Unsolved Crimes and Disappearances: The Black Dahlia, Zodiac Killer and More Notorious Mysteries
These bizarre and mysterious cases — including murder victims and people who vanished suddenly — remain without resolution
The 'Black Dahlia'
One of Hollywood's most notorious murder cases, 22-year-old actress Elizabeth Short — who the press posthumously dubbed "the Black Dahlia" — was found dead on Jan. 15, 1947. Her body had been cut in half and appeared to have been carefully drained of blood. The killer had also cut gashes into her face, leaving her with a clown-like smile.
Police worked in tandem with the media to disseminate clues and seek tips, but the tactic backfired: Several innocent people confessed to the crime. More than 70 years later, the case of the Black Dahlia is one of Hollywood's oldest unsolved murder cases.
The 4-year-old British girl vanished on May 3, 2007, from her bed in a vacation apartment in Portugal. Madeleine's parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, left Madeleine and her 2-year-old twin siblings asleep in the ground-floor apartment and dined with friends at a restaurant about 180 feet away. They told authorities that they checked on the children throughout the evening until Kate McCann discovered that the little girl was missing.
Over the past decade-plus, authorities have investigated thousands of leads and pieces of evidence, but have not been able to determine what happened to Madeleine. Her whereabouts remain unknown.
Eighteen-year-old Natalee Holloway vanished on May 30, 2005, during a high school graduation trip to Aruba. The night before she was supposed to leave the island, Holloway was seen by her classmates at a restaurant and nightclub. She was later seen in a car with Joran van der Sloot and two other men, who claimed that they had dropped Holloway off at her hotel.
Van der Sloot was arrested twice on suspicion of involvement, but was released each time due to lack of evidence. Van der Sloot would later make statements that many thought incriminated him, but he was never charged with a crime. Now, Van der Sloot is in a Peruvian jail for the murder of another woman, Stephany Florez Ramirez.
Holloway's body has never been found, and the investigation remains open.
When Kyron Horman did not return home from Skyline Elementary School in Portland, Oregon, on June 4, 2010, police began a criminal investigation into the boy's whereabouts.
Kyron's stepmother, Terri Horman, told police she had brought the boy to school and stayed with him while he attended a science fair. She also stated that she left the school around 8:45 a.m. and remembered seeing Kyron walk down the hall toward his first class. But the school said he wasn't in class, and he was marked absent for the day.
Nobody has been charged or named a suspect in the case.
On Sept. 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur attended a Mike Tyson boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. He got into the car of Suge Knight, the CEO of Death Row Records. At a stoplight, a white Caddilac pulled up next to the car and filed multiple rounds into Knight's vehicle. Shakur was rushed to a hospital where he died six days later from internal bleeding.
Although an entourage of about 10 automobiles were following Knight and Shakur's vehicle, witness accounts of the event varied. Several people claimed that Orlando Anderson had fired into the vehicle, but he was never charged and was killed less than two years later.
Florida mom Michelle Parker vanished on Nov. 17, 2011 — the same day the People's Court aired an episode in which she and her ex-fiance, Dale Smith, argued over a missing engagement ring.
Smith was one of the last people to see Parker, and court records documented the couple's lengthy history and Smith's conviction on a domestic violence offense. Investigators questioned him several times, but never charged him with a crime in Parker's disappearance. Parker's vehicle was abandoned in a parking lot in an Orlando apartment complex, and her phone was later discovered in a lake, but the 33-year-old woman has never been found.
The Zodiac Killer
In the late 1960s, a serial killer terrorized San Francisco residents, killing at least five people, but maybe dozens more. The spree began in December of 1968, when a young couple was shot to death sitting in their car. Over the next 10 months, the killer shot a couple in a public park, stabbed another couple sitting by a lake, and executed a cab driver with a gunshot wound to the head.
The killer toyed with police and the media, calling in several of the slayings to police. He sent coded letters to newspapers and police in which he called himself "the Zodiac" and claimed to have killed 37 people.
"I like killing people because it is so much fun," he wrote in one letter. Authorities have only been able to definitively tie him to five murders and two attempted murders. Nearly five decades later, the case remains a mystery.
On May 11, 2011, Illinois mom Amy Fry-Pitzen told administrators at Greenman Elementary School that she had a family emergency and that she'd need to take home her 6-year-old son, Timmothy. The boy hasn't been seen since.
Three days later, Fry-Pitzen's body was found in a hotel room in Rockford, Illinois. She had slashed her own wrists and neck. A note was found that said that her son was safe with people who would love and care for him.
"You'll never find him," read the last line of the note.
Despite a nationwide search and pleas from the boy's father, Jim Pitzen, Timmothy is still missing.
Character actress Barbara Colby worked steadily in the early 1970s, with roles on The Odd Couple and Gunsmoke, before landing a recurring role on The Mary Tyler Moore show and its spinoff, Phyllis.
On July 24, 1975, Colby and an acting colleague, James Kiernan, were walking to their car following an acting class when they were shot by two unidentified assailants. Colby was killed instantly, but Kiernan was able to describe the shooting to police before he, too, died. Kiernan told cops that there was no attempt to rob the pair, and that he didn't know why they were targeted.
Despite Kiernan's description, police have never identified the killers and the case remains open.
The Jamison Family
In October 2009, Bobby and Sherilyn Jamison and their 6-year-old daughter, Madyson, mysteriously vanished in southeast Oklahoma. Their abandoned truck was found near their home. There had been no signs of a struggle. Inside the vehicle were the couple's wallets, phones, and $32,000 in cash. The family dog, Maizy, was also in the car, malnourished from not having eaten in several days.
Four years later, the family's skeletal remains were found just three miles away, lying face down and side-by-side in the woods. Due to decomposition, the medical examiner was unable to determine a cause or manner of death for the trio.
The campout in a remote patch of the Idaho mountains promised a fun time for 2-year-old DeOrr Kunz, who went on vacation with his parents, grandfather and his grandfather’s friend.
With the assurance that “Grandpa Bob” Walton would keep an eye on him, DeOrr’s mom, Jessica Mitchell, and father, who is also named DeOrr Kunz but goes by Vernal, walked off from the campsite to go fishing on July 10, 2015 — but when the boy’s dad returned, the son they lovingly called “Little Man” was nowhere to be found.
With no sign in the hours and days that followed, new theories arose. Had little DeOrr drowned in a river? Did wild animals drag him away? Had someone abducted him?
Years later, answers remain elusive.
Several minutes before 6 a.m. on Dec. 26, 1996, as the night holiday crew staffing Boulder, Colorado's emergency communications center was changing shifts, a dispatcher pushed the blinking light of a call button to hear the frantic voice of Patsy Ramsey:
"We have a kidnapping. Hurry, please. There's a note left and our daughter's gone. She's 6 years old. She's blonde. She's 6 years old."
It was a 911 call that launched one of the nation's most bizarre and enduring murder mysteries. Six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey's beaten and strangled body was found later that day in the basement of the family's 6,800-square-foot Tudor brick mansion, duct tape covering her mouth, a garrote tied tightly around her neck. Since then, there have been more than 140 people investigated (including JonBenét's parents, Patsy and John Ramsey), more than 1,400 pieces of evidence reviewed, more than 50,000 pages of investigation documents generated and still the case remains unsolved.
It’s been nearly 40 years since Bob Crane was found bludgeoned to death in his Scottsdale, Arizona, home, but the unsolved homicide remains a perplexing mystery.
Bob Crane, who famously starred as Colonel Robert E. Hogan in ’60s WWII sitcom Hogan’s Heroes, was killed in 1978, and his friend, video salesman John Carpenter, was eventually tried and acquitted in his death.
Revealing the results in November 2016 in front of a panel that included the case prosecutor, Carpenter’s defense attorney and Crane’s son, Bob Crane Jr., Hook said that “the DNA found on the door of John Carpenter’s rental car is not … from Bob Crane,” reported Fox News.
Crane Jr., was surprised by the news — which further cleared Carpenter and added more mystery to the case. “I’m shocked right now,” he said at the time.
The Keddie Cabin Murders
In the quiet calm of a Sunday morning on April 12, 1981, 14-year-old Sheila Sharp returned from a sleepover to her family’s cabin in their mountain resort town and found a horror that changed her life forever.
On the living room floor just inside cabin 28 in Keddie, California, were the stabbed, bound bodies of her mother Sue, 36, her brother Johnny, 15, and Johnny’s best friend Dana Wingate. The severed skull of her missing 12-year-old sister Tina was found three years later.
The brutality of the crime was shocking: All three victims found in the cabin had been stabbed multiple times and attacked so violently around their heads with a hammer that blood splattered the walls and ceiling; a bent steak knife lay on the floor.
Investigators reopened the long-cold case in 2013, but despite several promising leads, no suspects have been named in the Sharp family murdrs.
Baby Lisa Irwin was five weeks shy of her first birthday in Oct. 2011 when her father Jeremy returned home in the middle of the night to find she’d vanished from her crib.
The Kansas City, Missouri, baby hasn’t been seen since.
Investigators have pursued multiple leads, including reports of a man seen carrying an infant through the neighborhood. But that lead fizzled when eyewitnesses couldn’t agree on the identification of a suspect.
Jeremy and Deborah themselves have come under scrutiny, but have denied any role in Lisa’s disappearance, and authorities have never named them as suspects.
Kansas City police Maj. Steve Young told PEOPLE in 2016, ”It’s hard to say somebody isn’t a suspect when you don’t have any.”
• With VICKIE BANE, LINDSAY KIMBLE, JEFF TRUESDELL and PEOPLE STAFF REPORTS