Another year of startling twists and turns, with the Alex Murdaugh double murder trial and an arrest in the Gilgo Beach killings.
There was no shortage of true crime stories in 2023, what with the trial of Alex Murdaugh for two murders and an arrest related to the Gilgo Beach killings. These seven high-profile cases have been all over the news this year and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.
Murders in Idaho
What transpired: In November 2022, four University of Idaho students—Kaylee Goncalves, Madison Mogen, Xana Kernodle, and Ethan Chapin—were brutally murdered in an off-campus residence in Moscow, Idaho. Bryan Kohberger, a 28-year-old Ph.D. candidate and teaching assistant in Washington State University’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, was charged with their murders in January.
Although authorities have not stated a reason for the killings, court documents indicate that Kohberger was in the vicinity of the victims’ residence on a minimum of twelve occasions before the murders occurred. Although the murder weapon was missing, a bloodstained sheath that had been DNA-linked to Kohberger was found at the site.
Next steps: Kohberger’s not guilty plea was entered by a judge in May. Upon conviction, he may be subject to capital punishment. Although prosecutors have suggested a summer 2024 trial date, no such date has been officially announced.
The trial of Alex Murdaugh
Alex Murdaugh was found guilty of shooting and killing his wife Maggie and son Paul at their 1,770-acre hunting lodge in the South Carolina Lowcountry in June 2021 as part of an unsuccessful attempt to conceal his financial fraud. The trial lasted weeks and had enough drama to warrant a Netflix series.
The 54-year-old heiress to a prominent legal family and ex-attorney was given two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of release. He received a 27-year prison term for financial crimes in November.
What comes next: Murdaugh refuses to acknowledge guilt for the deaths of his loved ones. His attorneys are requesting a second trial on accusations that the court clerk interfered with the jury’s deliberations.
Murders at Gilgo Beach
What transpired: In July, 59-year-old architect Rex Heuermann was apprehended without incident near his Manhattan office. He was charged with the long-unsolved Gilgo Beach murders, which included the deaths of three women: Melissa Barthelemy, Megan Waterman, and Amber Costello. According to Heuermann, he is innocent.
Their 2010 find—two bodies strangled and wrapped in burlap on a lonely Long Island beach—led to the discovery of seven additional remains in the vicinity, creating a macabre murder mystery that became the basis for a podcast, a Netflix series, and a best-selling nonfiction book.
What’s next: A grand jury is currently deliberating whether or not to prosecute Heuermann with the murder of Maureen Brainard-Barnes, a fourth woman who went missing and died in 2007.
There is currently no scheduled trial date for Heuermann, but a documentary on the case will air on NBC, and members of his family, including his wife Asa Ellerup, will be featured in it. Even though she is not a suspect in the murders, Ellerup divorced Heuermann just days after he was arrested.
The case involving Brian Walshs
The case revolves around the 47-year-old Massachusetts man Brian Walshe, who faces murder charges related to the abduction of his 39-year-old wife, Ana Walshe. “I am not guilty,” he said. On January 2, the day after his wife was last seen, he was caught on surveillance camera purchasing $450 worth of cleaning goods from a Home Depot near their Cohasset, Mass., home.
Walshe is accused of dismembering his wife and disposing of her remains. The prosecution claims that he used their son’s iPad to conduct incriminating Google searches, including “How long before a body starts to smell,” “What does formaldehyde do,” and “Can you be charged with murder without a body.”
While waiting for sentencing, Walshe was ordered to remain in his house. He had pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in April 2021 related to the selling of counterfeit Andy Warhol paintings. During this time, his wife went missing.
After this: Tracy Miner, Walshe’s attorney, hinted at a potential defense during his April arraignment. She said that, due to the ease with which someone can disappear, in Massachusetts, a missing person is not presumed dead for seven years. “No body has been found,” Miner stated. “No murder weapon is found. Nothing is driving this. On January 23rd, the matter will resume with its next hearing.
Murder of a cyclist in Austin
The following events transpired: 35-year-old yoga instructor Kaitlin Armstrong of Texas was convicted this month of first-degree murder for the 2022 death of 25-year-old professional cyclist Anna Moriah Wilson. Wilson had been romantically involved with Armstrong’s ex-boyfriend, Colin Strickland, who was also a professional cyclist.
Just hours after meeting up with Strickland, Wilson was discovered dead in the house of a friend in Austin, Texas, from numerous gunshot wounds. The police interrogated Strickland and Armstrong for a considerable amount of time. Armstrong escaped before authorities could apprehend her, but Strickland was acquitted.
In June of 2022, she was apprehended at a Costa Rican hostel. She was found with her sister’s passport and a plastic surgery receipt for $6,360, according to a search warrant. Armstrong was brought before an Austin court on first-degree murder charges after her extradition.
Among the pieces of evidence offered by the prosecution during her trial was DNA found on Wilson’s bicycle and surveillance footage showing Armstrong’s 2012 Jeep Cherokee circling the area where Wilson was shot.
Protein shakes reportedly poisoned by dentist’s wife
James Toliver Craig, a 45-year-old dentist from Colorado, was accused of killing his wife, Angela Craig, in March. In order to have an affair with another woman, prosecutors claim he poisoned his 43-year-old wife’s pre-workout protein shakes with arsenic and cyanide. He then killed her.
According to investigators, Craig allegedly poisoned his wife’s shake in early March with arsenic and then, after she pulled through, he lied to the supplier and ordered a quick shipment of potassium cyanide, claiming it was necessary for an upcoming surgery.
Court records show that Craig searched for “how to make poison” and “is arsenic detectable in autopsy?” among other damaging terms.
Joran van der Sloot confessed in October to bludgeoning and pushing the body of Alabama girl Natalee Holloway into the water on an Aruban beach, thus solving the mystery of her disappearance that had persisted for nearly twenty years.
In a related prosecution involving wire fraud and extortion, van der Sloot made the shocking revelation that had long been associated with Holloway’s 2005 disappearance. The incident occurred on an Aruba beach, according to van der Sloot’s plea deal, when Holloway rejected his advances and kneed him in the groin. After kicking her in the face, he proceeded to locate a nearby cinder block, which he used to “smash her head in with it completely” before he collected her corpse and pushed it into the ocean.
Van der Sloot expressed his utmost regret to the Holloway family during his sentence hearing. “I have changed a lot from that person back then to the one I am now. I put my trust in Jesus Christ, and he has been my strength during this ordeal.
What’s next: As a result of his conviction for wire fraud and extortion, Van der Sloot received a 20-year prison term. In Peru, he is already serving a 28-year term for the murder of Stephany Flores, a college student who was 21 years old. While he is incarcerated in Peru, the 20-year sentence will be served concurrently.
His mother expressed tremendous satisfaction with his confession, even though he will never face trial for Holloway’s murder.
For Beth Holloway, “As far as I’m concerned it’s over, it’s over” was her response to media waiting outside court. My daughter’s murder suspect, Joan van der Sloot, has been dropped. The murderer is he.
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