When you’re traveling on a long road trip, a rest stop can provide a much-needed break and an opportunity to recharge your batteries. Unfortunately, because they are often situated in isolated locations where help is many miles away, rest areas are not always the safest places in the world. Here are some creepy, harrowing stories that have taken place at rest stops, many of which involved travelers becoming the victims of an unsolved mystery.
10 The Blind River Rest Stop Murders
In 1991, Gord and Jackie McAllister, an elderly couple from Lindsay, Ontario, decided to go on a road trip in their motor home, eventually stopping to spend the night at a remote rest stop near the town of Blind River. Shortly after midnight on June 28, the couple was awakened by a knock on their door by an unidentified man claiming to be with the police. When the door was opened, a long-haired man burst inside, wielding a .22-caliber rifle and 20-gauge shotgun, demanding that the McAllisters hand over their valuables. After they complied with his demands, the assailant opened fire. Jackie was killed instantly, but the wounded Gord managed to flee the motor home.
Gord hid underneath the motor home for cover, but before the killer could find him, another car pulled into the rest stop. It was driven by a 29-year-old man named Bryan Major, who was immediately shot to death. Afterward, the gunman jumped into a van and fled the scene. Gord was able to make it to the road and flag down a passing truck for help, and he eventually provided police with a detailed description of the suspect.
The case remained cold until 1999, when DNA technology linked a former police officer named Ronald Glenn West with the unsolved murders of two Toronto women in 1970. There is some suspicion that West might also have been responsible for the murders of Jackie McAllister and Bryan Major, since he lived near Blind River at the time, and West’s wife once remarked that the composite sketch of the suspect resembled her husband in a wig. However, the currently incarcerated West has never been conclusively linked to the Blind River rest stop murders, which remain unsolved.
9 The Murder Of Jane Snow
On May 15, 1979, 31-year-old nurse Jane Snow left her home in Grand Rapids, Michigan, along with her two young sons, aged eight and nine. That evening, Jane was driving northbound on Interstate 75 when she decided to pull over at the Loon Lake Rest Area, just outside of Gaylord. Jane headed for the ladies’ room while her sons used the men’s room. When Jane did not exit the ladies’ room, her sons decided to check inside. They were horrified to find their mother’s murdered body on the floor. She had been stabbed 23 times. The boys were able to flag down a passing motorist for help, but at no point did they see their mother’s killer.
Around the same time, a state trooper was driving southbound on Interstate 75 and picked up a hitchhiker less than 1 kilometer (0.5 mi) from the rest area. The trooper noticed some scratches on the man’s hands, but he was unaware that a murder had occurred nearby. He soon dropped the hitchhiker off but took his name and address. The suspect’s name was John McGawley, and he had an outstanding warrant for a bad check charge in Rhode Island.
McGawley was eventually picked up and questioned about Jane Snow’s murder. That night, he had been at a bar in nearby Indian River and had left in a rage after a fight with his wife. When McGawley was tracked down by police, he was wearing a shirt with bloodstains on it, but subsequent tests determined that the blood did not belong to Jane. Ultimately, there was not enough evidence to charge McGawley with the murder, which continues to remain unsolved after more than 35 years.
8 The Disappearances Of Shaina And Shausha Henson
On April 20, 2001, a couple named Curtis and Christina Mayer were found dead at a Collier County, Florida, rest stop in an apparent murder-suicide. Curtis had shot Christina in the head before turning the gun on himself. The story took a bizarre turn when a torn birth certificate belonging to a woman named Kimyala Henson was found in the rest stop’s trash can. Kimyala’s wallet and credit cards were also inside the Mayers’ vehicle. Eight days later, the partially buried, decomposing body of Kimyala Henson was found in the desert outside Reno, Nevada. Kimyala had two daughters, two-year-old Shaina and four-month-old Shausha, but the children were nowhere to be found.
Kimyala originally hailed from Portland and had been planning to take her daughters to British Columbia. Since Kimyala was friends with Christina Mayer, Christina and Curtis would accompany the Hensons on their trip. On April 4, they all traveled to Sacramento so Kimyala could pick up her birth certificate. The last time Kimyala and her daughters were seen alive was when they checked into a Redding hotel the following evening.
However, it turned out “Curtis Mayer” was actually a fugitive named Frank Oehring, who was wanted in Missouri for attempting to murder his former wife. It’s been theorized that the couple convinced Kimyala to retrieve her birth certificate to use as documentation to cross the border. They subsequently murdered Kimyala so that Christina could steal her identity. On April 9, Christina used Kimyala’s birth certificate in Las Vegas to obtain a fraudulent identification card under Kimyala’s name. The whole thing ended with Frank Oehring’s murder-suicide, but no one knows what actually happened Shaina and Shausha. Sadly, the couple took all answers about the children’s fate to their graves.
7 The Wright City Rest Area Torso
On June 28, 2004, a maintenance crew arrived to do some work at a rest area near Interstate 70 outside Wright City, Missouri. They were shocked to find a human female torso near the bottom of a small hillside. The torso was found in a remote section near a back entrance, which is normally sealed off by a gate. However, the gate had been left open the previous evening, so the perpetrator likely used this entrance to drive into the rest area and dispose of the torso. It’s estimated that the victim was 20–45 years old. Her head, arms, and legs were removed, and she was wearing a bra which appeared to be too big for her. The unidentified woman’s missing extremities have never been recovered.
An exact cause of death for the victim could not even be established. It’s likely that she was killed at another location approximately 12 hours before she was found. The torso appeared to have separate scars from both a C-section and an appendectomy. There were also some stretch marks, which seemed to indicate that the woman had been pregnant at some point. She looked to be in very good shape with little body fat, but she also had a noticeable kidney infection and some scarring on her ovaries. In spite of these intriguing clues, investigators have never been able to determine the identity of the victim or the person who dumped her at the rest area or come up with any answers about why her body was dismembered in such a brutal fashion.
6 The Murder Of Dexter Stefonek
In the fall of 1985, 67-year-old widower Dexter Stefonek left his home in Wisconsin and traveled to Corbett, Oregon, for an extended stay with his son’s family. On November 18, Dexter decided that he wanted to return home and left his son’s residence for the lengthy drive back to Wisconsin. The following morning, Dexter’s abandoned vehicle was found in the Bad Route Rest Area, located approximately 34 kilometers (21 mi) outside Glendive, Montana. The car had been doused with gasoline and set on fire, but there was no sign of Dexter anywhere. Four months later, Dexter’s body was found in a remote dumping area 27 kilometers (17 mi) away. He had been beaten and shot twice in back of the head.
Investigators determined that Dexter probably stopped at the Bad Route Rest Area when he crossed paths with his killer. Approximately two hours before Dexter’s burning car was found, the rest area’s custodian arrived at the location. The only vehicle in the parking lot was a Chevrolet pickup truck, but there was no one around. Shortly thereafter, as the custodian was leaving, he noticed Dexter’s car pulling into the lot. It was driven by an unidentified man, who climbed out carrying two cans of gasoline. This man likely torched Dexter’s vehicle before driving away in the pickup truck.
Another puzzling aspect of this case is the fact that Dexter’s suitcase was found at the landfill alongside his body. Money was still inside the suitcase, but Dexter’s clothing was strewn everywhere, and the condition of the clothing seemed to indicate that it wasn’t planted there until months after the murder. To this day, no one knows the identity of the mysterious man who murdered Dexter Stefonek or what his motive could have been.
5 The Disappearance Of Lee Cutler
On October 20, 2007, 18-year-old high school senior Lee Cutler was scheduled for a noon shift at a clothing store in his hometown of Buffalo Grove, Illinois. He never showed up and did not return home that night. The following day, Lee’s car was found nearly 300 kilometers (200 mi) away at a rest area near Baraboo, Wisconsin. There was no sign of Lee, but the vehicle contained an admission receipt from Kettle Moraine State Park. It was time-stamped from the previous afternoon, indicating that Lee went there after leaving Buffalo Grove, but no one knows why he traveled to Baraboo.
On the same day he disappeared, Lee was captured on surveillance footage at a Walmart, purchasing some cold medicine and a bottle of pain medication. This empty pill bottle, along with several of Lee’s personal belongings, was eventually recovered next to the Baraboo River. Lee’s pants were submerged in the water, and they contained his wallet, ID, and car keys. However, a search of the Baraboo River failed to turn up Lee’s body, and since fallen trees had created an obstruction in the water, it could not have flowed very far.
A letter to Lee’s mother was also found in which Lee wrote, “Finally, I’ll get to sleep,” raising fears about a possible suicide. This letter just happened to be inside a copy of the book Into the Wild, which chronicled the story of a disillusioned young man named Christopher McCandless. McCandless perished after venturing out into the Alaskan wilderness, and there is speculation that Lee might have followed his lead and met a similar fate. However, no trace of Lee Cutler has ever been found.
4 The Murder Of Xavier Baligant
In the summer of 2011, Xavier Baligant, a 29-year-old divorced father from Pont-a-Celles, Belgium, took his two young children on a camping trip in the Rhone-Alpes region of France. At approximately 2:00 AM on July 19, Xavier and his children were traveling home when he decided to pull over at the Malvaux Rest Area in the French Alps. Xavier went to use the restroom while his sleeping children remained in the vehicle. Shortly thereafter, an employee from a motorway operating company heard some gunshots as he passed by. He investigated the rest area and found Xavier’s body in front of one of the toilets. He had been shot four times, but the killer was nowhere to be found.
At the time of the murder, there were several truck drivers parked at a rest area on the other side the motorway. They were questioned and tested for gunshot residue on their hands, but all of them came up negative. Xavier had injuries on his hands, which indicated a struggle with his killer before his death. There were numerous theories about Xavier’s murder, including that he was the victim of a contract killing or of a random, failed carjacking.
One year later, a British tourist named Saad Al-Hilli was ambushed and shot to death in his car on a remote road in the French Alps. Saad’s wife and mother-in-law were also killed, but the two Al-Hilli children survived the attack. Since the shootings occurred less than 160 kilometers (100 mi) from each other, this led to speculation that both murders were committed by a tourist-hating serial killer. However, no definitive connection has ever been found between the two crimes, which are both still unsolved.
3 The Willow Patch Rest Stop Suicide
On the morning of January 25, 1984, a 1968 Chevrolet Bel Air was found at the Willow Patch Rest Stop in White Pine County, Nevada. The decomposing body of a white male estimated to be in his forties was in the front seat. The obvious cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning, as a rubber hose had been connected to the vehicle’s exhaust pipe and ran through the passenger’s side window. The deceased victim carried no identification, but there was a suicide note which appeared to be written in the form of a prayer and was signed “J.” He also had $201.40 in his wallet, and the note requested that the money be donated to the Mormon Church.
It appeared that the man had made a deliberate attempt to conceal his identity. Even though a lot of clothing was found in the vehicle, all of the tags had been removed. The car’s license plate was missing, but there was a vehicle identification number (VIN). However, all attempts to use the VIN to uncover any record of the Bel Air came up empty. The car’s backseat was also missing, which seemed to indicate that the man had been living in the vehicle. The most unique piece of evidence was a homemade electric component box in the glove compartment. It had leads connected to the starter and was most likely a timing device used to automatically turn off the vehicle. Even though investigators had plenty of clues to go on, they have never been able to find out anything about “J” or his decision to take his own life.
2 The Disappearance Of David Lovely
In the summer of 1985, Jackie Aubut was planning to make a cross-country move from California to Massachusetts. She would be accompanied by her 19-year-old son, David Lovely, and his 18-year-old sister, Allison. The family loaded all of their belongings into a moving truck, but David wanted to make the entire journey on his motorcycle. While his mother and sister traveled in the truck, David followed closely behind them.
Things went smoothly until they stopped in Evanston, Wyoming, on August 5. David told his family that he needed to get some repairs done on his motorcycle but agreed to meet them at a nearby rest area. When Jackie and Allison arrived at the rest area later that day, David was not there. Even after they spent the entire night at the location, David never showed up.
The family soon learned that David’s aunt received a phone call from him. According to David, his motorcycle had broken down, so he pushed it to a truck stop in Fort Bridger and encountered a rough-looking man on a Harley Davidson. Even though David was initially afraid of him, the man actually wound up fixing the motorcycle, so David planned to rejoin his family. This would be the last anyone ever heard from him.
Nine days later, David’s motorcycle was found on an isolated dirt road. The keys were in the ignition, the tank was half full, and the motorcycle appeared to be in good condition. David’s knapsack and books were also found on the ground beside it. Other than the phone call to his aunt, there have been no confirmed sightings of David Lovely after he separated from his family, and he remains missing 30 years later.
1 The Murder Of Father Reynaldo Rivera
On the evening of August 7, 1982, a Catholic priest, Father Reynaldo Rivera, received a phone call at the rectory of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe. The caller said his name was Michael Carmello and that he immediately required the services of a priest to administer last rites to a dying individual. Carmello claimed that he was calling from a rest stop near the town of Waldo and that Father Rivera should meet him there. Rivera complied with the caller’s request and left the rectory, but this would be the last time he was seen alive. Three days later, Father Rivera’s body was found on a remote road approximately 5 kilometers (3 mi) from the rest stop. He had been shot to death.
Rivera’s car was later found at another rest stop near the town of Grants, and the vehicle was wiped clean of physical evidence. The only thing taken from Rivera was his last rites kit, and a check of the name “Michael Carmello” came up empty. The motive for the crime is unknown, and it’s unlikely that Father Rivera was specifically targeted, as it was only by complete chance that Rivera happened to answer the phone at the rectory that night.
There is some speculation that Rivera’s murder might be connected to the 1984 disappearance of another Catholic priest, Father John Kerrigan. Father Kerrigan went missing shortly after being transferred to Ronan, Montana, amid allegations of child sexual abuse. Even though Kerrigan’s body was never recovered, his car was found abandoned, and there was a large amount of blood, indicating foul play. While no conclusive connection has been established between the two crimes, there are enough similarities to suggest that Father Rivera and Father Kerrigan might have been murdered by the same person.
Robin Warder is a budding Canadian screenwriter who has used his encyclopedic movie knowledge to publish numerous articles at Cracked.com. He is also the co-owner of a pop culture website called The Back Row and recently wrote the award-winning script for a short film called Indefinite Late Fee. Feel free to contact him here.