Authors: M. William Phelps
Tags: #True Crime, #Murder, #Serial Killers
Every Move You Make
Sleep in Heavenly Peace
Murder in the Heartland
Because You Loved Me
If Looks Could Kill
I’ll Be Watching You
Kill For Me
Failures of the Presidents
Nathan Hale: The Life and Death of America’s First Spy
The Devil’s Rooming House: The True Story of America’s Deadliest
Female Serial Killer
The Devil’s Right Hand: The Tragic Story of the Colt Family Curse
Love Her to Death
Too Young to Kill
Never See Them Again
The Dead Soul: A Thriller
(available as e-book only)
Murder, New England
Jane Doe No More
Kiss of the She-Devil
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
This book is dedicated to Diana Ferris, my sister-in-law. Diana
was five months pregnant when brutally murdered in 1996 by a
perpetrator, I’m convinced, much like the one you will read about
in this book. One of the victims in this case, Randi Saldana,
reminds me of Diana, whose case remains unsolved.
I think it would be helpful to my readers if I say something about the dialogue and dialect you’ll sometimes encounter in this book. Some of the people I’ve quoted speak in what might seem like confusing, grammatically upside-down sentences. Staying true to the way people spoke to me during interviews and to the dialogue I reviewed from the interrogations and interviews conducted by investigators, I have written much of the book to reflect the language and word choices of these real-life individuals. No disrespect is intended. Furthermore, I did not do this to be dramatic or to add flavor, but to reflect their speech accurately.
striped toe sock. Multicolored, like
Attached to a foot, a portion of her naked calf sticking up out of the brush on a clear, crisp, chilly day. Her skin was pale, with a reticular, vein-blue tint to it: sheer adolescence juxtaposed against an unthinkable image of horror. A dead teenager’s body covered by brush, only her foot visible from the road.
, on the afternoon of October 29, 2009, York County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) detective Alex Wallace, a seasoned, dedicated cop with a dozen years behind the badge, took a call to head out to the 1200 block of Robinson Yelton Road in York County, South Carolina. Wallace referred to this area as “a country . . . gravel and dirt road,” same as much of the terrain in this northern part of the state. There were five houses on the road where Wallace sped out to, situated in a fairly secluded section of Clover, the town seat.
When he arrived, Wallace saw other investigators from the sheriff’s office standing down in an area off the side of the road. They were huddled around the body attached to that leg poking out from the brush. As a member of the YCSO’s Violent Crimes Unit, Wallace worked death investigations, sex crimes, armed robberies, aggravated assaults, and missing persons cases. The rough stuff. The type of crimes that hardly ever came with happy endings—those cases that keep good cops, like Wallace, up at night, wondering, shaking their heads in disbelief at the terrible things human beings will do to each other.
After parking and getting out of his vehicle, Wallace walked over to where the officers had gathered. There was a “little drainage area” coming from a nearby creek that ran underneath the road. Three ribbed metal pipes, side by side, with several feet of space between one another, directed the water toward the woods, away from and underneath the road.
Looking closely, Wallace saw the girl’s toe sock poking up from the weeds. Her body was situated between two of the pipes. There was a surreal quality to the scene: the tranquility of the forest, insects humming, birds fluttering, a farming tractor coughing far away, and this dead teen “in a culvert, amongst some bushes and trees.”
“Someone riding an ATV found her,” an officer on scene explained to Wallace.
If you stood where Wallace had on this day, staring down into the drain where the three pipes emptied, the young woman’s body would have come into view. Although there was a mailbox on the edge of the road, maybe twenty-five yards from the body, there were no houses or businesses close to this section of the road. You’re talking thick forest, filled in with dense bushes and tall, dry weeds. There was a house nearby, but not in the eye line of where a potential witness could have seen what happened. It appeared to be a hasty dump site—not the ideal place to hide a body, but also not out in a wide open space, either.
Wallace stepped down into the culvert. The woman’s body was bent over. She was naked from the waist down (except for those rainbow-colored toe socks). All she had on was a hoodie.
Within this scene, there was something that struck the detective as he took it all in: “You could see her breasts, butt, and vagina area—there [were] bugs crawling all over her. . . .”
This told investigators the potential existed for her having been down in the small culvert for “a while.” She had not been dumped there just recently, it seemed. Possibly not even the night before, and certainly not that day.
Studying her body (she was young, a teenager or early twenty-something, for certain), Wallace saw the girl had “a deep scratch in her side from a claw or something.” He noticed this as he got down on one knee. And looking even closer, the detective saw additional marks, maybe three or four “deeper cuts” along her body, “like she scraped across something.”
Was she dragged?
There appeared to be some “redness” around her neck, too, just above an area where her sweatshirt had been pulled up to expose her breasts.
Ligature marks? Strangulation?
There was one pressing issue here, however: How to identify her? And a bigger overall question, of course: How to explain to the public that a teenager had shown up dead in a culvert, nearly naked, with scratches all over her and indistinct red marks around her neck?
“Fingerprint her,” someone suggested. It was the only way to begin the process of finding out who she was. After all, there had to be someone out in the world looking for this young woman.