Shadows Over Waltham

I’ve always got my eyes open looking for interesting places to go urban exploring. I love abandoned, decaying places, as well as their history. So when I stumbled upon info about the Metropolitan State Hospital in Waltham, so close to where I live, I knew I had to go.

I took the journey with my usual spooky companions (my mother and my nana) and we headed to Waltham armed with comfy sneakers and cameras. As we drove past the gated entrance on Trapelo Rd. we realized we needed to find parking, and we happened to turn onto a road with several old buildings.

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“Is…this place abandoned too?” I raised an intrigued brow and looked to my mom, then hopped out of the car. We both walked around the building, casually trying doors and peering into windows. Then we saw the black SUV driving up…a State Police plate on the front.

We had only been exploring two minutes and already the cops had found us.

The officer stepped out, and we walked up, trying to seem nonchalant. “Oh hi! We were just driving by and saw this building…” My mother smiled sweetly. Luckily the officer seemed to be in a good mood.

“I don’t blame you.” He put his hands in his belt loops. “Do you know what this place is?”

“No.” We admitted. “Was it a school?”

“Sort of. It was called the Fernald School for the Feeble Minded. Lot of history here. You should look it up.” He shook his head gravely. “A disappearance of history…” He trailed off looking over at the brick building.

The name certainly sounded familiar. We nodded and replied “Thank you. We will”

“Alright, unfortunately this is state property and I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

We bashfully conceded and headed out, driving out of the lot as I furiously began to google.

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The Fernald School was built in 1888, and at its peak housed over 2000 young boys. Like most mental asylums of the early 20th century, it was overcrowded and underfunded, and reports of bad conditions and abuse of the children were frequent. Though the Fernald was supposed to be a care center, a large portion of its occupants were not disabled at all, but were instead orphans or the poor/homeless. The boys there had almost no rights, and were treated as “sub human” according to reports from former ‘patients’.

In the 20’s the school became best known for leading in Eugenics research and advocation. For those not in the know, eugenics is the attempt to genetically create more “perfect” people, and was a foundation of Adolph Hitler’s beliefs.

In the 40’s the school partnered with Harvard and MIT and was funded by none other than Quaker Oats to do more experiments on children, this time by feeding them doses of radiated cereal. The children who had parents got permission slips to join a “science club” and were bribed with trips and toys.

Despite all of the this, Fernald existed and continued to house patients all the way up until 2014, with most living there for their entire lives. According to most the conditions greatly improved after the 70’s. Part of the reason for this was because Judge Joseph Tauro heard reports of the conditions, and made an unannounced trip to the institution. He described the school as being the realization of ones “worst horrors”. He found a ‘hospital’ that reeked of urine and patients covered in bugbites.

After learning all of this we were rather amazed, and I’ll admit, REALLY wanted to go back and explore more. Unfortunately the grounds were heavily patrolled by police, and each subsequent time we passed the road we could see a patrol car stationed up the road, watching. Further exploration there was simply not possible. Instead we headed onward to Metropolitan state. We parked in an old ball field and walked to the gate, past several abandoned houses we assume were part of the staff housing of the facilities, and had been abandoned around the same time as the hospital.

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I was shocked to notice a familiar sight…the same small white figure I had seen painted on the Clinton Tunnel in Western Mass. The coincidence was eerie, but I had to assume now that it was some kind of tag, perhaps from a fellow lover of urban exploration but with a slightly more destructive tone. Nonetheless, something about the figure gave me a positive feeling, like it was some sort of guide.

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We weren’t sure where exactly the asylums buildings were located, or if any even still stood. As we walked up the cracked paved road we saw our little friends once again.

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Though tempted to veer down the path we wanted to check the paved road first, and it snaked up the hill and let off at several other dirt paths headed toward an old water tank.

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Though interesting, it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. Our break came in the form of two dogs speeding past us after a rabbit, their owners coming up behind.

We made small talk, (easy to do as dog lovers) and then I probed. “Do you come here a lot?”

“Almost every day.”

“Do you know if any of the buildings are still here?”

The woman launched into explanation, a wealth of knowledge on the area and a goldmine for us. She told us that only one building still stood, and we would have to head down Metropolitan Parkway toward the Avalon condos. She also talked to us about the old incinerator, the secret tunnels, and more. I could tell immediately we would never find the mythical tunnels, but within reach was the cemetery. She told us it was down the path through the woods we had passed earlier.

We thanked her and said farewell to her dogs, then headed for the cemetery. It was down a steep hill in the woods, but the graves were in a small clearing surrounded by a stone wall.

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The graves were mostly stone blocks with numbers carved into them. The patients were from both Metropolitan and Fernald.

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According to our local guide, the cemetery had closer to 350 souls buried in it, and only a few with more dignified memorials.

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The graveyard was a humbling place, dotted with annual flowers that had been planted there in years past by loved ones of the deceased, or just those who pitied them.

On out way out we nearly stepped on one of the cemetery’s few living inhabitants; an extremely feisty snake who lunged at us.

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We headed back to our car and drove down the road to Metropolitan Parkway.  It wasn’t long before we found what we were looking for.

Metropolitan State Hospital was built around 1927, but the only building that we could still experience, the Administration Building, had it’s cornerstone laid in 1928. We were thrilled to see it, beautiful in its decay.

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Metropolitan State had once been a busy hospital for the mentally ill, housing thousands of patients. It was laid out like many asylums of the time using the Kirkbride  model, but it was comprised of many different buildings that gave it a colony effect.

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For some beautiful photos of the buildings pre-demolition click here

The conditions at the hospital slowly decreased as time progressed. In 1978, a patient named Anne Marie Davee went missing. Her disappearance wasn’t formally investigated until 19 negligence complaints against the hospital had been filed and two entire years had passed. It was then that they learned that another patient, Melvin Wilson, had murdered and dismembered Anne with a hatchet and buried her body on the grounds. He had kept some of her teeth as souvenirs.

The horrific crime was likely not the only dark event in Metropolitan’s past.

Other accusations included the attempt to ‘cure’ mentally ill children by adding chemicals to their milk, resulting in multiple deaths.

For 25 years Metropolitan State’s Admin building has stood, slowly crumbling. When I found it, boards firmly covered all the windows but one, where a hole had been dug out just big enough for a person to slip through. I strongly considered it, but my mother had some objections. As we drove away I felt both complete and yet hollow, not unlike the skeletal building I had left behind.

The Unsolved Murder of Karina Holmer

“I’ve got the old man’s car,
I’ve got a jazz guitar,
I’ve got a tab at Zanzibar,
Tonight that’s where I’ll be…”

In 1996 I was only about five years old. It was the year that the first Pokemon game came out, and the Nintendo 64 was released. Dolly the sheep was the first successful mammal clone, and Bill Clinton would secure his second term in office. In Texas, the 9 year old namesake of the Amber Alert was murdered.

In 1996 Karina Holmer thought she was living a dream. The young woman from a small village in Sweden had always had big dreams, and after winning the lottery, she used her winnings to move to America for a summer. The city life, night clubs, new kinds of people and places, a cultural explosion; Karina was ready for an adventure. Tragically, what she found was a nightmare.

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Karina decided that the best way to plan her trip was to become an Au Pair, a sort of nanny to families who would offer boarding and a stipend in return. Most Au Pair’s worked through agency’s which trained the women in childcare, secured visas, and screened employers. However Karina went a different route. She arrived in the US with no visa and fake ID in March.

She began working for a wealthy artist couple living in Dover Massachusetts. Frank Rapp was a commercial photographer, and his wife Susan was a painter. Frank was well off enough that he could afford a studio in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston. During the week Karina took care of the Rapp children and chores, but on the weekends she was free to travel into the city to party, and spend the nights at Frank’s studio. Friday and Saturday nights Karina would be downtown drinking and dancing until the wee hours of the morning. Friends and family back home in Sweden thought she was having the time of her life. The only indication otherwise was her sudden announcement to family that she would be cutting her American adventure short, and cryptic letter written to a friend in May; “Something terrible has happened. I’ll reveal more when I get home.” Her family believed Karina was returning home because she had tired of housework. Only her friend knew that something else was troubling Karina. But no one will ever know just what it was.

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A photo taken at Zanzibar in 1996

On June 21st Karina went out to a popular club at Boylston Place called Zanzibar. It was a prime hangout for young foreigners with fake IDs. She was seen several times by friends throughout the night, each time chronologically more intoxicated. Before close she was briefly passed out in the club bathroom, and was escorted out by a bouncer after the club cut her off. In the alley outside, Karina struck up a conversation with a local homeless man, whom she happily danced with. Then she was gone.

The next few hours became a hazy mix of possible sightings, as authorities would later try to track her journey. One friend claimed to have seen Karina get into a car with a group of men. Another said Karina had told them she was heading to a private party. Someone swore they saw her walking down Tremont Street in the twilight before dawn. Wherever Karina went that night, we know where she ended up. Her torso was found in a dumpster behind 1901 Boylston Street, sawed in half above the hip, wrapped in trash bags. It was only discovered because a man had ripped the bag while rummaging for cans on Sunday morning.

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The crime scene as it was investigated.

Karina’s body was naked and washed clean, even her makeup had been scrubbed off (perhaps an attempt to get rid of evidence). He neck showed signs of strangulation, and she had been neatly sawed in half with something like a circular saw, a straight cut other than a hiccup at her hipbone. That kind of cut would have been fairly easy; one would only have to cut through one bone, the spine. Her lower half was never recovered, and police considered the possibility it had been destroyed to hide evidence of a sexual crime or secret pregnancy. The only evidence left by the suspect was a single partial fingerprint inside the trashbag, and no matches were ever found.

Detective Tommy O’Leary immediately began investigating, talking to everyone and anyone Karina may have been with that night. It wasn’t long before he would realize it would be a case like no other, and it would haunt him forever.

One of O’Leary’s first leads came in the form of a bizarre subject, one of the last people to see Karina alive. Herb Whitten became known as “the man with the dog” after several people told the police they had seen Karina talking to a man who wore matching Superman shirts with his Great Pyrenees. Whitten told police that he enjoyed the attention that he got from women while he walked in the city, but that he knew nothing about Karina. He also had a good alibi: Whitten had been pulled over for speeding on his way home to Andover that night. It simply didn’t seem possible he would have had the time to have already dismembered a body and dumped it near Fenway. Whether he was involved or not Whitten may have taken the truth to his grave. He committed suicide only about a year later.

Excluding Whitten as a suspect, the police next began to look at Karina’s employer with more scrutiny. The rumor from other Au Pairs was that Frank was a sleazy guy, a “creep”. Neither Frank or his wife could provide a verifiable alibi for where they had been the night Karina was murdered, and both were increasingly hostile and uncooperative toward police. Even more suspiciously, Dover police were called to the Rapp residence for a completely different reason the following Monday. There was a fire in the dumpster on the property shared by Frank and neighbors. Boston police worked with Dover to collect samples from the charred rubbish, but none tested positive for blood or human remains. Perhaps it was just another of many strange coincidences.

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The green line is Boylston Street

It’s been over 20 years since Karina was murdered, and her case has long gone cold.

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The Universe Next Door

When I woke up this morning, Gettysburg was in Virginia.

It sounds silly, of course, to people who have always known Gettysburg to be in Pennsylvania. But for me it was a shock to discover, like Ashton Kutcher stepping out of my closet to tell me I was on the longest running episode of Punk’d. Or maybe a better example, Morpheus giving me the red pill and pushing me down the rabbit hole. I was…am…confused…shaken to my core…and questioning everything I know to be true about my reality.

You see, I learned in High School (where I took multiple advanced US History courses) that the Battle of Gettysburg took place in Virginia. MAYBE it was West Virginia (I always confuse those two). But it sure as hell wasn’t in Pennsylvania. Throughout the years since then nothing has ever come to my attention to signify anything different, and I have watched plenty of shows about Gettysburg’s history (and its ghosts).

But as I sat with my family planning our next trip, I suggested Philly and my Nana suggested Gettysburg, adding “They’re both in Pennsylvania.”

I looked at her in confusion. “…Gettysburg is in Virginia.”

I had said it with such conviction that it gave her pause, and she questioned her own knowledge. We were all quiet and contemplative a moment, then we turned to google. Gettysburg, it turns out, is in Pennsylvania. At least, it is in this dimension.

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It seems to me like I have suffered from a very personal example of the “Mandela Effect”, a phenomenon coined several years back after a large number of people were shocked to discover that Nelson Mandela died in 2013, and not the 80’s or 90’s like they had apparently believed. Some even vividly remembered watching his televised funeral back in the day.

Personally I couldn’t remember him dying either time, so the effect went over my head…until another example went mainstream.

Starting in the 1960’s a series of children’s books about a family of bears learning lessons came onto the market, and made an impression that lasted long into my childhood and spawned several animated shows as well. While never a fan myself, everyone knew about “The Berenstein Bears”.

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The trouble was, that’s not what they are called. The eponymous family is called the BerenSTAIN’s. And supposedly they always have been.

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When the discussion first arose on Reddit, people lost their minds. Some Redditors literally clawed their way up into their attics in desperation to retrieve original copies of the books that would PROVE the spelling had been changed sometime between the late 90’s to early 2000’s, only to be horrified to discover that their entire lives were apparently a lie. When I first told my mom the “truth” about the bears, she looked like she had learned what they keep in the secret tunnels under the Vatican. Like most others, she refused to believe me at all until she had literally googled it herself. As far as I know, no one has ever uncovered an “original” copy of the books with the “correct” spelling, something that makes perfect sense to the Berenstain family, who wrote the books in question.

But why do so many people share the same false memory?

Some truly believe the name was changed in some sort of vast conspiracy to make the characters sound “less Jewish”. Others are content to believe most kids are just dumb and can’t read so good. I however, know for a fact that if there was a book about characters with the word “Stain” in their name, I would have found some way to turn it into a poop joke as a child.

An obvious explanation is a sort of “memory hysteria” in which word of mouth and assumptions cause the general population to believe in a falsehood that isn’t corrected in an obvious way until a long while later. People thought it was spelled that way and communicated it to others and then to others and so on like a massive game of telephone.

And the fact is, no one can prove that’s not what’s happening. You see, the only proof that it was ever spelled a different way lies in peoples memories, which have been proven time and again to be incredibly flawed and unsettlingly adept at completely fabricating “truths”.

But a more disturbing and interesting explanation ties the idea of the Mandela Effect to something that is being studied by some of the brightest minds on planet earth: Quantum Mechanics.

You see, there are real scientific geniuses out there right now who are studying, believe in, and are trying to prove the existence of other dimensions. And if they think it’s possible, why shouldn’t we?

The idea is called “Many World’s Theory” and it posits that there are an infinite number of parallel dimensions beside the one we reside in. In other words, for every different outcome to an event there is another dimension. So perhaps you reside currently in the dimension where you put on a blue shirt today, but there is another universe identical to this one in every way except that you chose to wear a red shirt instead. That example illustrates a small, nearly unnoticeable change. But what about events with higher stakes, ones with far more consequence?

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This is where the idea of Many Worlds intersects with another theory known as “Quantum Immortality“. Now I’m not a quantum physicist so theres plenty about all this I can’t explain, but the gist of it is this: If you die in one dimension, your consciousness will combine with an adjacent dimension. Basically, you won’t realize anything is different, but the dimension you just left will now be dealing with your death. The dimensions can have differences so minuscule you’d never notice, and because your life will be (nearly) exactly the same, you never will.

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But what if you DO notice?

Many Worlds and Quantum Immortality have been used to explain occurrences such as deja vu and the Mandela Effect. Perhaps instead of our memories being faulty, our worlds have actually changed subtly around us. Or…WE are the ones who changed. Because these theories would mean that in our current dimension, the Berenstain Bears have always been spelled as such. We just remember differently because we are remembering the dimension we used to reside in.

But how could such a vast number of people all have come from the same alternate universe into this one? The most obvious explanation would be a large scale disaster that killed most or all of the population of earth sometime in the late 90’s or early 2000’s. The residents of that dimension’s consciousness-es (or “Souls” if you prefer) would have then merged seamlessly with a parallel timeline where everything was exactly the same except the apocalypse did not happen…and one family of author’s names was spelled slightly different. 

It may seem fantastical or far fetched, but again I say, Quantum Mechanics is real and there are scientists working right now to prove that alternate dimensions are real, so it’s less crazy than it sounds.

So assuming all this is true, could there be a possible explanation to the Berenstain mystery? What catastrophic event could have happened that killed so many and fits the time frame?

On December 31st 1999, I was eight years old and at the annual New Years party at a family friends house. I was with my parents and my best friend (it was her family’s house) but even as an ignorant child, I was terrified. The rumor was, when the clock struck midnight, the world might end. The adults were laughing and drinking and pretending everything was fine, but the truth was, the world was caught in a sense of unease as the clock neared midnight and the new millennium approached.

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In retrospect it might seem silly, the fear that gripped the world. After all, what was the worst that could happen? Some ancient computers stop working because they aren’t programmed to handle the date? Well not exactly.

The fear was that some very important computers, namely the ones controlling the worlds nuclear weapons and those warning us of nuclear attacks, might fail and thus literally end the world. Politicians and scientist had been scrambling in panic trying to avert any chance of a crisis, but everyone held their breath the night that ball dropped.

But nothing happened. Or at least, nothing we remember. The next morning everyone had a good laugh at how foolish we had all been, to think that a simple change of a minute hand would be our great undoing. But I will never forget where I was when the year changed over. I was hiding under a blanket, trembling, praying that we wouldn’t die.

But what if we did?

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And what if I died again earlier today, and woke up in a dimension where my life was the exact same except here, Gettysburg was a town founded just a little further north? The strange thing is, on my way home from Boston, my mother and I were nearly in a car accident caused by a large chunk of ice falling off a truck in front of us on the highway and slamming into our windshield like a brick. Miraculously there wasn’t even a crack left behind. At least…not in this dimension.

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Boston’s Mysterious Vanishing Men, part 2

To read part 1 please click here

To view an interactive map of all cases click here

A note from the author Cryptid/Elise:

It has been almost a year since I wrote a blog post called “Boston’s Mysterious Vanishing Men” and it has been an incredible journey for me since then. I have experienced heartbreak in talking more with loved ones of the men I wrote about, anxiety over sharing my work to a larger and larger audience, and pride in my readers and my city in working to find solutions to this bizarre problem. I want to make it perfectly clear that I do not have an answer, and I do not know what is really happening. I do not know if these water deaths are accidental or intentional, preventable or inevitable. But I believe that each of the men I write about has a story that deserves to be told, and that it just might help us stop these tragedies in the future. 

I apologize profoundly for taking so long to write another post. It has been a difficult year for me, with many personal and health related problems keeping me from investing the time that I believe these cases deserve. Finally feeling strong enough to delve back into this work, I bring to you a part 2 of “Vanishing Men” As you may notice, many of these cases occurred outside of Boston, but there are incredible connections and similarities. It is my hope that these cases combined with the others can start to piece together this puzzle more and more until perhaps some day the mystery is solved. I want to give a final reminder as you read however, that these are not merely “cases” but also individuals, people with loved ones. Please read and respond to these posts with utmost respect. Thank you.

The cases so far:

Jerald Gelb (44) 8/2001

John Daverio (49)  3/2003

Daniel Mun (20) 12/2003

David W. Crockett (45) 1/2004

Dustin Willis (26) 3/2007

John Pike (23) 6/2007

Neo Babson Maximus/Charles M. Allen Jr. (22) 10/2007

William Hurley (24) 10/2009

Eugene Losik (26) 2/2010

Justin Marshall (30) 6/2010

David Mark (24) 2/2011

Christopher Martin (24) 12/2011

Franco Garcia (21) 2/2012

D’Anthony Green (23) 7/2012

Pedro Colon-Rodriguez (69) 10/2012

Jonathan Dailey (23) 10/2012

Joseph A. Gage (32) 1/2013

Eric Munsell (24) 2/2014

Shilo Morgado (36) 8/2015

Josue Quispe (18) 10/2015

Dennis Njoroge (21) 11/2015

Zachary Marr (22) 2/2016

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Jerald Gelb had a Master’s degree in computer science and was a former employee at IBM. He suffered a mental breakdown after being let go from his job in his 30’s, and his family members suspected he was battling schizophrenia. On August 16th 2001 he showed up unexpected at his parents home in Brookline, Ma. He spent the night, but was gone by approximately 5am the next morning when his parents checked on him. Jerald was 40 when he went missing, wearing a red sweatshirt, and has not been heard from since. The area he disappeared from is very close to the Muddy River, a small offshoot of the Charles.

If you have any info on Jerald please call the Brookline Police Dept. at (617) 730-2222

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Daniel Mun was a 20 year old from Kirksville Missouri. He was a biology student at MIT and a member of a frat house. He was good at sports, particularly tennis, and was remembered as very friendly. Daniel went missing on December 5th 2003 at about 4am, and may have been intoxicated at that time. Daniel’s roommate recalled that he did not seem stressed or sad before his disappearance, though there was apparently a concerning note found in his computer suggesting a suicide was possible. Daniel’s body was found under the ice near the Harvard Bridge in March of 2004. His MIT ID was in his pocket, and he was wearing inline skates (not ice skates). Daniel’s death was ruled a suicide.

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David Wayne Crockett was a service tech at an auto shop in Wareham, MA. He was an avid mechanic and loved car racing and motorcycles. He went missing in January of 2004 after last being seen at a restaurant near the water of Buttermilk bay. Three months later on April 3 2004, his body was discovered under a dock at the Continental Marina only 100 yards away. The water had supposedly been frozen until recently and authorities said it appeared to have been in the water for some time, though the marina owner described the body as “very visible”. David’s death was ruled an accidental drowning.

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John Pike was a 23 year old Syracuse University graduate in Public Communications, where he made Deans List and honors society. He was an athlete and avid musician, the drummer for a band called Ra Ra Riot. In June 2007 his band had played a show and was attending an after party in Fairhaven MA. Several friends saw John step outside at about 3am, but were concerned when he did not return later. His girlfriend received a text from him around this time saying he loved her, but this was not unusual. The house backs up to a Buzzards Bay beach, but Pike was notorious for his dislike of water and the tide was out. Later on that day at about 3pm John’s phone was found in shallow water on the west side of Wilbur Point. The next day his body was found about 200 yards away in 7 feet of water. Police said no foul play was suspected. Ra Ra Riot was enjoying growing success and John was passionate about the band.

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Charles M. Allen Jr. was a senior psychology major at Umass Dartmouth. In his past he had been a relatively famous online gamer, well known for his abilities in the  Valve game Half-Life. His passions shifted in college toward Tennis, and his dream was to become a professional player. “Charlie” had recently legally changed his name to “Neo Babson Maximus” perhaps in a effort to have a ‘famous persona’. His loved ones still knew him as Charlie, and insisted his name change was unrelated to his disappearance or mental illness. Charlie suffered from Bipolar disorder, though until not long before his disappearance it was well managed with medication. The trouble seemed to begin when Charlie’s sister contacted him asking him why he had deleted his facebook. Charlie became alarmed and insisted he had not. He told her that he believed he was in danger after sending some emails to “important people” and that she needed to be careful. He also said that the “answer” was in the “periodic table” then hung up. He later left a voicemail on his parents phone that sounded as if he was running through the woods. He was not heard from again until several days later when he reportedly broke into the second floor of a strangers house at 3am on October 13th 2007. He seemed confused and told the stranger he thought he was at his friends house, then he hurried off. Charlie’s car was found abandoned at his University’s parking lot, his backpack was found on Slocum Rd. and his shoes were found off Chase Rd.

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His computer at home had been completely wiped. He has never been found.

If you have any info on Charlie please contact the Dartmouth Police at (508) 910-1700

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Justin Marshall was a star high school football player, went to West Point, and graduated from Notre Dame. He then graduated from Suffolk Law with honors, and was working at Boston City Hall in Mayor Menino’s legal department. In June of 2006 Justin was out with friends in the Charlestown neighborhood on Pier 6, when the others in the group realized he was missing around 1am. His body was found in the water nearby. There has been little follow up to indicate a cause of death or other info.

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Christopher Martin lived in New Bedford and worked at Barden’s Boat Yard in Marion. He was 24 years old  and intoxicated when he was last seen in Downtown New Bedford at 1:30 am on December 17th 2011. His girlfriend reported him missing at 3:45 am. His body was discovered in the water behind a seafood restaurant the next morning, tangled in several life preservers. Authorities found this suspicious, as it appeared that someone may have tried to help Christopher. The stairs to the water near where he was found had been ripped up. No further information is known at this time.

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D’Anthony Green was a 23 year old student at Suffolk University. He was very athletic and active, as well as artistic, enjoying everything from photography to skydiving. Because he lived alone, the exact date he went missing is unknown. He was found in the water, having been there ‘several days’, wearing his running pants under his regular pants, as if he had been coming or going from a work out. D’Anthony was a very capable swimmer with no history of suicidal tendencies, leaving his family suspicious about his death. Despite this, police ruled his death a suicide.

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Pedro Colon-Rodriguez had immigrated from Puerto Rico to Boston. He had five children with his late wife, whose death hit him hard. In his recent years he had become a heavy drinker, and spent most of his time with Cambridge’s homeless community. He was well liked for his giving nature. In early October 2012 Pedro went to Cambridge Hospital for treatment of a fall related injury. He was not seen again until his body was discovered in the Charles River monday the 8th. He was still wearing his hospital bracelet. Pedro was found the day before Jonathan Daily, leading to his case being largely underreported.

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Joseph A. Gage was a 32 year old New Hampshire native with a degree in Mathematics from University of Hartford. He was athletic, a musically gifted guitar player, and loved to travel. On January 1st 2013 at about 3am, witnesses reported seeing Joseph crossing the Harvard Bridge with another man. Halfway across they hailed a cab, but instead of getting in Joseph apparently intentionally hurled himself over the rail of the bridge and into the Charles. Despite an intense search and theoretically knowing the exact location of the body, Joseph was not recovered until March 14th. One site described his death as a “tragic accident”.

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Shiloh Morgado was from Vallejo California, and lived in Westborough Ma. He had two children. Shiloh was known by many to be a “tech wizard” and was happiest while doing things like building his own computers. His body was discovered near Quincy Yacht Club on August 30th 2015, at around 6am. No foul play was suspected.

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Already the similarities between these cases and those in the previous post may be jumping out at you. You’ll notice in this group several technologically gifted men, several musicians, and many very intelligent individuals.

There are multiple men missing in a cluster around Buzzard’s Bay that I found intriguing.

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Again, as far as I can tell, the locations of these similar deaths are not sporadic, and do not happen along every coast or waterway. There seems to be several “hot spots” in Massachusetts alone, indicating that whom or what is causing the deaths may have a sort of “territory”. Whether it is a single migrating cause or two separate causes I cannot say.

I have charted the cases I have researched so far here to better illustrate the cluster areas.

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As most of Eastern Massachusetts is surrounded or in close proximity to water, it stands to reason that other cities should be seeing similar deaths if this was a “normal” occurrence, particularly areas with high populations of young people and bars (cities such as Salem and Provincetown come to mind). And if this was a problem related to college aged drinkers, surely students in the western MA college areas have many lakes and rivers that could pose dangers?

The average temperature of Boston Harbor varies greatly between October and March (the peak months for disappearances). Here are some stats:

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Even at it’s coldest, Boston’s water never dips below freezing point at 32°, nor does it come close to the estimated 28° of the Atlantic when the Titanic sank. Death from hypothermia in freezing water can happen in as little as 15 minutes, but even in that small window it seems that someone could be crying out for help or trying to climb out of the water.

Normally alcohol in the system increases ones chances of hypothermia, but there is evidence to suggest that sometimes the exact opposite is true. Charles Joughin survived the 28° water after the Titanic for an astounding two hours until a lifeboat picked him up. Joughin was an avid drinker, carrying a flask with him everywhere, and said that thanks to his intoxication he barely felt the cold.

While this may be an unusual case, it does make one think. I have never heard of a case of a drunk college kid falling off a pier, climbing back out, laughing it off and going home to warm up. (If this has happened to you or someone you know, please let me know in the comments.) My only other thought on the matter is that perhaps in many of the cases the men suffer shock from the coldness of the water almost immediately as they hit it, causing them to gasp deeply and inhale water, speeding up the drowning process. Still, it seems unlikely that so many men would not survive the critical moments after entering the water, as hypothermia is a slower process.

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I hope you have found part 2 of my research interesting and informative, and I hope you join me in the comments for discussion! Thank you.

 

 

Some More Thoughts on Zachary Marr

“Empty handed I entered the world and barefoot will I leave it”

The words were scrawled on yellow columns, one word to each, which were lining the walkway I traveled down. The graffiti seemed particularly fitting for the occasion. I was walking down a path to the place where Zachary Marr had died.

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The quote was a shortened, bastardization of a quote by a Japanese Monk, Kozan Ichikyo. He wrote it the day that he died in 1360. The full version is

“Empty-handed I entered the world
Barefoot I leave it.
My coming, my going —
Two simple happenings
That got entangled.”

The winding path sandwiched between TD Garden and the Zakim bridge was presumably the same as the one Zach had walked just a few weeks before. I tried to imagine what he was thinking or seeing on that bitterly cold February night. Had he also read the words along the posts? Or were those written sometime after he had gone into the water? The sidewalk, if one followed it, led to a wide area directly beneath the Zakim, where the Charles River’s salty water lapped quietly at the cement footings.

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It was an almost pleasant area by the light of day, a secret seeming place. Across the water to the right, one of the State Police buildings abutted the water, their patrol boats docked about only a few hundred feet from where Zach Marr had been that night. Despite the location, no one except the cameras attached to the bridges underbelly had seen what happened. Or at least, no one that we know of. For a reason we still cannot understand, Zack seemingly walked to this place, then along a catwalk under the bridge that runs parallel to the train tracks, separated by a fence.

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The catwalk ends in a dead end, while the train tracks continue across a steel beam bridge.

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Zach then apparently (according to reports of the cctv footage which has not been released) climbed up onto the railings by the water, and stepped off into the darkness.

I would give nearly anything to see that footage. Not for any sick pleasure or macabre entertainment; I suffered from nightmares for some time about Zach. In fact, the idea of seeing the video fills me with a sense of unrivaled dread. But something in me needs to see it, in some strange way. Maybe I feel like I will learn something I couldn’t understand before? Maybe I believe I will feel somehow vindicated? What was he wearing when he went over that railing? Was he moving clumsily, drunkenly? Or in the same surefooted, trancelike state I had seen on so many other eerie cctv videos of similar cases? Did it look like a simple accidental slip? Did it look like a resolute suicide? And even if I had these answers, what would they mean?

As I walked along the length of the catwalk I noticed the signs of homeless people’s camps; beds made of old blankets and cardboard, snack wrappers and cups, even some articles of clothing that could have been anyones. (Zach’s? Someone who was there that night? If he was somehow murdered, a suspect?)

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The weather was warmer now, more bearable, survivable. There was probably no one else around the night Zach was here. It had been the coldest night of the year in Boston in recent memory; hypothermia could happen in only a short time and most of the cities homeless population would have had to seek shelter in more protected places. Still, I wondered if the police had tried talking to any of the regulars around North Station. I doubted it.

For most people Zach’s death was quickly accepted as just another accident. Just another drunk college age boy who wandered off into the water. I of course have difficulty accepting that. That theory leaves too many unanswered questions, and is simply too similar to the hundreds of other cases like it. I feel in my gut that something else happened that night, that there are still more puzzle pieces that need to be collected and fitted together before we can understand what.

Did you know any of these people?

I am reaching out to the public for information on a list of people who have either gone missing or died in Massachusetts. If you knew any of them and can give me any info, even if it’s just to tell me you do not want them included in my investigations, please reach out to me. The list is comprised of people that might fit with my previous investigated cases, and most I could find very little info about.

Jerald Gelb (40) Aug. 16 2001

David W. Crockett (45) April 3 2004

Daniel Mun (20) Dec. 5 2004

John Pike (23) June 2nd 2007

Charles M. Allen Jr. (22) Oct. 13 2007

Justin Marshall (30) June 6 2010

Christopher Martin (24) Dec. 17 2011

D’Anthony Green (23) July 30th 2012

Joseph A. Gage (32) Jan. 1 2013

Shilo Morgado (36) Aug. 30 2015

If you can tell me about any of these men, or if you knew someone else that you feel might have been a victim of the Boston Drownings, please comment or message/contact me. I will keep any info you want private. Thank you.

The Mysterious Death of Kendrick Johnson

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On Thursday, January 10 2013, 17 year old Kendrick Johnson went to school like any other day. Kendrick was a student at Lowndes High School in Valdosta, Georgia. It was the first week back after winter break for students. Kendrick was a decent athlete with a close group of friends who called him KJ.

At about 1:09 pm according to a motion activated camera in the school, Kendrick entered the older and lesser used of the school’s two gymnasiums. He may have been going to fetch a pair of sneakers that he co-owned with a friend, and stored in the gym corner to avoid locker room fees. What happened next will probably never be known for certain. But Kendrick never left that gym alive. Though other student’s came in moments later, they did not remember seeing Kendrick anywhere. Kendrick was marked absent for his next class of the day. That evening a color guard practice took place in the same gym, and still no one saw or heard anything.

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When Kendrick did not come home that day his mother began to worry immediately. She recalled having a bad feeling in her gut. Jacquelyn Johnson called around asking about her son Kendrick, but no one had seen him. At about 11pm she got in her car and drove around desperately searching for him. Kenneth Johnson, Kendrick’s father, was out of town and could not assist or comfort her. By 12:30 am the distressed mother finally did what she had been dreading; she called the police and reported her son missing.

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The next morning Jackie headed to the school. It was the last place anyone had recalled seeing Kendrick, and her only lead. At 8:30am she met with several member of the administration, who helped her make and print missing persons flyers. At around 10:30 am Jackie witnessed a flurry of activity around the school. She overheard a conversation she was never meant to, and words that would change her life forever: they had found a body in the gym. In the following hours a parade of police, investigators, and the county coroner Bill Watson would descend upon the school.

But Bill Watson wasn’t called to the scene until late that evening, long after the body had been found. Upon arriving he was confused about other aspects of the handling of the case as well; the crime seen was being processed incorrectly and thus contaminated. People on scene were not wearing foot coverings. Not all evidence was being bagged or even considered. And Johnson’s body had been sitting and decomposing for hours without being examined.

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The scene that greeted Bill Watson was disturbing to say the last. Kendrick Johnson’s body was in the back corner of the old gym, hanging halfway out of a rolled up wrestling mat. The body was covered in blood and vomit. His face was swollen and he had clearly been dead almost 24 hours, the smell of death hanging heavy in the gym. Despite all this the Sheriff, Chris Prine, was already ready to make a statement that evening: “Foul play is not suspected.”

“I definitely would not have ruled it an accident” Watson recalled of the scene. Or perhaps at least not so soon. (Footage of that scene can be easily found online, but I will not be including a link as it is graphic.)

When questioned about the discovery, witnesses said they had been near a grouping of mats when they noticed socked feet in one of them near the center. After alerting a teacher who helped move the mats and tip the one in question over, it became very clear the student inside was deceased.

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Johnson’s feet can just be made out in the rolled up blue mat. This image gives an idea of the set up before the mat was laid on its side.

Johnson’s body and personal affects were bagged and sent to the Valdosta Crime Lab. There they awaited positive identification by Kenneth Johnson. When Kendrick’s father arrived he recalled being concerned about the temperature in the drawer where his son’s body was stored. According to him warm air wafted from the supposedly refrigerated unit. This was to be just the first in a long list of contested facts about Kendrick Johnson’s death and the following investigation, a back and forth shouting match between dozens of Valdosta citizens about the ‘truth’, and series of seemingly endless examples of “he said” “she said”.

Barry Funck, director of the Valdosta Crime Lab, refutes Kenneth’s claims. He assured everyone that body storage is always kept to temperature, and alarms would sound if it ever got too high. This was pointed out to NAACP representative of Valdosta, Leigh Touchton, who visited Funck some time later to get a better idea and left feeling reassured.

Leigh Touchton had been the Lowndes/Valdosta NAACP president several times despite being a white woman, and initially worked with the Johnson family to get answers on the case. She would eventually side with authorities however that the death was a freak accident. But more on that later.

Johnson’s body was next transported to Medical Examiner Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft, who would preform the autopsy. However at some point along the journey, Kendrick’s clothes and other belongings went missing; all he arrived to Maryanne with was a pair of headphones clutched tightly in his hand. No one seemed to be able to explain where the clothes had gone. Funck, Maryanne, and even the driver of the transport vehicle blamed one of the others for the loss.

After the autopsy was completed, Kendrick’s body was sent next to the funeral home of Antonio Harrington, who had offered the family a free service due to their tragedy.

Police meanwhile requested the surveillance video surrounding the gym from the high school. Rather than having one of their people retrieve it, they left the school to their own devices, and received a copy of the videos five days later. The video was from 35 motion activated cameras, and after going through the hours of footage, police were satisfied that it showed no evidence of a crime.

Results of the autopsy were released on May 2nd 2013: Kendrick Johnson had died of “accidental positional asphyxia” after becoming stuck in an upside position inside the gym mat.

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Though certainly bizarre, the death made sense. Johnson would have suffocated fairly fast, and the mat and the pressure on his chest would have muffled any cries for help. The investigation was closed, perhaps not tidily, but satisfactorily for police.

Not satisfied, however, were Kendrick’s parents. They hired attorney Benjamin Crump, a high profile lawyer who had worked previously for both Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown’s families. What they felt was a lack of a thorough investigation by police in a southern town with a long history of racial discrimination and lynchings was enough for them to decide to reexamine the case.

Just 15 years before a case bearing strong similarities to that of the Sandra Bland case occurred in Valdosta. Willie James Williams Sr. was a middle aged african american who died in police custody after ‘falling’ and hitting his head on the pavement. Though his cut lip was stitched, his other injuries were ignored and he had a seizure in his cell later that night.

The Johnson family had come by a picture taken after Kendrick’s first autopsy that they felt proved their son had actually been beaten to death. The gruesome photo (again, easy to find but which I will not share here out of respect for Kendrick and his loved ones) showed Kendrick’s face swollen and disfigured. However the picture was not indicative of how Johnson had actually looked at the time of his death. It was taken long after he had been dead, and the skin of his head pulled back for autopsy. So while horrific, it proves very little.

The family and their attorney got Kendrick’s body exhumed for a second autopsy in June. Medical Examiner William Anderson came to a very different conclusion about Kendrick’s death; the boy had died of heart attack brought on by blunt force trauma to his carotid artery near the back of his neck. The proof, he felt, was in a small 3cm bruise to the area. Further proof would be difficult to come by however, as Anderson also revealed that all of Kendrick Johnson’s organs were missing, and his body stuffed instead with newspapers.

When questioned, Antonio Harrington at first balked. He claimed that he had never received the organs at all, and that they must have been thrown away by the medical examiner. Sherry Lang, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) denied the accusation, assuring that the organs were most definitely in the body before being sent to the funeral home. Finally Harrington changed his story. Yes they had received the organs, but they had been too decomposed to salvage and had been thrown away. As for the newspaper, it had been a practical, albeit insensitive, way to fill the cavities the organs left behind. Many funeral homes use similar methods but with sawdust. Ultimately Harrington’s methods were called inappropriate, but totally legal.

Next Crump wanted a second look at the school surveillance video. An analysis of the videos revealed bizarre facts. There was a period of time between 11-1:30 in which multiple cameras around the gym recorded nothing at all, a blackout period. This was despite other footage showing that several students entered the gym in that time and should have activated the motion cameras. This means that there were other student’s in the gym when Kendrick went into the mat. Yet no one saw anything. Or at least, no one was talking.

In fact, some students had been literally barred from talking. Two such students were the Bell brothers, who had been commanded by their FBI agent father Rick Bell not to make any statements. Perhaps Rick was nervous about how an altercation that had happened in 2011 between Kendrick Johnson and his son Brian would look to the media. The boys had been football teammates and were on a bus at the time. His fears were well founded. Once the story broke suspicions immediately fell on the brothers, who were now being accused of murder. It was up to them to pull together some irrefutable alibis.

A teacher and a classroom full of students confirmed that Brian Bell was in a class on the other side of the school during the time Kendrick was seen entering the gym. Multiple students and Wrestling Coach Spencer Graybeal confirmed that Branden Bell was on a bus trip halfway to Macon for a wrestling meet. It seemed that both brothers could be accounted for during the time period that Kendrick went into the mat. Despite their names being cleared legally of suspicion, the family has not managed to avoid crushing speculation and online threats. Brian even had a football scholarship to Florida State University revoked after Twitter users contacted the school calling him a racist murderer. The Bell family believes they have become scapegoats and were unfairly targeted.

But other Valdosta students and friends of Kendrick’s have suggested that a bullying death, even if not by the Bell’s, is not out of the question. Solomon Arrington, Kendrick’s cousin and friend, reported that he received threatening messages on facebook the day Kendrick was found, implying he would be the next to end up in a body bag. Valdosta Lt. Sheriff Stryde Jones assured the media that the messages were investigated and determined not to to be threats. The names of the senders were never released. But Arrington felt a change in the air after that day. He felt he and other friends of Kendrick’s were outsiders, shunned by the school. He said was disheartened when only three Lowndes High School teachers (one a substitute) attended Kendrick’s funeral.

Other voices have risen up to refute Arrington’s claim. According to them, dozens of Kendrick’s teachers were present, and one of his former coaches even gave a eulogy. (If any of my readers were there and can share their own side to the story I would love to hear.)

20 year old Dalton Ray Chauncey was brought before police after claiming that he had overheard a conversation in which two students were telling a third that they had killed Kendrick Johnson.The students he had spoken of, whom he only knew by first name, could not be located by police. After hours of questioning, Dalton changed his story. He ‘admitted’ he had made up the entire thing, including the students themselves, for attention. His mother doesn’t believe it. She believes her son, who is bipolar, was taken advantage of and coerced by police. He is now being indicted on a felony charge for making “false statements” to investigators.

Meanwhile, some questions were arising about the crime scene itself. Certain aspects of the evidence gathering process were not adding up. One was a rather large spattering of blood on the wall of the gym near the mats.

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According to police the drips were “too old” to have been relative to the case, although how this was determined was not mentioned. The blood was also confirmed not to be Kendrick’s, but testing all 3000 of the Lowndes High students was out of the question.

A shoe was also found nearby which from pictures some theorized had blood on it. However the red was actually just paint. Regardless the shoe was also not bagged as evidence. Kendrick’s own shoes were another issue. Supposedly Kendrick had gone into the mat to reach for a shoe at the bottom, then had died. Over the course of the next 20-ish hours, blood and other fluids had leaked from his body onto the floor beneath him. But somehow his shoe remained pristine, sitting in the pool as if placed there.

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Johnson’s Body was found like this.

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As you can see, the shoes he was wearing that day are kicked off and in the mat beside him. If Kendrick died of suffocation, he was likely thrashing and struggling to get out of the mat, which could explain his kicked off shoes and the socks slipping from his feet. But why during his panic would he bother to continue clutching a pair of headphones? Why wouldn’t he be pushing up on the ground and mat with his arms? And how, if he was struggling so much, could none of the other students that had to have been in the gym at that time have seen him?

In October of 2013 U.S. Attorney Michael Moore ordered a federal review of Kendrick Johnson’s death.

But after a full review of the case himself, Benjamin Crump resigned as the Johnson Family attorney.William Anderson’s autopsy findings were under new scrutiny; he was later fired from other positions for “unethical actions” in other cases. His autopsy results are still contested. The Johnson families’ supporters soon began to drop like flies. Leigh Touchton, who had once worked alongside the Johnson’s, agreed with the findings of Maryanne Gaffney-Kraft, that Kendrick’s death was simply a freak accident. Even Reverend Floyd Rose, once the leader of raising funds for the Johnson’s case (and a man who had even put up his home as collateral to bail out on the Johnson’s after their arrest for protesting outside a courthouse), was now singing a different tune. “You won’t find a person of any reputation in this town who says that boy was murdered.”

In the years since Kendrick Johnson’s death, both Michael Moore and his replacement Steven Dettlebach, have resigned their positions as US Attorney’s overseeing the Johnson case. As of June 2016, no charges have been filed due to insufficient evidence.

But what changed? According to most people the problems lay with the Johnson family themselves. They fought for justice for their son, but at times it verged on irrational. They posted images of his swollen face across social media and on signs at protests, maintaining their baby had been beaten to death; but the evidence just wasn’t there. Even Anderson admitted that Kendrick’s body showed no signs of having been beaten.

The Johnson’s also accused a hefty list of people as being involved in the murder and subsequent coverup, including the police and many school officials. But the amount of people involved in the theoretical conspiracy seems far too large to be sustainable or possible. After a conference call between the family, their attorney, and members of the NAACP, Leigh Touchton resigned. She felt that the family was milking their tragedy for donation money and telling outright lies to gain support.

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The Johnson family denies that they are doing anything except seeking justice for their son. They are still working with a new attorney, Chevenne King Jr., and say they will not rest until they are satisfied they know the truth.

Unfortunately, in a case filled with mishandling of evidence, uncertain witnesses, and red herrings, it’s a truth that might never be known.

As for what I believe happened, there are many possibilities. Bullying or hazing gone wrong could have lead to some students pushing Kendrick into the mat as a prank, thinking he could get out on his own. Perhaps students did see him fall in, but thought it was funny and left without helping. Afraid they could get in trouble, they never came forward with what they saw. But whatever happened, it seems a vast conspiracy to cover up a murder are the most unlikely. Either way, I hope Kendrick and his family can find peace somehow.Regardless of how he died, he shouldn’t have, and the fact that his case was handled so poorly and lightheartedly by authorities must be troubling for his loved ones.