A case becomes “Cold” when all probative investigative leads available to the primary investigators are exhausted and the case remains open and unsolved for years. USA has more than 2,50,000 unsolved cases, a number that increases by about 6,000 each year, according to the FBI’s Uniformed Crime Report data.
Currently, we cannot estimate the total number of unsolved cases in terms of all types of crime. However, some of America’s famous Cold cases are:
- The Hall Mills Murder
- The Black Dahlia Case
- JonBenet Ramsey Case
- The Zodiac Killer
- D.B. Cooper Case
- Anthrax Scare
- Tylenol Tamperings
- Jack the Ripper
- Case of disembodied feet
- Death of Edgar Allen Poe
- Brown and Goldman Double Murder Case
- The Women of Ciudad Juarez
There are a lot more cold cases that cannot be discussed simultaneously. However, in this article, I have discussed some of the famous cold cases of USA, which even after numerous efforts of the investigators remains unsolved till date.
8 Famous Unsolved Cold Cases in America
1. The Black Dahlia
Hollywood’s most famous murder case unfolded on 15th January 1947, when the raven-haired, 22-year-old actress Elizabeth Short was found dead on Norton Avenue between 39th and Coliseum streets in Los Angeles.
Her body had been cut in half and appeared to have been drained of blood with precision. The murderer had also cut 3-inch gashes into each corner of her mouth, creating a spooky clown-like smile.
Elizabeth Short’s murder quickly became a sensation, not only because of its location in the show biz capital but also because the police worked in tandem with the press to disseminate clues in hopes of locating a suspect. Several people confessed and arrested, only to be later released for lack of evidence.
Much speculation surrounded the details of Short’s life. Grieving after the death of a man she fell in love with, she reportedly befriended many men while frequenting jazz clubs, making it nearly impossible to pin down who she could have been with before she died.
Her unsolved murder has spawned several movies, television specials, and books. One such account was written by Steve Hodel who implicated his own father, a Los Angeles doctor, as the Black Dahlia murderer. No charges were ever filed.
2. The Zodiac Killings
“I like killing people because it is so much fun.”
So began one of the many encrypted letters sent to San Francisco newspapers by the man who called himself the Zodiac. For most of 1969, a serial killer terrorized Bay Area residents, killing five and possibly more.
It started on December 20, 1968, when a couple was shot to death while sitting in a car in a lover’s lane. The killer did several more strikes over the next 10 months, shooting a couple in a public park, trussing up and stabbing yet another man and woman near a peaceful lake, and shooting a cab driver in the head.
What made the case so fascinating, though, was the way he toyed with police and reporters. He called in several of the murders and began to send coded letters to newspapers, using a cross within a circle as his symbol.
At one point, he mailed in a piece of a bloodied shirt to prove he was who he claimed to be. Another time, he threatened to shoot up a school bus full of children. The investigation went on for years. Several suspects were considered and questioned but to no avail. The Zodiac was never caught and the story continues to terrorize people to this day.
3. Tylenol Poisonings
In late September/early October 1982, seven Chicago-area people died from popping Tylenol pills laced with cyanide. Adam Janus was experiencing chest pain. He popped a few Extra-Strength Tylenol and collapsed an hour later and he died.
That night, Adam’s younger brother and sister-in-law, grief-stricken popped a few of Adam’s Tylenol pills. They died. A 12-year old girl with a cold took some extra-Strength Tylenol on account of a cold. Dead! All in all, seven were dead by the poisoned pills. Hysteria followed.
The drug was removed from shelves. Vague copycat incidents, pins and needles discovered in candy bars led several communities to ban Halloween trick-or-treating. A gentleman was arrested after trying to extort Johnson & Johnson for $100,000, though he was never charged with the murders. Tamper-proof seals became the norm.
4. The Death of Edgar Allen Poe
The Raven, an author left New York City in 1849 bound for Richmond, but only made it as far as Baltimore, where a passer-by noticed the delirious and incoherent writer slouched in front of a bar on October 3. He was taken to a nearby hospital, where he died four days later.
The local newspaper attributed his death to “congestion of the brain,” then a common euphemism for alcohol poisoning. But scholars later discovered that rumors of his drug and alcohol abuse were greatly exaggerated, especially by vindictive literary critics. The death certificate, if it ever existed, was not to be found.
Some historians believe Allen Poe may have suffered from rabies, cholera or syphilis. But because he turned up on the streets the same day as a citywide election, others argue that Poe fell victim to “cooping,” a fairly common practice back then in which corrupt politicians paid thugs to kidnap men (especially the homeless), drug them, disguise them and drag them to polls all over the city or state.
This may at least explain why Allen Poe turned up in Baltimore wearing clothes that weren’t his.
5. Death of John Ramsey’s Daughter
26th December 1996, when John Ramsey, a wealthy software executive, found his 6-year-old daughter Jon Benet dead in the basement of their Boulder, Colo. home. Eight hours prior to the death, his wife Patsy had found a ransom note demanding $118,000 for their daughter’s safe return.
No call ever came from a kidnapper. So unraveled the saga of the young beauty queen whose murder has put a cloud over her entire family, the Boulder Police Department and the District Attorney in charge of solving the case.
Investigators in Boulder who were dealing with the city’s first murder that year failed to conduct a proper search of the house and even allowed friends of the family to walk in and out of the crime scene as the family and police waited for a ransom call.
While John’s two adult children from a previous marriage were cleared of the murder early on, suspicion remained on the three people who were the only ones known to be home when Jon Benet was killed, her 9-year-old brother Burke and her parents.
Almost three years after the murder, Burke, now 12, was questioned by a grand jury but was never charged. In June of 2006, Patsy died of ovarian cancer, just two months before the arrest of John Mark Karr, an American man who had admitted to killing Jon Benet, only to have the case dropped against him two weeks later when DNA tests showed he could not have been at the crime scene.
In the summer of 2008, prosecutors were finally able to conclude that John and Patsy were not responsible for their daughter’s murder, but that DNA points to an “unexplained third party.” John Ramsey still retains hope that evidence will track down his daughter’s killer and finally rid his family of the stain that continues to make its mark.
6. Brown and Goldman Double Murder
Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman were brutally stabbed and killed outside Nicole’s home in Brentwood neighborhood of Los Angeles You might have a hunch who killed Nicole Brown and her friend on June 12, 1994, as we all do and rightly so O.J. Simpson was tried and acquitted for their murder but though the court of public opinion has long pinned this crime on “The Juice,” the law says otherwise.
With circumstantial evidence piled up against him, from forensics to the slowest, most riveting high-speed chase in history to the dubious decision to pen a book called “If I Did It“.
Simpson, the former All-Star running back and B-list actor, assembled a dream team of lawyers who convinced jurors that since the glove didn’t fit, they had to acquit. And to the disbelief of a transfixed nation, on Oct. 3, 1995, they did. Though Simpson was found liable for the deaths in a related civil suit, the criminal matter remains unsolved.
7. The Hall Mills Murders
The murders of a pastor and a choir singer on a makeshift lovers’ lane shocked a small town and brought forth rampant accusations, inconsistent witness testimonies, and more than one false confession.
The year was 1922, and New Brunswick, New Jersey, minister Edward Wheeler Hall was having an extramarital affair with a member of his congregation Eleanor Mills who was also married. On September 14 both left their respective homes to meet each other.
When Hall didn’t return home that night, his wife, Frances, and one of his brothers-in-law began a search, but neither Hall nor Mills was found until two days later, when another couple walking lovers’ lane found their bodies under a crab apple tree.
Hall had been shot once through the head, but Mills’s body had been brutalized, she had been shot in the face three times, and her throat had been slashed so deeply that she had nearly been decapitated. Later an autopsy revealed that her tongue and larynx had been cut out.
After they were killed, the couple’s bodies had been arranged in a near-embrace. The case was clearly personal. Though Hall and Mills’s affair had apparently been common knowledge around town, both of their spouses claimed to have been in the dark—an assertion that struck investigators as highly suspicious.
Frances, along with her brothers William and Henry Stevens, were considered prime suspects. But try as it might, the prosecution could find no evidence to convict the siblings.
Witness statements kept changing, likely influenced by the press coverage; attention-seekers kept confessing to the murders; and physical evidence was destroyed when sightseers trampled the crime scene, looking for “souvenirs.” As a result, Edward and Eleanor’s murder case were never solved.
8. Anthrax Scare
A public panic that swept through the country was the anthrax scare that took center stage just weeks after September 11th. Within a month of the terrorist attacks, the Bush administration released an ominous statement that there was almost a 100 percent chance of anthrax or other bio/germ warfare attack on the American people.
The evening news reported on October 15, 2001, that an anthrax contaminated letter was delivered to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. Later that evening the media reported that a child, who had visited the ABC/NEWS offices in New York, was also infected.
Over the next few months, major TV networks, major newspapers, and the offices of Democratic senators received anthrax tainted letters. Some scientists believed that people may have actually received anthrax letters unknowingly, and not fallen ill due to the poor quality of anthrax.
The FBI put up a $2.5 million reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a person or persons responsible for the anthrax-laced mail. The feelings of hopelessness and vulnerability that swept the country post-September 11th were only exacerbated by the anthrax scare and continued to keep the country on edge.
Overall, five people died and 13 others fell ill due to the anthrax-by-mail attacks, with residents from Florida to New York contaminated. To date, no arrests have been made.