Fiction often pulls the rug out from under the audience and blindsides them with a surprise plot twist. When done well, plot twists can work very effectively, but if the twist is ridiculously contrived and unbelievable, it can take the audience out of the story. However, ridiculously contrived and unbelievable plot twists sometimes do happen in real life. The following cases started off as mysteries but wound up resolved by circumstances as crazy and unexpected as anything a writer could have dreamed up.
10Murder Is Solved By Uncovering Illegitimate Child Of Deceased Man
On the evening of November 26, 2010, 13-year-old Yara Gambirasio disappeared while walking home in Brembate di Sopra, Italy. Her body was found in a field three months later. She had been stabbed multiple times before dying of exposure.
An extensive investigation was launched, in which over 15,000 DNA tests were administered to people from the area and compared with DNA samples found at the murder scene. A man named Damiano Guerinoni was found to have a similar DNA profile, so DNA tests were performed on members of his family, including one of his uncles, Giuseppe Guerinoni. Even though Guerinoni was deceased, investigators were able to get a DNA sample from an old postage stamp he had licked. To their astonishment, the DNA was a perfect match. The only problem was that Guerinoni had died 11 years before Gambirasio’s murder.
The DNA match meant the killer had to be Guerinoni’s offspring, but his three children were eliminated as suspects. Authorities soon discovered that Guerinoni had a reputation as a womanizer and may have fathered an illegitimate child with another woman. Since Guerinoni worked as a bus driver and constantly interacted with the public, over 500 women had to be investigated.
A woman named Ester Arzuffi wound up matching the DNA sample. Arzuffi had been married to her husband since 1967 and had three children with him, including a pair of twins. Arzuffi’s husband always assumed that he was the twins’ biological father, but she’d once had an affair with Giuseppe Guerinoni, and both twins were his illegitimate children. DNA testing confirmed that one of the twins, Massimo Giuseppe Bossetti, was Yara Gambirasio’s killer, and he was charged with the murder in June 2014.
9Convicted, Acquitted, And Convicted Again Of The Same Crime
In 1985, Kathryn Eastburn was the wife of an Air Force captain and lived with her family in Fayetteville, North Carolina. On May 12, the community was shocked when Eastburn was found raped and stabbed to death in her home. Two of her daughters, five-year-old Kara and three-year-old Erin, had also been brutally murdered. While her third child, 22-month-old Jana, was spared, she came dangerously close to dying of dehydration in her crib.
Investigators charged a suspect with the crime: Master Sergeant Timothy Hennis, who was stationed at Fort Bragg. A few days prior to the murders, Hennis had been at the Eastburn residence to adopt their dog, and a witness claimed to have seen him in the neighborhood on the night of the crime. In 1986, Hennis was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
However, because the evidence against Hennis had been very circumstantial, a lot of controversy surrounded the verdict, so his attorneys were able to get him a retrial three years later. This time, Hennis was acquitted, and he resumed his career in the Army. But this was not the end of the story.
In 2007, the investigation was reopened, and DNA testing was performed on semen samples from the crime scene. The DNA belonged to Timothy Hennis.
Under normal circumstances, Hennis could not be charged with the murders again because of double jeopardy laws. However, because Hennis was still enlisted with the Army, he could be retried under a military court martial. In 2010, Hennis was found guilty and earned the dubious distinction of being sentenced to death for the same crime twice. He currently sits on death row at Fort Leavenworth.
834-Year-Old Man Finds Himself On Missing Children’s Website
In 1977, Mark Barnes and Charlotte Moriarty lived together in Hau’ula, Hawaii. At the beginning of the year, Charlotte gave a birth to a son named Marx Panama Moriarty Barnes. On June 21, Charlotte put six-month-old Marx into a stroller and told her husband they were going to a nearby store. Neither of them returned home that day. After Mark notified police, they conducted an extensive search of the island but found no trace of either Charlotte or Marx.
Shortly after running away with her son, Charlotte Moriarty was arrested after breaking into a house. She told police her name was “Jane Amea” and that her son’s name was Tenzin. Charlotte was confined to a psychiatric hospital while Marx was sent to live in an orphanage. When Marx was three, he was adopted by Steve and Pat Carter, a New Jersey couple stationed in Hawaii. They had no idea Marx had been abducted from his father.
In 2011, 34-year-old Marx was following a news story about Carlina White, an abducted infant reunited with her biological mother after 23 years. Marx began to suspect he may have been abducted and browsed missing children’s websites. He came across a profile for Marx Panama Moriarty Barnes and was stunned by how much the age progression sketch of Marx resembled him. DNA testing confirmed that he was the missing child, and Marx reunited with his biological father. Charlotte Moriarty’s current whereabouts are unknown.
7Missing Man Is Found Inside Deceased Drag Queen’s Trunk
Bobby Worley was born in Fairmont, North Carolina and was the youngest of seven children. In 1963, he was charged with raping a woman and was sentenced to three years at Sing Sing. Shortly after his release, Worley changed his name to “Bobby Wells” and went to live with one of his brothers in the Bronx. In 1968, he got into an altercation with a female neighbor and roughed up one of her kids. When the woman threatened to call the police, Worley disappeared. This was the last time his family ever saw him, and he remained a missing person for 25 years. However, in 1993, the Worley family got closure in the most unexpected way imaginable after the death of a famous drag queen named Dorian Corey.
Dorian Corey was born Frederick Legg but assumed his new identity after getting breast implants during the 1960s. Corey soon became a popular figure on the New York City drag queen circuit and gained prominence after being featured in the documentary Paris is Burning.
On August 29, 1993, Corey died of AIDS-related complications and left behind a Manhattan apartment. When it was being cleaned out, a large trunk was discovered. To everyone’s shock, the partially mummified body of a man was inside. A fingerprint check identified the body as Bobby Worley.
Worley had been shot in the back of the head and was believed to have been dead for 15–25 years. The exact details of how Worley’s body wound up in that trunk are unknown, but before Worley’s disappearance, his brother remembered him mentioning a relationship with a transvestite named “Dorian.” The most prevalent rumor is that Worley was shot in self-defense when he tried to assault Corey and that his mummified body was hidden inside the trunk to avoid a scandal.
636-Year-Old Cold Case Solved By Homeless Man’s Chewing Gum
On June 12, 1976, Blanche Kimball’s neighbors contacted the authorities, having not seen the 70-year-old Augusta, Maine resident for days. When police arrived at Kimball’s home, they were treated to a brutal murder scene. Kimball was dead on the floor of her blood-splattered kitchen and had been stabbed dozens of times.
The investigation turned toward 27-year-old drifter Gary Robert Wilson, who had briefly lived in Kimball’s home before the murder. Shortly thereafter, Wilson was caught breaking into another neighborhood home but quickly skipped town. Since the prime suspect could not be found, Blanche Kimball’s murder seemed destined to remain unsolved forever.
In 2010, elderly vagrant Gary Raub got into an altercation with a man on Capitol Hill in Seattle, which ended with Raub slashing the man’s stomach. No charges were filed because the victim could not be located, but the police entered Raub’s knife into evidence and made a surprising discovery: DNA on the knife matched blood from Blanche Kimball’s murder scene. Gary Raub was actually Gary Robert Wilson and had been in and out of prison since leaving Augusta in 1976.
After learning of this development, the Maine State Police asked the Seattle PD to get a DNA sample from Raub to definitively tie him to the murder. They did so in a bizarre fashion. After finding Raub wandering the streets, an undercover officer paid him to participate in a fake “chewing gum survey,” which involved Raub putting different flavors of gum in his mouth. The police saved the gum and used it obtain Raub’s DNA. When the DNA linked him to the Kimball murder scene in October 2012, Raub was arrested and charged with the crime.
5Woman Leads Police To Murder Victim After Alleged Psychic Vision
In many unsolved criminal cases, self-proclaimed psychics are brought in to provide assistance. Most of the time, these frauds and scam artists provide inaccurate information that only hampers the investigation. However, there is one case where the body of a missing woman was discovered because of a supposed psychic vision.
In December 1980, 31-year-old Melanie Uribe from Burbank, California went missing. Two days later, police received a surprising assist from aerospace worker Etta Smith. Smith had learned about Uribe’s disappearance on the news and claimed that it triggered a psychic vision of Uribe’s body in a rural area. Smith followed her instincts and pinpointed Lopez Canyon as the location in her vision. Remarkably, she found the body of Melanie Uribe in the brush. Uribe had been raped and beaten to death.
When Smith reported the body to the police, they instantly became suspicious of her story and accused of her being involved with Uribe’s murder. Smith was interrogated at the police station for 10 straight hours but refused to admit to any involvement. Even though Smith passed two polygraph exams, the detectives lied about the results and eventually booked her as an accessory to murder. She was locked up and languished in jail for four days.
However, police soon tracked down and arrested the three men who killed Melanie Uribe. They determined that Smith had no connection to the perpetrators or the murder, so she was finally released. While some people remained skeptical about Etta Smith’s alleged psychic abilities, she was able to file a successful false arrest lawsuit against the police. In 1987, a judge ruled that Smith had been unjustly jailed without evidence and awarded her over $26,000 in damages.
4Innocent Man Released After Real Killer Comes Forward
On August 11, 1989, 29-year-old Victoria Cushman was found inside her apartment in Warwick, Rhode Island bludgeoned to death with a fire extinguisher. Investigators found a letter Cushman had written to local police officer Jeffrey Scott Hornoff, demanding that he leave his wife and refusing to accept his decision to end their affair. Police became suspicious of Hornoff when he denied having an extramarital affair with Cushman, but the suspicion died down once Hornoff’s wife and friends confirmed he was at a party with them on the night of the murder. However, after facing much political pressure, the Rhode Island State Police decided in 1994 to charge Hornoff with Cushman’s murder.
At trial, the prosecution tore apart Hornoff’s alibi by claiming he sneaked away from the party to murder Cushman. Even though no other evidence connected Hornoff to the crime, Cushman’s letter proved strong enough to secure a guilty verdict, and he received a life sentence.
Hornoff maintained his innocence and filed numerous appeals but had very little hope of overturning his sentence until an unbelievable turn of events in November 2002. A 45-year-old carpenter named Todd Barry walked into the office of the Rhode Island Attorney General and flat-out confessed to murdering Victoria Cushman.
According to Barry, he had been involved in an affair with Cushman and killed her in a fit of rage. Barry had never even been investigated as a suspect, but his conscience finally reached the point where he could no longer live with the idea of an innocent man serving time in prison for his crime. Barry eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a 30-year sentence. Jeffrey Scott Hornoff was exonerated and released.
3Couple’s Disappearance Tied To Notorious Con Man
On February 8, 1985, John and Linda Sohus left their home in San Marino, California to seek employment in New York. They never returned and were reported missing two months later. In subsequent years, Linda’s friends and family received postcards from France, but they suspected that Linda never actually wrote them.
By 1994, new owners were living in the Sohuses’ former residence, and they decided to dig a swimming pool in the backyard. They found male skeletal remains buried in three plastic bags. The remains were identified as John Sohus, and even though Linda was still nowhere to found, the case wound up going in a very unexpected direction years later.
The Sohuses had been renting out their guesthouse to a tenant named Christopher Chichester, who told John’s mother that the couple had gone on a secret government mission. Chichester himself soon disappeared but was seen trying to sell John’s pickup truck in Connecticut.
Over a decade later, in 2008, con man Christian Gerhartsreiter received media attention after he was arrested for kidnapping his daughter. For years, Gerhartsreiter had been passing himself off as Clark Rockefeller, a wealthy member of the Rockefeller family. When Gerhartsreiter was exposed as a fraud, he divorced his wife and became engaged in a bitter custody dispute over their daughter. After Gerhartsreiter was apprehended for his daughter’s kidnapping, a fingerprint check revealed that he was the mysterious Christopher Chichester.
While Gerhartsreiter was imprisoned on the kidnapping charge, he was charged with John Sohus’s murder. He was convicted and received a life sentence in 2013. To date, Linda Sohus has still not been found, but Gerhartsreiter is believed to have killed her as well.
22,600 Harassing Phone Calls From Defective Oil Tank
In 1995, Donna Graybeal was tormented by a nonstop stream of harassment. Over the course of six months, she received a total of 2,688 bizarre phone calls at her home in Billerica, Massachusetts. Her phone rang at constant 90-minute intervals, and whenever she picked up, no one’s voice was on the line. Instead, Graybeal heard what sounded like a rush of air for a few seconds before the call disconnected.
Graybeal finally decided to involve the police, and they traced the calls to Theodore and Elisabeth James, a couple in Potomac, Maryland. However, the Jameses were completely innocent in the matter, and the mysterious calls had actually been made by a very unlikely culprit.
The perpetrator was a heating oil tank in the basement of the home. The tank was no longer being used, but eight years beforehand, an auto-dialing device had been installed on the tank by its original manufacturer, Steuart Petroleum. The device was designed to automatically phone the company to inform them whenever the tank was running low on fuel.
The number was disconnected, but in February 1995, Donna Graybeal set up her own 800 number for a business she was running from her home. She got the same number Stuart Petroleum once used to receive calls from their auto-dialing device. Shortly thereafter, the device on the oil tank reactivated and started making a nonstop series of calls to Graybeal’s residence. In the end, she was contacted over 2,000 times by an inanimate object.
1 Killer Holds On To Evidence For 54 Yerars
On the evening of December 3, 1957, seven-year-old Maria Ridulph was playing outside with her friend in their Sycamore, Illinois neighborhood when they were approached by a young man calling himself “Johnny.” Maria’s friend went back home to get some mittens, and when she returned, Maria and Johnny were gone. On April 26, 1958, Maria’s skeletal remains were discovered in a field 160 kilometers (90 mi) away.
A potential suspect was 17-year-old neighbor John Tessier, who resembled the man last seen with Maria. However, since Tessier had taken a train trip to Rockford to enlist in the Air Force on the night of Maria’s disappearance, he seemingly had an airtight alibi. It would be 54 years until a remarkable series of events solved Maria Ridulph’s murder.
In 1994, Tessier’s mother died and allegedly gave a deathbed confession to her daughters that he was responsible for Maria’s death. Since one of Tessier’s sisters had been sexually abused by him during their childhood, she convinced police to reopen the case. By this time, Tessier had changed his name to Jack McCullough.
The only thing pointing to McCullough’s innocence in the murder was his original alibi, and an unlikely piece of evidence caused it to fall apart. When one of McCullough’s ex-girlfriends provided police with a framed photograph of them together, the ticket McCullough had received for his train trip to Rockford was hidden inside. Investigators were shocked to discover that the ticket was unstamped and had not been used, which meant McCullough never actually left Sycamore that night. In 2011, McCullough was finally charged with Maria Ridulph’s murder, and thanks to the eyewitness testimony of Maria’s childhood friend, he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
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 worked on a sci-fi short film called Jet Ranger of Another Tomorrow. Feel free to contact him here.