Hope Ybarra

In 1998, right after she married her husband, she told him that she was going to school for her Ph.D. For one full year, she would leave her home on Tuesday and Thursday nights, claiming that she was attending classes.

After the year was over, she proclaimed to her husband that she had finished her Ph.D. program and began printing “Ph.D.” all over her business cards and in her email signature. Her husband thought it strange that she could finish her Ph.D. program in one year part-time, but said that he was proud of her nonetheless. When the investigation began that led up to her conviction in 2009, it was discovered that Ybarra had never obtained a Ph.D. 

In 2001, Ybarra claimed that she had been diagnosed with bone cancer. For the next eight years, her cancer facade grew more and more complex. She claimed that the cancer had spread to her brain and lungs. She shaved her head and claimed that it was the result of ongoing chemotherapy. She learned sign language and got a cochlear implant, which she claimed was necessary as a result of the cancer’s destructive effects on her hearing. She even moved to Alabama for eight months to get treatment she claimed she couldn’t get anywhere else. 

And we know all this because she had a blog where she chronicled her battle with cancer. She claimed she was on her third relapse of cancer—that the end was imminent  and how the cancer had spread, sharing how she broke the painful news of her looming death to family and friends. She also wrote loving and encouraging notes to her three children, the youngest of whom was struggling with terminal cystic fibrosis.

“How I wish I could carry your burdens for you. You are such a brave little girl, and I am so very proud of you. You keep fighting this monster and never give up. When God calls you to join me, I will be waiting for you with open arms. I will reserve a garden of butterflies for you to play in.”

Family and friends saw Hope as a loving, brave and fearless mother and provided her with gifts and money. News outlets reported on her family’s difficult journey.

While she was reportedly still receiving chemotherapy, she told her family that she had become pregnant with twins. She wore maternity clothes, named the twins, and arranged for a baby shower.

Five months into her pregnancy, she informed her family that she had a miscarriage as a result of the chemotherapy treatments. Ybarra took a large sum of money out of their bank account and held a funeral. She claimed that she had the twins cremated, got a commemorative tattoo for them on her back, bought a commemorative angel statue that they kept in the backyard, and put two sealed urns on their mantle, which were purported to be full of their ashes. These urns were later discovered to be completely empty.

When Hope had her second child in 1999, she’d told many family and friends—including her own husband—that the child had cerebral palsy, and put the girl in braces.  Her ex-husband said that for more than a year, his oldest daughter wore ankle braces off and on. “I think she was fine because she ran all the time without them,” he said. “… Now that I look back, I think that might have been the start of it.”

However, this condition seemed to fade away and disappeared completely around the time her third child was born in 2004.

Born prematurely,Hope’s daughter’s life was wrought with medical issues from her birth. Hope Ybarra’s abusive relationship with her second daughter appeared to begin when she brought her daughter to the hospital and claimed that her daughter had a swallowing dysfunction, which prompted the doctors to surgically install a gastronomy feeding tube. Using this feeding tube, she was able to trick doctors into thinking that her daughter was suffering from terminal cystic fibrosis by feeding her daughter dangerous amounts of salt. As the test for cystic fibrosis involves testing the sweat for unusually high sodium contents, Ybarra routinely force-fed her daughter salt in hopes of achieving a false-positive result. 

Since cystic fibrosis patients need to take many medications, Ybarra’s daughter had an intravenous central line, an access point straight to her heart, surgically inserted. It is believed that Ybarra was using this access point to continually remove blood from her daughter’s body, hoping that it would make her daughter look anemic.

Doctors claimed that Hope’s daughter would arrive at the hospital very anemic and then be fine by the time she left, which was one of the first tips that there was foul play involved. Hope’s daughter nearly died when she received an iron dextran infusion for the anemia she didn’t have.

Despite being middle-class, Hope claimed her family was struggling to pay the young girl’s medical bills and held a number of fundraisers, the last of which raised almost $100,000.

Seemingly qualified for the job with her forged Ph.D., Hope Ybarra worked as a lab director at a pharmaceutical company, which granted her access to some very dangerous pathogens. During the investigation into Hope Ybarra, her employers claimed that she had been suspected of poisoning two of her coworkers.

As the investigation continued, it was discovered that Hope Ybarra had ordered several pathogens that were not used at the lab, one of which was Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a bacteria known to cause pneumonia in cystic fibrosis patients. Indeed, several of these pathogens were found in Hope’s daughter’s blood, implying that Hope was attempting to cause pulmonary infections in her own daughter.

Hope pled guilty on October 18, 2010 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for her actions. Years later, when she was interviewed by the Star-Telegram, her pattern of pathological lying continued. She introduced herself with a yellow card that identified her as a hearing-impaired inmate and began the interview with a speech impediment and used sign language throughout her conversation. Not long into the interview, however, her speech impediment was completely gone and her hearing appeared to be fine.

Though she admits to being sick and hurting her daughter, Hope has downplayed some of the abuses and claimed that she was just trying to get the girl the help she thought she needed. Yet Hope’s illness continues to rear its head even from prison; these days, she claims to suffer from memory loss from diabetic comas as well as hearing impairment, caused by the failure of her cochlear implant.

Bonus- Happy Halloween

Sara tells us about the real life Candyman and Allison tells us about the Toolbox Killers

The Toolbox Killers

Shirley Lynette Ledford, was abducted on October 31, 1979. Ledford was abducted as she stood outside a gas station, hitchhiking home from a Halloween party in a suburb of Los Angeles. Investigators believe Ledford accepted a ride home from Bittaker and Norris because she recognized Bittaker, as he is known to have frequented the restaurant in which Ledford held a part-time job as a waitress.

Upon accepting the offer of a lift home and entering the van, Ledford was offered marijuana by Norris, which she refused. Bittaker drove the van to a secluded street, where Norris drew a knife, then bound and gagged Ledford with construction tape.

Roy Lewis Norris was born in Greeley, Colorado, on February 5,  Norris was conceived out of wedlock; his parents had married to avoid the social stigma surrounding illegitimate birth at t.

Lawrence Sigmund Bittaker was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on September 27, 1940, as the unwanted child of a couple who had chosen to not have children.[9]: 84  Bittaker was placed in an orphanage by his birth mother and was adopted by Mr. and Mrs. George Bittaker as an infant. Bittaker’s adoptive father worked in the aviation industry, which required the family to frequently move around the United States throughout his childhood

Bittaker then traded places with Norris, who drove in an aimless manner for in excess of an hour as Bittaker remained with Ledford in the back of the van. After removing the construction tape from the girl’s mouth and legs, Bittaker tormented Ledford: initially slapping and mocking her, then beating her with his fists as he repeatedly shouted for her to “say something”, then, as Ledford began screaming, shouting for her to “scream louder”. As Ledford continued screaming, Bittaker began asking her as he struck her: “What’s the matter? Don’t you like to scream?”

As Ledford began to cry, she pleaded with Bittaker, repeatedly saying, “No, don’t touch me.” In response, Bittaker again ordered her to scream as loud as she wished, then began alternately striking her with a hammer, beating her with his fists  and torturing her with pliers both between and throughout instances when he raped and sodomized her. Repeatedly, Ledford can be heard pleading for the abuse to cease and making statements such as, “Oh no! No!”  as sounds of Bittaker alternately extracting either the sledgehammer or the pliers from the toolbox can be heard on a tape recorder he had switched on after entering the rear of the van. Norris later described hearing “screams … constant screams” emanating from the rear of the van as he drove.

Shortly after Norris switched places with Bittaker, he himself switched on the tape recorder that Bittaker had used to record much of the time he had been in the rear of the van with Ledford. Norris first shouted for Ledford to: “Go ahead and scream or I’ll make you scream.” In response, Ledford pleaded, “I’ll scream if you stop hitting me,” then emitted several high-pitched screams as Norris encouraged her to continue until he ordered her to stop.

Norris then reached for the sledgehammer as Ledford—seeing him do this—screamed, “Oh no!” Norris then struck Ledford once upon the left elbow. In response, she informed Norris he had broken her elbow, before pleading, “Don’t hit me again.”   Norris again raised the sledgehammer as Ledford repeatedly screamed, “No!” Norris then proceeded to strike Ledford 25 consecutive times upon the same elbow with the sledgehammer, before asking her, “What are you sniveling about?” as Ledford continuously screamed and cry.

We’ve all heard women scream in horror films … still, we know that no-one is really screaming. Why? Simply because an actress can’t produce some sounds that convince us that something vile and heinous is happening. If you ever heard that tape, there is just no possible way that you’d not begin crying and trembling. I doubt you could listen to more than a full sixty seconds of it. Roy Norris said, describing his recollections of the audio tape the pair had created of Shirley Ledford’s rape and torture.

After approximately two hours of captivity, Norris killed Ledford by strangling her with a wire coat hanger, which he tightened with pliers. Ledford did not react much to the act of strangulation, although she died with her eyes open.  Bittaker then opted to discard her body on a random lawn in order to view the reaction from the press. The pair drove to a randomly selected house in Sunland where Norris discarded Ledford’s body in a bed of ivy upon the front lawn.

Ledford’s body was found by a jogger the following morning. An autopsy revealed that, in addition to having been sexually violated, she had died of strangulation after receiving extensive blunt-force trauma to the face, head, breasts, and left elbow, with her olecranon sustaining multiple fractures. Her genitalia and rectum had been torn, caused in part by Bittaker having inserted pliers inside her body. In addition, her left hand bore a puncture wound and a finger on her right hand had been cut,.

Bittaker would later claim the tape recording the pair had created of Ledford’s clear abuse and torture offered nothing other than the evidence of a threesome, adding that, toward the very end, Ledford was screaming for him and Norris to kill her.

In November 1979, Norris became reacquainted with a friend named Joseph Jackson, an individual with whom he had previously been incarcerated at the California Men’s Colony.  Norris confided in Jackson regarding his and Bittaker’s exploits over the previous five months, including graphic details of the murder of Shirley Ledford (the only victim whose body had been found at this time). Norris also divulged to Jackson that, in addition to the five murders he and Bittaker had committed, there had been three additional incidents in which he and Bittaker had abducted or attempted to abduct young women who had either escaped their attackers or, in one instance, had actually been raped, but released.

Upon hearing Norris’s confessions, Jackson consulted his attorney, who advised him to inform authorities. Jackson agreed, and he and his attorney informed the Los Angeles Police Department, who in turn relayed the two men to the Hermosa Beach police.

A Hermosa Beach detective named Paul Bynum was assigned to investigate Jackson’s claims as to Norris’s confessions of the murders, attempted abductions, and rapes that he had confided to Jackson had occurred between June and October. Bynum initially noted that Jackson’s statements as to Norris’s confessions did match reports on file of several teenage girls who had been reported missing over the previous five months.  In addition, the incident Norris had confided to Jackson where he claimed he and Bittaker had sprayed mace in the face of a woman, who had then been dragged into Bittaker’s GMC van and raped by both men, matched a report filed in relation to an incident that occurred on September 30. In this filed report, a young woman named Robin Robeck had had mace sprayed in her face before being dragged into a van and raped by two Caucasian men in their mid-30s, before being released. Although Robeck had reported the abduction and rape to police, they had been unable to identify her assailants.

Bynum dispatched an investigator to visit Robeck at her residence in Oregon, to show her a series of mug shots. Without hesitation, Robeck positively identified two photos presented to her as those of the men who had kidnapped and raped her on September 30. The two individuals she identified were Bittaker and Norris.

A search of Bittaker’s apartment revealed several Polaroid photographs which were determined as depicting Hall and Gilliam—both of whom had been reported as missing earlier the same year. Inside Bittaker’s van, investigators discovered a sledgehammer, a plastic bag filled with lead weights, a book detailing how to locate police radio frequencies, a jar of Vaseline, two necklaces (later confirmed as belonging to two of the victims), and a tape recording of a young woman in obvious distress, screaming and pleading for mercy while being tortured and sexually abused.

The mother of Ledford—named by Jackson as being one of the women whom Norris had confessed he and Bittaker had killed—identified the voice on the tape as being that of her only daughter; the voices of the two men mocking and threatening Ledford in the process of her torture and abuse were identified as being Roy Norris and Lawrence Bittaker. Also found in Bittaker’s motel were seven bottles of various acidic materials. (Investigators would later discover Bittaker planned to use these acidic materials upon their next victim.)

Inside Norris’s apartment, police discovered a bracelet he had taken from Ledford’s body as a souvenir. Also found at the homes of both Bittaker and Norris were Polaroid pictures of almost 500 teenage girls and young women, most of which had apparently been taken at Redondo Beach and Hermosa Beach,  with others taken by Bittaker at a Burbank high school. Most of these pictures had been taken without the girls’ knowledge or consent.

Norris began to confess, although he did attempt to portray Bittaker as being more culpable in the murders than himself. In what Bynum and Kay later described as a “casual, unconcerned manner,”  Norris divulged that he and Bittaker had been in the habit of driving around areas such as the Pacific Coast Highway and randomly approaching girls whom they found attractive with offers of a ride, posing with the pair for photographs, marijuana. Most of those whom they approached rejected whatever given ruse Bittaker and Norris used to entice them into the van, although four girls had accepted lifts from the pair and had been murdered, with a fifth victim—their first—being grabbed by force.

Rear view of the GMC Vandura van Bittaker and Norris used to abduct their victims

Inside the van, the girls would typically be overpowered, bound hand and foot, gagged, and driven to locations deep within the San Gabriel Mountains, where they would be sexually assaulted by both men, then usually killed by strangulation with a wire coat hanger, although two of the victims had had ice picks driven into their ears before being strangled. Norris admitted to bludgeoning their youngest victim, Lamp, about the head with a sledgehammer as Bittaker strangled her, and admitted to repeatedly striking Shirley Ledford upon the elbow with a sledgehammer before strangling her to death. The bottles of acid found at Bittaker’s motel, Norris stated, were intended for use upon the next victim they abducted, and the acts of torture and humiliation had been committed against their victims “for fun”.

According to Norris, the level of brutality Bittaker had exhibited toward their victims had increased on each successive instance they had lured a girl into the van; their final victim, Ledford, had actually pleaded to be killed in order that her agony could cease. Additional details by Norris provided further corroborating evidence to support his confessions. For example, he knew that their first victim, Schaefer, had left a meeting at a Presbyterian Church shortly before she was abducted and that Schaefer had lost one shoe as she had been dragged into Bittaker’s van. Norris also knew part of Shirley Ledford’s ancestry was Hispanic, and that Bittaker had unsuccessfully asked her to date him prior to October 1979.

Bittaker and Norris killed their first victim, 16-year-old Lucinda Lynn Schaefer, on June 24, 197

On July 8, 1979, two weeks after the murder of Schaefer, Bittaker and Norris encountered 18-year-old Andrea Joy Hall hitchhiking along the Pacific Coast Highway On September 3, Bittaker and Norris observed two girls named Jackie Doris Gilliam, was 15,  and Jacqueline Leah Lamp, who was 13, sitting on a bus stop bench near Hermosa Beach. Lamp and Gilliam had been hitchhiking along the Pacific Coast Highway before Bittaker and Norris observed them as they were resting at the bus stop. Bittaker and Norris offered the girls a ride, which Gilliam and Lamp accepted.

Bittaker died while incarcerated on death row at San Quentin State Prison on December 13, 2019, at the age of 79. His death was reported as being due to natural causes.

Norris was incarcerated at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility. He died of natural causes at the California Medical Facility on February 24, 2020, at the age of 72, having been transferred to this facility one week prior to his death. Since his conviction, he had repeatedly claimed the sole reason he participated in the murders was out of fear of Bittaker. Norris also claimed to have twice contemplated confessing to his and Bittaker’s responsibility in the murders to the police; he also claimed to have deterred three potential victims from entering Bittaker’s van.

E13- Ghost Stories

Happy Halloween. We’re telling ghost stories. Allison tells us about La Llorona and the Lake Shawnee abandoned amusement park. Sara tells us about the axe murder house. 

E12- Urban Legends

We cover not 2 but 4 urban legends. 

Goody Cole

In Myths and Legends of our Own Time, Charles M. Skinner wrote the following story, based on two poems by John Greenleaf Whittier.

Goodwife Eunice Cole, of Hampton, Massachusetts, was so “vehemently suspected to be a witch” that she was arrested in 1680 for the third time and was thrown into the Ipswich jail with a chain on her leg. She had a mumbling habit, which was bad, and a wild look, which was worse. The death of two calves had been charged to her sorceries, and she was believed to have raised the cyclone that sent a party of merrymakers to the sea-bottom off the Isles of Shoals, for insulting her that morning. 

Some said that Goody Cole took the shapes of eagles, dogs, and cats, and that she had the aspect of an ape when she went through the mummeries that caused Goody Marston’s child to die, yet while she was in the Ipswich jail a likeness of her was stumping about the graveyard on the day when they buried the child. For such offences, including making bread ferment , who doesn’t like a good sourdough bread? and giving forth evil odors, she was several times whipped and ducked by the constable.

At last she lay under sentence of death in the Ipswich jail, for Anna Dalton declared that her child had been changed in its cradle and that she hated and feared the thing that had been left there. Her husband, Ezra, had pleaded with her in vain. “‘Tis no child of mine,” she cried. “‘Tis an imp. Don’t you see how old and shrewd it is? How wrinkled and ugly? It does not take my milk: it is sucking my blood and wearing me to skin and bone.”

However, Ezra prayed over his wife and as sunlight streamed into their hut, recognition bloomed on Anna Dalton’s face as she embraced her baby. Goody Cole was then released from jail and returned to her hut. Dark suspicion hung about the bedlam to the last, and she died, as she had lived, alone in her little cabin. Even after her demise the villagers could with difficulty summon courage to enter her cot and give her burial. Her body was tumbled into a pit, hastily dug near her door, and a stake was driven through the heart to exorcise the powers of evil that possessed her in life.

Eunice Cole born in  1590 in England and died in October of  1680 in  Hampton, New Hampshire. She was better known as “Goody Cole”, and she is the only woman convicted of witchcraft in New Hampshire. 

Cole was formally accused of witchcraft three times in her life, the first in Boston in 1656 when several townspeople testified against her. Once she was convicted for trying to lure a girl into her hut by speaking through a dog, a cat and an eagle. She was imprisoned until 1660, but was released until 1662 when she was returned to prison until sometime between 1668 and 1671. She was eventually acquitted, despite the “just ground of vehement suspicion” of her guilt. She was accused again in 1673, but acquitted, and once again in 1680, and although she was not indicted, she was still kept in prison. Goody was prone, it appears, to curse out her neighbors. One threat, a neighbor testified in Norfolk Court, led to the death of two of his cattle. When she told another citizen that she wished his calves would eat poisonous grass and die, the calves were never seen again. Goody said she knew there was a witch in town, that she knew of a bewitched person who had turned a man into an ape, and the ape looked like the Marston’s child.

Upon her death in 1680, she was hastily buried in an unmarked grave in Hampton; its precise whereabouts are unknown, although it is believed to be near the site of today’s Tuck Museum. Local legends suggest that a stake was driven into her body after her death “in order to exorcise the baleful influence she was supposed to have possessed,” and a horseshoe hung on the stake, just to be on the safe side. Another theory says they threw her off a cliff into the sea. A third says she was buried on the land that had once been her own 40-acre farm, the same property the town of Hampton took from Goody to pay the cost of confining her in that lonely Boston cell.

Goody Cole was much maligned – Hampton historian Joseph Dow referred to her as “ill-natured and ugly, artful and aggravating, malicious and revengeful” – but certainly not a witch. I mean if you’re going to treat me like shit I might be ill-natured and aggravating too.  Not smart Goody Cole, in an era when a woman could be stripped and lashed in the public square for arguing with a town official. The crime of Eunice Cole was that she simply would not shut up. She stood up for her rights in an era when she had none.

300 years later and some people are still blaming Goody Cole for the misfortunes of Hampton citizens. Which totally reminds me of Fear Street 1994. Lets blame the witch for our shitty lives. 

For example, a boat full of Hampton residents overturned, and everyone on board drowned, even though they were within swimming distance of shore. People blamed Goody Cole for the crash and for cursing the passengers by having them forget how to swim.

After 1938 there were many sightings of a mysterious old woman wandering the streets of Hampton. One was even reported by a part-time Hampton cop, whose name was Harold Fernald. In 1963 Fernald talked the city into erecting a large erosion stone outside the Tuck Museum, which sits on the presumed site of Goody Cole’s farm. He did it, he says, to allow Goody’s soul to find peace and quiet. Three hundred years of mocking disrespect and exploitation was enough for any woman. The Tuck Museum now houses an exhibit telling the story of Goody Cole.

Lake Lanier

The lake was created in the 1950s by flooding valley communities that contained a cemetery, fueling beliefs that it’s cursed. Historians say some unmarked graves and other structures were swallowed up by its waters.

The stories about mysterious underwater sightings are eerie — especially at Halloween. But the true backstory of Lake Lanier, built over an underwater ghost town, is just as interesting.

The government started offering to buy land from the farmers and residents of the towns. Most were against selling since a lot of the property had been in their families for generations. Eventually, some 700 families sold a total of 56,000 acres to the government, which built a dam on the Chattahoochee River to form the lake.

As their land filled with water in 1956, locals jammed roads and bridges to watch as history vanished before their eyes. Whatever they had abandoned was covered by the rising waters.

Even the lake’s naming was a problem. Some local officials wanted to name it after Georgia politicians. Others sought to name it after a legendary football coach. Eventually they decided to name it after Sidney Lanier, an 18th-century Georgia poet who wrote “Song of the Chattahoochee.”

To prepare the land to be filled with water, the Army Corps of Engineers demolished or moved anything they considered dangerous. They uprooted trees and hauled them away. Barns and wooden structures that could float and endanger watercraft were moved. Major infrastructure such as bridges and water intakes were relocated.

But … the community had a cemetery. While the Corps identified and moved marked graves, it’s likely that some unmarked ones were inadvertently left behind. 70 years ago we didn’t have the technology that we do now to like ground penetrating radar. So its probable that finds of human remains are possible, whether from the antebellum and Civil War periods or of Native American origin from pre-colonial and ancient times. Some believers think unmarked graves also were left behind because they were not easily identified and there was no family to claim them.

Some people say they hear church bells from deep in the lake, but there is no structure as tall as a church steeple and they would have removed the bells. 

Over the decades, when the lake’s water levels dropped during drought, submerged roads, tire parts and other artifacts have been exposed.  Over the years, divers have reported creepy sightings beneath the murky waters. Some tell stories of freaky catfish as big as a Volkswagen. YouTube is filled with divers showing videos of sunken houseboats and piles of debris.

Between 1994 and October 2020, 203 people have died in drownings and boating incidents at Lake Lanier, according to Mark McKinnon of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

In 2017, longtime diver Buck Buchannon told local media that he sometimes felt body parts in the lake during his many excursions. “You reach out into the dark and you feel an arm or a leg and it doesn’t move,” he said.

But that has not affected the lake’s popularity. With about 12 million visitors last year, Lake Lanier was one of the most-visited Corps-built lakes in the nation,  which operates 464 lakes in 43 states. Lake Lanier’s size and popularity contribute to the tall tales — and its high visitation rate also means more fatalities.

One of Lake Lanier’s most popular urban legends involves a car wreck. And that brings us to The Lady in the Lake.

In 1958, just two years after the bridge opened, Delia Parker Young and Susie Roberts sped out of a gas station without paying on their way to the nearby town of Dawsonville. As the faint glow of the headlights on Robert’s 1954 Ford sedan lit their way through the southern night. They were two rebels on the run, headed to the Three Gables Roadhouse—and they never made it home. 

18 months later, a local fisherman would spot the decomposing body of a woman beneath Jerry D. Jackson bridge. In what must have been a gruesome scene, the bloated body floated on the lake’s surface, it was missing two toes from its left foot with its arms spread out,  missing both hands; Had they become missing from  the wreck or from the lake’s catfish having a snack? It’s no surprise, then, that the body could not be identified by coroners. But even then, locals near Dawsonville were already convinced of its identity. The mysterious body had to be Delia Parker Young.

They knew it was Delia, they said, because dozens of drivers on State Route 53 had seen her after she vanished, appearing as a ghostly, handless apparition wandering down the highway in a blue dress. The ghost appeared to be lost, they said, almost as if she was searching, but for what no one could say.

Decades passed as Delia’s legend grew into a local myth. Visiting the old bridge became a right of passage at Dawsonville High School, as generations of young thrill seekers sped by in search of the Lady of Lake Lanier. Some returned to school the next day swearing they’d seen her. 

By November of 1990, Susie Roberts was all but forgotten, and the mysterious body found by a fisherman in 1959 lay resting in an unmarked grave. For all practical purposes, there was little evidence left from the final ride of that Ford sedan, no fabric remaining but the bridge, the highway and a myth. That’s when fate intervened.

Years of wear and tear had finally caught up with the Jerry D. Jackson bridge. As work began on renovations that would expand and refit the bridge, construction workers dredging the bottom of the lake made a startling discovery. Filled with mud, half-buried on the lake’s bottom, they found the twisted wreckage of a 1954 Ford.

The bones of Susie Roberts were still inside. Dental records soon verified Roberts’ identity, and the discovery made national headlines. Finally, after 34 years, residents of northeast Georgia had a definitive answer to their mystery. Susie Roberts and Delia Parker Young had run off the road high atop the Jerry D. Jackson bridge.

The unmarked tomb was re-labeled with Delia’s name. And the Lady of Lake Lanier? Some say you can still find her wandering the backroads of State Route 53, slowly making her way from Dawsonville to the top of the old bridge.

E11- Cold Cases

This week we cover 2 cold cases that we really want to know what the hell happened. 

Mitrice Richardson

Mitrice Richardson was the daughter of Latice Sutton and Michael Richardson. She was raised by her mother and stepfather Larry Sutton in Covina, California.

Richardson obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology in 2008 from California State University, Fullerton, after graduating from South Hills High School in West Covina, California.

Richardson was an open lesbian, and at the time of her death, had been dating girlfriend Tessa Moon for about two years. She had also competed as a beauty pageant contestant, worked as an intern for a forensic psychologist and part-time as a dancer in an LGBT strip club. 

On the evening of September 16, 2009, Richardson entered the parking lot of Geoffrey’s restaurant in Malibu. Due to what staff and patrons at the restaurant described as “bizarre” behavior and the fact that she was unable to pay her $89 bill, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department from the Malibu/Lost Hills Station was called to assess her condition. 

The officers on the scene purportedly administered a field sobriety test and determined that she was not intoxicated and not under the influence of any substance. She was arrested on charges of “suspicion of not paying for the meal” and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

According to the arresting officers, upon her arrest, her phone, purse and money were secured in her car and her car was towed to a tow yard on the Pacific Coast Highway. Richardson was detained and booked at the Malibu/Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station approximately ten miles (16 km) up Malibu Canyon.

Although Richardson’s mother informed the station of concern for her daughter’s mental health, and despite promises from the station personnel that she would not be released until later in the morning, Richardson was released on September 17, 2009, at 12:28 AM with no belongings and no means of calling for assistance. Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said Richardson was released from jail because “She exhibited no signs of mental illness or intoxication. She was fine. She’s an adult.” She had been invited to wait in the lobby, but declined.

Despite being detained specifically because of her strange behavior — she’d struck up bizarre conversations with patrons and the valet — Richardson was not given a psych evaluation or held by authorities, which was an option available to the watch commander.

Several hours later, at 6:30 AM, she was seen in the backyard of former KTLA news anchor Bill Smith in Monte Nido. When Smith opened his window and asked if she was OK, Richardson told Smith that she was “resting.”  They stated that the police were called.

On January 9, 2010, four months after she was reported missing, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department conducted one of the largest-scale searches in the history of the department. Over 300 volunteers trained in search and rescue operations participated in the 18-square-mile (47 km²) search in the area of Malibu Canyon. The search included both air and ground searches of creeks, trails, and ridges. Richardson was not found during this search.

Maurice Dubois, father of slain Escondido, California, teen Amber Dubois, assisted Richardson’s family in a two-day search on June 5 and 6, 2010, in the Monte Nido area of Malibu Canyon. Over 100 private-citizen volunteers participated in the search of the area. Although Richardson’s remains were not discovered, searchers found racially and sexually offensive graffiti on the walls of a culvert in the canyon. The graffiti was freshly painted and paint cans, brushes and other potential evidence were left at the scene.

The creek bed in Malibu Canyon where Richardson’s naked mummified remains were eventually discovered is adjacent to a 21-acre (8.5 ha) ranch that is known for producing pornography. It is very secluded and has direct access to the creek bed. When her body was discovered, the detectives on the case removed her body against the order of the coroner. Though residents reportedly heard screams in that area several nights after Richardson disappeared, her death was deemed to not be a homicide; there was no foul play. Things got even stranger when the LASD, which had exclusive access to Richardson’s remains for at least six hours, moved the body without bringing the coroner in to gather evidence that could help determine the cause, time and location of her death.

Mitrice appeared on the cover of People magazine in November 2009.

Richardson’s disappearance was covered on an episode of Disappeared on the Investigation Discovery channel, entitled “Lost in the Dark”; it first aired on November 19, 2012, as the season 6 premiere.

Richardson’s family has filed several lawsuits against the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for releasing her from jail even though, they claim, she was experiencing severe bipolar disorder at the time.  In 2011, her parents, who had sued separately, were awarded $450,000 each. Richardson’s girlfriend, Tessa Moon, refutes claims that Richardson had any mental illness.

Richardson’s family also asked the California Attorney General’s office to review the sheriff’s office’s handling of the case. In November 2015, after reviewing 500 pages of documents sent with the request, the office of California then-Attorney General Kamala Harris replied that it had not found any grounds for criminal charges against the sheriff or his deputies. The Attorney General’s office also found no evidence that the sheriff’s office had mishandled Richardson’s family’s complaint against it. However, in January 2016, the California Attorney General’s office reversed itself and announced it was beginning a criminal investigation of the case.

On December 30, 2016, the California Attorney General’s office concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support criminal prosecution of anyone involved in the handling of the case.

The missteps, possible cover-ups, protocol violations, withholding of evidence, neglect, incompetence, and what appeared to be lies by personnel at the Lost Hills station and others in the department, including then-Sheriff Lee Baca and the since-dismantled Office of Independent Review, are too much to get into,

Sept 2019 is 10 years since her disappearance and death. At a private event last week, hosted by a friend of Richardson’s family, Sheriff Alex Villanueva said he would “like to get to the bottom of it” and that he wants to “assess the entire case.” His statement triggered a small news flurry and speculation among those who follow Richardson’s story that it had been closed or gone cold and was now being re-opened or re-assigned.

However, through an LASD spokesperson, Sheriff Villanueva confirmed to KPCC/LAist that the case has never been closed or deemed cold.

Additionally, the sheriff said there have been no new leads or changes to the status of the case, and that it has not been reassigned within LASD. LASD has no plans to hold its own press conference or issue its own statement about the case.

Villanueva is planning to attend a memorial for Richardson on Tuesday at the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station. The sheriff is not scheduled to speak at the event, organized by a family friend, but has said he wants to “make sure the family is heard.”









E10- Twins

We have two stories of seriously messed up twins