I'm a Tennessee-based freelance writer with a passion for true crime, a thirst for knowledge, and an obsession with lists.
There is no specified time frame in which an investigation must be declared a cold case. Typically the term is applied to those cases deemed to have been investigated from all possible angles without an arrest of a suspect. Cold cases, sometimes referred to as “inactive” or “archived,” are never really closed, with the exception of rare circumstances, in hopes one day new forensic science or a deathbed confession will lead to obtaining justice for the victim or victims.
In some cities, police departments are forming groups of detectives dubbed “Cold Case Squads.” These officers are assigned the task of re-investigating unsolved crimes – usually murder. Following the trail of a crime which has long grown cold, these men and and women use their “fresh eyes,” investigative talents, and new science to lead them to the doors of criminals who most often believe they’ve gotten away with their dirty deeds.
Solving a cold case crime is a quite an accomplishment, but extremely difficult. Detectives welcome all the help they can get to name a suspect and get closure for victims’ families.
The following five true stories are about real life cold cases in which detectives could use some help in solving. If you have any information about these crimes, no matter how insignificant you believe it to be, please contact the agencies listed at the end of each crime summary.
Thank you for taking the time to read about these cases. You never know when you could help get a criminal off the streets, making America a safer place for everyone.
1. The Missing Trio from Fort Worth, Texas
On the morning of December 23, 1974, Julie Ann Moseley, Rachel Arnold Trlica, and Lisa Renee Wilson set out for a day of shopping to the (then) glitzy Seminary South Shopping Center in south Fort Worth, Texas. They were supposed to be home by 4 p.m. but they never returned.
For 37 years, The Missing Trio case, as it has been dubbed, has haunted investigators. At first, police believed the girls (ages 17, 14, and 9) were runaways but as time passed and more information came to light, foul play was considered.
The girls were last seen at the mall by several witnesses the day of their disappearance, including a few friends. One witness claimed to see the girls being hustled into a van by an older man while another account places the girls in the back of a security patrol car.
There is speculation Rachel’s husband of six months at the time of her disappearance, Thomas “Tommy” Trlica, and her older sister, who had been Tommy’s girlfriend before he began dating Rachel, are involved but there is no evidence to support this theory.
If you have any information about The Missing Trio, please call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or visit www.missingtrio.com..
2. The Keddie Cabin Murders of Keddie, California
On April 12, 1981, returning from a sleepover with a friend to Cabin 28 at Keddie Resort, 14 year-old Sheila Sharp discovered a horrific scene. Her mother, Glenna Susan “Sue” Sharp, her brother John Sharp, and John’s friend, Dana Wingate, were bound with electrical wired and medical tape and had been bludgeoned to death with a claw hammer. Two more of Sheila’s brothers and their friend were found unharmed in their bedroom. Younger sister, Tina Sharp, however, was missing; her head would be recovered three years later near a waterfall fifty miles “down the hill” from Cabin 28.
There’s been many theories as to what occurred at the Keddie cabin that fateful night, from whispers of Satanic cult rituals to a case of mistaken identity by drug dealers. Some have also theorized the murders may have been directed at Sue personally as she was pregnant at the time of her death and reputed to be sexually promiscuous.
In the latter months of 1981, police extensively questioned two men, Marty Smartt and John “Bo” Boubede. Smartt was the stepfather of the young boy spending the night with the Sharp brothers and one of three survivors. It was reported a search of Smartt’s nearby cabin uncovered a jacket believed to belong to Tina. However, both men were later released and from there the case went cold. Smartt died in 2002 and Boubede is believed to have died in 1986.
In 2008, the case gained public interest when a fictional horror film titled The Strangers was released starring Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman. The movie was said to be (very) loosely based on the events of the Keddie, California, murders. At the end of the movie, however, screen text says the movie was based on events which occurred in the producer’s neighborhood during his childhood and the infamous Manson murders.
The renewed interest in the case inspired a group of filmmakers to investigate the Sharp family murders and in 2010 they released a two-part documentary titled Cabin 28: The Keddie Murders.
Internet forums are alive and active with information about the Keddie murders, but investigators still need help solving this case. If you have any information, please call the Plumas County Sheriff’s Department at (530) 283-6363 or visit www.countyofplumas.com.
3. Sharon Marshall / Tonya Tadlock Hughes / Suzanne Davis
Very little is known about the young girl who died under the alias Tonya Hughes. It’s believed she left this life without ever knowing her own true identity or from where she originated.
Believed to have been abducted by Franklin Delano Floyd between June 1973 and August 1975, she was most likely born between 1967 and 1970. She and Floyd, whom she referred to as “Dad,” moved frequently and she would be known by several aliases, including Sharon Marshall and Suzanne Davis in the many schools she attended throughout her short life.
Schoolmates and teachers who met Tonya/Sharon/Suzanne, describe her as very intelligent, beautiful, and outgoing, yet absolutely nothing was known about her home life and no one thought much about it until it was too late.
In March 1988, using the alias Tonya Dawn Tadlock, she gave birth to a son she named Michael Anthony Hughes. Because she had given the child the same surname as Floyd was using at the time (Charles Hughes and, at other times Clarence Marcus Hughes), it was believed he had fathered Michael. However, DNA testing done in the 1990s proved this to be incorrect.
April 1990 brought a sad end to Tonya’s life when she was killed in a suspicious hit and run accident in Oklahoma. At the time, both Tonya and Floyd were sought for questioning in the brutal death of Cheryl Ann Commesso, a friend and former co-worker of Tonya’s when she worked as an exotic dancer in Florida.
Although in previous years Floyd had claimed to be Sharon/Tonya/Suzanne’s father, the couple had wed under the aliases of Hughes and Tadlock in 1989 in New Orleans, Louisiana.
Floyd was a suspect in the death of his daughter/wife and child protective services placed Michael in foster care. When DNA results proved Floyd was not his father, all visitation privileges were revoked. But in September 1994, Floyd abducted Michael from Indian Meridian Elementary School in Choctaw, Oklahoma, while holding teachers and staff at gunpoint. Michael has never been seen again.
A few years later while living in Kentucky, a mechanic assigned to work on a vehicle which had formerly belonged to Floyd, discovered 97 graphic photos hidden above the gas tank showing Sharon/Tonya/Suzanne, Cheryl Commesso, and other unidentified women being subjected to physical and sexual abuse. The photographs were used as evidence to obtain a murder conviction against Floyd in a 2002 trial for the murder of Commesso. Floyd currently sits on death row at the Union Correctional Facility in Raiford, Florida.
After his arrest, it was learned Floyd suffered from schizophrenia and had previously been incarcerated for the abduction and rape of a young woman in 1962, in addition to a multitude of other felonies.
Sharon Marshall, a.k.a. Tonya Dawn Tadlock, a.k.a. Suzanne Davis’ identity remains unknown. Floyd, although a suspect, has never been charged with her murder. Michael Hughes’ body has never been recovered.
Someone somewhere has heard the story about a child who went missing from their family or a friend. Somebody out there knows this beautiful young lady’s true identity. Please, I implore you, if you have heard one of these stories or believe you may have information about Sharon/Tonya/Suzanne or the whereabouts of Michael Hughes, please contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at i-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
Interested persons can stay updated on recent events surrounding the case through the Sharon Marshall/Suzanne Davis/Tonya Tadlock Hughes Facebook page.
UPDATE! In 2014, DNA identified the woman once known as Sharon Marshall as Suzanne Marie Sevakis. She was abducted at the age of 5 in 1975 from her North Carolina home. Her mother, Sandra Chipman, was married to Floyd for a short while. While she was in jail on a bad check charge, Floyd absconded with her daughter and her other children from a second marriage. Upon her release, Sandra found three of her children had been surrendered to social services. She was reunited with two of her daughters but Suzanne and her brother were no where to be found.
4. Betsy Aardsma of Penn State University
The time was 4:45 p.m. in the Pattee Library at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania, on November 28, 1969. Ten minutes later, a man who has never been identified told a desk clerk, “Somebody better help that girl" before walking away. Rushing to the stacks, the clerk found 22 year old English major Betsy Ruth Aardsma.
Believing Betsy had suffered a seizure or something similar, she was rushed to the hospital. There it was discovered Betsy had been stabbed but the wound had produced only a small amount of blood and it camouflaged by the red dress Betsy was wearing. Despite vigorous life-saving efforts, at 5:15 p.m. Betsy was pronounced dead.
In 1990, Pamela West authored a book titled 20/20 Vision which is a science fiction story based on the actual events surrounding the murder of Betsy Aardsma. West had spent years researching the case and had intended to write a true crime book but felt the libel risk was too great since many involved were still living.
However, in 2011, Derek Sherwood released a bestselling book titled Who Killed Betsy?: Uncovering Penn State University’s Most Notorious Unsolved Crime. In his book, Sherwood reveals Richard Charles Haefner, a Geology graduate student at Penn State in 1969, became a key person of interest in Betsy’s murder. Haefner was initially a person of interest because of his strange behavior before and after the murder but became a suspect in 2009 when police became aware of his explosive temper, penchant for violence toward women and pedophilia.
Betsy’s murder has remained unsolved for decades but Pennsylvania State Police are still actively pursuing leads in the case. If you believe you may have information to help solve this four decades old case, please call (717) 783-5599 or visit the Pennsylvania State Police website.
5. Haleigh Ann-Marie Cummings of Satsuma, Florida
In the pre-dawn hours of February 10, 2009, a frantic call came into 911. A young woman’s voice said, “We just woke up and found our door propped open and we can’t find our daughter.”
After a few more words between the emergency dispatcher and the woman, Ronald Lemyles Cummings, Sr. took over. Amid hyperventilating-like breathing, screaming at someone in the background, and a barrage of cursing and threats, the dispatcher learned his 5 year old daughter Haleigh Ann-Marie Cummings was missing.
Ronald went to work in the late evening of February 9 and left Haleigh and her younger brother, Ronald Jr., in the care of his 17 year old, live-in girlfriend Misty Janette Croslin. According to Misty, Haleigh and Junior had been sleeping soundly when she went to bed, in the same room, at about 10:00 p.m. Not long before Ronald was to arrive home, however, Misty awoke to go to the bathroom and noticed the kitchen light was on and the back door propped open with a cinder block. Going back to the bedroom to call Ronald, she realized Haleigh was missing. She made no attempts to contact law enforcement until Ronald arrived around 3:00 a.m. and demanded she call 911.
Despite intense search efforts by law enforcement and volunteers, Haleigh has never been found. In the years since Haleigh disappeared, there has been much speculation about what happened to the little girl. Most of the theories point the finger at her father and his girlfriend. In an odd twist, one month after Haleigh disappeared, Ronald married Misty in a small civil ceremony. However, the marriage was short lived and before 2009 came to a close, Ronald was on national television claiming he’d married Misty in attempt to gain information about his daughters whereabouts because he believes she knows more than she’s telling investigators.
Crystal Sheffield, Haleigh’s mother who lost custody of her children to her ex-boyfriend in 2006, has made it clear she believes Misty, at the very least, played an important role in her daughter’s disappearance.
In the latter months of 2009, Misty Croslin and her brother Hank Thomas “Tommy” Croslin, Jr. publicly accused their cousin, Joseph “Joe” Overstreet, of abducting Haleigh. Overstreet, a resident of Tennessee, was in Florida at the time of Haleigh’s disappearance and left to return to Tennessee just hours before she vanished. Overstreet denies any involvement in Haleigh’s case and has never been officially named as a suspect.
In January 2010, Ronald, Misty, and Tommy were arrested on unrelated drug trafficking charges. Ronald and Tommy pleaded guilty and received 15 years in prison while Misty, who pleaded no contest, received 25 years. Many who have watched the story of Haleigh Cummings unfold from the beginning believe the long sentences were most likely based on unspoken biases by judges who believe they are guilty of murdering the missing girl.
If you have any information on the whereabouts of Haleigh Cummings or any of those involved, please contact the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department at (386) 329-0801 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).
© 2016 Kim Bryan
Kim Bryan (author) on April 12, 2016:
I'm not, JG. Just a woman with a weird hobby. (lol)
JG Hemlock on April 07, 2016:
You post much on murders etc. Are you a detective or a private investigator? Just curious Kim. It is very sad to see all of these cold cases.