Northeast Ohio's 50 Most Frustrating Cold Cases

Northeast Ohio's 50 Most Frustrating Cold Cases

It's been two years since Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight returned from the dead, catapulting Cleveland into the national spotlight once again, just as we were beginning to forget about Anthony Sowell and his house of a thousand corpses. The question became: Is there something wrong here? Is there something about Northeast Ohio that creates a darker kind of monster?

I used to write about crime for Scene. Over the years, I covered dozens of the city's most haunting crimes and cases. I also compiled a list of dozens of others that have remained stubbornly unresolved. The list doesn't seem to end, instead growing each year. Here are the 50 mysteries that just might have a chance at being solved. Not all of them are murders — but we do seem to have more than our fair share of those too. Included in each is the tipline for the relevant authorities in charge of the case. If you know anything, do get in touch with them and, of course, with us.

1. The Abduction and Murder of Amy Mihaljevic

Crime Scene: Bay Village, Oct. 27, 1989.

The Mystery: On a Friday afternoon, 10-year-old Amy Mihaljevic was abducted from the shopping plaza across from the Bay Village police station as every officer in the city was getting their pictures taken. Her body was found in an Ashland County wheat field four months later. In the days leading up to her kidnapping, a man called Amy at home and said that he was a friend of her mother's and that Amy should meet him so he could take her shopping to get a gift for her mom. The key to solving the case may be finding how and when Amy crossed paths with several other girls who received calls from this man in 1989. The other girls were from North Olmsted. Like Amy, they had visited the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center that fall. They signed their names in a logbook there. A few of the girls also had a math teacher who was the brother of Amy's horseback riding instructor.

Send tips to Bay Village Police: 440-871-1234.

2. Ted Conrad's Brazen Bank Heist

Crime Scene: Lakewood, July 11, 1969.

The Mystery: Ted Conrad considered himself Cleveland's own Steve McQueen and the young man pulled off a brazen heist worthy of his own Hollywood movie. He worked as a vault teller at Society National Bank. downtown, and one Friday afternoon he walked out of the building with $215,000 in cash tucked in a brown paper bag and promptly disappeared. He was last seen in Hawaii sipping drinks at a bar.

Send tips to U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott: 216-522-4483.

3. Who Was Joseph Newton Chandler?

Crime Scene: Eastlake, July 2002

The Mystery: An old man put a gun to his head in a shabby Eastlake apartment and blew his brains out. Everyone thought his name was Joseph Newton Chandler, but when police notified his next of kin, they discovered the real Joseph Newton Chandler died in 1945. The man from Eastlake had stolen his identity. He left behind $82,000 and several strange electrical gadgets he'd designed. Was he a mobster, laying low? A retired CIA spook? Nobody knows. And the story gets stranger; just last year, U.S. Marshals released new information. In 1989, he checked himself into a local hospital with severe lacerations to his penis. He told the doctor on call that he'd had sex with his vacuum cleaner.

Send tips to U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott: 216-522-4483.

4. The Murder of Joseph Kupchik

Crime Scene: Cleveland, Feb. 12, 2006.

The Mystery: Joe Kupchik's body was discovered on the pavement below a parking deck in downtown Cleveland, around 1 in the morning. His car was found on the top level. A trail of blood led from the door to the railing, a knife lay nearby. The coroner initially ruled the young man's death a suicide, but later changed it to "undetermined." At the time, Kupchik worked at the Steak 'n Shake in Brunswick, with some very unsavory characters. His manager, Brian Weaver, had a couple felonies for creating ghost employees when he was a manager at Wendy's (where Joe also worked). And coworker Brian Trimmer used to bum rides from Joe downtown. After Joe's death, Trimmer skipped town.

Send tips to Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department, Detective Bureau: 216-443-6130.

5. The Murder of Lisa Pruett

Crime Scene: Shaker Heights, Sept. 13, 1990.

The Mystery: 16-year-old Lisa Pruett was stabbed to death behind a mansion in the tony section of Shaker Heights. Based on tips from her classmates, police quickly focused on the weird kid in school, Kevin Young. He was charged with the murder but acquitted by a jury. Looking at the case again raises questions about Pruett's boyfriend Dan Dreifort. Lisa's body, after all, was found about 100 feet from the Dreifort family mansion. Dan had been released that day from the psych ward. He had written her letters from the hospital, warning her to stay away from him when he got out because he didn't want to hurt her.

Send tips to Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department, Detective Bureau: 216-443-6130.

6. The Murder of Andrea Flenoury

Crime Scene: Coventry Township, August 7, 2005.

The Mystery: 21-year-old Andrea Flenoury's body was found submerged in the river along the Ohio & Erie Canal towpath, wrapped in chains. Detectives soon learned that this former Lordstown High School cheerleader had been moonlighting as a stripper in some of Akron's seediest clubs. Her killer strangled her to death. She was six weeks pregnant. Her murder may be linked to the April 2005 death of Donna Pittinger, whose body was found floating in the Tuscarawas.

Send tips to the Akron Police Detective Bureau: 330-375-2490.

7. Who Killed Anita Pratt and Her Unborn Baby?

Crime Scene: Ashtabula, Sept. 19, 1981

The Mystery: Anita Pratt, 22, was found stabbed to death, in a pool of blood, beside her 1 year-old son's crib. There were no signs of forced entry. Her stepfather, Bill Colley, who lived across the hall from her apartment, told police he found the front door open and her child crying inside. She was seven months pregnant at the time. Police long suspected the stepfather but he never confessed to the crime.

Send tips to Ashtabula County detectives: 330-675-7890.

8. The Disappearance of Tonia Aldrich

Crime Scene: Elyria, March 29, 1997.

The Mystery: Last seen at Chris's Place bar at 2 a.m., 38-year-old Tonia walked east down Clark Street, headed for home. Later that night, her mother found Tonia's medication and belongings by the front door but there was no trace of Tonia. She never used her credit cards after that day. It is believed she met with foul play.

Send tips to the Elyria Police Department: 440-326-1205.

9. Who Killed Professor Shaw?

Crime Scene: Kent, Sept. 20, 2004.

The Mystery: Douglas Shaw taught urban studies at the University of Akron for 32 years before someone killed him inside his own home, striking him on the head with some blunt instrument. His wife was out of state at the time. His son discovered the body. No suspects have been named, though his wife has said she believes she knows who did it.

Send tips to Kent police: 330-673-7732.

10. The Murder of Marilyn Sheppard

Crime Scene: Bay Village, July 3, 1954.

The Mystery: Someone bludgeoned Marilyn to death in the middle of the night. Her husband, wealthy osteopath Sam Sheppard, claimed he was sleeping downstairs when he heard cries. He raced upstairs but was confronted by an intruder who knocked him unconscious. An autopsy found that Marilyn was pregnant at the time she died. Sam was found guilty of her murder, but won a retrial and was later acquitted. The evidence suggests a woman or a very weak man actually committed the crime. Sheppard's mother committed suicide a few days after Sam's initial conviction.

Send tips to Bay Village Police: 440-871-1234.

11. Who Was the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run?

Crime Scene: Cleveland, 1935 to 1938

The Mystery: At least a dozen people were killed by a serial killer known as the Mad Butcher of Kingsbury Run, who preyed upon drifters who lived in shanty slums around the banks of the Cuyahoga following the Great Depression. The sadistic predator cut the bodies into pieces and sometimes only torsos were found. Most of the male victims had been castrated, too. Untouchable Eliot Ness was safety director of Cleveland at the time. He believed Dr. Francis Sweeney was responsible and the murders stopped after Sweeney had himself committed to a mental ward. Other believed the real killer moved away and to safer killing fields.

Send tips to Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department, Detective Bureau: 216-443-6130.

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