Editor's Note: Accuracy is not guaranteed; you can help us get better by highlighting mistakes and suggesting edits! Please fill out this survey if you wish to learn more about us and our mission or send me an email.
Today's episode was made possible by a wilderness of error on. 50 years ago, Army surgeon Jeffrey MacDonald was charged with the murders of his pregnant wife and two young daughters. To this day, though, he maintains his innocence, claiming that a group of hippies imitating the Manson family committed the atrocities from the award winning producers of The Jinx comes a wilderness of error. A new documentary series that re-examines this infamous case to finally answer the questions. Did the media shape public opinion and helped convict an innocent man?
Or did Jeffrey MacDonald kill his family?
A wilderness of error concludes Friday, October 2nd on Fox, now streaming on Hulu High Crime Junkies.
I'm your host, Ashleigh Flowers. And I'm Brett. And today, I want to tell you a story about a woman who could have been any of us. She was a young mom in her mid 20s who was trying to provide for her family while also trying to beat that quarter life crisis and figure out what direction she really wanted to take for her future. She was smart and loving, a hard worker, and then she just vanished without a trace.
This is the story of Jessica Hariya.
Jessica Hariya didn't have any time to go out and party on weekends. She has a three year old boy and her fiancee, Dakota, recently lost his job. So while Dakota stays at home to watch their son Evan, Jessica treats Friday night like she usually does by going to work the closing shift at an Exxon gas station on Sternbergh Road in her hometown of Norton Shores, Michigan. Now, as anyone who's worked any sort of retail or food service job will tell you, it's not a job for everyone.
But Jessica tries to look on the bright side. She's a smart girl, very introspective. I mean, she's literally known for journaling every single day. And she loves math. She wants so badly to continue her education. But with a young kid at home and bills to pay, that's just not an option right now. And life for her in Norton Shores is duller now that Jessica's mom, Shelley, and one of her sister Samantha, have both moved out of town.
So really, she gets a lot of her social interactions from the people who frequent the gas station where she works, like she literally got this whole group of regular customers who will wait for her shift before they actually come in. So on the night of April 26, 2013, one of Jessica's regulars, this guy named Craig, swings by the Exxon station to fill up his car. Now it's dark outside like 11 p.m. And since Craig doesn't need to buy anything else besides gas, he just goes ahead and pays at the pump.
Now, there's one problem the pump doesn't activate and now this doesn't worry him because he knows Jessica is getting ready to close up for the night. She's probably like taking inventory or something. So he goes inside to let her know that he's here, like, I need the pump back on. But when he walks into the front door of the store, he's a little surprised when he doesn't see Jessica behind the counter.
So he starts looking around, poking his head around the corners to see if maybe she's in the office or something. But, nope, not there. Eventually, Craig started calling out her name, but when she doesn't answer, he begins to search everywhere. I mean, she's not stocking the shelves. She's not in the back walk-in cooler. The store is totally empty, as if she just like up and left. But then Craig notices something strange there by the cash register is Jessica's purse.
And even stranger is how the register drawer is open. Just a hair. And right at that moment, Craig knows something is very wrong. And listen, I know we talk about intuition a lot on this show, and we always encourage women to trust theirs. But guys, this 100 percent goes for you, too, because as California reported for ABC News 13, Craig actually almost left the gas station just to go fill up somewhere else because again, even though didn't feel right, he also didn't see any signs of a struggle.
Nothing seemed out of place like he felt kind of silly thinking something bad had happened. But his gut instinct told him something bad did happen, something was very, very wrong and that he needed to call police. And again, intuition does not have a gender. Crime junkies listen to yours. Yeah, it really is so important. And like you said, this guy was one of her regulars, like he knows Jessica.
And this is not something that she would just walk away from. Exactly. So Craig decides to call nine one one. And here, I'll play you a clip. I want you to listen and tell me what you think. This is one where is your emergency? I don't know if it's emergency, just working with Congress on some kind of some version of Van Halen. OK. There's nobody here. And allow me to guess what's inside. There's nobody there's a car here.
There's no car out front. But it is very suspicious why there's nobody here.
Yeah. And even in that call, you can kind of hear him second guessing how serious this is. Like, I don't even know if it's an emergency yet. Right. He's not panicking. But you can hear in his voice that he just has this bad feeling. I'd rather be safe than sorry. And sure, it's true. She could have left early.
But I mean, we know a little bit about her background, her fiance's unemployed, the family struggling financially as it is. There's no way she would have risked her job by closing the store early. Now, like we have seen so many times before, the normal protocol for police in that area would be normally to not get involved until 24 hours after Jessica was first reported missing. But the scene at the gas station was so suspicious that they knew right away something was wrong here.
So other than Jessica just not being there, what about the scene made it look out of the ordinary? Well, when the first officers arrived, they find Jessica's jacket in the back room and her car still in the parking lot, which Craig pointed out in that 911 call. Plus, we had talked about the cash register, which is a little bit open.
All of the money is still in the cash register and there's four hundred dollars in cash in Jessica's purse, which makes it incredibly clear to everyone that robbery wasn't the motive here. And they decide to make the decision to call in more officers and treat this as a potential crime scene like a crime probably was committed here. So when they bring in the team to process the gas station, they noticed that outside behind the gas station, like out near the back door, there is this small, dark stain smudged into the concrete that looks very much like it could be blood.
So they get a small sample. They want to send it off for testing right away. I mean, they're trying to confirm whether this is Jessica, is is it an assailant or is it blood at all or completely unrelated like I mean, it could have happened any time. You know, blood doesn't tell you when it was dropped there. So those results are going to take a while.
But even without those results, officers are fearing the worst that the target. Was it money, merchandise? It really was, Jessica.
So right away, they make two calls to people that they want to talk to that they think might hold the key to Jessica's location. The first is Jessica's fiancee, Dakota. As soon as Dakota gets a ride to the gas station, police immediately want to know his whereabouts.
Where were you this entire night? Can you account for them? And Dakota's like, listen, I was home the entire night with her son, and I don't know that I can prove it like it was just me. But also we only have one car which is sitting here in the gas station parking lot. I wasn't able to get here. Now, there's nothing in Dakota's past that really stands out to them. As far as they know, they have a great relationship.
They're going to verify his alibi with cell records. But we know that that's going to take time. But for now, they don't really see any reason to continue to look at him. So the second person that police call was Jessica's manager. So police want to know where she was more to see, like, OK, I mean, where were you at the time? But has anything been going on recently? Any weird activity, any weird customers?
Like, is there anything you can tell us that can give us a clue as to where Jessica might be?
Now, here's the thing. In a real stroke of luck, Sue just happened to be driving by the gas station that night, like, totally unrelated. And she was driving by at the perfect time because she says that at the time she drove by, she saw a strange minivan parked out back of the gas station. And she tells police this was so suspicious to her that she actually stopped and watched because she thought someone was maybe stealing from the station.
So her and her husband, who was in the car with her, pulled over to check it out and see what was going on. They didn't see any theft, like nothing crazy that jumped out, but they did see something weird because a man went to the trunk of the vehicle to adjust something quickly. And then he is back in the car, like in the driver's seat and slams the door. Now, Sue didn't get a license plate number, but she could see that it was a Silver Town and country minivan, which is confirmed later by security footage is like from the nearby businesses in the area.
Did you see the driver at all? So not a great look at the driver, but good enough that she can describe him as a white male about six feet tall. She said that he was most likely between 30 and 40 years old with this wavy light brown hair. And, you know, she says, I don't recognize him. Like I don't recognize him as a regular customer. He's definitely someone that works there. But she does sit down with a sketch artist who puts together a composite of the man driving the van.
And here I'm going to send you the sketch really quick.
It looks like he kind of has small features, like a thin nose, maybe smaller close set eyes. The wavy hair is there. I mean, it's pretty much the guy you described. Yeah.
And I got I don't know if we're just getting, like, a little jaded. I feel like all of these are blending together.
Like, I've seen a lot of composite sketch actually ever been caught by a sketch because I'm feeling like I know. Right. So this isn't like a lot. But here's the thing. It is better than nothing. So they show this composite sketch to the family. And Shelley in both of Jessica's sisters don't know who this guy is. He looks nothing like Jessica's fiancee. Dakota doesn't look like anyone she might have known. So police are forced to release the sketch to the public on May 1st in hopes that someone is going to see this, maybe recognize this guy and then come forward.
So hundreds of people see this sketch and actually hundreds of people actually come forward with tips. And the Norton Shores police are swamped trying to follow up on every single one. But they are coming up empty handed every single time and they're not able to find any trace of where Jessica might be. OK, but like, what about the security footage from that night? Like, I feel like I'd be the first place that you would go to find anything out.
So you'd think. But that's the thing. At the time, there were no security cameras at the Exxon. And Jessica's mom, Shelly, actually used to kind of pester her about that.
But Jessica would always tell her, like, listen, it's fine, but now it's not fine because there's no way for police to tell what happened in that store or who was there. So without the footage, investigators take the transaction records from the cash register and they use that to start putting together a timeline of what was happening at the station before Jessica went missing. So one of the detectives on the scene that night tells the producers of disappeared episode Someone is watching.
But Jessica had sold a lighter at ten fifty four pm. Then Craig makes that 911 one call at eleven 07 p.m. So there's just a 13 minute window of time that's unaccounted for. Yes. I mean, really, it's even smaller than that because he got there, looked for her and then called. Yeah, I mean, you're right. We're talking seven, eight minutes maybe. Wow. Well, and it's even crazier because the manager drove by, like, right around the same time, right?
Yes. She also she drove by when this guy's van, who were presuming possibly to Jessica is like behind.
So what are the odds now?
Even though everything seems like it should be in our favor, we have a super small window, we have somebody who was there during that window of time, but even with that, we're just coming up empty. But then on May 8th, this is 12 days after Jessica went missing. Investigators get the news that they've been dreading. They get their DNA test results back. The dark stain found behind the gas station was, in fact, blood. And as Kevin Doleac reported for ABC News, the DNA was a match for Jessica.
With real fear for her safety, now that the abductions seemed so painfully likely, the search goes into overdrive. But even with multiple searches in and around Norton Shores, all of the tips about the man in the sketch, the silver minivan, again, it's as a Jessica vanished into thin air. The days go by, time stretches on. Fewer and fewer people start coming forward with tips. And eventually every lead is exhausted and the case goes cold.
But the police never forget about it. They can't forget. The lead investigator on the case, Detective Mike Kasur, keeps in touch with Jessica's mom over the past weeks and months to keep her updated on any new developments and to basically reassure her that they're never going to give up no matter how long this takes. And then about seven months after Jessica vanishes, Detective Mike is talking to Shelly. And Shelly happens to ask him about Jessica's journal, the one that she wrote.
And every day she never read it. And so she's asking Detective Mike like, listen, were there any clues in there? Like, did anything come of it? Like, I had her most inner thoughts. It had everything about her life. Like I was for sure thinking that something would be in their right.
And Mike's totally blown away because he's like, what journal? I've never heard of a journal.
Now, this makes no sense to Shelly because right when Jessica went missing, Shelly brought up that journal to Dakota and she asked him, listen, make sure that that gets turned over to police right away. This is going to help them find her. I really think so. Now, Dakota had promised her that he was going to turn it right over to police, but now she's learning that after seven months he has been keeping that journal a secret. And there's no reason to have kept that a secret all this time unless he has something to hide.
Today's episode is brought to you by thread up, I'm not really sure where my head was, but I was fully convinced that maybe you could wear her winter coat from last year, you know, when she was like one and a half years old again this year when she is racing towards a three year old mark. But guess what? I was wrong. And as soon as I realized last year's little coat would not be zipped up, I went straight to thread up to find an amazing deal on a coat for her threat.
Up is the world's largest online thrift store, with up to 90 percent of estimated retail, which means I scored not only an amazing Oreo winter coat for me at a fraction of the price. I also snagged a cute little fall jacket from Old Navy for myself for sixteen dollars when I guess the retail over sixty bucks. I've been using thread up for years now and these items always come in high quality condition. Some even have their tags still on them and they get delivered straight to my door.
What's not to love. So if you're like me and are trying to do a little full closet refresh, you got to check out thread up, get the styles you love at a fraction of the price. You'll look and feel good with thread up. And for crime junkie listeners, here is an exclusive offer just for you. Get an extra thirty percent off your first order at threat up dotcom slash crime junkie. That's t h r e d yuppy dot com slash crime junkie for thirty percent off your first order threat up dotcom slash crime junkie for an extra thirty percent off today.
Terms apply. As it turns out, Jessica's fiancee has been hiding more than just her journal, Detective Mike sits down to read it as soon as Dacota hands it over. And almost from the moment he opens the book and turns the very first page, it becomes very clear that Dakota is not the loving and sensitive partner Jessica's mom and sisters believed him to be. Mike is honestly shocked that her journal hasn't been destroyed or quote unquote lost because Jessica had written many times about Dakota being very, very controlling in how unhappy she was with him.
Like it is all there, tucked away between the pages where Jessica kept the secrets of her life and her relationship in between caring for her son and working full time. She'd stolen the precious few moments she had herself each day, usually late at night after she traded her contacts for her glasses to journal. And that is where she poured her whole heart out about how trapped she felt, how she worried about her future slipping away, and how her relationship with Dakota had started to sour into something really ugly and wasn't.
Jessica's family is horrified, like they've known Dakota for years and they've spent so much time with him. And through all of that, they had no idea that any of this was going on, that he was being controlling, that sometimes he could be physically abusive, like they thought that he and Jessica just shared the car and a cell phone to save money. But they actually learn that it was a way for Dakota to track where Jessica was going and who she was communicating with.
Yeah, and we know that monitoring communication is a major red flag when it comes to like domestic violence and a relationship not being in a good place.
I mean, it's practically textbook.
Plus, Dakota was restricting her friendships like he doesn't like Jessica being on Facebook isolation. He's in control of all of their money, even though Jessica's the one actually going out and making the money. So all of this is really like troubling signs of a controlling partner.
Now, most worrying of all, though, is an incident that Jessica wrote about where Dakota had her pinned down like on the ground and their little son, Evan, like, toddled into the room right when all of this is going on.
So even Evan wasn't like immune from all of this, like he got exposed to it as well. So by this time and we're seven months out, police have gotten his cell phone records. They've confirmed that he was at home where he said he was the entire time with the only cell phone they owned. It was the only car they had. He wouldn't have had any way to get there. So though he has a good alibi now that they have this.
I mean, this paints him in a totally new light. So armed with this knowledge and, you know, the whole idea that he lied about this and lied about their relationship, police actually name him a person of interest for the first time. Now, when questioned by police, Dakota admits, OK, yes, like I had jealousy issues. Yes, our relationship was super rocky, even though we put on a happy face for friends and family.
But I swear, I never got physical with her. I had nothing to do with her disappearance. And as shady as he looks as bad of a guy as he might have been. Dakota's alibi still holds firm. The Northern Shore's chief of police spoke to em live several months after the journal gets put in police's hands. And he says, listen, while no one's been officially cleared since Jessica's gone missing, Dakota has fully cooperated with the investigation. And even though no one really likes him and even though her family is super upset about how they feel like he betrayed them, like even they can't argue with the evidence, like we've got to move on from Dakota.
The answers don't lie with him. The problem is we still don't know where they lie. And again, her case kind of goes cold without Dakota ever being indicted with anything, without any charges being filed against him. There's just nothing.
Lead after lead like this tapers off until investigators are at a standstill.
While Jessica's absence leaves a gaping hole in their lives, her family tries their best to carry on and to keep hope alive. If nothing else, then for her son. But months and months passed with no new updates, no new leads, and no sign of Jessica until February of 2014, about 10 months after Jessica vanished.
When investigators finally get a break, Detective Mike told disappears producers back in 2016 that an investigator in Kalamazoo, Michigan, which is just over 80 miles south of where Jessica went missing, calls him with a familiar story, a story about a young blonde woman in her early 20s who was abducted, dragged into a car and then sexually assaulted. Now, this woman survived the ordeal and she was able to eventually identify her attacker, someone that they had in custody named Brad Allen Mason.
Now, when they looked at him, he was a convicted sex offender and a serial rapist with a penchant for kidnapping and indecent exposure. OK, I mean, that's kind of familiar. Jessica was never found, this girl got away and without having Jessica, we have no idea if she was sexually assaulted. I get that they're looking for any connection at this point, but this doesn't feel very close now.
I agree. I mean, I think, again, we're 10 months out. I think they're grasping for straws a little bit here. It's at least a little similar with her. We know this guy had a van. She's gets this other girl gets put into a vehicle. But I think what caught their attention was him in relation to the sketch that they put out here. I'm going to send you Brad's picture and you can tell me what you think.
I mean, I guess I can kind of see it like the eyes are maybe similar, but I mean, it's definitely not a dead ringer. No, no.
And I mean, it looks like it's a kind of similar I get why they need to look into it. I mean, especially, again, 10 months out. Right. Probably don't have much to go on. You might as well look into this. So when they look into this Brad guy, he had a pretty long criminal record, which I read about on Fox Seventeen's website. So he spent six years in jail for felony criminal sexual conduct involving children before he was let out on parole in October of 2012.
So according to disappeared when he was paroled. And I think this is the interesting thing. He was actually released to a halfway house not in Kalamazoo where that crime took place, but in Norton Shores. So his halfway house was literally right down the road from the Exxon gas station where Jessica worked. And not only that, but many of his victims matched a very similar profile. They were petite, young, white women in their mid 20s with blonde hair and glasses, which was exactly Jessica's like profile.
So I think it was that the idea that she matched his victim profile so much and he was right down the street when this happened that really had police looking at him. Now, listen, police like us, they're not convinced, but this is the best tip that they've had a long time in considering Brad's record. It wouldn't be a shock to anyone if he had reoffended. So with that in mind, they want to find Brad Mason right now so they can follow up on what could be the lead that they've been waiting for.
And like maybe, just maybe they're going to get to bring Jessica home.
But the problem is he's deceased. Brad actually died by officer assisted suicide after he drew this very realistic fake gun on police when they came to arrest him for, like his most recent rape charge. So he had, like, modified this gun to make it look super realistic. He took off. They always had that orange tip when they're fake. He took that off. He refused to drop it numerous times when officers asked him to. And even in death, Brad is still considered a person of interest in Jessica's disappearance.
Like during this time, he's not there to talk to you. They can't rule him out. But because they can't talk to him and they can't rule him out, eventually the heat kind of dies. Everything cools off and they can't find anything like that was left behind to actually link him to her or prove that they'd ever even met. And it was extra hard to try and connect him because Brad didn't keep any kind of credit cards. He kind of kept off of the grid.
So there was no way to use his credit history or any kind of like electronics to, like, tie him to the area or the place. Like literally he just like seemed like it could work.
But that was all they had, just this feeling that maybe it could be him. So once again, investigators are forced to watch as a promising lead turns cold time keeps passing. And in Jessica's absence, the entire hearing a family is is kind of in flux at this point. John Hogan reports for ABC 13 that Dakota gets arrested in 2014 and charged with several counts of selling marijuana. Jessica's sister Samantha, who by this time has moved back to Norton Shores, filed for custody of their son, seven.
And I mean, she has this nasty custody battle with Dakota and Dakota's parents. Eventually she wins and the family, you know, it's a win, but they're still trying to struggle to adjust to their new normal without Jessica.
Right. And then in 2016, just two weeks before the third anniversary of Jessica's disappearance, something terrible happens. And the aftermath of this changes everything for the herring of family and the investigation. Early on the morning of Saturday, April 16th, this is 2016 now a 16 year old girl in Muskegon County, Michigan, is abducted. So this girl who's never been named publicly because she's a minor, is lost after leaving a party. And so she's walking along the side of the road to find her way back towards her house when, according to ABC 13, this guy pulls over and asks if she wants to use his cell phone.
And she's like, yeah, it sure, like, I I'm lost, but that's great.
And she reaches out for it. But instead of giving it to her, this guy says, no, if you want to use it, you have to come in my car first and use it in here. So I mean, again, she's lost.
She goes a little bit desperate. She's eager to call a friend to her parents like anyone familiar, anyone who can come help her. So she gets into his 2013 Silver Chrysler Town Country minivan.
That's the same van that the manager saw parked behind the gas station. Right, exactly. As soon as she gets in, she is flooded with fear. When the man locks the doors and pulls a gun on her before driving off, the terrified girl manages to jump out of her attackers moving car and she runs screaming to a nearby house for help with the man calling after her. Now, thanks to a good Samaritan who lets her in their house, she survives this awful encounter with only some minor scrapes and bruising.
So once police are called, she's able to describe both the car and her Would-Be kidnapper.
According to a reporter for the Detroit Free Press, this girl was also able to pick out a face in a lineup right away with zero hesitation, which gives police an actual name, Jeffrey Willis. He's 46 years old, a married man who works an overnight shift at the local Herman Miller factory in Muskegon County.
Now, while Jeffrey doesn't have a criminal record or any convictions, he's shown up on law enforcement's radar sort of intermittently for years for like little stuff like speeding tickets or whatever.
And he also had the cops called on him back in 2007 for filming a woman in a Sam's Club parking lot without her consent.
That's a little bit different than the speeding ticket.
Yeah. And once he got fired from a job as a janitor at an elementary school for looking at porn on the school's computer, which, if you ask me, warrants more than a firing like feels like a red flag of some sort.
How do I know? So even without a record, something about Geoffrey sets off alarms in investigators minds because his name sounds awfully familiar. So they go back and look in their files. And sure enough, there is the connection waiting for them in one of their most baffling cold cases. It literally sends shivers down their spines because not only was Jeffrey Willis questioned back in 2013 in connection with Jessica Herring, his disappearance, but police had also made note in the case file that at the time he had recently cleaned out his van.
And Britt, I think he looks even more like the sketch than Brad did. And here I'm going to send you a side by side. You guys can all see these pictures as well there on our blog if you want to check them out. Crime Junkie podcast, dotcom. But what do you think? Oh, my gosh. Yes, way more than Brad.
Like those small features that I mentioned earlier, the narrow nose, because close that eyes, they're all there. And his hair color even matches better than Brad.
Yeah, this is way more vivid to me. I mean, before I couldn't see what they were looking for between Brad and the sketch. I 100 percent see the similarities between Jeffrey in the sketch.
Definitely. So police get a search warrant looking for anything to connect, Jeffrey, to the attempted kidnapping of this 16 year old girl. Police like turn his house and his van inside out. And what they find is honestly horrific because what looks like a typical family car on the outside is actually a nightmare on wheels, because according to the Detroit Free Press, police turn up rope, handcuffs, a long metal bar with wrist restraints attached to them, chains, a ball gag, pornographic material of women tied up Viagra, video cameras, sex toys, lubricant, rubber gloves, batting gloves, a 22 caliber semiautomatic pistol with ammunition and the serial number filed off.
He had insulin, five syringes and one including like it was full with liquid that they suspect was a sedative. Now, Jeffrey's house in Muskegon is just as creepy. I saw pictures of it while I was researching for this case. And it is so much worse because I feel like of how normal it looks like from the outside. It's this bright yellow door, a welcome mat, like nothing that would make me sad if I were driving by.
But again, the inside is just as disturbing. And it's Jeffrey's computer that gives police a window into a truly disturbed mind. Police recover. Child pornography off the computer, along with hundreds of videos of women being raped, tortured and even murdered. So according to Crimewatch Daily, some of the videos are acted out like clearly fictional, but some are not. Oh, so he's like in a snuff films?
Oh, yeah. I mean, Jeffrey is the worst of the absolute worst. And you have to think that the girl who got away, I mean, she really got away with her life.
I mean, it seems to me like Jeffrey's dark and like messed up fantasies were starting to spill over into his daily life. And he was basically trying to turn his fantasies into the worst kind of reality on May 17. This is about a month after that girl escaped her abductors clutches. Geoffrey is arrested and charged with attempted kidnapping. During this time, he's also officially named as a person of interest in Jessica's disappearance. But as the investigation continues, police find evidence that he's connected to multiple cold cases in the area, all involving missing or murdered young women, including the unsolved shooting death of a woman named Rebecca Bletch.
Now, Rebecca was shot in the head back in 2014 in broad daylight. She was literally just jogging in Dalton Township, Michigan, which is about 20 miles north of where Jessica went missing from. And according to the Detroit Free Press, shell casings were found near where she was killed and they were matched to the 22 caliber pistol that was found in Jeffrey's van. Now, in addition to that, police also find her DNA on the batting gloves in Jeffrey's van as well.
And that alone is enough for a murder charge. And Jeffrey is ordered to stand trial for Rebecca's murder. Now, meanwhile, back in Norton Shores, Jessica's family is waiting anxiously. Obviously, they've heard about this guy. They've heard about the possible connections. And after three agonizing years with no trace of Jessica, honestly, at this point, it's almost like too much for them to hope that this connection is going to bring them answers, even though they're glad this killer's off the streets.
Like, I think they're looking at this with like a little bit of skepticism, like we don't want to get our hopes up again.
But they're about to learn that police found something on Jeffrey's computer that could lead them to the answers that they have waited so long for. In addition to the horror show of snuff films and child pornography on his laptop right there on his hard drive is a folder labeled V.I. CSI Viks, which police believe is short for victims. And they're in the folder is a sub folder labeled J. L h Juska hearing a date, right. Jessica Lynn Herring J. L Inside that folder are more child porn and pictures of Jessica herself.
Now, the file name ends with Dezi one three like clearly a code, but not like a genius code.
It's pretty easy to decipher because basically each letter corresponds with a number. And Lynn, more reported for and live that, you know, they basically match everything up. They they decipher the code again, not a super hard code to decipher, but when they look at that, codes one three and they attach numbers to that like A is one. B is two one. Three is four twenty. Six thirteen. That's the day that Jessica disappeared. Now the folder with Jessica's name isn't the only one.
There's another folder labeled RSVP for Rebecca Sue Bletch with copies of articles about her death, a wanted poster for her killer, and according to NY, a picture of a woman in a bikini laying on a bed who looks a lot like Rebecca. Now, this file has got the same type of code at the end as well. In this case, it was F, Z plus C one for which using the same formula is six twenty nine 14, which unsurprisingly is the day that Rebecca was murdered.
Now we've talked before about how serial killers keep trophies of their victims. So with only two victims, Jeffrey doesn't appear to be a serial killer quite yet. But clearly, I mean, we can see him leaning toward sadism and the documentation on his computer seem to point like to someone well on their way and beyond the van and the photos of Jessica on his hard drive, witnesses come forward during the investigation who actually placed Jeffrey at the gas station where Jessica worked, not necessarily at the time that night, but like in the past.
So there was this reporter, Heather Walker, who talked to some of Jeffrey's co-workers for W o TV.
And they recall going with him to that exact Exxon station where Jessica worked since it was just about five minutes away from the factory that he worked at and right on the way between where Jeffrey lived and the factory where he worked.
So it was like a natural spot on his commute. Exactly. And we know now that for sure he went there. He would have had some interaction with her. Now, another one of Jessica's regulars, a woman named Brenda, puts Jeffrey inside the Exxon store the night before she disappeared. This is according to court records. This Brenda woman says that she was talking to Jessica and she was actually sharing the same fears that Jessica's mom, Shelley, had just about her working at the store so late at night that, you know, your boyfriend should be looking out for you.
Like, aren't you scared? And at this point, while she's having this conversation, Brenda says that Jeffrey interrupts their conversation and said that Jessica's customers were looking out for her, too. And she said that when she saw Jessica like here this that she could tell Jessica seemed totally put off by his response, like literally started shivering. She was so put off by it. And Brenda said that she got such a bad feeling from Jeffrey and Jessica's reaction that she waited in her car outside the gas station just to make sure that he left that night.
And the very next day, Jessica disappeared in September 2016 is three months after he's charged for Rebecca's murder. Jeffrey is officially charged with Jessica's murder as well.
OK, I mean, that's great news, but we still don't have Jessica. No. And that is still the big hurdle to overcome. We all know that nobody cases are so much harder to take to trial. And often they don't ever get taken to trial for that reason. I mean, just look at the case of Alyce. Attorney Sarah has been fighting until she's blue in the face. She believes it is so clear what happened to her sister, which just a little aside, I don't know if you all know this, but Sarah has started her own podcast called Voices for Justice, where I mean, she's going into so many details about her sister's case.
It's insane. You have to listen. But in that case, there's still no body. So police and prosecutors are hesitant to take that to trial. And I mean, it's got to be a concern in Jessica's case as well for the D.A. I mean, it's it's you know, you're trying to prove motive. You're trying to prove where she is. And I'm sure it leaves a door open for the defense to be like, you can't prove that she's been murdered.
Yeah. Hulk Hogan, you said, let's go to jail. You can't even prove that that she's for sure that maybe she walked away. So while, you know, it's great that we have this guy, we're pretty sure we know what happened. I think we still need to find Jessica so that it can be a shoo in to take to trial. But more than anything, Shelly, Angel, Samantha, they want to know where Jessica's body is so that they can finally bring her home and lay her to rest.
But nobody knows where it is. Well, maybe I should say it's never been recovered because there actually might be someone who does know. According to court records, Jeffrey's first cousin and good friend, a guy named Kevin Bloom, got a phone call on April 27th telling him to come over because they were going to a party at Jeffries place at this place that he owned and maybe have a foursome. So, you know, like usual party. So Kevin says that he went over there, he goes into the basement where he sees Jeffrey standing next to a naked woman that Jeffrey called, quote, gas station girl.
And he said that this woman was lying face down on a sheet with her hands tied. And once he got a good look at the woman's face, Kevin says that it was for sure, Jessica, she had some kind of, like, liquid coming from a wound on her head, presumably. I mean, I would think blood. And he says that she wasn't moving. And from what he could tell, she was already deceased. And Jeffrey admitted to him, at least he says that, yes, I sexually assaulted her.
Now, he also saw that there was a video camera set up as if Jeffrey had been making like some horrific videos of his own. I mean, we talked about the stuff on his computer. I mean, again, I think he was clearly taking it from a point of being an observer to now a participant acting this out. Yeah. And making his own stuff that, you know, who knows where he was planning on distributing this if he didn't already.
Right. In the end, Kevin says he actually helped Jeffrey bury Jessica's body. OK, so he knows. So I. I think he knows. But eventually later on, Kevin claims that he made all of this up, which to me feels super shady because normally I mean, we've talked about this in so many cases, like there's usually this like order to how confessions come about. And usually it's like I had nothing to do that. Nothing.
I kind of know someone. I kind of did it. And he's almost like in the reverse. Like, he comes out being like, I did everything. I helped her bury bury her body. And now he's saying, like, Jake made it all up. So I have a hard time believing that maybe he didn't, like, get cold feet about like his confession or being honest but honest the first time around or not. According to my there's no body in the burial spot that Kevin takes investigators to.
I mean, so he did lead them somewhere. And I don't know the order of how this happened. Maybe he led them there. They didn't find her. And then he's like, Jake, I made it up. I mean, but they had cadaver dogs which indicated that like a body had never been there at all. And in addition to that, the location doesn't match like cell phone tower pings. So obviously they're trying to match up his story with some kind of evidence and none of it is adding up.
Plus, in another shady move, Kevin wipes all of the data off of his phone and removes the hard drive from his computer before he hands them over to police.
Which just makes me think that he's lying even more like if you're being honest, if you had nothing to do with it, what are you afraid of them finding? I mean, in my mind, I almost think he was involved in the same kind of stuff that Jeffrey was. Yeah. And plus, like cousins or not, no one just calls up a friend to come over after they've committed a ton of sex crimes and murder in their basement, unless they know for a fact that person is going to participate or help them in some way.
I'm with you. I think he had possibly something more to do with Jessica's murder than he's letting on. And police agree. So eventually, Kevin is charged with lying to police and being an accessory after the fact. Now, he just spends a little over a year in prison and gets five years probation and an electronic GPS monitoring to track his whereabouts at all times. Now, even though this GPS tracker doesn't lead police to the truth, I mean, I'm sure there was part of that hope, like he would go back to the scene of the crime.
And Kevin has never admitted the real location where Jessica is buried. It doesn't matter in the end because Jeffrey Willis is found guilty of murdering both Rebecca Bletch and Jessica Haraga and he is sentenced to life without parole in both charges despite a new tip that came in just in October of 2013. Jessica's body still hasn't been found. And although Jessica's murderer is in prison for his crime, you know, I don't feel like her family is fully at rest because this past December, another Christmas passed without bringing their daughter home.
And I think every day they're going to continue looking for her until they can find Jessica. If you want to see any of the pictures we mentioned in this podcast, you can find all of that along with our source material at our website, Crime Junkie podcast Dotcom. And be sure to follow us on Instagram at Crime Junkie podcast. We'll be back next week with a brand new episode. But if you want a lighter story, stick around.
Who are propping up the. Crime junkie is an audio production.
So what do you think, Chuck, do you approve?
OK, Ashley, you said we have a lighter story about a prophet, which we do, but I am going to give a little content warning.
It gets a little bit dark in the middle. There are not. I see your face. There are no dead.
This is the first time we've ever recorded of the month in person. I might get to see you cry.
So today we are talking about cash, who was submitted by his mom and our listener, Jenna. And Jenna was finally moving out of her apartment and getting ready to rent a house with acreage, which like the dream, and she could finally get a portrait of her own. And there are chickens on the property. So she was like, OK, I have to make sure that the dog is going to be OK with chickens. I'm like, Charlie would kill all the chickens.
I love Charlie. Yeah, yeah. My dogs are the same way.
So she found this cattle dog who actually was living in a foster home that had chickens. And she called the shelter and they're like, oh yeah, he'd be great. Why don't you come out and meet him here at the shelter? We'll get the foster dad to bring him in all that stuff. So she talked to her boyfriend. He was like, well, OK, it's going to be hard to find a rescue. Who's going with chickens? Like, we should probably at least check it out.
Of course, checking it out, turned into filing adoption papers and it'll look at puppies. Right. So they meet this dog.
And Jenna knew immediately that she was in love with him. She called her boyfriend who brought over his dog, Sage, to make sure, like the pups both got along and they were a perfect match.
Sage, her boyfriend's dog loves playing fetch. And this puppet had zero interest in fetch, but loves herding.
Dogs are playing so much. So they got along right off the bat. And like, what more could you ask for? It was getting late. They couldn't adopt in that night, but she was talking to the foster dad and he was like, you know, this dog just came available for adoption. She's like, oh, like, that's cool. He's like he was in evidence. Like in evidence. Yeah.
Like I read this, my little crime junkie ears perk up. I'm like, that makes the dog better.
I actually like imagine him in the box taped up with his eyes.
I know that's not how he was the bastard. I don't know much or doesn't disclose much then he's just like yeah he was part of an animal abuse case and he was evidence in the trial. And so Jenna was like, oh, that's that's really interesting. But like they couldn't fault the paperwork that night, the shelter was closing. So she's like, OK, tomorrow we're going to finish this and I'm going to get this dog and content. One thing right now, because we're going find out why this dog wasn't evidence and it gets a little bit gruesome.
So the next day when Jenna's filling out all the paperwork to adopt, the desk clerk at the shelter was like, hey, look, you heard this August evidence. Do you know anything about it?
And she was like, no, you know, they just kind of mentioned it. And the desk clerk kind of goes through what had happened to this dog. And this dog had been owned by these two guys and he hadn't been neutered. And a lot of times when that happens, dogs, especially male dogs, get a little aggressive, a little aggressive, a little bit curious. They don't always stick around. They wander around looking for like for someone to hook up with, like you do.
I have no idea what dog you used to roam looking for people who go, I've known you your whole life.
You don't get it anyway.
These two guys decide that they're going to they're going to they're going to take care of this problem by stop.
I don't I'm done, OK, by taking matters into their own hands. And it didn't go well. Oh, my God. And they basically left him for dead. But this is how brave this is. He's basically bleeding out. He runs to the neighbor's house. The neighbor recognized the dog confronts these two guys who tell the neighbor what they did.
And this angel neighbor goes right back into their house, calls 911. And immediately there's a deputy arresting the two guys and rushing this dog to an emergency vet where his life was saved.
Oh, so he hee are you OK? I just. Who does that monster? It's like I even have here my it's like supposedly these men are humans. I am not convinced of it, to be completely honest. Do you have any idea like any follow up on these guys. I think are they still in prison or did they get a slap on the wrist. Cause I'm about to, I'm about to flip the table. Jenna actually included a couple of links about the case and about the trial.
They were charged with it. I believe they were convicted. But this dog goes into foster care and starts getting rehabilitated. He eventually comes up for adoption and Jenna gets to adopt him and he's having his best life. And actually, a couple days after she adopted him, the news found out that this dog who is involved in this case got his forever home and they came out and did a story on him. And we'll link to that on our website.
And the dog seems Kashnow, and he's living his best life. He's come a long way.
He had a huge fear of men, which like same now, I mean lately, understandable. Right. And really, really bad separation anxiety.
He one time literally chewed through the front door when Jenna wasn't at home because he so badly wanted to be with her.
Oh, my. He's such a good dog, he has amazing recall, like he comes back to her all the time and like she's like, I don't this dog would have never run away. I don't understand, like, if that's the reason they did that horrible thing. That's not the dog she has today. And he knows a ton of tricks. And he recently started agility training, which he absolutely loves.
And he also loves stuffed animals. And this like, oh, just made me warm all over. He doesn't shred them like my dogs do.
Like my dogs systematically dismember them like they take all the stuff. Oh, no, they take a leg off and like no, like it's dark, they take one leg off and they take another leg off and they take the reverse hangmen. But he loves them and he doesn't shred them. He has a huge basketball. And whenever Jenna grabs the leash to take him on a walk or a car ride or to the dog park, he goes to his little basket and shuffle around to find a new stuffed friend to take on their adventure with him and tries to take a special stuffed animal friend with him wherever they go.
And his favorite is this giant chicken stuffed animal, and it's literally almost the size of cash himself.
Let me show you a picture of my God, he's adorable. He's so cute. And we'll have pictures of cash and his big chicken friend on our website, along with the links to the news articles about this amazing, brave little puppet. I just feel like there's so much we can learn from dogs about forgiveness. Oh, 100 percent. This dog has no reason to ever look at a human kindly, let alone lovingly.
I mean, we say it all the time, like we don't we don't deserve them. But just that I mean, I know he's scared of men, but that he would like open up and get cracking.
You are going to cry just like he would like open up to another human and like he still wants to be around her when he, like, knows what we're capable of, you know, as like a species like some of us are so awful. Yeah. I love dogs. So I reached out to Jenna and like Ashley said, we don't deserve dogs, but dogs still need homes. And there are millions of people out there who love them and give them loving homes.
So I reach out to Jenna to talk to her about the shelter that she got cash from.
And she sent me a link, give me their names. And I found a senior property which like, you know, we love.
Yeah. Very special place in our heart. And I'm not sure I know how to pronounce his name, so I might, but. But his name is Lecci. He is a border collie, Newfoundland mix, which is just like the biggest fluffiest boy in the world. Again, he's a senior, so he's a little bit older, but he was surrendered because his owner had to move into a residency that didn't allow dogs or at least dogs of his size because he is a big boy.
But if you just want, like a new best friend and get to skip, like, all the puppy stuff, this is your boy. He's a social butterfly. He loves other dogs and other people. And he really just wants to hang out with you. And I think, like, something great about like those bigger breeds. And especially as they get into their senior years, like they don't actually require a ton of physical activity, though. When you consider cuddling a physical.
I know. I like the way like Charlie is. I mean, even even though Charlie is almost nine now, I mean, he's like requires so much physical activity. He's a hard dog to own. Right.
But like some of these older, especially big breed dogs, like they just want to lay around who they want to Netflix and cuddle. Yeah.
Yeah. And something I was reading about, like in his like little profile, which again will link to on our website, is his adoption fee has been reduced, which usually means that he's been there for a while where he's harder to place, which a senior big dog is. So you guys check out like I check out the rescue teams from willing to all of it at our website. Check out the shelter where he is. It's in Phoenix, Oregon.
They have a ton of adoptable pets there. You know, just open your heart, open your heart. Open your home.