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5 Unsolved Mass Murders

The FBI defines mass murder as the murder of four or more persons during one single event with no cooling off period between each murder. More often than not, mass murder ends with the perpetrator committing suicide. Unsolved mass murders are relatively rare; a mass murder leaves more room for the killer to slip up and leave behind damning evidence. Nevertheless, unsolved mass murders do exist and here we shall take a look at some of the most chilling.


The Yogurt Shop Murders

Shortly before midnight on the 6th of December, 1991, a fire was reported at a yogurt shop at a strip mall in northwest Austin. As firefighters extinguished the flames at “I Can’t Believe It’s Yogurt!” they uncovered a gruesome sight. Among the debris and ash were the bodies of four girls – 13-year-old Amy Ayers, 17-year-old Eliza Thomas, and sisters, Sarah and Jennifer Harbison, 15 and 17.

Jennifer and Eliza were employees at the yogurt shop while Sarah and Amy had been shopping at the nearby Northcross Mall before stopping by the yogurt shop shortly before 11PM to help close up the store for the night. They had planned on having a slumber party that night. 1

The four girls had been stripped naked and bound. They had been gagged with their own clothing to muffle any pleas or screams. Amy was discovered in the middle section of the shop while the other three were found out the back. Eliza and Sarah were piled on top of each other while Jennifer lay nearby; all of the teenagers had been shot in the head, gangland style. An autopsy determined that Sarah had also been raped. 2

The fire was then set in an attempt to destroy any evidence of the brutal murders.


The case was bungled from the very beginning. As it was believed to have just been a case of arson, firefighters, armed with water cannons, were first on the scene and they trampled and trudged through the crime scene, contaminating and destroying any evidence that could have been left behind. At one point during the investigation, there were 342 suspects. Nevertheless, the case remains unsolved to this very day. 3


The Walker Family Murders

Christine and Cliff Walker married in 1954 and went on to have two children before settling down in a farmhouse in Osprey, Florida. The young family carved out a simple but happy life in their clapboard house in cattle country. Their home was sparse but they had what they needed to survive. It was the 19th of December, 1959, and the family were visiting a friend. Christine headed home first. Cliff said he would follow with the children, 3-year-old Jimmie and 1-year-old Debbie, who wanted to ride in their daddy’s jeep.

At approximately 4:05PM, Christine arrived home. She didn’t park in her regular spot. Investigators would later theorise that somebody else was parked there. Was it somebody she knew and invited inside? Once behind closed doors, Christine was raped by the assailant. When he was finished, he pointed a gun at her head and pulled the trigger. The first shot was a superficial wound which hit just above her hairline and scraped the surface of her skin. The second shot went right through the top of Christine’s skull. 4

As the killer was dragging Christine’s lifeless body into the living room, Cliff pulled up outside, children in tow. As Cliff opened the front door, a bullet smashed through his right eye, killing him instantly. Now, just the children were left.

Did the killer take a moment to consider what to do with them? They were just babies, after all.

Probably not.

Jimmie was shot in the head. He fell to the floor beside his dead father and writhed and cried before being shot two more times. Debbie, who had crawled to be beside her mother, was shot in the head. However, she didn’t die and the killer had now ran out of bullets. He grabbed the bleeding toddler to the bathroom where he drowned her in the bathtub.

Two of the main suspects were Perry Smith and Richard Hickock, the two killers made infamous in Truman Capote’s “In Cold Blood.” However, in 2013, they were exhumed and DNA was compared to that found at the crime scene and was found to not be a match. 5

Richard Hickock and Perry Smith

The killer left behind an abundance of evidence including a bloody cowboy boot and a fingerprint on the handle of the bathtub faucet. Despite these clues and the fact that there were over 500 suspects over the forthcoming years, the case has still not reached a conclusion.


The Burger Chef Murders

It was a wintry Friday night on the 17th of November, 1978, in Speedway, Indiana. 20-year-old Jayne Friedt, along with her co-workers, 17-year-old Ruth Shelton, 16-year-old Danny Davis and 16-year-old Mark Flemmonds, were finishing the night shift at Burger Chef. It was their duty to prepare the restaurant for the morning shift and then lock up.

Shortly after midnight, another off-duty employee was passing by the restaurant when they noticed that the back door was wide open. When he entered, he found the restaurant completely devoid of life. There was nobody there but the cash register was open and empty.

He called the police.

Investigators found that the head office had been left in disarray and approximately $500 was missing. Despite the fact that the girls’ purses were left behind, police theorised that the teenagers had made off with the money to have a wild night. By the afternoon, the restaurant would be wiped clean by other employees.

It would soon become apparent that this wasn’t just a case of teenagers off on a jolly when Jayne’s abandoned car was discovered. Police shifted their focus on an abduction but by now, it was much too late for any evidence to be collected at the crime scene.

It had been cleaned spotless.

On the 19th of November, a grim discovery was made in a field approximately 20 miles away. Mark had suffered blunt force trauma to the head while Jayne had been stabbed to death. She had been stabbed with such force that the blade snapped off, lodging itself in her body. Both Daniel and Ruth were shot. 6

Despite an exhaustive investigation, the killer or killers were never identified or apprehended.


The Lane Bryant Shooting

Lane Bryant was a clothing outlet located in the Brookside Marketplace in Tinley Park, Illinois.
On the morning of the 2nd of February, 2008, 42-year-old store manager,  Jennifer McFarland, was carrying out her daily duties. She wasn’t scheduled to work that morning but there was a big sale and she didn’t want her employees to be swamped. She was working alongside an unnamed woman employee. It was approximately 10AM when a delivery man entered through the store door. Also inside the store at that fateful moment was 37-year-old Connie R. Woolfolk, 34-year-old Jennifer L. Bishop, 22-year-old Sarah Szafranski and 33-year-old Carrie Hudek Chiuso.

They were five different women from different walks of life but they would forever be bound by an unfathomable fate. The apparent delivery driver wasn’t delivering any goods. Once he entered the store, he produced a .40 pistol and forced the now-terrified women into the back room where he bound them with duct tape and ordered them to lie face down. The women were then shot execution style.

Miraculously, the unnamed employee survived the shooting when the bullet wounded her neck, missing her head. She lay motionless, pretending to be dead.

A composite sketch of the killer was drawn up with the description gave by the survivor. He was described as being an African-American man that stood at approximately 5 feet 9 inches to 6 feet tall and 260 pounds. He was wearing all black and was around 25 to 35-years-old. He had three to five corn rows running from the back of his head to the front with one strand having green beads. 7

The main theory was that it was a botched robbery. However, it was noted that the timing was unusual considering the shop hadn’t been open for very long and therefore wouldn’t have conducted many sales. Police announced that evidence was recovered at the crime scene but never released what that evidence was.

Police followed up on more than 7,000 tips and a reward for $100,000 for information leading to an arrest was assembled by concerned citizens. Nevertheless, the killer has still not been identified. 8


The Frog Boys

It was a national holiday in Korea on the 26th of March, 1991, due to the local elections. A group of friends, 13-year-old U Cheol-won, 12-year-old Jo Ho-yeon, 11-year-old Kim Yeong-gyu, 10-year-old Park Chan-in, and 9-year-old Kim Jong-sik, decided that they would venture out to Mount Waryong to trudge through the streams in search of frogs.

They never returned home.

Their disappearance stunned the small and relatively safe country. Tens of thousands of police and soldiers searched countrywide. They were assisted by hordes of locals; the parents of some of the boys quit their jobs to embark on what seemed like a never-ending search. Over 8.1 million flyers were distributed and their pictures decorated cigarette packs and milk cartons. Their disappearance inspired two films and several songs. 9

It was the 26th of September, 2002, when a lone hiker was picking acorns on Mount Waryong when he stumbled across a grim scene: human remains. He was approximately 2 kilometres from where the boys lived when he first spotted discarded shoes and clothing. This location had been thoroughly searched over the years. One theory is that they had been washed into visibility by a typhoon that had swept the mountain just a couple of weeks beforehand. Another theory is that their murderer disposed of their body in this location years after the murder.

As the parents rushed to the scene, they were grief-stricken when they were shown the clothing found at the crime scene. The little rubber shoes and t-shirts were the same ones their sons were wearing when they left home for the final time 13 years ago.

“I thank everyone who has shown interest in our boys for the past 13 years,” announced Kim Hyon-do, the father of one of the boys.

The initial theory was that the boys had gotten lost and died from exhaustion and hypothermia. Their bodies were discovered clutching one another and police theorised that they could have been attempting to keep warm. The family members of the boys immediately refuted these claims: “The boys used to visit and play around this mountain and knew the direction so well. It doesn’t make sense that they got lost here,” said the uncle of Kim Jong-shik. 10 Furthermore, all of their clothes had been removed and obscurely tied in knots. 11

The remains were sent to the forensic medicine team from Kyungpook National University. A thorough investigation of the remains showed that three of the skulls had extensive damage. There were sharp cracks and holes along the skulls indicating that they had been bludgeoned or hacked with some heavy object. “We found marks on three of the five skulls that appeared to be created by blows with metal objects, possibly a tool of some kind,” announced a member of the forensic medicine team. 12

It was determined that they were murdered.

Eventually the statutes of limitations expired, leaving many questions still lingering. Who killed the frog boys? If they stumbled across a sadistic killer in the woods then how could one person kill all five of them at once? Surely as soon as the first boy was attacked, the others would scramble. Was there more than one perpetrator? Did he/they tie the boys up to render them immobile? What was the motivation?

26 years have passed and we’re still no closer to uncovering the answers to these grim questions than we were when the bodies were first discovered.


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Footnotes:

  1. NY Post – 7 October, 2016 – “Inside the Nightmarish ‘Yogurt Shop Murders’
  2. News 8 Austin – “Prosecution Doles Out Crime Scene Details”
  3. CBS News – 21 January, 2017 – “Innocence Lost”
  4. Sarasota Herald-Tribune – 18 December, 2005 – “The Walker Murders”
  5. Sarasota Herald-Tribune – 14 August, 2013 – “Unresolved”
  6. Indianapolis Recorder – 13 February, 2015 – “Leads Sought in Cold Cases”
  7. Indianapolis Recorder – 13 February, 2015 – “Leads Sought in Cold Cases”
  8. The Chicago Tribune – 1 February, 2017 – “Police get ‘fresh set of eyes’ trained on Lane Bryant shooting”
  9. Korea Joongang Daily – 26 March, 2004 – “Bots Murdered 13 Years Ago Are Buried”
  10. Waterloo Region Record – 1 October, 2002 – “Bodies found of five boys missing for 11 years”
  11. Waterloo Region Record – 1 October, 2002 – “Bodies found of five boys missing for 11 years”
  12. Korea Joongang Daily – 13 November, 2002 – “Frog Boys Probably Murdered”
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Sad..why they are called the frog boys?

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