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Forty two year old Jenny Sodor watched as the flames licked against singed flesh burning viscera, gristle and Bone.


She stared at the blaze intently, not wanting to miss a thing. This fire wasn't accidental. It had been carefully set by none other than Jenny herself. She was conducting an experiment of sorts in her home oven, one in a long series. Jenny had used every cut of meat she could get her hands on from beef joints to chicken bones. It was as close as she could get to human remains without robbing a grave or doing something even more morbid.


Jenny had questions about the tragic Christmas Eve fire that had allegedly claimed five of her children. She found it odd that no human remains had been recovered in the burnt out house.


Actually, she thought it was more than odd. It was downright unbelievable.


The fire chief, F.J. Morris, had suggested that the blaze had completely cremated the bodies, reducing them to Ash. But Jenny had her doubts. She just couldn't believe that every trace of her children had been destroyed like they never existed.


Jenny Suspicion's led her to test the claim for herself. She tried different burning times, temperatures and cuts of meat to see if it was possible to completely broil away every shred of flesh.


If she could recreate the scenario that had claimed her children's lives, if she could see it with her own eyes, then maybe she could accept the chief's version of events. She could acknowledge the devastating loss and try to move on.


But no matter what Jenny tried, no matter how long or how hot the fire burned, she was always left with a pile of scorched bones. Welcome to Unexplained Mysteries, a Spotify original from past.


I'm your host, Molly, and I'm your host, Richard. In life, there's so much we don't know, but in this show we don't take we don't know for an answer.


Every Tuesday and Thursday, we investigate the greatest mysteries of history and life on Earth. You can find episodes of unexplained mysteries and all other Spotify originals from Parker asked for free on Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.


This is our second episode in a special three part series about the mysterious fate of the Sadr children. On Christmas Eve 1945, a house fire killed five sons and daughters of George and Jenny Sadr, or did it for more than half a century.


Family members and sleuths have investigated the odd occurrences around the fire and put forth the theory that maybe the missing Sadr children are still out there somewhere.


This episode, we'll explore the fallout from the mysterious fire in the aftermath of the blaze. The official story that the kids bodies were completely cremated became increasingly unbelievable, especially when for years afterward, witnesses from all across the country reported seeing the Sadr children alive.


Next time, we'll wrap up this series with some possible explanations for the peculiar events of that fateful Christmas Eve. We'll discuss spontaneous combustion, human trafficking and even the Italian mafia. We'll also cover the possibility that perhaps the children escaped from the blaze and are still alive today.


We have all that and more coming up. Stay with us. After a devastating fire on Christmas Eve 1945, the Sadr family desperately tried to make sense of the horrible tragedy they hoped local officials could explain what had happened and help them understand how they'd lost their house and their five children. But Jenny and George were deeply dissatisfied when the coroner's inquest was conducted.


It ruled that the fire had been caused by faulty wiring. But this didn't make any sense because Jenny and George knew for a fact that the lights had been working that night. So it seemed impossible that an electrical problem had sparked the blaze.


They were also confused by the ladder that had gone missing on the night of the fire. They could have used it to rescue the children trapped upstairs if they'd been able to locate it.


Later, someone found a ladder 65 feet away from the house in a ditch. The sardars never learned why it was moved or who had done it without the ladder.


George and his sons had tried to use their two coal trucks to climb into the house and rescue the trapped children.


But lo and behold, neither truck would start, even though both had been working perfectly the day before.


And that wasn't all. A witness claim that he saw a man taking a block and tackle from the scene of the fire. For context, this is a system of hooks and ropes that can be used to remove an engine from a car. The thief was later found to be a local man named Lonnie Johnson.


As it turned out, stealing the block and tackle wasn't the only crime Lonnie Johnson committed that night. Lonnie also admitted to cutting the sardars phone line just 30 minutes before the blaze broke out.


At this point, it wasn't much of a stretch for Jenny and George to believe that someone, maybe Lonnie had intentionally burned down their house. After all, Lonnie was skulking around their property committing vandalism and theft. If he was capable of that. Arson didn't seem like too far a leap.


The problem was they couldn't prove anything. Sure, Lonnie confessed that he wanted to rob the house, but that didn't mean he'd lit the flames. The sardars couldn't even prove the fire had been set on purpose.


But tips kept pouring in and they seemingly confirm George and Jenny suspicions. For instance, a bus driver came forward saying he'd driven past the Sadr home late on Christmas Eve. He claimed that as he went by, he saw someone throwing, quote, balls of fire onto the roof.


If the bus driver was to be believed, someone had intentionally set the Sadr house aflame, perhaps using a Molotov cocktail or another explosive. If true, this meant that their children hadn't died in a tragic accident.


They'd been murdered. The surviving senators were still grappling with the possibilities when they returned to the site turned memorial a few months later, it was a somber moment for the family, a chance to grieve and remember the source of their pain.


But two year old baby Sylvia was too young to understand what had happened or why her older siblings had disappeared. Blissfully unaware, she played in the yard until she found something that was decidedly not a toy.


It was an olive green, hard, cylindrical rubber object. After examining it, George determined it was an explosive device and napalm pineapple bomb, to be exact.


If it was indeed an explosive that would explain the balls of fire the bus driver had seen being thrown on to the roof. And it was consistent with the loud thump and rolling sound that woke Jenny up in the middle of the night.


In short, Lonnie Johnson's suspicious behavior, the napalm bomb and the lack of human remains made the sardars sure of two things. One, the fire was set intentionally. And two, they weren't getting the full story about their missing five children.


Jenny conducted a series of informal experiments in her wood burning stove, hoping to understand why her sons and daughters had turned to ash. All of her tests left bones behind, which gave her an odd sense of hope. It meant that her children couldn't have died in the fire. They might still be alive somewhere.


But with the stakes so high, she couldn't only rely on her own amateur investigation. She took things a bit farther to confirm her suspicions.


Jenny consulted with an employee at a crematorium. After all, who would know better about what it takes to reduce a human body to ash?


The employee told her that when they burned bodies at 2000 degrees for two hours, bones still remained. Since the blaze that had destroyed the Sadr home had only burned for 45 minutes. At the most, it was virtually impossible that it had reached the extreme heat of a closed crematorium, so it seemed highly unlikely that the children's bodies had been completely cremated. As Fire Chief F.J. Morris had suggested.


On the heels of this revelation, Jenny heard about another local fire that had taken place recently, that blaze had destroyed a three story house with seven people trapped inside.


All seven skeletons were found in the rubble.


The otherwise tragic news was music to Jenny's ears. She took it as even more proof that her children couldn't have been in their house when it burned to the ground.


By this point, her husband, George, was convinced as well something darker had happened that night, but they still held on to hope that their children might have survived, which left the question, where were they?


Coming up, information pours in, suggesting that the Sadr children are very much alive.


Now back to the story.


Officially, a 1945 Christmas Eve fire killed five Sadr children, but their parents, George and Jenny, refused to believe their sons and daughters were gone. For one thing, investigators hadn't found any remains in the ashes of their former home. It was unbelievable that the kids had burned away to nothing in so short a period of time. Then tips started to pour in.


First, a woman claimed to have seen all five of the missing Sadr children alive. She said she caught a glimpse of them looking out from the window of a car on the night of the fire. It is unclear where exactly this sighting took place or how the woman knew that the kids were actually the missing solders.


But if she really did see the children that night, it raised all sorts of questions for Jenny and George, namely, who ducted them and where did they take them before they could come up with a good theory.


Another woman came forward. She worked at a tourist stop between Fayetteville, where the Sadr house was located, and Charleston, a city about 50 miles northwest.


The woman claimed to have seen the missing Sadr children with her own eyes the morning after the fire. Not only had she spotted them, she'd served them all breakfast.


Sadly, she didn't have any information about where they'd gone after their meal. But she did notice that the car they traveled in had a Florida license plate. And soon the sardars heard from a different woman, one who worked at a Charleston hotel. She'd helped check in a strange party about a week after Christmas Eve. It was past midnight, and the group consisted of four Italian speaking adults, two men and two women and four children.


When the clerk tried to chat with the kids, the adults turned hostile and began conversing amongst themselves in Italian. Whatever they were saying, it seemed they didn't want to be overheard. They refused to speak with her anymore. And the next morning they made sure to check out early.


The woman had almost put the strange incident out of her mind until one day she opened the newspaper to a shocking sight. It was a picture of the five missing Sadr children, and she recognized four of them, though it's not clear which ones.


Now, there's a lot to unpack here. First off, the woman only recalled seeing four children, which raises the question of whether something sinister happened to the fifth child. And then there's the mysterious Italian quartette the woman described. Perhaps they were kidnappers. It was even possible they had some connection to George's mysterious past in Italy. If only we knew what they had said in Italian.


Sadly and for unknown reasons, nothing came of this seemingly promising lead. But over the following weeks and months, several witnesses pointed south toward Florida.


As it turned out, Jenny Sardars brother, Frank Cipriani, lived in the Sunshine State and for a time she entertained the possibility that he had taken the children. It's not clear why Jenny thought this. Maybe she was just holding on to any hope that her kids were safe to follow up on her hunch.


Miami police combed through birth records to prove that all of the children living with Cipriani were actually is.


The records were in order and that path had turned out to be another dead end. But that wasn't the end of the mystery. Before too long, George and Jenny uncovered another lead, which once again suggested their sons and daughters were in Florida.


A missionary in the small coastal village of Cortez recognize the Sadr kids from a picture he saw in the paper. He claimed that he'd seen the children alive and well, living in a house nearby.


Immediately, George and Jenny dispatched a private detective to investigate. But by the time he arrived, the children were gone, allegedly.


The detective confirmed that the children the missionaries spotted had been there previously. If this was true, it suggested that there was some kind of dark up going on. Someone had made the Sadr children disappear before the P.I. could find them, and unfortunately, nobody had any idea where to look next.


Over the next couple of years, several more tips from people claiming they'd seen the Sadr children came through and George Sadr followed up on every single one, he traveled the country, but each time his hopes were dashed and George never got any closer to finding his missing children.


Still, the family wasn't ready to give up the search. So in 1947, almost two years after the fire, they appealed to the highest investigative authority in the land. The FBI, the head of the bureau, J. Edgar Hoover, sent them a response, but his letter left them more disappointed than ever. Hoover wrote, Although I would like to be of service, the matter related appears to be of local character and does not come within the investigative jurisdiction of this bureau.


However, the FBI didn't completely leave the Sadr family out in the cold. Hoover's agents said they would assist in the case if they could get permission from the local authorities.


One might think the Fayetteville police and fire departments would appreciate the help, but for reasons that still remain unclear, they turned down the offer. It may have been a matter of egos getting in the way, with local Fayetteville authorities wanting to maintain their jurisdiction. Or maybe they didn't want the case to be solved, regardless of the reason the sardars didn't get help from the FBI.


But even that disappointment wasn't enough to make them give up on the investigation. Later in 1947, Jenny and George hired a private investigator named C.C. Tinsley Tinsley dug into the case and quickly found disturbing information, pointing to a prominent Fayetteville citizen will refer to him as Peter. As we covered in part one, George had a rocky history with Peter. The salesman was a cosigner on the sardars home insurance policy. But when he offered to sell George life insurance for his children, George turned him down.


In response, Peter threatened that the Sardars house would, quote, go up in smoke. Just a couple of months later, the house burned to the ground, just as he said it would. All that certainly makes Peter look suspicious. However, the Fayetteville police never even brought him in for questioning. And even if they looked into him, it seemed the local prosecutor was unwilling to bring a case against him. Peter was too prominent and well-connected.


Luckily, Tinsley was on the case and he had no such reservations. He soon discovered that despite all of his incriminating behavior, somehow Peter had become the chairman of the coroner's jury, the same institution which had ruled that the Cedar Fire was accidental.


At the very least, this was a conflict of interest. The guy who had an insurance policy on the building helped determine the cause of the fire. With his ruling, Peter guaranteed himself a payout.


If the fire wasn't accidental, then it seemed downright nefarious that Peter was in a position to sway the jury's decision.


Tinslay couldn't find any indication that Peter had set the fire himself, but he had another lead in Lonnie Johnson, the man who'd robbed the Sadr house and cut their phone line, allegedly while under investigation. Johnson cracked and said that he was, quote, getting tired of taking the rap for those people at Fayetteville.


That wasn't much to go off of. But the statement suggested that Lonnie was in league with some, quote, people at Fayetteville.


Maybe he was keeping quiet to protect them.


And perhaps that person in Fayetteville was Peter, who else to gain as much as he did.


The problem, this alleged conspiracy was all speculation. Tinslay couldn't find any hard evidence to prove a connection between Peter and Lonnie, let alone that they'd set the fire or kidnap the missing children.


So the detective explored other angles. He put the screws to the fire chief, F.J., Morris and UnderPressure. He soon made a shocking revelation after swearing that the children had been completely cremated. He reversed course and claimed that he did find human remains in the rubble.


Specifically, a human heart, and instead of reporting it or alerting the Sadr family for some unfathomable reason, the fire chief claimed that he buried the heart in a dynamite box.


The circumstances were suspect, to say the least. George and Jenny Sadr wouldn't be satisfied until they could dig up this heart and see it for themselves. But first, Tinsley arranged for the chief to escort him to the burial site once they arrived.


The chief pointed out where he buried the box they dug until they found it.


It wasn't deep, but it probably felt like it took an eternity to uncover.


And when Tinsley finally opened it up, there was some kind of organ in the box. Strangely, it didn't look like it had been burnt at all. But Tinslay couldn't tell for certain if it was actually a human heart.


He took the box to a nearby funeral director. After examining the organ inside, the director concluded that it wasn't a human heart at all.


It was beef liver, it was a fake and not even a very convincing one. The liver didn't have a trace of burn marks on it.


Rumor has it that Chief Morris eventually confessed that he'd hidden the beef liver and pretended it was a human heart because he wanted to put an end to the investigation once and for all. He thought that if the Sadr family found proof that the children had perished in the fire, they'd finally be able to move on.


But if that was Chief Morris's goal, it only showed how much he'd underestimated the Sadr family. They were determined to go to any lengths to discover what had happened to their children. After the beef liver debacle, they continued to follow up on any leads that came their way.


For example, towards the end of forty seven, George was reading a magazine when he came across something that made his heart skip a beat.


It was an innocuous picture of schoolchildren in New York City, but there was something about one of the girls. I'd know her anywhere.


As he stared at the picture, he became increasingly certain that she was his missing seven year old daughter, Betty.


George was so sure of his hunch, he drove to New York to investigate for himself. We can only imagine the excitement he felt on that long drive, thinking that he might just be hours away from being reunited with his young daughter.


He made it all the way to Manhattan and tracked down the child's school. But when he arrived, they didn't let him see the little girl.


Perhaps they shut George out because they were trying to cover something up. Maybe that little girl in the picture really was, Betty. After all, sadly, George Sodor was never able to get close enough to her to find out for sure.


After the latest painful dead end, some years went by without a break in the case, but Jenny and George still didn't abandon hope.


By this point, they tried just about every avenue of investigation imaginable. So they decided to return their focus to the scene of the crime, searching for any clues that might have gone overlooked.


The first time around in August 1949, the sardars hired a pathologist from Washington, D.C., named Oscar B. Hunter to go over the site with a fine tooth comb. Hunter's first step was to excavate the light, which had since been covered over.


Once the pathologist had dug through all of the dirt, he made a startling discovery, something the family had searched for for years but hoping against hope they would never find human remains. Coming up, the Sadr family confronts the possibility that at least one of their children met a fiery death.


Now back to the story. For years, the Sadr family searched for evidence of what had happened to their five missing children, and then finally in August 1949, they found a somber clue.


Human remains specifically pathologist Oscar Hunter found the shards of four vertebrae, all from the same body. And this time the bones were undeniably from a person. It wasn't a repeat of the beef liver debacle, except there was something suspicious about the backbones.


They didn't have any of the scorch marks that you'd expect to see on a burn victim. This made it unlikely that the vertebrae belonged to any of the Sadr children to make sure Dr. Hunter sent the bones to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. for further analysis. The report that came back estimated that the deceased was around 16 or 17 years old and no older than 22.


Morris was the oldest of the missing Sadr children, but he was just 14, likely too young for the backbones to be his. The report did allow that in rare cases, a 14 and a half year old boy can show the maturation of a 16 or 17 year old. But that was highly improbable.


So it seemed like the bones were yet another dead end in the investigation. The pathologist hypothesized that they must have been present in the dirt that George had added to the site to create the memorial that begged the question of where exactly George got that soil.


But it didn't have any bearing on the mystery at hand. Either way, the Smithsonian report triggered two hearings in the state capital of Charleston, West Virginia, ostensibly, these were to determine whether anything had been overlooked in the formal investigation. But authorities maintain that they've done everything they could for the sardars. Furthermore, local law enforcement cited a lack of evidence as the reason they were unwilling to devote any more resources to the probe.


This seemed pretty incredible, given the startling number of tips, twists and witnesses who had come forward since the fire. Perhaps the authorities were just eager to clear the pesky inquiry, or maybe they didn't want to see the mystery solved.


Whatever the reason, in 1950, the state of West Virginia closed the inquiry for good. Both the governor and the state police superintendent told the sardars in no uncertain terms that their case was, quote, hopeless.


It seemed like this Sardars had exhausted all possible avenues of investigation, local, state and federal authorities were all unable or unwilling to find out what had really happened to their children. Furthermore, George had driven all over the country trying to find his kids on his own and came up empty handed every time.


So the sardars made one last ditch attempt to turn up any information about their children. As a Hail Mary of sorts, they decided to crowdsource their investigation.


This was the 1950s, so they couldn't exactly post the details of the case online, but they did the analog version of that.


In the early 1950s, Jenny and George Sodor paid to have a billboard erected along Route 16 near Fayetteville at the top of the billboard in bold capital letters.


They posed the question, what was their fate, kidnapped, murdered, or are they still alive?


Below that were five huge photographs of the missing children from oldest to youngest. And beneath the pictures was a desperate plea for information that might help solve the case.


The sardars laid out their belief that the fire was started intentionally and the children survived the blaze. The billboard also suggested that local law enforcement was hiding something from them.


Jenny and George offered a 5000 dollar reward for information. When that produced no results. They doubled it to 10000 dollars. As far as the Saudis were concerned, no price was too high if it would bring them closer to seeing their children again. After the billboard went up, potential clues trickled in. For example, the sardars received a letter from a woman in Missouri. She claimed that Martha, the oldest of the missing girls, was in a convent in St.




Then a patron at a Texas bar reached out about an incriminating conversation they'd overheard regarding a Christmas Eve fire in West Virginia.


Neither of these tips amounted to much, and the case went cold yet again. Nearly two decades passed before the family got another break.


In 1967, a woman from Houston reached out to report that she'd overheard a drunken young man claiming to be Louis Sodor, who would then be 31 years old by this time, George was in his early 70s and in failing health, but he was still determined to run down every possible piece of information about what had happened to his children. So with the help of his son in law, he set off on the long drive to Texas.


However, when they finally arrived, the woman declined to speak to him. Maybe she'd written everything she had to say in the letter, or maybe someone got to her and convinced her to keep quiet.


In any case, the trip down to Houston wasn't a complete waste. Even without the woman's help, George and his son in law managed to track down the man she'd mentioned, the one who had allegedly claimed to be Louis Sodor.


As it turned out, there was more to this story. This Lewis had a brother. Perhaps he was the other missing Sodor boy, Maurice. The two men were cordial enough. They agreed to speak with George, but they firmly denied that they were Lewis and Maurice Sadr.


Their hopes dashed yet again. George and his son in law drove all the way back to West Virginia. According to Sylvia Sodor, apparently something about that encounter stayed with George for years afterward. In a 2013 interview with the Charleston Gazette, she said, I think there was always some doubt in his mind. I think he always wondered if those were his boys and if he'd made a mistake leaving so quickly.


But if those were his long lost sons, it seems almost unimaginable that they lie about their identity, particularly when they were face to face with their father for the first time in 22 years.


Unless, of course, they were in some kind of danger. Maybe someone had threatened them or the whole Lewis sardars story was just some kind of twisted joke.


Interestingly, the following year brought another credible clue as to Lewis Sardars possible whereabouts.


One day in 1968, Jenny picked up the mail to find a very strange letter. It was addressed to her, but there was no return address. It had been postmarked in Kentucky.


Jenny opened the envelope to find a photograph inside.


It was of a striking young man, perhaps in his late 20s or early 30s, and the name Lewis Sardar was written on the back, followed by a bizarre message. I love brother Frankie Little Boys, a nine zero one three, two or thirty five.


Needless to say, Jenny was shocked to think that after 23 years, she was looking at possible photographic evidence that her son was alive and well somewhere, or at least that he'd survived the fire. The implications were staggering and the picture was pretty convincing.


You can find them online to compare.


All of nine year old Lewis features match up with those of the mystery man, the dark, curly hair, the long straight nose, the upward slope of the left eyebrow. The resemblance was compelling enough for the sardars to dispatch yet another private investigator to follow up on the lead.


They never heard from the detective again. It's unclear what happened to him. He might have gotten a break in the case and been silenced somehow, or he might have just taken the sardars money and run.


Jenny and George never found out what happened to the investigator. And with George's hell still on the decline, he couldn't afford to wait around for him to reappear. In the meantime, they added the alleged photo of Lewis to their billboard, hoping that it might trigger some new piece of information.


Sadly, it didn't. George died in 1969. He never learned the truth about what happened to his five missing children. Jenny followed him to the grave.


Twenty years later, between the billboard and the private investigators, the sardars reportedly spent over 15000 dollars trying to solve the mystery, which would be around 150000 dollars in today's money. Both of them devoted their lives to searching for answers about their children.


After 37 years on the side of Route 16. The billboard finally came down in 1989 when Jenny died.


But even to this day, surviving members of the Sadr family continue to seek out answers. Their efforts, coupled with amateur online inquiries, have produced three major theories about what happened to the children. Perhaps human traffickers snatched them from the house before the fire ignited. Or maybe the tragedy was an instance of spontaneous human combustion. Some have even implied that the Mafia had something to do with the disappearance. Whatever the solution, one thing is clear. The official reports don't tell the entire story.


Thanks again for tuning in to unexplained mysteries, we will be back on Thursday with part three of the mystery of the disappearance of the Sadr children. For more information on the Sadr house fire, amongst the many sources we used, we found the Smithsonian magazine article, The Children Who Went Up in Smoke by Karen Abbott. Extremely helpful to our research.


You can find all episodes of Unexplained Mysteries and all other Spotify originals from Parkhurst for free on Spotify.


See you next time. And remember, never take we don't know for an answer.


Unexplained Mysteries is a Spotify original from podcast. It is executive produced by Max and Ron Cutler, Sound Design by Dick Schroder with production assistance by Ron Shapiro, Carly Madden and Travis Clark. This episode of Unexplained Mysteries was written by Nancy O'Callaghan's with writing assistants by Angela Jorgensen and Obiageli Hoddy Megu, fact checking by Claire Cronin and research by Brad Klein and Brian Petreus. Unexplained Mysteries stars Molly Brandenberg and Richard Rossner.