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Thursday, March 3, 2005

Top Ten Modern Day Cold Case Murder Mysteries, version 2.0

The arrest of the BTK Strangler suspect, Dennis Rader, changes the list of "Top Ten Modern Cold Case Murder Mysteries," that was first put together by The Johnsville News on May 13, 2004.

Popularity on the internet, based on web pages counted by Google was used as the criteria to select cases for the list. The first version of the list was as follows:

  1. Jimmy Hoffa
  2. Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls
  3. JonBenet Ramsey
  4. Chandra Levy
  5. Tupac Shakur
  6. Anthrax Killer
  7. Zodiac Killer
  8. Rubin Hurricane Carter/Paterson, NJ triple slaying
  9. Wichita BTK ("Bind, Torture, & Kill") Strangler
  10. Olof Palme (Swedish Prime Minister)
The current Top Ten Cold Case Murder Mysteries on the internet are:
  1. Tupac Shakur - case has become part of Gangsta Rap milieu.
  2. Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls - conspiracy theorists link this case to the the Tupac murder.
  3. JonBenet Ramsey - a case that still fascinates the public. More people have started to believe the intruder theory and that the parents are innocent.
  4. Anthrax Killer - a case with a terrorist angle that still haunts the public. The blueprint for these attacks could be re-opened and re-played at any time. Most potential to jump to top of list.
  5. Zodiac Killer - renewed interest due to similarities to the Wichita BTK Strangler case.
  6. Jimmy Hoffa -interest starting to fade as the 30th anniversary of his disappearance approaches (July 30, 1975)
  7. Jam Master Jay - new case on list. Hip-hop violence seems epidemic.
  8. Chandra Levy - this case is starting to fade - no new leads.
  9. Rubin "Hurricane" Carter - Paterson, NJ triple slaying - case is starting to fade from public consciousness as the 39th anniversary of the murders approaches (June 17, 1966). Carter has lived in Canada since 1988, and now makes his living as a motivational speaker.
  10. Olof Palme (Swedish Prime Minister). Interest in this case remains in Europe. It is almost bumped off the list by the Bob Crane murder mystery.
The murders of rap stars Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls), and Jam Master Jay show the largest increase in notoriety - due in part to the continued popularity of their hip-hop music. It will be a long time before one of these cold cases gets resolved as dramatically as the the BTK Stangler.

When the Wichita BTK (Bind, Torture, & Kill) Strangler started sending letters and packages to the police and media in March 2004 that case steadily started climbing up the list of infamy. By February 16, 2005, the Wichita BTK Strangler had send a total of eleven separate cards, letter, and packages to police and media outlets in the Wichita area.

BTK Strangler Communiques:
  • March 19, 2004 -- BTK letter (#1)
  • May 5, 2004 -- BTK letter (#2)
  • June 17, 2004 -- BTK letter (#3)
  • July 17, 2004 -- BTK letter (#4)
  • October 21, 2004 -- BTK letter (#5)
  • Dec. 14, 2004 -- BTK package (#6)
  • Jan. 25, 2005 -- BTK package (#8)
  • Jan. 26, 2005 -- BTK package (#7)
  • Feb. 3, 2005 -- BTK postcard (#9)
  • Feb. 2005 -- BTK letter or package (#10)
  • Feb. 16, 2005 -- BTK package (#11)
This barrage of "press releases" by the BTK Serial Killer created a huge wave of interest by bloggers, amateur cybersleuths, internet message board readers, and the professional news media. John Walsh and the television show, "America's Most Wanted" featured the BTK Strangler case in December 2004. Many people started following the BTK Strangler case on Web sites, message boards, and blogs such as:

Web Sites:
BTK Message Boards:
Blogs:Interest in the BTK Strangler surged and this so called "cold case" was very hot. Many amateur sleuths attempted to ferret out clues to identity the serial killer who started in 1974 and was originally thought to stopped in 1979. His March 19th letter announcing his return indicated he murdered again in 1986. Clues like the May 5, 2004 letter with the "BTK Puzzle" (.pdf file) only added to the intrigue and mystery surrounding the case. A psychic, Dennis McKenzie, arrived in Wichita in September from England to film a documentary about BTK and render his opinion about the case.

The internet creates an interesting dynamic in cold case murder mysteries.
"Amateurs who care about things can now put their ideas into play or challenge the experts," said Lee Rainie, director of the Washington-based Pew Internet and American Life Project. "That's one of the biggest things the Internet has done."
Everything written about a murder now goes into the internet mosh pit surrounding a case. Any new unsolved murder mystery has the potential to grab the collective consciousness of the public and get amplified by the internet if the case has the right mix of murder, mystery, and mass appeal.

For example, the murders of Judge Joan Lefkow's husband and mother on Feb. 28, 2005 have created a great deal of interest. This case could possibly become one of the top "cold cases" if interest continues to build and it remains unsolved into next year. The fact that a white supremacist conspiracy may be involved adds a very interesting element to the case. This would not be the first time white supremacists have murdered someone that crossed them. Alan Berg was a liberal Jewish talk radio host in Denver, Colorado who was gunned down in the driveway of his home by three members of The Order, a white supremacist group on June 18, 1984. Ten men were convicted of involvement in the murder.

By January of 2005 BTK was the most followed "modern day" murder mystery on the internet. "Modern day" again simply means that the killer or killers may still be alive. Cases like Jack the Ripper, the Cleveland Torso murderer case (worked by Eliot Ness), and the 1954 murder of Marilyn Sheppard (wife of Dr. Sam Sheppard), have passed into the realm of historical events. Cases that will forever remain mysteries.

One other notable cold case that looks like it has left the "modern" crime scene is the 1947 slaying of 22-year-old aspiring starlet Elizabeth Short, dubbed the Black Dahlia. There is no suggestion in the coverage of this case that the perpetrator(s) are still alive.

Several cases on the cold case list had news in 2004 and 2005:
  • The Jimmy Hoffa case had some new developments. Frank Sheeran's alleged confession about his knowledge of and role in Jimmy Hoffa's murder, and his death in December 2003, lead to renewed speculation about the case, but no clear resolution. The case remains one that could still lead to a grand jury investigation.

  • The Jon Benet Ramsey case had a significant break when the CBS 48 Hours television show reported in December 2004 that DNA testing had ruled out Ramsey's parents as suspects. The show reported that Michael Helgoth (who died in 1997) was believed by some investigators to be linked to the crime along with a second unknown perpetrator.

  • A documentary about Tupac Skakur, "Tupac: Resurrection," was nominated for an Academy Award/Oscar for best feature length documentary. Little known fact: Tupac Shakur idolized Tony Danza.

  • Gary Condit, a former democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives currently is preparing for his $11 million defamation lawsuit against Vanity Fair writer and crime book author Dominick Dunne. Many questions about Gary Condit's relationship with Chandra Levy still remain.
    The Gary Condit Tapes [cbs, Feb. 4, 2005]
    Condit's children give family update [Modesto Bee, Feb. 17, 2005]

related links:
BTK (Bind, Torture, & Kill) Strangler Info
Extremists applaud murder of judge's relatives [cnn, Mar. 3, 2005]
Despite Popularity, Psychic Detectives Fail to Perform [livescience.com, Feb. 4, 2005]
Most Notorious Celebrity Murder Cold Cases [TJN]
History’s greatest unsolved crimes [msnbc.com]

update Mar. 10, 2005:
Bart Ross, a 57-year-old electrician from Chicago, committed suicide Wednesday, Mar. 9, 2005, in West Allis, Wis. He left a suicide note claiming he killed the husband and mother of a Federal Judge Lefkow who ruled against him, police said Thursday.

Man Claims to Have Slain Judge's Family [Guardian, Mar. 10, 2005]

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