The five Christmas mysteries that have baffled authorities

Christmas is usually a time for good news and joy, but it’s also the backdrop to a series of mysterious crimes.

Numerous Christmas murders and mysteries dating back to the 1940s remain unsolved to this day, and armchair detectives may have some answers this holiday season.

news week has a summary of five tragic events that have stunned the authorities and continue to do so.

The five Christmas mysteries that have baffled authorities

JonBenet Ramsey
JonBenét Ramsey, 6, was found beaten and strangled to death in the basement of her home in Boulder, Colorado in 1996. The case was never solved.
The Case by: JonBenét Ramsey/CBS

1. The missing Sodder children

On Christmas Eve 1945, five children from the large Sodder family disappeared and were never seen again.

Their family home in Fayetteville, West Virginia was the scene of a large fire, and while parents George and Jennie and four of their children managed to escape the burning building, five of their children went missing and their remains were never recovered.

They were 4-year-old Maurice Sodder, 12-year-old Martha, 9-year-old Louis, 8-year-old Jennie and 5-year-old Betty.

In a strange and disturbing turn of events, when George Sodder tried to save his children, a significant number of unexplained issues emerged, including a missing ladder, windows that wouldn’t open, and no fire station operator to work that night.

How the fire started and what happened to the Sodder children remains unknown to this day, but according to several true crime podcasts such as case file True Crime, A possible motive relates to George’s criticism of the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini. George was an Italian immigrant and his opposition made him a vulnerable target for the Sicilian Mafia.

George destroyed the home before it could be determined if his children were dead or missing.

Corresponding Smithsonian, the surviving Sodder family believed for the rest of their lives that their relatives had survived the fire. In the 1950s, a billboard was put up with pictures of the children and a reward was offered for information. It remained standing until Jennie Sodder’s death in 1989.

2. The murder of Paul Logan

On December 23, 1993, Paul Logan was working as a Chinese food delivery driver in Blackhill, County Durham, England when he was called to deliver an order to Blue House Farm.

When Logan got to the farm, the father-of-two was told the homeowners hadn’t placed a food order, and he headed back to his car.

The owners of Blue House Farm sounded the alarm later that evening when they noticed his white Peugeot was still down the road from their house. When the police arrived, they searched the area and uncovered Logan’s body. He had been beaten to death.

His family is still looking for answers today.

In 2021, Northumbria Police were reviewing the case and Detective Superintendent Ian Sharp told Britain’s Chronicle Live news agency that his team had interviewed 2,271 people, made 903 statements and followed up 1,796 lines of enquiry.

“I’m open to why Paul was killed,” Sharp said. “This murder was so planned and well organized that it is extremely unlikely that the killer acted alone. It is likely that at least two people, possibly more, were involved.”

3. The case of JonBenét Ramsey

On Christmas Day 1996, six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey was found dead at her family’s home in Boulder, Colorado.

Ramsey’s body was discovered in the home’s basement seven hours after she was reported missing, along with a ransom note. The autopsy report ruled her death a homicide caused by “asphyxiation by strangulation related to traumatic brain injury.”

At first, police suspected the pageant queen’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey, to be responsible for her death. However, there was insufficient evidence to charge them with any offences. They were fully exonerated as suspects in 2008.

Another theory put forward by police was that an intruder broke into the family home and committed the murder. In 2003, DNA was found on Ramsey’s clothing, which belonged to an unidentified man.

To date, Ramsey’s killer has never been found and her death has been the subject of numerous podcasts, documentaries, films and television dramas. People around the world are still trying to understand how this could have happened to a little girl.

In 2006, John Mark Karr confessed to killing Ramsey in an email, but no evidence was found linking Karr to the crime. Karr was never charged.

Her death is still considered a cold case and remains an open investigation with the Boulder Police Department in Colorado.

4. The “Christmas Tree Lady”

On December 18, 1996, a woman who became known as “The Christmas Tree Lady” was found dead on a sheet of plastic in the Pleasant Valley Memorial Park Cemetery in Annandale, Virginia.

She was around 60 years old and had never been identified.

Next to her body, police discovered a Christmas tree, a tape recorder and a note that read, “Deceased by hand…prefer no autopsy” and signed “Jane Doe.”

The note also called for her to be cremated and included money to help cover the costs. Her cause of death was ruled as asphyxiation and investigators believed she took her own life.

However, no one came forward to identify Jane Doe for nearly two decades, and the motivation behind her death remains unknown.

Earlier this year, DNA and genealogy research led to the identification of “The Christmas Tree Lady.” She was Joyce Marilyn Meyer Sommers, originally from Davenport, Iowa. According to, she was the eldest of five siblings.

At the time of her death, Meyer was not reported missing and had no family in the immediate area. Relatives had hired a private detective to look for her, but to no avail.

5.Ed and Minnie Maurin

It took more than two decades to find out what happened to elderly couple Ed and Minnie Maurin.

On Christmas Eve 1985, the couple’s bodies were found in a wooded area after being shot in the head near their home in Ethel, Washington.

It wasn’t until 2012 that her family finally got justice when witnesses presented evidence, but for years the couple’s unexpected deaths puzzled authorities. An investigation in the 2010s revealed that the Maurins had been kidnapped by Rick Riffe and John Gregory, notorious drug dealers in the area, who forced them to withdraw $8,500 in cash.

They were then driven into the forest and shot dead in their car. Unfortunately, no witnesses came forward for fear of retaliation from the men. But years later, Rick and John Gregory were singled out from a lineup by witnesses who saw them in the Maurins’ car.

John Gregory died before he could be arrested, but Rick Riffe was charged with two counts of first-degree murder, two counts of first-degree robbery and one first-degree burglary.

He was found guilty and sentenced to 103 years in prison. The five Christmas mysteries that have baffled authorities

Rick Schindler

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