Due to this post from Roni Loren (thank you for the warning, Roni) I’ve decided to remove most photos from Thriller Thursday. I hope you’re still able to enjoy them!
Most of us have suffered the loss of loved ones. But can you imagine if they vanished? If they disappeared with no warning, leaving children, family, and personal items behind, as if they’d been erased?
Thousands of people disappear in the United States every year. Investigation Discovery airs a program aptly titled “Disappeared” covering these baffling cases. Here are two stories I couldn’t stop thinking about.
There are two suspects in this case: Mike’s wife Denise and his best friend, Brian Winchester. On March 15, 2000, successful Tallahassee businessman Jerry Michael Williams left for Lake Seminole on a duck hunting trip. He’s never heard from again.
His truck, boat and shotgun are recovered, and officials assume he’s the victim of an accident. They expect his body to show up–no drowning victim has ever remained purged in the lake’s murky waters. When Mike’s body doesn’t surface, some speculate his body has been eaten by one of the lake’s many alligators, but experts say it’s impossible: the lake temperatures were too cold the entire week Mike went missing. Alligators don’t feed when it’s that cold.
Mike’s mother Cheryl is immediately suspicious, and her fears only grow when Mike’s waders turn up. Conveniently accompanied by his jacket and hunting license, the items don’t show any evidence they’ve been stuck under water for weeks. Cheryl presses police, and her daughter-in-law warns her to back off or risk not seeing her granddaughter.
Shortly after the waders resurface, Denise Williams uses the discovery to declare Mike legally dead and soon inherits his assets as well as a life insurance worth well over a million dollars. Within a year, she’s remarried to Brian Winchester, the same man who sold Mike the life insurance policy six months before he went missing.
Cheryl spends every possible moment begging police to investigate her son’s disappearance as a homicide, and three and half years after Mike vanished, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement opened an investigation. With the help of other agencies, more suspicious clues pop up, but the cops can’t garner enough evidence to bring charges on their suspects. Nearly twelve years later, Denise and Brian are quietly living their lives–with the help of Mike’s life insurance policy. Cheryl hasn’t seen her granddaughter in many years.
Mike’s body has never been recovered, but investigators believe his disappearance on Lake Seminole was an elaborate coverup. His mother still hopes she will one day find out what happened to her son.
If you have any information, contact the Jackson County Sheriff’s office at 850-482-9624.
Maura Murray’s case isn’t as easy to speculate on. There are no clear suspects, and no obvious motive. She’s just gone.
Twenty-one-year-old nursing student Maura Murray disappeared from the University of Massachusetts on Monday, February 9, 2004. The previous Saturday, Maura and her father had gone car shopping, and then later, Maura was in an accident with her father’s borrowed car. They were supposed to meet Monday night to go over insurance forms.
On Monday evening, for reasons undisclosed, Maura drove 144 miles north to an unknown destination. Unbelievably, she’s in a second car accident. A nearby resident offers help, but Maura asks him not to call 911. Police arrive ten minutes later, and Maura has disappeared. The car doors are locked, her cell phone and credit cards are missing, but the rest of her things are in the car.
In the twenty-four hours before Maura’s disappearance, her actions are confusing. She emails her long distance boyfriend while picking up the insurance forms to go over with her father. Then, she emails teachers stating there’s a death in the family and she’ll be absent for a while. There was no death in the family.
Police wonder if Maura is a runaway or suicide, but her family insists those theories are impossible. They believe something terrible happened to their daughter that night.
The mystery deepens with several possible sightings of Maura. Moments after the crash, a resident saw a young person run onto a side road. Thirty-six hours after her disappearance, a voicemail is left on Maura’s boyfriend’s cell phone. A woman is sobbing, and the boyfriend is convinced it’s Maura. The most chilling sighting is at a store in Hillboro, New Hampshire. A young woman fitting Maura’s description was seen with an older man silently mouthing the words “help me.”
To date, there are no suspects in Maura’s disappearance.
If you have seen anyone matching Maura’s description, please contact the New Hampshire Cold Case Unit at 603-271-2663.
My heart goes out to the parents and families of these two people, and to the countless others out there that have gone missing. For more cases and to find out how you can help, visit Investigation Discovery.