Sum it Up! #57

sum it upA quick Sum it Up! as so many things are happening. I have included some links so you can dig into these cases yourself. Some are cases to read up on, some are cases to watch. Some are just here to point out that we should never think we cannot prevail.

DNA testing in Donna Meagher case

The Montana Innocence Project asked a judge to expand DNA testing in a post-conviction case for two men serving life sentences for a 1994 murder. They want to show that Freddie Joe Lawrence and Paul Jenkins did not kill Donna Meagher. These two men were convicted in 1995 by separate juries for kidnapping and killing Donna after robbing the Jackson Creek Saloon where she worked in Montana City, Montana. They have maintained their innocence.

The Montana Innocence Project requested DNA testing of several crime scene evidence pieces in 2016. One DNA test was done on a bloody rope. DNA results showed a mixture. Part was Donna’s blood. The other profile matches a man already in the system: David Wayne Nelson. In 2016, Nelson plead guilty to robbing and killing an elderly couple in a completely separate crime. So far, Lawrence and Jenkins were excluded from evidence tested. A case to watch if you like forensics. Rest in peace Donna Meagher.

Conviction in Olivia Dare Christian case

Good news in the cold case of Olivia Dare Christian. This 32-year-old teacher at Captain John Smith Elementary School was strangled to death in Sept 1981. In March 2018, Ruben Edward Moore was found guilty of second-degree murder. He received a 40 year prison sentence. “Prosecutors said Moore bashed Christian’s head in at least six times with an alarm clock, wrapped its cord around her neck, and attempted to sexually assault her.” Finally justice in this cold case. Rest in peace Olivia Dare Christian.

Bite-mark evidence

On March 1, a Hartford judge officially dismissed a decades-old murder charge against Alfred Swinton. Swinton, who served 18 years of a 60-year sentence, was released last June after DNA testing exculpated him, and a forensic expert who testified at his trial recanted.”

Authorities once thought Swinton was a serial killer. However, they never found any evidence or were able to tie him to five crime scenes. Swinton did acknowledged knowing all five women victims. One of them was Carla Terry. Swinton’s conviction in her case was partly due to the testimony of a forensic odontologist. He testified that a bite mark on Carla Terry’s right breast matched Swinton’s teeth.

Recent DNA tests done with saliva found in that bite mark showed Swinton is not a match. Swinton also did not match with profiles from the vaginal swab and fingernail scrapings. The prosecutors said they will not subject Swinton to a new trial. 

The field of forensic odontology is unreliable. I am trying to read up on that. I will post later which books I am reading on this topic. Stay tuned for that.

The Yuba County Five

On February 24, 1978, five friends from Yuba City, California, left together to watch a college basketball game at California State University, Chico. After the game, they stopped at a local market for a late night snack. And then they vanished.

Authorities later found their car miles out of their way back home. “It had stopped at the snow line, and although its tires had apparently spun, the car was not really stuck; five men easily could have pushed it free. The gas tank was a quarter full. Four maps, including one of California, lay neatly folded in the glove compartment. The keys were gone, but when police hot-wired the car the engine started immediately.” In June, after all the snow was finally gone, four from the five bodies were found. The fifth was never found.

What happened to these five young men? I wonder whether there is any chance they drank and/or ate something that was laced. It could have disoriented them or made them delusional. It had to be something that they were still snacking on or drinking while driving. That could explain being out of their usual route. Whatever drugged them could have spiraled into a depression. That could explain why they starved while having supplies. This is just a guess. I have not read everything about this case. You can read up on the this case here.

This case is often compared to the Dyatlov Pass. That case is about nine experienced ski hikers who all died in the northern Ural Mountains in the Soviet Union (now Russia) in the night of February first into second of 1959. All were from the Ural Polytechnical Institute. They had set up camp on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl. The area is now named after the group’s leader, Igor Dyatlov.

During that fateful night, something made them leave their tents and campsite. There is speculation galore on the web about what they must have heard or seen. An avalanche would be my first guess as it matches people quickly getting out of tents without stopping to first dress adequately for subzero temps. But opinion is heavily divided in both of these cases.


If you love mysteries then these two cases are great ones to explore. You may even want to write/blog about it or comment below those articles. If you do, please keep one thing in mind: your words.

While checking on the Yuba Five and the Dyatlov Nine cases for this Sum it Up! I found many comments on posts and articles that frankly, hurt. Even if you know better than anyone else what happened in these cases or what the authorities should have done, try to keep in mind who reads your words. Not just other bloggers or people eager to show off their expertise. The victims’ family members and their friends read about the cases online too.

Families and friends are genuinely grateful that people remember their loved ones and that the cases stay alive on the web. But try not to add any more trauma by being condescending or calling people dumb for not seeing what is so obvious to you.

Thank you.