November may be known as the festive month that induces the Christmas festive cheer and the holiday spirit. However, as the dark descends and the winter sets in, the onslaught of gory and mysterious incidents begin. There is far more to November than what meets the eye in colorful trees and crunching leaves. Read below to learn about the most notorious murders committed in November.
Babes In The Woods Murders—Pine Grove Furnace
Near Pine Grove Furnace State Park in the Pennsylvania woods, two men gathering wood discovered the bodies of Cordelia Noakes (8), Dewilla Noakes (10), and Norma Sedgwick (12) on November 24, 1934. The girls were suffocated, abandoned in the woods, and covered in a green blanket. At first it was presumed that the deaths were a cult murder due to a mark found on Norma’s head. However, it was later ruled to be a head wound. On the same day near Duncansville, Pennsylvania, the girl’s cousin, Winifred Pierce (18) and father, Elmo Noakes were found dead at a railroad station. Winifred was shot in the head and chest, and Elmo was presumably to have shot himself.
Upon investigation it was found that Elmo had taken out life insurance policies on all three of his children in September. But, the beneficiary was changed from himself to his sister. The girls had also not eaten for over 18 hours before their deaths. Other than that no more conclusions were drawn or definitive motives found. People speculate that Elmo killed his children himself after he lost his job so as to avoid having them starve to death. However, other people presume that the deaths were accidental due to automobile exhaust inhalation and that Elmo committed suicide after due to being stricken with guilt.
The Byron David Smith Killings
In 2012, on Thanksgiving, Byron David Smith’s home was broken into by 18-year old Haile Kifer and her 17-year old cousin Nicholas Brady. Given that Smith had experienced 6 burglaries in the past year, he had taken to wearing a pistol at home. He also had an extensive security system installed around his property. When he saw Haile and Nicholas approaching the property, he awaited their arrival in the basement.
While Smith descended into the basement, Smith fired twice with his rifle, hitting the boy each time. As Nicholas fell down the stairs, Smith shot him in the face point blank. Moments later when Haile appeared at the top of the stairs, Smith shot her, too. While she fell down the stairs, Smith’s rifle jammed so he shot her in the chest twice in the chest with a 22 caliber revolver. Next, he dragged her body next to Smith and fatally shot her under the chin. The audio and video of the incidents were recorded on Smith’s security system.
The next day Smith notified the police. He said he waited till the next day because he “did not want to bother law enforcement on Thanksgiving.” He admitted to the killings and when probed about continually shooting despite the fact that the threats were eliminated, he claimed that Haile had laughed. He then added, “if you’re trying to shoot somebody and they laugh at you, you go again.”
Minnesota’s “Castle Law” (the right to protect your home from intruders) was heavily debated after this incident. The blatant execution, excessive force and audio tape recording hours before the attack where Smith was saying “in your left eye” (he shot Haile in the left eye) made it difficult to use the Castle Law as a defense. Initially charged with two counts of second degree murder, Smith was indicted in April 2013 with two counts of first degree homicide. In 2014, he was found guilty and sentenced to prison on all charges. He has no possibility of parole.
The Murder Of Mary Hall And ‘The Italian Six’
In November 1911, in Westchester County, New York, rumor reached six Italian immigrants that Anna Griffin, a local woman, had inherited $3000. A widow and the owner of one of the largest properties in the county, Anna used the place as a boarding house. Jobs were scarce in those days and with money running out, the six men namely, Vincenzo Cona, Santo Zanza, Angelo Giusto, Salvatore DeMarco, Filippo DeMarco, and the leader Lorenzo Cali planned on stealing Anna’s inheritance.
On the 9th of November Filippo DeMarco was stationed to keep watch while the rest of the gang entered Anna’s home pretending to purchase milk and eggs. Lorenzo pulled a gun on Anna as she returned their change for a quart of milk. She gave them everything she had: $4 change for the milk, $13 from her purse, and $55 from the safe. No inheritance or fortune was in her possession.
Upstairs, Angelo Giusto and Santo Zanza came across Mary Hall in one of the boarding rooms. When she wouldn’t stop screaming they tied and gagged her. Zanza then proceeded to stab her to death. They stole her jewelry worth $20.
This resulted in an intense manhunt and despite Zanza being the only one guilty of murder, all of “The Italian Six” were convicted and sentenced to death by electric chair. They spoke little English and only 3 of them were even aware of the murder. However, one of the most overzealous capitol punishments exercised in New York history was still carried out.
The Stabbing Of Miranda Fenner
18-year old Miranda Fenner was working a night shift on November 15th, 1988 at a video rental store in Laurel, Montana. In the 30-minutes between 7:45 PM and 8:15 PM, the store was broken into by an unknown assailant. The assailant took Miranda to the back, stabbed her and then slashed her throat. The motive was not robbery as little cash was taken from the store. At 8:15 PM, a motorist passing by saw a woman crawling out of the store and he called 911. It was Miranda. Miranda was airlifted to a hospital. She died from her wounds 2 hours later.
In relation to the attack, over 700 people were interviewed but no suspects were found and no arrests were made. The Montana police states that “binders and binders” exist of information related to the case and no break has been made yet. In 2012, Miranda’s murder was turned to the cold case unit. To date, the murder remains unsolved.
A Triple Homicide In Shreveport
In November 1989, in William Grissom’s Shreveport, Louisiana home, his 24-year-old daughter Julie, 55-year-old Grissom, and his eight-year-old grandson Sean were found stabbed to death. On November 4th, the family was attacked while preparing dinner. Following the murders, Julie’s body was mutilated, cleaned and then posed.
The lead suspect in the case remains to be Danny Rolling also known as “The Gainesville Ripper” despite never confessing to the crimes. The case was similar to Rollings’ other crimes (stabbing, posing of the bodies, etc). A written communication from Rolling described details of the murders that only the killer would know.
In 1994, an arrest warrant for Rolling was issued for Rolling, but he was never extradited to Louisiana to stand trial. In 2006, Rolling was executed by lethal injection.
The Sitton Family Murders
In 2009, the Sitton household held a Thanksgiving dinner inviting over their cousin, Paul Merhige. Following dinner, Merhige disappeared and returned with “gifts” of several guns. He then opened fire and killed the family including his six-year-old cousin Makayla, his 76-year-old aunt, and his two twin sisters (one of whom was pregnant). During the rampage, he was overheard muttering, “I have been waiting 20 years to do this.”
Merhige disappeared after the killings. In January 2010, an anonymous tip came through the most wanted hotline. He was hiding in the Florida Keys, living on $12,000 which he had withdrawn before Thanksgiving.
Merhige plead guilty and avoided the death penalty. He currently serves 7 life sentences.
The Murder Of Teresa Halbach And The Trial Of Steven Avery
In Manitowoc County, Wisconsin on October 31st, 2005 Theresa Halbach, a photographer, showed up at Avery’s Auto Salvage to photograph a minivan that was for sale for Steven Avery. Just two years ago, Avery had been released for a wrongful rape/murder conviction. This was the last time that Halbach was seen alive.
5 days later, concealed on the Avery property, Teresa’s Rav4 was found. There were bloodstains on the interior which matched Avery’s DNA. On November 8th, on the Avery property, a burn pit was discovered containing human bone fragments which matched Teresa Halbach. Her car key, cell phone, and stripped license plates were also found on the Avery property. On November 11th, Steven Avery was arrested for the sexual assault, murder, and mutilation of a corpse. Steven Avery maintains his innocence, claiming that he was framed by the police department in retaliation for the wrongful conviction suit he had against the Manitowoc County Justice Department.
In March of 2006, Brenden Dassey, Avery’s 16-year-old nephew, was arrested after giving a detailed confession to helping his uncle rape, murder, and mutilate Halbach. Dassey later recanted the confession saying that he was coerced by the police and that most of his ideas came from the book “Kiss the Girls”. In Spring 2007, both Avery and Dassey were found guilty of murder. Both were sentenced to life with Avery having no possibility of parole while Dassey being eligible for parole in 2048.
The Netflix documentary released in 2015 “Making a Murderer” sheds light onto the case. It led to the case being reopened and in August of 2016, a judge ruled that Dassey’s confession was indeed coerced by the police. Although Dassey was released, Avery remains in prison despite numerous petitions.
The Assassination Of John F. Kennedy
On November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas, Texas. He was on his motorcade through Dealey Plaza. He was with his wife, Jacqueline, Texas Govener John Connally and Connally’s wife, Nellie, when he was shot by former US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald.
Conally was hit by the bullet that went through the President’s neck. The President was also shot in the head. Right after the President was shot, Jacqueline can be seen climbing onto the back attempting to reach for something before Special Service Agent Clint Hill pulled her back. In the emergency room, the President was declared dead. Lyndon B. Johnson took his place and was sworn in as President with Jacqueline by his side who was still wearing her blood soaked suit
Oswald shot a police officer and attempted to escape into a movie theater but was arrested. He claimed to have been a “patsy” and never shooting anyone. Two days after being arrested, while Oswald was being transferred from city jail Jack Ruby shot him on live television. Oswald was said to have acted alone but theories of a second gunman still exist. Many people believe that there was a plot to kill Kennedy but who the other gunman could have been is unknown.
On October 26th, 2017, the last remaining documents which were required to be released under Section 5 of the JFK Records Act were made public, while the remaining ones still classified will only be analyzed for redactions.
The Murder Of Carolyn Wasilewski
In 1954, Carolyn Wasilewski ran away with a gang called “Drapes” in Baltimore, Maryland. She was a free spirited and rebellious 14-year-old. On November 8th, around 6 PM, Carolyn left the house after telling her parents that she was meeting with a friend to register for dance classes. After leaving the house that night, Carolyn disappeared.
Her parents went out in search of her when she did not return that evening. The next morning, Carolyn’s body was found next to the train tracks by an engineer on the train coming to Baltimore. Her shoes and skirt were missing as well as her personal belongings. In lipstick on her right thigh the name “Paul” was inscribed. The police stated that the body was killed elsewhere and the body was then dumped next to the tracks. And truly enough, eight miles away from her body, in a parking lot her bloodied belongings were found.
60 years have passed since the murder and still no arrests were made or suspects found. According to Baltimore police, every year around the murder’s anniversary interest is piqued. “We still get calls generally around the anniversary of the murder.”
The Alphabet Murders
A string of murders committed from between November 16, 1971–November 26, 1973 in Rochester, New York and Los Angeles, California, are known as the Alphabet Murders. They are also known as the “double initial murders” which involved three young girls who were found raped and strangled in Rochester.
Interestingly enough, all three girls’ first and last names started with the same letter: Carmen Colon, Michelle Maenza, and Wanda Walkowicz.
Hundreds of people were questioned but no suspects were found or arrests made. In 2011, Joseph Naso, a 77-year-old, who resided in Rochester during the 70s was arrested in Reno, Nevada for committing four murders in the California area. His victims also shared first and last names which start with the same letter. Although he was a person of interest, his DNA did not match that of perpetrator for the Rochester crimes.
To date, the Alphabet murders remain unsolved.
November is a month that is riddled with mystery and death. Not only are the majority of these notable murders and deaths unsolved but they also remain topics of speculation to date.