Many people find themselves inexplicably drawn to horrific murder mysteries. We read about them and watch TV programs on the topic, comforted by the fact that the events generally involve complete strangers. We never consider the possibility of stumbling across a mutilated body part while walking the dog or taking a run.
10The Man In The Suitcase
In January 2015, authorities were called to investigate a suspicious suitcase left on the sidewalk of a San Francisco street. A dismembered torso was found in the case. Soon after, police discovered a leg and a foot in a nearby trash can. Surveillance recordings pointed officials toward 54-year-old Mark Andrus. He was seen wheeling the suitcase along the street with several backpacks slung over his shoulder.
DNA evidence revealed the victim to be Andrus’s friend and former roommate, 58-year-old Omar Shahwan. A small-time drug dealer and long-time drug user, Andrus was released after questioning due to lack of evidence. Less than a week later, he was admitted to a hospital where he died of drug-related septic shock. His public defender, Jess Adachi, stated that he was “engaging and kind,” while Mark Keefer, a mutual friend of his and Shahwan’s, showed surprise and disbelief at the alleged actions.
With the only suspect dead, authorities followed the digital trail from Andrus’s mobile phone to find the hotel where he stayed. Shahwan had also been checked into the same room. Officials questioned the neighbors, who reported hearing loud banging on the walls and someone begging for mercy. No evidence of murder was visible in the room when they searched a month later, but Andrus’s phone revealed that he had recently searched for hand saws and power tools. Officials have closed the case, believing that Andrus is to blame even though there’s no apparent motive and the murder weapon hasn’t been found. Another problem is that the victim’s head and hands are also undiscovered.
9The River Of Traveling Body Parts
As recently as February 2016, a human head and torso washed up along the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand. Considering the size of the river and all the canals running into it, it was not surprising that various body parts were found in different districts. A lower leg was found by a boat operator, who roped it in and called the officials. A plastic-wrapped head had been swept under a riverside house, and a dockyard worker discovered a severed arm tangled in weeds. All of them came from the same body.
Police believed that the body belonged to a man of Asian descent and suspected that the Chinese Triads were responsible due to the method of disposal. By the end of that week, a total of seven body parts had been found. One of them was a hand, which helped the police identify the victim as Spanish businessman David Bernat. An autopsy revealed signs of torture and suffocation. According to police, Bernat was forced to transfer money to people in Thailand, Spain, and Singapore. More than $1 million was transferred from his accounts right before his death.
The investigation led police to a condominium that was believed to be the location of Bernat’s torture, murder, and dismemberment. DNA collected at the scene belonged to Artur Segarra Pricepand and a female accomplice. Pricepand was apprehended in Cambodia and handed over to the Thai police.
Thai officials are confident about the case. Between the incriminating statements from Pricepand’s girlfriend and the money that was transferred from Bernat’s account to Pricepand’s, they hope they’ll be able to get a conviction. The investigation is ongoing.
8The Sunday Handful
On a lazy Sunday in March 2001, 19-year-old Marcus Quinones got into a Jeep Cherokee expecting to smoke marijuana with his three friends, Frank Sanchez-Collins, Steven Quinlan, and Osiris Para. The situation quickly changed when two of his companions retrieved a bloody bag from the nearby dust bin and started boasting about their murderous exploits the night before. Osiris Para reacted to the bloody contents with disgust, while Quinones refused to look inside.
Meanwhile, Officer Todd Costa of the Massachusetts Police Department was on a routine traffic patrol. He first noticed the Jeep because the trinkets hanging off the rearview mirror obstructed the driver’s view.
With assistance from a fellow patrolman, Costa stopped the Jeep in a nearby parking lot. There, he learned that the driver, 18-year-old Osiris Para, had no license or registration. According to Officer Costa, he was going to let the youngsters off with citations, but the discovery of an outstanding traffic warrant for Quinlan led to a closer look at the vehicle. Costa recovered the plastic bag, which contained two pairs of severed human hands. Para and Quinones stated that they had nothing to do with the remains and fully cooperated during the investigation and the trials. It seemed that Quinlan and Collins had been on their way to dump the hands into Fall River via Braga Bridge just before they were pulled over.
Further investigation turned up two bodies, belonging to 20-year-old Rafael Edwards Ortega and 22-year-old Michael Batista, in the shared apartment of Quinlan and Collins. The bodies had been brutally beaten, stabbed, and dismembered. It became clear that the murder was premeditated and had been carried out with hammers and combat knives. Collins reportedly bragged about cutting Batista’s ear off as he begged for his life. Medical examiners counted 31 stab wounds to Batista’s face alone, and Ortega was so violently beaten that his left eye had ruptured.
According to Quinones, the two were murdered because of a dead car battery and a debt of $300. Both Collins and Quinlan were found guilty of murder and conspiracy to commit murder and were given life sentences without the possibility of parole.
7The Chicago Child
In 2015, police recovered a suspicious object found floating in a lake in Chicago’s Garfield Park. It turned out to be the badly decomposed hands and feet of a small child.
Further searching uncovered the child’s head. Police were able to create a sketch of the child and shared it with the public. The lack of a complete set of remains left basic questions unanswered, such as the child’s gender and cause of death.
Later, DNA samples revealed the victim to be two-year-old Kyrian Knox, who had been missing for months. While Kyrian’s mother was moving from Iowa to Chicago, the child had been staying with some friends of the family. Police hit a dead end because those family friends, Kamel Harris and Danyelle Foggs, refused to cooperate with the investigation. They have not been named as suspects, and all attempts to contact them have gone unanswered. As a result, the case has gone cold.
6The Cold Couple
On a Sunday in January 2016, a passerby noticed a suitcase floating in Lake Traunsee in Austria. He pulled the case ashore and discovered human hands and feet inside. Shortly thereafter, a police dog found a second suitcase containing the rest of the female victim . . . minus the head. The following day, divers trawling the lake discovered the body of a man weighed down by rocks and concrete.
The bodies were identified as a married couple, both in their seventies, from Frankfurt, Germany. The woman’s head was found encased in the concrete used to weigh down her husband’s body. An autopsy identified strangulation as her cause of death, followed by dismemberment with a saw.
Since the man seemed to have drowned without a struggle, police deduced that his death was a suicide. It is believed that the husband strangled and dismembered his wife before he weighed himself down and walked into the lake.
No motive was reported, and police have ruled out any third-party involvement. Many questions still linger regarding the execution of this bizarre murder-suicide.
5The Hollywood Head Case
In January 2012, a woman named Lauren Kornberg and her mother were walking a few dogs close to the famous Hollywood sign. During the walk, one of the pack (a golden retriever named Ollie) found something suspicious in a nearby bush. Kornberg initially thought the object was a film prop, but she soon realized that it was an actual human head. Over 120 investigators, a SWAT team, mounted officers, all-terrain vehicles, and helicopters were brought in to search the Bronson Canyon trail for other remains. The next day, cadaver dogs discovered a pair of hands and feet that had been relocated from their original spot by wild animals.
The unlucky victim was identified as 66-year-old Hervey Medellin. The case stayed quiet for two years. In March 2014, police arrested 38-year-old Gabriel Campos-Martinez, who had fled to San Antonio, Texas, and the rest of Medellin’s body was discovered. It turned out that Medellin and Campos-Martinez had been living together in a Hollywood apartment prior to the grisly events.
Prosecutors believed that in December 2011, Campos-Martinez strangled and dismembered his partner using a saw. He kept the body parts in a fridge until he buried them along the Bronson Canyon trail. A laptop found in the couple’s apartment had previously been used to search how to “butcher a human carcass for human consumption.” At the trial, jurors agreed beyond a reasonable doubt that the search was made by Campos-Martinez. Medellin’s remaining body parts and the tools used to dismember him have not been recovered. Campos-Martinez was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
4The Serial Female Circumciser
A small town in South Africa was rocked to its core in September 2015 when an elderly man named Peter Frederiksen was arrested for having 21 female genitalia neatly packed in his home freezer. Frederiksen, a Danish national who owned a gun store in Bloemfontein, South Africa, was also wanted by Danish police for illegal firearm dealings.
In his house, police found surgical equipment, sedatives, and meticulous records that indicated who each grisly trophy belonged to and when it was removed. They also found a mobile phone with detailed photographs of the circumcision process. Officials believe that Frederiksen’s victims are still alive and have appealed for them to come forward.
Peter Frederiksen denied all charges and claimed that his wife, Anna Matseliso Molise, was the true culprit. He was recorded saying that all the evidence found belonged to her and that she’d given him permission to record the circumcision rituals, which took place in her native country of Lesotho.
Frederiksen was exposed by his wife, who spoke to municipal workers and said that she feared for her life and the lives of their two children. The 28-year-old was allegedly one of his victims and first attempted to report the case at the local police station in early 2015, but she was inexplicably sent home.
Molise was set to testify against her husband and refused witness protection. Before the trial began, she was fatally shot. Frederiksen is now a suspect in her murder, despite shedding tears at his bail application in November 2015 when he heard of his wife’s death.
3The Head At Alligator Alley
The severed head of a 41-year-old New Yorker, Lorraine Hatzakorzian, was found floating in a canal along Alligator Alley in April 2007. The head was in a plastic bag that had come from Waldbaum’s supermarket, a store which only had outlets in Long Island, New York. This gave police their biggest clue, until Douglas Stein showed up at the Port Orange Police Department with a story to tell.
Stein told detectives that two of his roommates had bragged about murdering a woman and dumping her body parts. The woman was last seen leaving her home with Stein’s roommates, Paul Trucchio and Robert Mackey.
The suspects, also from New York, were tree trimmers by trade and had access to the tools that could have been used to dismember Hatzakorzian. They both denied the murderous claims, even though eyewitnesses testified to their numerous confessions on separate occasions. Before the victim was identified, Trucchio and Mackey were pulled over by Port Orange police officers. At the time, the pickup truck they were driving was registered to Hatzakorzian. They were later seen cleaning it out with bleach and other supplies. They tossed the New York license plate, but it was later recovered with the help of police divers. According to witnesses, Trucchio and Mackey even prayed to a small concrete alligator statue in the hopes that the evidence would be eaten.
In 2012, Trucchio signed a plea agreement for second-degree murder. He complained about his lawyer and eventually pleaded no contest, believing he would not receive a fair trial. He was sentenced to 30 years in Florida State Prison and is still professing his innocence. A year later, Mackey was found guilty of accessory after the fact, as jurors believed that while he may not have been involved in killing Hatzakorzian, he certainly helped cover up the crime. Against his lawyers’ advice, Mackey launched into a 25-minute tirade proclaiming his innocence just before being sentenced to 30 years in prison. To date, the remaining body parts of Hatzakorzian have not been found.
2The Owner Of The Leg
In 2007, South Carolina native Shannon Whisnant bought a meat smoker at an abandoned storage unit auction. When he opened the grill, he uncovered a mummified human leg that was cut off just above the knee. Whisnant reported his “plum nasty” findings, seemingly wanting to get rid of it, but once the media picked up the story he quickly changed his tune. In an attempt to prolong his 15 minutes of fame, Whisnant said that he intended on charging admission to see the leg.
Officials tracked down the original owner of the leg, who was still alive and eager to be reunited with the missing limb. Fifty-year-old John Wood had lost his leg in a plane crash that had also claimed the life of his father in 2004. Coming from a wealthy family, Wood was well known in his town and had the reputation of a rebel. He had embalmed the severed leg with the intention of being cremated with it when the time came. The guilt over his father’s death had pushed Wood toward drug and alcohol addiction, which led to his eviction and the subsequent misplacement of his amputated leg.
The question was, who should be allowed to keep the leg?
Whisnant and Wood eventually agreed to plead their cases in front of reality TV’s Judge Mathis. The legally binding decision ruled that Whisnant return the leg to its original owner. Judge Mathis dismissed Wood’s claim for emotional distress and instructed him to reimburse Whisnant $5,000. But the crazy affair didn’t end there.
Finders Keepers, a documentary chronicling the whole sordid story, was released in 2015. According to the filmmakers, Wood liked the film and watched it multiple times. On the other hand, Whisnant felt that he should have been featured more prominently.
Both of the men still seem to be on opposite ends of the scale. In 2014, Whisnant was arrested outside of a Wells Fargo bank, where police seized a .38-caliber handgun and charged him with terrorizing the public while armed. On that same day, Wood won an undisclosed lottery payout, to which he remarked, “Somebody above is really having fun with this story.”
Albinism is a pigment deficiency occasionally found in animals. The results can be milky or translucent skin, white or colorless hair, and eyes with pink or blue irises and deep red pupils. Many people from Tanzania and neighboring countries believe albino people are ghosts who are cursed, but whose body parts can be used for rituals to ward off bad luck or bring wealth and success. Witch doctors on Africa’s east coast have been known to pay big bucks for body parts. According to United Nations experts, individual albino body parts sell for about $600, while the entire body could rake in $75,000.
In February 2015, a one-year-old Tanzanian albino boy was kidnapped. The men broke into his home and attacked his mother with a machete. She survived with cuts to her face and arms, but little Yohana Bahati was not so lucky. The boy’s limbless body was found a week later in a nearby forest.
That same year, a 56-year-old albino man was confronted in his Kenya home by three men demanding money. When they learned that he didn’t have any, they attempted to cut off his ear and hand to sell. The victim, Enock Jamenya, passed out and later awoke in the hospital with deep cuts, but no missing body parts. Five days after being discharged, Jamenya complained about severe headaches and suddenly passed away.
This abhorrent practice has been going on for years, and governments haven’t done much to curb the violence. A decade ago, teenager Bibiana Mashamba barely survived an attack in her home when robbers drugged her and attempted to chop off a leg and two fingers. Luckily, they were interrupted and ran off before they could cut through the rest of her leg. Another victim, 13-year-old Emmanuel Festo, had his left arm and the fingers of his right hand hacked off. He also suffers from a permanent speech impediment caused when his attackers tried to pull out his tongue and teeth.
These children, along with many others, have been sponsored by various charity groups, allowing them to travel to the US to receive world-class medical treatment. However, their lives and those of their fellow albinos are still in danger in their own countries.