The Heartbreaking Case of little Rachael Runyan

 

The case of Rachael Runyan is disturbing, and I’ve learned that I should warn readers early on of troubling subject matter especially involving crimes against children. This is that warning.

The very first article I wrote for this blog in February,2017 was about April Marie Tinsley, a little eight-year old girl who was abducted, raped, and murdered in Indiana in 1988. I’ve avoided writing about any cases like this since then as it’s incredibly hard to do. Writing about children that are terrorized and murdered takes something out of you and makes realize just how shitty this world can be; or at least some of the people in it. At the same time, these cases need to be solved and a spotlight shined on the monsters responsible for these horrifying crimes.

Rachael Runyan is another little girl that came face to face with evil and didn’t survive. It’s cases like Rachael’s that make many parents afraid to let their children out of their sight, even if just to play in their yard. On August 26th, 1982 three-year-old Rachael Runyan played outside of her house only about 15 feet away while Rachael’s mother Elaine prepared lunch. Rachael, along with her two older brothers were lucky enough to live right next to a school and playground in the town of Sunset, Utah. The Runyan children took advantage of the location, and enjoyed themselves before dinner. It wasn’t long before a man approached the group of kids and began offering them ice cream and bubble gum. The man was able to gain Rachael’s trust and without warning, grabbed the innocent three-year-old and threw her into his car before speeding away. Rachael’s young brothers watched helplessly. The boys immediately ran in and told their mother what happened, and horrified, she called police. When police arrived, they quickly started the search for little Rachael.

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Justice at last for Lisa Ziegert

I’ve long been interested in writing a blog article about the 1992 abduction, rape, and murder Lisa Ziegert, a 24 year old teacher’s assistant. Due to time constraints, I never had the chance to write that article. Maybe it was for the best, because as luck (and dogged determination by Detectives investigating her case)would have it, an arrest has finally been made which adds a much better ending to this article than could have been previously written.

Lisa Ziegert was a young teacher’s assistant at Agawam middle school in Agawam, Massachusetts at the time of her murder. She was a cheerful and well-liked young teacher with a bright future ahead of her. But all of that would end on April 15th, 1992.

Lisa had been working at her second job, a night job, at Brittany’s Card and Gift shop. On the evening of Lisa’s abduction and murder, customers would come into the shop only to find it quiet and empty. No signs of any employees. While the customers found it odd and unusual that the store was empty, there were no obvious signs of foul play, certainly nothing that stood out enough to call the police. The next morning, an employee arriving to start the morning shift at the card shop found Lisa’s car outside of the store, and her belongings inside the unlocked shop. It was at this point that concern was first raised about Lisa and police were summoned.

 

A police investigation ensued, and police found evidence that Lisa had likely been attacked or assaulted in the back room of the gift shop. Further investigation led to a witness that reported seeing an SUV with two men in it driving erratically with a distressed woman inside. This sighting occurred in the general area where Lisa’s body would be found four days later, on Easter Sunday, April 19th, 1992. Lisa had been raped and stabbed repeatedly, and her body discarded in a stretch of woods on the edge of town. The crime scene did reveal clues, and evidence was collected including DNA, which was still a relatively new tool used in crime fighting.

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Into Thin Air; The Case Of Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone

 

This Month marks the 12 year anniversary of one of the most perplexing local mysteries I know of, the disappearance of Danielle Imbo and Richard Petrone Jr. On February 19th, 2005, Danielle and Richard walked out of a bar on South Street in Philadelphia, and seemingly, off the face of the Earth.

On the night they vanished, Danielle and Richard had met some Friends at a bar named Abilene’s on the 400 Block of South Street in Philadelphia. The couple, who had known each other since High School, had only recently started dating after Danielle’s split with her estranged Husband. Shortly before Midnight, the couple left the bar and headed for Richard’s pickup truck, a black 2001 Dodge Dakota, that Richard had mentioned to Friends at the bar was parked nearby. Richard had planned to drive Danielle home to her house in Mount Laurel, a town in southern New Jersey about 20 miles away, and maybe a half hour’s ride. He would stay over night at Danielle’s, and then head home to his Philadelphia apartment in the morning getting home in time to watch the Daytona 500. It’s not known if they reached Danielle’s house or not. What is known is, neither was ever seen again, and Richard’s truck has never been found.


After Danielle and Richard vanished, there were no cell phone calls by either of them, no activity in either of their bank accounts, and their credit cards were never used. By all accounts, neither Danielle or Richard would deliberately vanish by choice, as they each were great parents to young children from their previously relationships. As most investigations go, Law enforcement started with the People closest to Danielle and Richard and then worked their was outwards from there. The one obvious suspect to authorities was Danielle’s estranged Husband. He was closely looked at, but apparently he had a solid alibi being witnessed at a party by several People on the night of February 19th, and then spending the night at a Friend’s house at least 50 miles from Abilene’s bar in Philadelphia, and at least 40 miles from Danielle’s home in Mount Laurel. This has not stopped rumors and innuendos of a ‘murder for hire’ plot,but as of now, there is no solid evidence linking anybody to the missing persons case. In fact, although there very likely is a crime involved in this case, there’s no evidence of one.
In looking at the possibilities, if they were not followed and marked for death by somebody, they may have been the Victims of a random car-jacking,or robbery gone wrong. Philadelphia is called the City of Brotherly love, but in reality, certain sections of it are dangerous and violent crimes are not out of the question. On the New Jersey side of the bridge, depending on what route the couple would have taken, they might have crossed thru Camden, or the outskirts of Camden, one of the most dangerous cities in the United States for Violent crimes. If the couple did make it across the bridge and to Danielle’s, did something happen upon arriving at her house? Could somebody have followed the couple after they left the bar? There are plenty of possibilities, and a complete lack of any clues after they left the bar. There were no surveillance cameras showing the bar area, so Police do not know which way they walked after leaving, but as Richard had stated, he had gotten lucky with a close parking spot, so the walk should not have been a long one. The area Toll bridges were checked to see if they yield any clues as far as Camera footage, paid tolls, etc , but nothing of value was found to help the investigation. One possibility that I think is possible, is that somewhere, at some point, Richard’s truck may have wound up in one of the area rivers or creeks as the result of an accident. It could explain how no trace of Richard’s truck has ever been found. People can easily vanish, but a 3,000 pound truck is harder to hide. Short of chopping it up, or dumping it in a river, there’s not many ways to make it disappear. The VIN or vehicle identification number would be stamped on various parts of the truck making it hard to ever sell again since the VIN is easily trackable by Police & DMV.

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