Today, we’re counting down four true crime tales, with more dramatic twists and turns than a soap opera. The difference, however, is that these chilling stories are painfully real. And just wait, because you won’t believe the ghastly outcome waiting at the end of this article.
Case Number 4
The unbelievable case in fourth place, involves a small town, a beauty queen, and a killer hiding in plain sight. Nona Dirksmeyer was born on December 26th, 1985, as one of Paul and Carol Dirksmeyer’s six children.
She was raised in the small town of Russellville, Arkansas, with many describing her as very sweet, kind, and shy. In high school, Nona began dating a boy named Kevin Jones, who she had known since kindergarten, and the two immediately became inseparable. Around this time, she started competing in beauty pageants, using her platform to help prevent violence against kids.
Nona even volunteered her free time as a member of the Big Sisters organization. The beauty queen started college at Arkansas Tech University in 2004, majoring in music, and got her own apartment. Keep in mind that Nona, her mother, and Kevin were given keys to this apartment.
Kevin enrolled at the University of Arkansas, around 90 minutes away, but the couple kept up their relationship. On December 14th, 2005, Kevin came home for Christmas break to visit Nona, and they discuss their plans for the following day.
Nona had a couple of finals to wrap up at school and then was expected to meet with her little sister. Kevin had plans to accompany his mother, Janice, to a school holiday dinner in the evening. The next morning, Kevin received a text message from Nona, reading, good morning, cuddle muffin. I love you and hope you have a great day.
Naturally, he expected to hear from Nona again when her exams were finished, but she never called. After nearly five years together, this struck Kevin as odd, because she usually responded right away. So around four in the afternoon, he sent her a text message saying, you alive? Interesting choice of words.
Kevin continued calling and messaging her phone until around six when he and his mother headed out for their Christmas party. During the drive, he grew increasingly concerned and contacted a friend who was out delivering pizza in the area.
Kevin asked his friends to go to Nona’s apartment and see if her car was parked outside. The friend reported back that her car was there and the upstairs and lights were on. But strangely, Nona wasn’t answering the door when he knocked. Alarmed by the findings at her apartment, Kevin and Janice went to check it out themselves.
First, they tried to pry open the front door, but it wouldn’t budge. And unfortunately, Kevin had forgotten his spare key at home. So they ran to the sliding glass door in the back, which Nona always reinforced with a burglar bar. But on this night, it was suspiciously missing.
Kevin forced open the sliding door and ran inside, noticing blood on the Venetian blinds as he moved towards the living room. There, he saw Nona lying face down in a puddle of her own blood, wearing nothing but a small pair of white socks.
Kevin rushed over, and without thinking, hugged her lifeless body. Authorities soon arrived at the apartment and found Nona with several stab wounds to her neck and shoulder, but that wasn’t her cause of death. She had also been viciously beaten in the head, and there was no question about what the murderer had used for a weapon.
Beside the body was an extremely heavy lamp, broken into three pieces, with blood on the base and the light bulb. Also, despite Nona being completely nude, there was no indication of non-consensual intercourse, and there was no sign of forced entry into the apartment.
However, there was evidence that someone had attempted to strangle her and cut her throat before inflicting the brain-damaging blow to her head. Additionally, detectives collected an open condom wrapper from the table next to the body, but they never located the actual condom.
Now, some people believe detectives dropped the ball on this case because certain blood samples were overlooked, such as those on the Venetian blinds. Furthermore, the doors and blinds were never dusted for prints and they failed to look for any evidence upstairs.
But it quickly became apparent that the police already had a prime suspect in mind for the heinous crime. Any guesses? I’ll give you a hint. It was Kevin. Investigators viewed the entire scene, including his emotional reaction and the use of his mother and friend as an elaborate coverup.
Not to mention, they walked in and saw Kevin covered in Nona’s blood, which, let’s face it, doesn’t look good. So they brought him down to the station right away for hours of intensive questioning. They also checked Kevin’s body for injuries, as Nona had defensive wounds indicating she had fought her attacker, but he had none.
The distraught boyfriend never requested a lawyer and adamantly proclaimed his innocence the entire time. But the police still weren’t buying it. However, investigators knew they needed to look at everyone in Nona’s circle. So they started by examining her other lovers.
Wait, what? Yes, you read it right. Unbeknownst to Kevin, his high school sweetheart had been casually seeing other men, a harsh side effect of many long-distance relationships. Police stated that they also looked at anyone in the area who might’ve had contact with the beautiful young woman.
Still, when they were all ruled out, the focus was shifted back to Kevin, who they now thought had a clear motive for killing Nona. Desperate to clear his name, Kevin voluntarily went to the Russellville Police Department on the eve of Nona’s funeral.
He told investigators, I’ll do anything that you guys want me to do. I’ll do a DNA test, I’ll do anything. He also willingly agreed to take a notoriously unreliable polygraph test, as long as he could leave in time for Nona’s visitation that night, which he had helped coordinate.
This choice ultimately proved a huge mistake, when the polygraph examiner announced he failed miserably. He actually said to him, Kevin, there’s no doubt in my mind that you killed her. Seven grueling hours later, Kevin was still at the station and had missed the visitation.
Of course, many people, including Nona’s parents, started speculating that he skipped the ceremony because he was guilty. But, as you can see, that wasn’t the case at all. Nonetheless, authorities asserted that Kevin had murdered Nona in a fit of rage, after discovering her infidelity firsthand.
They even held a press conference to declare that all potential suspects had been cleared, but one. And we all know how news travels in a small town. Further testing showed Kevin’s fingerprint and blood on the light bulb next to the body.
So on March 31st, 2006, he was arrested and charged with her murder. Kevin’s legal team called into question the condom wrapper, which had been tested for fingerprints, but never checked for DNA. And wouldn’t you know, there was some DNA left behind, and it wasn’t Kevin’s. Instead, it belonged to an unknown male.
Now, this wasn’t exactly a slam dunk for the defense, because the jury could view this evidence two ways. The first is that it came from a total stranger. And the second is that it fits in perfectly with the prosecution’s theory that Kevin had caught Nona cheating.
The prosecution and defense argued back and forth. But the entire case ultimately came down to that light bulb. While prosecutors claim Kevin left the print after bludgeoning Nona to death, his defense maintained that he didn’t even remember touching the bulb, insisting that it must have happened during the chaos of finding her body.
Finally, it was time for the jury to deliberate, and while they were initially split on the decision, they returned the following day with a not guilty verdict. Then shockingly, a local man named Gary Dunn was arrested for burglary in September 2007.
And eyebrows were raised when the police recalled him being questioned during the initial investigation. He had provided an alibi and was released without incident. But detectives noticed something very alarming when they took a second glance.
The date on the receipt he gave them to account for his time didn’t account for the timeframe in which Nona was murdered. Furthermore, Dunn had been living in the same apartment complex as Nona at the time of her death.
So, the condom wrapper was retested and authorities said the testing indicated a partial profile of Dunn’s DNA was found. With the incomplete alibi, it was enough for police to arrest Dunn and charge him with Nona’s murder. In April 2010, his trial began, with Dunn’s ex-wife testifying that he was allegedly violent and obsessed with Nona.
Frustratingly, it ended in a mistrial, and he was set free. He was arrested again in 2011 for attempted kidnapping and indecent exposure, landing him 15 years in prison. While it seems like most people have a pretty good idea of who they believe committed this brutal crime, there’s yet to be justice for Nona.
Case Number 3
All right, let’s keep moving on to case number three, and please be mindful that the details involved in this one are exceptionally tough to hear. However, an unbelievable twist restores hope that good can triumph over evil, regardless of the terrible circumstances.
So on that note, let’s dive in. Jennifer Hawke-Petit was born in Morristown, New Jersey on September 26th, 1958. After college, she met her soulmate, Dr. William A Petit Jr, while working as a pediatric oncology nurse at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
William was born on September 24th, 1956 in Connecticut. And over time, became one of the top endocrinologists in the world. The power couple said their I do’s on April 13th, 1985. And together, they furthered their medical professions.
On October 15th, 1989, the pair welcomed their first child, a daughter they named Hayley Elizabeth. And then, on November 17th, 1995, another little girl was born, Michaela Rose. Around this special time, Jennifer began working as a nurse at a private boarding school, which is how the Petit family found themselves raising their two children in the idyllic and seemingly safe suburban community of Cheshire, Connecticut.
In the summer of 2007, Hayley was a bright and ambitious 17-year-old, preparing to head off to college in the fall. Her little sister, Michaela, was a happy 11-year-old, eagerly awaiting the start of middle school.
Now, let’s talk about the day that changed this family forever. July 22nd, 2007. It was a day like any other and Michaela, who loved cooking, decided to make dinner for the family. So Jennifer drove her to the local Stop & Shop to buy ingredients, around 7:30 that evening.
Surveillance footage shows the pair calmly walking through the store, collecting items from their list. But it also revealed something far more ominous. Unbeknownst to the mother and daughter, a strange man had spotted them in the parking lot and was stalking them around the store.
He then followed them out to their car and all the way home, where he hatched a sinister plan. Meanwhile, the Petit family ate dinner around 8:30 and watched a television show before Jennifer and her daughters went off to bed. William chose to stay up and study some medical journals, which resulted in him falling asleep on the couch in the living room.
Around three in the morning, the stalker returned with an accomplice and entered the home through the cellar door. The two intruders wore masks and were armed with a baseball bat and a rifle. As they moved around, they were caught off guard by William, who they had expected to be asleep upstairs.
Without hesitation, they brutally beat him over the head with the baseball bat and dragged his bloody unconscious body down to the basement where he was tied up and left for dead. Then, they entered the master bedroom where Jennifer and Michaela were sleeping and abruptly woke them up before forcibly moving Michaela to her own room.
Next, they subdued Hayley in her room and tied all three to their separate beds by their wrists and ankles, with pillowcases covering their heads. The monstrous men then went about ransacking the home, looking for anything valuable to steal, but they were very disappointed not to find a safe.
However, after locating a bank ledger stating the family’s personal finances, they decided to wait until morning to bring Jennifer to the bank, so she could withdraw cash. In the meantime, they went to a local gas station and filled two gas tanks. We’ll get back to that later.
The masked men returned to the Petit home and checked on their captives, allowing Michaela a sip of water and untying Hayley, so that she could use the restroom. As the sun rose on Cheshire, the burglars knew William would be expected at work soon, so they forced Jennifer to call in sick for him.
She did as they asked, and in a grueling moment of contact with the outside world, his coworker wished her husband a speedy recovery and ended the call without concern. Around nine in the morning, one of the intruders drove Jennifer to the bank while the other kept watching over the home. She was given strict instructions to stay quiet and not mention anything, or the girls would be murdered.
Believing them to be motivated by money, Jennifer thought that if she did what they asked, then they would soon be gone, and her family would survive the ordeal. Still, she fearlessly scribbled a quick note on the deposit slip, expressing her dire situation to the bank teller.
She wrote that she needed to withdraw $15,000 in cash because her family was being held hostage, and she urged them not to contact the police or else they would all be killed. Of course, when someone is trying to take out a large sum of money without proper documentation, the bank manager has to get involved.
Despite Jennifer’s warning, she called 911 and said, we have a lady who is in our bank right now, who says that her husband and children are being held at their house. Then the bank official watched in horror as Jennifer left the bank in a car with a hooded man.
Rather than head straight to the Petit home, police rushed to the bank, missing Jennifer and her captor by just two agonizing minutes. They made this choice based on a fleeting belief that Jennifer may have been complicit in some sort of bank scheme.
Eventually, it was determined that the family was in serious trouble. So a SWAT team was called, and authorities arrived at the home a few minutes after Jennifer. Unfortunately, they couldn’t act fast enough, as the intruders had already doused the home in gasoline, and before long, the entire house was up in flames.
Both men ran from the front door and jumped into the Petit’s SUV, but their escape attempt failed when they crashed into a police car and a roadblock. Firetrucks had to wait until the men were apprehended before they could reach the home. But by that point, all that was left were charred remains.
Now, are you ready for this twist? Miraculously, William Petit had untied himself with just seconds to spare and crawled from the basement. He’d been beaten beyond the point of recognition and could barely speak when approached by his neighbor.
He was swiftly taken away by ambulance, not knowing what happened to his wife and children. When he later woke up in the hospital, William was given the crushing news that Jennifer, Hayley, and Michaela had all lost their lives that day.
The two masked men, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes admitted to assaulting and strangling Jennifer to death. Furthermore, an autopsy revealed that both daughters died from smoke inhalation, but not before Michaela had endured a violent attack.
Authorities speculate that Joshua had developed an obsession with the young girl after spotting her at the grocery store. This horrific crime devastated the town and had many people questioning the actions taken by police. For starters, there was a 33-minute gap between when Jennifer left the bank and when the house erupted in flames.
Additionally, the police chief had directed all units to stay away from the home until he arrived on the scene. And there was a delay with the SWAT team because they forgot their bulletproof vests. While it’s hard to say whether or not a change in these actions would have saved lives, it’s easy to see why people were all up in arms.
In September 2010, Steven’s trial began, with Joshua’s trial the following year. William Petit testified in both and the men were sentenced to death. However, capital punishment was overturned in Connecticut in 2012. So their sentences were commuted to life without parole.
Instead of allowing this tragedy to define him, Dr. William Petit eventually remarried and pursued a political career. He now represents Plainville and New Britain in the Connecticut House of Representatives.
Finally, from the ashes of the Petit family home came a stunning memorial garden, filled with Michaela’s favorite flowers, four o’clock. Dartmouth College also dedicated a portion of its Life Sciences Center to the memories of Jennifer Hawke-Petit and her two daughters. I think it’s clear to see how deeply impacted this tight-knit Connecticut community was by these untimely and tragic murders.
Case Number 2
Robert Bierenbaum and Gail Katz met in the early 1980s and hit it off right away. She was young, beautiful, and motivated, working a series of odd jobs in Manhattan while studying to be a psychologist. He was a good-looking, charming, and intelligent surgical resident, with passions for cooking, skiing, and flying planes.
It seemed to be a match made in heaven, but unfortunately, someone was hiding a dark secret. Nevertheless, Robert, who often took his dates on romantic flights, swept Gail off her feet, and the two were married in 1982. They moved into a lavish upper east side apartment, but it didn’t take long for some major red flags to emerge.
And before long, Gail’s family began expressing their concerns over her well-being. On one occasion, Gail called her sister sobbing and told her that Robert had tried to drown her cat in the toilet. But instead of opting out of the toxic relationship, she said, I’m smart, I’m loving. My love will cure. This is going to work out.
Then, in 1983, Robert snapped and choked Gail into unconsciousness after catching her smoking on their balcony. She reported the incident to a local police precinct, but frustratingly, nothing happened. Desperate, Gail urged her husband to meet with a therapist who wound up writing her a letter, warning her that Robert could be capable of murder.
Finally, she said enough was enough. Gail told her sister that she planned to leave Robert, but that time never came, because on July 7th, 1985, Gail disappeared without a trace. Gail’s worried family pleaded with Robert for any information on her whereabouts. But all he said was that she left their apartment in the middle of a heated argument.
He claimed not to have seen or heard from her since. But Gail’s sister was immediately suspicious of the esteemed surgeon and stated in an interview, she’s not with me and she’s not with my parents. And at that moment, I know that my sister’s dead.
When months passed with no word from Gail, the Manhattan District Attorney’s office started an investigation. However, it was impossible to charge Robert without any evidence or a body, and the case slowly went cold. But then, in May 1989, a glimmer of hope emerged when a human torso washed up on a beach in Staten Island.
However, DNA forensics wasn’t yet available. So, investigators, had an x-ray technician compare Gail’s old chest x-rays to the torso and they concluded, this is Gail. Meanwhile, Robert seemed unfazed by his wife’s disappearance, as he was busy partying and picking up women.
In 1990, he moved to Las Vegas, began his own plastic surgery practice, and formed a new relationship with Dr. Stephanie Youngblood, who reported that their first year together was perfect. Eventually, Stephanie left Robert after witnessing his rage firsthand, but he wasted no time and quickly started dating again.
In 1996, he married a gynecologist named Janet Challot. The pair relocated to North Dakota, where they had a baby girl together. And Robert became something of a local celebrity after saving a young boy’s life at the North Dakota State Fair. Back in New York, detectives were revisiting cold cases when they realized it was now possible to test the DNA from the torso found nearly 10 years earlier.
Unfortunately, Gail’s family received the gut-wrenching news that the torso did not belong to Gail, thus ripping away any closure they had found. The determined investigators began re-interviewing anyone close to Robert, and one person’s statements stood out from the rest.
A former girlfriend from back in New York told detectives she had been with Robert when he got a phone call from Port Authority Police, saying they might’ve found Gail. After hanging up the phone, he ominously told her, I doubt it’s Gail.
Furthermore, the lead detective on the case uncovered a truly shocking clue that would take this investigation to new heights, literally. He found that the doctor had rented a plane from the New Jersey Airport on the exact same day Gail went missing. Furthermore, Robert had actually doctored the flight log to make it look like he had taken the plane out the following day.
So finally, the pieces to this twisted puzzle were starting to come together, and investigators could proceed with their case against Robert. 15 years after Gail vanished, a grand jury charged Robert with second-degree murder. And at long last, the case went to trial.
However, with only circumstantial evidence, it wouldn’t be easy to convict him of murder. Moreover, the jury was skeptical about whether or not Robert could have physically flown the plane and pushed a body out of it simultaneously.
But the prosecutors recreated and recorded the scenario, demonstrating to all that it was entirely possible. And you know what? It worked. Despite the defense’s best efforts to blame Gail’s disappearance on mental instability and drug problems, Robert was found guilty of second-degree murder on October 24th, 2000.
The ruthless, yet sweet-talking killer was sentenced to 20 years to life in prison and has tried several times over the years to have his conviction overturned, thankfully, without any success. But then, after decades of maintaining his innocence from behind bars, Robert dropped a major bombshell.
During a parole hearing in December 2020, he stunned everyone when he finally confessed, proclaiming, I wanted her to stop yelling at me and I attacked her. He then went on to say he strangled Gail and went flying.
Horrifically, detectives have since disclosed, that they believe Robert used his surgical skills and took his time dismembering the body before renting a plane and dumping it somewhere between Montauk Point, New York, and Cape May, New Jersey.
While her body has never been found, Gail’s family believes her spirit has found its eternal resting place in an extraordinary non-profit organization called Gail’s House. Beyond honoring her memory, it was initiated to raise awareness surrounding domestic violence and to provide support for women in need.
Case Number 1
This last case will take you on a twisted journey you won’t soon forget. We’re traveling back in time to October 17th, 2006 in New Orleans, Louisiana. A guest at the Omni Royal Hotel looks out his window after hearing a loud thud and is horrified to see a man’s body lying on the parking garage roof below.
Police rushed to the rooftop and found the fatally mangled body of 28-year-old Zackery Bowen, an Iraq War veteran, who had apparently jumped five stories to his death. As they surveyed the scene, detectives located Army dog tags, house keys, and a folded up note in Zack’s pocket, reading, this is not accidental.
I had to take my own life to pay for the one I took. If you send a patrol to 826 North Rampart, you will find the dismembered corpse of my girlfriend, Addie, in the oven, on the stove, and in the fridge, along with full documentation on both of us and a full signed confession from myself. Wait, say what?
Beyond the very unexpected admission, it was clear that Zack had been living with some demons, based on the 28 cigarette burns found on his body. He wrote that they were meant to symbolize his shortcomings in school, jobs, military, marriage, parenthood, morals, and love, for every year of his life.
However, according to his friends, Zack appeared in fine spirits the day before his lethal leap. So what happened? Well, hotel security footage captured him drinking for hours at the Omni rooftop bar, before eerily pacing back and forth by the railing.
It appeared as though he was contemplating his fatal choice, but then, at around 8:30 in the evening, cameras rolled as he suddenly threw himself over the edge, leaving behind a mass of unanswered questions. Of course, authorities immediately went to the address in Zack’s note, and much to their horror, discovered that every gruesome detail was true.
In various areas of the French Quarter flat, they found the partially cooked remains of a young woman. While she couldn’t be immediately identified, it was suspected to be Zack’s missing girlfriend, 30-year-old Addie Hall.
Now, let’s talk about these two for a second. Adriane Mathias Addie Hall was a free-spirited and passionate dance teacher, poet, and seamstress, from Durham, North Carolina, who worked in a local pub as a bartender.
Zack, a carefree Los Angeles native, moved to New Orleans and enlisted in the Army in 2000. He served in Kosovo and Iraq as a military policeman, earning several awards for his heroic bravery. However, his experience in the army left him severely depressed and led to alleged increased use of drugs and alcohol.
Nevertheless, after receiving a general discharge, he had no trouble finding bartending jobs based on his good looks and charming nature. Zack and Addie met in 2005 at a bar, and it’s believed by some sources that they quickly bonded over a mutual desire to have a good time, which allegedly included using copious amounts of different drugs and alcohol.
Before long, they were madly in love and dependent upon one another. But then, Hurricane Katrina happened. In the time leading up to the devastating hurricane, Zack and Addie garnered media attention for their resistance to the evacuation, saying they plan to ride out the storm from home, despite all warnings.
Furthermore, once the storm had passed, they chose to stay without electricity, running water, or any essential supplies. While at first, the couple seemingly grew closer in the chaos, many regards this as the start of Zack’s downward spiral.
As residents of New Orleans began returning to their homes and life crept back toward normalcy, Zack and Addie became increasingly rebellious. They enjoyed living a survivalist lifestyle without responsibilities. And when that all came crashing down, intense fighting commenced.
The volatile relationship included both physical and mental abuse, with several friends expressing concern for their wellbeing. Some people believe things got even worse when Zack started frequenting gay bars and entered a secret homosexual relationship.
As you can probably imagine, Addie wasn’t happy when she found out he was cheating on her. And after breaking up with Zack, they got into a massive fight over ownership of their shared apartment. Then, in the heat of the moment, Zack snapped and strangled Addie to death.
At the apartment, police located a series of strange messages spray-painted on the walls, and a full written confession from Zack, stating, I scared myself, not by the action of calmly strangling the woman I’ve loved for one and a half years, but by my entire lack of remorse.
Then, horrifyingly, they opened the oven and discovered a pair of charred feet and legs in a tinfoil-lined pan. Oh, but that wasn’t all. They also found hands and a severed head in separate pots on the stove, as well as a torso wrapped in a plastic bag and packed into the refrigerator. Something of a silver lining.
New Orleans Chief of Detectives, Anthony Cannatella, denied reports there was cannibalism involved in the crime, citing an autopsy that showed no evidence of body parts in the bowel and system. Regardless, just let that sink in for a second.
Now, as if this case isn’t already twisted enough, Addie was very best friends with a woman named Margaret Sanchez, who appeared as a narrator in the documentary, “Zack & Addie”.
But shockingly, in 2012, Margaret and her boyfriend, Terry Speaks, were charged with murdering and dismembering a dancer named Jaren Lockhart. In any case, the tragic tale of Addie Hall and Zack Bowen’s whirlwind romance in the New Orleans French Quarter is a harsh testament to how abruptly a person can snap.
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