Where Facts And Controversy In The News Come Together In Truth

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Unsolved Murders In The Mountain State... Part Three

Who Killed Charleston Executive Banker LaRoy Gorman.
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Was It A Hired Hit Man Or Just Revenge For A Woman Scorned?
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.On Saturday evening, November 12th 1982, 62-year-old business executive LaRoy Gorman, was shot and killed execution style while getting into his car with a female companion after just eating dinner at the Steak & Ale restaurant in Charleston WV.
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Now, 29 years later, the only thing that exists in this cold-case murder is the vacant building and parking lot of the closed down steakhouse. The killer, and only eyewitness to the murder, still remain a mystery. In December of 2005, the Charleston Daily Mail newspaper revisited the events that police knew occurred at the time of the murder. According to their story, police knew that when Gorman reached his car, a man was sitting in a dark brown car in the adjacent space. The man had backed in so that his driver's side was next to the driver's side of Gorman's car. Police later said they believed the man had been waiting in the parking lot for at least an hour.

There reportedly was a brief argument between the two men, and when Gorman turned his back to get into his car, the man fired three shots with a .38-caliber pistol. Two bullets hit Gorman's arm, but one hit his back, piercing his liver. Witnesses reported Gorman was acting hyper at the scene after being shot, refusing help and making it clear he did not want the shooting to become public. He died eight hours later at Charleston Area Medical Center's Memorial Hospital. At least four witnesses reportedly spoke to police, but police believe there were others who declined to come forward. The trail quickly became cold.
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One veteran detective said three days after the shooting it was the damndest case he had ever had. Rumors swirled around Charleston and many wondered if the killer had business or personal ties to Gorman. Police have never released the identity of the woman who accompanied Gorman to dinner. Back then, they feared her life might also be in danger. Former Charleston National Bank executives and Gorman's family offered a $25,000 reward. Steak and Ale Restaurant added $2,500. But the rewards failed to generate any new information.
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A police sketch of a dark-haired man in his 30s with a bushy moustache generated hundreds of calls from across the state and Kentucky. None of them led to a plausible motive or an arrest.
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One huge fact the Daily Mail did not revisit in their 2005 story… Just one day after the murder, newspaper executives approached detectives with claims that a few months before Gorman was killed, several women came forward to reporters and complained about how Gorman had treated them in personal relationships. Complaints that included details on his alleged exotic lifestyle. The reporters never followed up, corroborated or wrote about the women’s claims. Its not known if detectives ever spoke to them either.
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At the time of his death, Gorman, who earned at least $111,000 a year, was one of the most experienced bankers in the state. Just days before his death, he oversaw Charleston National Bank's takeover of the First National Bank of South Charleston. After the murder, investigators looked into his business dealings. Especially into his banks takeover of the defunct First National Bank of South Charleston. Allegations also began to surface in bankruptcy proceedings that detailed First National & Charleston National Bank and that certain unnamed investors lost at least one million dollars that they pledged to First National bank right before it failed.
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Was LaRoy Gorman murdered over bad business dealings, money, or possibly a woman scorned? Someone knows that answer and has refused to come forward. Over the past 29 years since being shot in the back, the person or people involved may have all died. But, it’s hard to believe that there is not at least one person who has the true answers to what occurred that night.
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Anyone who has information in this unsolved murder case is asked to contact the Charleston Police detective bureau at (304) 348-0510 or their online tip web address at: . http://www.charlestonwvpolice.org/Pages/provide_a_tip.htm.
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The Sodder Children Mystery
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A Tragic Story That Needs To Be Retold Over And Over Again...
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Christmas Eve in 1945, the Sodders and nine of their ten children settled in for the evening. Maurice, and four of his siblings - Betty, Jennie, Louis and Martha Lee pleaded to be allowed to stay up and play with their new toys. Mrs. Sodder relented after the children promised to take care of their chores before coming to bed. It would be the last time she ever saw her children again. Shortly after midnight Mrs. Sodder was awakened by the phone ringing.
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A female caller asked for a man whose name Mrs. Sodder didn't recognize. The caller gave a weird laugh before hanging up. Dismissing the call as a prank, Mrs. Sodder went to return back to bed but noticed the lights were still on, the shades weren’t drawn and the doors hadn’t been locked.
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Believing the children forgot to do these things before going to bed, she went back to sleep. She was awakened again by a noise on the roof that sounded "like a rubber ball." About a half-hour later, smoke began pouring into the bedroom. She yelled for her husband and children.
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Once outside, Mr. Sodder noticed that Betty, Jennie, Louis, Martha Lee, and Maurice were nowhere to be found. He went to grab the ladder, which was kept near the house, to reach the windows of the room where the children slept. The ladder was missing. Less than forty-five minutes after the fire started, the house was consumed. Firefighters and state police arrived later that morning and placed the cause of the fire on faulty wiring. State police later withdrew their statement.
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The fire chief and state fire marshal sifted through the ashes and told the Sodders that they couldn’t find any remains. Another report states that the firefighters found a few bones and pieces of internal organs in the ashes, but the family was never told of these findings. Some time after the fire, the fire chief informed the Sodders that he had recovered a body part, probably an organ, from the ashes and buried it in a box on the site. The box was dug up and its contents taken to the funeral home for examination, while a small piece was sent elsewhere for examination. The piece sent off elsewhere was deemed to be beef liver.
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When the detective went back to the funeral home to find the results of their analysis on the contents he left in their care he was told that they couldn’t be located.
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The acting coroner impaneled a jury of six local citizens who returned a verdict that the five children had died due to suffocation and flames. Within a few months, the Sodders became convinced that their children did not die in the fire. Information began to surface to support their beliefs. An investigation revealed that the telephone line had been cut shortly before or during the fire. A late-night bus driver reported seeing "balls of fire" being tossed upon the roof of the Sodder home. An operator of a motel located halfway between Fayetteville and Charleston reported seeing the children Christmas morning.
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A Charleston hotel owner reported seeing four of the children in the company of four Italian speaking adults a week later.
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Three months after the fire, the youngest child found a hard rubber object that was hollow with a twist-off cap. It was identified by Army authorities as an incendiary or napalm bomb called a "pine-apple." It was later discovered that the fire had started on the roof. During the fire, a man was seen stealing a block and chain from the Sodder's garage. He admitted to cutting the "electric line" to the Sodder home. The ladder, which couldn't be found during the fire, was found down an embankment away from the house.
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A couple of years after the tragedy, Mr. Sodder saw a photo of school children in New York and was certain that Betty was one of the children in the photograph. He drove to Manhattan to see for himself but was never allowed to see the child. Sightings of the children came in from all over the country. Every lead proved fruitless. In 1952, the Sodders purchased a billboard displaying photos of their missing children and offering a reward for the recovery of any or all of the children. The publicity fed rumors that the children had been sold to an orphanage or taken to Italy.
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The Sodders tried in vain to get their case re-opened, even writing to the FBI. State police and local authorities wouldn’t reactivate the investigation without any evidence of a kidnapping or murder. The investigating fire marshal admitted years later that he did not search through the ashes as thoroughly as he would have liked. Mr. Sodder, initially believing his children had died, bulldozed the site and covered it with four to five feet of dirt, planting flowers in memory of the children.
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In 1949, Mr. Sodder decided to excavate the site in order to search for human remains. The assistant chief of Naval Ordinance in Charleston and a noted pathologist from Washington, D.C. were among those helping. Four pieces of vertebrae and two small bones that could have come from a child’s hand were located. The pathologist noted that he was amazed at the scarcity of bones recovered after the thorough search, claiming it was unusual that no skulls or pelvic bones were found in a fire that was quick burning and not so intense as to destroy cloth, flooring and other debris found.
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Back in Washington, D.C., the pathologist determined the bones to be human, having come from a person 14 to 15 years of age. Due to the location where the bones were found within the floor plan of the house, Mr. Sodder didn’t believe the remains to be of his 14-year-old son, Maurice. Another analysis of the bones conducted years later by the Smithsonian Institute determined that the bones came from someone 16 to 22 years of age. It was also noted that the bones bore no evidence of having been subjected to fire.
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A letter would arrive on a detective’s desk claiming that the bones had been removed from a nearby cemetery and planted at the scene. Many believe the children died that night in the fire and the family was never able to accept the loss. Others believe the children were taken and are still alive somewhere, believing the fire killed their parents and siblings.
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Mr. Sodder died in 1969, his wife, twenty years later....
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Twist To This Story....
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In 1968, over 20 years after the tragedy, the Sodders received yet another mysterious reminder. An envelope arrived addressed to Mrs. Sodder with no return address. Inside she found only a photograph of a young man, 24-28 years old, wearing white pants and a shirt, and sitting in front of a window. On the back of the photograph were these words: "Louis Sodder" "I love brother Frankie." Mrs. Sodder was convinced that the photograph was of her son Louis Sodder, who was supposed to have died in the fire at the age of nine. 
The Sodders took the photograph to Charleston in an effort to convince Attorney General Donald Robertson to reopen the case. But the Attorney General was not convinced of the identity of the young man. 

Determined to follow this lead just as they had so many others, the Sodders again employed a private detective. They paid him in advance and sent him to the town that was listed on the postmark of the letter. They never heard from him again. Mrs. Sodder was afraid that if the letter or the name of the town was published it could bring harm to her son. She had no choice but to admit defeat. The photograph was enlarged and placed in a frame in front of her fireplace. She took comfort in the belief that although her children were out of her reach, they were still alive.
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Research and development for this story was made possible from media reports and a Sodder Children Website.
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End Of Series
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Jack Swint-Publisher

West Virginia News 
Twitter:  @WVNewsOnline 
LinkedIn: Jack Swint


.Also… Read Our Free Online Edition Depicting 130 Of Americas Lesser Known And Forgotten Killers: Resurrecting Murder 
 
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14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Where is this female companion that was with the Banker? That is some stupid "investigation" where you don't isolate the women (all of them) and get precise info from each and every one.
Go back and get it before they are dead.

Anonymous said...

Horrible story of the Sodders. Since the son may now be a man, I would get that photo out into the public media...Interpol,,,,whatever....that young man has memories of his childhood and he will recount them if he is told he may be a kidnap victim in his youth.
Tests then can be done on the dead parents and he for DNA and hopefully, the story and the kidnappers will be revealed.
Get that picture out into the world. We have done it a dozens times with success.

Anonymous said...

With today's technology, they should re-investigate both of these tragic cases.

Name the unknown woman that was with Gorman. Also, why didnt the newspaper investigate the womens claims about Gorman lifestyle? Was it because he was a prominent figure in this city?? I'd say thats exactly the reason.

It also appears that the state attorney general dropped the ball on the Sodder investigation by refussing to seek out the man in the picture claiming to be one of the children. The whole thing stinks of poor investigating.

Anonymous said...

Sad stories! Re-open both cases

Anonymous said...

Aw come on; the newspaper would not drop the ball on a potential damaging story on a high profile businessman with a few scorned women. LOL

Maybe, if they pursued that story, Gorman would have still been alive. Just be a known pervert or "exotic" type person.

BT

Anonymous said...

BT...are you the one that spoke of the Tomblin property? (Roundhead?)
We want to know a lot more. Contact Jack.
Nothing helpful goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

Anonymous said...

It has been 30 years since Gorman was murdered. I think it is time the police identify who the female eyewitness was. And, who the women were that approached the newspaper and what they had to say about Gorman.

Anonymous said...

Did it ever occur to you that maybe the cops are protecting some big whigs?
"Corruption" baby, comes in all colors.

West Virginia News said...

YES! It did occur. At least the authorities back then may have been covering something up on the Gorman case. Today, I think they would go after any leads possible to solve this cold-case murder.

I also think the media would also cover up their direct knowledge because they dropped the ball back then when they had possible witnesses and a motive. But did not act on it until after the murder.

And the only reason they came forward then and admitted their reporters had received actual complaints from several women about Gormans personal relationships with them? Because the newspapers lawyers told them to!

As for the Sodder children? I wouldnt put anything past the goings on in that case! Especially in Fayette County WV back then.

Anonymous said...

Why dont they name the female eyewitness now?? Been 30 years!! And who were the women who came forward to the newspaper and complained about Gorman. Once again, its been 30 years!!

Anonymous said...

It is stupid that they have not followed that young man's photo and harnessed all his info. Somebody is afraid that he will talk. He will not be killed. Too many people already know that boy was kidnapped. Get moving and find that "boy". Case could be solved immediately.
Then let's see where that really leads. Astounding the lack of direction!

Anonymous said...

In the SODDER STORY: You cant look at the side by side picture of the grown man and little boy at the bottom of the story and not say they are one in the same.

That is Louis Sodder!! Why did the WV Attorney General refuse to look into that for Mrs Sodder????????????????????

Anonymous said...

Boo YAH!

Anonymous said...

I don't think that the Sodder case is hard to figure out.

The house caught fire, some of the family escaped, while others didn't,
A fire chief who didn't even know how to start his own fire engine arrived the next day and made a quick inspection of the scene and went home to spend Christmas with his family. Obviously if it was a two story house the second floor caved in onto the first floor taking whoever was on the second floor with it. Tons of debris to sift through. The bodies were in there somewhere.

Then the father, without any objection from any lawful authority, buries the debris with a bulldozer and taking with it any chance to determine the cause or the fire or the recovery of the bodies.

I think that the mother and father spent their remaining years covering up their own guilty by making up these wild stories about kidnappings and sightings.

Think about it people. How do five children get kidnapped from a burning house without anyone else seeing anything.

Sadly this is a case of an accidental death(s). Not kidnappings or whatever bizarre theories that have been advance.

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