5 Crazy Ways Cold Cases Were Solved
In real life, crimes aren't usually solved because some Sherlock Holmes dude deduced the location of a murder weapon based on the presence of a yellow throw pillow or something. It's usually a lot more boring than that, involving countless hours of tireless interviews and combing the scene for a hair that might not belong to any of the hundreds of people who had a perfectly legitimate reason to be there. Every once in a while, though, reality does a sick kick-flip and gives us a crime story worthy of a goddamn cartoon ...
Mafia Fugitive Caught After Posting YouTube Cooking Video
Marc Feren Claude Biart had been successfully evading charges of cocaine trafficking for seven years when he was overwhelmed by his desire to show the world his real talent: cooking. He had carved out a nice little life for himself in the Dominican Republic, having crafted a new persona so convincing that even the other Italians in the area didn't realize he was Italian, but something was just missing. It was like The Little Mermaid, except instead of being stuck in a tropical paradise with his collection of thingamabobs, he was stuck in a tropical paradise with five-star lasagne.
Eventually, the call of internet culinary fame became too loud, and Biart decided to go for it. Life is short, especially when you're in the mob. He was no idiot: He made sure his face was never on camera when he showed YouTube viewers how to whip up a bowl of pasta that would make the entire Coppola family cry. In his distraction by daydreams of the seemingly oxymoronic concept of anonymous celebrity chefdom, though, he neglected to conceal his many colorful and distinctive tattoos. It's not important what they were, so feel free to imagine they included Peanuts characters recreating scenes from Goodfellas.
Most people on YouTube are lucky if they get three views from random dudes who click the wrong video on their way from Sonic the Hedgehog fan theories to white supremacist propaganda in fewer than three steps, but Biart's video somehow made its way to authorities investigating fugitives from the 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate that controls most of Europe's cocaine, who then tracked him down to the Dominican Republic. Who knows how cops work, man?
It could have been worse: Around the same time, one of Biart's associates who had been on the run for 14 years was arrested in Portugal while being treated for COVID-19. Talk about a rough day.
Christopher Lovrien Had A Dead Body In His Shed
In 1999, Mark Dribin went missing, and when police searched his Portland home, they found compelling evidence that someone had probably definitely died there. They found DNA in his car, but they couldn't match it to anyone, and that was pretty much the end of the story … until 2019, when the Golden State Killer was caught through 23andMe. Oregon cold case detectives decided to give it a spin and must have been at least a little surprised that it actually worked, leading them to Christopher Lovrien, who had actually submitted his own DNA to trace his family tree. All normal so far.
Here's the twist: When police executed a search warrant on Lovrien's property in May 2020, hoping to find Dribin's body, they found ... a completely different body. This one belonged to a local homeless man named Kenneth Griffin, who had gone missing a few months earlier and somehow found its way into Lovrien's shed, after which whoever put it there just left it while they took care of some chores or something. Did their taxes, washed their heavy winter bed linens, etc. You know how these things just get away from you.
We're not naming names because as of March 2021, Lovrien has pled not guilty on all counts and hasn't been convicted, but police figured the whole thing looked murdery enough to arrest him for both deaths …
… adding his name to a long list of people who have been arrested thanks to genealogy services. Murderers, please, stop submitting your DNA to these people. Wait, no. No, keep doing that.
Guy Bites Sausage, Gets Picked Up Decade Later
In 2012, a home in Gevelsberg, Germany, was robbed, and just to add insult to larceny, the burglar took a bite out of a sausage left out by his victim. Listen, you can't just leave sausages lying around and expect any potential burglars in the vicinity not to do some wiener-chompin', but he could have at least finished it. Taking a single bite implies that you found it lacking, and besmirching a man's sausage was a capital crime in Germany until 1759, probably.
He definitely wishes he'd finished it now. At the time, police obtained a DNA sample from the saliva left on the sausage, but again, you can't match DNA without anything to match it to. Apparently, the rude smash-and-snacker had evaded authorities for long enough to keep his DNA out of any of the applicable databases, and he was actually smart enough not to get too curious about his family tree.
That changed in 2021, when the unnamed suspect was picked up in France for an unrelated crime. Perhaps he had a craving for croissants? When the Frenchies took his DNA, it automatically pinged authorities in Germany after it matched their sample, which is apparently something that happens in Europe. The U.S. can't coordinate investigations across a handful of states, but they've got entire countries running on the same Google Assistant or something. Unfortunately, the statute of limitations for the 2012 burglary had passed, so the man walked free to nosh another day.
John List Taken Down By Sculpture And Optometry
After John List's wife, three children, and mother were all found dead in their New Jersey home in 1971, police knew who they were looking for. A guy doesn't just innocently head out one day to find his whole family dead in a wholly unrelated incident. He also left a note confessing everything to his pastor at his church, so there was that.
They just couldn't find him. His car was located at the Kennedy International Airport, so they had a nagging suspicion that he was no longer in New Jersey, but for almost 20 years, it was like he'd vanished without a trace. In 1989, they brought out the big guns: John Walsh.
Plenty of criminals have been tracked down with the help of the avid crimespotting old ladies that comprise America's Most Wanted's viewership, but it's usually accomplished with photos or sketches. It had been so long that any photos of List had likely been rendered inaccurate, and sure, they could have brought in a sketch artist to illustrate what he might look like now, but where's the fun in that? It's been done. To shake things up, they brought in a sketch sculptor, which absolutely shouldn't have worked. You know those busts of all those Greek emperors and whatnot? They were created by masters, and they still could be anyone. You could be Caligula for all you know. Indeed, the result looked like at least five guys you saw standing in line at the bank today:
They also made an offhand comment that he'd probably be wearing horn-rimmed glasses in an attempt to look successful, which again should have been met with sarcastic comments about brilliant profiling work. Who knew they'd end up being right? After a woman did indeed recognize the bust as her neighbor, who did wear horn-rimmed glasses, police tracked List down in Virginia, where he'd created a whole new family and identity. He was super mad his pastor shared the note -- some things are sacred.
Three Boys' Murders Were Solved During an Investigation Into a Celebrity Disappearance 20 Years Later
In 1955, Kenneth Hansen picked up three boys ranging in age from 11 to 14 years old who were hitchhiking home after a day at the movies in Chicago, sexually assaulted them, strangled them, and dumped their bodies in a ditch. It was shitty. Police questioned exactly 43,740 suspects, which really should have told them something about their "potential pedo murderer" population, but in 1994, they had no better idea who did it than they did 40 years before.
That's when they started looking back into a completely different cold case, the 1977 disappearance of Helen Vorhees Brach, heiress of the Brach Candy company, notorious manufacturers of such atrocities against sweets as candy corn and conversation hearts. Brach's disappearance and presumed death brought to light a whole weird criminal underworld in the area, primarily dealing in horse fraud. Yes, horse fraud. It turned out stable owner Richard Bailey had sold Brach horses at enormously inflated prices as part of a generally shady equine business and was eventually charged with conspiring to kill her, though he was only convicted of defrauding her.
What does any of that have to do with the murder of three boys 22 years earlier? Apparently, over the course of the investigation, at least four people implicated Hansen, a former stablehand and associate of Bailey's, in the earlier murders. It's not clear how it came up -- it's entirely possible they each individually sat down and immediately told the police, "It was probably Kenneth Hansen. Dude's f**ked up. He killed those three boys, you know." The 61-year-old Hansen -- who had built a nice life for himself that included a wife, two children, and his own stable and literally lived in Country Club Hills -- was arrested and died in prison in 2007. Bet he never ate another conversation heart.
Top image: John List, 20th Television