Advances in crime scene investigation and DNA technology have improved policing. But sadly, some gruesome murders still remain unsolved. No matter how hard detectives work, some killers stay undetected. Their victims are left without justice, even decades later. Family members left behind to mourn can’t find closure. Investigators are haunted by the uncertainty. In particular, these unsolved murders of everyday American women have baffled and frustrated investigators for years.
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10 Garnet Ginn
Garnet Ginn was a popular home economics teacher in the small town of Portland, Indiana. So when she didn’t show up to school one day in February 1950, students were alarmed, and the district superintendent went to her home to check on her. In the garage, Ginn’s lifeless body was found hanging with a sewing machine belt around her neck. Police determined she’d died by suicide. The beloved teacher’s body was released to a funeral home, and she was buried.
Weeks later, Ginn’s family exhumed her body and requested an autopsy. The coroner found she’d been strangled before being hanged. She’d also been struck in the head at least seven times prior to death. Police took another look at the garage and found broken ceiling planks. Cops developed a new theory: Ginn was attacked in her garage after returning home one night. A neighbor reported hearing a scream around the time of Ginn’s arrival but thought it was a cat. Another neighbor saw a shadow in the garage that night but figured it was Ginn. Police have never determined the killer’s identity.
9 Betty Gail Brown
In late October 1961, Betty Gail Brown spent a late night studying at Transylvania College in Lexington, Kentucky. Just before midnight, she checked out of her dorm, got her car, and drove away to her parents’ home. Witnesses reported she later returned to campus and parked in the driveway of a building. Increasingly worried about her daughter as the hours ticked away, Brown’s mother, Quincy, drove the route between the family home and the college three times. She never drove by the building where the car was parked, though, and couldn’t find her daughter.
After 3:00 am, a police officer pulled Quincy over. There, he informed the worried mother of her worst nightmare: two hours earlier, Betty Gail was found dead in her car. The college student had been strangled with her own bra. Police discovered that Betty Gail had not been otherwise assaulted. Her purse was left untouched, too, eliminating robbery as a motive. The car keys were found in the backseat.
Four years later, an Oregon man confessed to Betty Gail’s murder. Quincy was skeptical, but the man was extradited to Kentucky and charged with the crime. His trial resulted in a hung jury. Afterward, he recanted his confession and was never retried. Detectives have never again come across a solid lead. More than six decades later, Betty Gail’s murder remains unsolved.
8 Leota Camp
Leota Camp’s world was as it should have been on the morning of July 10, 1967. The Des Moines, Iowa, housewife said goodbye to her husband as he left for work and began the day’s chores. First, the 25-year-old hung laundry in the backyard as the couple’s three-year-old daughter Brenda and four-year-old son Kevin played nearby. Then, she went inside to check on her newborn daughter, Kristine. The two older kids played outside until noon when they went in for lunch. There, they discovered an unimaginable scene: their beloved mother was lying face down with her mouth, hands, and feet bound. She’d been stabbed four times. The knife was still in her back.
The kids rushed to a neighbor’s house for help. First responders reached Camp while she was still alive. Sadly, the wounds to her upper back were too much, and Leota died on the way to the hospital. Police discovered nothing was stolen from the home, and the kids hadn’t heard a struggle while outside. A neighbor reported seeing a man in a black Ford Mustang parked near the Camp home before the murder, but that lead went nowhere. In the years since, police have never found her killer.
7 Maria Abbatiello-Smith
Maria Abbatiello-Smith’s murder has vexed Colorado cops for 45 years. On November 20, 1977, the 30-year-old woman was reported missing after she failed to show up for work at the Airman’s Club on Lowry Air Force Base in east Denver. Cops didn’t have much to go on at first. That changed six days later when her body was found in a field on Mariposa Street a mile south of downtown Denver.
Investigators confirmed the dead woman’s identity and were able to determine she’d been murdered. From there, the case went cold. Police have been searching for leads in the decades since, but nothing has developed. The Denver Police Department still considers the case active and hopes to one day find her killer, but there’s not much to go on.
6 Lisa Au
Lisa Au finished her shift as a hairdresser at the Susan Beers Salon in the city of Kailua on the evening of January 20, 1982. From there, the 19-year-old told coworkers she was off to see her boyfriend at his sister’s apartment across the island of Oahu in Makiki. Along the way, she stopped to buy poke. She reached the apartment and hung out with her boyfriend for a few hours before leaving for the drive home back to Kailua. Sadly, she never got there. The next day, Au’s worried parents called her boyfriend. When he retraced her likely trip from his sister’s apartment back home, he found her car on the side of the highway. The driver’s window was rolled halfway down. Inside, the man found her purse, but her driver’s license was missing.
The missing ID suggested to detectives that a police officer could have been involved in Au’s disappearance. Investigators launched an island-wide search, and less than two weeks later, Lisa’s body was found in a ravine. A police officer who lived near Au and had recently been charged with sexual harassment in a separate case was arrested. However, no evidence could be linked to him, and prosecutors opted not to indict him. Au’s driver’s license was found, too: she had accidentally left it at the poke shop while paying with a check earlier that night. A newspaper delivery driver in the area later told cops that at 2:30 am on the night of Au’s disappearance, he saw a man driving with what appeared to be an unconscious female passenger. That tip went nowhere, though, and detectives remain baffled by the case 40 years later.
5 Mary Schlais
Mary Schlais was a college student in Minnesota in 1974 when she decided to hitchhike down Interstate 94 to Chicago for an art show. She hitchhiked often during her college years, but this time would be her last. Hours after she left, a man in rural Minnesota called the police after seeing someone park on the side of a road and throw a body into a ditch. Police responded and discovered Schlais’ corpse. She had been stabbed more than 15 times. The witness’s information was used by a sketch artist to create a profile, but no arrests were ever made.
In 2009, Schlais’ body was exhumed by investigators seeking DNA evidence. A rough profile matched Randall Woodfield, a former pro football prospect who cops claim killed more than 40 women in his life. Woodfield had previously been convicted of a different murder and was serving a 90-year prison term. Because he was already incarcerated, Minnesota investigators were never able to interview Woodfield about Schlais’s death. Her case remains open.
4 Suellen Evans
Suellen Evans was a 21-year-old student at the University of North Carolina in the summer of 1965. July 30 was like any other day for Evans: She saw friends on campus and visited a professor’s midday office hours. Hoping to save time walking back to her dorm before driving home for the weekend, she cut through the campus’s arboretum. Inside the nature preserve, she was grabbed from behind by a man who unexpectedly emerged from the bushes.
Evans screamed and fought back. Her tenacity must have shocked the attacker because he fled. The disturbance alerted another student and a nun who were passing by. Sadly, prior to fleeing, the attacker had slashed Evans’s throat and stabbed her in the chest. She quickly bled to death in the nun’s arms. Police quickly detained five different people on campus but didn’t have evidence to bring charges. A thorough search of the arboretum failed to turn up the weapon used in the attack. From there, the case stumped the police. Evans’s murderer has never been found.
3 Tamara Lee Tigard
In April 1980, fishermen outside Oklahoma City discovered the body of a woman on a riverbank. She had been shot. She was also covered in lime, which police suspected was meant to quicken decomposition. Ironically, the substance partially mummified the victim, preserving evidence. Still, police couldn’t determine her identity, even with dental x-rays and a unique tattoo on her chest. The media dubbed her the “Lime Lady,” and the case grew cold.
Forty years later, the DNA Doe Project was able to match the woman’s dental records to a set from a U.S. Army private. With that, researchers concluded the Lime Lady’s name was Tamara Lee Tigard. Her remains had been discovered on what would have been her 21st birthday. But even with this new knowledge, police still don’t know what led to her death. While the Lime Lady’s identity is known, the circumstances of Tigard’s murder remain a mystery.
2 Joanne Reynolds
Joanne Reynolds was an aspiring singer studying music at Rhode Island Junior College. One night in February 1980, the student returned home to her rented cottage in the city of North Kingstown. The next day, her lifeless body was discovered in her room. She’d been stabbed more than a dozen times. Neighbors in the apartment building next door confirmed they saw her return home late the night before. But despite being so close to the scene, no one reported hearing strange noises or seeing suspicious activity that night.
Police determined she had been killed at some point between midnight and 10 am. Beyond that, detectives didn’t have much to go on. Joanne kept mostly to herself before her murder. Police have always suspected she knew her killer since there was no sign of forced entry at the crime scene. In recent years, cold-case detectives have tried to find information through social media leads. Sadly, Joanne’s murder still remains unsolved.
1 Lillian Richey
Lillian Richey was a 51-year-old widow living alone in Nampa, Idaho, in 1964. One February night, she visited a nightclub with a friend who was in town for a livestock convention. The friend drove her home late that night and dropped her off after 2 am before going to his hotel. The next morning, he drove back to Lillian’s house to return the car and have breakfast. However, she was nowhere to be found. When she didn’t show up for work at a local jewelry store the next day, friends called the police.
After investigating him, police cleared Lillian’s friend of suspicion in her disappearance. Unfortunately, police weren’t able to find any trace of the widow. Decades went by without any solid leads, and she was presumed dead. In 2018, the Nampa Police Department acted on a tip that Richey had been killed and buried in the foundation of a school building. With help from a local college archaeology department, investigators excavated under the building. The search didn’t turn up any remains, though. Richey’s disappearance remains a mystery.