The Macastre Murders

Macastre

In January 1989, Rosario Gayete Moedra, her boyfriend Francisco Valeriano Flores Sanchez and their friend Pilar Ruiz Barriga were murdered under mysterious circumstances in Macastre, Spain.

On January 19, 1989, a farmer in the small town of Macastre, Spain went into his shed and found the corpse of a teenage girl lying in his bed. The girl was identified as 15-year-old Rosario Gayete Moedra, who had left her home five days earlier to go on a camping trip with her friend Pilar Ruiz Barriga (also 15) and boyfriend Francisco Valeriano Flores Sanchez (14). The three teens were from Valencia, and had a history of doing drugs and getting into trouble. Nobody had seen them since the day they went camping.

According to Rosario’s autopsy, she had died from cardiac arrest, probably triggered by a drug overdose of something. The authorities speculated that Rosario and her friends stayed in the shed to escape the cold weather. While resting in the shed, Rosario took an untraceable drug and overdosed. Francisco and Pilar then ran out of the cabin, either looking for help or fleeing the scene. The Civil Guard, Spain’s national police force, launched a search looking for them.

On January 27, a woman found an amputated foot in a waste container in Valencia. The police suspected it belonged to one of the missing Macastre teens. On April 8, Francisco’s body turned up in some bushes located less than a mile from where Rosario was found. His autopsy was inconclusive, but he might have died from the same untraceable drug Rosario took. (Note: Some sites claim that Francisco was badly beaten and shot, but I’m not sure whether that’s a rumor or not. I’ve also read that his body might have appeared after the Civil Guard searched the area. It’d be quite shocking if they missed Francisco during their initial search.)

On May 24, a group of children passing by a river in near-by Turis discovered the body of a mutilated young woman. The corpse, which seemed to be between 15 and 17 years of age, had its missing right hand and left foot cut off by a chainsaw. The face was too disfigured to tell who it was, but investigators eventually ruled that the body was Pilar’s. Pilar’s family, however, refused to accept that the body was hers. They pointed out that the body had a scar which Pilar didn’t have, and insisted that she was still missing.

In 1999, the case took another strange turn when some skeletal remains were found in Macastre. A DNA test of the remains with Pilar’s sister showed a match. Whether the body found in Turis was really Pilar’s is still up for debate, but the discovery in May 1989 shifted the focus of the case into a murder investigation. Francisco and Rosario might have been intentionally poisoned. A few days before Rosario’s body was found, witnesses reported seeing her and her friends at a local bar in Macastre.

Macastre, interestingly, is an hour away from where the teens planned to camp. It seems that somebody must have given them a ride. This person might have taken them to the bar, and then led them to the shed where Rosario was found. Whether voluntarily or by force, Francisco and Rosario died after ingesting something lethal or poisonous. Pilar presumably tried to escape, but was killed and dismembered. According to the teens’ autopsies, all three of them died between January 16-17, 1989.

There is still a lot of interest in this case today, but the authorities have yet to uncover any big leads or suspects. Some armchair sleuths have suggested a connection to the Alcasser Murders, an incident in 1992 in which three teenage girls were brutally raped and murdered near Valencia. While their murderers were officially caught, one of the men escaped and is still on the run. The investigation was filled with a countless number of problems and unanswered questions, however, and there are a bunch of conspiracy theories that claim the girls were killed for a snuff film or Satanic ritual.

Check out my book “Mexico’s Unsolved Mysteries: True Stories of Ghosts, Monsters, and UFOs from South of the Border” for more interesting mysteries of the Spanish-speaking world.  You can buy the book on Kindle here. 

 

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The Crow and the Unsolved Murder of Grégory Villemin

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Picture of Gregory Villemin.

For several years in the early 1980s, an unknown man repeatedly harassed and threatened Jean-Marie Villemin and his family in hundreds of letters and phone calls. The man, nicknamed Le Corbeau (“The Crow”) by the media, especially hated Jean-Marie. The Crow not only knew tiny details about Jean-Marie, like how he was a factory foreman, but also intimate family secrets. “Every single word we said at home,” remarked a relative to the media, “he knew.”

On the afternoon of October 16, 1984, Jean-Marie’s 4-year-old son Grégory went out to play in front of the family’s rural home in Vosges. A half-hour later, The Crow called up Grégory’s uncle and boasted of taking the little boy and putting him in the Vologne river. Police launched a massive search effort, finding Grégory’s body, his hands and feet tied up with rope, in the Vologne the same night.

gregory2

Gregory’s parents, Jean-Marie and Christine.

The next day, an anonymous letter that had been sent the day before arrived for Jean-Marie. It read, “I hope you die of grief, boss. Your money can’t give you back your son. Here is my revenge, you stupid bastard.”

After taking handwriting samples from Jean-Marie’s family, police suspected that the murderer was one of his cousins, a 30-year-old man named Bernard Laroche. Laroche, it was suggested, had a grudge against Jean-Marie because Laroche was less financially successful and had a mentally-retarded son. Laroche was taken into police custody the next month, after his sister-in-law told police that she had seen Laroche driving with Grégory.

bernard

Bernard Laroche, a cousin of Jean-Marie, was the initial suspect in the case.

The case seemed like it was just about solved, but Laroche denied having anything to do with Grégory’s murder. In February 1985, his sister-in-law admitted that she had only accused her brother-in-law because she was pressured by the police. Laroche was deemed innocent and let go. Jean-Marie, however, was not convinced. He openly announced to the media that he would kill Laroche, and sure enough, fatally shot his cousin a month later.

Jean-Marie was sentenced to five years in prison for Laroche’s murder. He told the authorities that it was revenge for Laroche killing his son. Laroche swore on his death-bed that he was innocent, and a few months after his death, another letter from The Crow arrived at Jean-Marie’s parents’ house. The killer was still on the loose, and vowed to “do the Villemin family in.”

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After the death of Bernard Laroche Christine Villemin was the next major suspect. She later wrote a book declaring her innocence.

 

Meanwhile, Grégory’s mother Christine had become the main focus of the investigation. Not only did her handwriting show some similarities to the letter sent the day Grégory was murdered, but she had been spotted at the post office that day too. Police also found cords like the ones used on Grégory in the Villemin’s basement. In July 1985, Christine was detained by the police, but later let go and freed of any charges.

In recent years, investigators have turned to DNA testing in an attempt to identify The Crow and Grégory’s killer. In a DNA test conducted in 2009 on the last Crow letter, investigators found the prints of a man on the letter itself, and another set of prints from a woman on the letter’s stamp. Neither set of DNA prints matched with Gregory’s parents, although some have dismissed the prints anyway, arguing that they could belong to anybody who touched the letter.

Some 30 years later, Grégory Villemin’s murder remains controversial and hotly debated. There are still people who believe that Bernard Laroche was the killer, while others insist that it was Christine Villemin.

UPDATE: (7/27/17)

In June 2017, Grégory Villemin’s great aunt and uncle, Jacqueline and Marcel Jacob, were charged with his kidnapping. Based on handwriting analysis of The Crow’s letters, police believe that the Jacobs are the culprits. It seems jealously was the motive, although Marcel Jacobs’ lawyer has said that there isn’t any material proof against the couple. I’ll continue to add updates as more information becomes available.

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6 Creepy Unsolved Japanese Murders

I’ve noticed that my posts about Japan receive a lot more traffic than I usually get, so I’ve decided I’m going to embark on a series of lists about unsolved Japanese murders. Most of the cases that will be featured here have never appeared in English media before. Some of them are quite obscure, but I’ve tried to find as much relevant information that I could. 

6. The Haga Futon Bag Murder

Police sketch of a man found inside a futon bag in

Police sketch of a man found inside a futon bag in Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture. (Image source/credit here.)

On April 21, 1996, while coming home from school, a group of junior high school students were looking through a bamboo grove in the Haga district of Tochigi Prefecture when they noticed a barely-closed futon bag. The kids had seen the bag laying there for almost a month, and curious about what might be inside, one of them poked it with a stick. A human hand then drooped out. The bag, it turned out, contained the body of a middle-aged man.

According to the autopsy, the man had been dead about a month when his body was discovered. He was bruised on his waist, and some of his front teeth were missing. He appeared to be between the ages of 40 and 50. The man was about 5 foot 11, and weighed 150 pounds. He had an O blood type. His clothes consisted of a dark blue jacket, a gray shirt with a green tie, and a gray pair of paints.

Investigators found the surname “Yamamoto” written on the bottom side of the tag of his pants, and the Japanese word for “next” on the other side. Despite these mysterious messages, the man has never been identified. In 2010, a sign was put up on the spot where the unidentified man’s body was found. Police hope that it might someday lead to his identification.

5. The Murder of Yoko Yoshida

Picture of Yoko Yoshida from when she was a high school student.

Picture of Yoko Yoshida from when she was a high school student. (Image source/credit here.)

On September 29, 2000, around 1 PM, a census taker collecting information in a Tokyo apartment complained to management about a room that had a terrible smell coming from it. When management sent a janitor to check the room out, he found that the door was unlocked. Inside, he found the body of the woman who was living there, a 28-year-old manga artist named Yoko Yoshida.

Yoshida, who lived alone, was laying on her back on her bed, wearing only a t-shirt. As the autopsy determined, Yoshida had been strangled to death. She had been dead for at least 10 days by the time her body was discovered. Her room showed no signs of disarray and nothing appeared to have been taken. 3 million yen and a receipt from a convenience store dated September 18th were found in her purse and wallet.

Pictures of Yoko Yoshida and the apartment she was staying at.

Pictures of Yoko Yoshida and the apartment she was staying at. (Image source/credit here.)

Police suspect that Yoshida had known her killer, and since she was a manga artist, some suggest that she was killed by a crazed fan. Yoshida had been active in the dojinshi (self-publishing) community since she graduated high school. Her killer might very well have been somebody she knew, but police have never been able to find any shady acquaintances or witnesses.

4. The Murder of Kaori Hirohata

The site where Kaori Hirohata's body was discovered.

The site where Kaori Hirohata’s body was discovered. (Image source/ credit here.)

On June 24, 2013, a member of a parking cleaning staff found the body of a middle-aged woman lying in a bush outside an apartment complex in Narashino city in Chiba Prefecture. Her belongings were found scattered around her body. Her ID identified her as Kaori Hirohata, a resident of the complex who hadn’t been seen since the day before. Although Hirohata participated in a local community event that day, she never showed up to work that evening.  

According to the autopsy results, Hirohata had been choked to death. Her upper body also showed marks of being beaten. Since Hirohata’s purse was found to be empty, the motive appeared to have been robbery. Her body was very lazily hidden, with her feet visibly sticking out of a bush. It’s likely she was dragged to the location from somewhere else.

A model of what Kaori Hirohata was dressed like the day she died.

A model of what Kaori Hirohata was dressed like the day she died.

If Hirohata really was the victim of a robbery, one has to wonder why the killer used his bare hands? Interestingly, the spot where she was found was part of her commune to work. Hirohata’s killer might have known her schedule. For information that could lead to the killer’s arrest, police are currently offering a reward of 3 million yen.

3. The Murder of the Sunamis

A policeman handing out flyers about the Sunami murders.

A policeman handing out flyers about the murder of Haruhiko and Midori Sunami. (Image source/credit here.)

On the morning of April 28, 1995, around 2:30 AM, a house in Kurashiki Kojima had been set on fire. Authorities discovered two bodies on the first floor, the remains of 70-year-old Haruhiko Sunami and his 67-year-old wife Midori. Both had been decapitated. Haruhiko also had a knife lodged into his stomach, and later evaluation of Midori found that she had been stabbed in the chest and several other spots. They are believed to have died the previous night, sometime between 5 PM and 9 PM.

Because the fire destroyed much of the house and subsequently any evidence that might have been found there, authorities have had little clues to lead them to the Sunamis’ killer. Police thought their killing might have been the result of a dispute, but this was never established. The killer might have been familiar with the house, or at least had been in it before.

For whatever reason, the killer was in the Sunamis’ house for at least 5 hours after he killed them. Could he have been looking for something? And why did he think it necessary to cut off the Sunamis’ heads, neither of which have turned up in the 20 years since the murder occurred?

2. The Murder of Makiko Tsuchiyama

Picture of the city of Higashi-osaka. (Image source/credit here.)

Picture of the city of Higashi-osaka. (Image source/credit here.)

On November 21, 1984, around 2:10 PM, a 2-year-old girl named Makiko Tsuchiyama was found fallen on her face in a drainage ditch in an alley behind her home in Higashi-osaka city.  Makiko was unconscious, and her neck seemed as though it had been strangled with a cord. Although she was rushed to the hospital, Makiko died 9 hours after being taken there.

The fact that Makiko had been playing outside by herself wasn’t unusual in the neighborhood, since other children and mothers were often outside too. Nobody, however, had seen Makiko’s murderer. Eerily, Makiko had been found unconscious on the same spot a month earlier. She had been strangled that time too, with the marks of a string around her neck. Unlike the second time, she had regained consciousness shortly after being taken to the hospital.

Immediately after this first incident, Makiko’s grandfather received a strange phone call from an unidentified woman. The woman was crying hard and speaking incomprehensibly. He tried talking to her for 2 minutes before she suddenly said “I’m sorry” and hung up. Makiko’s grandfather had not yet heard about Makiko’s incident, and thought the woman had gotten the wrong number. For the next few days, he received several more unexplained phone calls. Every time he answered, he heard only silence on the other end.

Police originally thought the first incident was an accident. They concluded that Makiko had gotten her neck hooked around a vinyl strap that had been attached to the door of her house. After Makiko died, however, they decided to launch a criminal investigation. It was strange that Makiko had been found in the alley, since she had refused to go anywhere near it since the first incident. Since there were no scratches on her face, it was suspected that somebody lured Makiko away and then strangled her in a different location. In the 30 years since Makiko’s death, neither her killer or the mysterious woman who called her grandfather have been identified.

1. The Murder of the Miyazawas

A picture of the Miyazawa family.

A picture of the Miyazawa family. (Image source/credit here.)

On the morning of December 31, 2000, a relative of the Miyazawa family in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward found father Mikio, his wife Yasuko, their daughter Niina, and their son Rei dead in their home. While Rei had been strangled in his bedroom, the other three members of the family had been stabbed to death in two different parts of the house.

The Setagaya police offering prayers at the Miyazawa home. (Image source/credit here.)

The Setagaya police offering prayers at the Miyazawa home. (Image source/credit here.)

Authorities speculate that the killer had gotten into the home from a bathroom window on the second floor of the house around 11:30 PM. He went into Rei’s room and strangled him as he slept. Mikio was found on the first floor near the staircase, possibly coming up the stairs after he heard the intruder making noise. The female Miyazawas were killed next.

A publicity campaign by the police to bring awareness about the Miyazawa murders. (Image source credit here.)

A publicity campaign by the Setagaya police to bring awareness about the Miyazawa murders. (Image source/credit here.)

The killer then ransacked the family’s house and stayed there for about 10 hours. He went into the kitchen and took some food from the fridge, and then used the family’s computer for a while. None of the money in the house was taken, but some New Year’s cards were missing. A knife the killer left behind was found, along with a shirt and bag. Additionally, blood was found at the scene that didn’t belong to any of the Miyazawas. After more than 15 years, police have had few clues to catch the Miyazawas’ killer. There is currently a reward of 20 million yen being offered to anybody who could give information that would lead to the killer’s identification.

Be sure to check out more creepy Japanese mysteries in my e-book, 20 Unsolved Mysteries of Japan, available on Amazon for Kindle.