The Five Christmas Mysteries That Have Stunned Authorities


Christmas is typically a time for good tidings and cheer, but it’s also the backdrop of a number of mysterious crimes.

Numerous Christmas killings and mysteries remain unsolved today, dating as far back as the 1940s, and armchair detectives this holiday season may have some answers.

Newsweek has a recap of five tragic events that did and continue to stun authorities.

The Five Christmas Mysteries That Have Stunned Authorities

JonBenét Ramsey, 6, was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her home in Boulder, Colorado, in 1996. The case has never been solved.
The Case Of: JonBenét Ramsey/CBS

1. The Missing Sodder Children

On Christmas Eve in 1945, five children from the large Sodder family disappeared and were never seen again.

Their family home in Fayetteville, West Virginia was the site of a huge fire and while parents George and Jennie and four of their children managed to escape the burning building, five of their children were unaccounted for, and their remains were never recovered.

They were 4-year-old Maurice Sodder, 12-year-old Martha, 9-year-old Louis, 8-year-old Jennie, and 5-year-old Betty.

In a strange and upsetting twist of events, a significant amount of unexplained problems arose when George Sodder tried to rescue his children, including a ladder being missing, windows not opening and no operator at the fire station working that night.

How the fire started and what happened to the Sodder children remains unknown today but according to several true-crime podcasts such as Casefile True Crime, a possible motive relates to George’s criticism of Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini. George was an Italian immigrant and his opposition made him a vulnerable target of the Sicilian mafia.

George demolished the house before it could be established whether his children were dead or missing.

According to Smithsonian, the surviving Sodder family believed for the rest of their lives that their relatives had survived the fire. A billboard was erected in the 1950s with images of the children, and a reward was offered for information. It remained standing until Jennie Sodder’s death in 1989.

2. The Murder of Paul Logan

On December 23, 1993, Paul Logan was at work as a Chinese food delivery driver in Blackhill, County Durham in England when he was called to deliver an order to Blue House Farm.

When Logan arrived at the farm, the dad-of-two was told no food order had been placed by the homeowners and he headed back to his car.

The owners at Blue House Farm raised the alarm when they noticed his white Peugeot car was still sitting at the end of the lane to their home later that evening. When police arrived, they searched the area and uncovered Logan’s body. He had been bludgeoned to death.

Today his family is still searching for answers.

In 2021, Northumbria Police reviewed the case and Detective Superintendent Ian Sharp told the British news outlet Chronicle Live that his team had interviewed 2,271 people, taken 903 statements, and followed up on 1,796 lines of inquiry.

“I’m keeping an open mind about why Paul was killed,” Sharp said. “This murder was pre-planned and well-organized in such a way that it is extremely unlikely the killer was acting alone. It’s probable that at least two people, possibly more, were involved.”

3. The JonBenét Ramsey Case

On Christmas Day in 1996, six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey was found dead in her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado.

Ramsey’s body was discovered in the basement of the house alongside a ransom note seven hours after she was reported missing. The autopsy report ruled her death as a homicide, caused by “asphyxia by strangulation associated with craniocerebral trauma.”

At first, police suspected the pageant queen’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, were responsible for her death. However, there was insufficient evidence to charge them with any offenses. They were completely cleared as suspects in 2008.

Another theory put forward by police was that an intruder had broken into the family home and committed the killing. In 2003, DNA was found on Ramsey’s clothes that belonged to an unidentified male.

To this day, Ramsey’s killer has never been found and her death has been the subject of numerous podcasts, documentaries, movies, and TV dramas. People across the world are still trying to make sense of how this could have happened to a little girl.

In 2006, John Mark Karr confessed in an email to killing Ramsey, but there was no evidence found linking Karr to the crime. Karr was never charged.

Her death is still considered a cold case and remains an open investigation with the Boulder Police Department in Colorado.

4. The “Christmas Tree Lady”

On December 18, 1996, a woman who became known as “The Christmas Tree Lady” was discovered dead, lying on a plastic sheet in Annandale, Virginia at the Pleasant Valley Memorial Park cemetery.

She was approximately 60 years old and had never been identified.

Police discovered beside her body a Christmas tree, a tape player, and a note that read: “Deceased by own hand…prefer no autopsy” and was signed “Jane Doe.”

The note also requested that she be cremated and included money to cover the cost. Her cause of death was ruled as asphyxiation and investigators believed she had taken her own life.

However, for almost two decades, nobody came forward to identify Jane Doe and the motivation behind her death remains unknown.

Earlier this year, DNA and genealogy research led to “The Christmas Tree Lady” being identified. She was Joyce Marilyn Meyer Sommers, originally from Davenport, Iowa. She was the oldest of five siblings, according to DNASolves.com.

At the time of her death, Meyer had not been reported missing and did not have family in the immediate area. Relatives had hired a private detective to look for her but had no success.

5. Ed and Minnie Maurin

It took more than two decades to find out what happened to the elderly couple Ed and Minnie Maurin.

On Christmas Eve 1985, the couple’s bodies were found in woodland after they had been shot in the head near their home in Ethel, Washington.

It was not until 2012 their family finally got justice when witnesses came forward with evidence, but for years, the couple’s unexpected death baffled authorities. An investigation in the 2010s discovered the Maurins had been kidnapped by Rick Riffe and John Gregory, notorious drug dealers in the local area, who forced them to withdraw $8,500 in cash.

They were then driven to the woods and shot in their car. Unfortunately, witnesses did not come forward fearing retribution from the men. But years later, Rick and John Gregory were picked out of a lineup by witnesses who had seen them driving the Maurins’ car.

John Gregory died before he could be arrested but Rick Riffe was charged with two counts of murder in the first degree, two counts of robbery in the first degree, and one count of burglary in the first degree.

He was found guilty and sentenced to 103 years in prison.



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