True Crime Writer Chelsea Hoffman

A true crime blog with insight, expert analysis and attitude

Oct 15, 2017

While she's an important part of crime history, few people talk about Lavinia Fisher -- America's first female serial killer. Along with her husband, she supposedly claimed the lives of only two victims -- officially. However, she could have been responsible for far more murders, and has been the focus of many fantastic tales that have turned her into a sort of legend.

Sometime in the early 1800s, Lavinia and her husband opened a motel for travelers. It was during this time that the duo began committing a series of crimes. At one point she and her husband were arrested for assaulting a man, with intent to murder him. It was this arrest that led to the discovery that she was a serial killer, but very little is written about the suspicions against her.

Stories about Lavinia indicate that she lured wary male travelers to her husband's motel. Some legends say she crushed their heads between her thighs, but this clearly doesn't seem like a likely scenario.

Whether or not Lavinia Fisher was a prolific killer, she is arguably America's first female serial killer. She's the mother of all American female serial killers -- some of whom grossly bypassed her in body count and brutality.
Earlier, I wrote about the mysterious case of the El Dorado Jane Doe -- a woman who called herself "Mercedes" among friends and fellow prostitutes. In 1991, her murdered body was found in a motel room where her boyfriend (and pimp) had been living. He was convicted of killing her, but her true identity has never been revealed. "Mercedes" was an identity thief, and possibly a former child runaway who lived her life under the security of assumed identities. In Part II of my series of posts about this Jane Doe, I'm going to highlight various missing persons cases that may or may not have some kind of relation to "Mercedes." Can we identify this unidentified woman, and bring an end to a 26-year-old cold case?

Karen Tompkins
Karen was 11-years-old when she vanished from her home in Torrance, California, in 1961. She was last seen leaving a class she had been attending at her elementary school. When she never returned home that afternoon, her family reported her missing. It's been many, many years and Karen has
never been found. While there have been a number of theories -- and suspects -- in her case, nothing has ever really stuck. It should be noted that this child was 11-years-old at the presumed time that the El Dorado Jane Doe may have been born, but since nobody knows anything about this woman, I've allowed a cushion of several years in order to hopefully expand the possibilities in solving this case.

Ann Marie Burr
Little Ann Marie was only eight-years-old when she vanished from Tacoma, Washington in 1961. Her case seems suspiciously like many others in which a child has mysteriously vanished from her own bedroom as her family slept. Her family claims to not know what happened to her, and evidence that may have been factual (or planted) indicated that someone broke into the house and kidnapped the sleeping child. However, the dog didn't bark and nobody awoke to any sounds of disturbance. While it seems more likely that someone known to the child did something to her, it's just as likely that someone broke into the family's residence and kidnapped that child. Anne Burr has never been found, so there is really no telling what happened to her or where she ended up in her life (if she made it out of Tacoma at all).

Diana Moon Yoli
Seven-year-old Diana was last seen in September 1962 in North Carolina. The child, along with her younger brother, both went missing together while on their way to a playground near their home. Extensive searches for the children have never returned any evidence, but there has been at least one suspect in their case. A convicted pedophile (who is now deceased), was a suspect. However, no evidence ever tied him to the disappearances.

Foul play is definitely suspected in the disappearance of Diana Moon Yoli, and her little brother. With there being so many years passed and no evidence of any solution, anything is possible in their case.

The Giusti Girls
A 20-year-old mother and her two very young daughters went missing in 1963 from the town of Port Townsend, Washington. This unsolved case comes with very little information, but it's widely believed that all three of the Giusti girls are deceased. 

Twenty-year-old Sharon Giusti, along with their two babies, was reported missing by her husband. She reportedly left the family residence with the children in their car. The husband claimed to police that he had been out working in a field on their property when she left. A search for the trio only led to the discovery of the family's vehicle, which had been abandoned just a mile away from their home.

It's a suspicious story, that certainly puts the missing mother's husband in a negative light.
However, anything is possible when no signs of the missing mother and daughters have ever been found. I want to note that Sharon Giusti, and her daughters, were all redheads -- just like the El Dorado Jane Doe. I want to also point out that little Michelle Giusti -- who was only a year old at the time of her disappearance -- had blue eyes. The El Dorado Jane Doe had striking, noticeably blue eyes.

The two missing children -- one-year-old Michelle Renee, and infant Clara -- could be anywhere. Sharon could be anywhere. They are all most likely deceased, hidden somewhere in the rural region surrounding Port Townsend. But what if?

Lynn Luray
This young girl was 15-years-old when she disappeared in 1964, from Long Beach, California. There aren't many details available in this cold case disappearance, but it's believed that she was last seen with an unidentified older male. Lynn had red hair.

It should be noted that, since Lynn was 15-years-old at the time of her disappearance, that she'd probably be too old to be the El Dorado Jane Doe. However, there are photos that exist of the unidentified Arkansas woman that make her appear to be a bit older than 30 -- while others do make her appear to be far younger. She was a redhead, however, and as I've repeated: Anything is possible in these unsolved cases.

Mildred and Patricia Zentner
Mildred -- a 28-year-old mother -- and her two-year-old daughter vanished in 1964 from Michigan. Their cases don't come with a lot of information, but foul play has long been suspected. Mildred was a redheaded woman, and her young daughter appeared to have fair, red-colored hair.

What is known indeed paints a typical suspicious story, which has been repeated at least once in this post: The missing mom's husband claimed that she took their daughter and left him (leaving clothes and other belongings behind, of course). Jesse Zentner claimed to detectives that he had spanked
his daughter, which caused an argument between he and his wife. He said he left, and when he returned they were gone. Mildred supposedly left behind a typed note, but Jesse destroyed it. It's indeed suspicious, but no traces of either mother or daughter have ever been found.

Kathleen Shea
Kathleen was only six-years-old when she vanished from Pennsylvania in 1965. At least one person (non-family) has been suspected in her disappearance, but over the many years that have passed no charges have ever been sought. She has never been found, and her disappearance remains an unsolved mystery of interest. 

This missing child currently has family scattered across the U.S., some of which in Florida, where the El Dorado Jane Doe claimed to have lived at some point in her life. 

Elizabeth Ann Gill 
This little girl, who had bright blue eyes, vanished when she was only two-years-old. She was last seen in Missouri in 1965, in the front yard of her home. There have been many lines of speculation in this missing toddler's case, but with no sign of her seen in all these years, she could have turned up anywhere. 

Lori Peugeot
This little girl was only two-years-old when she disappeared in 1969, from LaVale, Maryland. Lori went missing along with her mother, Linda Peugeot. There aren't many details in this case, and very little evidence of what may have truly happened to this mother and daughter. However, police  believe that they were both murdered, and their bodies discarded somewhere, waiting to be found. 

Stanley Barton Hoss, Jr., is believed responsible for the disappearances and deaths of Linda and Lori. Witnesses at the time saw both with the man at one point. When Hoss checked into a motel after abducting the mother-daughter duo, Linda was no longer with him. For some time, he had little Lori in his possession, claiming that her mother was away or busy. However, sightings of the little girl ultimately ended, and the only suspect in the case killed himself. 

Patricia Ann Spencer
Patricia disappeared on Halloween 1969, along with another girl her age (the two were around 15-16 years old). Their loved ones suspect foul play, but it's also been presumed that both girls simply ran away from home and never came back. Patricia is described as a Caucasian female with blue eyes and reddish brown hair. When she disappeared, she was reportedly hitchhiking, and did not bring any form of identification with her. 

Was Patricia Ann Spencer a runaway? Or did she meet some kind of foul play while hitchhiking without any way to identify herself?

Peggy Rahn
Blonde hair and blue eyes -- little Peggy was only nine-years-old when she disappeared from Pompano Beach, Florida in 1969. Like our Arkansas Jane Doe, Peggy had scarring around her brow area, and had a freckled face. She went missing with another little girl while playing at a beach, shortly after meeting one another (simply by chance). The two little girls have never been found, and multiple people have been suspected in their cases -- including at least one serial killer. However, no evidence has ever really been tied to any one particular scenario.

 This case is a total mystery, but could it be solved soon? 

Joyce Brewer
Joyce was 15-years-old when she ran away from home in 1970. The young girl, who had naturally reddish brown hair, preferred to keep it dyed blonde. She was a rebellious teenager, who left her family's home after an argument about her staying out too late at night. The willful and rebellious teenager was never seen again, and very few details are available in her case. 

It should be noted that Joyce was pretty tall for her age at around 5'7". The El Dorado Jane Doe was approximately 5'10" at the time of her murder. With enough years between 1970 and 1991, a woman can grow a few more inches, making this unsolved disappearance one worth checking in regards to our Jane Doe.

Mary Wesolowski
Where did this missing teenager go? Mary disappeared in 1971, from Glenn Falls, New York. She was only 13-years-old. While there has been one possible person of interest in her case, nobody was ever charged and her disappearance remains unsolved. When this teen vanished, she was described has having light brownish red hair and blue eyes. She was very petite. 

Helen Allison
A 16-year-old runaway, Helen was last seen in 1972, in Fairfax, Virginia. She may have traveled to the D.C. area, but nothing is really known about her case. She was described as a white female with reddish brown hair and blue eyes. Helen Irene Allison has never been located.

Few photos of the missing teen exist, along with predictive sketches of what she may look like as an adult. No reports indicate whether or not authorities have ever compared this missing person's case to the unsolved search for the El Dorado Jane Doe's true identity. 

Charlotte Loomis
Charlotte was only 14-years-old when she disappeared from New Jersey in 1972. The Blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl has never been found.

There are over 500 cases of unsolved missing girls and young women over the span of time between 1960 and 1990 -- far too many to continue listing in one post. I will continue splitting these posts up in installments to continue.

I want to make a note of the fact that some of these missing girls also have missing parents. Not only would this make it incredibly difficult to find them, I suppose it would also make it extremely difficult to identify them. What if our El Dorado Jane Doe is the child of a missing parent, and that is why nobody has come forward to identify her? What if this young woman was never actually a runaway, but a kidnapped child who later got out on her own under false identities? I want to cite a recent case of a young woman who was discovered to be a child that was missing for over 18 years. She had been kidnapped from a hospital as an infant, and spent her entire life using fake names and identities, until her "mother" was ultimately caught, and she was "reunited" with her biological family. In my opinion, that makes the theory of our Jane Doe being the child of a deceased or missing parent considerable.

Oct 14, 2017

The El Dorado Jane Doe was a woman of many names, but none of them truly belonged to her. That is why her identity has remained unknown since the day her body was discovered in 1991. Who was this strikingly beautiful young blonde, and why did she hide behind a cluster of fake identities? The story of this unidentified slain woman is one of America's most bizarre mysteries after more than 25 years.

The body of this unidentified woman was located on July 10, 1991, in El dorado, Arkansas. She had been beaten. Her neck was broken. She had also been shot. The horrifying discovery in Room #121 of the former Whitehall Motel began an investigation that turned far more bizarre than any ordinary homicide case.

Unlike most Jane Doe homicide cases, this particular murder was solved incredibly quickly. Even though her real name was not known (she went by "Mercedes" among friends at the time of her death), the identity of her killer was known immediately. James McAlphin was her ex-boyfriend, and possible pimp. Based on witness accounts and forensic evidence, McAlphin was quickly convicted and locked away.

A witness at the Whitehall motel saw "Mercedes" arrive at the property, where McAlphin had been living temporarily. The man reportedly assaulted the tall blonde woman, beating her and pulling her by her hair before dragging her into Room #121. Once the couple were inside the motel room, at least one witness told police they heard yelling and arguing, which was shortly silenced by a single gunshot. James McAlphin was seen fleeing from the motel room, and the body of his slain former lover was found briefly later.

"Mercedes" had a social security card and other identification showing her name to be Cheryl Ann Wick. When detectives were able to locate whom they believed to be the slain woman's loved ones, they were alarmed to find that the actual Cheryl Ann Wick was alive and well. Her identity had been stolen, presumably while she was working as a stripper in a Minneapolis gentleman's club. The real Cheryl Ann Wick told detectives that she didn't know the woman who called herself "Mercedes." So how did the El Dorado Jane Doe end up with the Minnesota woman's identity?
Detectives have been able to uncover that "Mercedes" had gone by multiple names over the course of her life, and she had lived in numerous places throughout the United States. It's believed she spent some time in Virginia beach in the late 80s, but appeared to float back and forth to Arkansas from other places in the country. Sometime between 1990 and 1991, it is known that she went by the name Kelly Carr, and that she told people that she was from Florida. However, that name turned out to be a false moniker as well.

"Mercedes," aka the El Dorado Jane Doe frequently switched between the names Kelly Carr and Cheryl Ann Wick, depending on where she was living. She also used the name Shannon Wiley. The backstories she told her acquaintances and friends in every new location also varied. At times she told people that she had a child (or two), and that her mother was raising them. Other times, she claimed that she was in the witness protection program, and hiding from "the mafia." Some of her stories went from bizarre to macabre, and have led to possible clues (that have also led detectives nowhere).

"Mercedes" had once claimed to be part of the botched robbery of a big rig driver. She bragged to an acquaintance that the man ended up dead in the incident. Detectives suspect that "Mercedes" may be part of the unidentified duo sought in the unsolved murder of a truck driver. Witnesses in this particular case claimed to see a white blonde woman with a black man around the time of the murder. All of the details appeared to match the story told by the woman police still can't identify.

What can be gathered, and speculated, about this Jane Doe, is that she had lived most of her life under false identities. This leads many to believe that she could have been a child runaway who stayed her life on the underbelly of society -- engaging in prostitution and other criminal elements. It is also known that "Mercedes" lived a spectacularly rough life in the years leading up to her death. It's also known that she had been frequently beaten by the man who ultimately killed her, and she did end up in the hospital multiple times as result of these beatings. Still, she never revealed her true identity, even when in the security and privacy of medical care. Shortly before her death, "Mercedes" was able to break up with McAlphin, but once she was no longer with him he threatened her relentlessly. Had she not gone back to him on that day, there's no telling what her future may have held. Would she have continued stealing identities, or would she have eventually found her way back to her true self?
It should be noted that she looked quite different at the time of her death, than in her existing photos. "Mercedes" appeared to prefer going blonde, and wore plenty of makeup to cover her freckles. While official documents list her as having "brown" hair, it's apparent by her postmortem photos that this woman was a redhead.

It should also be noted that her killer, James McAlphin, has recently broken his silence after several years. In 2016, the convicted killer claimed that he knows the true identity of this mysterious Jane Doe. He also claimed that "solving this cold case" would "solve a couple more cold cases." It's hard to trust the words of a man who violently murdered this beautiful, vibrant woman, especially since he has refused to cooperate with detectives for the entirety of the case. His recent claims could be nothing more than a ploy for attention, and it wouldn't be the first time he's tried to use Jane Doe's identity to garner favor. Previously, he told detectives that he knew her identity, but he was seeking in-prison privileges in exchange for the (presumably false) information.

Will we ever learn the identity of the El Dorado Jane Doe?

The body of 32-year-old Monica Hoffa was found slain on Friday morning, and now detectives in Tampa, Florida are looking for a killer. Is the public at risk, or was this an isolated murder that has a neighborhood so disturbed?

She started out as a Jane Doe. A Tampa city worker stumbled upon the mystery woman's slain body on Friday morning, on a piece of land owned by the city. In a quiet neighborhood of small houses with lush, grassy lawns, residents were shocked to learn of the discovery.

Police say Monica Hoffa suffered from "upper body trauma," not revealing much else about the circumstances of her death. However, residents of the area claimed to hear gunshots just a couple days prior to the discovery of her body.

With so few details available to the public, it's impossible to speculate on what may have led to the death of this woman. However, there are numerous questions to be asked. Since the identity of this woman's killer is unknown, it's important to look at the victim. Who was she? How did she live her life? A brief search of her name (Monica Caridad Hoffa) returns more than one mugshot. One arrest took place in 2016. Hoffa allegedly fled the scene of a crash "with injury," which landed her in jail. Her occupation listed on the Hillsborough County data sheet is "Saki Sushi Server."
Police have stopped short of confirming that Monica was shot to death by asking for information on "a possible gunman" responsible for her death. If you have any information regarding the murder of Monica Hoffa, please do not hesitate to contact the Tampa Police Department at (813) 276-3200.

Update: Crystal Mathis has been located safely.

Middleton, Wisconsin: Authorities are searching for a 35-year-old woman, who they say is "endangered." Crystal Wallace (aka Crystal Mathis), was last seen on Saturday morning, when she left her home to go to the store. She never returned, and now police are asking for help in locating her.

Loved ones of the missing woman say that she was only expected to be brief when she left her home on Saturday morning. When she didn't return after several hours, they became worried. Their worry evolved into a missing person's report to authorities after she failed to show up to work.

Reports aren't sharing why she is classified as an "endangered" missing woman, but they are asking for information on her whereabouts from the public. If you believe you know where Crystal Wallace is, or if you've seen her, please call the Middleton Police Dept. at (608) 824-7300.