Hi, friend! Do you remember that time you were murdered in such a ruthless, strange manner that the crime is destined to mystify law enforcement for decades to come? No? Really? Uh, my time machine's probably off by a few weeks. Forget I said anything.
Still, while you're here, maybe you can help me in a related matter. I've been looking into strange, unsolved deaths and trying to figure them out. However, it turns out that I'm way better at committing crimes than solving them, so I really could use another brain. Here, grab this deerstalker hat and join me as we try to solve some of the strangest bullshit in the history of murder mysteries.
#5. The Mysterious Mauling Of Sir Harry Oakes
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Harry Oakes was as close to a real-world Scrooge McDuck as it gets. He earned his first fortune as a prospector in the great gold rush to the Klondike, and then went on to amass several others with a number of savvy business moves. By the 1940s, he was one of the richest men in the world, living in luxury in the Bahamas.
Still, not everyone liked the man. On July 8, 1943, Oakes was found dead in his mansion. The 68-year-old magnate had been brutally bludgeoned to death and partially burned. Apparently, the Scrooge McDuck connotations had not gone unnoticed by the murderer, because the body had also been strewn with feathers.
"Burning? Feathers? Case fucking closed, it was clearly a tumor." -- WebMD armchair detectives everywhere
As tends to be the case with grisly high-profile murders, the news exploded all over the media like a fleet of manure trucks crashing into a wind turbine factory. Authorities managed to locate a potential culprit in Count Alfred de Marigny, Oakes' troublesome playboy son-in-law who was on notoriously bad terms with him. However, a trial uncovered both a rock-tight alibi and crooked investigators who had planted de Marigny's fingerprint on the murder scene in an attempt to frame him, so he was soon in the clear.
No other suspect was ever located, let alone brought to court. Still, that doesn't mean that suspicious people weren't aplenty. One of the most famous and creepy people hovering around the case is none other than, oh, the freaking Duke of Windsor. The abdicated King Edward VIII was serving as Governor-General of the Bahamas at the time, and happened to be a close personal friend of Oakes. According to writer William Boyd's investigations, immediately after hearing about the case, the ol' duke descended upon the investigation like a squadron of Inspector Clouseaus, making decisions so baffling that even Frank Drebin would call bullshit. He personally visited the crime scene for literally no reason. He overruled the local police by inexplicably summoning two detectives from Miami, both of whom were personal acquaintances of his. (Hey, can you guess who "found" that planted fingerprint?) He even initially attempted to prevent the media from writing about the murder, and despite his prominence in handling the case, he arranged a trip away from the island during the court proceedings so he wouldn't have to attend.
National Portrait Gallery
"I had a note from my doctor. I'm allergic to blatant horseshit."
Still, while this is all highly suspicious, it's unlikely that an ex-king accidentally maimed a rich dude to death in a game of flame pillow war (although you're all free to enjoy that mental image). Most sources seem to agree that the duke was most likely operating out of panic. For an already scandal-drenched member of the royal family, a highly-publicized murder of his domain's wealthiest resident is the equivalent of pooping your pants at a party. There's also the fact that he might have had some shady business dealings with Oakes, which might have motivated the attempt to frame de Marigny (whose guts the duke just so happened to hate).
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
The case has sprouted the exact sea of wild-ass theories you'd assume. Some say the gangster Lucky Luciano offed Oakes in a mob message to the fools resisting his attempts to turn the Bahamas into a gambling paradise. Others claim the murderer was a vengeful voodoo priest whose wife the victim was boning. Or maybe it was Oakes' lawyer. Or his estranged wife. Hell, here's me throwing my own bullshit theory in the mix: It was the asshole poodle of the billionaire next door.
"Can you at least jail the poodle anyway? It kept shitting on my lawn."
Or I guess it might have been Oakes' business partner, who appears to have actually been in the house during the murder. No one ever thought to accuse him because he was totally sleeping soundly two bedrooms away during the killing, honestly, guys.
But that would be just insane, wouldn't it?
#4. The Daylight Slaying Of Ken McElroy
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Picture, if you will, the most stereotypically ogrish small town oaf, with all the trimmings. A huge, illiterate guy who constantly carries a gun and liberally threatens to violence-punch anyone and everyone at the slightest provocation. Congratulations! You've just painted a mental picture of Ken Rex McElroy, dickhole extraordinaire. For years and years, Ken terrorized the town of Skidmore, MO with the kind of imaginative cruelty that would make Trevor from GTA V raise an eyebrow. He indulged in all sorts of drunken villainy, and gleefully picked up dozens of felony accusations -- none of which stuck, because when you're living in a small town with a crazy violent guy who would eventually be played in a movie by Brian fucking Dennehy, you tend to think twice before pressing charges.
The only charge he knows is directly toward you, screaming.
After decades of establishing himself as Skidmore's own Gaston-with-a-lot-more-statutory-rape, Brian Denne-- uh, Ken McElroy was caught because of the minor technicality of shooting a 70-year-old grocery store guy halfway to death because he'd complained about Ken's shoplifting kids. And that was the end of the Bully of Skidmore.
... for about five minutes. He appealed, was released on bond, and immediately went on a berserk harassment campaign against the grocer dude and everyone in town who had shown sympathy to him. Because who's going to defend a man's right to shotgun people in the neck, if not the man himself? He went as far as confronting his victim at a local bar, brandishing a gun and threatening to kill him. At this point, someone presumably had enough of his shit. I'm saying "presumably," because although we don't know for sure, the fact that someone killed him the very next day kind of hints at that.
On July 10, 1981, McElroy got drunk at a bar, bought a six-pack, and was sitting in his pickup truck with his wife when suddenly a hail of bullets peppered his vehicle, and him.
That's, uh, certainly an outcome.
This happened in broad daylight, in front of an estimated 40 townspeople, and the assailant(s) aimed the bullet storm directly at him (the wife survived). After the bully dropped down, his lifeless foot on the gas pedal still revving up the engine, everyone wandered off to go about their day. Mysteriously, none of them saw a thing.
The murder goes unsolved to this day.
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
Although no one can prove anything (and no one seems to be in a great hurry to do so), let's be honest here. This was a mob justice thing by the folks Ken kept assaulting and threatening, and probably as close to justified as such things will ever be. It's obvious.
In fact, a little too obvious, isn't it? Look at this picture of Ken McElroy:
Immediately after this was taken, he ate the dog.
Isn't that the dude from every 1980s B-action movie who starts giving shit to a passing Steven Seagal right before getting beaten with a cue ball and strangled with his own urethra? The exact guy whom you'd assume would pull a "Hey, buddy, we don't take kindly to strangers here" on a traveler at a local bar, only to find out they just pissed off the Punisher?
Sure is! I'm not saying that McElroy started giving his usual shit to a passing Frank Castle, only to get sprayed with bullets as the locals watched on. I'm just heavily implying it.
#3. The West Mesa Murders
In 2009, Albuquerque, New Mexico went a long way toward establishing Breaking Bad as a documentary. A vacant 92-acre lot on the outskirts of the city turned out to play shallow grave to 11 badly decomposed bodies. The victims were mostly Hispanic prostitutes with a host of substance abuse issues, apart from the one who was recognized as a 15-year-old who disappeared in 2004. Although their cause of death was ultimately unclear (cops ended up just listing it as "homicidal violence"), the case immediately raised a whole bunch of serial killer flags, and the media dubbed the perpetrator the "West Mesa Bone Collector."
"Shit, they're on to me."
Ordinarily, 11 dead women with a mysterious cause of death would be the starter pistol for a months-long media feeding frenzy, but since the find was in the ass end of nowhere, even from the Albuquerque residents' point of view, and the victims were not exactly on the upper rungs of the social ladder, the case received surprisingly little attention. The investigators did manage to tie the fates of the ladies to the New Mexico State Fair, which attracted large numbers of prostitutes in the area. They investigated a photographer who frequented the festival, but ultimately were unable to connect him to the case.
The cops are still technically investigating what they officially call the 118th Street Homicides, but a tight budget, a number of internal scandals, and virtually no public pressure to crack the case have pretty much guaranteed that it will never be solved, unless the perpetrator is caught burying 11 new victims on a neighboring lot or someone stumbles on a million-to-one clue. The closest things to actual suspects that we've had are unsavory local resident Lorenzo Montoya and Joseph Blea, a hardcore sex offender who stalked the area with a ski mask, knife, and the charming nickname "Mckinley Middle School Rapist." However, since the former was shot by a pimp in 2006 (to be fair, Montoya was strangling a prostitute at the time) and the latter is a 58-year-old who has recently been slapped with a 36-year prison sentence for being far too rapey for anyone's good, these lines of investigation are unlikely to yield any significant outcome.
"Are you crazy, man? There's no way we can connect this guy to any prostitute murders."
Pauli's Favorite Theory:
I'm conflicted. On the one hand, killer carnies from the state fair are an enticing idea, but ... come on, people. Proper horror movie murders in an area where there's already a guy stalking away with a damn mask and a knife? One who already has a fear-inducing nickname? Man, my money's totally on Joseph Blea. The best move authorities ever made was hauling his ass to jail before the mob figured things out and chased him down with pitchforks, because mark my words: A guy with that resume is going to Freddy Krueger the shit out of the area when he dies.