Wanted: John Dillinger

A 1933 WANTED poster for Indianapolis native and notorious bank robber John Dillinger.

The reward for his capture would double by the following year.

In Their Own Words: Belle Gunness

Beginning in the summer of 1905, the following ‘lonely hearts’ ad began appearing in Norwegian-language newspapers. Translated into English, it read:

WANTED—A woman who owns a beautifully located and valuable farm in first class condition, wants a good and reliable man as partner in same. Some little cash is required and will be furnished first class security.

Anyone interested in the ad was directed to contact “B.G.” in care of the newspaper.

D.J. Hunter, Belle’s postman at her LaPorte Farm, later said she often received as many as eight to ten letters per day from hopeful love interests, including several of her future victims.

Cold Case: Jerry Michael “Mike” Bayles Jr.

In the early hours of a chilly October morning in 1970, a ten-year-old Indianapolis boy left home to deliver newspapers to his neighbors. Three hours later, his nude body was found discarded along a rural road fifteen miles from his home. He had been stabbed to death.

The events surrounding the murder are as strange as they are tragic. For one thing, the paper route actually belonged to one of Mike’s brothers. Gordon “Bud” Bayles, fifteen, was a delivery boy for the Star but had been employed only about five weeks. According to a statement Bud gave at the time, Mike had volunteered to run the route for him that Saturday. It was a decision that quite possibly cost the younger boy his life.

Shortly before six, a customer toward the start of the route heard the soft smack of a newspaper hitting her porch and then a scream. She looked out her window but saw only the passing headlights of a car. Another customer, William H. Johnson, found the boy’s bicycle and bag when he stepped outside for his paper about half an hour later. A later count of the newspapers in the bag revealed only two were missing, indicating that whatever had happened to Mike must have occurred just after he began the route. The following day, a third witness came forward claiming he’d seen a man dragging a boy into a car at knifepoint in the same location where the bike and bag were later found. The witness said he’d called out to the man, questioning him, but the knife-wielding man had claimed to be the boy’s father. Mike apparently had not contradicted this claim, and the witness did not report what he’d seen until he heard about the murderered child the next day. A polygraph test indicated the witness was telling the truth. Unfortunately, he was unable to provide a good description of either the man he’d spoken to or another, smaller man he thought he’d seen waiting in the car.

Mike’s body was found by a Knightstown farmer later that same morning. Wearing only in socks and left alongside a gravel road, the fifth-grader had been stabbed eight times in the back and abdomen. Although an autopsy would eventually determine he had not been sexually assaulted, police refused to rule it out as a motive. The rest of Mike’s clothes and the weapon used to commit the crime were never found. Since DNA fingerprinting had not yet been discovered at the time, neither the child’s corpse nor the newspaper bag could be tested for trace evidence. (It is unknown whether any forensic evidence was preserved for potential testing in the future.) When a grand jury declined to indict an escaped psychiatric patient for the crime despite a history of sex crimes against minors, Prosecutor Nobel R. Pearcy cited a lack of evidence for the failure.

Anyone with information concerning the murder of Jerry “Mike” Bayles is strongly encouraged to contact Indiana State Police @ 1-765-778-2121 or 1-800-527-4752.

Set Up and Murdered: Dusty Lawrence

Dusty Lawrence, 30, with his wife and child, who were also present at the shooting.

It wasn’t supposed to happen that way.

On March 28th, Dusty Lawrence, his pregnant wife Betsy, and their daughter, five-year-old Madisyn, left their home in Anderson for a trip to Indianapolis. Dusty intended to meet a potential buyer for some items he’d offered for sale on Facebook Marketplace and took his family along for the ride, hoping to share a pleasant Sunday afternoon drive.

He would never make it home again.

Shortly after they arrived at the 3700 block of Rinehall Drive on Indy’s far East side, Dusty was shot at least once while his family watched helplessly from inside the car. Although he was still alive when police arrived on the scene, the young father later died at a local hospital. Neither Betsy or Madisyn were injured in the attack.

Anyone with information on the murder of Dusty Shane Lawrence is urged to contact IMPD (317-327-3475) or Crime Stoppers of Central Indiana at 317-262-TIPS (8477).

On This Day in Infamy: A Serial Killer Exposed

In the predawn hours of April 28, 1908, a fire broke out in a two-story farmhouse in LaPorte. By the time the blaze was extinguished and the ruins sifted through, a serial killer would be exposed and a mystery posed which still remains unsolved to this day.

Brynhild Paulsdatter Storset Sorenson Gunness, better known as Belle Gunness, had a rather unfortunate past. Not only was the hardy hog farmer twice-widowed, but mysterious fires seemed to plague her properties. She’d lost both a candy store and a house in Chicago before purchasing a 48-acre farm on McClung Road in LaPorte, and it was her house that had erupted in flames that early April morning. When the volunteer fire department responded to the blaze, they expected to find the bodies of Belle and her children—Myrtle, 11, Lucy, 9, and Phillip, 5— but ended up finding more than they had bargained for…much more.

By the time the smoldering farm had given up its secrets, at least 13 bodies had been discovered and no one was even sure if Belle’s cadaver was among them. A subsequent investigation revealed she had been running ‘Lonely Hearts’ ads in newspapers, drawing victims to her with the lure of a prosperous farm and the promise of matrimony. The unlucky suitors who responded to her ads were instructed to bring a large cash deposit when they came to visit, in order to prove their financial solvency and worthiness to assume management of the farm. But, once they set foot on the farm, the men were never seen alive again. Belle ruthlessly robbed and killed her unsuspecting visitors before hacking their bodies to pieces and depositing them in various places around her property. The body of Jennie Olsen, Belle’s foster daughter, was also found. Belle had told everyone the girl had gone to school in California.

Ray Lamphere, Belle’s former handyman and occasional lover, was eventually convicted of arson, but he was never convicted of murder because no one was certain that the body found in the burned-down farmhouse belonged to Belle, or if it was she who had killed the children. For one thing, the corpse in question was quite a bit smaller than Belle had been in life, and there were reported sightings of her long after the fire. On his deathbed, Lamphere allegedly told at least one person that he’d taken Belle to a train station after the fire was set and she was waiting for him, living in disguise as a man, until they could be reunited.

Supposed sightings of Belle continued for years. In 1931, a California woman living under the name of Esther Carlson was accused of poisoning a man for his money. It was thought that the woman might be Belle living under an alias, but she died awaiting trail and before a definitive identification could be made. However, former LaPorte residents viewed the woman’s remains and stated that they did indeed believe the woman to be Belle.

In the end, no one knows how much money Belle made from her lethal scheme, just how many people she killed, or even the true circumstances under which she actually died. The bloody mystery of Belle Gunness, LaPorte’s murderous matron, still remains unsolved today.

Eyler Victim Identified

From Associated Press:

Apr 26, 2021 / 09:40 AM EDT /Updated: Apr 26, 2021 / 09:40 AM EDT

CHICAGO (AP) — Human remains found at a northwestern Indiana farm have been identified as a male Chicago victim of the late serial killer Larry Eyler, authorities announced Sunday.

The Newton County Coroner’s Office in Indiana identified the victim as John Ingram Brandenburg Jr. of Chicago. No age was given. He was among four “young men” found on an abandoned farm in rural Lake Village on October 18, 1983, according to the office.

Two others, Michael Bauer and John Bartlett, have already been identified, leaving one victim nameless, according to authorities.

Brandenburg, called “Johnny” by his mother, had been drugged and killed by Eyler, who confessed to at least 20 killings before dying in an Illinois prison in 1994. Eyler was on death row for the 1984 murder of Danny Bridges, a 15-year-old.

Indiana authorities worked with the nonprofit DNA Doe Project, which uses genetic genealogy, and others to find a match to a family member. That led to the positive identification earlier this month, according to the coroner’s office.

“While my heart breaks for this family, I’m thankful that they finally have some of the answers they’ve waited so long for, and I hope this brings them peace,” Rebecca Goddard, a Newton County prosecutor, said in a statement Sunday from the DNA Doe Project.

She worked on the case with Indiana State Police. The prosecutor’s office and state police didn’t return messages left Sunday.

The coroner’s office said Brandenburg’s family had been contacted and authorities would not release further information until relatives gave further permission.

A Little Ditty About A Serial Killer

Inspiration strikes in the strangest of places.

Belle Gunness was a lady fair

In Indiana State.

She weighed about three hundred pounds,

And that is quite a weight.

That she was stronger than a man

Her neighbors all did own;

She butchered hogs quite easily,

And did it all alone.

But hogs were just a sideline

She indulged in now and then;

Her favorite occupation

Was a-butchering of men

Anonymous, “The Ballad of Belle Gunness”