Murders involve more than just the victim. Families and friends are caught in the middle of the hunt for the killer as desperate spectators, helping hands, and even prime suspects.
Probably the most difficult outcome to face is that of an open verdict, where no one can be found responsible for the murder of a loved one. Unsolved murder cases are piling up as the years go on. Below, are some of the most mysterious and high-profile of these cases, described from the killing to the current situation.
5 Elisa Lam
Only twenty-one years old at the time of her murder, this Canadian student was on a solo west coast tour of the United States in January 2013. Her travels were cut short after a five-day stay in Los Angeles's Cecil Hotel.
Elisa never missed a daily phone call to her parents; so when she failed to call them on February 1, her parents reported that she was missing. Police then searched the hotel with dogs and several days later posted flyers in the neighbourhood. Ten days after Elisa went missing, an elevator surveillance video with footage of Elisa just hours before her death was released. The footage shows Elisa behaving erratically—hiding in the elevator, jumping out into the hall, and frantically waving her arms. With the Cecil Hotel's reputation for being home to murders and suicides, police were eager to find answers.
Soon hotel guests began to complain about low water pressure, and what water did come out was discoloured and foul-smelling. After opening the hotel's water tanks on the roof, employees found the answer—Elisa's body was floating naked next to her clothing.
Elisa's strange behaviour in the elevator and her history of the bi-polar disorder has led some to believe that this was a suicide. However, suicide does not explain some of the facts. Firstly, access to the tank is high, so it would be difficult for Elisa to climb the tank, remove the heavy lid, and then replace the lid while still inside the tank. Second, the rooftop access is locked and has an alarm system in place, so how did Elisa get there without anyone noticing? Was a hotel employee involved or was this truly a suicide? To date, authorities are still unsure, and Elisa Lam's death remains a mystery.
4 Thelma Todd
Thelma Todd was a well-known Hollywood actress in the 1920's and 30's. She was also the owner of a successful café, where she worked daily. On December 15, 1935, Thelma was found dead in her garage just a walk uphill from her Sidewalk Café. She was sitting in her convertible and as it was winter some suspected that she died from inhaling the car's fumes while the car was warming up.
Friends and acquaintances say that Thelma was depressed and occasionally talked about suicide. However, later evidence found blood in her mouth and car and an unknown hand print on the car door. Also, after examining the body, it was confirmed that Ms Todd had drunk a lot of alcohol before her death, which would have made the uphill walk to the garage almost impossible. Knowledge of her depression ultimately made authorities rule the case as a suicide. In reality, her death is still a mystery...
3 Rashawn Brazil
The well-known murder of Rashawn Brazell was a popular news story in 2005. The 19-year-old Brooklyn resident was scheduled to meet his accountant on Valentine's Day of that year, then meet up with his mom for lunch. Early that morning, witnesses say they saw Rashawn leave his apartment with an unknown man and walk towards the nearby subway station.
When Rashawn didn't show up for either of his appointments that day, you can imagine that his friends and family were anxious. They didn't have to worry long, though, as his body was found in pieces separated into two bags on the subway tracks. This case has been announced eight times on America's Most Wanted, yet it is still unclear who Rashawn was with that Valentine's Day and what happened in the last hours of his life.
2 JonBenét Ramsey
The tragic death of six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey occurred in 1996 sometime during the eight hours after she was reported missing by her parents. The young beauty pageant participant from Boulder was found dead in the basement of her home.
Coroners reported that the child had been strangled approximately forty minutes after suffering a severe blow to the head. Her body was then staged to look like she had been raped or molested by her killer after a kidnapping gone wrong. Later, a ransom note was found in the home for $118,000, but it was written on the same paper as a notebook in the family's home.
This led investigators to believe that JonBenét's parents and brother were involved in the murder. However, in December of 2003 DNA testing of a blood sample found on her clothing did not match any of the suspects. Then, mysteriously, in 2006 a previous teacher of the young girl, admitted to being with JonBenét just hours before her death, but further DNA testing ruled him out as her killer. It would take as late as July 2008 for her parents to be officially cleared of the charges against them, and currently, no one knows what exactly happened to this little girl from Colorado.
1 Suzanne Jovin
Yale University was the site of Suzanne Jovin's last hours in 1998. This senior in college was seen walking to the police communications centre at 9:22 p.m. by one of her classmates, Peter Stein. Stein's eye-witness account states that Suzanne looked tired, and she didn't say whether she had plans after visiting the communications centre at Yale's old campus grounds.
Employees at the centre say that Suzanne was last seen walking on College Street after returning the keys sometime between 9:25 and 9:30 p.m. Half an hour later a 911-call reported a woman bleeding on the sidewalk two miles away from the centre. When police arrived at the scene minutes later, they found the 21-year-old's throat slit and she had been stabbed seventeen times in the neck and head.
Little evidence was found at the crime scene, despite DNA being recovered from underneath Suzanne's nails, the piece of the blade left in her body and a print on a nearby soda bottle. The only suspect was Suzanne's thesis advisor, who was tried and found not guilty of the crime due to lack of evidence, leaving Suzanne Jovin's murder on the growing stack of unsolved murder mysteries.