Top 10 Crimes That Were Solved in Unexpected Ways

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Top 10 Crimes That Were Solved in Unexpected Ways

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
You'll be shocked when you learn how these infamous crimes were solved. For this list, we'll be looking at various crimes that were unexpectedly solved through unconventional tactics or surprising revelations. Our countdown includes Forensic Fingerprint, NASA Tech, The Golden State Killer's Immense Family Tree, and more!
Transcript

Top 10 Crimes That Were Solved in Unexpected Ways


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 crimes that were solved in unexpected ways.

For this list, we’ll be looking at various crimes that were unexpectedly solved through unconventional tactics or surprising revelations.

Which of these stories do you find the most unbelievable? Let us know in the comments below!

#10: Cat DNA

Cats don’t just lounge in the sun all day. They also help solve crimes. In July of 2012, the remains of a 30-year-old man named David Guy were found in garbage bags on a Hampshire beach. Investigators found hairs on Guy’s remains and ran some tests. The hairs took them to a DNA catalogue belonging to the University of Leicester. The weird thing is, the catalogue is for household cats. The DNA of the hair was traced to a cat belonging to Guy’s neighbor, David Hilder. Hilder was tracked down by the authorities, and with the help of other incriminating evidence, was arrested and charged with Guy’s death. Hilder was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 12 years in prison.

#9: Forensic Fingerprint

After World War II, there was a bishop in the Romanian Orthodox Church in North America named Valerian Trifa. But then rumors began circulating that Trifa had a horrific past, namely, that he was a former Nazi with the Iron Guard responsible for a pogrom in Bucharest. The German government then handed over a postcard addressed to Heinrich Himmler that was allegedly written by Trifa. Trifa insisted that it did not come from him, but forensic scientists used a special type of laser that revealed Trifa’s fingerprint on the postcard. And just like that, a Nazi war criminal was identified. Trifa was kicked out of the US and found refuge in Portugal, and it was there that he died in 1987.

#8: Billboard Handwriting

The case involving Florida killer Oba Chandler involved the first use of billboards in finding a criminal. On June 4, 1989, three female bodies were found floating in Tampa Bay. These were the bodies of Joan Rogers and her teenage daughters. They had been spending a day in Tampa and had asked Chandler for directions. He wrote directions down on a brochure and offered to give them a cruise of the bay on his personal boat later that night, where the crime occurred. Chandler’s handwritten directions were plastered on billboards around Tampa and were eventually recognized by Chandler’s neighbor. Authorities were provided with a work order that Chandler had written, and analysis proved a match. Chandler was found guilty and executed in 2011.

#7: Pollen Cracks the Case

It’s amazing to think how far forensic science has come in the last century or so. Just try telling someone from the Victorian era— Sherlock Holmes excepted -- that we would be using pollen, of all things, to crack murder cases. In 2002, two young girls named Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman went missing. Thirteen days later, a gamekeeper found their bodies in a ditch. Forensic ecologist Patricia Wiltshire was brought in and took some soil samples from the surrounding area. The pollen found in the soil matched the soil found on the leading suspect’s car. Ian Huntley was officially linked to the scene of the crime, charged with the victims’ deaths, and sentenced to life in prison.

#6: Cold Case Cards

Back in the fall of 1979, a 24-year-old woman named Susan Schwarz was found dead in her home. The authorities immediately suspected the estranged husband of her best friend, a man named Greg Johnson. However, there wasn’t enough evidence to implicate Johnson, and the trail went cold for decades. It was then that the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office had the idea to make playing cards out of cold cases. These cards made their way to a local prison and an inmate recognized Susan’s picture from the card. They directed authorities to an unidentified woman, who admitted that her old boyfriend had killed Susan back in ‘79. Her ex-boyfriend was... Greg Johnson. Johnson admitted to the crime and was sentenced to 24 years.

#5: Unexpected Reunion

Celeste Nurse experienced the most conflicting emotions imaginable between April 28th and 30th of 1997. On the 28th, her daughter Zephany was born. Two days later, Zephany was abducted from the hospital. Celeste was forced to return home without Zephany, and no news was heard for the next 17 years. In that time, Celeste had another daughter named Cassidy. Cassidy started at a new school and found striking similarities with a student named Miché Solomon. Cassidy then arranged for her father to meet Miché, and he in turn contacted the authorities. They conducted a DNA test and found that Miché was actually the teenaged Zephany Nurse. Zephany was reunited with her biological parents, and her abductor, Lavona Solomon, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

#4: Bugs

Vincent Brothers’s complex alibi fell apart thanks to some simple bug splatter. Brothers’s three children, wife, and mother-in-law were all killed on July 6, 2003. Airplane records proved that Brothers was in Ohio at the time of their deaths, having flown there from California to visit his brother. Investigators seized and analyzed his rental car and found a few suspicious things. Not only was the odometer nonsensically high, but insects found in the radiator were only found west of the Rockies. They then put the story together, realizing that Brothers had flown to Ohio, rented a car, drove back to California, killed his family, and then drove back to Ohio. He was charged with their deaths and was sentenced to death.

#3: LEGO Clues

Authorities were left with a puzzling sight when investigating the death of 78-year-old Lucille Johnson. They found the elderly woman strangled within her own home, and littered throughout the living room were the unmistakable sight of colorful LEGO bricks. The case occurred in 1991 and remained unsolved until 2014. Investigators then tested residue that was found under Johnson’s fingernails and found a DNA match to an incarcerated man named John Sansing. Furthermore, the LEGO bricks found in the house were scanned for fingerprints, and a match was made to Sansing’s son. Authorities believe that Sansing brought his son to the crime scene, and...let him play with LEGO while daddy killed someone?

#2: NASA Tech

NASA really can do it all - even crack a 20 year old cold case. Back in 1991, a woman named Dawn Sanchez went missing. Investigators immediately pegged her boyfriend Bernado Bass as being responsible, as Sanchez was last seen getting into his car. However, no one could find his car, or even Sanchez’s body. The case went cold for two decades - and then NASA stepped in. Authorities received a tip claiming that Bass’s car was disassembled and buried in a vacant California lot. A NASA research team sent in a ground-penetrating robot that found car parts in the specified location, and excavators matched them to Bass’s vehicle. The evidence helped implicate Bass in Sanchez’s death and put him away for six years.

#1: The Golden State Killer’s Immense Family Tree

With his crimes spanning the years between 1974 and 1986, the Golden State Killer committed dozens of assaults and at least 13 killings. Adding to the horror were the man’s taunting phone calls that were made to the police. The killer got away with everything...that is, until 2018 and the invention of genetic genealogy. Authorities fed crime scene DNA into a genealogy service called GEDmatch. The service came back with thousands of hits, and they were able to craft a complex family tree that linked back to a man named Joseph DeAngelo. Using other clues and traditional investigative methods, the authorities were able to rule out everyone but DeAngelo. After nearly 50 years of anonymity, the Golden State Killer was finally caught.
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