AN UNSOLVED MURDER IN MADERA: Part 5
MADERA - The Madera Police Department looked into several theories of what happened that March night in 1985. All in an effort to explain the death of Glenn Reitz, the head of the Thomas Jefferson Junior High English Department.
Local bars and truck stops were descended on by detectives seeking out information. Local people were interviewed as to their possible involvement in the killing. There were even moments when it seemed plausible that Reitz could belong with the lists of other victims killed by murderers that some may identify as serial killers.
In the 1980's, Joyce "Rocky" Flint worked in the field of HIV and AIDS treatment in the Fresno area. She managed a retirement residence before becoming a case manager for the Central Valley AIDS Team. This was considered relevant to Reitz' case because Flint was also the mother of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer.
Dahmer was probably the most infamous serial killer in the last twenty-years. He had murdered seventeen men and boys between 1978 and 1991, with the majority of the murders occurring between 1987 and 1991. His murders involved rape, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism.
In July of 1991, Madera Police detectives contacted Detective John Finnegan of the Milwaukee Police Department. His task force was investigating the numerous homicides occurring in the Milwaukee area. The Madera detectives asked if they found anything in their investigation that determined if Dahmer was in the Madera area in March of 1985, thinking that it was possible he had been in the area to see his mother.
Finnegan told detectives that "to his knowledge" Dahmer had never been in California and that according to their reports the serial killer was in the Milwaukee area in March of 1985. The detective also pointed out that "to this date" all of Dahmer's victims had been dismembered, a pattern which did not fit the Reitz case. Which must have satisfied Madera PD that there was no further link, since that was the last notation in the file referencing communication with the Milwaukee Police Department. Later, Dahmer was serving sixteen life terms when he was bludgeoned to death in 1994 by another inmate at the Columbia Correctional Institute where he had been incarcerated.
In 2004 DNA linked a former Madera resident to a 1986 homicide of a young woman in Hanford. While in prison, former Madera High student Robert Conrad Watson was compelled to give a DNA sample. It was not until 1999 that a database was developed to match DNA samples from crime scenes to violent offenders in custody.
Hanford Police matched DNA samples from semen left at the 1986 crime scene with the DNA samples taken in the prison. Watson, 19 years old at the time of the murder, was an acquaintance of the Hanford victim and a person of interest in the investigation, but not a suspect. "It is pretty clear he is our perpetrator", Kings County District Attorney Patrick Hart said after the DNA matched up in July of 2004.
The victim had left church at noon on the day she was murdered and was found dead by her husband in the early evening hours in her home. She was beaten, stabbed with a kitchen knife and strangled with a lamp cord. Her clothes were ripped off and police, at the time, would only say that "sex was a part of it".
In 1984, a year and a half before the Hanford murder, Watson had also been accused of rape and robbery of a Madera woman at knife point. Madera Police were not able to apprehend Watson for this crime.
At the time of the DNA match, Watson was serving time in prison on a manslaughter conviction. He was convicted of slashing a man's throat in 2000 at Avila Beach. One of the details in the case which seemed it might be similar to Reitz' was that Watson was caught by police because he tried to use the man's credit cards after the murder. However in 2004, after sending the forensic evidence they had for comparison, Madera Police Detective Sergeant Ken Alley received a letter from the California Department of Justice Laboratory in Fresno stating that Watson's finger prints did not match prints found at the scene of the Reitz murder.
As we learned in last weeks article, Reitz 1976 Toyota Celica was located in Louisiana just a stones throw from Shreveport. In 1985 Shreveport police were looking for a drifter that was hitchhiking his way across the country leaving robbery and murder victims from coast to coast.
Among the various known criminals which Madera PD compared the Reitz case to, this was the one that was most thoroughly documented, adding more pages than any other in the Reitz murder file. The "drifter" was ultimately identified as convicted killer Darrell E. Crider, twenty-five years old at the time. In January of 1985 Crider and his younger brother Russell had brutally beaten a gay bartender to death in Shreveport, stealing around $4500. Two secret grand jury indictments were handed down in the case and a man hunt for the two brothers began.
According to a newspaper article published by the Shreveport Times, Shreveport Police Detective Gary Alderman had said the identification of these two brothers had been kept from the public at the time so as not to alert the two that warrants had been issued against them. Russell Crider, only nineteen, and Darrell's girlfriend were eventually arrested in Las Vegas on the murder warrants, but Darrell was no where to be found.
While in custody in Shreveport, Russell told police of his brother's exploits. He said Darrell preferred to travel alone but sometimes had a companion. He would hitchhike rides, then rob the drivers of their cars and credit cards and in some cases, murder the drivers. He was already wanted for murder in Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Colorado and Arizona. Warrants were also issued for robbery in California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Colorado.
According to Detective Alderman, Darrell would solicit homosexuals at truck stops and when the opportunity arose, rob them of their cars. In Tucson, Arizona, Darrell had killed a man after the man's roommate had given Darrell a place to stay for the night. To Darrell it was all about transportation and money. Russell's comment was that his brother didn't even see the victims as people.
Alderman spent over a year on the manhunt for Darrell Crider before he was finally arrested in California for the robbery of a Loma Linda, California drugstore. He had pled guilty to the crime in a California court under the false name of "Steven Dana Williams". Luckily, California authorities had managed to determine that the man they were about to sentence to only four years for robbery was actually a fugitive killer on the FBI's most wanted list with warrants issued in ten states.
The older Crider was traveling with a younger male around the time of the Reitz murder, Alderman told Big Valley News. The detective believes that Crider, who is now serving life in a Louisiana prison, was more than capable of being responsible for this murder. "I always thought there would be more victims. Every time I hear of a unsolved transient related murder from the time, I wonder if Darrell was involved."
The Federal Bureau of Investigations got involved in the Reitz case when links surfaced between the Madera murder and a murder in the Yosemite National Park just three days before Glenn Reitz was killed.
On Saturday March 16, 1985 18 year-old Helle Olsbro, who had been in the park for less than two hours when she was brutally attacked, was killed along a tree-line scenic trail from the Ahwahnee Hotel towards Indian Caves, beneath Washington Column. She was alone on the trail when someone savagely stabbed the teenager 47 times in a matter of minutes leaving her for dead on the dirt trail.
Another couple just a hundred yards behind the girl heard her bloodcurdling screams but did not rush to her aid. The couple said they were frozen with fear and indecision when they heard the screams. It took the couple a few minutes to regain their composure and rush to the young woman's side.
What they found when they reached the scene was the victim collapsed on the ground bleeding heavily. Olsbro was literally gasping her last breath of life before dying on the trail. The couple was too late to have stopped the young woman's attacker or to have seen who may have committed such a senseless crime.
It took park rangers at least ten minutes to get to the crime scene where all they found was the dead girl's body. Attempts to seal the park exits may have taken up to two hours. Rangers with SCUBA gear searched the nearby waters but no discarded murder weapon was ever found.
Over 150 interviews were conducted but none revealed any motives for the killing. With over a thousand park residents and thousands of tourists in the park on that crowded Saturday evening no evidence was found that might help lead investigators to the woman's killer.
In July of 1985 the FBI looked into the death of Glenn Reitz as having a possible tie to the killing of Helle Olsbro. There were similarities between the two cases that caused the FBI to believe that there was a possible connection. Specifically, both killings were very violent and the motives for the killings were unknown to investigators.
Olsbro was a foreign exchange student and the daughter of a Scandinavian diplomat from Gentofte, Denmark. In a Madera Police report filed on May 4, 1985, Margaret Rogers called the Madera Police that she remembers seeing the pretty blond girl talking to someone she believes was Glenn Reitz at the Coarsegold Inn on the day the student was killed in Yosemite.
She says she remembers the victim of the Yosemite killing telling her that she was from Denmark and was positive the woman was the same woman that was killed hours later. While the report does not give a time the witness said she saw the two murder victims together, from the timeline given to police by fellow teacher Dean Blankenship, Reitz was with him at Eastman Lake during the afternoon of that day just 26 miles away.
Rangers only had one suspect in the Yosemite murder, a concessionaire rooms' keeper who had a history of stalking young blond students at the University of Stanford (significantly, Stanford was Reitz's Alma Mater and he often wore clothing such as sweatshirts and T-shirts with Stanford insignia). The subject was questioned by authorities but he had an alibi.
After questioning, police determined that the alibi was only able to place the subject away from the crime scene starting forty-five minutes after the murder. Forty-five minutes would still have been plenty of time for him to have committed the murder, clean up and return to the general population of the park where he could be seen. Unfortunately, without a motive, weapon, witness or any specific evidence, neither the FBI or Park Rangers had enough to make a case against the man.
Other than the witness who says she saw Reitz speaking with Olsbro, there is no information in the case file about any other connection between Reitz and the Helle Olsbro's killer. Like the Reitz case, the murder of Helle Olsbro has remained unsolved.
Next week we will cover what will probably be the most controversial theory of these articles, the local murderer theory. After hours of interviews of local people close to the case, I will attempt to lay out the two theories of how Glenn Reitz may have been killed by someone from Madera, possibly to protect a secret life that some think Reitz was about to expose.