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True Crime November 1985
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It is a story which has captured the imagination of anyone with even a fleeting knowledge of old-time Western heroes, whether real or the celluloid type. The setting, too, was decidedly a throwback to the rugged pioneering days of the American West. Yet it began as recently as July last year, when US Olympic hopeful Kari Swenson, out on a training run, was abudcted by two outdoorsmen, father and son, who reckoned she was just the sort to help them produce a tribe of "Rocky Mountain wanderers." Even while Kari was wondering whether this was some kind of bizarre leg-pull, a friend of hers, worried over her absence, came looking for her and was shot dead by one of the kidnappers. The girl, too, was wounded – and the callous pair abandoned her to her fate. Fortunately, she was found quickly enough to be a survivor of the ordeal.
But now the hunt was on in earnest – and leading it was the formidable Johnny France, which was bad news for the fugitives. For France is an old-fashioned, no-nonsense sheriff, with a distinct Gary Cooper-style aura about him. More to the point, he knew those mountains as well as anybody, including the father and son he was hunting.
There were any number of setbacks for the searchers, but Sheriff France remained convinced that, even if they had to wait until winter set in – when the pair would be forced to seek shelter at lower altitudes – they would succeed in capturing them. And so it proved, with France single-handedly making the arrests in classic fashion five months after setting out on his unrelenting search for these murderous mountain men. Jack Heise has all the details of this astonishing sequence of events.
And there is another case featured in this edition which could be said to have some sort of link with American history, if only because the principles in the affair were full-blooded Indians. When Nancy Charley, a pretty Shawnee, disappeared before an appearance in court, there were plenty of people concerned enough to contact the police and report her missing. But worse was to follow, for it was discovered that a headless torso, minus also the limbs, but plus some internal organs and chunks of flesh, were all that remained of poor Nancy. Some dedicated detective work eventually led to a prime suspect – but the story didn’t quite end there. For Nancy’s killer had lived out an unbelievable charade for 20 years – and even cops who thought they’d seen and heard it all were rendered goggle-eyed.