10 Unsolved Military Cases

arm-cid-cold-case-krashoc-photo

Darlene Krashoc, U.S. Army

UPDATE: Army Spc. Darlene Krashoc Sexually Assaulted, Murdered, and Dumped in Parking Lot in Colorado Springs; DNA Match Leads to Arrest of Michael Whyte (March 17, 1987)

Gordon Hess

Captain Gordon Hess, U.S. Army

Army Captain Gordon Hess Found Stabbed to Death at Fort Knox in Kentucky, Military Investigators Ruled Suicide Despite the 26 Stab Wounds to Neck & Chest Area (1998)

36015280_124010812543

Col. Philip Shue, U.S. Air Force

Air Force Col. Philip Shue Died in an Apparent Car Accident, But Autopsy Revealed Much More; Texas Judge Ruled Cause of Death as Homicide (2003)

LaVena Johnson

Pfc. LaVena Johnson, U.S. Army

Army Pfc LaVena Johnson Died of Non Combat Related Injuries in Iraq, Death Ruled Suicide But Independent Autopsy Revealed Rape & Murder (2005)

Nonnie Dotson

Nonnie Dotson, U.S. Air Force

Lackland Air Force Base Nurse Nonnie Dotson Mysteriously Disappeared, Last Seen November 19th, 2006 in Littleton, Colorado While on Leave

blanca Luna

SrA Blanca Luna, U.S. Air Force

Cold Case: Air Force Reservist SrA Blanca Luna Discovered Stabbed to Death in Base Lodging at Sheppard AFB in Texas (2008)

5261cc1264a77-image

SSG Anton Phillips, U.S. Army

Army SSG Anton Phillips Found Stabbed to Death at FOB Mehtar Lam, Afghanistan; CID Offering $25,000 Reward for Information (2009)

screen-shot-2017-03-24-at-12-48-18-pm

Katherine Morris, U.S. Army Spouse

Army Spouse Katherine Morris Found Dead in Car Near Mall; Cause of Death Initially Ruled Suicide But Further Investigation Suggests Homicide Motivated by Insurance Fraud (2012)

shawn-wayne-wells

Sean Wells, U.S. Army

Fort Bragg Army Soldier Sean Wells Gunned Down in Home by Two Masked Men in Fayetteville, Family Asks for Help Solving Case (2013)

Screen Shot 2017-12-22 at 12.56.08 PM

Pvt. Justin Lewis, U.S. Army

Unsolved Homicide: Fort Hood Army Pvt. Justin Lewis Shot & Killed Near Vacant Lot in Neighborhood in Killeen, Texas (2017)

CASES SOLVED BY NCIS COLD CASE SQUAD:

screen-shot-2016-08-07-at-7-36-01-pm

Andrew Muns, U.S. Navy

Michael LeBrun Plead Guilty to Strangling Andrew Muns on the USS Cacapon After Caught Stealing $8,600 from Navy Ship’s Safe, NCIS Cold Case Squad Solves Case (1968)

image1

Lt Verle ‘Lee’ Hartley, U.S. Navy

Lt Verle Lee Hartley, US Navy, Died of Arsenic Poisoning in 1982, NCIS Cold Case Squad Solved Murder 13 Years Later, Wife Pamela Plead Guilty (1982)

Related Links:
Our View: ‘Cold Case’ crimes are worth investigators’ effort
Military Policy and Legislation Considerations for the Investigations of Non Combat Death, Homicide, and Suicide of US Service Members
A List of Soldiers Targeted & Murdered for the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance Benefits (SGLI)
Investigators Persisted When Army Soldier Kelli Bordeaux Disappeared in North Carolina, Convicted Sex Offender Nicholas Holbert Sentenced to Life in Prison for Murder (2012)

Serial Killer & Army Reserve Veteran Robert C. Hansen Died of Natural Causes While Serving Out a Life Sentence in Alaska State Prison (August 21, 2014)

Robert Hansen was a mild-mannered family man with a passion for hunting. A master at his trade, Hansen sought a more challenging prey – his fellow human. Hansen kidnapped women, set them loose in the Alaskan wilderness, and hunted them down for sport. -Hunting Humans, Ice Cold Killers (S1, E1)

Serial killer and Army Reserves veteran Robert C. Hansen confessed to the murder of 17 women and the kidnapping and rape of another 30 women in Alaska. But the authorities believe there are many more victims and their cases are still open. Hansen was officially charged with the abduction and rape of Cindy Paulson and the murders of Joanna Messina, Sherry Morrow, Paula Goulding, and the unidentified body known as “Eklutna Annie.” On February 28, 1984, Robert Hansen was sentenced to 461 years plus life in prison with no parole. Hansen led the police to 17 grave sites he marked on a map but only 12 of his victims bodies were recovered. Robert Hansen’s health was declining for over a year when he died of natural causes on August 21, 2014 at the age of 75.

In 1982, two off-duty police officers were hunting for wild game. As darkness fell and they headed home, they made a gruesome discovery. They knew enough to back away and dispatched the Alaska State Troopers to the scene. The crime scene investigators unearthed the partial bones of a woman buried in a shallow grave. They also found bones scattered around the surrounding area. In Alaska, wild game won’t hesitate to drag off the evidence. They also found a 223 caliber bullet casing. The victim was bound and blind folded at the time of death, and she was shot three times. She was identified as Sherry Morrow; Sherry was drawn to Alaska for the easy money. She worked as an exotic dancer in a seedy area of Anchorage known as ‘Fourth Avenue’. Police looked to see if anyone else in that community had disappeared under similar circumstances. Before the discovery of Sherry’s body, none of the missing persons reports were linked or suggestive of murder. Morrow’s case inspired police to take a look at the cold case files.

Two years before Morrow’s body was found, construction workers found the partial remains of a woman buried in a shallow grave; her body was desecrated by wild life and her bones were scattered. Police couldn’t make an identification and dubbed their Jane Doe “Eklutna Annie”. Nobody ever came forward with information about Annie. Police were concerned they were dealing with a brutal killer so they started canvassing the area where the dancers spent their time. Sherry’s co-workers feared the worst because a number of women had gone missing and they were never heard from again. Over the next several years, five more dancers went missing. Police suspected Sherry and Annie’s cases were connected. They were all victims from the beginning because everyone preyed on these girls, including the bar owners and pimps. Several dancers reported seeing the same man and provided police with a physical description. Police learned of a third body found in a gravel pit near where Eklutna Annie’s body was found.

The victim was identified as Joanna Messina. She was a canary worker who was last seen leaving the dock with her dog and a red haired man her co-workers couldn’t identify. Messina was shot and killed with a 22, not a 223. Two more women vanished and were never seen or heard from again. The blindfolds at the crime scenes told the police a lot about the killer. He was a sexual sadist who wanted complete control. He derived pleasure from his victim’s fear and pain and disposed of their bodies in isolated areas in Alaska. Nine months later, a truck driver found a frantic hand-cuffed woman running in the road; someone with a gun ducked out of site. The trucker took her to a nearby hotel where she was safe and called the Anchorage police. The police found a 17-year-old woman still in handcuffs and in shock. She told the officers she was a topless dancer down on 4th Avenue; she said she was propositioned by a red haired man in his 40s the night before. She confessed that she accepted the stranger’s offer.

Once inside the man’s car, she said the man pulled a gun on her. He kidnapped her, handcuffed her, and told her if she cooperated and did what he wanted, she wouldn’t be harmed. He took her to a middle class house in Muldoon. He held her hostage in a basement filled with mounted heads of animals. He brutalized her for hours. He chained her to beam in the basement and repeatedly sexually assaulted her. She told the police he was going to fly her to his cabin in the woods, promising to release her if she cooperated. Once at the airport, the kidnapper shoved her in a small plane and began loading supplies. The second he turned his back, she made her escape. Hoping to corroborate her account, investigators took her to the airfield to find the plane. She identified a plane owned by Robert Hansen; he was a 50 year-old avid hunter and local business man. Hansen owned a well established bakery, had lot of friends, and went to church. By all accounts, he was an upstanding member of the community.

When questioned by police, Hansen was outraged and insisted the dancer was lying to extort money from him. He also questioned whether it was even possible to rape a prostitute. He claimed he had an alibi and told investigators his wife and children were in Europe and he spent the night playing poker with friends. When questioned, the two men substantiated his story. Hansen allowed authorities to search his home but they didn’t find evidence of what the victim described. She also refused to take a polygraph and this made the police wonder if she fabricated the story. It was a “he said, she said” case because they had no evidence. Citing a lack of evidence, the prosecutor dropped the case. Three months later, Alaska State Troopers discovered the partially decomposed remains of another woman in a shallow grave. She was identified as a missing dancer from the Fourth Avenue district. Investigators found a blindfold buried among the remains. An autopsy revealed Paula Goulding had also been shot by a 223 caliber bullet.

Initially, the police didn’t link the cases but the use of the 223 caliber bullet helped them realize they were dealing with a serial killer who was targeting exotic dancers in Anchorage. Troopers contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation for assistance; agents created a behavioral profile of the serial killer. The killer believed he was invincible because he picked the perfect victims. He chose the dancers on Fourth Ave because he thought no one would care if they were missing. They started looking into Robert Hansen’s past. They learned he was abused as a child and had very low self-esteem. He was always considered small and had few friends; he was often ridiculed by his peers. After graduating from high school, Hansen enlisted in the Army Reserve and went to basic training at Fort Dix. He later received advanced training as a military police officer at Fort Knox. While enlisted in the Army, he was known to frequent prostitutes. He told fellow soldiers, he found them dissatisfying and yearned to take control of the situation.

Despite his strict up bringing and disciplined military structure, the profilers learned Hansen had a number of run-ins with the law. He served time for arson and theft but he appeared to have long since left that life behind. In 1967, he married and moved to Alaska. He was a functioning member of society. They believe his low self-esteem would drive him to live in a place like Alaska. His former neighbor told investigators he loved the thrill of the hunt; and he was always looking for the bigger hunt. He was an avid trophy hunter. Hansen’s weak point was women because he was unsuccessful with them. He hunted where most of the victims were found. “Perhaps Hansen tired of game and turned to more interesting prey like humans.” Humans create a much greater challenge to the hunter. Police deduced he most likely had trophies from his hunts for humans. The killer was a sexual sadist, proficient, and more successful over time. Authorities threatened the two men who alibied him with jail time if they didn’t come clean about the night the dancer was abducted.

Both friends quickly broke down and said they were covering for him because they thought he was a legitimate guy. They believed him when he said he thought the dancers were trying to extort him. The police asked Hansen to come down to the station and executed a search warrant. An officer searched the attic and in the rafters he found a bag of jewelry. And nestled with his bag of trophies, they found IDs belonging to the victims and newspaper clippings. Authorities also found a trophy map with locations of where he killed his victims. Hansen tracked his kills. The most critical find was a 223 caliber mini 14 rifle. The rifle was sent to the crime lab for further analysis. The 223 matched perfectly with the round they found in Eklutna. Robert Hansen was charged with assault and kidnapping. Despite his pleas of innocence, the evidence was mounting against him. The District Attorney agreed to charge Hansen with four murders: Sherry Morrow, Eklutna Annie, Joanna Messina, and Paula Goulding. Hansen accepted a plea deal. Police believe he chose prostitutes because they represent the evil in humans.

Robert Hansen chose prostitutes because they will go anywhere for anything and when they disappear, no one cares. He admitted he controlled the game from the point of abduction. He was the predator and they were they prey. He killed Eklutna Annie first. Then he abducted Sherry Morrow. He took most of his victims to his remote cabin and brutalized them for hours before he stripped them naked, blindfolded them and then released them in the woods. He turned them loose, gave them a head start, and hunted them down. He was a trophy hunter. He then collected things off the girls so he could re-live the events. Robert Hansen’s killing spree lasted twelve years in Alaska. Hansen confessed to 17 killings but it is believed he had many more victims. He eventually lead police to 15 gravesites unknown to investigators. Unfortunately, investigators only recovered 7 bodies likely due to the veracious animal activity in the Alaskan wilderness. Robert Hansen was sentenced to 461 years plus life in prison with no chance of parole.

Source: Hunting Humans, Ice Cold Killers, Investigation Discovery

Victims:
Andrea “Fish” Altiery (disappeared 12/2/81, unknown if body recovered)
Roxanne Easlund, 24 (disappeared 6/28/1980, unknown if body recovered)
Megan Emerick, 17 (suspected abduction on 7/7/73, body never recovered)
Angela Feddern, 24 (disappeared February 1983, body found)
DeLynn “Sugar” Frey (disappeared September 1983, body found)
Lisa “Betty” Futrell, 41 (disappeared 9/7/1980, body found)
Malai Larsen, 28 (disappeared June 1981, body found)
Paula Goulding (disappeared 4/25/83, body found)
Sue Luna, 23 (disappeared 5/16/82, body found)
Joanna Messina (disappeared 5/19/1989, body found)
Sherry Morrow, 23 (disappeared 11/17/81, body found)
Tamara Pederson, 20 (disappeared August 1982, body found)
Mary Kathleen Thill, 23 (suspected abduction on 7/5/75, body never recovered)
Cecelia “Beth” Van Zanten, 17 (suspected abduction on 12/22/71, body found)
Theresa Watson (disappeared 4/29/83, body found)
“Eklutna Annie” (real name unknown, disappeared 11/1979, body found)
Cindy Paulson (abducted & raped on 6/13/1983, escaped & survived)

List compliments of The Frozen Ground.

In the News:

A Killer Among Us: Inside the Hunt for an Alaska Serial Killer (June 11, 2017, KTUU-Channel 2, Anchorage, Alaska)

The Frozen Ground Movie (2012)

THE FROZEN GROUND Official Trailer (2013)

The Frozen Ground – Clip 3 | Lionsgate

The Frozen Ground (2012) – Chained Scene (1/10) | Movieclips

The Frozen Ground (2012) – The Lucky One Scene (2/10) | Movieclips

The Frozen Ground (2012) – Pole Dancing Scene (3/10) | Movieclips

The Frozen Ground (2012) – Hunting Her Scene (4/10) | Movieclips

The Frozen Ground (2012) – On the Run Scene (5/10) | Movieclips

The Frozen Ground (2012) – Shock at the Strip Club Scene (6/10) | Movieclips

The Frozen Ground (2012) – The Interrogation Scene (7/10) | Movieclips

The Frozen Ground (2012) – From Bad to Worse Scene (8/10) | Movieclips

The Frozen Ground (2012) – He’s Coming Scene (9/10) | Movieclips

The Frozen Ground (2012) – Truth Comes Out Scene (10/10) | Movieclips

Based on a true story. An Alaskan State Trooper (Nicholas Cage) must partner with a near victim and the only witness to escape the clutches of the serial killer in order to bring the murderer to justice. -The Frozen Ground

Frozen Ground – Examining the Frozen Ground

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

Related Links:
If film makes Hansen’s victims real, the story’s worth retelling
Photos: Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen and his victims
Serial killer Hansen dies; ‘World is better without him,’ trooper says
Robert Hansen: A Serial Killer in Alaska
Robert Hansen, the ‘Butcher Baker’ hid his evil side to lure, hunt and murder at least 17 women in Alaska
The Frozen Ground: Gruesome True Story of Serial Killer Robert Hansen
Alaska Serial Killer Robert Hansen Dies at 75
‘Frozen Ground’ serial killer Hansen dead
Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen dies at 75
Robert Hansen, convicted serial killer in Alaska, dies at 75
Robert Hansen dead: Alaska’s ‘butcher baker’ murderer who hunted his female victims dies in prison of natural causes
Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen, ‘the Butcher Baker,’ dies at 75
Infamous Alaska serial killer the ‘Butcher Baker’, who murdered 17 women and raped 30 others in the 1970s, dies
Robert Hansen, notorious Alaska serial killer, dead at 75
Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen dies, decades after confessing to murders
Robert Hansen — The Serial Killer Who Hunted His Victims Like Animals
This Serial Killer Hunted His Victims Like Animals in the Alaskan Wilderness
The Twisted Case of Robert Hansen, an Alaskan Serial Killer Who Hunted Down His Victims
Robert Christian Hansen (February 15, 1939 – August 21, 2014), known in the media as the “Butcher Baker“, was an American serial killer.
10 Ice Cold Killers From Alaska That Will Make You Fear The Last Frontier
50 horrifying serial killers from each state
Serial KIller: *Butcher Baker* Robert Hansen killed at least 17 women, sentenced to years in prison; Died 8/21/2014
Robert Hansen | Murderpedia
EP.#11: Robert Hansen “The Butcher Baker” | True Crime Guys Podcast
Ep 80 Robert Hansen | True Crime Podcast
Serial Killer Robert Hansen “The Butcher Baker” – Murder With Friends
Ep. 19 Robert C Hansen | The Strange Land Podcast
44 – The Butcher Baker Robert Hansen | Make Me a Fan Podcast
Robert Hansen | SERIAL KILLER FILES #5
Episode 309: Robert Hansen Part II – Gross Truncations | The Last Podcast on the Left
A Killer Among Us: Inside the Hunt for an Alaska Serial Killer
Robert Hansen – Serial Killer Documentary
Robert Hansen (The Butcher Baker) – Serial killer who hunted humans
15 Disturbing Facts About ‘The Butcher Baker’ Robert Hansen
The Frozen Ground – Teaser Trailer
The Frozen Ground – Trailer
THE FROZEN GROUND Official Trailer (2013)
The Frozen Ground Official Trailer #1 (2013) – Nicolas Cage, Vanessa Hudgens Movie HD
The Frozen Ground – Official Trailer (2013) HD
The Frozen Ground Movie CLIP – She Stays On The List (2013) – Nicolas Cage Movie HD
The Frozen Ground Movie CLIP – I Didn’t Shoot Anybody (2013) – Nicolas Cage Movie HD
The Frozen Ground Movie CLIP – The Archive (2013) – Nicolas Cage Movie HD
The Frozen Ground Exclusive Official Clip (2013) – Vanessa Hudgens, Nicolas Cage movie HD
The Frozen Ground- Clip 3- Opening Nationwide In Theaters and On Demand August 23!
The Frozen Ground (2012) – Chained Scene (1/10) | Movieclips
The Frozen Ground (2012) – The Lucky One Scene (2/10) | Movieclips
The Frozen Ground (2012) – Pole Dancing Scene (3/10) | Movieclips
The Frozen Ground (2012) – Hunting Her Scene (4/10) | Movieclips
The Frozen Ground (2012) – On the Run Scene (5/10) | Movieclips
The Frozen Ground (2012) – Shock at the Strip Club Scene (6/10) | Movieclips
The Frozen Ground (2012) – The Interrogation Scene (7/10) | Movieclips
The Frozen Ground (2012) – From Bad to Worse Scene (8/10) | Movieclips
The Frozen Ground (2012) – He’s Coming Scene (9/10) | Movieclips
The Frozen Ground (2012) – The Truth Comes Out Scene (10/10) | Movieclips
The Frozen Ground | YouTube Movies
The Frozen Ground | Amazon Prime Video
Nicolas Cage Interview – The Frozen Ground (JoBlo.com)
Nicolas Cage – The Frozen Ground Exclusive Interview
Vanessa Hudgens Interview – The Frozen Ground (JoBlo.com)
The Frozen Ground: Vanessa Hudgens Interview
Frozen Ground – Examining the Frozen Ground
Hunting Humans | Ice Cold Killers | Investigation Discovery (S1,E1)
Hunting Humans | Ice Cold Killers | Investigation Discovery (website)
Hunting Humans | Ice Cold Killers | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Army Reserve Veteran Robert C. Hansen Sentenced to 461 Years Plus Life in Prison, No Parole for Murders of Multiple Women in Alaska (February 28, 1984)
Ice Cold Killers Premiered ‘Hunting Humans’ on ID: After Multiple Disappearances, Alaska Authorities on Hunt for Serial Killer (January 24, 2012)

Unusual Suspects Premiered ‘Maritime Murder’ on Investigation Discovery: NCIS Cold Case Squad Investigates the 1982 Homicide of Navy Lt. Lee Hartley (December 10, 2012)

In 1982, a naval officer dies from a mysterious illness. When toxicology reports reveal he was poisoned, Naval investigators sift through a ship of thousands, and countless theories before the truth behind the victim’s painful death is revealed. -Maritime Murder, Unusual Suspects (S4,E13)

Editor’s Note: Unusual Suspects (Season 4) is no longer available on Investigation Discovery website, ID Go, YouTube, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video. This post was included for historical purposes and this episode was purchased via Amazon before it became unavailable.

Related Links:
John Prudhont Unusual Suspects Maritime Murder 30 sec Clip
‘Unusual Suspects’: Woman Poisoned Navy Husband Over Years Through Care Packages
Mayport cases to appear on TV’s ‘The Real NCIS’
NCIS Agents Take Viewers Inside Two Murder Cases Filled with Twisted Relationships, Greed, Lies and Double-Lives, in the Back-to-Back Third Season Premiere of “NCIS: The Cases They Can’t Forget”
NCIS: The Cases They Can’t Forget Premiere Season 3 Time & Channel
Mysterious poisoning of a Navy lieutenant leads to one of NCIS’ most notorious cold cases
United States Naval Criminal Investigative Services (October 1998)
Navy Lt. Verle Lee Hartley Died of Arsenic Poisoning in 1982; NCIS Cold Case Squad Solved Murder 13 Years Later; Wife Pamela Served 16 of 40 Years in Prison, Paroled (November 18, 1982)
Navy Spouse Pamela Hartley Pleaded Guilty to the 2nd Degree Murder of Lt. Verle Lee Hartley in Florida State Court; Served 16 Years of 40 Year Prison Sentence Before Paroled (October 16, 1996)
A List of Soldiers Targeted & Murdered for Military Survivor and Life Insurance Benefits (SGLI)
Maritime Murder | Unusual Suspects | Investigation Discovery (Amazon)
Real NCIS | E02 | Verle Lee Hartley Case [Full Episode]

Marine Corps Veteran Charles Ng Sentenced to Death for Role in Murdering 11 Californians with Fellow Veteran Leonard Lake; Lake Died By Suicide at Arrest (June 30, 1999)

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 9.17.23 PM

Charles Ng and Leonard Lake

Oxygen premiered It Takes a Killer ‘Partners in Evil” and this episode highlighted the sadistic crimes committed by Marine veterans Charles Ng and Leonard Lake. In the early 1980s, the San Francisco bay area was under siege as more than twelve people vanished without a trace. Police would eventually learn that Ng and Lake were responsible for murdering them and so much more. What police uncovered during their investigation would prove invaluable in the prosecutor’s decision to pursue the death penalty. Charles Ng and Leonard Lake were psychopaths. 

In December 1982, Army veteran Donald Lake, 32, was living with his mother in San Francisco, California. At their surprise, his brother Leonard Lake stopped by on a road trip up north and asked Donald to tag along. Donald was described as a very nice, gentle man but Leonard treated Donald terribly when they were growing up and even referred to him as a leech in conversations with his ex-wife Claralyn Balazs. Donald is never seen again and his mother Gloria is concerned so she reports him missing. Leonard Lake is nowhere to be found but he resurfaced on New Years Day in 1983 to rent a room in a house in Golden Gate Park.

Four months later, Lake moved in with his buddy from his green beret days, Charles Gunnar of Morgan Hill. They had a lot in common as they both valued survival skills and the weaponry world. On May 22, 1983, Lake invited Gunnar to go on a road trip to Vegas or Tahoe for some much needed rest and relaxation after his divorce. Charles Gunnar decided to go in an effort to cope with his tough times; he left his two daughter’s with a babysitter. A couple days later, Charles Lake returned alone in Gunnar’s van and told the babysitter that Charles ran off with a woman. Charles Gunnar was never seen again.

On July 11, 1984, Donald Giulietti, 36, a radio personality from San Francisco, California was spending time in his apartment expecting a visitor. Donald was an openly gay man who lived with a man named Richard Carrazza. Giulietti placed a personal ad in a low key newspaper offering to give oral sex to straight men. That night a stranger knocked on the door and Giulietti assumed it was someone taking him up on his offer. As soon as Donald opens door, the man whips out pistol and shoots him in the head at close range. Carrazza runs from the back room into the study and finds Giulietti on the floor. Carrazza is immediately shot in the chest and left for dead. The shooter fled and Carrazza survived the attack. Richard Carazza called 911 and when the police questioned him, he was able to give a description of the shooter.

Richard Carrazza described being shot by a small Chinese man wearing prescription glasses. Police searched for an Asian suspect but came up empty. What no one knows is that the killer was already searching the classifieds for his next victim. On July 24, 1984 in San Francisco, California, Harvey Dubs, 29, was home with his wife Deborah, 33, and their 16 month old son Sean. Harvey worked for a printing company but on the side, he videotaped special events and rented out his equipment. There was an individual who responded to the ad and came to his home. The family was never seen again. The following morning, a neighbor went to check on them and found keys in the door and dirty dishes in the sink but no sign of the Dubs family.

When the police did house to house canvassing and questioned the neighbors, they reported seeing a small Asian man leaving the property. The suspect was seen carrying a large duffel bag and a large flight bag both stuffed full and he tossed the bags into the trunk of a car that was waiting. The Asian man gets into the front passenger seat of the car with the burly man with a beard and they speed away. Some witnesses in the neighborhood get a good description of the Asian man. No one could give a good description of the bearded man but an eye witness was able to draw a description of the Asian man.

In San Francisco, California on October 31, 1984, entrepreneur Paul Cosner, 39, was selling his 1980 Honda Prelude which he had recently advertised in the local newspaper. A burly bearded man took the car for a test drive and a couple days later called Paul to tell him that he would like to purchase the Honda from him. On November 2, 1984, Paul drove the car to meet the potential buyer and he was never seen again. When Cosner’s sister Sharon didn’t hear from him for 24 hours, she filed a missing person’s reports and a missing vehicle report. Sharon was relentless and maintained heavy pressure on the police but they really had no clues or suspects at this point.

In San Francisco on January 18, 1985, Cliff Peranteau, 24, was at a local bar tossing back a few drinks with a co-worker. Cliff worked at a moving company and he shared with friends that he was going to work on Saturday. Cliff never showed up for the job but apparently was seen partying on Sunday after a 49er’s super bowl victory. He’s last seen by a bartender after winning a $400 bet. The bartender said he appeared to be going off to celebrate with an Asian friend. He was never seen again.

Investigators would learn that Peranteau’s Asian friend was his colleague Charles Ng who had been at the moving company for about four months. Charles was described as an odd character that Cliff Peranteau normally tried to avoid. Charles Ng wasn’t well-liked at the moving company because he had poor boundaries and said inappropriate things to others. Two weeks after Cliff’s disappearance, his boss received a short typed letter apparently from Cliff informing him that he had a new job. The writer also requested that Cliff’s last check be sent to an address in northeastern California near Wilseyville. The note wasn’t that far fetched until another moving company employee, Jeff Gerald, 25, went missing on February 23, 1985. Jeff got an offer to work with Charles Ng on a small moving job on the side. Jeff went to do the job and this was the last time he was seen.

In San Francisco on April 12, 1985, Kathleen Allen, 18, and her boyfriend Michael Carroll, 23, were spending time in a motel room where they were temporarily living. At 10 pm at night, Michael tells Kathleen that he has to do something and would be back in the morning. Michael never returned. A few days later Kathleen received a horrifying phone call at work. The caller told her that her boyfriend Michael may have been involved in a shooting. She immediately told her boss that she had to leave. She was last seen meeting a bearded man in the parking lot of the Safeway where she worked. Kathleen got into the car and was never seen again.

In April 1985, four more people vanished without a trace. Robert Scott Stapley, 26, lived in San Francisco but frequently took road trips to Wilseyville, California to spend time with friends. Scott Stapley stayed with Lonnie Bond and his live-in girlfriend Brenda O’Connor, and their 18 month old son. Lonnie and Brenda loved living in their cabin in the foothills of the Sierra-Nevada mountains. The only thing they don’t like was their neighbor. He was a burly, bearded man who they felt was extremely obnoxious, rude, and demented. This neighbor constantly fired weapons on his property and Brenda felt really uncomfortable with him because he would not stop asking her to pose naked for him. On April 19, 1985, Scott Stapley was present when Lonnie decided to confront his neighbor. Lonnie decided to deal with the problem once and for all, and none of them were ever seen again.

In San Francisco, California on June 2, 1985, two men entered a lumber yard to buy some building supplies. A burly bearded man and an Asian man with glasses decided they wanted a vice but were not going to pay for it. The Asian man swiped the $75 vice, exited the store, and placed the stolen vice into the trunk of a Honda Prelude in the parking lot. But the Asian man didn’t realize that an off duty police officer spotted him with the stolen merchandise and called in his description. The off-duty police officer approached the Asian man but he took off and disappeared. The officer searched the vehicle and found the stolen vice and a back pack, which contained a pistol with a silencer in it. Just then a stocky bearded man exited the lumber yard and approached the Honda Prelude.

The burly bearded man told the police officer that his name was Scott Stapler (the name of the man who vanished two months prior). He told the officer not to worry about the vice because he paid for it. The officer reminded him there was a gun with a silencer in the trunk of the car and placed the burly, bearded man under arrest. He was taken to the police station for questioning. Back at the station, investigators learned that everything the man was telling them was a lie. A background check on the Honda Prelude revealed that it was registered to Paul Cosner, who went missing months before. Then they learned the license plates belonged to Lonnie Bond, another person who went missing. As the officer confronted the man with this new evidence, the big burly bearded man began to cry and admitted his real name was Leonard Lake. And that his accomplice was Charles Ng.

At one point during the investigation, Lake asked the detectives for a glass of water and a pen and paper to write a letter to his ex-wife. Police uncuffed him expecting a full confession. After he got done writing the letter to his ex-wife, he reached up under his collar where he sewed a cyanide pill into the fabric and quickly shoved it down his throat. He fell onto the floor gagging and seizing. He was rushed to the hospital where he slipped into a coma and died a few days later. In June 1985, Leonard Lake suddenly killed himself with a cyanide pill taking his secrets to the grave with him. But he did leave behind a clue when he gave up the name of his sidekick Charles Ng who was now on the run. Leonard Lake had been on the run since April 1982 when the FBI raided his place on a stolen weapons tip.

Police wanted to know who Leonard Lake was. They learned he was born in San Francisco, California and was bright yet sadistic. He developed an infinity for pornography early on in his life. He apparently took nude photos of his sisters when they were young and used them to extort sexual favors. He joined the US Marine Corps in 1965 at age 19 and served two terms in Vietnam. In Da Nang in 1970, Leonard had a complete mental breakdown and was sent back to the United States. He was admitted to a psychiatric ward for two months and then discharged from the Marines upon his release. Lake spent the next eight years in a hippie commune. In the late summer of 1980, Leonard met his wife Claralyn Balazs and they married in 1981. They both had a love of making pornographic videos of themselves and enjoyed kinky sex.

After Leonard’s death in 1985, Claralyn was the critical piece to help police break the case wide open. Police investigated Leonard Lake and did a complete forensic search of the Honda Prelude in his possession. They found blood spatter in the car, bullet holes in the headliner, IDs of missing persons, and an electric bill with Claralyn’s address. On June 3, 1985, police manage to track down Claralyn. Claralyn told detectives that she and Leonard divorced in November 1982 but maintained a close relationship. She also mentioned to the police that her family owned property in Wilseyville but no one had been living there recently. Police were curious and Claralyn agreed to take them to the property on June 4, 1985. The police found what they could only describe as a compound for killing.

The police found the drivers license of Mike Carroll who disappeared with his girlfriend Kathleen Allen in 1985. They also found possessions of others who were missing including the Dubs family. Police found videotapes of women being tortured, signs of men being killed, and outside in the yard, police came across a tool shed that acted as a false front. There they found a large bunker where tortures had occurred and where Leonard Lake kept his sex slaves. Detectives unearthed Leonard Lake’s hide out and learned that he had this planned since he was a teenager. Lake read a book at age 17 called The Collector which was about a man who had a sex slave named Miranda. Lake became obsessed with a clear plan called Operation Miranda. He wanted to enslave young girls and these fantasies became a reality when Charles Ng entered his life.

The police found overwhelming evidence of Lake and Ng’s barbarism inside in the bunker. There were videotapes of Leonard Lake building the bunker. One tape labeled the M Ladies showed Ng and Lake raping, torturing, and abusing a number of women. Law enforcement didn’t know who any of the M Ladies were until weeks later when they discovered a mass grave on the Wilseyville property. Police found approximately 45 pounds of human remains scattered about the yard. They found many of the human remains of the missing people; they had been killed, burned, tortured, and dismembered. Among the remains, investigators found the IDs of Brenda O’Connor and Kathleen Allen.

Police recognized Kathleen Allen from the M Ladies videotape. Kathleen was selected by Lake as the perfect M Lady and was kept prisoner in his bunker. He treated her as a complete slave in every way. He forced her to dress up, have sex on demand, and pose for him. It took investigators weeks to go through the crime scene and as they do they discover more and more bodies. Then on July 8, 1985 they find two males stacked on top of each other in a make shift grave. They were identified as Lonnie Bond and Scott Stapley. Investigators knew Charles Ng played an integral part in all this and they wanted to find him.

In June and July 1985, investigators learned that Marine veterans Charles Ng and Leonard Lake murdered multiple people and dug them in a mass grave at the property in Wilseyville, California. At this point in the investigation, Leonard Lake had committed suicide and Charles Ng was on the run. Charles Ng was born in Hong Kong. His father was a strict disciplinarian who literally beat him with a cane. Ng didn’t really show any interest in school and was expelled from a number of them. He was described as anti-social and had a history of fire setting and stealing. Ng eventually ended up at Notre Dame University on a student visa but dropped out after getting in a hit and run accident.

Charles Ng joined the US Marine Corps in October 1979 as a means to pay restitution for his hit and run crime in Indiana. Ng told recruiters he was born in Indiana and nobody bothered to check his citizenship status. Ng was trained as a gunner in the Marine Corps and immersed himself in martial arts. Ng was obsessed with violence and boasted that he was born to fight in hand-to-hand combat. Ng said he would kill anyone that was foolish enough to fight him. In October 1981, Ng was court martialed for stealing weaponry from an armory and went Absent without Leave (AWOL).

Ng found out that Leonard Lake, another Marine, was managing a hotel in northern California. He flew to California and in December 1981 moved in with Leonard and his wife Claralyn. Lake was fourteen years his senior and acted as a father figure. They both shared a mutual love of weapons and sexual deviance. Lake realized that Ng was the perfect person to help him make his sexual fantasies become reality.

On July 6, 1985 in Calgary, Canada, Charles Ng attempted to steal food from a department store and got caught. He shot a security guard in the hand and was captured immediately. Charles Ng was charged with attempted murder and theft, and was jailed in the Canadian system. On December 18, 1985, Charles Ng went to court and was found not guilty on the attempted murder charge but guilty of assault and robbery. He was entenced to 4.5 years in an Edmonton prison. US officials petitioned to have him extradited back to America to stand trial. His deportation was held up in court until 1991.

Charles Ng is finally extradited to California to face charges for the horrific crimes he and Lake committed there. Ng didn’t actually go to trial for another seven years. In Santa Ana, California on September 14, 1988, Charles Ng’s murder trial proceeded in the Orange County Superior Court. Prosecutors argued that Ng and Lake stalked and targeted their victims, stole their money, then tortured and killed them. The trial lasts for 8 months. Some of the most compelling evidence came from dozens of cartoons drawn by Ng. The cartoons depicted women being tortured and abused and people being burnt. But the M Ladies videotapes were the prosecutions most disturbing evidence.

The M Ladies videotapes showed women who were tortured and sexually abused. Ng took the stand in his own defense and blamed everything on Lake. He denies any knowledge of the murders. He eventually admitted to being involved in the abduction of some of the women, and some of the rapes and tortures, but did not admit to killing anyone. In late February 1999, Charles Ng was convicted on 11 of 12 counts of murder. Four months later, he was sentenced to death. Investigators agree that both Leonard Lake and Charles Ng were both psychopaths but Leonard was the more dominant and goal oriented of the two. Ng went along with Lake’s plan because it allowed him to carry out his torturous and sexually deviant behaviors.

Source: Partners in Evil, It Takes a Killer, Oxygen

Investigation Discovery:

ID Go: When an off-duty police officer in San Francisco happens upon a minor theft at a lumberyard one Sunday afternoon, he unwittingly jumpstarts an investigation into one of California’s deadliest, most depraved serial killers: Leonard Lake and Charles Ng. -Dungeon of Dread, Pandora’s Box: Unleashing Evil (S1,E1)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

Related Links:
Charles Ng and Leonard Lake
Police Link 19 Missing, 3 Dead to Lake and Ng
Home Searched in Probe of Killings : Three Agencies Seize Items From Ex-Wife of Suspect Lake
Two more murder victims identified
CALIFORNIA ALBUM: Time Is Slow to Erase Stain of Grisly Killings : People in the Mother Lode town of Wilseyville would like to forget Charles Ng, Leonard Lake and a series of gruesome murders. But the outside world won’t let them.
Calaveras County Residents Still Haunted by ’85 Slayings
Ng Murder Trial Opens With Chilling Videos
Gruesome Video Opens Trial of Accused Mass Murderer N
Videos Continue in Ng Prosecution
Father of Serial Killer Ng Says He Severely Beat Son as Child
As Jury Meets to Decide His Fate, Ng Expects Death
Judge Orders Death Penalty for Ng in Mid-’80s Murders of 11 People
Charles Ng Has a Date With a Needle
Chilling Video Of Serial Killers Leonard Lake & Charles Ng With Their Victims
These Two Weren’t Just Sadistic Serial Killers — They Also Filmed Their Atrocities
Leonard Lake and Charles Ng: Psycho Serial Killer Undone by Shoplifting
Journey Into Evil | Serial Killers Leonard Lake & Charles Ng Documentary
The Boneyard: Serial Killers Leonard Lake & Charles Ng (Documentary)
It Takes a Killer ‘Partners in Evil’ (Oxygen)
Killing spree by dual killers is put to an end
Dungeon of Dread | Pandora’s Box: Unleashing Evil | Investigation Discovery (S1,E1)

Navy Lt. Verle Lee Hartley Died of Arsenic Poisoning in 1982; NCIS Cold Case Squad Solved Murder 13 Years Later; Wife Pamela Served 16 of 40 Years in Prison, Paroled (November 18, 1982)

image1

Lt. Verle Lee Hartley, U.S. Navy

NCIS, The Cases They Can’t Forget: Mysterious poisoning of a Navy lieutenant leads to one of NCIS’ most notorious cold cases (May 29, 2019)

Just off the coast of Spain, the U.S.S. Forrestal cruised through open waters on the Mediterranean Sea. This particular aircraft carrier had the ability to unleash total devastation on the enemy. But below deck, one Navy sailor was fighting off an enemy in his body. Lee Hartley was complaining of diarrhea and lethargy. He also experienced excessive weight loss and there was a grayness to his skin. Lee Hartley was a career Navy sailor, having served nineteen years, and the Lt. in the ship’s disciplinary office. A month into his current deployment, Lee became violently ill with severe stomach pains and a strange tingling in his hands and feet. He was treated by the ship’s medics for gastrointestinal problems. A couple weeks went by and the symptoms reappeared, each time getting progressively worst. The onboard medics thought maybe he was exposed to something in a foreign port.

Lee Hartley also assumed it was food or water he consumed while visiting one of the foreign ports. Whatever the cause, Lee’s symptoms were spiraling out of control. He endured nearly two months of agony. When Lee wasn’t getting better, the Navy decided to ship him off to a hospital so he was medi-vaced to Jacksonville, Florida. Lee’s wife Pamela rushed to his bedside. Pam and Lee were newlyweds; they were married a year earlier. Doctors ran a battery of tests to help make a diagnosis. Some believed he might have liver disease or hepatitis or even some kind of poisoning but they couldn’t come up with a definitive diagnosis. Lee commented to multiple people that he thought he was dying because he was so gravely ill. On November 18, 1982, after nearly five months of terrible suffering, Lt. Lee Hartley succumbed to massive organ failure.

Before he set out on his final deployment, Lee Hartley was living the life he had always dreamed of. Lee loved the Navy and his family was very proud of him. He joined the Navy as an enlisted man and then became an officer. Lee was happy with Pam and was looking forward to the end of long deployments so he could spend more time with her. They didn’t have children of their own but Lee had a daughter from a previous marriage. Pam was now a devastated widow and waited for the autopsy to determine the cause of her husband’s death. When the results came back, they revealed Lee died from arsenic poisoning, nearly 1000 times the normal level. His liver, kidneys and blood was full of arsenic and Lee had enough arsenic in him to kill several people. Arsenic is a odorless, colorless, and tasteless chemical. This information led to a murder investigation.

An investigation was immediately launched to find out how that much arsenic entered Lee’s body. Investigators could not imagine how Lee came into contact with that much arsenic aboard a ship. Special Agents Jerry Whitaker and Walter O’Brien of the Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) were assigned to the case. The two actually knew Lee Hartley and served side by side on the U.S.S. Forrestal with him. They start with the simplest possibility: was this an accidental poisoning? They checked to see if there were large amounts of arsenic on the ship but that theory was instantly put to rest. The supply officer on the ship maintained records of everything that was onboard the ship and according to him, there was no substance on board the ship that contained arsenic. This meant there was no way Lee came into contact with arsenic onboard the ship, at least not by accident. Agents wondered if someone deliberately dosed Lt. Lee Hartley.

The NCIS agents broke the news to Lee’s family. When Pam found out about the arsenic poisoning, she reacted with shock. Pam’s mother-in-law was the one to break the news to Pam that someone may have killed her husband. The agents didn’t know who killed Lee but they knew how so they launched a search for suspects. They looked at who had something to gain if Lee died and one main suspect emerged, his wife Pamela Hartley. Pam had the motive because she stood to inherit a lifetime of military benefits but how did she poison her husband while he was on a ship thousands of miles away? When agents checked her travel itinerary, they discovered Pam traveled to port in Spain to spend time with Lee. Quite often, when a ship visits a foreign port, it’s common for a group of wives to visit that port. One of those wives was Pam Hartley.

Pam traveled to Spain and met with Lee and another military couple. On one of those days, Pam offered to cook breakfast for everyone and she even made drinks too. Soon after that visit, Lee got violently ill, along with his friend who had eaten breakfast with him. At the time, they both thought they got sick from drinking Spanish water, the friend recovered but Lee kept getting worse. Over the next two weeks, Lee had severe cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting so he reported to the ship’s medical department. Agents wondered if Pam laced her husband’s food and drink with arsenic during that Spanish shore leave. It was a chilling scenario but one that became more plausible as agents found out about Pam’s unique job experience. They learned that Pam worked at the Department of Energy facility in Akon, South Carolina for one year.

Pam used to be an environmental technician and one of her job duties was to analyze water samples to determine heavy metal levels. At her job site, she came in contact with a range of toxic chemicals, including arsenic. Was Pam the victim of circumstantial evidence or heartless black widow? Agents wanted to perform a polygraph because they were convinced she wouldn’t pass. She was their prime suspect because she had the opportunity to spike her husband’s food and drinks when she went to Spain at his port of call. On the surface, there was nothing suspicious about Pam so agents conducted interviews of Hartley’s neighbors. The pair appeared to have a normal family and were described as nice people. But gossip soon found its way from officer’s wives club and this information painted another picture.

With their husbands overseas, the Navy wives would get together at parties and drink. And after a few drinks, they weren’t afraid to say anything. There was talk among the wives that life was so much better when the men were at sea. Some even suggested they get rid of them. But it was a party atmosphere so nobody really took it seriously, except maybe Pam. In one interview, Pam made a comment to a friend about hiring a hitman to kill Lee but was taken as a joke by the witness because they had been drinking. As special agents dug deeper, they found out Pam and Lee were having some marital problems. Pam was a free spirit who liked to go to the officer’s club and dance with other men. Apparently, this made Lee extremely jealous. And Lee may have had reason to be jealous because Pam admitted to friends that while Lee was off at sea, she found it to be difficult to be faithful.

For NCIS agents, it all added up to a classic scenario: a bored wife feels trapped in her marriage so she poisons her husband… Under questioning, Pam insisted that she loved Lee and swore she has nothing to do with his death. And she agreed to take a polygraph test to prove her innocence. Agents were convinced she wouldn’t pass the polygraph but the results indicated that she wasn’t being deceitful. The agents concluded Pam didn’t have anything to do with Lee’s death. In addition, lab results blew a hole in their theory because the toxicology analysis on Lee’s hair pinpointed the dates he was exposed to the arsenic. His first dose was before Pam’s trip to Spain. Hair grows about a centimeter a month and testing of the hair provided a timeline of when the poison entered his body. The hair samples indicated that Lee was poisoned 5-6 months prior to his death.

The arsenic timeline showed Lee Hartley was first poisoned while Pam was thousands of miles away in Jacksonville, she had a persuasive chemical alibi. Armed with the new evidence that Lee was poisoned while on board the U.S.S. Forrestal, NCIS agents confronted a massive crime scene. The U.S.S. Forrestal was a floating city with 5000 potential suspects. And like any large city, the carrier had personnel dedicated to maintaining law and order. As the ship’s discipline officer, when sailors ran afoul with Navy regulations, it was up to Lee to administer punishment. This likely didn’t make him a lot of friends on board. Because of his work, Lee was exposed to people who might have had a grudge or an axe to grind against the Navy or the legal office or a person. As agents conducted more interviews, they learned of a disturbing rumor involving Lee.

During the investigation, there was an indication that Lee had received an anonymous death threat. The rumor about the death threat was backed up by Lee’s parents. They told agents what Lee shared with them while he was home in Mayport. Lee told them he was walking about the ship when someone angrily confronted him. Now Agents wanted to eliminate or find somebody who may help them understand what happened. A search of Lee’s cabin revealed a clue. They found a collection of letters written by Lee himself. In one of those letters, Lee described a near death confrontation with another sailor aboard the ship. He described how he came across someone who had a sword. But, if there was an altercation, Lee never reported to his superiors. Why would Lee choose to keep it secret but share it with his parents? Was Lee leaving a trail of evidence?

In an effort to track down subjects, agents used Lee’s toxicity reports which showed a continuous pattern of poisoning over a 5-6 month period of time. Agents shared when investigating poisoning deaths, you need to establish an opportunity of who during that time would have had access to both Lee and poison. There were spikes in Lee’s arsenic levels during his deployment at sea, at the port of call in Spain, and even when he was at the hospital in Jacksonville. One person who was at Lee’s side throughout his months of agony was his cabin mate Lt. Samuel Yates. They seemed to get along well but tension builds up month after month when living in close proximity together trapped on a ship. Lee was also in direct competition with his roommate for advancement.

Both Lee Hartley and Lt. Yates wanted desperately to be promoted to Lt. Commander. Was there a feud simmering between them, a rivalry that turned deadly? As agents developed information on the roommate, rumors began to circulate that had already been rampant on the ship. After Lee’s death, Lt. Yates allegedly waisted no time going after his roommate’s young wife who was grieving and vulnerable. At Lee’s funeral, he paid his respects by reportedly seducing the pretty widow. Agents knew they needed to take a closer look at Yates. And when they did, they found a chilling piece of evidence. Lee’s cabin mate was asked to give them a blood sample to see if it tested positive for arsenic or other heavy metals. As a result, they learned Yates had some elevated amounts of arsenic in his blood stream, the same poison that killed Lee.

Lt. Yates’ low level arsenic exposure was consistent with someone who had handled the substance. But the test results were not remarkable because Yates would have been exposed to all the same environmental factors as Lee. If someone was trying to harm Lee, Yates could have easily been exposed to the same food and drinks in foreign ports. Although a lot of circumstantial evidence pointed to the roommate, a thorough search of Yates’ belongings showed no traces of arsenic. They could only conclude that Yates was a collateral victim of whoever was poisoning Lee. As suspects were eliminated one by one, agents had to consider the possibility that the suspect they were looking for may be Lee Hartley himself. One of the NCIS agents said when they don’t have anymore theories, they have to think outside the box. The agents considered that Lee may have ingested the arsenic intentionally.

It appeared Lee Hartley had everything going for him and he loved his job on the U.S.S. Forrestal. He also had a beautiful young wife waiting for him in Florida. But NCIS agents wondered if the image of that perfect life was just a sham. The two agents knew Lee while serving with him on the carrier. When they reflected back on their time with him, they did observe some unusual behavior. After lunch, Lee regularly met up with a small group and he always appeared disgruntled. They learned Lee was drinking heavily before his deployment and thought maybe he was going through some depression. Was Lee suicidal? Did he deliberately consume the arsenic to poison himself? The pair thought the odds were high that Lee ingested the poison and brought in in a psychologist to analyze Lee’s life and letters; they found no suicidal ideation in any of his writings.

The medical evidence in this case didn’t fit the pattern of someone trying to kill themselves. Typically in a suicide case, it would be a major ingestion of poison and then it would drop off. Lee was poisoned consistently over several months. He was in horrible condition to the point that he had an ulcerated esophagus, open sores in his mouth, couldn’t talk, and could’t eat. Would Lee have voluntarily chosen to kill himself in such a slow, agonizing way? They ruled out suicide and wondered if the poisoning was an attempt to help get him off the ship. Lee made some statements to family members that he really didn’t want to go on this last deployment and his heart wasn’t in it anymore. He was upset about having more sea duty. He wanted a stateside desk job close to his wife. Did he use the arsenic to get himself off the ship? Would they send him home?

Agents considered that maybe Lee wanted to take just enough of the poison to get himself sent back home. But arsenic doesn’t leave the body and instead builds up over time. The agents theorized Lee may not have understood its cumulative effect over time. Maybe, Lee didn’t realize it made him sicker and sicker with every dosage. Did his scheme backfire by taking one dose too many? This theory didn’t hold water though because there were no tell tale signs in Lee’s belongings that led anyone to believe he had handled arsenic. And toxicology evidence showed that the poisoning continued even after he got back to Jacksonville. NCIS had no choice but to put the latest theory to rest. At this point, they ran out of theories, suspects, and direction and chose to close the case.

Thirteen years later in 1995, NCIS formed a cold case homicide unit. Lee Hartley’s poisoning case was one of the first cases brought to their attention. Lee’s death was reviewed at headquarters and a new team of special agents were assigned. They quickly learned that all of the physical evidence in the Lee Hartley case had been destroyed. The team had to work the case the old fashioned way so they started re-interviewing people involved in the initial investigation. Agents said its helpful to go back and talk to people because their stories change and some are more willing to tell the truth after 10-15 years has passed. Agents spoke with family, friends, and neighbors and the same name that kept coming back up was the original suspect in the case, Pam Hartley. But their big break came when Lee Hartley’s brother-in-law helped them uncover the truth.

Pam’s brother knew the dynamics of Pam and Lee’s relationship so agents wanted to speak with him. The fact the case had been reopened after all these years, caught Pam’s brother by surprise and he dropped a bombshell no one expected. He shared that Pam tried to hire him to kill Lee and offered him some of the insurance money if he did it. He kept this secret for years and when agents interviewed him this time, he told them the truth. NCIS was now convinced Pam was the killer but building a case against her wasn’t going to be easy. After all, she passed a polygraph test that indicated no deception. When NCIS had the results re-examined by current staff, they found the findings of ‘no deception’ were probably erroneously reached. The results should have been inconclusive. It was more evidence of Pam’s involvement in Lee’s death.

But after so many years, they had no physical proof, no eyewitnesses, and no way to tie Pam to the actual crime. She also had what seemed to be an ironclad alibi. She was on the other side of the world when her husband was poisoned. If she was the killer, how did she do it? Could they get her to confess? They only had one shot and needed to get Pam alone, because thirteen years ago her controlling mother was beside her running interference. The cold case team placed Pam under surveillance and tracked her every move. They learned the years since Lee’s death had not been good to her. Having squandered her inheritance, she lived with her mother and struggled with substance abuse. She treated her addiction at a hospital on a military base. On one of those occasions, she arrived alone for the appointment. The NCIS used the structured environment of the Army base to conduct the interview.

This approach allowed NCIS to conduct an interview without Pam’s mother being there. Pam nervously agreed to answer their questions. They told her there was no doubt in their mind that she did it and most of the problems in her life were most likely attributed to what she had done to her husband. They played on her guilt and told her to put it behind her and tell the truth. Pam Hartley broke down and told them what she did. She told them everything and filled in the missing puzzle pieces. She didn’t want to be married anymore. She said she was miserable and hated how possessive Lee was. But, she really liked the status of being an officer’s wife and didn’t want to lose that lifestyle. She wanted him gone but wanted to maintain her status. It was almost the perfect murder. The last time she saw Lee, she bid him farewell and then ran to a feed store to purchase rat poison. Pam sent Lee poisoned treats while he was deployed at sea.

Like a model wife, Pam created treats for Lee because she knew he had a sweet tooth. Agents learned that both Lee and his cabin mate sampled some whiskey cake that she sent Lee. Yates said he ate one piece, it was too strong, and didn’t like it. Pam wanted Lee to die at sea but the call never came so she upped the anti and traveled to Spain to poison him in person at breakfast. But it still didn’t do the job. When Lee was airlifted to the hospital in Jacksonville, Pam rushed to his side. This time, she poisoned his apple juice. Pam gave Lee the lethal dose the night before he died while pretending to care about him. After Lee died, Pam took the rest of the poison and dumped it in a pond behind their house. Her persistence finally paid off; she collected on a lifetime of military benefits minus the annoying husband. How could she have hatched such a diabolical plot? When asked why poison, she said “ladies have been using poison for years.”

Pam’s confession sealed her fate. On October 16, 1996, Pamela Hartley pleaded guilty to second degree murder in a Florida state court. Agents reminded us that Pam had a psychotic personality. She didn’t think about the cause and effect on other people; she only thought of herself and the effect on her. After nineteen years of service, Lee Hartley didn’t die in battle, his mortal enemy was the one person he loved most. Not long before Lee’s death, Lee and Pam’s brother had a conversation where Lee told him if anything happened to him, his sister would be well taken care of. He died thinking he still needed to take care of Pam. Pamela received $35,000 in life insurance money, $10,000 a year in veterans benefits, and free military medical benefits for life. Lee was a good man and the pain from the loss endures. Pamela Hartley was sentenced to 40 years in a state prison and served 16 years when she was paroled. 

Source: Maritime Murder, Unusual Suspects, Investigation Discovery

Real NCIS: 

When a Navy lieutenant onboard a US aircraft carrier falls victim to a rare case of arsenic poisoning, NCIS investigators must scour both land and sea for his killer. With no crime scene and little physical evidence, agents must separate rumor from truth and use their best interrogative know-how to solve a deadly crime. Follow real NCIS agents as they hunt down suspects on one of the world’s largest ships and after a long 13 years finally uncover the bizarre truth behind the poisoning death of a Lt. Lee Hartley. -Dark Minds in Crime

Investigation Discovery:

John Prudhont as NCIS Special Agent Tom Assimos and John Bridell as NCIS Special Agent Dave Early and Mocean Melvin as the Narrator in an edited clip from Season 4, Episode 13 of the Discovery ID TV show “Unusual Suspects.”

ID Go: In 1982, a Naval Officer dies from a mysterious illness. When toxicology reports reveal he was poisoned, Naval Investigators sift through a ship of thousands, and countless theories before the truth behind the victim’s painful death is revealed. -Maritime Murder, Unusual Suspects (S4,E13)

Editor’s note: With a cable subscription, you can download the free ID Go app and watch all of the Investigation Discovery programming at your convenience. And for those who do not have cable, you can watch “unlocked” episodes on the ID Go app including the latest premieres. Download the ID Go app and binge away. For those who prefer commercial free programming during your binge session, Prime Video has an ID channel: ‘True Crime Files by Investigation Discovery” available for $2.99 a month. It’s a compilation of older seasons but totally worth the cost if you are a true crime addict.

Related Links:
2 Charged in Reopened Death Probes
Widow guilty of poisoning death in 1982
After 14 years, woman confessed to killing her husband
Wife sentenced in poisoning death
Widow Sentenced in Death of Husband
Murder-for-hire motive often insurance
Inmates find freedom behind bars
Mayport cases to appear on TV’s ‘The Real NCIS’
‘Unusual Suspects’: Woman Poisoned Navy Husband Over Years Through Care Packages
Pamela Hartley poisoned her husband, Verle Lee Hartley, because she did not want to hurt him with a divorce
Mayport cases to appear on TV’s ‘The Real NCIS’
Mysterious poisoning of a Navy lieutenant leads to one of NCIS’ most notorious cold cases
NCIS: Lt. Hartley’s Wife Got $45,000 After Killing Him with Rat Poison
NCIS: The Cases They Can’t Forget Premiere Season 3 Time & Channel
NCIS: The Cases They Can’t Forget | CBS
NCIS History (October 1998, Vol II, Edition 6)
NCIS: The Cases They Can’t Forget | Amazon
Real NCIS | E02 | Hartley Case
John Prudhont Unusual Suspects Maritime Murder 30 sec Clip
Maritime Murder | Unusual Suspects | Investigation Discovery (S4,E13)