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The Best Theories, Conspiracies, and Unanswered Questions about Famous Crimes

ht_zodiac_sketch_100105_mn_400Why do people care so much about sensational crime stories like O.J. Simpson and Jon Benet Ramsey? Probably for the same reason they love to read murder mystery novels and watch crime dramas on TV.

There’s something satisfying about seeing a murder investigation play out, the killer tracked down and justice handed out–all within a single book or an hour-long TV show.

But–unlike novels and TV shows–real-life crimes don’t always wrap up so neatly at the end, leaving us with many unanswered questions about what really might have happened. Here are some of them:

Who fed pineapples to Jon Benet Ramsey before she was murdered? Twenty years after six-year-old child beauty pageant queen Jon Benet Ramsey was murdered in her Boulder, Col. house, authorities still don’t know who did it. One of the most intriguing pieces of evidence is that her killer apparently fed her pineapples before she died. Pieces of recently eaten pineapple were found in her stomach and a bowl of pineapples left on the kitchen table. Family members said they did not give Jon Benet pineapples that night–and it’s hard to imagine an intruder taking time to do that. But the answer to the pineapple question could solve this baffling murder.

Did the Zodiac Killer die–or just stop killing? The Zodiac Killer is the most famous American serial killer who was never caught. He murdered a series of people in the late ’60s in Southern California, leaving taunting notes with the name Zodiac–then just disappeared. Many theorize Zodiac must have died. Others speculate he simply stopped killing for some reason. Numerous suspects have been pointed to over the years as the possible Zodiac killer, but his identity remains unknown.

Was Son of Sam really just a lone, crazy gunman? David Berkowitz, a troubled postal worker, was arrested after the so-called Summer of Sam and charged with killing 6 people and wounding 7 in a series of random shootings which terrorized New York City during the ’70s. But did Son of Sam act alone? There have long been theories–which Berkowitz himself has discussed at various points–that he was part of a Satanic cult which helped him carry out the NYC shootings and was responsible for other Satanic-inspired crimes around the country. None of these claims have ever been substantiated. Berkowitz remains in prison serving a life sentence.

Could Etan Patz still be alive? Etan Patz was a 6-year-old boy who disappeared on his way to school in lower Manhattan in 1979, becoming the most well-known missing child case in America. After years of fruitless searching, he was declared officially dead in 2001. But because his body was never found, numerous sightings of a possible grown-up Etan Patz have continued to come in from around the world. The FBI still reportedly checks out some of the tips it receives, although no trace of Etan Patz has ever been found. Etan would be 44 years old today if he were alive.


Why did Lee Harvey Oswald only bring four bullets to kill JFK? Many Americans still consider this the biggest unsolved murder case of our times. One of the most mystifying questions is why Lee Harvey Oswald apparently only brought four bullets–three that were shot and one loaded cartridge found with the rifle. No other bullets were ever discovered at the scene or in his possessions. Would someone really set out to murder the President with only four bullets? It’s just one of many unanswered questions that fuel conspiracy theories about JFK’s death.

Did Casey Anthony get away with murder? No trial since O.J. has stirred as much passion as Casey Anthony, ultimately found innocent of the death of her 2-year-old daughter Caylee–whose body was found in woods a month after she disappeared. Despite various murder scenarios that proved not to be true about Caylee being abducted or sexually molested by someone, Anthony’s defense at the trial was that she had found the little girl drowned in the pool–then hid the body and lied out of panic. Investigators were never able to determine an exact cause of death for little Caylee. But there was a huge outcry of outrage from the public after Anthony was acquitted of the murder charge.

Was John Lennon actually Mark David Chapman’s first target? Chapman had a hitlist of famous people he wanted to kill–including Elizabeth Taylor, Johnny Carson, and possibly even Jackie Kennedy. Also near the top of the list was David Bowie, who was appearing on Broadway (Chapman had a show program and picture of Bowie with him when he was arrested.) He also had a bizarre confrontation with singer James Taylor in a NYC subway station the day before Lennon was murdered. Even to the very end Chapman seemed unsure about killing Lennon–saying afterward that if a girl he’d met outside the apartment building had gone out with him that night he might not have been there. In the end though, he murdered the 40-year-old former Beatle for no discernable reason other than Lennon was famous.

Who killed Nicole Brown Simpson? OK, we’re all pretty sure we know the answer to this one. But since O.J. was acquitted of the murder, it technically still remains an open case. Other potential suspects put forward have been drug dealers, someone else Nicole knew, etc.–and O.J. himself, of course, proclaimed on the courthouse steps after his acquittal that he would now track down Nicole’s real killer. But perhaps the closest answer came in the book called If I Did It, in which O.J. is quoted hypothetically talking about the murder. Some people feel O.J., now in prison on other crimes, will eventually confess to killing Nicole and Ron Goldman before he dies.

Now that would give us a final answer to one sensational crime story!

Photo courtesy of ABC News


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