After decades of investigation, five cold cases will be solved in 2021

It's difficult enough to lose a loved one, but not knowing where they are or what happened to them is unbearable. Hundreds of victims' families have been able to get closure on what happened to their loved ones because to huge advancements in forensic technology. We'll look at several decades-old cold cases that were solved in 2021 in this article.

The 1984 case of Virginia Hannon 

Virginia Hannon, 59, lived in Pembroke, Massachusetts, in a reasonably peaceful neighbourhood. She had worked as the lunch lady at Bryantville Elementary School for the majority of her life, and practically everyone in the area had observed her warmth and loving attitude firsthand.

She enjoyed working with children and was known for her culinary prowess. Virginia lived a quiet, simple life and was very welcoming to her neighbours, so everyone who knew her was startled and appalled when she was murdered in her house on February 13th, 1984.

Virginia had lived alone for the last 13 years, as her husband had died. Virginia's quaint yellow cottage quickly became a symbol of compassion in the neighbourhood, and she would frequently serve juice, cookies, and baked goods to the neighbourhood youngsters who would frequently stop by.

She was also known for feeding and caring for stray animals that wandered into the neighbourhood. Her aunt, who resided in California, had left Virginia about $380,000 when she died, so she had retired early from her work.

She was fairly forthcoming about the inheritance to anyone who inquired because she had no qualms about revealing intimate facts about her life with others, even strangers. While it was known that she had put the majority of the money in the bank, it was commonly assumed that she had retained some of the money in cash about her home.

Although this has never been established as the reason for Virginia's break-in and attack, it is likely that word of the money she had hidden about the house was heard by the wrong type of person.

Also Read: 9 Unsolved Mysteries That Have Finally Been Solved

Virginia was last seen on the evening of February 11th, 1984, which happened to be a Saturday. Dolly Harmeth, a friend of Virginia's, and Virginia had gone to church together. The church they went to was called St. Joseph's, and it was about 4 miles from Virginia's home.

The evening mass began at around 5 p.m., as usual, and the women waited for the full time before heading to BR's Restaurant, their customary supper destination. Every week after mass, they would eat dinner at this restaurant, which was about seven miles distant from the church.

Other than the offender, Dolly was the last person to see Virginia alive, and she dropped her off at her residence at 7:30 p.m. Virginia struggled to breathe while mounting the steps to her house, according to Dolly, but this was nothing out of the ordinary for Virginia.

She suffers from emphysema, which makes it difficult for her to breathe whenever she engages in strenuous physical activity. Because no one in the area heard or saw her on Sunday, the attack is thought to have occurred shortly after she returned home from church.

Virginia was the primary caregiver for her stepfather, who also lived in the area, and she would usually cook his lunch and deliver it to his home every day. Lunchtime had come and gone on Monday, February 13th, but Virginia was nowhere to be seen.

Her stepfather's housekeeper had attempted to call her to ask if she had a spare key to his home but had been unsuccessful. As a result, he decided to pay a visit to Virginia's residence to see if everything was in order and to request the key in person.

The housekeeper realised Virginia had been murdered in her bed at that point. Even though her blanket had been used to cover her up, signs of major physical injuries could be detected. Investigators were dispatched to the spot almost away, and they discovered a pair of nylon stockings that they believe were used to murder Virginia.

Furthermore, there was a shoe print on her abdominal area, leading detectives to assume that the culprit kicked her during the incident. The entire neighbourhood was shocked by Virginia's death since she was so well-liked by everyone in the town that it was difficult to imagine anyone wanting to hurt her.

The front door and a window adjacent to it had been tampered with, indicating that the assailant had broken into the house and Virginia had refused to let them in on her own volition. In addition, Dolly informed detectives that Virginia had a $100 note in her pocketbook when they went out to eat.

The $100 money, however, was missing when officers searched her wallet. This suggested that robbery could have been a motive for the attack, and many people believe the attack was carried out because the culprit believed she had a share of the inheritance money in the property.

Investigators were unable to identify any suspects, thus their search for the perpetrator came to a halt. On the night of her death, her neighbours had not heard anything odd that could have indicated a struggle.

It became impossible for authorities to identify a suspect without any clues or leads. In 2018, the evidence discovered at the crime scene was retested, and a male DNA profile was created. Unfortunately, there was nothing with which to compare this DNA, thus the hunt for Virginia's killer was put on hold.

It took around 37 years for the cops to get their big break. A 58-year-old man called Jesse Alyward died on the 3rd of February, 2020. Jesse had told a buddy a year before his death that he was responsible for Virginia Hannon's death.

After Jesse died, this buddy informed the authorities, who compared Jesse's DNA to the DNA obtained at the scene using a blood sample from his remains. It was a perfect match. At the time of Virginia's death, Jesse was 22 years old.

The news was released to the public in March of 2021 by the Plymouth County district attorney's office, which also stated that there was no known relationship between Jesse and Virginia previous to the attack and that she most likely did not know him.

Richard Hannon, Virginia's nephew, and his wife Judy Hannon have subsequently come forward to thank the police officers who continued to work on Virginia's case over the years.

This is one of the cases that exemplifies how the advancement of forensic technology may help to solve cold cases and provide closure to victims' families.

The cold case of Janet Brochu 

On the 23rd of December, 1987, Janet Brochu, then 20 years old, went out with some of her friends. She left the bar 45 minutes before her pals, with a man they had only met and come to know a few hours before she vanished.

Janet's companions had no idea that when she left the bar that night, it would be the last time they saw her alive... The group of buddies went bowling first and planned to head out for drinks afterwards. They went to a bowling alley in Waterville, where they met and became acquainted with two men who were also bowling there.

They got along so well, in fact, that they agreed to meet again later that night at T. Woody's, a bar and lounge on the Waterville concourse. After that, the two groups parted ways.

Everyone except Janet was allowed inside T. Woody's when Janet and her companions arrived. Janet was just 20 years old at the time, and the legal drinking age in Maine had been raised to 21 in July of 1985. It was nearly midnight by this point, and the men they had met earlier had also arrived at the bar.

Janet accepted one of these men's offer to return her to her home, and she accepted. Her friends last saw her leaving the bar with this man. However, the man returned to the pub alone shortly after they had departed to retrieve Janet's pocketbook. She had left her handbag at the bar by accident, and he had returned inside to retrieve it as she waited in his car.

Janet's pals waited at the bar for another 45 minutes after Janet had left before departing. Janet did not return home that night, and her parents, Albert and Geraldine Brochu, phoned authorities the next morning, December 24th, to report their daughter missing.

Janet might also require medical support because she was diabetic and needed to take insulin on a regular basis to keep her blood sugar levels in check. Janet's search began almost as soon as the missing person's report was submitted.

The man who offered to drive Janet home the night before was questioned by police, but he stated that when he returned to the parking lot after retrieving Janet's purse, she appeared to be sick. As a result, he told her that he couldn't take her home anymore, and that this was the last time he saw her, and that he had no part in her disappearance. 

The hunt for Janet lasted three months, until her bones were discovered floating near the Waverly Dam in the Sebasticook River on March 18, 1988. Her body was discovered in an undressed state.

Janet's remains were autopsied, but the medical examiner was unable to determine the cause of her death. While it was assumed that her body had been buried in the river since the night she vanished, no more details regarding her death could be revealed.

In addition, police speculated that she may have either leapt or been pushed from the bridge. Which begs the question: what happened to her garments if she jumped?

Granted, it had been three months since she had died, and her garments would have been severely decomposed from exposure to the weather, but they would still have been there.

Furthermore, only a few months after Janet's remains were discovered, a 23-year-old woman from Waterville was similarly murdered in a manner that was uncannily identical to Janet's. Geraldine Ann Finn, who was last seen in a bar on August 9, 1988, was the woman in question.

Pete and Larry's, a tavern on Upper Main Street, was where she went out. A man approached her while she was in the company of her coworkers to speak with her. This individual was characterised as being 5'10" tall and weighing approximately 150 pounds.

He had dark hair, and her pals remembered a diamond tattoo on his shoulder as one of his distinguishing features. Geraldine's remains were discovered by a man walking around his property in Skowhegan. The property was located near a wooded region.

Geraldine had also been discovered naked. This time, however, investigators had enough evidence to catch the killer, Gerald Goodale, who was 29 years old at the time. Gerald was found guilty of murdering Geraldine Finn and was sentenced to 75 years in prison.

He was questioned extensively in reference to Janet Brochu's death after his arrest and conviction, although he denied any role in her death. Investigators were unable to charge him with the murder of Janet owing to a lack of evidence, but they were convinced that he was the killer based on the striking similarities between the instances.

Janet's case was unfortunately left unsolved for more than three decades due to a lack of evidence. Gerald was not finally apprehended for the murder of Janet Brochu until May of 2021.

The nature of the fresh evidence discovered is yet unknown because the case is still in the legal system. While a storey in the Bangor Daily News on August 22, 1988 claims that Gerald saw Janet briefly in the parking lot of the bar on the night of her death, no statements have been made to confirm whether he was the man who was supposed to drive her home.

This case has yet to have an official arraignment hearing, which has been attributed to the world's current challenging circumstances. Unfortunately, Geraldine Brochu died in 2015, and Albert Brochu died in January of 2021, just months before Janet's killer was apprehended, thus neither of Janet's parents lived to see her case completed.

We'll have to wait and see what the arraignment hearing reveals in terms of new evidence.. 

The cold case of Leola Jordan 

The Picayune police department was still working feverishly in 2021 to solve a two-decade-old cold case – a family wanted answers. Just one month before the 23rd anniversary of Leola Jordan's death, these answers arrived in the form of DNA test results.

Everyone in the community adored Leola, and the shocking manner in which she was murdered put them all in a state of bewilderment. Leola resided in a relatively tranquil neighbourhood in Picayune, Mississippi's Pearl River County.

Leola was characterised as kind and well-liked by residents in her neighbourhood. She'd lived there her entire life and had seven children who all grew up in the area.

Leola Jordan was attacked with a knife in her house on Washington Street on June 30, 1998, and died as a result of her injuries. Because there was no evidence that the locks on Leola's doors or windows had been tampered with, investigators assumed that the offender was let into the residence by Leola herself.

Several members of Leola's family also told authorities that she constantly secured her front door, so the killer didn't stroll in alone.

Investigators first suspected that when Leola awoke, there had been a quarrel or disagreement of some sort, which escalated and led in the perpetrator beating her before departing the site of the crime.

This case remained unresolved for nearly 23 years. That was until October 2020, when Captain Rhonda Jones of the Picayune Police Department started looking into Leola's case. She collaborated with the Oxygen network on a hit show called "Cold Justice."

Due to a shortage of resources, the police department enlisted the show's assistance to have DNA evidence discovered at the crime scene examined. They were able to send it to a private facility with a substantially faster turnaround time thanks to the show.

Investigators gathered over a dozen samples of the nightgown Leola was wearing when she was killed when the crime scene was first investigated in 1998 in the hopes of finding the killer's DNA on it.

However, because the Picayune police force lacked the resources to process the DNA evidence, it was not tested until 2021. Investigators were ultimately able to apprehend the man who killed Leola Jordan, her now 47-year-old grandson Sergio A. Williams, according to the results of DNA testing.

Her family was finally able to get some closure on the loss of the woman they referred to as the "matriarch of the family." In reality, Leola was supposed to see her granddaughter for her nursing school pinning ceremony the day before she was killed, which was taking place in Joliet.

The awful nature of the murder, according to several of the investigative officers who attended to the site, including Picayune police chief Freddy Drennan and assistant chief of police Jeremy Magri, made it vitally important for them to solve the case.

They've also expressed gratitude for being able to give Leola's family closure after all these years.

Also Read: Mystery of Room 1046 -The Unsolved Murder Room

The Pecos Jane Doe – Identified in March 2021

A man and a lady checked into the Ropers Motel, which was located right on Highway 80, on July 5, 1966. A hotel maid would discover the woman drowned in the hotel pool just hours after they checked in, and the man would drive away, never to be seen or heard from again.

Furthermore, investigators had no idea who the deceased woman was, and it would take decades for her identity to be discovered. Because of its location, it was a popular stop for transients and those wishing to relax before continuing their journey.

Mrs. and Mr. Russell Battuon were the names they looked up. People who later spotted the couple at the hotel said the man appeared to be at least a decade older than his wife. The woman was characterised as Mediterranean-looking, with black hair and a tanned skin.

Mrs. Battuon's body was discovered floating in the motel's swimming pool later that day by a hotel maid. The maid, unsure of what to do, sought assistance from a waitress at the motel's café.

Mrs. Battuon's remains were carried onto the pool deck by the waitress with the assistance of another visitor. When first responders got on the scene, they attempted to resuscitate the woman, but she was already unconscious.

She was subsequently transferred to the Reeves County Memorial Hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Meanwhile, her companion, ostensibly her husband, walked to the motel's front desk and requested his identity card.

When the motel staff inquired why he needed it, he explained that he needed it to provide to the cops as identification so they could start investigating his wife's drowning. The staffer then returned the man's identification card.

He then climbed into his car and drove away, never to be seen again. He was supposedly asleep in his room when his wife drowned in the pool, but the manner in which he withdrew himself from the situation makes him appear quite suspect.

You'd think if she was actually his wife, he'd go to the hospital where she was taken, but he never went to the hospital or tried to claim responsibility for her remains. The medical examiner discovered a little red scrape just above the victim's left cheekbone during the autopsy.

Apart from this tattoo, there was no other proof that the drowning had been planned. As a result, the woman's death was ruled to be due to accidental drowning.

The woman's remains were transported to a Pecos funeral home following the autopsy in the hopes that someone would come forward to claim responsibility. The drowning received a lot of media coverage, and as a result, people from all over the country contacted out to see if the deceased woman was a relative.

Several members of the community were moved by the tragedy and donated funds to help with the expense of her headstone. In fact, one of the saddest aspects of this case is this headstone. "Unknown Girl, Drowned," it simply says.

Nobody deserves to be laid to rest in that manner, and it just adds to the tragedy that this woman's family was most likely searching for her at the time. The Pecos Jane Doe had left behind the most viable hint concerning her own identity, unbeknownst to detectives and her family.

After all, two words were scrawled on her right foot during her autopsy. "Joe" and "Lean" were the terms. The unidentified woman's information had to be manually uploaded into NamUs near the end of 2014, and it was while they were doing so that detectives discovered her age had been reported as around 19 on her death certificate.

Because of this, there was a significant likelihood that the Pecos Jane Doe was actually a minor at the time of her death. However, she remained unidentified for decades due to a lack of personal information.

In August of this year, the Pecos police department excavated her body and chose to have it genetically tested in the hopes of reuniting her with living family members.

Her DNA profile was then uploaded to a database to see if they could find a match, but because she died some decades ago, this proved futile as well. The investigation became cold again, and it wasn't until detectives learned they could utilise genetic genealogy to break the case that they eventually got a break.

They found a family match in March of 2021. Three siblings from Texas were the closest match to the Pecos Jane Doe, according to a DNA ancestry database called Family Tree DNA. Investigators were able to link the Pecos Jane Doe to the Hemmy family of Salina, Kansas, by looking at their family tree.

The Pecos are a group of people who live in Texas. Jolaine Hemmy was finally identified as Jane Doe. Joyce Hemmy, Jolaine's sister, was the first to be informed, and she described Jolaine as a quiet young lady. Jolaine and Joyce were only fourteen months apart when they were born, yet they grew up to be incredibly close.

Jolaine had a significantly older partner at the time of her disappearance, who the family did not care for. This was due to his history of mistreating Jolaine. The last time Joyce saw Jolaine was on July 1, 1966.

The family has been hunting for her nonstop since then. Joyce received a letter on July 3rd that stated, "Joyce, well, I got lost." Perhaps in a few of weeks. “– Jo” The family does not believe Jolaine wrote this letter because no one in the family addressed her as "Jo."

Jolaine's family is certain that the man who was with her was to blame for her death because she did not know how to swim and would not have been able to get into the pool on her own.

Her death certificate has since been changed to reflect her true identity, and investigators have claimed that they are still looking for the man who checked into the motel with her in 1966. 

Serial Killer's Confessions

We've heard of killers admitting to their crimes while under investigation, confessions that happened by happenstance, and even confessions on deathbeds. But what about random confessions that have no rhyme or reason? Doesn't it seem strange?

That's exactly what happened to Edward Surratt, a convicted serial killer. "Coon links Surratt to 18 slayings in the area," states the top page of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette dated July 1978. (Context - Allegheny County Sheriff Eugeue L. Coon, 1978).  

Despite this, detectives were never able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was involved in the crimes. The Modus Operandi matched, but there was no substantial physical evidence linking him to the crimes... that is, until he confessed to them himself.

It was determined during Surratt's time as a truck driver with routes through Pennsylvania and Ohio that he could be related to 27 unsolved murders in the two states. The first of these murders to which Edward was linked was the assassination of Luther Langford.

Luther was discovered dead at his home in the Western Columbia neighbourhood of South Carolina on June 1, 1978. Although Luther had died as a result of the attack, his wife had survived.

Investigators sought to catch Edward for this crime after he was observed driving about in Luther's automobile in public, but he escaped. The car, on the other hand, was retrieved, and inside the car, authorities discovered a baseball bat with Edward's fingerprints on it.

This bat was almost certainly used to murder Luther. Investigators discovered many items that belonged to Joseph Weinman while checking Luther's automobile for evidence. Joseph was a veteran, and on September 30, 1977, he and his wife were discovered dead in their house.

They were severely beaten, much like Luther. In addition, he was a suspect in the assassinations of Frank Ziegler, Richard Hyde, Donna Hyde, William Adams, and Nancy Adams. Frank had been shot in his home, which was only down the street from the Weinmans'.

Donna and Richard Hyde were shot and killed with a shotgun, and their bodies were discovered on December 4th, 1977, at their home in Moon Township. At the time of his death, William Adams was 29 years old, and while his remains were discovered, his wife was not.

On the 31st of December, 1977, Edward was also stationed in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, when Guy Mills, Laura Mills, and Joel Krueger were shot and killed with a shotgun. Regardless, Edward managed to elude the authorities... Until July 1978, that is.

Edward broke into a residence on July 1, 1978, and burglarized the family of three who lived there. He then bound and abused the parents and their 15-year-old daughter. Edward became inebriated after the attack and passed out in one of the family's bedrooms.

During this time, the family managed to flee, and police were dispatched to the area. Edward was still blacked out when police came, but they were able to apprehend him without any physical confrontations. The trial for these crimes took place in late 1978, and he was found guilty and sentenced to two life terms plus 200 years on September 20, 1978.   

Edward broke into a residence on July 1, 1978, and burglarized the family of three who lived there. He then bound and abused the parents and their 15-year-old daughter. Edward became inebriated after the attack and passed out in one of the family's bedrooms.

During this time, the family managed to flee, and police were dispatched to the area. Edward was still blacked out when police came, but they were able to apprehend him without any physical confrontations. The trial for these crimes took place in late 1978, and he was found guilty and sentenced to two life terms plus 200 years on September 20, 1978.

He has been transferred between numerous jails since then due to violent behaviour and an effort to elude capture. The remaining cases from 1977 to 1978 fell cold after that.

This was due to the fact that, despite investigators' knowledge of Edward's involvement, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him with the crimes. His confession in 2021 was not the first time he had made a confession while in prison.

He admitted to killing six people in 2007, including David Hamilton and Linda Hamilton on September 20, 1977, John Davis and Mary Davis in November 1977, and John Feeny and his fiancée, Ranee Gregor on October 22, 1977.

At the time of their deaths, John and Ranee were only teenagers. While investigators are confident that Edward is responsible for these crimes, the timing of his confession has been questioned.

Edward requested to be transferred to a jail in South Carolina shortly after confessing to these crimes in exchange for information on the whereabouts of Ranee Gregor, Linda Hamilton, and David Hamilton's bodies, but his request was denied.

He admitted to killing William Adams, Nancy Adams, Guy Mills, Laura Mills, and Joel Krueger in 1977, as well as John Shelkons in 1978, in June of 2021.

With the revelation of these crimes, a clear pattern has emerged: Edward burglarizes homes regardless of how many people are residing there, and is known to shoot his victims.

Several of their burial locations have never been discovered, leaving many families in the dark about what happened to their loved ones. Between 1977 and 1978, he committed at least 12 murders, implying that he killed at least 12 people in a single year.

He is being investigated as a suspect in the unsolved killings of at least ten additional persons in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. Edward Surratt has only been convicted in relation to the death of one person, although having directly acknowledged to killing 12 people.

The rationale given by law enforcement is that he is already in custody and that extraditing him and putting him on trial for these murders would cost a lot of money and resources. This, on the other hand, cannot possibly mean much to the relatives of his victims, to whom this is nothing but a show of contempt.

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