The iconic TV series “Unsolved Mysteries” popped up on Netflix a few months back, bringing on a wave of sweet childhood nostalgia — some of my first exposure to the gritty world of true crime and real-life mystery, a story genre with which I am transfixed, still.
I went back and watched a few episodes, revisiting the ones with Dallas ties, specifically. I’ve listed said cases below.
And, if the show ever returned, or some investigator out there has time for a true-crime podcast (because that’s how this sort of thing is done these days), or would like to financially support us creating one (I literally just thought of that; it’s not a thing we’re doing. Yet.), call me, K?
Elizabeth Carmichael (solved)
In 1973, a savvy and cunning Elizabeth Carmichael moved her sham of a California-based business to Dallas in order to avoid investigators, who were closing in on her. The mother of five and self-proclaimed entrepreneur was living in California when she unveiled a revolutionary, three-wheeled vehicle called “The Dale” — an ideal solution to America’s oil crisis that never did come to fruition. Still, Carmichael managed some $3 million in advanced sales. It was around the time California’s Department of Corporations accused her of illegally selling stuff that didn’t exist that she scurried to Dallas, Texas. By the time Dallas Police got up-to-date and obtained a search warrant, the Carmichael family had fled. Carmichael temporarily evaded arrest, using several identities, one, a man called Jerry Dean Michael. One day, “Michael” failed to appear at a court date, and was not seen again…
Update: Eight years later, Michael, who underwent a gender reassignment operation, was located, working as a flower vendor in Dale, Texas. He served two years in a male prison.
Jonathan Francia (wanted)
In January 1994, Jonathan Francia, 16, of New Mexico, was found dead in the trunk of his charred car. Thanks to an expert composite sketch artist, police tracked and arrested one of his killers. They also identified one “Jason” who stands 5’10 with a medium build. He wears a horsehair belt, chews tobacco and smokes, and he has relatives in Dallas, Texas, where police believe he could be hiding. Be it known that the man is “extremely dangerous.”
Stephanie Booker (victim)
She and friend Kim Colvin of Dallas were boating on Lake Lewisville in 1995—heading to dock, inside a no-wake zone, when a speeding boat struck them, knocking Booker into the water before a propeller sliced off half of her face. Colvin says her friend’s face was falling off; she literally could not find her lips to attempt CPR. She saw a man and woman staring at them from the offending cigarette-style boat, possibly contemplating their next move. They decided to bolt. Witnesses later said they saw a couple loading what was likely the boat in question onto a white pickup truck. Dallas and Denton companies raised reward money, the police and public searched for answers, yet the perpetrators never were found. And get this: Dennis Rodman, the Chicago Bulls star who did a brief stint on the Mavs and who lived in Dallas, was questioned in the case.
David Merrifield (victim)
In February 1995, secretary Roxanne Lederman and Juanita Lackey discovered the body of co-worker David Merrifield inside the elevator of their Dallas office building. He’d been shot in the back of the head. Sgt. Jerry King of the Dallas Police Department thought it a robbery before he soon found the dead man’s wallet nearby. The police investigation determined that a man using the alias Sam Jones, with whom Merrifield had penciled in a 6:30 a.m. appointment that day, could be the killer. Apparently an update in a later episode reported that the prime suspect killed himself and the case was closed. (Episode)
Every Dallas resident in 1996 knew the case of the suburban mom Darlie Routier, convicted of killing her 5-year-old son (also accused in the murder of his brother). At first, she was presumed a victim but later was sentenced to death row. Yet, she lives. And so does her version of the story—a man came in and stabbed the boys and her, then fled. (Episode) In ’02 Texas Monthly ran a piece entitled “Maybe Darlie Didn’t Do It.” These days, the crime show “The Last Defense” is exploring the 20-plus year old case.
Charles Southern (missing) linked to Terri Hoffman’s Dallas-based cult
Perhaps a dozen untimely deaths are linked to Hoffman in some way. The victims include Mary Levinson—drug overdose; David and Glenda Goodman—shot; Jill Bounds (of East Dallas)—beaten to death; Sandy Cleaver—drove off a cliff in broad daylight—and her teenage daughter who drowned. Finally, many link missing person Charles Southern to Terri, who led a cult called Conscious Development of Mind, Body and Soul. Southern joined a Chicago branch of the sect before his disappearance. He is still listed as missing. (Episode)
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