Ep. 13: The Disappearance of Joanne Gladys Garr

Clarification: Due to poor writing and unclear reading, it sounds like I say Erica Parsons disappeared in 2017 around 20:m 45s. I meant that we should see charges against her adoptive parents in 2017. Erica disappeared in 2011.


Note: True Crime Review is currently a scripted podcast. That means I write out what I intend to say prior to recording. However, I will occasionally add or remove stuff while recording or while editing. So the below isn’t a transcript, just a rough script of what I said in the episode. 


Experiments

This episode contains some of the same experiments I did in Episode 11. Please let me know what you think via the post comments, emailTwitterRedditFacebook, or voicemail (another experiment I’ll announce in an upcoming episode) at 724-24-CRIME.

  1. The title: I’ve been trying to put as many victims’ names in the title as I can but at some point it just becomes too long. Once again, I’m focusing the title on the featured cold case. This partially to prevent crazy-long titles and partially to bring extra attention to the featured cold case because most if not all of the other crimes discussed are either under active investigation or have been solved and are awaiting prosecution.
  2. I read the intro this week instead of using the creepy augmented voice I’ve used previously. Back to the creepy voice. I know some people don’t like it, but I do. You can easily skip it if you want.
  3. Once again I’ve inserted bumpers between main segments of the show. It’s a few notes of melancholy, mysterious-sounding strings taken from Ofelia’s Dream by Benjamin Tissot.
  4. No background music in this episode. I did an initial edit with the background music left in, but I find it distracting. It was originally a way to mask the fact that I didn’t have a real mic. Now that I do, I don’t think I need the music anymore.

Intro

Welcome to True Crime Review, an unflinching gaze into the depths of human depravity.

The podcast covers current crime news, updates on cold cases and resources for research and investigation.

True Crime Review often discusses disturbing and violent crimes, so listener discretion is advised.

Show Updates

Patreon

I officially have THREE Patreon subscribers, and I want to thank Leo, Jan and Deborah for their generous patronage. I’m already working on the first Patreon exclusive episode, which you can get for just a dollar a month. Go to patreon.com/truecrimereview if you’re considering patronage and have a look at all of the rewards.

I want to report that I said I’d do a dance after my first patron, and I did the dance. I decided it was in the best interests of all of us that there would be no video or GIF of that dance, but I wanted to tell you it happened.

Reviews

I’ve had a bunch of five star iTunes reviews since the last episode, so I want to thank those folks, who are Jena-Bug, lanl, Foggy Star, Naty9917 and Lislucy. Five-star reviews help the show get more exposure, so if you think it deserves a positive review, I hope you’ll consider leaving one.

Podcast Recommendation

Twisted Philly is a podcast by Philly native Deana Marie, “about mischief and mayhem in the city of brotherly love.” The show isn’t exclusively about true crime, but it’s featured often enough that it’s easily among my favorite true crime podcasts. Having lived myself in Philly for about 12 years probably doesn’t hurt, but it’s safe to say based on the quality of the show and its quick growth that you don’t have to be from the area to enjoy Deana Marie’s hard work.

Lately, Twitsted Philly has been keeping a close eye on the awful rape and murder of 14-year-old Grace Packer in the Philadelphia suburb of Abington, Pennsylvania. In a series called For the Love of Gracie, Deana Marie is going to cover the life and death of Gracie, with a focus on remembering the girl for who she was and not just how she died.

Maybe Twisted Philly was such an instant hit with me because it has the same focus as I try to have with this podcast: the victims. I expect For the Love of Gracie will be one of the best examples of how important that focus really is, and I look forward to listening to Twisted Philly with every new episode.

Go to twistedphilly.com or search “Twisted Philly” on your favorite podcast app.

News

Grace Packer

The story of Grace Packer is sadly reminiscent of the deaths of both Victoria Martens and Erica Parsons, both of whom I discuss in Episode 4 and Episode 6. In Episode 4 I covered how Victoria’s mother was involved in her rape and murder. In Episode 6 I covered how Erica’s adoptive parents abused her for most of her life with them, including coercing her adoptive brother to assist in that abuse. That brother reported Erica missing in 2013, two years after he last saw her. Her adoptive parents went to prison in 2014 for continuing to collect benefits in her name long after she disappeared. Grace Packer’s story is a combination of these two. Despite the general warning at the beginning of the episode, I feel obliged to give you another one: this is a disturbing and violent story. The Delaware County Daily News reports that, quote:

Police have said that as part of a horrific rape-murder fantasy plot carried out in July, Sara Packer watched as her boyfriend, 44-year-old Jacob Sullivan, beat and raped Grace, who was then bound, gagged and left to die in the sweltering attic of their Quakertown home. Returning the next day and finding Grace still alive, Sullivan suffocated her, according to investigators. The couple then packed Grace’s body in cat litter to mask any odors and stored her in the attic for months, then dismembered her and dumped the body parts in a remote area of upstate Pennsylvania, where hunters found them on Halloween, police said.

Sara Packer’s boyfriend has since confessed and charges for the murder and the benefits fraud have been brought. Packer waived her preliminary hearing, which procedurally means she is one step closer to trial. I wouldn’t be surprised if the waiver is a precursor to a plea deal, but there’s no word of such a deal yet, that’s just speculation on my part.

Find more coverage at The Morning Call.

The Bear Brook Murders

From Wikipedia:

The Bear Brook murders (also referred to as the Allenstown Four) are four unidentified female murder victims discovered in 1985 and 2000 at Bear Brook State Park in Allenstown, New Hampshire. The case had never been solved until January 2017. All of the victims were either partially or completely skeletonized; they’re believed to have died between 1977 and 1985. The victims’ faces have been reconstructed multiple times, most recently by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.

In 2017, the father of the middle child was identified as Robert “Bob” Evans, who is believed to be responsible for these murders, as well as several others, including the disappearance of his girlfriend in 1981. He was convicted of a different murder and died in prison in 2010.

This case is notable because the adult female and the young girl with her were found in a metal drum in 1985 and the other two young girls were not found until 2000, and then only by accident during a follow-up investigation performed by a detective newly assigned to the cold case.

The adult woman and two of the girls are related, but the victim who was the child of suspect Curtis Kimball, alias Robert Evans, is not related to the other three victims. And while authorities are confident that Robert Evans committed these murders, they still cannot identify the victims. See the References section of the Wikipedia article if you want to look into this case further. There’s also an extensive thread on the Websleuths forum and an excellent article in Forensic Magazine.

Joan Viau

52-year-old Williamsbridge, New York resident Joan Viau was reported missing on January 23, 2017. She was last seen alive on her way to a Veterans Affairs hospital with her 31-year-old son Joseph Garcia. Her boyfriend found her car near her home, with blood stains in it.

Her body was found six days later. Her son was arrested after being caught on video moving her car and trying to use her ATM card. He’s being held $100,000 bail and, while authorities haven’t announced it yet, I suspect we will see homicide added to his charges. While no obvious motive has been reported, my gut says mental illness played a role in this case.

Jessica Runions

I covered the September 2016 disappearance of Jessica Runions in Episode 4. A man named Kyle Yust was charged with burning Jessica’s vehicle. Yust had been dating Kara Kopetsky on and off when she disappeared about nine years ago. While it looked like he was a suspect in that disappearance, he was never charged. Kara or her body have not yet been found.

Jessica’s family has been searching for her since September and, while they haven’t yet found her, what they have found is two unrelated bodies. The first was identified as Brandon Herring, missing since November 2016 and the subject of an ongoing homicide investigation. His mother Rhonda told a local television news reporter, quote, “Now I have my baby, I have a little closure.” The second decedent, found near the end of January 2017, has yet to be identified but is currently labeled a suspicious death.

Jessica’s father John was happy to provide Rhonda Herring with that closure, but he and the many family and friends helping him will continue their search for Jessica.

Zuzu Verk

21-year-old Texas college student Zuzu Verk was reported missing on October 12, 2016 and was later found dead, prompting an investigation which led to the arrest of her boyfriend and his friend, both of whom are currently charged with second-degree felony evidence tampering by concealment of a corpse. The investigation is ongoing and evidence is mounting, as you can read in a recent NBCNews.com article.

Lori Verk, Zuzu Verk’s mother, told a CBS affiliate she is eager for justice. “We’ll lay her to rest and then, then we go after the consequences that need to be met,” Lori Verk said. “How dare anyone do this?”

That woman sounds so strong to me. She has recently recovered her murdered daughter’s remains and yes she’s no doubt in mourning I can’t imagine, but she still harbors an outspoken demand for justice and quote, “the consequences that need to be met.” I hope homicide charges are added to Zuzu’s boyfriend’s charge sheet soon so her family, after burying Zuzu, can move ahead with getting that justice.

Karina Vetrano

30-year-old Karina Veteran was jogging near her Queens, New York home on August 2, 2016 when she was sexually assaulted and strangled. Tragically, she usually jogged with her father, but he had not felt well that day, so she went alone. When she was gone too long, Phil Veteran went looking for his daughter and, heartbreakingly, found her dead.

Phil began pushing for New York state to authorize the use of familial DNA in investigations. Familial DNA can identify relatives of a suspect, helping authorities build or narrow a list of suspects. While familial DNA is still under review in New York, with a bill authorizing its use moving through the state legislature, DNA found under Karina’s fingernails, on her back and on her cell phone was tested using standard methods and, in conjunction with a review of 911 calls from that night, led authorities to arrest 20-year-old suspect Chanel Lewis.

Erica Parsons buried

Erica Parsons, whose abuse by her family and disappearance I covered in several prior episodes, was buried after a funeral on February 25, 2017, the day after her birthday. In late 2016 her adoptive father led authorities to the shallow grave he admitted burying her in, but no one has yet been charged for the murder. The investigation, according to police, is ongoing, but I predict charges against Erica’s adoptive parents, who continued collecting benefits for her even after her disappearance, some time in 2017.

Arrest made in 2005 Tara Grinstead disappearance

A former student of the school at which she taught has been arrested in connection with the 2005 disappearance of Tara Grinstead. Payne Lindsey’s podcast Up and Vanished is the canonical source of info for the case, with Lindsey doing a great deal of his own investigation over the course of the podcast. Find it at upandvanished.com.

Human Garbage of the Week

We already mentioned the Human Garbage of the Week earlier in this episode: it’s Sara Packer, who helped her boyfriend rape her own adopted daughter before the two bound her, gagged her, and left her in a hot attic to die. They strangled Grace when they found she was still alive. Sara Packer herself later bought a bow saw and blades at a hardware store, undoubtedly used to dismember Grace, whose body was later found in pieces.

Sara Packer was at one point a supervisor at Northampton County’s Children, Youth and Families Division, entrusted with the care and safety not only of her own foster and adopted children, but of all endangered children in her county. She is disgusting in every way someone can be disgusting.

But let me be clear: Monsters like Sara Packer are not representative of child welfare workers, who despite being frequently painted as “baby-snatchers” tirelessly pursue the safety and welfare of the children and families they serve, and are often criminally underpaid and overworked in return.

Resource

The resource for this episode is a bit unlike the prior resources. It’s Unsolved Mysteries streaming on Amazon. The first two seasons of the Robert Stack-hosted classic are available right now and include updates on many of the segments. True crime fans will undoubtedly recognize some of the cases the show covered and, while the updates are often fascinating, it’s the cases that remain cold that are most intriguing to me. Whether you want some nostalgia or are looking for a new (but old) mystery to research, Unsolved Mysteries on Amazon is a great watch.

I want to note here that the link on the website will be an Amazon affiliate link, which just means anything you buy on Amazon as a result of clicking it will toss a few pennies my way, without costing you anything extra. You pay the same prices but get to support the show.

Cold Case: Joanne Gladys Garr

As usual, much of the info I found on this case comes from The Charley Project. Joanne Gladys Garr was born on December 1, 1940. When she went missing in 1971 she was 5 feet 3 inches tall and weighed 110 to 130 pounds. She was white, with red hair and blue eyes and freckles on her face, arms and legs. She sometimes went by Joan.

She was last seen in Dearborn Heights, Michigan on November 24, 1971. She was not reported missing until December 31st. She had married her second husband, Philip Garr, less than a year before she went missing. He said she had returned to their house after being estranged from him for a while, packed her bags, and left him once again. However, he couldn’t provide a date on which he last saw her and claimed he didn’t have any idea where she may have gone.

Joanne’s first husband, Robert Ross, spoke to her by phone on November 24, 1971 so the two could arrange Joanne’s November 25th pickup of the divorced couple’s children. Joanne intended to take them to a parade in Detroit. She never showed up at Robert’s for her children. Joanne also failed to appear for a Thanksgiving dinner to which a female friend had invited her.

And after November 24th, no one at her employer, Hygrade Food Products Corporation in Southfield, Michigan, ever saw her again. She had worked there for six years when she vanished, but when she stopped showing up for work, for some reason I can’t really fathom, the company assumed she had quit. They mailed her belongings to the house she had shared with Philip Garr but, and this really got my attention, the box came back to them undelivered. They later threw it all away.

Joanne’s mom, Dolores Lesninski, called her husband Philip in late December of 1971 because she hadn’t heard from her daughter in a while. Philip’s first story was that Joanne was in Ohio visiting a friend, but, and this is a direct quote from The Charley Project, “when this statement proved false he said she was in Illinois.” Finally, Philip said Joanne had packed her bags and left him, being picked up by a man he didn’t know.

There had been visible injuries previously, like black eyes and bruises, which Joanne’s mother and others had seen, and which Joanne and Philip explained away as accidents. It isn’t clear whether anyone believed these explanations.

Dolores reported Joanne missing on December 31, 1971. By August 24, 1972, Detroit Policewoman Judith Larson wrote a letter to the distraught mother informing her that the case was “being placed in the closed-pending file” because all leads had been exhausted. The letter essentially shifted responsibility for any further investigation onto Dolores, saying “if at any time you receive information which would warrant further investigation please contact us immediately so that the case may be reactivated.”

Ever since 1972, 45 years ago, the case has been ice cold.

Outro

Thanks for listening to this episode of True Crime Review. Find us on Facebook and Instagram at truecrimereview, on reddit at r/truecrimereview and on Twitter at truecrimerev.

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The theme music is Our Planet is Lost, by Entropy Audio. Find more at entropy audio dot band camp dot com.

This is your host Joe, signing off of this episode of True Crime Review. Until next time remember, families deserve truth, and victims deserve voices.

Cold Case Sources

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