For most, Thanksgiving is a time to reconnect with family and appreciate the good in life. However, for a select few, Thanksgiving has become tragic and deadly. The following horrific cases have occurred during this cherished holiday, making some question the day’s very sanctity.
You will not believe the gruesome crimes committed over the years ranging from 1919 to today. Most unsettling is the fact that the vast majority of these cases have been left unsolved and will likely remain as so in the future. Based on these cases, it is evident that no one is truly safe this Thanksgiving. Beware as you read on!
While it is unlikely for a person to vanish into thin air, that appears to be exactly what happened to 53-year-old bachelor Paul Knockel on Thanksgiving of 1990 in Dubuque, Iowa. Knockel failed to attend a relative’s Thanksgiving dinner, spurring a confusing and ultimately unsuccessful investigation. What became of Knockel?
The Case Runs Cold
Police entered Knockel’s residence and found his wallet, watch, and shoes — the items he had with him at all times. A day later, his vehicle, a 1981 red Mercury Zephyr, was spotted parked along Highway 151 but was quickly moved before police arrived. Despite numerous searches and countless leads, police are still no closer to solving this mystery than they were 26 years ago.
Beth Lynn Barr
Tragedy struck Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania on Thanksgiving of 1977 as six-year-old Beth Lynn Barr was walking home from school. While she had done this countless times before, this would be the last time Barr would be seen alive. A witness stated she recalled Barr getting into a blue car which would later be found at a rental agency. The gruesome discovery of Barr’s fate would be found almost two years later.
Barr’s body was found in an improvised grave near Monroeville, Pennsylvania. Her outfit, a red pantsuit and blue sneakers, confirmed the discovery but an autopsy was performed. The post-mortem exam confirmed that Barr had been stabbed multiple times in the chest. While several have been questioned for this crime, no one has been charged and the question everyone has remains unanswered: why?
Kimberly Riley and Jeremy Britt-Bayinthavog
A Tacoma, Washington Thanksgiving evening in 2002 was interrupted by a drive-by shooting, killing 19-year-old Kimberly Riley and five-year-old Jeremy Britt-Bayinthavong. During the attack, two other attendees were wounded but ultimately survived the senseless attack. Cops began to investigate the motive and identity of the shooter with little information to go on.
A Senseless Act
The family hosting the event had no known enemies, making possible suspects difficult to identify. Witnesses reported seeing a man with dark hair driving a dark-colored Ford pickup truck speeding away from the scene. This vague account has produced no leads, and there have still been no arrests nearly a decade later.
The town of Eureka, California was left shaken on November 25, 1997, as 16-year-old Karen Mitchell disappeared on her way to work after leaving the mall. A witness told police Mitchell was seen getting into an older man’s blue vehicle. This led to the possible suspect, the millionaire Robert Durst.
Robert Durst’s Involvement
Robert Durst fit the description provided by the witness and had been in the area of her disappearance based on credit card records. In addition to this, Durst has been accused of the disappearance of his wife as well as the murder of another woman, making him a prime suspect for this crime. Despite this, Durst has never been tried and the case for Mitchell remains unsolved.
The Blount Family
Thanksgiving of 1985 in Lake Worth, Texas was changed forever after a briefcase exploded on Joe Blount’s front porch. The briefcase, containing a bomb, was found by 15-year-old Angela and exploded upon being opened, killing Angela, Joe, and cousin Michael Columbus. A man named Michael Toney was convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. However, he was later released on a technicality.
Michael Toney’s Conviction
Despite mounting evidence against Toney, including reports from his ex-wife and best friend who supposedly witnessed the act, he was released after the court was found to have mishandled information. Ironically, a month after Toney was released, he was killed in a car accident. The case was reopened, but remains unsolved to this day.
Courtney Lindsay and Angelita Gauntlett
After spending their 1989 Thanksgiving night at a party, Courtney Lindsay and Angelita Gauntlett were chased back to their residence by a gunman. The gunman blocked the couple’s vehicle and began shooting. Lindsay and Gauntlett were found dead at the scene but a friend who was accompanying the pair survived.
Drug Dealer “Bull”
The shooter was believed to be a local drug dealer, only identified by his street name “Bull.” Bull was also in attendance at the party as seen in a home video from that night. However, his real name has never been discovered and he has evaded the charge, leaving the case open and unsolved.
After telling her neighbor she would be with her mother for Thanksgiving dinner in 2004, Cynthia Alonzo disappeared. The 48-year-old was last reported to be getting into a car with her boyfriend, Eric Mora. Their relationship had been admittedly strained, making him the number one suspect in Alonzo’s disappearance.
Eric Mora’s Conviction
In addition to this, Mora had scratches on his hands and a search of his house revealed evidence of Alonzo’s blood. Eight years later, Mora was convicted of Alonzo’s disappearance after supposedly discussing the crime with a jailhouse informant. His conviction was later overturned however he is awaiting a second trial.
Rapper Soulja Slim, formally known as James Tapp, was shot four times in his mother’s front yard the day before Thanksgiving of 2003. Slim had been in collaboration with rapper Juvenile in the production of 2004 billboard hit “Slow Motion,” though he was not alive to receive any recognition at the time of its release.
Garelle Smith’s Involvement
Slim’s death was believed to be the work of hitman Garelle Smith. However, no witnesses were ever willing to testify against Smith, effectively causing the charges against him to be dropped. Smith was a suspect in two other murders before eventually being shot himself. Slim’s murder remains unsolved.
John H. Woodruff
Almost a century ago, in 1919, John H. Woodruff left his home on Thanksgiving day to go for a walk. Woodruff never returned, leading searchers to discover his mutilated body buried beneath stones in a makeshift grave. Woodruff’s wife alluded to a threatening letter he had received months prior.
The Man in the Woods
Witnesses stated Woodruff had an altercation with a man before he went into the woods near his final resting place. Woodruff’s body was found with half his skull detached, suggesting the weapon used was some kind of ax. Despite witness accounts of the man with whom the argument occurred, Woodruff’s case has yet to be solved and likely never will be.
Perhaps the most bizarre case in this list is that of the John Doe at Neshaminy Creek. On Thanksgiving of 1997, a woman was bird watching when she thought she saw a heron by the creek. Upon further investigation, the heron was discovered to be the body of a young black man.
Up a Creek Without a Paddle
The man was unable to be identified, sporting Tommy Hilfiger brand clothing. His body had been in the creek for multiple days but no missing person reports matched his description. In addition to this, his cause of death was never found and no one claimed his remains. This death remains one of the most mysterious of Bucks County, Pennsylvania.