Murder cases are terrifying. But they become even more horrific, in some ways, when the identity of the victim can’t be determined. Unidentified bodies are chilling, and perhaps it’s because it means there’s a greater chance of the killer getting away with it – if there’s no way to connect the victim to anyone, there’s a greater chance whoever had motive is going to slip away unnoticed.
So we decided to deep dive into the scary world of unidentified bodies.
‘Beth’ was found under a bridge in Carbon County, Pennsylvania in the ’70s. Her body had been dismembered – it had actually been put into three suitcases, and police identified that the victim had been shot in the neck and strangled beforehand. Tragically, the remains of an unborn baby were also found. The woman is presumed to have been between 16 and 22 years old, but the only lead police found was numbers and letters written on one of her hands. Investigators never determined who she was or what the numbers meant – there was speculation that they may have been a licence plate number, but to this day the case – and her identity – remain unsolved.
“WHO PUT BELLA IN THE WYCH ELM?”
If you listen to Casefile, you know this tale – in 1943, a group of kids in Stourbridge, England, came across the skeleton of a woman whose body had been stuffed inside the hollowed trunk of an elm tree. Specifically, a Wych Elm. After reporting it to their parents and then the police, it was revealed that the body had been there for over a year and a half. It gets weirder – soon after the discovery, the sentence “Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?” started appearing on walls all over town. There’s been speculations as to who the woman is, but as yet no firm identification.
In 1990, a motorist who pulled off the highway in Brazoria County, Texas stumbled upon the skeletal remains of a woman aged between 15 to 25. The remains were found on a pile of debris, and it was estimated that she had died approximately 1 – 5 years before the bones were discovered. The victim had rings on her fingers, one of which was a 1975 class ring from Robert E. Lee High School in Houston. The blue stone in the ring is why investigators dubbed the victim ‘Princess Blue’. The interesting part? The victim was too young to have obtained that themselves, but while investigators quizzed pupils from that year to determine how the victim could have obtained the ring, no leads eventuated and the case remains unsolved.
THE MYSTERY COUPLE OF SUMPTER COUNTY
In 1976, the bodies of a young couple were found on a secluded dirt road in South Carolina. They’d been shot, with a local telling police they heard gunshots and a vehicle speeding off. They had no identification on them at the time they were found, or money – but were wearing expensive jewellery and both had had extensive dental work done. One witness did eventually come forward, saying he thinks he met the couple at a campground. He said the male introduced himself as “Jock” and was traveling after being disowned by his father, who was from Canada. The witness didn’t have any information on the female, although authorities have also speculated that she may be a sister as opposed to a romantic partner. No one has come forward to positively identify the people, and the killer also remains unknown.
In 1985, a hunter found a 55-gallon metal drum near a burned-out store, with the remains of an adult female and a 10-year-old girl inside. Determining the identities of the victims proved unfruitful, and then in 2000 the remains of two young girls, aged around 2-4 years old, were found in a different 55-gallon metal drum near the first discovery site. In 2017 investigators announced that Terry Peder Rasmussen was the most likely suspect, and he was confirmed via DNA to be the father of one of the young girls found in 2000. He had been convicted of a different murder and died in prison in 2010, so it’s never been confirmed that he indeed committed the crimes.