November 9, 2001: Amanda Van Scyoc, 18, was reportedly last seen alive by her mother, Linda Warner, shortly before the elder woman left for work. Four days later, Amanda’s nude body was found by deer hunters near the Ohio River. An autopsy later revealed both that she’d been strangled to death at least three days prior to her body being found and, according to multiple news reports, semen belonging to her stepfather was collected from her remains. Despite this, no one was ever charged in connection with her death and the case is still officially listed as unsolved.
For more about Amanda’s murder, check in again later this week for the full case write-up. In the meantime, anyone with information is encouraged to contact:
Indiana State Police District Investigative Commander 19411 Highway 41 North Evansville, IN 47725 1-812-867-2079 or 1-800-852-3970
On this day in 1983, the bodies of Jamie Engelking (21), her children Jessica Brown (2) and Brandon Engelking, Jr. (1), along with family friend Amanda Davis (12), were found buried in a shallow grave in Bartholomew County. They had disappeared the previous August when Jamie took the children camping.
Robert Bassett Jr. was found guilty of the murders in 1998 and sentenced to four life sentences without the possibility of parole. The Indiana Supreme Court later overturned that conviction, stating pre-trial publicity had tainted the jury. Bassett was tried and convicted again a couple years later.
On this day in 1897, a vengeful mob broke into the Ripley County Jail and forcibly removed five robbery suspects before lynching them. The vigilantes strung up the suspects’ naked and battered bodies from an elm tree about two blocks from the jail then dispersed a little before 1 AM. It is believed that an estimated 250 people were present during the hanging. Approximately only 800 people lived in Versailles at the time.
The lynching victims were identified as:
LYLE LEVI, 57, shot through the breast then dragged to the tree and hanged
WILLIAM JENKINS, 27, skull crushed in with a stool, noose put around neck, body dragged to the tree and suspended
HENRY SCHULER, 24, skull crushed, body dragged to the tree and suspended
CLIFFORD GORDON, 22, bound, dragged to the tree and hanged
ALBERT ANDREWS, 30, bound, dragged to the tree and hanged
July 9, 1904 – William Starbuck returns from a “trip to town” and cannot find his wife Mollie or infant daughter. After a thorough search of their Greensboro farm, he hears the distant sound of a woman’s shrieks. Following the shouts into the forest, the desperate man finally traces their source to an abandoned cistern where he finds Mollie. Bruised and raving at the bottom of the well, she’s screaming about being chased by a monster, and the body of baby Beulah’s is floating in the water beside her.
Mollie dies two days later without ever regaining her sanity. She is buried in the same grave as her child.
Although her physician proposes that Mollie was suffering hallucinations brought on by postpartum depresssion which then caused her to kill both herself and her daughter, a reward worth more than $10,000 in today’s currency is offered to anyone who can prove otherwise. A freelance detective soon provides a likely young suspect, Haley Gipe. Gipe is eventually convicted on shoddy evidence and serves six years in connection with the crime.
1996: Herb Baumeister Eats His Last Peanut Butter Sandwich
July 3, 1996 – Suspected serial killer Herb Baumeister kills himself with a single gunshot to the head rather than answer questions regarding human remains on his Westfield estate. In his suicide note, the founder of Sav-A-Lot thrift stores states his intention to eat his favorite snack, a peanut butter sandwich, and then “go to sleep.”
The remains of eleven men were found on his property, only eight of whom were eventually identified.
He is also suspected of being the I-70 Strangler, killing at least nine and dumping their bodies along the interstate between Indianapolis and Ohio.
Judy Kirby exits the Morgan County courthouse, May 2001.
On March 25, 2000, a Martinsville resident deliberately drove her car into oncoming traffic, killing six children and one adult.
Estimated to have been travelling at over 90 miles per hour, Judy Kirby was headed northbound in the southbound lane of Indiana State Highway 67 when her rammed into a van driven by Thomas Reel (40). Reel and his two children, Jessica (14) and Bradley (13), were killed in the collision. Kirby’s three children, Jordan (12), Joney (9), and Jacob (5)—as well as a nephew she was raising, Jeremy Young (10)—also died.
Kirby was found guilty of seven counts of murder and sentenced to 215 years in prison in connection with the crash. Her request for a new trial was denied in 2016.
March 18, 1986, the body of Dawn Stuard, an eighth-grader at Forest Manor Junior High, was found facedown in the mud along the banks of Pogues Run on the east side of Indianapolis. The location was just seven blocks from her home.
More than twenty-five years later, Paul Reese, Sr. was convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering the girl after witnesses and DNA evidence tied him to her killing. At the time of his murder trial, Reese was already incarcerated in connection with a crime spree which had resulted in the shooting of IMPD Officer Jason Fishburn. He was sentenced to an additional sixy years for taking Dawn’s life.
On March 9, 1995, Orville Lynn Majors was suspended with pay from his nursing position in Vermillion County Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit after supervisors noticed that an usual number of patients died while he was on duty. Although his victim count is believed to be far higher, he was later found guilty of six counts of murder and sentenced to 360 years. In 2017, Majors died of natural causes in prison.
On February 25, 1937, Franklin County Judge Roscoe C. O’Byrne sentenced two men, John J. Poholsky and Frank Gore Williams, to be executed for their participation in a grisly murder scheme. The two ex-cons, along with co-conspirators Heber “Jimmy” Hicks and William A. Kuhlman, had killed and dismembered retired fire captain Harry R. Miller of New Trenton, Indiana in a plot to steal the dead man’s wealth. The corpse was then disposed of in various locations, including along the banks of a lake near Carrolltown, Kentucky (pictured above). Eventually, all four men would be put to death for the crime.
Just after midnight on February 14, 1977, Roger Drollinger (23), Michael Wright (21), Daniel Stonebraker (20), and David Smith (17) forced their way into a remote trailer near Raccoon Lake in Parke County. Within an hour, they had robbed, tortured, and brutally shot five people inside. What they didn’t realize was that someone had survived.
Betty Jane Spencer was watching television with her son Gregory Brooks (22) and stepson Ralph Spencer (14) when four men cut the mobile home’s electricity and kicked in the door. The intruders pulled Reeve Spencer (16) out of bed then ordered everyone to “get down, noses to the ground.” Forcing the family to lay down shoulder-to-shoulder on the living room floor, the armed men ransacked the mobile home. When Raymond Spencer (17) arrived home from work, he was also forced to line up on the ground. The men demanded money and were given everything the blended family had — roughly $30. Then, Betty said, “I heard some clicking noises behind me. Suddenly a shot was fired and a piece of Greg’s head fell right beside my face.”
The home invaders fired a total of eleven shots into their victims. Yet somehow, Betty was still alive. Realizing her attackers believed they’d succeeded in killing her, she remained as still as possible, helplessly playing dead and listening as blood gushed from her sons’ wounds. Once the killers left, she walked through the snow to her neighbor’s house to report the murders of her sons. The detailed eyewitness information she was able to give police eventually led to the convictions of all four men.