Is ID Thief Robert Nichols Connected to the 1989 Ohio Murder of 10-Year-Old?

June 25, 2018
By: Mike McPadden

US Marshals Service/Amy Mihaljevic, Bay City Police Department

BAY VILLAGE, OH — Last Friday, authorities revealed the real identity of an Ohio resident who had been known for decades as Joseph Newton Chandler III.

The mystery man turned out to be Robert Ivan Nichols, a decorated World War II veteran who stole the identity of a young boy who died in 1958.

Now, as the investigation is shifting into why Nichols vanished in 1965 and escaped his old life, police are looking into whether he might have any connection to the 1989 kidnapping and murder of 10-year-old Amy Mihaljevic.

While much speculation continues to surround Nichols — including theories that he may have been California’s Zodiac Killer — Bay Village Police Chief Mark Spaetzel stresses that such an inquiry is a routine part of procedure in cases like this.

Chief Spaetzel added that, at present, no information links Nichols to Amy, and that detectives are “just doing their job.”

Robert Nichols initially abandoned his family in 1965 and moved around the country before settling in Ohio as “Joseph Chandler” in 1978.

Prior to that, authorities say, Nichols purchased the birth certificate of the real Joseph Chandler, a nine-year-old who perished alongside his parents during a traffic accident in Texas.

Nichols used that document to obtain a Social Security number, and then lived as Joe Chandler until he shot himself to death in 2002.

Since Nichols left $82,000 in the bank with no beneficiaries, authorities attempted to locate his family members and thereby discovered not only his ID theft, but that he had utterly obliterated any evidence of who he actually was.

Believing Nichols to be some sort of fugitive, then, the U.S. Marshals Service took the case and, after years of research, finally identified the dead man’s actual name — while still not knowing why he did what he did.

Amy Mihaljevic disappeared on October 27, 1989. She said she was going with a friend to the Bay Square Shopping Center.

Two witnesses said they saw Amy that day with a man who would now be in his mid-50s or early ’60s.

Searchers discovered Amy’s body on February 9, 1990. She had been stabbed twice in the neck and hit in the head with a blunt object.

Police will now look into Nichols’ whereabouts at the time of Amy’s abduction. If the timelines match up, further investigations are expected to involve DNA tests.

Nichols’ identity was finally cracked by using Y-chromosome DNA that matched him to a son he had written to back in 1965.

In 2016, Bay City Police announced a breakthrough with evidence in the case: a handmade curtain and blanket near the body that contained canine hairs matched to Amy’s dog Jake.

If you have any information about this case, please call the Bay City Police Department at (440) 871-1234 or email bvpd@cityofbayvillage.com

Watch Now:

Next Up

The Twists And Turns Of The Infamous Susan Smith Case

On October 25, 1994, the 23-year-old South Carolina mother drowned her two young children.

Navajo Nation Girl Assaulted, Killed After Man Kidnapped Her While She Was Playing

Tom Begaye Jr. left the 11-year-old child to die in the desert after “repeatedly hitting her on the head and face with a tire iron.”

How West Memphis Three Case, Damien Echols Inspired ‘Stranger Things’ Character

The show’s executive producer says exploring 1980s “satanic panic” led to the creation of “true nerd at heart” Eddie Munson.

How The Abduction And Murder Of A 9-Year-Old Led To The AMBER Alert System

The AMBER alert system first debuted in 1996 as a collaboration between news media and police in Arlington, Texas. Named for Amber Hagerman, the alerts have helped find more than 1,000 abducted children.

True Crime News Roundup: Alabama Corrections Officer Vanishes With Her Inmate Boyfriend

Plus: Dead Louisiana woman found fused to sofa; JonBenét Ramsey’s father seeks governor’s help with DNA testing; Australian man incarcerated for killing gay American in 1988; and Pennsylvania mother shoots her two boys in the head.

5 Things to Know About The 1955 Murder Of Emmett Till

The Black teenager was murdered by two white men in Money, Mississippi, in August 1955 after a white woman accused him of making a pass at her in a grocery store.

True Crime News Roundup: Body of Hannah Choi Found In Maryland, Ex-Boyfriend Remains At Large

Plus: Elderly Ohio man shoots teenager intruder; Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten parole blocked; ex-cop Amber Guyger’s murder conviction upheld; and scandal continues to roil megachurch Hillsong.

Inside The 27-Year Investigation Of JonBenét Ramsey’s Murder

On Dec. 26, 1996, the pageant princess was found strangled to death in her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado.

UPDATE: Fugitive Leticia Smith from ‘In Pursuit With John Walsh’ Captured In Mexico

Authorities confirm former fugitive, Leticia Smith was extradited from Mexico to California. Smith will face charges for allegedly killing her husband, Antione Smith.

Police Continue Search For Relisha Rudd, Who Was 8 When She Vanished In 2014

‘I have days when I think she's alive. I have days when I think she's no longer with us,’ says Henderson Long of D.C.’s Missing Voices.