5 Unsolved Mysteries Behind Famous Crimes
Due to the modern news cycle and our own cripplingly short attention spans, it's nearly impossible to think about any one news story for longer than about seven seconds. And that's not always helpful when we're talking about massive crimes, which usually require a little extra focus and thought. Unsolved mysteries are fun when you're dealing with Bigfoots and fantasy shows, but less so when it's real assault and murder. And yet here we are, about to delve into exactly that ...
Who Poisoned The Drugs That Prince Was Taking?
After Prince died of an overdose in 2016, police opened an investigation to find out where his drugs came from. That might seem like a bit of a waste of time to you. Rock stars can get all the drugs they want; everyone knows that. Drugs probably generate spontaneously on their hotel room pillows when they check in. But Prince didn't die from doing a mountain of cocaine. He took counterfeit Vicodin which, unknown to him, was laced with fentanyl. So whoever made those pills is pretty responsible too. Police spent two years trying to trace the origin of the drugs. They never found their answer.
Prince was not normally known to take drugs, but eventually, friends admitted to investigators that he'd been taking plenty of them lately, as he suffered from chronic hip pain. He even had to be revived from an overdose just the previous week. Investigators did find plenty of pills in Prince's home -- pain pills in envelopes and vitamin bottles, pills hidden in bottles labeled "Bayer," and pills with song lyrics in a suitcase labeled "Peter Bravestrong," an alias of his. That's a veritable parade of pills, and while the DEA is often able to analyze a pill and tell its origin by looking at its composition or the imprint left while it was being pressed, nothing turned up in this case.
A doctor, Michael Schulenberg, had prescribed Percocet to Prince. Allegedly for the artist's privacy, he issued the prescription under someone else's name -- that of drummer Kirk Johnson. So police had uncovered some wrongdoing, and Schulenberg paid a $30,000 civil fine, but that didn't exactly close the book on anything. Prince also got some painkillers from Walgreens, and his family is now suing the chain (as well as suing Schulenberg). But again, what's with the fucking fentanyl?
As much as the county attorney would have loved to file criminal charges against someone, the investigation ended with no conclusions. If Prince was deliberately poisoned by members of the other noble houses so they could install their own heirs on the throne, we'll never know.
What Was The Motive For The Las Vegas Shooting?
It's now been a year and a half since the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history. A 64-year-old retiree shot 1,100 rounds at a music festival on the Las Vegas strip, killing 58 and injuring almost a thousand. Afterward, the FBI opened an investigation to sort out exactly what happened. But when they closed the case this January, they had to admit that they still had no idea what the shooter's motive was.
As much as we might mock the way mass shootings are summed up ("If he's brown, he's a terrorist, but if he's white, he was 'troubled'"), investigators really do try to analyze perpetrators, and in this case they came up with nothing. The guy left behind no note and nothing on social media. He wasn't part of any group and had no known agenda. He had no grievance against any of the victims, or the venue. Out of ideas, investigators scooped out the shooter's brain and sent it to be examined, but somehow, even Frankenstein-ing him didn't help.
The shooters at Virginia Tech, UCC, and Pittsburgh wrote manifestos. The Christchurch mosque shooter hated immigrants, the Charleston church shooter hated blacks. The UC Santa Barbara one and his imitators were bitter toward women. The Rancho Tehama killer was angry about his neighbor using meth. The Sutherland Springs guy hated his mother-in-law. None of these people had rational motives, of course, but at least they had motives of some kind, and we were able to unearth them.
So to find no motive at all is a failure on our part, and a terrifying one. We need an answer. Perhaps that's why some outlets misleadingly summarized the FBI's findings by saying the "Las Vegas Shooter's Motive Was a Desire for Destruction and Infamy." No, that's not a motive. That's only stating that he wanted to do the thing that he did, in which case you may as well just title your piece "Awful Human Was Successful At Being Awful."
Who Are The Pair That Assaulted People At The Charlottesville Rally?
While the man who rammed a crowd of people at the Unite the Right rally at Charlottesville in 2017, killing Heather Heyer, was caught and found guilty of murder (and pleaded guilty to a further 29 charges), another crime at the event went unsolved. Black counter-protester DeAndre Harris was assaulted by six men, leaving him with a concussion, a broken arm, and an injured spine. So not exactly a "minor incident."
The six men included a white supremacist, a "former" white supremacist, an ex-militiaman, and a self-described "commie-killer," who were all apprehended and subsequently convicted. But the two remaining suspects have yet to be found. If this were a typical story, we'd throw in a grainy police sketch and joke about how it kind of looks like your mom's weird friend Brad. But we don't need a sketch, because we allegedly have photos of these assholes:
In fact, we have many photos and videos of these two possible perpetrators, which is basically inevitable nowadays when you commit a crime in a place where phones have been invented. But we've still been unable to identify either of them.
The detective in charge has given up on ever finding them at all, saying, "I've pretty much exhausted everything I can do with this case." How weird is that? Even if the pair took pains to go into hiding, they were still seen by lots of people in Charlottesville, right? Don't we have any footage of them talking to people we can identify? We're living in an age when you can post a clip to Twitter of someone screaming at a McDonald's cashier, and they'll be identified by some rando within an hour, then promptly fired and driven into the desert. So what's happening with these two? They don't exactly look like masters of stealth.
Did The Police Purposely Arrange Whitey Bulger's Murder?
Before he was subject to one of Johnny Depp's "PLEASE, GIVE ME AN OSCAR, I'M BEGGING YOU" roles, James "Whitey" Bulger was a Boston mob boss for decades, and for much of that time was also an FBI informant. This allowed him to escape prosecution for the one-and-a-half-dozen murders he committed, but eventually, even the FBI couldn't cover up his shit anymore. After a 16-year manhunt, authorities finally caught Bulger in 2011, and he was convicted in 2013. Last October, he was moved to USP Hazelton in West Virginia. Within hours, other inmates beat him to death.
Everyone knew Bulger was a police informant, and prisoners generally treat snitches in a way that requires stitches. That was why Bulger initially served his sentence in a federal prison in Florida known as a safe place for informants. So why was he transferred to a prison known as "Misery Mountain," which had seen three homicides in the past year, and which multiple Mafia members called home? And why was he housed with the general population instead of in protective custody? And why was he put in the same unit as a Mafia hitman known for his hatred of snitches?
It seems Bulger wasn't very well-liked by the staff in Florida. They gave him a month in solitary, but ended up leaving him there for seven. He threatened a medical worker (according to Bulger, he was lashing out at being denied medical care while having a heart attack). The guards there tried to have him transferred, and the first request was denied. Then the prison changed his medical classification to indicate he was healthy and able to be transferred, even though he was 89 and confined to a wheelchair.
Shipping hated inmates to dangerous prisons is a pretty common form of retribution, but it's generally not supposed to be capital punishment. Sending Bulger to Hazelton was a death sentence, said an investigator in the case. So did they purposely send him there to die? If so, 1) that's probably a crime, and 2) that's not how you're supposed to treat informants, guys. Criminals hate informants and police are supposed to protect them. If they don't, we're not going to get a whole lot more informants in the future.
Who Killed Whom During The Waco Biker Shootout?
In May 2015, a crowd of bikers gathered in Waco, Texas at the Twin Peaks sports bar (a restaurant chain that has disappointingly little to do with the David Lynch TV series). Two rival gangs were meeting there to hash out territory disputes, and then something happened. Some say that one biker ran over a rival's foot. Whatever the case, by the time the encounter was over, nine bikers were dead, and another 18 were injured. Four had been killed by police officers (they were close by from the start to maintain order, and clearly they did an absolutely bang-up job). Police arrested 177 people at the scene. Four years later, the last of the charges against these suspects was dismissed, and the case was closed, without authorities managing to convict a single person.
Being part of a gang is not illegal, and neither is being adjacent to a shooting, so police lacked legit probable cause against many of those they brought in. The district attorney issued "blanket warrants" and argued that simply being present was an offense, but the appointed special prosecutor didn't buy this and was forced to dismiss a bunch of charges. 122 of the bikers ended up suing for wrongful arrest.
The rest is a circus. The DA extracted nude photos of one suspect and his wife from his cellphone and emailed them to hundreds of lawyers, until a judge told them that wasn't cool. When one suspect's case finally made it to court, it ended in a mistrial. Prosecutors delayed a lot of cases because they were hoping to rope hundreds of bikers together in a giant conspiracy charge, but that never came together. And soon the statute of limitations had passed for lots of the lesser offenses (aggravated assault, felony with a deadly weapon) which they actually could have successfully prosecuted, even if murder charges wouldn't stick.
So this past April, the new district attorney dropped all remaining charges, saying the case had been seriously screwed up and there was nothing to salvage. Some of those released definitely murdered people, but we aren't sure exactly which, and they'll never be tried for it. Even though the shooting was in public. In daylight. While police were watching. And captured on video. Yeah, we have video from inside the restaurant, police dashcam footage, and a four-hour surveillance tape of the whole area. You can watch it all if you want to be more dedicated to this case than, apparently, the actual police.
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