006 - Dorothy Scott & Jesse Ross
Dorothy Scott was a 32 year old single mother to a four year old boy living in Stanton, California. Stanton was a small town in southern California, not far from Anaheim. Dorothy lived with Aunt, and worked as a secretary for two stores under the same ownership. She was a hard working woman, described by friends and family as a home body, not much for going out or dating and was focused on raising and providing for her son. According to one friend, Dorothy’s life was “as dull as a phonebook.” Dorothy worked from early in the morning, until late at night while her parents babysat her son, Shawn. She was a devout Christian who did not drink, nor use drugs. Co-workers described her as kind hearted, dependable and hardworking. On the evening of May 28th, 1980, Dorothy would vanish from a hospital parking lot when she went to retrieve her car.
Dorothy’s disappearance, however, did not appear to be a random abduction. Several months prior to her disappearance, Dorothy began receiving disturbingphone calls at work. The phone calls were from a yet unidentified man, and covered a range from flirtatious statements to declarations of love to threats of violence. In several calls the man told Dorothy that he had been stalking her, and was able recount intricate details of her comings and goings on specific days. Obviously the man on the phone knew what she was doing each day and had to have been following her. Dorothy began to get frightened, and where she had previously dismissed the calls as pranks or just a random guy trying to scare her, the frequency of calls and the way that he knew so much about her day to day life began to weigh heavy on her. Dorothy would later tell her mother that the voice on the phone sounded familiar, but she just couldn’t put a name to it.
During one particular phone call, the man told Dorothy to go outside because he had something for her. Dorothy went out to her car, where she found a single, dead rose on her windshield. One of the last calls Dorothy received frightened her so much that she began taking karate lessons. She also talked to her mother and co-workers about getting a gun. Unfortunately, Dorothy never got around to purchasing a gun and the karate lessons she had signed up for, began roughly a week before her disappearance.
On the evening of Wednesday, May 28th, 1980, Dorothy dropped Shawn off at her parents’ house and headed in to work for a meeting. One of Dorothy’s co-workers, Conrad Bostron, had a large red splotch on his arm and looked ill. During the course of the meeting, Dorothy noted that Conrad appeared to be uncomfortable, and was looking worse. Also, the red splotch on his arm appeared to be growing. Dorothy finally interjected, and over the course of several minutes, managed to convince Conrad to let her take him to the hospital. Conrad acquiesced and another co-worker, Pam Head, decided to go along with them. On the way to UCI Medical Center, Dorothy stopped by her parents house to check in on Shawn and then continued along, getting Conrad in to see a doctor.
Dorothy and Pam exchanged small talk while Conrad was being treated. Doctors managed to determine that Conrad had suffered a black widow spider bite, and wrote him several prescriptions for treatment. At approximately 11pm, Dorothy told Pam and Conrad to wait for the prescriptions, and she’d go out and get the car to pick them up at the door. At the time, Dorothy was driving a white, 1973 Toyota station wagon. She didn’t want Conrad to walk too far as he still wasn’t feeling well and according to Pam, Dorothy stopped in the womens restroom and then exited out into the parking lot. Several minutes later, after getting the medication, Conrad and Pam walked out of the hospital, wondering why Dorothy had yet to arrive with the car. They stood just outside the doors of the hospital for several minutes, beginning to wonder if Dorothy was having car trouble, or if perhaps she had forgotten where she’d parked.
Slowly, out of the darkness, Dorothy’s car appeared and began approaching. Suddenly, the car began picking up speed and while Conrad and Pam watched on helplessly, the vehicle sped passed the entrance to the hospital. Neither Conrad nor Pam was able to get a look at the driver of the vehicle, as its headlights had temporarily blinded them. Conrad and Pam ran after the car, calling out to Dorothy, but the vehicle zoomed through and exited the parking lot, turning right and disappearing into the night. Pam turned to Conrad and, with a hint of annoyance in her voice, asked “Can you believe that?”
Conrad and Pam became concerned, wondering if maybe Dorothy had had some kind of an emergency issue she had to take care of, or something she’d forgotten about. They couldn’t fathom why Dorothy would just leave them there, and she was driving eratically. Two hours later, Pam and Conrad were still there, wondering what happened and growing more worried by the minute. They decided to place a call to UCI Police, but the Police didn’t consider this event something to be greatly concerned about. Pam then called Dorothy’s parents to ask if Shawn was all right and if Dorothy had come there, but they hadn’t seen her since she stopped by on the way to the hospital.
Five and a half hours after Dorothy’s car was seen speeding out of the parking lot, at 4:40am, it was found in an alley about ten miles from the hospital. The car was abandoned, and someone had set it on fire. There was no sign of Dorothy. UCI Police immediately began investigating, and communicated to Dorothy’s family that it was very important that they keep the information to themselves. They advised that the family not giving an interviews or reports to newspaper or television reporters. Until they could get a handle on what exactly they were dealing with, they didn’t want to spook anyone who may have kidnapped Dorothy and possibly cause him orher to do something to her.
A week passed, and there was no new information on Dorothy. No one had heard from her, or a possible kidnapper. All of that changed when the phone rang at Dorothy’s parents house and her mother, Vera, picked up. The unidentified man who had been taunting Dorothy was on the other end and asked “Are you related to Dorothy Scott?” Vera answered yes, and the man responded, saying “I’ve got her.” Then he hung up. Over the course of the next week, the man kept calling on every Wednesday, something saying that he had kidnapped Dorothy, and other times saying that he had killed her.
After another week passed and UCI Police seemed to have nothing new, Dorothy’s father Jacob became frustrated and decided to reach out. He contacted the Santa Ana Register, a local newspaper, and recounted the story of the phone calls and Dorothy’s mysterious disappearance. The Register ran a story on Dorothy, and the day that it hit the newsstands, a phone call came into the Santa Ana Register. The called asked to speak to the editor and was connected to Pat Riley. According to Riley, the man on the other end said: “I killed her. I killed Dorothy Scott. She was my love. I caught her cheating with another man. She denied having someone else. I killed her.”
At first, the editor thought this was just a crank caller, but the man was able to legitimize his claims. He delivered specific information which only someone who had seen Dorothy that night could have known. He knew that Dorothy was wearing a red scarf and that she had brought Conrad and Pam to the hospital that night. He knew that Conrad had been bitten by a spider. These are details which had not been printed in the article the Register had run. The caller claimed that Dorothy had called him from the hospital, but Pam Head disputed this saying that Dorothy was by her side in the waiting room the entire time and the only time she wasn’t was when she stopped in the women’s room before walking out into the parking lot.
For investigators, Dorothy’s ex-husband became the first suspect in her abduction. However, he appeared to have an air-tight alibi. At the time of the crime, he was at his home in Missouri. Police followed up, questioning all of Dorothy’s co-workers multiple times. They were able to determine that since Dorothy’s job as secretary had her back in the office, and not out working directly with the public, that it seemed unlikely her abductor was a customer to either shop.
The next move for Police was to round up local area sex offenders and question them, but didn’t manage to gain any helpful information. They began working their way through Dorothy’s friends and acquiantances looking for people who disliked her, people with criminal histories or anyone who felt like they might have something against Dorothy, but came up blank. In their desperation for answers, Dorothy’s parents consulted with two separate psychics but nothing useful came from these meetings. Following in suit, the police even contacted their own psychic, but again, no viable results were received.
For the next several years, the phone calls continued coming into Dorothy’s parent’s home. Police installed a recording device on the line, tapping it in hopes of receiving a trace. They managed to catch the caller’s voice on tape, but were never able to trace it’s origin point. Each time the calls came in, Vera would answer. However, on one occasion, in April of 1984, Dorothy’s father Jacob answered and the caller abruptly hung up. The calls seemed to have stopped, for the time being.
Four months later, in August of 1984, over four years since the last time Dorothy was seen, a construction worker discovered skeletal remains in some brush off Santa Ana Canyon Road, in Anaheim. The bones discovered, a pelvis, an arm, two thighs and a skull, were found under several inches of soul, which in turn were under the skeleton of a dog. Along with the bones there was a turquoise ring and a watch, which had stopped at 12:30am on May 29th, 1980, an hour and a half after Dorothy had disappeared. Dorothy’s mother positively identified the turquoise ring as belonging to her daughter, and tests confirmed that the bones were in fact Dorothy’s remains.
The discovery of Dorothy’s remains were printed in the local papers, and as soon as the reports began showing up, two more phone calls were received. Both times the caller asked, in a sarcastic tone, “Is Dorothy home?” Investigator’s continued to work Dorothy’s case, but following the discovery of her remains, no new leads were developed and no one came forward with further information. The phone calls stopped, after those last two, and never happened again.
Sadly, both of Dorothy’s parents have since passed, her father Jacob in 1994 and mother Vera in 2002. They went to their grave never knowing who killed their daughter, or why. Police believe that the anonymous caller was the killer, but have never been able to identify him. As the years have gone on, the case has grown extremely cold, and exists now only in locked files in the possession of the UCI Police Department. This case has notoriously received very little coverage, and even today, if you search for it online or in newspaper archives, you won’t find a great deal of information. It has been Thirty Seven years since Dorothy Scott was abducted and murdered. Her son, Shawn, is not forty-one years old, and wasn’t given the chance to grow up knowing his mother.
The phone calls to Dorothy, and to her parents after her death, are absolutely haunting. The psychopathy of a man who could torment a woman, kidnap her, murder her, and then continue to torment her family is startling. Unfortunately for Dorothy, her parents, and her son, no answers have ever been found. No arrests have ever been made in this case, no suspects have ever been identified. This is truly one of the most baffling, and disturbing cases of abduction and murder. Sadly, short of a miraculous break in the case, or an outright confession, it seems unlikely that we will ever know the identity of the anonymous caller and the man who murdered Dorothy Scott.
[Thoughts & Theories]
The abduction and murder of Dorothy Scott is a strange and disturbing one. It feels like something straight out of a horror movie with an extremely twisted villain. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a work of fiction and Dorothy’s life was taken from her far too soon. Her four year old son was left without a mother, and lived the rest of his life never getting to know or learn from her. Outside of the memories of family, and photographs, Shawn Scott never really knew his mother.
Dorothy’s case is one of the few cases of this nature where we do not have a long list of suspects or a large amount of theories. Outside of Dorothy’s ex-husband, who was halfway across the country at the time, no suspect was ever named, and as far as I’ve been able to discover, no one was ever questioned in possible connection to her abduction and murder.
We have the phone calls, and there are apparently still recordings of them in Police possession, but for those who have heard the calls, they simply have stated the it is a male voice, slightly disguised. It is a gruff voice, throaty and angry, but details beyond that are scarce. According to newspaper reports, the police not only taped the messages, but tapped Dorothy’s phone and attempted to run traces on the number, but the man never stayed on long enough for the trace to be successful.
Tracing a phone call isn’t what they tend to show you in the movies. Hollywood has taken the concept and used it as a plot device. If you’ve seen a movie where they are trying to trace a phone call, they can never seem to keep the caller on the line long enough of to complete the trace. However, in reality, and in the current day, it is immediate. We are living in the digital age, and as soon as the police trace the number, the carrier is able to provide them with the number, the address and name it is assigned to and the point of origin.
Even cell phones are able to be tracked based on a 2006 order by the Federal Communications Commision which requires cell phone networks to feature location tracking GPS. However, things were somewhat different back in 1980.
The transition to digital took place during the 1980’s, but for the most part, phone calls were still being routed through switchboards manually during the late 1970’s. So, essentially, even into the late 1970’s, when telephone calls were places, operator’s would have to physically plug in to different circuits to route the call. When Police would need to track the origin point of a number, they would contact the telephone company who would then have to spend the time to track back through all of the circuits and pinpoint the point of origin. However, the call must be active during this time. So, if a call was transferred through even as little as five switches, the caller would have to be on the line for ten minutes just to narrow it down. Sixty seconds would be enough to maybe find the first or second switch, meaning that they wouldn’t be able to pinpoint a place of origin. They might get an area, but not a specific location.
Dorothy was living in Stanton, California. So, it is possible that when tracing the number, they may have been able to get it down to knowing if the call happened in Northern or Southern California, but not a town or specific location. Even if they had determined a town, from that point, it would be difficult to find a suspect amongst the residents. Essentially, the techonology just wasn’t there during Dorothy’s time, and unfortunately, the tracing of the phone calls wasn’t possible since the caller would be on the phone for less than a minute.
All theories revolve around the possible identity of the caller, but not a name, moreso a profile. Many junior detectives have theorized about what time of man this was, but these are all speculative. Some people believe that Dorothy knew the man on an intimate level, or had at least been out on a date or two with him, while others believe the man may have only known Dorothy from a distance and never had more than a slight exchange of pleasantries with her.
Following the latter, first, assuming that this man didn’t know Dorothy on more than a cordial basis, there are a couple of possibilities. The first theory is that this was a man suffering from some form of mental disability. It isn’t hard to imagine that someone who is struggling with any number of psychological disorders could have come across Dorothy, and she being the polite, sweet and compassionate person she has been described as, was likely polite and kind which could have convinced this man that there was more going on there than simple niceties. It isn’t unheard of for someone to develop an obsession and convince himself that there is a relationship there, when there isn’t. This often happens to celebrities in the case of stalkers. They create a fantasy world where they have a relationship with this person, usually breaking into their homes, placing phone calls or confronting them in public. Is it possible that the man that murdered Dorothy was obsessed and thought there was more to them?
Maybe, but in the case of celebrities, they are in the public eye, they can be in movies, or singing songs, which can connect to a person. Usually the stalker is unstable to begin with, and their presumed connection is based on something that celebrity has done with they feel a very personal connection with. This isn’t the case with Dorothy, and to me, it seems unlikely that an unhinged man simply met her a time or two and thought that they had more going on than they did. Obviously it’s difficult to imagine the mindset or thought process of someone suffering from some kind of mental disturbance, but it just doesn’t seem like a logical progression to me.
There is also the fact that Dorothy reportedly told her mother that she recognized the voice, but couldn’t put a name to it. This leads me to believe that it is likely that Dorothy had to have conversated with this person at least a handful of times for his voice to have left and impression on her like that. Often times when you speak to someone on the phone, their voice sounds slightly distorted or different than it does in person. I know my voice does, and people often think my voice is deeper than it is in person. So, for Dorothy to have found something in that voice which flicked a light of recognition, suggests to me that she knew this man on more than a happenstance meeting level.
So that leads us to the theory that Dorothy knew the man who would abduct and murder her. We know that Dorothy had an ex-husband with whom she birthed her son, Shawn. The details of their separation are unknown, but we have no reason to believe that there was violence or threats. It was said by friends and family that Dorothy wasn’t much of a going out type of person, but I have read reports that she dated here and there, which makes sense. She was, by all descriptions, and from looking at her photo, a young, attractive woman. It’s unlikely that she didn’t get asked out for dinner once in a while.
So, it is possible that Dorothy had gone on a date with the mysterious caller? Perhaps. I think it goes one of two ways. Either Dorothy went out on a date or two with the man, but didn’t feel the attraction or wasn’t interested, which resulted in his rage. Or, perhaps, Dorothy rejected his come ons and turned down his attempts to take her out, which again, could set off his anger. The strangest thing about it all is the man confessing his love for her, and then threatening to kill her. This shows obvious signs of some kind of psychological problem, an inability to regulate emotions, almost a bipolar shift from love to hate, from desire to violence. Crime involving love is not necessarily uncommon, and frequently people who are murdered and done in by someone they are currently, or were previously in a relationship with.
In Dorothy’s case, I don’t think there could have been many dates, if any at all. Were you to date someone, you probably talked to him on the phone a few times, and I think you’d remember. Plus, usually someone who behaves in this manner is going to show signs of it while you are talking to him so it’s unlikely to me that Dorothy managed to get to know her killer very well. Someone this prone to obsession and violence, who is so out of control with his emotions, is unlikely going to be able to keep that under control long enough for Dorothy to not notice. And had Dorothy noticed, it’s unlikely she wouldn’t have made the connection herself as soon as the calls began.
So that sort of brings us back to square one. I don’t think Dorothy knew the man well, and I don’t think she dated him, or if she did it was a cup of coffee and a short interaction. However, as far as I know, police weren’t able to track down and interview and potential ex boyfriends. So that leads us to another theory, which is a little strange, but so is the entirety of this case
Some people theorize that Dorothy was stalked, called, abducted and murdered by someone in her inner circle. Now, Dorothy would probably recognize the voice of a friend, but not necessarily that of a friend of a friend or a mutual acquaintance. Whoever committed this horrible crime had, what he believed, was a strong connection to Dorothy, and was around her enough to feel that pull. Stranger abductions and murders are more rare than you would think, at least without the added desire for robbery or some other crime which is the main force behind it.
The man knew Dorothy’s day to day routine, he knew her vehicle, her place of business and was able to successfully follow her around without being noticed. He knew where she worked, and he even where she lived. Now, one idea which makes this a little less likely to me is that Dorothy would probably have noticed someone following her, especially if she recognized him. However, we don’t know exactly what kind of person Dorothy was, and she might not have paid that kind of attention to the goings on around her. You see it everyday, people walking around and not noticing the things around them. So was Dorothy murdered by someone she knew?
It seems likely that the man who killed her knew her on some level. She somewhat recognized his voice, he felt a strong connection and he knew her comings and goings and felt safe following her around. I just don’t think that a complete stranger would commit the time and effort to track a woman he didn’t know. A stranger might just lunge, and attack, but I don’t think he would make the phone calls or stalk her more than was necessary.
The incident at the hospital is very strange. The man had to have followed her there that night, which means he knew she had a work meeting, or he had followed her from her house that night. Either way, to have decided to abduct her when she was with other people, who could have stepped out of the hospital and seen anything at any moment is a very brazen act. He abandoned her car ten miles from the hospital so it’s possible he had parked another vehicle there, and then taken public transportation to the hospital, although this would have been difficult to do since he didn’t know how long she would be in there, and she could have walked out and left while he was traveling. Also, she had two people with her, and he must have known this, so it seems more likely that he drove his own car into that hospital parking lot, abducted Dorothy, and at some point, returned to retrieve his car.
We know Dorothy’s car was found five hours after she vanished, and that based on her remains which were recovered, her watch stopped an hour and a half after she was taken. So, it seems likely that the man abducted Dorothy and likely murdered her in or near her own vehicle. I can’t think of another reason to set her car on fire, other than to destroy potential evidence. The fire is going to draw attention, and the killer wouldn’t want the car to be found too quickly, so to burn it would only make sense if there were something in it he didn’t want found.
The phone calls are part of what makes this case so haunting. Calling Dorothy and taunting her is one thing, sick and twisted as it may be. But to taunt her parents for years after her murder, and then to do it again after her remains are found, is beyond sick and moves into the range of psychotic. He took pleasure in this, it made him feel powerful. The way he called, after her body was found, and asked in that sarcastic tone “Is Dorothy home?” is absolutely disturbing. It almost seems like he was having fun with it.
He also called the local newspaper and claimed responsibility, saying that he had murdered Dorothy. That they had been lovers, that she had been seeing someone else and wouldn’t admit it to him. You have to wonder how much truth is in these statements, if any. We know the Police believe the caller was likely the killer, but do we know for certain that the same man who called the newspaper was the one who was calling Dorothy’s parents? According to the editor, he was able to provide details which weren’t public knowledge, and that was enough for Police to believe it was the same man. So, how much truth was there, were he and Dorothy lovers at some point? It’s possible, but I suppose that all depends on how strictly you define the word lover. To some people that means, physically intimate, and to others that means dating.
Either way, the identity of the man was never discovered and now, thirty seven years later, it seems unlikely that it will ever be known. There is always the chance that someone will confess, or new evidence will come to light, but the sad truth is, the murder of Dorothy Scott will likely never be solved. Her parents passed away, never know who took their daughter, or why. Dorothy’s son, Shawn, grew up, lived his life, and to this day, doesn’t know the truth of not only what happened to his mother, but who she truly was. It’s a remarkably sad case, with a brutal and disturbing ending. Who do you think murdered Dorothy Scott? We don’t even have so much as a single suspect to work with, and the case has long grown cold, and fills space in the back of a filing cabinet, next to other similar, sad stories without resolution.
Many people have heard the case of Brian Shaffer. It has received massive media coverage, and continues to baffle investigators and theorists. If you haven’t heard about the case of Brian Shaffer, I’d like to run through a few of the details before getting into an eerily similar case.
Brian Shaffer was a 27 year old medical student at The Ohio State University. On March 31st, 2006, Brian went out to dinner with his father Randy to celebrate the beginning of his spring break. Randy reported that Brian seemed exhausted, having stayed up late most nights cramming for exams. Randy assumed that Brian would be crashing for the night, but Brian had plans to meet a friend later. Randy expressed concerns, and advised his son to get some sleep, but Brian was unconvinced.
At 9pm, Brian met his friend at The Ugly Tuna Saloona, a seafood restaurant and bar. Brian called his girlfriend, Alexis Waggoner at approximately 10pm to tell her that he loved her. Brian and his friend then hopped from bar to bar until around midnight, when they ran into another friend who gave them a ride back to the Ugly Tuna. The three drank together, but at some point, Brian separated from his friends and despite several phone calls, he could not be reached. At 2am, all visitors to the Ugly Tuna exited, as they closed down for the night. Brian was not amongst those exiting the bar. When Brian’s girlfriend and father couldn’t get in touch with him the next day, they filed a missing persons report.
Police went to the Ugly Tuna to examine their surveillance cameras, and saw Brian standing outside of the bar at 1:55am talking to two young women. Brian then moves off camera, in the direction of the entrance to the bar. He is never seen on camera again. This is where the case of Brian Shaffer goes into mystery as no evidence or leads have been developed, and Brian has never been found.
There are a great many theories about Brian, and the media has given it widespread attention. If you’re interested in knowing more, you can easily find everything you need to know about this strange disappearance. I bring up the case of Brian Shaffer because there’s this strange divide in the media. People go missing every single day and you see a fraction of them. You see the ones, that for whatever reason, the media has decided are worth showing. The ones they think are juicy or will get the most viewers, because, unfortunately, the media revolves around ad revenue just like a television show does. So you’ve probably heard the case of Brian Shaffer, or at least know about it a little bit, but have you ever heard of Jesse Ross?
Jesse Warren Ross, nicknamed Opie because of his red hair, was a 19 year old sophomore at the University of Missouri – Kansas City in 2006. Jesse was pursuing a career in radio, and according to his family, at his young age he had received an opportunity to intern for 95.7 the Vibe on the Shorty and the Boys’ morning show. He was also working for a voice-over internet provider at the time. Things seemed to be lining up for Jesse, and the future he was chasing was coming into focus. Everything he had been working for was now within his reach, and Jesse had so much to look forward to.
In November of 2006, Jesse traveled to Chicago, going to the Four Points Sheraton hotel for a Mock United Nations Conference. According to his mother, Jesse called home on November 20th and told her all about the event. Jesse said he was having a great time and was in very good spirits. Jesse was attending the event with thirteen other University of Missouri – Kansas City students and their faculty sponsor. At the end of his call, Jesse promised to call back the next day when he and his fellow students would be making the trip back to the university.
At 2am on November 21st, there was an emergency meeting called for this mock UN. Prior to the emergency meeting, the over 1,000 attendees were invited to attend a dance and several parties which were happening all around the Sheraton. Following the festivities, Jesse entered into the Emergency Meeting with all other attendees. At 2:30 am a break was announced, and Jesse was seen rising from his chair and exiting the room. A surveillance camera in the lobby captured images of Jesse, dressed in a white t-shirt, jeans and a green jacket. He was walking towards the main entrance of the hotel.
This would be the last sighting of Jesse Ross.
Jesse was not staying at the sight of the Mock UN meeting, but at the Sheraton Hotel & Towers, a ten minutes walk from the conference sight. According to investigators, the route from the conference to the hotel was well lit, heavily traveled and covered by numerous outdoor security cameras. However, no camera caught any sign of Jesse after he exited the conference. At approximately 3pm, the following day, the other students and faculty sponsor became concerned and contacted the police.
Chicago police performed a full investigation, speaking to other attendees of the conference, Jesse’s faculty sponsor and the thirteen other students from his school. None of them had any idea what could have happened to Jesse, nor saw any signs or indication of anything out of place. According to the student with whom Jesse was rooming that night, when he entered the room, he saw a small pile of clothes on Jesse’s bed and mistook them for Jesse himself. According to this student, he awoke the next day and Jesse wasn’t there. He assumed Jesse may have slept in another room, or perhaps had risen early. For whatever reason, this student then decided to pack Jesse’s suitcase for him.
However, Police were frustrated by a lack of evidence to work with. The missing person’s report on Jesse was filed two days before thanksgiving, and according to police, many potential witnesses had already left the hotel to get home for the holiday.
Police could find no signs of foul play involved in his disappearance. The Police have continued to monitor Jesse’s credit cards and cell phone, but there has been no activity on either since the night he vanished. Police even searched a nearby river, but could find no signs that Jesse had been anywhere near it. According to several reports, there is a path from the back of the Sheraton which leads to the river, a very scenic location. However, in November, the river is remarkably cold and can swell. Ice can build up around the edges of the river, and if a person steps too close, they could easily slip in and many people have.
This is the most common theory on Jesse Ross. The idea seems to suggest that Jesse, not native to Chicago, took this back path and went down to look at the view. People speculate that Jesse either slipped, or became distracted while taking a picture with his phone, or in some other way, and slipped into the river. The extreme temperature of the river would put his body into almost immediate shock, and take his breath away.
According to Jesse’s family, this is exactly what police believe happened. Allegedly, the last detective leading the investigation told the family that there is a high likelihood that Jesse fell into the river, and was taken out to sea. It was reported that Jesse, then 19, had been seen drinking alcohol earlier in the night and, to some degree, it appears that the police connect this their theory that he had perhaps drank too much, and thus was more likely to have slipped into the river. However, not all police involved follow this theory. Retired Sgt. Tony Rizzo, one of the original Chicago officers involved in the investigation has since retired, but is haunted by this baffling disappearance. Rizzo later stated in an interview “Their kid goes on a school outing, and doesn’t come home. That one stayed with me for, well, it still does.”
According to one student, it’s possible that Jesse had neither gone to the river, nor back to the hotel, but instead had headed deeper into downtown Chicago to hand out some fliers promoting a band he managed. However, there has been no corroborative evidence to support this. Jesse was last seen at 2:30, and several bars in downtown Chicago don’t have last call until 4am. So it’s entirely possible that Jesse could have come into a dangerous situations in his travels. Chicago is known for being a dangerous city, and a non-native nineteen year old likely wouldn’t know which areas to steer clear of.
Some have theorized, as always happens in these cases, that Jesse may have chosen to walk away, or worse yet, commit suicide. However, Jesse’s parents outright reject any idea or speculation that Jesse walked away, or was suicidal. Jesse didn’t have any known psychological issues, and was incredibly excited about the way his future was developing. They have submitted his DNA to a national database for missing people, but there have not been any hits. They believe Jesse met with foul play, and disagree with the river theory, stating that they firmly believe Jesse had left the conference and headed back to the hotel he was staying in, and that somewhere along the way, he met with one or more shady characters. Don Ross, Jesse’s father, stated in an interview “We’re wondering who’s walking around free in Chicago who may have harmed our son.”
The family feels spurned by the Chicago police, who they feel have dismissed their son’s case and instead focused only on their theory that he had fallen into the river. They have stated, on multiple occasions, that the Chicago police have been cold, and even cruel with them. According to Don, at least one detective told him that people fall into the river and aren’t recovered all the time and that he should move on with his life and forget about it. In response, the family has done many events in Jesse’s name and each year requests that people send birthday cards addressed to Jesse to the Chicago Police so that they don’t forget about him.
Each year, the Ross family hosts an event in their hometown in honor of Jesse. They have hired a private investigator and have published two books about Jesse’s disappearance. Brian Rose, a documentary filmmaker spent four years investigating and conducting interviews for a forthcoming documentary about Jesse’s disappearance.
Jesse has not been seen nor heard from since the moment he walked off camera in the hotel lobby. His family holds out hope that someday they will find answers, that someone will come forward with new information, or, even the grim possibility of a body being located. To lose a child is a terrible thing, and to add in the grief of having no closure, and nearly eleven years later, still fighting for the memory of that child is a grueling process that takes a lot out of the family. Ross’s parents now refer to Chicago as the evil city that stole their son away from them.
Sadly, not much, if any, information has come to the surface since Jesse vanished. Jesse Ross had red hair and blue eyes, stood five foot ten and weighed approximately 140 pounds at the time of his disappearance. Did Jesse slip into the river, and wash out to sea as detectives have suggested, or did something more sinister take place on the streets of Chicago that night?
[Thoughts & Theories]
The disappearance of Jesse Ross is as frustrating as it is tragic. A nineteen year old man with such a bright future ahead of him, all of these doors opening into the career he was pursuing, a caring family who were so happy and proud of him and then suddenly, all of it is gone and we are left only with haunting questions. You don’t expect your child to go on a trip for school and to not return home from it. There is an expectation there of safety and security, knowing that he is with thirteen other students, and a faculty member for supervision.
Jesse’s faculty supervisor has since left teaching. Jesse’s disappearance still haunts him, and for a long time he avoided being the supervisor on the Mock UN trip again. However, he had to step in for another teacher who fell ill, and was the supervisor one more time after Jesse vanished. During that trip, another student was reported missing. He was found, safe and sound, but that was just a horrifying reminder and left the supervisor unable to continue on. Clearly, he was traumatized by what happened with Jesse, and can’t let go of the guilt associated with his responsibility to look out for his students.
Jesse’s parents struggle with his loss every day. They have been extremely proactive, writing books, participating in a documentary, appearing in the media, hiring a private investigator, pushing the Chicago police to work harder and operating a website which tells Jesse’s story and seeks to find the answers. The greatest loss for a parent is the loss of a child. It’s not the natural order of things, to lose your children before their time. However, in the case of Jesse’s parents, it hasn’t broken them. It has given them drive, sparked a fire which pushes them forward every day. They will not give up, and they cannot be at peace, until they find out what happened to their son.
According to the security camera footage, Jesse was last seen in the hotel lobby at 2:30am. He isn’t actually seen exiting the building, instead walking off camera in the direction of the doors. Other students who attended the mock UN that week have stated that there was another entranceway which many of them were using. It was more of an accessway for staff. If there are cameras on those doors, it is unknown if they captured any video of Jesse that night. We know there is a path which leads from the back of the hotel down to the river. We also know that, on the street, it was no more than a ten minute walk back to the hotel Jesse was staying at, and that pathway is fairly well covered in security cameras which would have seen something.
Much like the case of Brian Shaffer, Jesse seems to have inexplicably vanished without a trace, surrounded by a thousand other students, in a bustling city. When you examine it from all angles, there are really only a few possibilities of what could have happened to Jesse. He either fell into the river, as the Chicago Police believe or met with foul play, as his parents believe, or chose to walk away from his life, as no one believes. I have said it before, when someone disappears, the idea that they simply chose to walk out on their life is always one of the core theories that comes up. However, in my experiences, this is very rarely the case. In terms of Jesse, he was building a life and just beginning to achieve the goals that he wanted so desperately. He had a caring family, no hints of trouble or despair, and no indication that he wanted to be doing anything else. Jesse didn’t walk away, and there has been no activity on his cell phone or credit cards since that fateful November night.
So that leaves us with the two most common theories, and probably the two most likely. We’ll begin with the river. The Chicago river is a combined system of rivers and canals that in totallity runs 156 miles through the city of Chicago, including the downtown loop near Jesse Ross, into Lake Michigan. Research suggests that falling into the Chicago river and drowning isn’t exactly an uncommon thing, but it doesn’t happen constantly either. The river has a strong flow and in the winter time is extremely cold, with ice deposits developing along the edges. Lake Michigan itself is one of the great lakes, and don’t let the word “lake” fool you. At its widest, the lake is 118 miles across, and at its longest it is 307 miles from North to South. Just to put it into perspective, Lake Michigan is comparable in size to entirety of Ireland.
Jesse was nineteen and had never been to Chicago. It’s not hard to imagine a scenario where he would want to take a walk down to the river to examine the scenic beauty, or maybe snap a photo with his cell phone. According to witness reports, Jesse had been drinking that night, but Police have stated based on security camera footage, he didn’t appear to be intoxicated. Based on that information, it seems unlikely that he drunkenly stumbled and fell into the river. However, simply because he wasn’t clearly drunk, doesn’t mean his reflexes and decision making weren’t effected by his drinking. It’s too much to speculate on, but suffice it to say, according to this theory, Jesse finds himself down by the river.
I’ve always been fascinated by people who fall into bodies of water, because, frankly, it happens a lot more than you think it does. It’s entirely possible that, as Chicago Police believe, Jesse Ross accidentally fell into the Chicago River. The cold water would have been almost impossible for him to escape, weighed down by his soaked clothes, and working against the current. You would think someone could have heard him calling for help, if he managed to get enough breath into his lungs to do so. That frigid water can take your breath away and make it almost impossible. The water would have washed Jesse out into Lake Michigan.
As stated earlier, in December of 2016, the Chicago Police found a badly decompossed body in lake Michigan. However, the more details emerge, the more it seems unlikely that this could be Jesse Ross. The body had certain items on it, suggesting that the decedent was a local and had made purchases in the area as recently as 2014. However, in the past few years, several bodies have been found in Lake Michigan. It is possible that if Jesse did indeed fall into the Chicago River, and end up in Lake Michigan, his body will eventually be found. However, the more time passes, the more unlikely this scenario becomes.
That leaves us with a theory of foul play, and unfortunately, very little to go on in relation to it. According to Chicago crime statistics, in 2006 there were: 467 murders, 2.8 times the national average, 1524 rapes, 1.7 times the national average, 15858 robberies, , 3.7 times the national average, and 17479 assaults, 2.1 times the national average. Suffice it to say, this can be a dangerous city to wander around in at 2:30am when you’re a local, let alone a nineteen year old from out of town. From everything I have read, the area of the conference and the hotel Jesse was staying at is one of the safer areas of Chicago, however, I’ve also seen several interviews and discussions that the area may be considered safe, but you still wouldn’t want to be walking down the street, alone, at 2:30 in the morning.
It’s possible that Jesse came into contact with someone who meant to do him harm. The problem is, we just don’t have any evidence to point us in any one particular direction. Even the river theory is only speculative in nature, and the result of what is most likely. So yes, Jesse absolutely could have been accosted by someone which resulted in his death. I do have to believe, though, if Jesse were walking toward the exit of the hotel, as the cameras show, and his plan was to go back to where he was staying, then he would have been seen on another camera.
One friend suggested that Jesse might go downtown to pass out fliers for a band he was promoting, but I consider this much less likely. I don’t think he would be foolish enough to wander around at 2:30 in the morning, by himself, to try and promote a band. This seems more like something you’d do at a decent hour, and not to mention, not something that would be done in the middle of the Mock UN meeting, which is the entire reason you’re in Chicago in the first place. The meeting didn’t end until much later that morning, so the idea that Jesse planned to walk away from it for more than a few minutes doesn’t connect for me.
So where was he going? I’ve often wondered if Jesse was a smoker. If you’ve ever been a smoker, you know that after a long meeting, or a good meal, one of your favorite things to do is to step outside and light up. I can’t know for sure, but if Jesse smoked, I could easily see him stepping out of the hotel to take a quick smoke break. Where he went from there, however, is where every piece of information in this case leads to: nowhere.
What happened to Jesse Ross? Did he meet a terrible fate by falling into the Chicago River, or was something more sinister involved? This case is incredibly frustrating in that there is so little information known about his movements that night. Most people I’ve spoken to, and read interviews with, believe that the most likely answer is in the River. Jesse’s family doesn’t agree, and believes someone knows exactly what happened to their son that night. We can only hope that someday, answers will be found, and Jesse’s family can find peace in the certainty of what happened. What do you believe happened to Jesse Ross?