It's 2:30 in the morning. You know that you should get some sleep, yet you choose to evade the impending new day with just one more interesting-looking internet article that you found ... W-wait, you're going to read this one? The column about creepy unsolved murders and surreal carnage that'll put you off sleeping for good? Seriously?
Oh, who am I kidding? We've been down this road before. I know there's no stopping you. So go call Sister Charlene and tell her that you're not going to be able to participate in the dodgeball tournament to save the orphanage tomorrow. Because we'll be up all night trying to figure out the terrifying truth behind mysterious crimes like ...
5Jonathan Luna's Final Journey
Jonathan Luna had his life in order. A 38-year-old family man and successful prosecutor, he was a rags-to-riches success story who was by all accounts at the height of his professional and personal powers. This is why it came as a surprise when, on December 3, 2003, he left a Baltimore courthouse and, instead of heading home, embarked on a strange multi-state trip in the middle of the night. Luna left the courthouse at 11:30 p.m. and drove over four hours to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The next morning, he was found drowned in a shallow creek, with his court ID still around his neck.
While on the surface, this may seem like your regular "dude has a bad day at work, drives four hours to another state in the middle of the night, and somehow manages to drown in a tiny river" case, there are a number of peculiarities to Mr. Luna's demise. He announced his trip to no one. He didn't drive straight to Lancaster Country, but instead first headed north and zig-zagged around. He made random-seeming small cash withdrawals. He paid road tolls in multiple ways, despite having his E-ZPass with him. He even appeared to have injured himself at some point along the way, because his final toll ticket had blood on it. His car was found by the riverbank, still running. And although the cause of death was drowning, he had also been stabbed 36 times with his own penknife, along with a hefty helping of head trauma. There was that.
"OK, so I'm not particularly good at road trips."
At first, the police thought precisely what you probably do right now. Dude was a lawyer. He was bound to have enemies among the criminal element. Shit, he was supposed to finish a plea bargain against two violent drug dealers the very next day! Of course someone with a grudge grabbed him when he exited the courthouse late at night, forced him to drive around and mix-and-match his toll-paying methods in order to confuse the potential followers, and finally found a quiet place to torture-murder him. We've seen movies. That's how these things work.
On the other hand, the investigation uncovered that Luna was, partly unbeknownst to his family, pretty heavily in debt, and that he had profiles on multiple internet dating sites. Also, he was totally seen during the trip. The gas station attendant he bought gas and beverages from didn't see anyone else in his car, and attested that he behaved completely normally. Whatever the dude was doing, he was likely doing it voluntarily. So ... maybe the guilt of his apparent secret life got to him and he went on a midnight drive to clear his head, only to have the dreaded 2 a.m. thoughts eventually take him over and, as it were, under? Or maybe he was trying to stage a suicide or a kidnapping and went too far?
"Juuuust a quick 36 stabs to convince people I'm not playing aroun-"
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
At first, my gut instinct was to go with the "ridiculously elaborate suicide" theory, but ... no, man. This dude was totally murdered. Sure, some say that his penknife wounds could have been largely "hesitation wounds" common to blade-related suicides. However, this has been debunked by the mortician who took care of Luna's body for the funeral, who said that his wounds were the worst she had ever seen. We're talking "shredded hands, slashed scrotum, slit throat, and stab wounds in the back" stuff here. Even without back-stabbery and the fact that Luna's corpse was the worst thing a freaking mortician had seen, I refuse to believe that a dude trying to commit a quiet desperation suicide would incorporate scrotum-slashing into the act.
Besides, Luna had left his cell phone and glasses, which he needed to drive, on his desk before he left. Also, there was a pool of blood on the back seat of his car, which would seemingly indicate that he was lying in the back ... and someone else was driving the car. Which means the gas station attendant never saw Luna, but his murderer. Specifically, someone else that they could still later identify as him. This leaves us but one choice: He was murdered by his evil twin from an alternate dimension. I bet the FBI has also arrived at that theory, which is why they keep giving contradictory statements about the case.
"I'm sorry, sir. It's just that Agent Mulder keeps hijacking the microphone."
4The Mysterious Death Of A Tour De France Winner
Imagine if the finest athlete in [insert sport you give a shit about] was found on the side of a remote village road, their skull bashed in and zero clues as to what happened. Imagine the media feeding frenzy, the rampant armchair detective theories flying around, the inevitable lone, disgruntled policeman struggling to solve the case in time while simultaneously wrestling with his personal demons. This summer, Steven Seagal is in The End Zone.
And then imagine the cops just shrugging and walking away. No one ever mentions the case again.
If you lived in Italy circa 1924, there was no need to imagine. Because that's the year Ottavio Bottecchia, Tour de France winner and world-famous cyclist, was found dead near his hometown of Peonis. (Hee hee, it's fun 'cause it sounds like a dong!) He was crumpled on the side of the road, his skull caved in and many of his bones broken. He never regained consciousness, and he died of his injuries 12 days later.
Based on this picture alone, the "crime of passion" theory is not exactly off the table.
The case came pre-spiced with the easily-recognizable tang of horseshit. Bottecchia's bicycle lay nearby without a scratch on it, so he hadn't crashed. There were no skid marks onsite, so a car hadn't hit him. Oh shit, son! Media feeding frenzy time! Since, on top of his other accomplishments, Bottecchia was a bona fide World War I hero, the papers immediately went into full tabloid mode, and the entire country's law enforcement sprung up to solve the case.
Ha, no! The literally-fascist-at-the-time police didn't give a festering rat's ass about the case, nor did they even attempt to set up one of their undoubtedly abundant usual suspects as a culprit to appease the general public. Instead, the officials promptly said "screw it" and decided that the cause of death was ... sunstroke.
Because hardass Tour de France winners are known to drop dead at the slightest provocation from outside elements.
Oh, and it just so happened that, despite his fame and assorted heroics, Bottecchia was a lifelong socialist and a vocal critic of Mussolini's regime. Come on. Case closed, right?
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
As much as my comedic sensibilities scream for the idea that real-life supervillain Mussolini clubbed Bottecchia to death because of his antifascist beliefs (or at least sent some stereotypical mob hitmen to whack the guy), not even bloodthirsty dictators have time to perform every ridiculous crime in their country. Also speaking against his involvement is the fact that there were literally no traces left by the murderer. Have you seen Mussolini's headquarters?
Well, now you have.
That is not the crib of a dude who quietly assassinates an enemy. He'd have run Bottecchia repeatedly over with a tank, cackling maniacally and waving his peonis in the wind as he went into reverse for the 15th time. So yeah, let's say the whole "fascist swine killed the heroic dissenter" theory is little more than a romantic fabrication. Especially since there's precisely zero evidence pointing to the fascists beyond shoddy police work, which isn't exactly a rare commodity in dictatorships.
Life is often random and stupid. Who's to say death is any different? What if something completely dumb and accidental happened? Say, Bottecchia stopped to pick some grapes for a snack, and a disgruntled wine farmer caught him in the act, threw a rock that accidentally brained him, and panickedly dragged the body to the side of the road, breaking a few bones in his haste? But of course, something like that is way too far-fetched to even be considered ...
... wait, a farmer (whom no one really believes because of the more alluring fascist theory) actually confessed to doing that exact thing on his deathbed? Huh.