Episode 4: Small Town Slaughters
In Episode 4 of Blood & Wine, Brittany and Tyler review a couple of small town murder cases that forever changed the towns where they occurred: the murder of Georgia Crews and The Kunz Family Murders.
Wine Pick: Prophecy Sauvignon Blanc
Prophecy has a lot of many different wine varieties but we chose a Sauvignon Blanc. Prophecy Sauvignon Blanc showcases the best of New Zealand's renowned Marlborough region. This wine had aromas of grapefruit, lychee and lime zest lead to flavors of mandarin orange and green apple, followed by delicate notes of mineral and white tea.
Our favorite thing about the bottle is the beautiful artwork on the label by Victo Ngai, a New York based, award-winning illustrator from Hong Kong.
Tyler's Georgia Crews Notes:
Montverde, Florida is a small tight-knit community approximately 36 miles west from the booming city of Orlando. During the 80s, the minuscule town only had around 400 residents. It was common place for residents to leave their doors unlocked at night without qualms. Everybody knew their neighbours and felt safe. In 1980 this lakeside town just off the Florida panhandle was the scene of a murder that would shock everyone.
Twelve year old Georgia Crews was a 5th grade student at Minneola Elementary School and lived with her mother, father, and two older teenaged brothers Charles and Tony. On April 8, 1980, mom, dad, and Charles go fishing for catfish on the nearby lake (very common occurrence as dad was a commercial fisherman and the whole family loved fishing). Georgia and Tony stayed home.
Between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. she decided to take the dog and walk to the town's convenience store where mom worked for some candy before she would head to a friend's house to hang out. The store was about a mile away but she was confident she could go and be back before dark, plus she was 12 and had the dog so I get it.
She never made it to her friend house or even to the store.
When Georgia didn’t arrive home within an hour, Tony rushed around the neighbourhood calling out her name. Outside, the dog sat at the crossroad just down the street from their home, refusing to move. When Linda and Mike returned home to find a frantic Tony exclaiming that Georgia hadn’t come home from the shop, they called police. By midnight, a search was already underway. Shoulder to shoulder, the search party, assisted by Georgia’s family, trudged through the woodland and through the orange groves.
A bloodhound and even a helicopter were used in the search, but she couldn’t be found. With a then-population of just 397, the concerned community rallied together in a desperate attempt to bring Georgia home safely. Almost half of the entire population got involved in the investigation, whether by handing out flyers or physically searching the area. Nobody saw Georgia accompanied by anybody else nor did anybody witness her being forced into a car.
Two days after her disappearance her parents, grandmother, and the police marshal’s wife all received a call that went like this:
"Hello… yeah… you know that girl that you looking for… yeah, the twelve year old… yeah… she’s dead.”
On April 16, a family of four were out walking and took a short cut from an apartment complex to a K-Mart near Casselberry, which was approximately 30 miles away from where Georgia disappeared. While walking they noticed a horrible smell and when they looked to see what the smell was, they found Georgia’s body. She was found face up, with one leg bent at the knee. Her body was so decomposed that she needed to be identified by medical and dental records. Her parents never saw her body. For two decades, a small part of her mom hoped that the girl found in the woods was not Georgia after all. She just hadn't seen any proof, she said. In the early 2000s a DNA test was conducted comparing her mother's genes to a small bone sample investigators kept. The DNA was a match. It was Georgia.
She had been stabbed once in the back. An autopsy concluded that she hadn’t been sexually assaulted. Georgia’s parents first heard about the discovery of the body from a friend who had been watching the news. That evening when police knocked on the door, they already knew what they were there to tell them.
The town was shook because since there were no signs of a struggle, it was through that the murderer was someone in the small town. One of the main suspects in the slaying was Albert Lara who came to investigator’s attention in September of 1980. Lara was incarcerated in prison in Fort Madison, Iowa, for the murder of 15-year-old Jill Annette Peters when he confessed to Lake County Sheriff Malcolm McCall: “I turned off what seemed to be a gravel road, well, a paved road. Half and half. And 300 yards or so, I spotted a girl there. I pulled over . . . pulled over on her side. She was opposite of me, and I started talking to her, asking directions. And while I was talking to her, a car went by. After the car passed, I grabbed her, got out of the car and threw her in the car. Drove up about two, maybe three hundred yards and spotted a house, so I turned around . . . I drove down a couple miles or so and pulled over where a bunch of trees were and kind of hid my car and . . . threw her in the back of the, I guess, the trunk or whatever. Then I drove on, found some trees, sat there and drank some beer, thought a while, and then I took her out of the trunk and put her in the back seat. I guess I commenced to rape her or something. She started struggling. She got away. I grabbed her, and at the time, my right hand found an object, an ice pick or a screwdriver or something, and I stabbed her on her lower back . . .”
His confession was found to be inconsistent with the evidence and he was ruled out as a suspect. The case went cold for over 30 years.
In 2013, investigators announced that they finally had a new lead. Investigators had been reviewing the case when they came across a photograph of a cross necklace that Georgia was wearing when her body was discovered. Initially it was believed to be a necklace she had received from her grandmother for Christmas, but after further investigation, the necklace was found to not have belonged to Georgia. This necklace appeared to be a handmade from motorcycle parts. Linda believes that this necklace is key in identifying Georgia’s killer.
In a small town of 400 people, it is weird that nobody saw anything. No new faces, no strange car... this is why so many believe that the killer is one of their own. The case remains unsolved to this day.
Brittany's Kunz Family Murder Notes:
Athens, Wisconsin, is a town of less than 1000 people and less than 2 and a half square miles
On July 4, 1987, happy day with fire works and joy, but it ended not so happily for the Kunz family.
Three elderly siblings and their 30 year old nephew were murdered by gunshot wounds to the head on their property in the middle of the night, while they were sleeping. Kenneth Kunz, another nephew of the siblings, lived on the property but in a separate trailer from where his two aunts, uncle, and brother were killed.
The next morning, Clarence Kunz (76), Irene Kunz (81), Marie Kunz (72), and Randy Kunz (30) were found with two .22 caliber bullet holes in their heads. Marie was on the steps just going into the house. Randy was laying on the kitchen floor. Irene was sitting in a chair in the living room. Clarence was in the bed.
Kenneth Kunz, Randy's brother, was the first person to discover the carnage after returning home from the bar. To make matters worse, Kenneth noticed that his mother, Helen Kunz (70), was missing from the home, and he had no idea where she could be.
Kenneth was initially suspected of the crimes, but once it as discovered he was of limited intelligence, suspicion fell to his mom, Helen, since she was missing.
"We have about five, six, seven different theories that we are basing the investigation on. And some of them call for the possibility that Helen could be alive and the possibility that she could be dead," explained Detective Harold Bean.
The Community's Response & The Kunz Family Quirks The Community, quite obviously, was shocked by the gruesome murders. Marathon County has on average of one murder a year at most. Athens resident started to lock their doors at night, something few ever did before. Also shocking, was how nobody seemed to know anything about this reclusive family. No friends. No real acquaintances. Nobody seemed to have any answers. Why were four elderly siblings all living in the same small house?
Sadly, the story about the Kunz murders became less to do with the actual murders than who this family was and how they lived.
The Kunzes lived on a 108-acre property 6 miles west of Athens. The house was old, and in terrible shape. To make matters worse, they were horders, there was no running water, and there was no furnace. All food they ate was was cooked on an old wood-burning stove which also heated the house. For a restroom, they had an outhouse in the woods. Old cars littered the property. Surprisingly, $22,000 in cash was found throughout the house: in drawers, boxes, and out in the open. The Kunz's house was barely fit to live in. Despite the unkempt interior of their farmhouse, the Kunzs did have a few modern conveniences, including a television and a VCR. When the home was searched after the murders, an enormous library of sexually explicit video tapes and magazines were found. The police believed that the Kunzs watched adult films together as a family. This hypothesis was furthered by a remark Helen had made to a store clerk a few weeks prior to her disappearance. While purchasing an electric toaster, she mentioned that she was angry with her family for watching "dirty movies" on the VCR. The family was also very much into incest. Prior to their deaths, Helen slept in the same bed as her adult son Randy, and Clarence, Marie, and Irene all slept together in the living room. Kenneth was born to Helen when she was 15 years old. A neighbor at the time was tried and convicted of impregnating her and was sent to prison. Kenneth, however, didn't believe that. He stated he was told Clarence was his father. He also believed Clarence was Randy's father – but he didn't really know for sure who either of their fathers were. Kenneth talked about seeing Helen and Clarence engage in sexual activity when he was a child. Where is Helen?
After the murders, people couldn't find Helen. The community rallied around the hope that Helen would someday be found, and created t-shirts and buttons with "Where's Helen?" printed on the front. A massive shoulder-to-shoulder search was conducted of the fields, forests and swampland on the Kunz`s 108-acre farm, as well as of property and wetlands three miles north and several hundred yards to the south, west and east. A specially equipped FBI airplane scanned the area. Wells and abandoned shacks were searched. A garden behind their farmhouse was probed with rods and a sensing device. All places they could think of were searched, and neighbors in every direction were interrogated. Unfortunately, Helen's body was discovered nine months after the murders, near a creek in Medford, WI. She was also shot in the head. This new grisly piece of evidence only served to further complicate an already baffling mystery.
The Kunz Family History The Kunz parents were Ignatz and Anna Kunz. In December of 1905, Ignatz and Anna were living with Ignatz's mother, Mary in her home in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Anna came home one evening, while Ignatz was away for work, and found her mother-in-law dead in her bed, bludgeoned to death by her other son who also lived in the home, J. Wenzel Kunz. Wenzel Kunz lived out his days in an insane asylum, as did a third brother who was institutionalized before the murder of Mary occurred. So there was a lot going on in this family from an early age.
Ignatz and Anna moved to Marathon County where Ignatz worked for a logging company. Their children were raised in an 18 x 20 crudely built log cabin. Isolated and poorly educated, with mental illness running pervasively in the family, the children only had themselves. They stayed that way until that fateful summer night in 1987. Who Did It?
Many believe that the murders of the Kunz family were the work of Chris Jacobs III, who was a local, small-time criminal who knew the Kunzs from buying and selling old cars. The police felt they had enough evidence against Jacobs based on a robbery motive and brought the case to trial in October 1989. The state's strongest evidence placing Jacobs at the scene of the crime are tread marks left by tires that two experts say match those of tires on Jacobs' car, a 1974 Dodge Charger.
Jacobs told investigators he was in his car the night of the killings until about 11 p.m. when his mother said he returned home to his family's small rural house about eight miles from the Kunz farm. He has no alibi witnesses for the time of the murders, estimated about 10:30 p.m. His defense attorney told jurors it would have been impossible for Jacobs to have killed the Kunz family members at 10:30 p.m., buried Helen Kunz in a swamp 18 miles away, and returned home by 11 p.m.
A ballistics expert concluded that 29 of 101 .22 caliber shell casings found in Jacobs` bedroom were fired from the same rifle that fired the nine shells found at the murder scene. The expert concluded the rifle was most likely a Remington Nylon 66. Such a rifle was purchased by Jacobs' mother in 1977, but it is now missing.
Jacobs' defense attorney told jurors that the murderer could have been a member of the Kunz family. He reminded the jury that the family watched X-rated videotapes ordered by Randy Kunz through X-rated magazines, and sanctioned by Helen Kunz, who paid for them.
The evidence, however, based on tire tracks and shell casings, was purely circumstantial and Jacobs III was acquitted on all five counts. In a surprise twist in his case, a jilted ex-girlfriend later came forth to say that Jacobs confessed to her of the murders. He was then brought up on new charges. He could not be brought up on murder charges, however, based on Double Jeopardy – which means you can't go back to criminal court on a charge you've already been found not guilty of. He was therefore brought up on kidnapping charges regarding the alleged abduction of Helen Kunz. For this, Jacobs was convicted to a 31-year sentence.
To this day, he maintains his innocence and the Kunz murders are still officially unsolved. Other Kunz family murders facts suggest that the murders were committed by Helen, the missing family member who had purchased bullets a few weeks before her disappearance. In April 2018, about 31 years since the murders, an article was written on the WSAW news station, channel 7, and it noted that no one was ever convicted for the murders but the sheriff's office says the case is closed because they're confident they know who did it and he is in custody for something else.