Episode 3: The Most Hated Man in Louisville

ignatow_schaefer

Mel Ignatow & Brenda Sue Schaefer, Source: YouTube.com

Welcome to Episode 3 of Crime Historian: the Podcast. I worked really hard to put together a detailed episode for you that chronicles the story of then 36-year-old Brenda Sue Schaefer and her unfortunate demise in Louisville, Kentucky in 1988. Brenda was killed by ex-boyfriend, Mel Ignatow, but not before being kidnapped, raped, sodomized, and tortured by him first. Much to Louisville’s dismay, Mel was acquitted of the murder. However, after an incredible discovery six months later in October of 1992, he was proven to be the killer…only nothing could be done about it: double jeopardy saved him, and the town was infuriated.

 

Listen to Episode 3 to learn about Brenda, how she became entangled with Mel Ignatow, how the trial proceeded, and Ignatow’s own coincidental but karmaic ending by going here: https://soundcloud.com/user-293072616/episode-3-the-most-hated-man or listening on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/crime-historian/id1152728489?mt=2) or your favorite podcast app. Thanks!

Sources:

The Unremarkable Murder in Fox Chase

I’d like to introduce you to a murder. There’s nothing particularly heinous about it, and apparently, it doesn’t even stand out to officials enough to update the public on the status of the case.

I’d like to take you back to my hometown of Shepherdsville, Kentucky again. Within this suburb of Louisville, there are nice areas and there are working class areas. There are farms and there are subdivisions. I grew up in a subdivision. Fox Chase is considered a 6th class city because it has 999 residents or less; (447 as of 2010, and nearly all of them are white). In the pre-antebellum era, the land belonged to the Rogers who ran a plantation. Lillian Chase, the great granddaughter of the original plantation owner, sold it to developers in the 70s. Fox Chase was born a couple years later and flourished in the 80s with cape cods and ranches and split levels. No one there lives below the poverty line. My own family moved out of the neighborhood and across town in 2001.

Fox Chase, KY

Entrance to Fox Chase, KY where I grew up.

I’ve set the scene for you. You already know that murders in Bullitt County are few and far between. Residents of Fox Chase know each other, and they wave when they see you. People don’t just get shot in Fox Chase. But that’s exactly what happened to 55-year old Donald Ash in January of 2009. And the weirdest part? His 2005 Lexus was missing from the scene.

1) Why hasn’t the police department updated the public on the status of this case? If they have, I can find no record of it online.

2) Cars don’t just disappear. Yes, they get stolen, hidden, and scrapped, but has this Lexus really not shown up in six years? Was anyone ever even looking for it?

3) Motive, anyone?

It is interesting to note that the police chief of Pioneer Village was the rookie cop I told you about in the Jessica Dishon case. The last communication I have from him to the public on the case simply says they are “making progress”. That was reported on January 16, 2009.

All I can glean about Mr. Ash from the news coverage is that he was apparently the kind of guy who didn’t wave back when his neighbors passed. Also, he had been a technician at AT&T for 30 years and was also running a small business out of his home when he was killed.

Just for creep factor’s sake, I want to show you the house I grew up in. And then I want to show you Mr. Ash’s. My childhood home is marked by the yellow dot in the bottom right hand side of the picture, just a 3 minute leisurely walk to the murder scene. I can’t remember if even numbers were on the left or the right on his street, but Mr. Ash’s house is either the one marked by the red dot or the one across from it.

Map measuring the distance from my childhood home to the crime scene where Donald Ash, 55, was found shot and killed in his home in January of 2009.

Map measuring the distance from my childhood home to the crime scene where Donald Ash, 55, was found shot and killed in his home in January of 2009.

The murder itself is unremarkable, at least insofar as it comes to murders. He was shot and found a day or so later. The police haven’t said much of anything, and the only thing of value they reported missing was Mr. Ash’s Lexus. But when you grow up down the street from a house that later becomes the scene of a murder, it’s a little unnerving.

Shit like that doesn’t go down in Bullitt County often. The fact that it happened in Fox Chase is unnerving to say the least.

Sources:

  1. http://www.bullittcountyhistory.com/cem/unnamed_cem_fox_chase.html
  2. http://www.cityoffoxchase.org/demographics/
  3. http://www.wlky.com/Police-Investigate-Potential-Link-Between-Slayings/9816524
  4. http://www.wdrb.com/story/9649515/55-year-old-man-found-dead-in-bullitt-county-home

Jessica Dishon Case Update: A Confession and a Plea

I wasn’t sure whether or not Stanley Dishon would go to trial for murdering his niece, Jessica, back in 1999. As you recall me previously mentioning, this all occurred in my hometown of Shepherdsville, Kentucky. A couple days ago, the prosecution and defense reached an agreement; in return for Stanley Dishon submitting an Alford plea to manslaughter, the trial will be altogether forfeited. What is an Alford plea, you ask? (Hey, look, my college classes are coming in handy.)

Basically, an Alford plea is an alternative to pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest. An Alford plea is the acknowledgement that the prosecution has enough evidence to convict you beyond a reasonable doubt. You can maintain your innocence, but for all intents and purposes, it is essentially a guilty plea without the actual admittance of guilt. It is the same plea the West Memphis Three wore forced to take. By submitting an Alford plea, you may be able to avoid the harshest punishment. Alford pleas work in favor of the prosecution sometimes because it saves the state money, and in this case, it puts an old case to rest; the media doesn’t get to keep dragging the public and the family through the emotional ringer of a trial.

Stanley will be eligible for parole in 16 years.

As for his motive? Word is that he was molesting Jessica and had been doing it for years. Considering his previous convictions, this wouldn’t be too surprising. The story goes that Jessica was threatening to tell, and Stanley attacked her in her yard.

Fifteen years in the making, y’all. Time to close the book on this one and pray the family can find some peace. I can’t imagine what her parents have been through, but to find the murderer is a member of your own family? It’s sickening.

Sources:

  1. http://www.wdrb.com/story/27916344/stanley-dishon-expected-to-plead-guilty-in-1999-murder-of-jessica-dishon

Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon (Part 2 of 2)

Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon

Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon

If you missed part one of the story, you’ll want to start here.

I mentioned yesterday that Jessica’s uncle, Stanley, is her murderer. He was formally indicted on these charges (plus kidnapping) in October of 2013, fourteen years after Jessica was kidnapped and murdered. However, when this news was released, Stanley was already serving time in jail for charges of sexual molestation, rape, and sodomy dating all the way back to 1982. These are unrelated to the Dishon case. But you’ll find that to only be technically true, because it turns out the S.O.B. was molesting Jessica, too. He actually lived with her family until Jessica turned 13. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In May of this year, the first new physical evidence in years was released. I swear, every time I think it can’t get any worse, it does.

In April of 2014, after receiving information from two inmates who had spent time with Stanley in prison, police decided to search the barn on the property where Jessica’s body was found. Police found a pillowcase and a fitted sheet. The fitted sheet matches the other sheet that is still on Jessica’s bed, though Jessica’s mom is not sure exactly when it went missing. (Jessica’s room is still in the exact state it was when she disappeared.) Police now believe Stanley Dishon held and tortured Jessica Dishon in that barn before Stanley killed her, as one prison informant claims Stanley bragged about doing.

It’s very likely we’ll find, after tests are conducted and released, that this sheet did come off of Jessica’s bed, and her DNA is all over it. There was also foam found in the barn, the same type of foam found on Jess’s body. You can view photos of the recently released evidence here.

Additionally, both inmates reported that Stanley admitted to each of them separately that he killed Jessica because she was about to tell her family how he had been molesting her. One of the inmates said Jessica had recently learned Stanley had been molesting his own daughter and stepdaughter, and she was tired of it and was going to tell. (Stanley Dishon pleaded guilty to these crimes in 2004). We now know that he has molested six other victims besides Jessica. The inmate also claimed that Stanley took one of Jessica’s shoes, chopped off her foot and kept it, and took a pair of Jessica’s underwear.

Investigators never did find her missing shoe or her foot.

If you’re not convinced Stanley killed his niece, I’ll leave you with this: Jessica’s dad, Mike, reported that shortly after Jessica disappeared, Stanley told him he had a premonition that Jessica was buried in the river bottoms. When the family went to search the area, about two miles away from where Jessica’s body was found, Stanley had to leave suddenly because he started feeling sick.

Well I’ll be damned.

Reporters interviewed Stanley’s former wife, who he was married to at the time of Jessica’s disappearance. She admitted she thought it was strange that no one ever interviewed Stanley because his sleeping patterns were erratic after Jessica disappeared and he acted very strangely at the time.

Jury selection for Stanley’s trial began in September.

Here are the questions/thoughts I am left with:

1) According to one report, the property was searched during the original investigation. So where the hell was the evidence in, say, 1999? When was the evidence placed in the barn? Or did they just miss it the first time? Has anyone considered they are lucky as hell to have found it? Stanley could have disposed of it at any time in the last fourteen years.

2) Can anyone confirm Stanley’s alibi for the day of the murder? He says he was working. No one? Nobody? Didn’t think so.

3) It would have been nice if Stanley’s wife had reported his odd behavior so the police could have looked into it. I guess it’d be hard to tell on your husband, but the bastard molested both of her daughters.

It is worth noting that as of July 2014, Mike Dishon, Jessica’s dad, still believed Bucky had something to do with the murder, but I imagine it’s hard believe that your own brother molested, raped, kidnapped, and killed your daughter. A state of denial is completely understandable.

I truly hope this is a speedy trial so that the Dishon family can have some peace and the community of Shepherdsville can put this horrible crime to rest.

You can say that the public has already convicted Stanley, just as we did Bucky, and maybe we have. I’d be surprised if the defense doesn’t file for a change of venue.

Sources:

  1. http://www.whas11.com/news/crimetracker/Police-investigate-new-claims-in-murder-case-of-Jesscia-Dishon-258955491.html
  2. http://www.whas11.com/news/local/Thousands-of-pages-released-in-Jessica-Dishon-case-266700771.html
  3. http://www.whas11.com/home/Court-documents-reveal-new-details-in-1999-Dishon-murder-case-258640741.html
  4. http://www.wdrb.com/story/24358023/stanely-dishon-strangled-his-niece-jessica-dishon-with-a-scarf-according-to-court-records
  5. http://www.wdrb.com/story/24409222/stanley-dishon-killed-niece-jessica-to-stop-her-from-revealing-sex-abuse-inmates-say

Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon (Part 1 of 2)

Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon

Crime Historian: Jessica Dishon

As some of you may know, I am from a little town just south of Louisville, Kentucky called Shepherdsville. It’s located in Bullitt County, a primarily a white area whose population boomed as a result of “white flight” in the 60’s and 70’s. Residents love Shepherdsville because it provides a small-town atmosphere with easy access to Louisville since I-65 runs right through it. There are four high schools in Bullitt County and three of them are located in Shepherdsville.

I spent the summer of 1999 on the north side of town, preparing for the seventh grade and begging my mom to buy me tickets to see the Backstreet Boys. Meanwhile, Jessica Dishon spent the summer preparing to start her senior year at Bullitt Central.

I never met her.

It’s a small town, so I’m sure I’ve seen her somewhere before. I think my mom dated her cousin or something. You know how it is. Everyone knows everyone, and if they don’t, then they know someone who knows someone.

She went missing on September 10, 1999.

People don’t go missing in Shepherdsville.

I remember watching the news incredulously. The police were baffled. How could a teen, who was looking so forward to her senior year, just vanish from her driveway? Her car was still in the driveway. Her purse, cell phone, backpack, keys, and one of her shoes were found inside.

The investigation was initially botched at the beginning, but not through any fault of the responding officer. Officer David Greenwell was a rookie cop, and though he called the lead detective to the scene more than once, his request for assistance was denied. It was days before an actual detective showed up.

Police and family members searched. For seventeen days. Unfortunately, Jessica was not found alive.

People don’t get murdered in Shepherdsville.

Her body was recovered from a ditch off a rural road in a wooded area of Mount Washington, a neighboring town. Evidence showed that she was likely killed elsewhere and moved to the location. It would be nearly fifteen years before this theory was confirmed.

In the meantime, David “Bucky” Brooks, a nearby neighbor of the Dishons, was charged with Jessica’s murder. Bucky is not exactly what you would call an educated man, and the trial focused heavily on his lack of education. Interestingly, the Brooks family owned property right next door to the Dishons where they operated a water business. Coincidence or not? The judge eventually declared a mistrial in 2003 due to a blunder regarding admissibility of evidence. Apparently, the prosecutor forgot to tell the detective that lie detector results are not admissible in Kentucky.

People still talked.

Bucky Brooks got off on a technicality, they said. Bucky did it. Everyone knows it. Bucky got away with murder.

I heard it, and I just assumed it was true and was one of those sad things that would never be proven.

When asked after the trial by a reporter why he thought he was the only suspect in the case, Bucky responded: “My opinion was that we had the water company right close to the Dishon home and we was just the scapegoat for them. That’s what I’m thinking.”

I moved away in 2005, and every once in a while, I will Google the case to see if there are any new developments. When I heard that Bullitt County hired a cold case investigator, I hoped that new evidence against Brooks would be found and that Bucky would finally get what was coming to him.

Bucky did it right? Everyone knew it. Residents took to online forums to gossip about and speculate about it here and here.

Except Bucky didn’t kill Jessica Dishon. And all those years the public shamed him and treated him like a leper were for naught.

Because it was actually her uncle Stanley who killed her. And the fact that it was her uncle is not even the worst part of the story.

Sources:

  1. http://www.wave3.com/story/1175985/bucky-brooks-road-show-begins-mystery-continues
  2. http://www.whas11.com/news/crimetracker/Bullit-County-Sheriff-expected-to-make-announcement-about-Dishon-murder-226149071.html
  3. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/jessica-dishon-cold-case-stanley-dishon-ky-teens-uncle-charged-with-her-murder-14-years-later/
  4. http://www.wdrb.com/story/23589572/jessica-dishons-uncle-indicted-in-her-murder