When most Americans are feasting and celebrating on Thanksgiving day, some people are killing, dying, or vanishing. Creepy Thanksgiving crimes, unfortunately, are a ghastly tradition, too, one we rarely speak about. But disappearances on Thanksgiving and other unsolved Thanksgiving mysteries can make for interesting dinner conversation to distract from the usual chatter about sports, or drunken-uncle rants about politics and religion. Just don't share any of these stories with the kids. Except maybe the D.B. Cooper one, because it has all the components of a good folktale.
Teenager Karen Mitchell Vanished Without a Trace on ThanksgivingPhoto: The Charley Project
Karen Marie Mitchell disappeared from Eureka, CA, on Thanksgiving Day, 1997. She was off school for the holiday, and she had just left her place of employment and stopped by a shoe store owned by her aunt and legal guardian, Annie Casper. Karen visited briefly with Casper, then headed home to prepare for the holiday festivities. But she never made it there.
A witness claims he saw Karen get into a blue sedan driven by an older white man shortly after leaving the mall where her aunt worked. This man has never been identified, though two high-profile suspects were examined in connection with the case. The first was convicted murderer Wayne Adam Ford, who fit the witness's description of Karen's kidnapper, but though he confessed to several murders, Ford denied any involvement in Karen's case. Police were never able to tie him to the crime.
The second suspect was Robert Durst, subject of the recent HBO documentary The Jinx. Durst appears to have visited Casper's store several times, and was in Eureka the day that Karen disappeared. But like Ford, police have been unable to definitively link Durst to the crime.
Karen's fate remains unknown.
The Thanksgiving Murder of a Prominent Portland Attorney May Never Be SolvedVideo: YouTube
At first glance, the Thanksgiving death of Portland, OR, public defender Nancy Bergeson looked like natural causes. There were no signs of trauma or other marks on her body, which was discovered in her living room. But an autopsy determined that she had been strangled to death with a soft object, possibly a scarf, on Thanksgiving Day, 2009.
The circumstances of her murder are unknown, and because police initially acted on the assumption that her death had been natural, crucial evidence was likely lost from the crime scene in the early days of the investigation.
Her case remains open, with a high probability of never being solved.
Young Beth Lynn Barr Disappeared on Her Thanksgiving Walk Home
On Thanksgiving Day, 1977, six-year-old Beth Lynn Barr was walking home from school in Wilkinsberg, PA, to spend the holiday with her family - but she never arrived. Because Beth's father was a local cop, the police leapt immediately into action when Beth didn't come home. But it was all to no avail. Beth was never found.
A witness later reported seeing Beth being carried to a blue sedan driven by an older white man, and the car was traced to a local rental agency. But the agency's records showed that the car had not been loaned out that day; it was possible that the perpetrator had stolen the car for use in his crime, and returned it to the agency before anyone noticed it was gone.
Sadly, Beth's skeletal remains were discovered in a shallow, unmarked grave near Monroeville, PA, two years later. She had been stabbed several times in the chest.
Her killer remains at large, identity unknown.
Shots Through a Curtained Window Killed Two People During Thanksgiving Dinner
Shortly after 10 pm on Thanksgiving night, 2002, an unknown assailant fired shots through the curtained windows of Joseph and Evangeline Britt's home in Tacoma, WA. The Britts had been hosting a large Thanksgiving dinner gathering, with about 25 people attending. When the shooting stopped, two of those people - 19-year-old Kimberly Riley and 5-year-old Jermey Britt-Bayinthavong - were dead. Two other attendees were wounded but survived their injuries.
Witnesses saw a man with dark hair fleeing the scene in a pick-up truck, but he was never identified, and his motive for firing into a house full of Thanksgiving revelers remains a mystery, as well.