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In the real world, crimes are solved with a lot of tedious investigation by professional detectives sitting at a desk, filling out paperwork and poring through reams of witness reports. It doesn't make for compelling TV. That's how it goes down most of the time, anyway. But occasionally all of that painstaking legwork counts for nothing, and a serious crime can be solved by a series of coincidences so implausible that they'd be cut from the first draft of a CSI episode.

5
A Woman's Murder Is Solved By The General Lack Of All-Wheel Drive

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In 2000, a woman named Betty Lee was found murdered in the middle of the New Mexico desert. Police didn't have a lot to go on -- just a cellphone, discarded in the dirt near a web of tire tracks. The phone was traced to a tow truck driver named Charley Bergin, and this one piece of evidence cracked the case wide open. But Charley Bergin was not the killer. This story is a lot dumber than that.

Howard Shooter/Dorling Kindersley RF/Getty Images
Turns out those Motorolas really are indestructible.

The real killer was a guy named Robert Fry. With the help of an accomplice, Fry abducted the victim from a parking lot and drove her out into the desert to kill her. Unfortunately for them, Fry's car got stuck in the dirt on the way back from the crime scene. Ah, so he called Charley Bergin to help him out, right?

No. He called his father, James Fry, to bring his pickup to help wrench them out. But just to prove that stupidity is hereditary, the elder Fry's pickup also got stuck in the dirt during the rescue mission, stranding all of them. Now they were forced to call a tow truck to pull both vehicles to safety. So they called Charley Bergin, right?

No. They called Floyd Robinson. Robinson drove out in his tow truck to give the hapless Fry the professional assistance he should have sought in the first place. Naturally, Robinson managed to get his truck stuck in the dirt as well. The comedy of errors continued as the steadily increasing pile of stranded vehicles had to call another tow truck. So they called ... Charley ... Bergin?

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"No. This is Greg. Charley's in the bathroom, hold on ..."

This time, yes, they called Bergin. He was already having a bad night, which wasn't improved by getting called out to the middle of nowhere to pull three idiots out of the dirt. Shortly after arriving, Bergin's wife called him to nag about something, but due to the shitty phone reception, he couldn't hear what she was saying, so he got super pissed off and threw his phone into the sand, to later be discovered by police.

When Bergin recounted the unlikely story to police, they weren't sure whether or not Bergin was the world's most needlessly convoluted liar, so they traced the chain of unlucky motorists back to Robert Fry. Forensic evidence connected him to the body, and also to a bunch of other bodies, enough to get him the death penalty. "I didn't murder all of them," Fry should have said, "I just murdered the last one, who murdered the one before that, who murdered the one before that ..."

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"... who murdered Kevin Bacon."

4
A Murder Is Solved Because The Cops Are Lazy

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In June 2011, a young Macon, Georgia, woman named Lauren Giddings was reported missing, so a pair of detectives went to check her apartment. They found no trace of Giddings, but that was fine -- they'd already solved the case accidentally, by parking their patrol car in front of a row of trash cans. When the garbage man arrived, he was unable to collect the trash, so he just kept on driving. Her corpse was found in one of the uncollected cans later that day. Had those cops been willing to walk just a little farther, they may never have found her killer. Yes, a murder case solved by the laziness of police.

That's not the only lucky coincidence that led police to Giddings' murderer. Later the same day, local media conducted a bizarre interview with one of her neighbors, Stephen McDaniel. This guy:

13WMAZ
Forget the spoiler alert. You already know he's the murderer.

It was a run-of-the-mill interview in which McDaniel expressed his concern for his neighbor's safety, until the reporter mentioned the fact that Giddings' body had just been discovered. If you're curious, here's what it looks like at the exact second a murderer realizes he's boned:


"Wait, trash day is on Monday?"

If McDaniel had kept his cool, he might never have appeared on the police radar. But detectives took notice of his poorly concealed panic, and soon discovered enough forensic evidence to pin him to the crime, to which he pleaded guilty. Interestingly, McDaniel was a law graduate who was preparing to take his bar exam. You'd figure he'd be better at lying.

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3
The "Son Of Sam" Killer Was Caught By His Own Laziness And Stupid Handwriting

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In the summer of 1976, New York City was terrorized by one of the most infamous serial killers of all time. Over the course of the next year, this unidentified psychopath carried out a series of random shootings, murdering six people and wounding seven others. He taunted the police and the media with anonymous letters, referring to himself as the "Son Of Sam."

thecriminalmindblog
Sam probably won't be hanging this one on the fridge.

The killer turned out to be a postal employee named David Berkowitz. His motive was about as sane as that of any unhinged psychopath -- he claimed his neighbor's dog was possessed by a demon and commanded him to kill. But the truly batshit ones are often the hardest to catch. The completely random nature of the crimes made it impossible to predict where or when he would strike. Indeed, the Berkowitz case was solved not by hard-hitting detective work but by the Son Of Sam's flagrant disregard for the traffic code.

In the early morning hours of July 31, 1977, Berkowitz parked his car in a Brooklyn neighborhood. He walked several blocks to shoot his last two victims before returning to his vehicle and driving away. At some point during this series of events, a pair of patrolmen noticed that Berkowitz's car was parked in front of a fire hydrant and ticketed it. Later, a neighborhood resident out walking her dog (a perfectly reasonable thing to do in Brooklyn at 2 in the morning while a serial killer is running rampant) saw a man running to his car in an awful hurry, and remembered that there was a ticket on his windshield. After hearing about the shooting that morning, she reported it to police.

Thomas Monaster/New York Daily News
"He's running around covered in blood and screaming? This is pre-Giuliani NYC;
you're gonna have to be more specific."

The cops traced the ticket to Berkowitz and decided to pay him a visit. When they arrived at his apartment and found his car, they noticed a note on the dashboard that they immediately recognized for its distinctive and famous handwriting -- the childish, all-capitals scrawl of the Son Of Sam. Berkowitz confessed his identity the moment he was arrested. If you're taking note, that is now two murders solved by people unwilling to look for a proper parking spot. Feel free to use this excuse next time you're in traffic court.

2
An Abducted Girl Was Found After Befriending Her Long Lost Sister At School

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In 1997, a South African woman gave birth to a baby girl named Zephany Nurse. In a bizarre turn of events, Zephany Nurse was abducted from the hospital by an unidentified woman ... disguised as a nurse.

revistavozdemujer
"Uh, gonna take her to my car to get her car seat measurements, which is totally a real nurse thing."

Nearly 18 years went by without any sign of Zephany. By that time, her mother, Celeste, had three more children, and one of her daughters, Cassidy, was starting high school. Cassidy soon became close friends with another girl at her school. The two hit it off almost instantly, like they were long lost sisters ... you see where this is going.

CNN
They called Charley Bergin?

Once Cassidy's father noticed the amazing physical similarities between the two girls, he contacted police. DNA testing soon revealed that the older girl was, in fact, the missing child. Zephany and the woman she didn't realize was her kidnapper had spent the past 17 years living only a few miles away from the Nurse family. And we imagine that discovering that your BFF is secretly your sibling is already the plot of a sitcom on Nickelodeon.

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1
A Victim's Parrot Solves His Murder

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In 1942, Max Geller, the owner of the Green Parrot Restaurant, was shot inside his establishment. There were around 20 witnesses, but nobody wanted to come forward. There was one witness willing to snitch, however: a large green parrot, who, not coincidentally, lived at the Green Parrot Restaurant. When police questioned(?) the bird, it exclaimed, "Robber! Robber!"

Not super helpful, bird.

Tim Burrett/iStock/Getty Images
That's not even worth half a cracker.

The investigation went nowhere for a year, but eventually a detective figured that something about the parrot's testimony(?) didn't quite add up. The bird had been trained to learn the names of frequent restaurant guests so that he could greet them at the door, which actually sounds like a pretty awesome gimmick. What if the parrot was saying ... "Robert"?

That's a plot twist even M. Night Shyamalan would reject for being too stupid, but the cops checked into it anyway. They discovered that the Green Parrot did indeed have a regular customer named Robert Butler. And that Butler had conveniently left town right after the shooting and was now living in another state.

idealistock/iStock/Getty Images
So, in addition to the parrot-twist, technically the Butler fucking did it.

It should be noted that at this point the police had less than no case, because, in the state of New York at least, the testimony of a parrot is worth about as much as other stuff that comes out of a parrot. But Butler must have had some real respect for the integrity of that bird, because upon being told that he'd been fingered(?) by Geller's parrot, he admitted to the crime immediately. He wound up getting 15 years for the murder. We imagine the chief emitting a long, dejected sigh, stamping "case closed" on the file, then sealing it away in the Raiders Of The Lost Ark-style warehouse that they use to catalog all the unsolvable cases secretly cracked by birds.

Robin Warder is the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and worked on a sci-fi short film called "Jet Ranger Of Another Tomorrow."

For more great mysteries, check out 23 Creepy Unsolved Mysteries Nobody Can Explain and The 5 Creepiest Unsolved Crimes Nobody Can Explain.

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