKay girls. Their case was aided by eyewitness and victim testimony given to them by many of Brown's family members, including his wife's family, which consisted of many women who had been molested or sexually assaulted by Brown when they were younger; some of them having been taken to the same creek bed where the MacKay girls had been found.

Detectives uncovered the knowledge that Brown, who had been roughly sixty at the time of the MacKay murders, had worked as a carpenter at the girls' school. Apparently, in the weeks and months following the murder, he had become personally obsessed with the girls murder, making many weird choices: the oddest of which was the off-colored door from his car, a very-identifiable mark, which he removed and then buried in his yard.

Yes, you heard me right. He removed a car door and buried it. His explanation for it, at the time: he didn't want to be harassed about it by anyone, because his car happened to match the exact model used to abduct the girls by passing eyewitnesses. He would later dig up the car door and take it to junkyard, essentially, but his behavior at the time was odd in other ways. He even went as far as inviting two of his wife's cousins, both of them young women, to the crime scene to look around.

And it wasn't just odd behavior around the time of the murder, either. Brown allegedly had dozens of victims, ranging from when he was a younger man to his elderly years. Also, there is a matter concerning his first wife, Hester, who died mysterious a few years later, in 1978. Her death certificate was written by the family doctor, who wrote it without even examining the body, which was cremated shortly thereafter.

Immediately following his wife Hester's death, her younger sister Charlotte moved in with Brown, along with her five children. Brown and Charlotte would marry just months later, as if a devastating death hadn't occurred at all.

In 1982, another one of Hester's younger sisters came forward with claims that Brown had molested her, which led to a large number of her family members coming forward with similar stories. Despite this, however, legal advice was given which can basically be surmised as: "taking him to court might be traumatic for the victims, so best not to." The entire matter was swept under the rug and became a family secret, at least until that 1998 episode of "Crimestoppers."

The secrets about Arthur Stanley Brown came to light, and they weren't pretty.

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In 1999, after the years of his exploits being kept in the shadows, Arthur Stanley Brown was taken to court. He was now in his 80s, having spent the better part of his life escaping from justice, and seemed to be poised to do it one last time.

Despite the evidence and testimony stacked against him, including that of two people who he had supposedly confessed to decades prior, Arthur Stanley Brown was able to escape justice via his own mental health.

In 2000, the trial had to concede for reasons of circumstantial evidence being unfit for trial, which then led to a delay... but then, surprisingly, newspapers were reporting that the trial could not proceed "for legal reasons which cannot be published."

This would be revealed, a year later, to be due to Brown's worsening dementia and struggle with Alzheimers, which left him unfit to stand trial or even plead in the case.

One would think that Brown had simply escaped justice, but he might have found justice of another sort. In April of 2002, his wife Charlotte would pass away, and Brown was abandoned and ostracized by his entire family. His funeral was kept under-wraps and un-publicized, with only one stepdaughter being given the notice of his passing.

Weeks after he had been buried, one of his stepsons would remark: "I can't believe such an insignificant little arsehole had such a profound effect on so many people's lives." If that's not a glowing review of Brown's impact upon the world, I don't know what is.

The surviving members of the MacKay family have come to terms with the knowledge that Brown committed the rape and murder of Judith and Susan. In fact, immediately after his death, police would close the case file completely, believing him to be the lone suspect.

In the years since his death, many have begun to question whether or not Brown was responsible for the disappearances of the Beaumonts and the Adelaide Oval abduction. He did live in Queensland and worked for the Department of Public Works there, an entire continent away from Adelaide, but when investigators went digging for records of his holidays and vacations, they could find nothing.

Whether or not these records were destroyed during the 1974 Brisbane Flood or discarded by Brown himself, who had open access to the government offices because of his position with Public Works, is an open mystery.

He did have a history of trying to hide evidence of his misdeeds, courtesy of the buried car door, so anything is possible. One of the witnesses from his trial would confess that Brown had remarked about visiting the Adelaide Festival Centre during its construction, which would place him in Adelaide after June of 1973. The abduction of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon took place in August, just a few months later and shortly before the construction project finished.

There is also the matter of his physical description, which is the most disconcerting part of the story. Brown bears a strong resemblance to both of the sketches provided to police after the Beaumont disappearance and the Adelaide Oval abduction. However, while Bevan Spencer von Einem was too young to match the description of the suspect, Arthur Stanley Brown would have been over fifty years old for both abductions, making it very unlikely that he would look like a fit, thirty-five year old man.



Another interesting note, is that one of the witnesses during the Adelaide Oval abduction, remarked that the man who grabbed four-year-old Kirste Gordon was wearing horn-rimmed glasses, which fell off during his getaway. Arthur Stanley Brown would wear those type of glasses constantly, so much so that during his youth they remained a part of his wardrobe.

It's possible that Arthur Stanley Brown was responsible for the disappearance of the Beaumont children, but unfortunately, there would be no way to know for sure. His death in 2002 undoubtedly meant that the rest of the secrets left in his decrepit, failing mind would die with him.

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In the ensuing years, more possible suspects have continued to be thrown onto the proverbial pile. Known criminals such as James Ryan O'Neill and Derek Earnest Percy have been implicated in the Beaumont case in one way or another, although their connections to the case are normally rather tenuous. In recent years, a deceased man known as Arthur Stanley Hart, who passed away in 1999, has been implicated by members of his own family in the Adelaide Oval abduction after a secret basement was discovered on property he once owned. Police have admitted that he was a key suspect throughout that investigation, but no links to the Beaumonts have been discovered.

Derek Percy

James Ryan O'Neill


In 2013, a book was published, titled "The Satin Man," which claimed that wealthy Adelaide businessman Harry Phipps was responsible for the Beaumont children's abduction. This was based off of evidence from Phipp's troubled son and testimony from other family members, but when pressed for a statement, police revealed that Phipps was not a serious suspect and they were not investigating him for the Beaumont disappearance.

Harry Phipps next to the Beaumont suspect sketch.


The fiftieth anniversary of the Beaumont children's disappearance came and went this past January, meaning that each of the children would be approaching their sixties if they were still alive. Their parents, Jim and Nancy, are still alive and are now both approximately nineties years old. Both live in privacy, but no doubt hold out hope that they will be given some kind answer as to their children's fate.

A week before the case's fiftieth anniversary, on January 19th, the police received a tip via a phone call, which has led to a recent renewal in the interest of the case. The police hold out hope that the case can be solved, and the million dollar reward for the case still stands to this day, but they have come to the realization that if a suspect is to be named - it needs to be now. Any possible suspects would now be between 70 and 100 years of age, meaning that any new evidence is likely to come from a deathbed confession or family insiders.

If you happen to know anything, please contact the Adelaide authorities.

For the time being, the fates of Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont - along with those of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon - remain unresolved.

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Wow. That's all I have to say about that one. This episode of the Unresolved Podcast was no easy feat to put together, but I won't bore you with those details. I'll just apologize for the long wait to get to it, which was made necessary due to a recent change in my life, which was a huge one.

This episode was made possible by the efforts of both Tyson Nordgren - who handles the editing and mixing portions of the podcast, along with creating the music heard throughout - and Nick Miller - who did a lot of research into the case, helping point out certain aspects I would have otherwise left out or ignored. Both of them are owed a huge debt of gratitude by me in helping get this episode off of the ground, a feat that seemed impossible to me just weeks ago. Thanks, guys.

I also owe a huge thank you to Ailsa Traves, who wrote another awesome song for the podcast. You can find a link to this new song, along with the one she wrote episodes ago, on the podcast website, www.theunresolvedpodcast.com. There, you can also find links to research, transcripts for each episode, and many other small goodies.

If you want to keep in touch with the podcast, you can do so at Facebook, just search for the Unresolved Podcast, or at Twitter, @UnresolvedPod. I changed a little, just to make it easier to find for newcomers.

If you want to text or leave a voicemail for the podcast, you can do so at 831-200-3550. This is a good way to get a quick response, and I do listen to all of your voicemails - yes, even the creepy ones. I'm looking at you, Aaron.

If you want to make the next episode come out a little bit quicker, you can definitely head over to the show's Paypal page, Paypal.me/theunresolvedpodcast, and leave a donation. I'll also be officially launching the show's Patreon page in the near-future, now that I have free time, so that'll hopefully be a more rewarding option for everyone.

That's it for episode ten of the podcast. I don't know what story I'll be trying to tackle in the next episode, but I can guarantee that it'll be coming out quicker than this one... I have a lot of free time on my docket over the next few months, so I hope to really dig into some stories I've been shying away from. It's an exciting time for the podcast, so I hope you hear from me soon.

Until then, stay safe. Goodbye, everyone.

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Links

ABC News Australia - "Beaumont children: Marking the 50th anniversary of Adelaide's enduring unsolved mystery

Wikipedia - Disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon

Wikipedia - Arthur Stanley Brown

Wikipedia - Bevan Spencer von Einem

Australia Missing Persons Register - Joanne Ratcliffe

Seven News (Yahoo) - "Relative doesn't believe Beaumont children claims"

Adelaide Now - "Cold Case: Fresh leads in 1973 Adelaide Oval abduction links key suspect to abandoned Prospect home with an underground bunker"

Courier Mail - "Did Arthur Stanley Brown kill the Mackay sisters, Marilyn Wallman and the Beaumont children?"

The Age - "Suspect mass child killer is buried with his secrets at 90"

Murderpedia - Bevan Spencer von Einem

Monday, June 6, 2016

10 - The Beaumont Children (Part One)



Every now and then, an event happens that not only impacts society, but finds a way to change it. Whether these be small events or large events, the impact is felt by all.

I have strong and vivid memories of September 11th, 2001, an event that changed the landscape around me. I was just a child then, but I remember the fear circulating around the United States at the time, the fear that I - or we - could be next. That was a sentiment shared by millions, and one that was born out of an emotion itself: fear.

Similarly, the story that I'm looking at today not only morphed how one country viewed some aspects of their culture, but possibly the entire world. This is the story of the Beaumont Children, their disappearance, and the fear that shifted how parents everywhere view the safety of their children.

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Welcome to the Unresolved Podcast, a podcast all about stories that have no clear-cut ending. I am your host, Micheal Whelan, and before I get started, I would like to welcome all of the new listeners, who are undoubtedly drawn to the large nature of this story. It is one that has become synonymous with unsolved mysteries, and remains one of the most well-known cautionary tales in the world.

I would like to apologize for the long absence between the last episode and this one. It wasn't never my intention to do so, but if you've been following the podcast on social media, you'll know that it's been a rather busy and chaotic time of my life. Thankfully, you can anticipate many more episodes of the podcast in the months to come.

But now, without any further ado, let's turn back the dial and visit a time and area foreign to my own: over fifty years ago, in Adelaide, Australia.

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In 1966, the Beaumonts lived a very iconic lifestyle. Jim, the father, was a linen goods salesman that traveled the surrounding area to meet with clients, and Nancy, the mother, was a stay-at-home housewife that cared for the couple's three kids.

The couple had lived in Adelaide for some time, giving birth to their first child, Jane, in September of 1956. They would then go on to welcome Arnna in November of 1958, and their only son, Grant, in July of 1961.

The five Beaumonts lived together in their small, idyllic-looking home of 109 Harding Street, in the suburbs of Somerton. If the name "Somerton" sounds familiar to you, it might be because it's the location where an unknown, unidentified man was found in 1948, also known as the Tamam Shud. But that's a mystery for another time.

Needless to say, the Beaumonts were living the dream. Just minutes away from the beach, they lived in a suburb known for its quiet grandeur, and by all known accounts, things were going well for the family of five. But, unknown to any of them, things were about to take a serious turn for the worse.

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In the weeks preceding their tragic disappearance, the three children had become slightly independent. Both Jim and Nancy trusted in their oldest daughter, Jane, now nine years old, to supervise the other two on trips to the beach. Whenever they wanted to head to the beach, they would simply take a short bus ride there and back.

What did the Beaumonts have to be worried about? Their small slice of the Adelaide suburbs left no doubts in their mind, at least when it came to the safety of their children. There was nothing to fear.

During the Australian summer months, when temperatures were continuously rising and heading upwards of 40 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit for us ignorant Americans), the couple didn't think twice when it came to letting their children escape to the beach. So this was becoming a common thing, and for weeks, the three children had traveled to the beach and back numerous times, encountering no trouble at all.

Despite their rather shy nature, it also seemed to be good for the children. It allowed them to socialize outside of a school setting, and kept them active in the summer sun. In fact, Arnna, the family's seven-year old daughter, often joked about Jane "having a boyfriend down the beach." At the time, the family thought nothing of Arnna's comment, but why would they? It was just a joke from a seven-year old.

On January 25th, Jim Beaumont decided to accompany his children on one of these visits to the beach, on his way out of town. He was headed out on business, and wouldn't see his children for the next couple of days. Right before he left, four-year old Grant came over to say goodbye to his father.
"Don't worry, Daddy. We'll be fine."



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On the morning of January 26th, 1966, things were... normal. It was Australia Day, which for all of us overseas with little knowledge of Australian traditions, is very similar to the Fourth of July, or Canada Day. It's a day to celebrate Australian pride and history, and is a rather joyous occasion.

With the temperature rising, Nancy didn't give it a second thought when the children asked to go to the beach. It would keep the children busy and happy for a few hours, and would give her more than enough time to visit with a friend of hers. She gave the children eight shillings and sixpence in coins, to buy snacks down by the beach, and let them set off for the bus-stop they usually frequented. This bus-stop was less than a few hundred feet from the front door of their house, just a block away at the corner of Harding and Diagonal Road.



At roughly 10:10 in the morning, the children were spotted boarding the bus by several witnesses, including the bus driver. A woman that witnessed them climbing aboard recalled that Jane, the oldest, was holding a copy of "Little Women," a book that had become one of her favorites. This woman could also recall the distinct coloring of the three children's clothing, which gave credence to her testimony.

At approximately 10:15, the bus headed off for its route, which would lead the children to the beach they constantly went to, named Glenelg. Which, I learned in the related-"Thinking Sideways" podcast about this story, is a palindrome.



The next hour or so, regarding the Beaumont children, is largely a mystery. Their local postman, who knew the children well, recalled seeing them during this time frame. Tom Patterson, who could easily identify the children, claimed that he saw the three children walking towards the beach on Jetty Road, ten or so blocks north of where they lived. This wasn't unusual for the three, so he kept a small mental note of it, perhaps messing up the timeline in a small way. He would later go on to say it was possible that he had seen the children in the afternoon, but his earliest accounts recall seeing the children in the morning, on their way down to the Glenelg beach.

At around 11:00 in the morning, an elderly woman who was sitting on a beach outside of the Holdfast Sailing Club recalled seeing the three children playing in a sprinkler at the Colley Reserve. This is a large patch of grass, largely resembling a park, so it wasn't out of the ordinary for the kids to be frolicking in this area.

Now, the kids were finally at the beach, nearly an hour after their arrival. There were witnesses around that remember seeing them, but unfortunately, the size of the Adelaide area helped ensure that there were many tourists and unrecognizeables visiting.

The same elderly woman that spotted the children playing in the sprinklers also noticed a younger-looking man in blue swim trunks watching the children. He was lying face-down in the grass at the time, but would later be spotted by this woman actually playing with the children, less than fifteen minutes later.

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According to this elderly woman, and at least three other eyewitnesses, this man stood about six-foot-one, and was lean with blond hair and a thin-looking face. He was apparently wearing a blue bathing suit, and had been watching the three Beaumont children for a few minutes before befriending them.

It is unknown who this man was, although in the years since, he has become a prime candidate for suspicion. Many theories have been written about who this man was, who appeared to be in his early-to-mid-thirties to those that saw him.

Rumors have lingered that this man, who had perhaps been befriending the children for a matter of days or weeks, was the "boyfriend" that Arnna spoke of at the family home. Unfortunately, the truth of that matter would never be solved, but the children were seen leaving the beach in the company of this unknown man.

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While the children leaving the beach with this suspicious man was alarming, the witnesses at the beach weren't the last people to see the Beaumont children alive.

They would be seen, over the next half an hour or so, at Wenzel's cake shop. This was somewhere between 11:45 in the morning and 12:15 in the afternoon, but accounts seem to differ on the exact time.

Apparently, the children came in to purchase some small treats - which meant a couple of pastries - but also bought a meat pie. They paid for all of this with a one pound note, which leads to a couple of unanswered questions.

First of which is: who were the children buying the meat pie for? The Beaumonts recall that none of their children would have been interested in eating this kind of thing, especially before lunch, and would have spent their meager allowance on sweets of some kind, not a savory meat pie.

Secondly... where did they get the money for their sweets from? Nancy Beaumont distinctly recalls giving her children eight shillings and sixpence, but never a one pound note. This would be like a kid paying for a candy bar with a twenty dollar bill, after specifically being given pocket change by their parents. Nancy recalled giving them just enough to cover the bus fare and for them to buy a couple of small treats, but nothing of that size.

This means that the children likely got the money from someone else, probably the strange man from the beach, and they bought the meat pie for him specifically. Where he was, during this time period, is unknown, but it stands to reason that if he had bad intentions for the three innocent Beaumont children, then he would want to be spotted with them as little as possible.

Maybe he was waiting outside, or on a bench nearby, waiting for the children to return to him.

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There were more witnesses that may have seen the Beaumont children with this man, and what they saw is very concerning.

He apparently spent fifteen minutes with the children, helping them get their clothes on after they had been playing in the sprinklers at the Colley Reserve. Even the witnesses recall this as being very odd, but they just had to assume, at the time, that the man was a relative of the children, since they seemed to be regarding him personally.

This stands at-odds with what we know of the children, especially Jane. Nancy Beaumont would later recall that her nine-year-old daughter was very shy, and wouldn't have been comfortable with a stranger she just met to help her get dressed. She was young, and she could get overly excited at times, but she wasn't completely naive.

There was an older lady sitting on a park bench, right next to a pair of grandparents who were waiting with their granddaughter. Apparently they were approached by this strange man, who asked them if they had seen anyone messing with his clothing. He had apparently walked away from it for some time, and claimed to be missing money.

Right after this was when he began dressing the children, taking his time to do so, as if he were enjoying it.

Sadly, this is the last time that the Beaumonts would ever be seen by a confirmed eyewitness.

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Nancy Beaumont was expecting the children home shortly after this, as they had been told to take the noon bus back home.

She had arrived shortly before then to prepare lunch for the kids, and was surprised to see the bus make its stop, just a block away from their house, and then leave again without her children departing.

Immediately, she began to assume that the children had missed the bus, and were either going to walk home or simply take the next bus in an hour or two. They had apparently done both in the past, so this wasn't an emergency to her.

Now, we can see the major discrepancies between the past and the present. In this day and age, such an event would not happen because three young children would very rarely be given so much leeway and personal freedom. But in this situation, in cozy, small-town Glenelg, this wasn't too odd.
There were potentially two more sightings of the children in the hours after their last confirmed appearance, but nothing that investigators have ever ruled to be fact.

The first of which is the potential sighting by Tom Patterson, the local postman, who had originally claimed to see the children in the morning, but over time, changed his statement. He claims that it was possible he saw them in the early afternoon, which would fit with the narrative if they missed their noon bus and began walking home. However, the time of his route in which he would have encountered the children ranges from 1:45 to nearly three o'clock, leading many to think that he likely saw them in the morning.

One of the sentiments I see being thrown about online is that Tom Patterson's shaky testimony may be due to the fact that Australia Day is a public holiday in Australia, and usually there is no mail being delivered on this day. I haven't been able to find whether or not this was the case back in 1966, but it's a popular online sentiment that seems to get thrown around, perhaps explaining Tom Patterson's confusion about the timeline: how could he remember seeing the children during his work route if he wasn't even working?

The second sighting was by another person entirely, a tourist visiting from Broken Hill, a northern town that lay hours inland. He was apparently on the Glenelg beach that the children had last been spotted near, and he saw three children matching their descriptions leaving with another man, who roughly matched the description of the man given by other eyewitnesses. However, this witness claimed that the potential Beaumont abductor had light brownish hair, not blond. This detail led many, including the police, to consider this sighting as less-than-factual. It might have just been a father with his three children, sharing a common description of the Beamonts and their possible abductor.

Despite these potential sightings, Nancy Beaumont was at home, waiting for her children to get back. The two o'clock bus came and went, but Jane, Arnna, and Grant were nowhere to be seen.

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Jim Beaumont, the children's father, got off of work shortly after three o'clock. He had been in another town entirely, two hours north in Snowtown, selling linens with a business associate.

He arrived home to find out that his children hadn't been seen in hours, as Nancy had been waiting for there to be any word or sight of them at the family's home.

The two set off, trying to retrace the footsteps of their three children, making the trek to the beach. Back-and-forth they went for the next few hours, looking for their children, or at least, a clue left behind or someone that had seen them. Unfortunately, their search was completely fruitless.

They didn't find their children between their house and the beach, nor did they find any of the kid's possessions. None of their towels, their clothes, not even Jane's copy of "Little Women."

Jim and Nancy decided to call the police at roughly 7:30 that evening, after the children had been gone for close to ten hours. Jim would search the area for Jane, Arnna, and Grant throughout the night, with Nancy staying at home in case they appeared.

At some point the next morning, the three Beaumont children were officially declared missing by the police, who then began the investigation to find them.

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The investigation began by re-tracing the information of where the children had been and where they had theoretically gone. This is where investigators discovered the information about the witnesses at or near the beach, and began to make a timeline of where the children had been and when.

It was almost immediately ruled out that the children had been swept out by the tide. None of their personal items were found on the beach, and at least one of them would have been found had this was the case. Investigators would have found a book or a towel of theirs, or something like that.

From the get-go, the case began to take on the attention span of a nation. The eyes of Australia were on Jim and Nancy Beaumont, who went on TV and radio five days later, on January 31st, to appeal for the lives of their children.



Hundreds of tips began to fly in to the police, who thoroughly investigated almost every single call. As you can guess, all of them were dead ends. Anybody who saw a child wandering off alone, or a group of kids in the company of a man, called into the police with a potential avenue for a safe rescue. However, this may have been detrimental to the investigation, as the police began searching day and night for any hint or clue that would lead to a safe rescue, but came up empty.





Everyone with a tie to the Beaumonts was investigated, from neighbors to family friends to Jim Beaumont's coworkers and work associates. The area of Adelaide was alight, trying to find any trace of the three kids, and looking for any wayward son that was out of place. The blond young man was highlighted as a lead suspect right away, and sketches were drawn from what the eyewitnesses had seen.

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Roughly two weeks after the children's disappearance, a local newspaper received a phone call. Picked up by a telephonist that worked for the newspaper, she described the man on the other end of the phone as having a (quote/unquote)"foreign accent."

According to the telephonist, who quickly tried to transfer the call to the newspaper's chief of staff, the person on the other end of the phone claimed to have Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont.

"I want reward money for them," he said in his accented voice. "It will have to be a good reward."

Unfortunately, as the telephonist tried to transfer the conversation to her boss, the caller on the other side of the phone hung up. The police didn't immediately eliminate the call as a hoax, but it is not publicly known if they chose to investigate it any further. It wasn't the first time that the case was possibly marred with ill-attempted pranksters and frauds, but it unfortunately wouldn't be the last.

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The investigation had almost no luck from the beginning, with the investigators looking into every possible nook and cranny of nearby beaches, looking for a cave or cove that the children could have wandered into or washed ashore upon. They would find nothing, not even an article of clothing or belonging of the Beaumont trio.



The leads were empty for the next handful of months, but police were finally notified when a woman came forward with information. It had been approximately six months since the Beaumont children had disappeared, but she claimed on that night in January, she had seen something odd. Next door to her was an abandoned house she had believed to be empty, and on the same night that the Beaumonts disappeared, she had witnessed a man entering that house with two young girls and a boy in-tow.

According to this woman, she claimed that the boy left the house hours later and started walking down the street, only to be chased and snatched by the man that was leading them.

For some reason, this woman decided not to report this to investigators for months, for some reason that can only be guessed at.

First off, I find this to be a little too convenient, that a woman reported seeing something shady happen on the night of a major news event, and decided to sleep on it for about half a year. If this is true, which I have serious doubts about, then that might be one of the most fucking aggravating things imaginable. Pardon my language.

But, needless to say, the next few months were rather quiet on the useful information front. People continued to report in suspects and sightings for at least a year after the disappearance, and still even months and years after that. People were not only watching out for their own children more fiercely, but the Beaumont children were well on their way towards becoming a cautionary tale, to be told for decades later.

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Gerard Croiset was a 57-year old Dutch psychic, for lack of a better term. He claims to have specialized as a parapsychologist and a psychometrist, which are two fields that are not scientifically-minded, but based upon spirituality and paranormal beliefs.



Croiset had experience in aiding Dutch investigators with their cases for years, beginning in the years following World War 2. He had apparently helped Dutch police track down the killer of a young woman, which gave him credit in not only Holland, but in surrounding European countries.

In November of 1966, Croiset was invited to Australia by a wealthy businessman who was interested in the case, Con Polites. Croiset arriving was a big deal in itself, and attracted a lot of media attention to the case once again, but perhaps not in a good way.

The Beaumont parents apparently didn't want much to do with Croiset, who they viewed as a fraud.

Despite that, unsurprisingly, people were eager to hear what he had to say. This began to turn the disappearance of the children into a public spectacle, and brought the idea of the psychic detective to the forefront of the worldwide media.

Police chose not to meet with Croiset, for the same reasons that Jim and Nancy Beaumont didn't. They believed him to be a crock. But the public felt the opposite, and hoped that Croiset would be able to unearth a clue that was waiting to be discovered.

Greeting a large crowd at the Glenelg beach where the Beaumont children had disappeared from, Croiset made a daring claim by stating that he didn't believe the children had been abducted at all, but rather trapped underneath the flooring of a recently-constructed warehouse building. He was also bold enough as to proclaim that he would find the children within two days.

“I have had a vision of where the children started from. I will walk there and a vision will come to me immediately," Croisot claimed. "I am 90 per cent sure I will pinpoint the place where the bodies will be found.”

The police were already skeptical of Croiset, and weren't going to dig up the flooring of a private building based on a psychic's hunch. The public, however, bound together and raised over $40,000 in order to pay for the owner to dig up the flooring of the warehouse, which he did.

No trace of the Beaumonts was found, not even a scrap of evidence leading detectives to believe they had ever been there. Croiset eventually left Australia after his short - and unsuccessful - visit. In 1996, when the warehouse was set to be demolished, it was excavated by Con Polites, the wealthy businessman that paid for Croiset's visit over thirty years beforehand, but again came up with nothing. No trace of the Beaumont children was found there, despite Croiset's claims.

Croiset meeting with the Beaumonts before his departure

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It had now been approximately two years since the disappearance of Jane, Arnna, and Grant Beaumont, with not so much as a clue bringing their parents any sense of closure.

At around this time, in 1968, a letter arrived in the post. Postmarked from Dandenong, a suburb of Melbourne, the letter was supposedly written by Jane herself, who would have been eleven years old. This would be the first of two letters purported to be written in Jane's own hand, which police believed after matching up the letters to old school assignments written by Jane. They looked authentic enough for them, so at the time, they believed that they could have been real and treated them as such.

The first letter from Jane claimed that the children were all right, and were healthy in the care of "the Man." This Man, who would remain unidentifiable throughout the letters, was allegedly taking good care of the children by ensuring their safety and feeding them well.

Another letter would soon find itself delivered to Jim and Nancy Beaumont, and this one was written by "the Man" himself. The person behind the letter claimed that they had appointed themself the guardian of the three children, but would be willing to hand the three children back over at a time and place of their choosing.

A direct quote from Jane's letter carried similar guidelines:

“You, Dad, have to wear a dark coat and white pants so that the man will know you. The man told me to tell you that the police must not know at all. He said that if you do tell them, you may as well not come, so please do not tell them. The Dandenong post office is in Victoria in case you did not know. We are all looking forward to seeing you next Monday. Please do not tell the police. The man did not mean to harm us. We still love you both."

"Love Jane, Arnna and Grant”

Obviously, Jim and Nancy weren't going to let this letter join the pile of others that they have been accumulating for over two years. If there was a chance at all - no matter how slim - that they could follow the instructions to get their children back, they were going to take it.

So Jim travelled over 700 kilometers to Dandenong, that suburb of Victoria, and waited outside the post office for the better part of three whole days.

The police were contacted by the Beaumonts during this time period, and there were police officers surveying the scene. The press also became interested in the happenings, and once the word got out that Jim Beaumont was allegedly getting his children back, the area outside the Dandenong post office was bustling with an unusual crowd.

Unsurprisingly, nobody came forward with the Beaumont children. Jim returned home to Somerton without anything to show for his efforts.

A short time after this unsuccessful trip to Dandenong, a third letter arrived in the mail. This was written in the same hand that Jane's original letter had been written in, and claimed to be from her. In it, Jane claimed that "the Man" had been in Dandenong during Jim Beaumont's visit, but had identified an undercover police officer and quickly left the area, never to return. This letter version of Jane claimed that "the Man" had been betrayed by the Beaumont parents, and would be keeping the children.

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Roughly twenty-five years later, when forensic testing was commonplace, detectives were able to test the DNA on the letters. What they discovered was that the letters had been written by a 41-year old man, who at the time had been a teenager and wrote the letters as a sick joke.

Unfortunately, the time period in which they could have filed charges had long since passed, but the man had felt guilty about his vile acts as a teenager and regretted ever being involved in such a thing.

But one has to imagine how his guilt compares to the years of torment inflicted upon the Beaumonts, and the decades of questions that must have been rattling through their mind.

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August 25th, 1973 - It has now been over seven years since the three Beaumont children fell off of the known map, and nearly a decade later, the trio are little more than a cautionary tale. A thing of the past. A story with a dead end.



Links

Wikipedia - Beaumont children disappearance

Wikipedia - Gerard Croiset

The Ghost In My Machine - "Unresolved: The Strange Disappearance Of The Beaumont Children"

Investigating Crimes - "Australia's Most Famous Unsolved Crime: Missing Beaumont Children"

The Line-Up - "The Mysterious Disappearance Of The Beaumont Children"

Daily Telegraph - "Clairvoyant Gerard Croiset failed to crack the Beaumont case but gave rise to the 'psychic detective'"

The Age - "I have missing children: Caller" (from February 10th, 1966 issue)

Senior Chatters - "Beaumont children disappearance"

Defrosting Cold Cases - "In search of Jane, Grant, and Arnna"