It is difficult to contemplate anything more devastating and tragic than the murder of multiple victims of the same family. In many cases parents and children are killed, wiping out two generations and removing entire branches of a family tree in one incident. When murders go unsolved, the torment for those left behind increases year upon year with no answers as to who killed their loved ones and why. Here are five cases of entire families who were murdered in their own homes that remain unsolved today.
The Boles Family August 1965 – Crestline, California
Just after moving to a wooden cabin in the mountain resort town of Crestline in California, James and Darlene Boles and their two teenage sons lost all contact with extended family. Relatives became concerned when they visited their new cabin for the weekend but did not return to Orange County as planned or make any contact. Darlene’s brother, at request of their worried mother, drove up to the cabin on the 13 August 1965 and discovered all four family members dead in the master bedroom with multiple bullet wounds. There were spots of blood all over the cabin, running through the living room and on the furniture, and the family dog had also been killed and left in a pool of blood.
The slaying of this family baffled investigators who could find no reason for them to be targeted for murder. There were no witnesses, no neighbours who heard or saw anything suspicious over that weekend and no leads for police to go on. Today, 52 years on, the case remains cold with hope that the perpetrator of these horrific murders fading as each year passes.
The Bricca Family September 1966 – Bridgetown, Cincinnati
28-year-old Jerry Bricca, an engineer at a Cincinnati plastics factory, was last seen on the evening of 25 September 1966 when he took the garbage out and chatted with a neighbour. Two days later, on 27 September, with no sign of the family, friends went to check on them and upon opening the front door to the home in a quiet residential street in Bridgetown they were hit with the odour of death.
Jerry and Linda Bricca were found tied up on top of each other in the master bedroom. Both had been stabbed multiple times. Their daughter, 4-year-old Debbie Bricca, was found in her bedroom also with numerious stab wounds. On a search of the house Jerry’s wallet was discovered to be missing but no further items or belongings appeared to be disturbed.
This case occurred at the same time the Cincinnati Strangler was murdering his victims and some theorized this family had met their death by the same killer. However, his victims were mainly elderly women and he had never killed more than one person in one attack before. It is believed there was one suspect that police at the time were unable to interview as the suspect invoked his right to remain silent to avoid self-incrimination and have a lawyer present. It is unknown who this suspect was and no actual evidence was found to link anybody forensically to the murders.
A friend of Linda Bricca was murdered in Chicago just one week before this family were killed. Valerie Percy was the daughter of Illinois Senator Charles Percy and had also been stabbed to death. Her murder has never been solved. Although looked at, no evidence was ever found that the two murder scenes were linked.
The Sim Family October 1966 – Tallahassee, Florida
On the evening of 22 October 1966, the elder daughter of Robert and Helen Sims returned home and discovered the bodies of her parents and younger sister, 12-year-old Joy Sims, on the floor of the master bedroom. They had been tied up and gagged, before being shot multiple times in the head and Joy Sims had also been sexually assaulted and stabbed six times in the chest. 34-year-old Helen Sims survived the attack before dying a few days later in the hospital, never regaining consciousness to tell police any information on what had happened. With no signs of burglary or forced entry into the home, it was a horrific crime scene with no indications of who came into this house and why.
It was a crime which shocked Tallahassee and terrified residents, leaving them wondering who was on the loose and whether they were going to strike again. The Sims were an everyday family with nothing in their current lives, employment or backgrounds that gave any possible motive for such brutality and violence to be carried out against them. If this could happen to them, people thought, it could happen to anyone.
A pastor known to the family, C.A. Roberts, came under suspicion of the killings at one point but was ruled out as a suspect with a solid alibi for the time of the murders. Although there have been some suspects and lines of inquiry in this case, none have yielded enough evidence to press forward for a conviction and these murders, 51 years later, remain unsolved.
The Bennet Family January 1984 – Aurora, Colorado
27-year-old Bruce Bennett, his wife 26-year-old Debra Bennett, and their two daughters 7-year-old Melissa Bennett and 3-year-old Vanessa Bennett had moved to a quiet area of Aurora in November of 1983. Three months later, on 16 January 1984, an unidentified male entered their home and attacked the family. Bruce Bennett was stabbed and beaten and Debra Bennet beaten and sexually assaulted. Both died from their injuries. Their 7-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted and beaten to death. Their 3-year-old was beaten and survived the attack, making her the only survivor in the family. As in each of these family murder cases, there were no indications of forced entry into the home or of a robbery.
Police were able to find a DNA profile from samples and forensic evidence from the bodies of the three victims. This DNA matched the DNA profile found at an earlier murder scene, that of Patricia Smith who was 50-years-old and had been beaten to death with a hammer the week before the Bennett family were killed, in her home in the city of Lakewood. New technology and advances in DNA profiling since the murders has allowed more recent testing of the evidence found and has confirmed the offender responsible for these murders is a white male with dark brown hair and blue eyes.
This case now sits within the cold case files and it is hoped that one day the DNA information police do have will lead to a direct match and identify the killer. Time, however, is passing and already 33 years have gone by, potentially putting the offender in his 60’s or 70s. Cold case detective Stephen Connor told 9 News on the case, “My personal opinion is based upon the evidence and a whole bunch of things that come into play that the guy is probably deceased.”
The Rhoden Family April 2016 – Pike County, Ohio
On 22 April 2016, 911 calls began coming into dispatchers in Pike County, Ohio reporting the discovery of multiple victims who had been shot. By the end of that day, seven members of the same family had been found murdered across three different homes in the small town of Peebles and by the end of the week, a further victim was discovered killed in their home in Piketon. Most were shot to death while they were sleeping in their beds with one victim being killed while she lay sleeping holding her 4-day-old baby who was not hurt.
Two parents, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden and 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr., were killed along with their daughter 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden and two sons, 16-year-old Christopher Rhoden Jr, and 20-year-old Clarence Rhoden, and their daughter-in-law, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley. Christopher Rhoden’s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden, and cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden, were also killed.
Many of these deaths were referred to as ‘execution-style’ killings with multiple shots fired at the victims. Two babies and a toddler where in the homes at the time of the murders but were left unharmed.
Various theories have been suggested for why eight members of the same family would be killed including cockfighting with roosters in cages at one of the homes involved and marijuana growing operations after evidence was found in three of the four crime scenes. The scale of the investigation led to the FBI becoming involved and despite hundreds of interviews and tips being received, these eight murders remain unsolved one year later. Police are keen to highlight that this is an ongoing investigation with a number of different lines of enquiry. It is hoped that this is a case which will be solved in the near future with some answers uncovered as to why these family members were killed and by whom.