Murders, ghostly encounters, UFO sightings, and more are all often solved or debunked just as much by the evidence at the scene as they are by the evidence that appears to be missing. But what happens when the evidence grows cold, or when there are few, if any, witnesses to a tragedy aside from the quiet horror of observing walls?
Thousands of cases per year gather dust across the US, but advancing technology continues to make strides in tackling formerly unsolvable cases. Here are just a few of Idaho’s most mysterious disappearances and cold cases from across the state.
1. The Floating Cadaver of Arthur Kraege
In 1923, 38-year old Arthur Kraege's body was found floating in the Pend Orielle with a heavy railway spike and chains fastened around his waist. His boat was found bobbing in the surf nearby, unmanned. This, after having disappeared two weeks prior, leaving no trace or explanation for family and friends.
An autopsy revealed that no violence had occurred in the incident, which suggests that Arthur's death was a suicide. Yet, Arthur's surviving brother, Ed, had recently consulted a psychic in the hopes of discovering his sibling's whereabouts, since he did not believe that Arthur was suicidal. But there is also the matter of the local sheriff shot and a nearby hotel robbed...
Was Arthur a murderer? Or a witness?
2. The Strange Murder-Suicide Of ‘Wm L. Toomey’
In December 1982, a man wandered into the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Boise. Middle-aged and suntanned, he appeared to wait in line for the confessional... but he never made it into the booth. In fact, by the time the man's turn came around, he was dead on the floor.
Authorities concluded that the gentleman had swallowed a cyanide capsule, although it couldn't be determined whether the act was intentional or forced. In his pocket was a large sum of cash, with a note stating that the funds be used for his funeral. The note was signed "Wm L. Toomey," which is a company that manufactures and sells priest garb. But here's where it gets interesting: the year prior to Toomey's death, two priests in Arizona were found murdered, with a wrongfully convicted suspect held at fault. Since Toomey was found wearing a belt buckle that traced back to Arizona, it is highly likely that Toomey in fact was the murderer of both AZ holy men.
That being said, many questions still remain about the circumstances of Toomey's own demise. Was his death a suicide, or retaliation? Was he about to confess to his crimes, or commit a third? Many speculated the former, and that Toomey simply miscalculated how long the cyanide would take to act. But perhaps the biggest mystery of all is simply... what was his real name?
3. The Torched Evidence of Phyllis Ward
74-year old Phyllis Ward was a former schoolteacher, avid gardener, and lover of collectibles, but in 2012, this pillar of the Boise community was found dead in her home after a house fire. Originally thought to have been the victim of an unfortunate accident, an autopsy later revealed that Ward had been brutally killed before the fire started. The fire could have been an act of arson to cover the trail of her murderer.
Years later, nobody can seem to recall any information that would point towards a suspect or resolution, but the senseless crime against such a sweet elderly woman rocked the neighborhood to its core. Ward's doors were typically left open to make moving around the home easier, leaving prime opportunity for a motivated group or individual to do harm -- but the question that nobody can seem to shake is simply why?
4. Janice Foiles and a Crime of Passion
In December 1969, Janice Foiles, a student at U of I and a waitress at what was then the Moscow's Tip Top Cafe - was closing the restaurant for the evening when the violent and unthinkable happened. No witnesses were present, but Janice's body was found lying behind the counter with multiple blows to the head, still clutching the day's receipts in her hand. A standard claw hammer, kept under the counter for minor repairs, went missing in the scuffle and is still thought to be the murder weapon.
Nearly 50 years later, the case is still wide open, although inactive. All evidence points towards a crime of both passion and opportunity - with students home for Christmas break, there were few, if any, witnesses in the vicinity. A prime suspect in the case was cleared in 1994, but the odds of finding the shy, studious girl's killer are slim.
5. The Buffalo Cave Torso
In 1979, a family out hunting arrowheads stumbled upon the grave of a young man -- headless, with torso only remaining and clothed in tattered fibrous remains. In 1991, human limbs were found in the same cave, this time wrapped in burlap.
With the help of a forensic team from Idaho State University, authorities determined that the remains were from a man in his 30s with brown hair, perhaps six-feet in height. But without a head, little can be determined about the cause of death or the identity of the man. Was this where a murderer had stashed the remains of their crime? A suicide gone horrifically wrong? Or a terrible accident? Only time will tell.
Idaho is a particularly close-knit state, which means that cold cases and disappearances such as these are never truly forgotten by the victim’s families, nor by the surrounding communities. To this day, these tragic and heart-wrenching mysteries remain permanently open for further investigation. If you have any information, be sure to get in touch with the proper authorities.