“You didn’t have to face what I had to face,” Hilma Marie Witte told her mother, Marcie O’Donnell. Referring to the dismemberment of her murdered mother-in-law, Elaine Witte, she continued, “I just finished the head.”
On this date in 1986, Michael “Mike” Wayne Jackson (41) shot and killed probation officer Tom Gahl during a home visit. Jackson fled, setting off a three state crime spree during which he is suspected of committing kidnappings and two other murders in his effort to evade law enforcement. Briefly named to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, Jackson was cornered in a Wright City, Missouri barn where he ended his own life with a self-inflicted shotgun wound ten days later.
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.
Sometime in the late evening of September 17, 1983, the Osbourne family of Fort Wayne were bludgeoned in their home. Killed were father R. Daniel Osborne (35), his wife, Jane (34), their son, Ben (11), and the family dog. The couple’s daughter, Caroline (2), was also beaten but managed to survive. Both Jane and Caroline had been sexually assaulted. Almost unimaginably, the tragedy was not discovered for two days, during which time the toddler was left alone with the corpses of her parents and brother. When rescued, she reportedly told police “Mommy and Daddy are sleeping.”
After being charged with an unrelated crime four months later, Calvin Perry III (18), apparently confessed to killing the Osbournes. But he would never be put on trial for the crimes. Perry was found dead, hanging in his cell, within 48 hours of his incarceration. His guilt is still debated to this day.
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
“I just came back from the basement. I thought I heard my loving children saying Dad-Dad, I’m cold, but they were dead, they died instantly. Tina died the fastest. Kingston, Boogie, Kina refused to die, so I reloaded the gun with shaking hands, telling them, please, don’t suffer. I will help you die faster … I keep hearing children in the basement saying Dad-Dad, come here, I’m cold, Dad-Dad. I’ve kissed them again and talk to them (their spirit lived, they’re in heaven) … The children’s voice is now getting louder down in the basement. They won’t want me up here, and them down there, for I know they’re just babies.”– mass murderer King Edmund Bell, who killed his four children, estranged wife, and her mother
Date: November 30, 1971
Place: 1318 North LaSalle Street, Indianapolis
Perpetrators: Fred Harbison and Ted Uland, perhaps unnamed others
Claim to Infamy: At least one person entered into the home shared by businessmen Bob Gierse and Bob Hinson, killing both men, along with their friend James Barker. The victims’ throats were cut so deeply in the attack, they were almost beheaded. The multiple murder was one of the most sensational crimes to occur in the state at the time.
Current Status: After decades of rumors and allegations against various individuals, in 1998, Fred Harbison wrote a deathbed confession to the killings. In his letter, he stated he had been hired to act as a hitman by Ted Uland, Gierse and Hinson’s former employer. Uland possessed insurance policies on both men that were about to expire. He also believed Gierse and Hinson had stolen several thousand dollars from him and wanted revenge. The third victim, James Baker, had been killed because he came to the house to visit his friends and happened upon the murders in progress.
Unfortunately, Uland had preceded Harbison in death. In 2003, the case was granted an exceptional clearance and declared closed.
Random Disturbing Fact: Although theft was apparently a motive for the crime, in a no-honor-among-felons twist, Uland reneged on their deal and refused to pay Harbison for the murders.
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.