Northeast Ohio's 50 Most Frustrating Cold Cases

Northeast Ohio's 50 Most Frustrating Cold Cases

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40. What Happened to Elaine Johnson?

Crime Scene: Parma, November 22, 1990. The Mystery: Elaine Johnson could have been mistaken on the street for Farrah Fawcett, with her bright, blonde wavy hair and good looks. She was last seen on Nov. 22, 1990, but was not reported missing until Dec. 3, when her employer tracked down her daughter after Elaine did not come to work. They found her clothes still in the dryer and her money and identification in her apartment. The last known person to see her was her ex, who was questioned by police but then stopped cooperating with the investigation.

Send tips to Parma police: 440-888-3211.

41. How Did Ryan Johnson Die?

Crime Scene: Akron, Jan. 14, 2010.

The Mystery: Ryan was a whiz kid with a reckless streak. Two years after graduating high school, he had earned enough money to buy a mansion in Bath. He often held elaborate parties there, during which he would destroy his expensive toys. The police were once called out when he drove his Mercedes into the creek behind his house. Ryan got in touch with me about working together on a lengthy profile of his life. He reminded me a lot of the character Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. He died in a house fire in Akron before we could start; the fire started in his room and someone had barricaded the door so he couldn't get out. Some of his friends emptied his bank account after his death.

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

42. What Happened to Oliver Klar?

Crime Scene: Cleveland, April 12, 2006.

The Mystery: 39-year-old Oliver Klar ran a used car business, called Eastway Motors, on St. Clair Avenue. His car was found abandoned a block from his work. He had many friends but no one has heard from him since April 12, 2006.

Send tips to Cleveland detectives: 216-623-5464.

43. Where is Christina Kleckner?

Crime Scene: Cleveland, Oct. 1, 2011.

The Mystery: Christina (or Tink, as she liked to be called) was 24 years old when she disappeared in 2011. She is mentally disabled, with the mental capacity of a child. She got into an argument with her parents and when they checked her room in the morning, she was gone. She has a history of prostitution and was known to frequent Pearl Road. Some believe she fits the victim profile of Ariel Castro, though nothing has ever been released that links him to Christina's disappearance.

Send tips to Cleveland police: 216-623-5262

44. Judy Martins: Murder or Runaway?

Crime Scene: Kent State, May 24, 1978.

The Mystery: Judy was last seen leaving a friend's dorm at Dunbar Hall on the campus of Kent State, wearing a Halloween wig and oversized glasses. She never made it back to her dorm. Her disappearance was treated as an abduction, but the case took a turn a couple years later when a prostitute was arrested in Cuyahoga County. She gave the jail the name "Judy Martinez" along with Judy Martins' date of birth. Judy Martins' parents went to identify her. The mother believed it was her missing daughter. Her father did not. "Judy Martins is better off dead," the prostitute is quoted as saying.

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

45. Was Pamela Terrill's Death a Cover-Up?

Crime Scene: Medina, August 23, 1976.

The Mystery: The body of 21-year-old Pamela Terrill was discovered in her bedroom. There were bruises around her neck and tape covering her mouth. When the coroner called it a suicide, the family cried foul. Just a few days before she died, Pamela had accused her boss of sexually assaulting her. Her boss was Republican county commissioner Mark Whitfield, whose father was a prominent local judge, retired, with lots of friends in law enforcement.Eventually, Pamela's body was exhumed and a new coroner said she'd been murdered. Whitfield faced trial for the murder in 1988, but was found not guilty due to lack of evidence. Witnesses at the trial testified that Whitfield was trans and once tried to break into a house while wearing a dress and wig and groped another woman while riding to Pamela's funeral.

Send tips to Medina detectives: 330-725-9116.

46. Who Killed the Hooker Who Finked On an Akron Judge?

Crime Scene: Akron, 1999.

The Mystery: In 1999, the city of Akron cracked down on their growing red light district, indicting 67 people — mostly prostitutes. One prostitute, Melissa Sue Sublett, told detectives that she had recently done cocaine with Summit County Common Pleas Judge Michael Callahan and had given him a blow job in his courthouse chambers. Five days later, she was found stabbed to death. A woman pleaded guilty to her murder and got a three-year sentence but she later recanted her confession.

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

47. Is Lisa Sexton Still Alive?

Crime Scene: Elyria, May 1, 1981.

The Mystery: 14-year-old Lisa Sexton was last seen leaving her home with a known drug dealer. They skipped town and the man later returned without her. Lisa contacted her mother for the last time in 1984. She'd been living in Florida. Her family believes she met with foul play and that local people may know what happened.

Send tips to Elyria police: 216-322-3465

48. Did a Local Police Chief Fake His Own Death?

Crime Scene: Edgewater Park, July 28, 1985.

The Mystery: This one's a doozy. In 1985, Mel Wiley was an aspiring novelist. He was also the police chief in Hinkley. And in the summer of 1985, Metroparks rangers found his car abandoned at Edgewater Park. His clothes were neatly folded on the seat, beside his wallet and police ID card. When his police buddies investigated his disappearance, they found scribbled notes about a bus ticket to Fort Ord, in California and a letter to a female friend that speaks of taking a "one-way trip." He was officially declared dead in 1993.

Send tips to Hinkley police: 330-278-7161

49. What Really Happened to Emma Nahas?

Crime Scene: Lake Erie, July 8, 2010

The Mystery: It was quite a party. A wealthy 36-year-old businessman named Alex Cucu and 31-year-old John Slyman took six young women (five of whom were under 21) out on Cucu's 48-foot cabin cruiser for a day of drinking and dancing. At some point, 19-year-old Emma Nahas jumped into the water with Slyman. Then Nahas went under the water. Slyman was pulled back onto the boat, naked. Nahas' body washed ashore 11 days later. Cucu was sentenced to 18 months in prison early this year on charges of tax fraud unrelated to the event.

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

50. Who Killed Rachael Johnson?

Crime Scene: Akron, March 30, 1991

The Mystery: This is the stuff of nightmares. Rachael was 24-years-old, in 1991. She was riding in a car with a friend when the vehicle got a flat tire. They pulled into the parking lot of a convenience store. A grey vehicle pulled in behind them and at that point Rachael either got into the other vehicle or was forced inside. Her body was found in the street, hours later. She had been raped, stabbed, and set on fire. The police have DNA of her likely killed but so far have not found a match.

Send tips to Akron detectives: 330-375-2552

James Renner is the author of the true-crime collection The Serial Killer's Apprentice and several other books. More info at His new novel, The Great Forgetting, about a history teacher from Lakewood who tries to save the world, will be published in November.

About The Author

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