5 Of The Most Harrowing Unsolved Cases Of Missing People

There’s something incredibly terrifying about missing persons cases. While they’re all frightening, some unsolved cases stand out as especially creepy. These five will make you look over your shoulder the next time you leave your house.

October 28, 2019
By: Matt Gilligan

Photo By: Polaroid found in Port St. Joe, Florida in 1989 [Valencia County Sheriff's Department]

Photo By: The Sodder Children Missing Poster

Photo By: Maura Murray [From Missing Poster]

Photo By: Brian Shaffer [FBI]

Photo By: Heather Teague [From The Missing Poster]

Tara Calico

Tara Calico was only 19 years old when she left her home in Belen, New Mexico, on September 20, 1988, to take a bike ride. It was 9:30 a.m. when the young woman put on her headphones and headed out for her regular route of about 35 miles. Calico had reportedly gotten a flat tire on her bike a few days earlier, and she told her mother that she should look for her if she wasn’t home by noon.

Calico never returned home, and her family never saw or heard from her again. Patty Doel, Calico’s mother, alerted police that her daughter had disappeared, and authorities searched the remote stretch of New Mexico State Road 47. They reportedly found a piece of a Walkman and a cassette tape on the side of the road that Doel identified as belonging to her daughter.

Witnesses came forward and said they saw a pickup truck slowly following Calico along the road as she rode her bike. But there were no further solid leads, and the trail seemed to go cold, until July 1989.

Ten months after Calico disappeared, a strange Polaroid photo was reportedly discovered in the parking lot of a convenience store in Florida. The photo showed a young woman and a boy bound and gagged in the back of a van. The young woman bore a close resemblance to Calico.

The disturbing photograph was analyzed by the FBI, who believed it was not Calico, and Scotland Yard, who concluded that the bound and gagged woman was indeed her. Until her death, Doel thought the girl in the photo was her missing daughter.

According to People magazine, a law enforcement official believes Calico was murdered by local teenage boys who happened to cross paths with the young woman riding her bike that day 31 years ago. As of today, the unsettling case of Tara Calico remains unsolved. [People Magazine; People Magazine] [Albuquerque Journal]

For more on this case, watch the "Will Tara Calico Ever Be Found?" episode of Investigation Discovery's "The Missing" on ID GO now!

The Sodder Children

One of the more perplexing cases in American history reportedly occurred on Christmas Eve 1945, in Fayetteville, West Virginia. George and Jennie Sodder went to sleep as nine of their ten children settled in for the evening. Their tenth child was away from home, serving in the military. At around 1 a.m., shortly after the calendar flipped over to Christmas Day, a fire broke out in the Sodder home. George Sodder and his wife escaped the inferno with four of their children, but the other five seemed to vanish from the scene of the blaze.

George Sodder reportedly broke a window during the fire, re-entered the house, and quickly made his way through the smoke and flames that enveloped the downstairs. He reportedly figured his five children who didn’t make it out were trapped upstairs. No fire trucks arrived at the house until 8 a.m., seven hours after the blaze. The Sodder house burned to the ground, and the five missing Sodder children were never seen or heard from again. Maurice, 14; Martha 12; Louis, 9; Jennie, 8; and Betty, 5, disappeared without a trace.

George and Jennie Sodder reportedly refused to believe their five missing children were dead, especially after a search of the grounds revealed no human remains. According to Smithsonian magazine, the chief of the fire department said the blaze was so hot that it would have destroyed the bodies. A state police inspector blamed the deadly fire on bad wiring.

But the Sodders became suspicious when they pieced together strange events leading up to the deadly fire. A man looking for work at the Sodder house a few months before the incident had told George Sodder that the fuse boxes in the back of the house were “going to cause a fire someday.” But the power company had recently checked the wiring and said it was working properly.

At about the same time, according to Smithsonian, an insurance salesman allegedly became angry with George when he turned down a life insurance policy. The man warned, “Your goddamn house is going up in smoke, and your children are going to be destroyed. You are going to be paid for the dirty remarks you have been making about Mussolini.”

George was born in Italy and was allegedly outspoken about his dislike for Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, sometimes reportedly getting into intense arguments with other Italians in their hometown of Fayetteville. Jennie remembered hearing a loud thud on the roof about an hour before she noticed smoke coming into her bedroom, questioning the suggestion that bad wiring caused the fire.

In the years after the fire, people reported tips about the missing Sodder children around the country. One alleged that daughter Martha was living in a convent in St. Louis. Another claimed the children were living with a relative of Jennie. In 1968, 23 years after the fire, Jennie received a letter with no return address and a Kentucky postmark. The letter contained a photo of a man in his 20s and, written on the backside, the words: "Louis Sodder," "I love brother Frankie," "ilil Boys," and "A90132" or "A90135." The Sodders reportedly hired a private detective to track to the lead, but to no avail. The five missing Sodder children were never seen again. [The Charley Project] [NPR] [Smithsonian]

Maura Murray

The case of Maura Murray is one that has mystified police, Murray’s family, and amateur sleuths for more than 15 years. Murray was a 21-year-old nursing student at the University of Massachusetts – Amherst when she vanished on February 9, 2004.

On the day she disappeared, Murray reportedly sent an email to her professors that said there had been a death in the family, and she would be absent for a few days. The young woman then reportedly gathered her things and drove North.

Later that night, around 7 p.m., Murray’s car reportedly crashed into a snowbank in Haverhill, New Hampshire. When a driver stopped and asked Murray if she needed help, she reportedly declined. Mere minutes later, a police officer reportedly pulled up and found Murray’s Saturn with a cracked windshield and the door locked. Strangely, Murray had vanished.

Search dogs and helicopters combed the area but could not find Murray. Authorities and her family were baffled. There had been no death in the Murray family, so no one knew where she had been going or why. Her father, Fred Murray, speculates her destination was Vermont, where her family had spent time in the past, WMUR-TV reported.

The months and days leading up to Maura’s disappearance gave authorities a peek into her state of mind. In November 2003, she allegedly got into trouble when police suspected her of using a stolen credit card to make purchases. The charges were to be dropped within three months if she stayed out of trouble.

On February 7, 2004, two days before she disappeared, Maura reportedly crashed her father’s car into a guardrail at 3:30 a.m. after a night out with friends. Boston magazine reported she was not given a Breathalyzer test, although the wreck did reportedly cause $10,000 in damage to the car.

Two days later, Maura sent the emails to her professors, withdrew $280 from her bank account, reportedly purchased four different kinds of alcohol from a liquor store, and left town without telling anyone where she was going.

Her reasons and destination are still a mystery. "My initial thought is still what I think," Fred Murray told WMUR-TV regarding his daughter’s disappearance. "Somebody locally grabbed her who knows the area, knows where to go, knows how to get into some place, and out of some place without being seen." [Boston Magazine] [WMUR-TV] [The Massachusetts Daily Collegian]

For more on Maura Murray, watch the "Miles to Nowhere" episode of Investigation Discovery's "Disappeared" on ID GO now!

Brian Shaffer

One of the more bewildering cases took place in Columbus, Ohio, on March 31, 2006. That night, a medical student at Ohio State University named Brian Shaffer reportedly met a friend for drinks at a bar called the Ugly Tuna Saloona. It was a Friday night, and Ohio State students flocked to bars and restaurants. Earlier that night, 27-year-old Shaffer had dinner with his father. The following Monday, he was set to leave for Miami for a vacation with his girlfriend.

Shaffer last spoke with his girlfriend by phone around 10 p.m. that night and then went to a few different bars with friends before they ended up at the Ugly Tuna Saloona. Surveillance video shows Shaffer going up an escalator around 1:15 a.m., but it mysteriously never captured him leaving the bar.

The last video captured reportedly showed Shaffer at 1:55 a.m., talking to two women before he walked away, never to be seen again. Police reportedly believe Shaffer walked back into the bar.

The friends Shaffer was with that night called his phone when they were ready to leave the bar and even checked the bathroom for him, but left when they couldn’t find him. Shaffer’s girlfriend reportedly became worried when she didn’t hear from him at the weekend, since the two were supposed to leave for vacation that Monday.

Police were confused as to how Shaffer could have left the bar without being captured on video. Cameras covered the two bar exits and the escalator that Shaffer took to enter the bar. Every single person who entered the bar that night was seen leaving by surveillance cameras, except for Shaffer. There was a freight elevator out of the camera’s view, but the exit led into an area that was under heavy construction. Authorities told Dateline NBC it’s possible Shaffer was intoxicated that night, making him an easy target for someone looking to rob or hurt someone.

How did Brian Shaffer get out of the bar, if he did at all? And what happened after that [Columbus Monthly] [Dateline NBC] [WJW-TV]

For more on this case, watch the “Has Brian Shaffer Disappeared?“ episode of Investigation Discovery's "The Missing" on ID GO now!

Heather Teague

On August 26, 1995, Heather Teague, 23, was reportedly sunbathing on a beach in Henderson County, Kentucky. Directly across the Ohio River in Newburgh, Indiana, a man told police he was looking through a telescope when he witnessed Teague being dragged into the woods at gunpoint by a tall, shirtless man with a beard.

Police reportedly searched the beach where Teague disappeared from, but all they found was a part of the young woman’s swimsuit. A witness reportedly recalled a red Ford Bronco being near the crime scene that day.

Authorities reportedly focused on a Henderson County man named Marty Dill as a suspect. Dill reportedly owned a red Bronco and resembled the sketch of the suspect who allegedly abducted Teague. Also, during a routine traffic stop, police reportedly found guns, knives, rubber gloves, duct tape, rope, and bloodstains in his vehicle. Five days after Teague’s abduction, Dill reportedly died by suicide as police attempted to serve a search warrant on his home. But there was still no sign of Teague.

Teague’s family, especially her mother Sarah, reportedly do not think that Marty Dill was involved. Sarah Teague sued the Kentucky State Police for records related to her daughter's disappearance. A judge reportedly ordered state police to pay nearly $24,000 for withholding records in the case.

It has been 24 long years since Teague’s disappearance, and her family and friends are still searching for her, and the truth. [Facebook] [Evansville Courier & Press; Evansville Courier & Press] [WBKR-FM] [WGBF-FM] [WEHT News]