The 10 most unsolvable unsolved disappearances

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As a true crime journalist who searches for the missing, I am keenly aware of the breadcrumbs I’m leaving behind throughout a typical day. If I were to suddenly disappear, these bits of information will mean everything to detectives. But I worry that these clues will be misleading, that my receipts and cell phone pings will only muddy the waters of the official investigation should I vanish without a trace, because the littlest detail can seem quite suspicious when taken out of context. James Renner is a novelist and journalist from Ohio. He’s new work of nonfiction, True Crime Addict, follows his investigation into the disappearance of Maura Murray. It’s available everywhere books are sold, May 24.

For instance, the police might find the credit card slip in my car that shows I was in the bad part of Akron, today, and think that has something to do with whatever happened. That’s where people go to buy crack, after all. But really, I only drove out to Exchange because I found a new place over there that serves authentic Pho. Yesterday, I paid for several mirrors at a craft-supply store I’d never visited in the past. If I disappeared, the detectives will wonder why I altered my routine that day. Maybe they’ll suspect I was using those mirrors to cut cocaine (my son needed them to build a periscope for Cub Scouts – honest!).

When someone goes missing, the clues they leave behind lack context. There’s no telling which detail is important and which isn’t. Read the rest

The real story of Ronald Reagan's "welfare queen"

Back in the 80s, Ronald Reagan paid a lot of rhetorical attention to the story of an anonymous "welfare queen" who drove a Cadillac and lived high on the taxpayer's dime. I'd long assumed that Reagan's queen was a fictional construct, but the truth is much, much more fascinating.

At Slate, Josh Levin has a long read on the life and times of "Linda Taylor" (in quotes because that's only one of her many, many aliases), the real woman who served as the basis for Reagan's story. Taylor really did drive a Cadillac and perpetrate a decent amount of welfare fraud. But her story isn't really representative of the typical sort of welfare fraud — let alone the typical welfare recipient, in general. In fact, Taylor was the sort of person that gets armchair diagnosed as a sociopath. She spent most of her life grifting somebody and was possibly involved in the deaths of multiple people. Read the rest

Alleged shoplifter has a fit after stealing and eating extra hot chili pepper, enabling police to arrest him

"…when officers searched [Marcus] Banwell they found another four [Scotch Bonnet] chili peppers in his pocket, a stolen milkshake and fruit juice, and a clarinet stashed in his waistband, which was missing from a music shop." Scotch Bonnets are up to 50 times hotter than jalapeños by weight. Read the rest