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This list of unsolved murders and deaths covers notable cases and where victims have been murdered or have died under unsolved circumstances, including murders committed by unknown serial killers. People are listed chronologically by year. (For serial killer cases which span multiple years, the entries are listed under the year the first murder took place.)

Unsolved murders

1779-1899
  • Benjamin Bathurst, a British diplomatic envoy who disappeared on or around 25 November 1809 in the town of Perleberg, Germany, and who was likely murdered.[1]
  • Thomas C. Hindman, American politician assassinated by one or more unknown assailants on 27 September 1868, who fired through his parlor window while he was reading his newspaper with his children in Helena, Arkansas, United States.[2]
  • John M. Clayton, American politician, shot and killed instantly by an unknown assailant on the evening of 29 January 1889 in Plumerville, Arkansas after starting an investigation into the possible fraud of an election he took part in. After his death he was declared the winner of the election but his assassin was never found.[3]
  • Andrew Jackson Borden and Abby Durfee Borden, father and stepmother of Lizzie Borden, both killed in their family house in Fall River, Massachusetts on the morning of 4 August 1892, by blows from a hatchet, which in the case of Andrew Borden, not only crushed his skull but cleanly split his left eyeball. Lizzie was later charged and arrested for the murders as she and a maid were the only ones in the house at the time of the killings, but was acquitted by a jury and the case remains unsolved.[4]
1900-1924
  • William Goebel, American politician who was shot and mortally wounded on the morning of 30 January 1900 by an unknown assailant in Frankfort, Kentucky one day before being sworn in as Governor of Kentucky. The next day the dying Goebel was sworn in and despite 18 physicians attending him, died the afternoon of 3 February 1900. Goebel remains the only state governor in the United States to be assassinated while in office.[5]
  • Rose Harsent, a 6 month pregnant maid who was stabbed to death on 1 June 1902 in Suffolk, England by an unknown assailant. At the time it was alleged that the murderer was a preacher of the Primitive Methodist Chapel named William Gardiner who was having an affair with the victim. The case has been investigated in BBC One's Julian Fellowes Investigates.[6]
  • Joseph Wilson, the sixty year old stationmaster, shot dead at Lintz Green railway station, in the North East of England, on 7 October 1911. His murder sparked one of the largest murder investigations in the North East.
  • The Villisca Murders - J.B. Moore, his wife, four children and two guests were killed by an unknown axe-murderer in Villisca, Iowa on June 10, 1912.
  • William Desmond Taylor, popular American actor and director of silent movies from Los Angeles, United States. Killed by a shot in the back on 1 February 1922 inside his bungalow. His murder, along with other Hollywood scandals such as the Roscoe Arbuckle trial, led to a frenzy of sensational and often fabricated newspaper reports.[7]
1925-1949
  • Vampire Murder Case, is the nickname given to the case of an unknown assailant who committed the unsolved murder of a prostitute who was found dead with a crushed skull in her apartment on 4 May 1932 in Stockholm, Sweden. Police had also noticed that someone had been drinking her blood.
  • Sir Harry Oakes, an American-born British gold-mine owner and philanthropist who was found murdered in his mansion in Nassau, Bahamas on 8 July 1943. His murder became the subject of worldwide press coverage at the time as well as several books, films and documentaries.[8]
  • Georgette Bauerdorf, a twenty-year-old oil heiress who was found face down in a bath tub in her home at West Hollywood, California on 12 October 1944. She had been strangled with a piece of towel stuffed down her throat and although there was a large roll of $2 bills and thousands of dollars worth of sterling silver lying in an open trunk, Bauerdorf's jewelry and other valuables were not stolen. The police believe her murderer had unscrewed an automatic night light over the outside entrance of the apartment so it wouldn't go on and was lying in wait for her.[9]
  • The Black Dahlia (Elizabeth Short), a 22 year old woman who was found severely mutilated and her body cut in half in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, California on 15 January 1947. Her unsolved murder has been the source of several books, films and widespread speculation.[10]
  • Folke Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg and Swedish diplomat assassinated on 17 September 1948 in Jerusalem, Israel by a four-man team who ambushed Bernadotte's motorcade, shot at the tires of the UN vehicles, opened the door of Bernadotte's car and shot him at close range. The bullets also hit a French officer who was sitting beside him. Both were killed.[11]
  • Emily Armstrong, found in a dry cleaners shop in London, England on 14 April 1949 about an hour after she was murdered. An autopsy showed she was beaten to death and her skull shattered by at least 22 blows from a blunt object, later believed to be a claw hammer.[12]
1950-1974
  • Marilyn Reese Sheppard wife of Sam Sheppard, attacked and killed in her home in Bay Village, Ohio, United States, on 4 July 1954. Sam Sheppard was later convicted of killing his pregnant wife but this was overturned in 1966 and he was acquitted in a new trial. He claimed his wife was killed by a bushy-haired man who also attacked him and knocked him unconscious twice. Their son slept through the night, just down the hall from the bedroom in which his mother was murdered. The trial of Sam Sheppard received extensive publicity and was called "carnival atmosphere" by the U.S. Supreme Court.[13]
  • Barbara and Patricia Grimes disappeared on 28 December 1956, in Chicago, Illinois after going to a cinema to watch an Elvis Presley movie. Their disappearance launched one of the biggest missing-persons hunts in Chicago history. However, police were not able to determine what happened to the Grimes sisters. In a statement, Elvis Presley asked the girls to go home.[14] On January 1957 their naked bodies were found off a road near Willow Springs, Illinois. The corpses contained various bruises and marks (for example puncture wounds in the chest that may have come from an ice pick) that were never fully explained.
  • Mary Jane Hanselman, a 16 year old sophomore at Sacred Heart Academy, Springfield, Illinois, was discovered north of the fairgrounds on April 27, 1958. She was bound with her own stockings and clothed in the uniform she was last seen wearing at a restaurant where she worked in Springfield. A dishwasher at the Georgian, the restaurant where Hanselman worked, was arrested but there was insufficient evidence to hold him.[15] (See Absence of Goodness.)
  • Boy in the Box, sometimes known as "America's Unknown Child" is a name given to an unidentified murder victim, approximately 4 to 6 years old. The body of the boy was found battered and naked inside a cardboard box on 25 February 1957 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The case received massive media attention and pictures of the boy were placed in every gas bill in Philadelphia. It has been featured on the America's Most Wanted television series but despite all attention the case remains unsolved and the boy's identity unknown.[16]
  • Lynne Harper, 12 years old, was last seen alive on 9 June 1959 riding on the handlebars of her friend Steven Truscott's bike near an air force base which is now Vanastra, Ontario, Canada. Two days later her body was discovered in a nearby farm woodlot, she had been raped and strangled with her own blouse. 14 year old Steven Murray Truscott was convicted and sentenced to death for the murder, becoming Canada's youngest person to be sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to life in prison. Truscott was held in custody for 10 years: in 2007 his conviction was ruled a miscarriage of justice, although he was not declared innocent.[17]
  • The Lake Bodom murders, were an infamous multiple homicide that took place in Finland on 4 June 1960. That night four teenagers were camping on the shores of the lake when between 4 am and 6 am they were attacked by an unknown individual or individuals with a knife and a blunt object. Three of them died and the fourth one was wounded but survived. Although the sole survivor became a suspect for some time in 2004, the case remains unsolved and the killer(s) identity unknown.[18]
  • Mary Meyer, a socialite from Washington, D.C., and close friend of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.[19] Shot to death on 12 October 1964 by an unknown assailant after finishing a painting and going for a walk. She was heard screaming for help by a mechanic on a nearby road who also heard two gunshots and saw an unidentified man standing over her body. Her murder would later stir speculation relating to the Kennedy assassination.[20]
  • Betsy Aardsma, was a 22-year-old woman from Holland, Michigan, United States, who was stabbed to death in broad daylight in a school library on 28 November 1969. She was stabbed a single time through the heart with a single-edged small knife. Approximately one minute later two men came from Betsy's location and told a desk clerk, "Somebody better help that girl," and then exited the library. The men were never identified. 25–35 minutes later Betsy arrived at a hospital where she was pronounced dead. She had worn a red dress, and since there was only a small amount of blood visible, no one immediately realized that she had been stabbed.[21]
1975-1999
  • Barbara Colby, an American actress from Venice, California, United States, was shot to death while walking with a colleague to his car on 24 July 1975. She died instantly from her wounds but her colleague was able to describe the shooting to the police before he also died from his wounds. He said the shooting occurred without reason or provocation and said that there were two gunmen who he didn't recognize. There had been no attempt to rob the two and the killers and their motivation are still unknown.[22]
  • Seewen murder case- 5 people were shot during Pentecost weekend 1976 in a weekend house nearby the Swiss village Seewen. Although the weapon was found in 1996, the murderer stays unknown.
  • Daniel J. Guyton, A1c USAF, an Air Force Military Policeman (MP) from Mattituck, New York, United States, was shot to death in his patrol jeep on Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Illinois at 9:12am December 2, 1977. Guyton was found with a shotgun between his legs and what appeared to be a suicide note next to him. His death was originally ruled a suicide, until the coroner reported that Guyton's arms were too short to have reached the trigger from that position. Additionally, two shotgun shells were found on the floor of the jeep, which suggested that someone else may have pulled the trigger. Along with this evidence, several key witnesses questioned the legitimacy of the handwriting in the so-called "suicide note". At the time, Guyton was involved in a drug-smuggling investigation that other US Airmen were allegedly involved in. Due to this investigation, it was deemed likely that Guyton had numerous enemies with access to the base, and to his daily schedule. Because of these factors, his death was eventually declared an Unsolved Murder, and the case remains open to this day.[23]
  • Bob Crane, an American actor, was discovered violently bludgeoned to death with a weapon that was never found (but was believed by police to be a camera tripod) at the Winfield Place Apartments in Scottsdale, Ariz., on June 29, 1978. Crane had allegedly called his friend John Henry Carpenter the night before to tell him their friendship was over. Crane was involved in the underground sexual scene and filmed his numerous escapades with the help of Carpenter, who was an audio-visual expert.[24][25][26][27] Police reportedly found blood smears in Carpenter's car that matched Crane's blood type, but no charges were filed against Carpenter for more than a decade. When he was charged, in 1994, he was acquitted. Carpenter maintained his innocence until his death in 1998, and the case is now officially cold.[28]
  • Raymond Nels Nelson, Administrative Assistant to Senator Claiborne Pell. Bludgeoned with a typewriter in his Washington, D.C. apartment, former bureau chief of the Warwick Journal, Rhode Island.
  • Raymond Washington, original founder of the notorious South Central Los Angeles street gang that came to be known as the Crips. Washington was shot dead at the age of 25 when he walked up to a car on the corner of 64th and San Pedro Streets in Los Angeles. At the time of his death, Washington no longer had any real control over the gang he originally founded. He wanted to unite warring gangs in peace and had always opposed guns. Different theories exist on why he was killed and who did it but no one was ever arrested for his murder.[29]
  • Óscar Romero, the fourth Archbishop of San Salvador, El Salvador, was killed by a shot to the heart on 24 March 1980 while celebrating Mass at a small chapel located in a hospital. It is believed, but never proven, that the assassins were members of Salvadoran death squads. During the funeral ceremony, a bomb exploded on the Cathedral square and shots were fired, many people were killed during the subsequent mass panic.[30]
  • Dian Fossey, an American zoologist who observed and studied gorilla groups over a period of 18 years in Rwanda. She was brutally murdered in the bedroom of her cabin on 26 December 1985. Her skull had been split by a native panga, which she had confiscated from poachers years earlier and hung as a decoration on the wall of her cabin. Fossey was found dead beside her bed and 2 meters away from a hole in the cabin that was cut on the day of her murder.[31]
  • Olof Palme, Prime Minister of Sweden and the leader of the Swedish Social Democratic Party was shot in the back while walking home from a cinema together with his wife shortly after 11 pm on 28 February 1986 in Stockolm, Sweden.[32]
  • Julie Ward, murdered in Kenya in 1988 while on safari in the Masai Mara game reserve. Her burned and dismembered body was found a week after she went missing, The original statement by Kenyan officials was that she had been eaten by lions and struck by lightning but this was later revised to say she was murdered.[33]
  • Deanna Cremin, a 17-year-old girl from Somerville, Massachusetts, United States, was found behind a senior housing complex. An autopsy revealed she had been strangled. She was last seen alive by her boyfriend who, unlike on other occasions when he would walk her to the door, walked her only half way and she continued on her own toward her house. Her murder remains unsolved.[34]
  • Amber Hagerman, victim of an abduction and murder. On 13 January 1996, she was riding her bike near her grandparents' home in Arlington, Texas, and was kidnapped soon thereafter. Four days later, a man walking his dog found her body in a creek bed. An autopsy revealed that her throat had been cut. Although a $75,000 reward was offered for information leading to Hagerman's killer, the perpetrator was never found. Her murder would later inspire the creation of the AMBER Alert system.[35]
  • Sophie Toscan du Plantier. Wife of French filmmaker Daniel du Plantier, found beaten to death outside her home in Toormore near Schull in Co Cork Ireland on the morning of the 23 December 1996. Former French President Jacques Chirac was a friend of the couple and gave the case national attention.[36][37]
  • JonBenét Ramsey, a six-year-old American girl who had competed in child beauty pageants, was made famous by her Christmastime murder and the subsequent media coverage. She was found dead in the basement of her parents' home in Boulder, Colorado, on December 26, 1996, nearly eight hours after she was reported missing. The official cause of death was asphyxia due to strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma. After several grand jury hearings, the case is still unsolved.[38] Her parents were the target of intense media coverage that suggested they were suspects, but authorities eventually confirmed that the couple had been cleared of any involvement.
  • Tupac Shakur, a top-selling American Rapper who was shot four times in a drive-by shooting on 7 September 1996, in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States, and died six days later of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest at the University Medical Center.
  • Notorious B.I.G., a famous Jamaican American rapper killed by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting on his way back to his hotel, while waiting for a red traffic light to change on 9 March 1997, in Los Angeles, California, United States. Even though a composite sketch[39] of the perpetrator was made, the case is still unsolved.
  • Ita Martadinata Haryono, an Indonesian human rights activist, found dead on 9 October 1998 in her bedroom in Central Jakarta, Indonesia. She was stabbed ten times and her neck had been slashed. The murder occurred just three days after a Jakarta press conference held by the human rights organizations she had been involved with.[40]
  • Big L, Harlem rapper. Was shot multiple times in the head and chest near his Harlem home on 15 February 1999
  • Jill Dando, an English journalist and television presenter who worked for the BBC for 14 years. She was killed by a single gunshot wound to the head on 26 April 1999, after leaving the home of her fiancé. Her death sparked "Operation Oxborough", the biggest murder inquiry and largest criminal investigation since the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper.[41]
  • Catrine da Costa, Swedish prostitute. Parts of her dismembered body was found in Solna, just outside of Stockholm, during the summer of 1984.
  • Suzanne Jovin, a 21-year-old senior at Yale University, was found stabbed to death in 1998 on the campus of Yale.[42] Allegations that her thesis advisor was a suspect led to the end of his career at Yale, but the crime remains unsolved.
  • Raonaid Murray, Raonaid Murray (1 January 1982 – 4 September 1999) was an Irish murder victim, stabbed to death at the age of 17 within a few hundred metres of her home in Glenageary, Co. Dublin, in the early hours of Saturday morning, 4 September 1999.
2000-2009
  • Jill-Lyn Euto, an 18 year old student, was found stabbed to death in her sixth-floor apartment at 600 James St, Syracuse, NY on 28 January 2001. No arrests have been made.[43]
  • Amanda Dowler, a 13-year-old girl from Walton-on-Thames, England. Last seen walking home around 4 pm on 22 March 2002, her skeletal remains were found almost six months later in a forest 25 miles from where she was last seen. None of the clothes, purse, rucksack or mobile phone Dowler had with her at the time of her disappearance were found, and as of 2008 they are still missing.[44] Levi Bellfield, convicted of murdering two other women and attempting to murder a third, has been named by police as a suspect in the Dowler case.
  • Evelyn Hernandez, and her 5-year-old son Alex, last heard from on 1 May 2002 at her residence in San Francisco, California. Her wallet was found several days later, in South San Francisco. Hernandez was nine months pregnant at the time and on 24 July 2002 her torso was found floating in San Francisco Bay. Her unborn child and her son Alex have not been found. The case was profiled twice on America's Most Wanted during the summer of 2003.[45]
  • Rashawn Brazell, disappeared after leaving his home in Bushwick, Brooklyn, New York, United States, on the morning of 14 February 2005. His dismembered body parts were later found in garbage bags. America's Most Wanted profiled the case three times, on 29 September 2005; 1 April 2006; and 9 December 2006.[46][47]
  • Robert Wone, age 32, was murdered on August 2, 2006, in his friend's Washington, D.C., apartment. He was "restrained, incapacitated, and sexually assaulted" prior to his death. The only individuals present in the apartment at the time were its three residents, all friends of Wone. They have denied involvement and insisted that an intruder committed the crime. Authorities claim that there was no evidence of a break-in, the apartment appeared to be washed cleaned, the three residents appeared freshly showered, and the evidence was not consistent with the residents' accounts. In addition, the residents tampered with the crime scene, waited an inordinate amount of time to call 911, and exhibited strange behavior when paramedics and police arrived. Authorities believe that either some or all of the three house-mates murdered Wone and engaged in a cover-up.[48][49]

Unsolved serial killer murders

1800-1899
1900-1949
1950-1999

Suspected serial killers

  • John Bodkin Adams murder case, physician suspected of being a serial killer, England. One alleged victim, Gertrude Hullett, was found to have committed suicide at the inquest in 1956, but Dr. Adams was indicted for her murder the following year. The case was then dropped by the prosecution via a nolle prosequi, an action described by the judge as an "abuse of process."

Unsolved deaths

1100-1899
  • Harold II of England, (Harold Godwinson). Either killed by an arrow to the eye, by four Norman milites, or by some other manner (possibly a combination of both). Nothing is completely certain.
  • King William II of England, 1100, killed by an arrow while hunting.
  • Agnès Sorel, 1450, mistress of King Charles VII of France. While the cause of death was originally thought to be dysentery, scientists have now concluded that Agnès died from being poisoned by mercury. The culprit remains unknown.
  • Regiomontanus (aka Johannes Müller), 1476, German mathematician and astronomer died mysteriously in Rome. Some say of plague, others (most likely) by assassination.
  • Moctezuma II, 1520, Aztec emperor. According to Spanish accounts he was killed by his own people; according to Aztec accounts he was murdered by the Spanish.
  • King Charles XII of Sweden, 1718, killed in action.
  • King Taksin of Thailand, 1782, Executed in front of Wichai Prasit fortress or he was sent to a palace located in the remote mountains of Nakhon Si Thammarat where he lived until 1825, and that a substitute was beaten to death in his place
  • Emperor Kōmei of Japan, 1840, Emperor of Japan. He died of smallpox at the age of 35. There is a theory that he was actually poisoned by the anti-Bakufu clique.
1900-1924
  • Émile Zola, 1902, French author, died in Paris in, 1902 of carbon monoxide poisoning caused by a stopped chimney. His enemies were blamed, but nothing was proved.
  • Death of Rudolf Diesel, 1913, the place is unknown and many theories are given about Diesel's death. He disappeared in the English Channel and was found dead in the Schelde river[citation needed] in Rupelmonde, Belgium.
  • S. L. MacGregor-Mathers, 1918, well-known magician and occultist, died of an unknown cause; it is known that he had many enemies. The manner of death is unknown; his death certificate lists no cause of death. Violet Firth (Dion Fortune) claimed his death was the result of the Spanish influenza of 1918. As few facts are known about Mathers' private life, verification of such claims are very difficult.
  • B. H. DeLay, 1923, Aviator Actor who died while performing on 4th of July in Venice Beach (Los Angeles) California area, died when the wings of his plane were sabotaged causing him to die instantly in the subsequent crash.
1925-1949
  • Ottavio Bottecchia, 1927, Italian Cyclist, was found by the side of a road, covered with bruises and with a serious skull fracture. His bicycle was undamaged, propped against a nearby tree. He was brought to a hospital but died soon afterwards. An official inquiry concluded accidental death but many suspected that he had run afoul of the powerful and growing fascist movement in Italy at the time.
  • Death of Ivar Kreuger, 1932, in a Paris hotel room. Probable suicide.
  • Ghazi of Iraq, 1939, King of Iraq, He died in a mysterious accident involving a sports car he was driving. Some believe he was killed on the orders of Nuri as-Said.
  • King Ananda Mahidol of Thailand, 1946. Died of gunshot wounds; suicide, accident or assassination.
  • Jan Masaryk, 1948, son of Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk; Czech diplomat, politician and Foreign Minister of Czechoslovakia, was found dead in the courtyard of the Foreign Ministry below his bathroom window. The initial investigation concluded that he committed suicide by jumping out of the window, although many are convinced that he was pushed.
  • The Taman Shud Case, 1948, Adelaide, Australia, a man was found dead on the beach. His dental records did not match any known person. He carried no identification. The labels on his business suit and clothing were all missing. In one trouser pocket there was a piece of paper with the words 'Taman Shud' on it. This is a phrase on the last page of collection of poems called the The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and it means 'the end.'
1950-1974
1975-1999
2000-2009

Date of death disputed

  • Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish humanitarian who worked in Budapest, Hungary, was most likely executed in Russia on or around 1947 after being captured by the Red Army in 1945. Death is dated by Soviet authorities as 16 July 1947, but this is disputed; remains an unsolved case.

See also

References

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