There was a number of things that were cut from my piece about the Sodder family to get it down to eight minutes. I’m posting some of it here, and then some comments, for people who are well acquainted with the Sodder story. For those of you not acquainted with the story, none of this will make any sense to you, and you might as well skip this post.
All the newspaper stories in the past seem to be weighted towards the conclusion that the children did not die in the fire. But I found just as much information to indicate that they did. I can see how that happened, though. When I put this story together, after meeting the family, every piece of evidence I found that pointed towards the children’s deaths felt like a betrayal. Who wants to insist the children are dead? I hate saying anything that might remove hope. If 60 years later I am having trouble pointing out anything that might indicate that the children died that night, I can imagine the reluctance of people who had to look George Sodder in the face.
However, even though I think they died in the fire, there is enough genuine weirdness about this whole thing, and a couple of things that were not adequately investigated, that if someday it is learned that the children did not die in the fire I won’t be shocked. But weirdness does not necessarily equal murder, and I don’t think that’s what happened.
I found out all sorts of things, like the fact that some remains were found on Christmas morning (although the family says they were never told this) and also that the oldest son John said he went in and shook his brothers and sisters. The family says he said that out of guilt, because he felt that’s what he should have done, which absolutely could be true. But it could also be true that he did exactly what he said he did.
Here are some sections that were cut from my piece. I talked to a number of fire professionals in Fayettevile (and I talked to a friend in the FDNY before I interviewed them). They all felt it was likely the children died first.
STERLING LEWIS: If it got in the walls, it could literally have traveled straight up, what we call chimney and go straight into the top floor and not even burn the 1st floor. Start in the basement and go to the 3rd floor. Cause fire will jump like that.
Very few individuals burn to death, they’re always dead prior to the fire getting there due to smoke inhalation.
HORN: Why did the two oldest boys make it downstairs and none of the others? Is it possible that some of the children succumbed to smoke inhalation but two didn’t?
STERLING LEWIS. Absolutely. We get that all the time. We’ll find individuals laying in bed, dead, and then we’ll find another individual that’s laying a foot from the door. I mean they were going to get out.
HORN: The family also bring up the fact that they never smelled burning flesh. But Lewis explains that no one would have been standing downwind from a fully involved fire. [And according to witnesses, it was a very windy night.]
[About the Fire Department not arriving until the next morning.]
HORN: It wouldn’t have mattered even if they had arrived. Sterling Lewis, West Virginia State Fire Marshall.
STERLING LEWIS: Let’s just say it takes a ten minute drive from the firehouse to the fire, there were no such things as our self contained breathing apparatus, there would have been no entry into that house by a firefighter. So therefore there would have been no rescue. [However, every fire professional I spoke to said they still would have shown up, regardless. Not one of them were trying to excuse Morris. I want to be clear about that.]
HORN: Finally, the one fact that everyone comes back to: little remains were found the next day. And what little was found was internal organs and that just seems, well, weird. [The family was never told that any remains were found, but the State Fire Marshall interviewed everyone who was on site the next morning and four people reported seeing remains, including one of Jennie Sodder’s brothers and a local priest. Whether or not they were being truthful, I cannot say.]
STERLING LEWIS: In a fire, when the rest of the body is absolutely almost destroyed, whatever would be left of entrails a lot of times will turn just a beautiful shade of red. And that’s what we look for because then your black and your grays of all the char and everything, this red it jumps out at you.
HORN: All the experts the family consulted agree that more remains would have been found from a fire that only burned for 45 minutes before the roof fell into the basement. But the fire didn’t burn for 45 minutes. It burned all night long and into the next morning. When the fire department did finally appear it was still hot and they had to water the site down before conducting their search. Further, two hours is not even close to a thorough search. Today the search would take days and possibly weeks.
[It wasn’t that the remains were not there, necessarily, but they might have been missed by people who weren’t professionals, and who didn’t search for very long. The search that took place in 1949 sounded even less methodical. At this point, any remains would have been buried under four or five feet of dirt for four years, and a real search would need to be even more painstaking and would take even longer, now we’re talking months.]
The scene was not roped off and guarded, while they weren’t searching. That would never happen today. And because George Sodder bulldozed dirt into it, the scene is was contaminated.
SGT. MIKE SPRADLIN: … the authorities had no way of knowing if it had been dug and bones planted or bones taken out.
[The family says George filled in the basement because he felt no one was ever coming back. I can totally see him doing this out of grief and frustration. It is understandable.]
HORN: The family held onto a statement made by Ida Crutchfield, who ran a small hotel in Charleston, West Virginia. In 1952, seven years after the fire, she claimed she saw the children a week after the fire. She’d never met the Sodder children, she had only seen their pictures in the paper two years after the fire. Not a credible witness.
SGT. SPRADLIN: For them to be carried out of that house and held against their will for that many years is implausible, because they could have easily escaped their captors. They’ve grown up, had children of their own, and for them never to try to contact the family is just, I just don’t buy that. From my reviewing of the report there was really no stone left unturned, they tried to find those children if they existed and it was just those children were never located.
BRAGG: There was a guy that committed a theft while the house was burning, he was stealing from one of their out buildings while they were trying to save their children. Now what kind of person would do that? That is just absolutely … that adds to the mystery of this story 100 percent. It’s just crazy to me.
HORN: But it’s not likely that someone would kidnap the children and then come back and steal some block and tackle, the objects that he confessed to taking. He also said he cut the phone wires, that were indeed cut that night. No one believed him because the phone wires were cut at the top of the phone pole. But that might explain why on the night of the fire, George Sodder never found the ladder that was always leaning at the side of the house. It was used to cut the wires.
HORN: The police also never adequately investigated a man who made threats to the Sodder family before the fire, and who stood to gain financially, from the fire.
[This is Janutolo. But this points to possible arson, not kidnapping, and that’s one area I still have to investigate. From what I was told about him, he was not in need of money, was liked and respected in the community.]
HORN: But even George Bragg, who researched this case and who doesn’t believe the children died in the fire, concedes that some parts of the story indicates that they did. In the police report, the Sodder’s oldest son John said he woke the children.
BRAGG: It has been my experience when dealing with police reports and interviews after something like this happens, the first response by the person you are talking to is usually the most truthful, and that was his very first response. He told the state police that he walked into the room and shook the children and told them to come on downstairs, and to me that’s the one thing that I cannot understand. That would indicate that those children were in that bedroom.
HORN: The family believes John said that because he felt that was what he should have done. Perhaps he was not the only questioning his actions.
SPRADLIN: Survivor guilt plays into it. The adults get out of the house and the children don’t … I’d always be second guessing myself, maybe I could have done more and more and more … I’d want to believe that someone else was responsible and those children were alive and being held somewhere …
STEVE CROOKSHANKS: I’ve rarely seen a family that had a tragedy like that that did not want to believe, it’s a psychological thing, you want to believe that something caused this to happen. This just couldn’t have been a natural event.
SPRADLIN: It’s similar to suicides … it’s a suicide until a year and a half afterwards, then to the family’s way of looking at it it turns unto a murder … even though they may agree with it for the first year and a half, two years, then all of sudden it hard for them to accept those type of situations.
Those are the cuts I thought people who follow the case might be interested in.
There were all sorts of things I was able to find out that I didn’t use because I knew in the end that the piece had to be 8 minutes.. I’m trying to remember now. The caller who made the wrong number was found by the police and questioned. She was just a neighbor who made a wrong number.
The guy who stole the block and tackle was arrested and paid a fine.
About John Sodder shaking his brothers and sisters. It’s perhaps meaningful that John was the one child who never wanted to talk about the fire, and thought they should just let it die.
The fire wasn’t aggressively investigated at first because everyone was satisfied that they died in the fire. Once it became clear that the family thought the children were still alive, the State Police and the Fire Marshall did investigate. Every theory that was brought forth that could be investigated was investigated, as was every lead, except at this point I can’t tell if they thoroughly investigated Janutolo. They may have, but I haven’t confirmed it yet. But the Sodder family didn’t make a lot of noise about Janutolo, and since they didn’t hesitate to make their objections known, that seems to indicate they too were satisfied that either Janutolo was not involved or that he was satisfactorily investigated. But still, he was the one person who had a motive (for arson, not kidnapping) and his name should have been all over the files and it wasn’t.
The cut phone wires were never adequately explained. It’s not that they didn’t try, but short of an eye witness, there was no way to know what happened. But it’s another fact that points to a possible crime.
I also found that according to the police and FBI records, at one point the Sodders thought one of Jennie’s brothers had the children in Florida and her own relatives were investigated, and they had to prove their children were their own. (Given that law enforcement professionals agree that if the children were removed from the house that night, either family or friends or relatives of the family were involved, it makes some sense.)
Fire Chief Morris was the one who was told to take care of the remains that were found on Christmas morning. I question the judgement of the fire marshall about leaving something so important in the hands of a volunteer, but I think Morris’s story about reverently burying the remains was possibly a story he made up to cover up the fact that he threw the remains away or just left them there. Then, when George Sodder asked him to show him where he buried them, Morris buried the beef liver so that there’d be something to dig up.
No physical evidence survives to this day, and the scene of the fire was contaminated (as dramatically demonstrated at the 1949 dig) when Mr. Sodder bulldozed the site, so I’m not sure what an excavation would accomplish today, although it couldn’t hurt, I guess. But, as Spradlin points out, since anyone could have removed the bones, or put bones in, it’s not likely to resolve anything one way or another. If the family wants to pursue this option, Spradlin explained, they would need to speak to the prosecutor’s office, although it might be hard to convince them to proceed since the site is contaminated. Again, I personally understand Mr. Sodder’s actions, I do not mean to sound critical, but nonetheless, it did contaminate the scene. (A lawyer could advise them here.)
Most of the people I wanted to talk to are no longer with us, so there is still no way to definitively say what happened that night. People can and probably will going on believing whatever they want.
I want to stress that although I believe the children died that night, I have no way of knowing what really happened. I am sorry if bringing up any of these new facts is hurtful. I could be absolutely wrong wrong wrong, and I am open to people pointing out where I am wrong.
My blog has a comment section, so if anyone, and especially members of the family, want to contest anything I have said, or simply respond, please feel free to do so. The new facts are open to interpretation, and my way of looking at them is only my opinion. As I’ve said before, the facts will not add up the same way for everyone.
47 thoughts on “LONG, LONG, LONG Sodder Post”
I listened to this story on my local NPR station and that is how I eventually found your blog. I think you did a great job investigating and writing about this – fair and interesting = Well done.
The picture of the a man sent to Mrs. Sodder in 1967/68 is posted on Websleuths, Missing in WV
Thank you for your reasoned and rather thorough discussion of this case. The longer that this tale is told the more that the urban legend grows.
I think that is a rather simple case. The house caught fire and as in many fatal fires some people got out and others didn’t. The fire burned for quite awhile and eventually the second floor collapsed into the basement. Whatever remains were left were buried under all if that debris. The cursory inspection the next day by a volunteer fire chief (who apparently did not know how to start a fire truck) should be discounted.
Any speculation that the children were kidnapped is ludicrous. How does someone kidnap five people in the middle of a fire and not be noticed?
All of the parents efforts in the following years was simply an effort to deflect their own shame from not being able to save their children.
It was a pain too great for them to accept. I feel terrible saying that, and for coming to the conclusion that I did.
I wonder how thoroughly John Sodder was questioned. If I understand correctly, he and another brother were in one room in the “attic” while the children were in another. It makes sense that he may have lied about waking the children because he was afraid and just ran out without saving them. But, some other details about this story leave me wondering. The mother claims to have been awakened and found the lights on, doors unlocked and shades drawn. Without a better understanding of the family habits, its hard to know if this is a clue or simply a result of children not taking responsibility for locking up and turning things off before going to bed. However; it does seem like possible evidence that a crime of some sort took place in the house prior to the fire. Is there any transcript of the questioning of the daughter who fell asleep on the sofa, or the older sons? It is even remotely possible that somehow the son John was involved in something inappropriate and covered it up by setting the fire? The mother heard a sound she said was a sound on the roof and then she fell back asleep. What floor was she sleeping on? If she was on a floor lower than John, then why did the sound not wake him? Or was he the one making the sound in the attic? What was the story from his brother? Or the daughter who slept on the sofa? What were the emotions and actions of the older sons immediately following the fire? Sure would like to read the interviews of those who were present.
I’m sorry for taking so long to respond. It’s now been years since I worked on this story and all my notes are filed away! You ask some very good questions though. If I ever decide to revisit this story I will get back to you. It’s a story that continues to haunt.
People keep mentioning excavations to dig for bones—but isn’t it more likely that the remains were simply removed with all the rest of the debris from the fire when that was cleaned up and hauled away? I don’t know how fire sites were cleaned up back then, but I suspect everything was scooped up with a steam shovel or a tractor with a front loader and then loaded into dump trucks and hauled away.
A very good point. At the time they had a strictly voluntary fire department and they were not trained, and the site didn’t receive anything remotely resembling crime scene protection.
Thanks, I got onto this story through the Smithsonian article, and then listened to your broadcast. I find it very intriguing and of course very very sad for the poor parents living with their hopes for all those years but passing on without answers, or bodies to bury. I don’t know what I really think – but there is certainly strong arguments for the children all having passed away in the fire, and the subsequent investigation being utterly incompetent because everyone just assumed they were dead so why bother to look too hard – it was a holiday and volunteers wanted to get home to their own children perhaps. Callous view perhaps, but monumental tragedies like this make people feel like they should just let the family be to grieve, and perhaps digging around for tiny bodies just felt disrespectful. I don’t know. I would love to find out some day that the kids were safe and well, but it does seem unlikely. Thanks for your research, it’s been very interesting to follow!
And thank you. Yes, it’s a very sad and enduring mystery. If we long for answers one can only imagine how the family feels.
Maybe a “gofundme” could be created to fund a new and professional excavation of the site. I know it’s been many many many years, however, if there are human remains (bone), DNA testing can prove relation as well as gender. I feel this would be the only way to confirm and end this for the family!!
There are so many people who are obsessed with this sad story, I bet it would get funded, but they would have to get permission from the current owners of course.
The detective. What happened to the detective?
Kind of strange all of the stuff that went on in one night. Missing ladder, trucks won’t start…by itself, not so strange, but all together…questionable.
Is it possible the five children were easily accessible ( young enough to be persuaded yet old enough to follow direction) and easily led out of the house, possibly by someone they knew/ trusted before the fire was started? Sex trafficking?
And I think it’s easy enough to explain why any of the five, if they lived long enough, would fail to contact their family as adults. Shame, fear…who knows the lives they lived.
Such an interesting case.
The fire seems to have been deliberately set, and the children almost certainly perished. But has anyone looked into the possibility that their remains were removed from the scene shortly after the fire to preclude the possibility of the arsonist(s) being prosecuted for murder?
Well, the family and neighbors were there until the fire department volunteers got there so I don’t see how, the fire was still burning, etc. lots of witnesses.
By shortly after the fire, I mean the period of days between the fire department’s two-hour search for remains and when George Sodder covered the area with soil. The most likely time would have been when debris was removed and hauled away from the site (as Jim wrote in his April 26, 2015 post), which I understand occurred before Sodder moved the soil. I’m not a conspiracy guy, but if there was a cover up by local authorities to protect someone from murder charges, this would have been the easiest time and method to remove evidence.
Well, anything is possible of course, but it does seem to be a bit of a long shot.
In this case, every plausible answer seems to be a long shot! I appreciate your serious research on the mystery, and the forum for rational discussion.
For me, the real question is not what happened to the children–it seems pretty clear they were dead, if not that night, then soon after–but who started the fire? The unusual happenings before the mother woke up and found the place ablaze are what pique my interest–the missing ladder, the phone line being cut, etc.
It seems probable to me that the house was set on fire with some kind of incendiary device that was either thrown or shot onto the roof, and the phone line cut to prevent the family from calling for help. It is the kind of crime I could attribute to the Mafia, whose advances George Sodder may have rebuffed. I can also easily imagine them putting the strong arm on the fire chief to discourage him from hurrying to the fire or investigating too thoroughly. They are also one group that could conceivably keep this secret for 75 years.
Fascinating case, thanks for the blog post. Stuff You Should Know brought me here.
And of course setting the fire early on Christmas morning, when help would be slow to respond and civil staff thin on the ground, was deliberate.
Hi Courtney! And thank you Stuff You Should Know for the referral!
Thank you for this write-up. The case is tragic and remarkable regardless of the interpretation. I see three possibilities: Either 1) the fire was deliberate, the children kidnapped, and all of it covered up; 2) the fire was deliberate and the children perished, leaving to the tragic, desperate obsession on part of the parents; or 3) the fire was accidental and the children perished, but it happened to coincide with a robbery and threats against the family, which would be quite the stroke of chance. I agree with you here that the children probably perished in the blaze, but I think there was a high possibility of arson. The life insurance salesman specifically mentioning that his children could die in a fire? (At least as Mr. Sodder remembers it.) The ladder removed, and the phone line cut? Mrs. Sodder waking up to a banging, sliding sound from the roof? It just seems too much of a coincidence to me. Yet when the story is discussed, it seems the mystery of the missing children eclipses the suspicious circumstances surrounding the fire.
Yes, it most definitely could have been arson, I agree.
I was born in 1950 in Charleston, WV. I remember passing the billboard on Route 16 as I was taking my daughters to church camp in Summerville, WV. I stopped the car & we got out to read the sign. It has been a mystery ever since. Thanks for keeping with the story.
The phone was still working at midnight, as the mom got a prank call. All the missing kids had requested to stay up late and play with toys. They still had chores to do. They could have been taken when they went outside. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~wvrcbiog/WhatReallyHappenedToChildrena.html
Hi Stacy, I have a few questions I was hoping you could answer:
1. When john (if his original statement is true) went to wake up the rest of the kids in the attain, why didn’t they follow him downstairs? Did they just not wake up? I just find it a little difficult to believe that he went to wake up the kids and there’s smoke and screaming and the kids didn’t wake up or have any movement. And if they were dead then wouldn’t john have realized? I mean he was practically an adult and even if the kids had died maybe even 10 minutes prior to him waking them up there are still signs that a person is dead. I don’t know this is really a strange point for me. Maybe you can explain?
2. Is there any way at all of tracing the address or person who sent the updated picture of Louis? With modern technology, maybe we could get some finger prints? Or at least use facial recognition technology to at least confirm that it is Louis. Because if that can be confirmed then that proves quite clearly that the children were most likely kidnapped. And also the man in the picture bears a striking resemblance to the old picture of Louis. And also what did the caption on the back of the picture mean? Who is little brother Frankie? And did the numbers mean?
3. Whatever happened to the detective who went to research the picture? How could he just magically vanish without a trace. If there is some way to find out what happened to him and why he disappeared I think it would help a lot to the case. Does anyone at least know his name? Maybe there’s a missing persons case for him too?
4. What was the name of the insurance guy? Did you have a chance to interview him or had he passed away at that point? Also, did he have any connections to the mafia?
5. Do you have the emails of any of the surviving members of the family? I would really like to get in touch with them to help them in anyway I can.
I so badly want to cling to the hope that they are somehow alive, maybe even today. But I highly, highly doubt they are alive today. I personally don’t think there is sufficient evidence to disprove kidnapping. For me, the only proof of the children being burned in the fire is the remains. And I also don’t think it’s plausible to think that they burned in the fire but someone removed their bones. That’s more crazy to me then the kidnapping theory. I mean it would so difficult to do that in the midst of the rubble and in plain sight of the parents and other witnesses. I think the mafia definitely had a hand in this. I mean they were an established and incredibly powerful organization esp in the aftermath of the WW2 when their membership dramatically increased. They controlled numerous resources, were quite rich, and controlled many other influential persons like politicians and law enforcement officials. There isn’t anything they couldn’t do. This sort of a stint really doesn’t seem all that implausible. But I don’t know… sadly. What I think likely happened is that they were kidnapped, probably either by the mafia or by someone with strong connections to the mafia. Then either two things happened: first, they were killed right away or maybe taken to Italy and killed so that the bodies could be impossible to find. Or, because of their age, they simply just forgot. I mean Betty was only 5 at that time and if she was given up for adoption it isn’t unlikely that she forgot about her parents. Anyways, that’s just my understanding and theories. I would love to hear what other people think and I would really appreciate it Stacy if you could answer even one of my questions. Also, Buzzfeed recently made a detailed video of the Sodder children, I really recommend checking it out. Thanks!
Hi Sarah. I’m sorry, but I researched this story over ten years ago, and all my files are in a box buried away. I would recommend going to http://www.websleuths.com, where a number of people are discussing this case. At the time I was working on this story, some of the family members were following the discussion, and participating. I think some of the questions you asked in your first section are very good questions.
I am just starting my research on this incident, for a school paper I am writing. I find it sad, but interesting. I honestly have know idea if the children died or not. The only thing that sound weird to me is, the mother said that she let the younger kids stay up and play with their toys. Later, that night the phone rang and she went to answer and no kids were up, all the lights were on and the front door was unlocked. I mean unless she was lying, I find that really odd. Also, I definitely do believe the house was caught on fire. They had just had someone look at their wiring a week before the fire and the lights were on, so I do not think it was faulty wiring. There was definitely some shady things going on that night. Also, I think the son that said he had woke the other children made that up because he was probably getting tired of them looking, and he probably believed they were dead and they needed to move on. He wanted the parents to believe they were gone so they would stop looking for the children he believes had died.
Hi Jessica! Good luck with your research. It’s an endlessly fascinating, but tragic story.
The mom covered up for the older boys,they would have gotten the family business..and had the most to gain..where did they dump the body,s..they could have dug a ditch..say hey Santa left you some presents..come with us …hit them in the head knocked them out threw them in the ditch ,started the fire climb up to their beds..sickening .they are buried, not to far away
Did anyone get pics of the family in Florida and show them to the hotel clerk in Charleston, WV?
Also, did any investigation go into how the mafia operates?
I just wonder, if the children doing their chores outside, happened to run into the arsonists, created a kidnapping on the fly. If the mafia was involved, it might have been why the Fire Marshall and many other officials, did not do a complete job.
If the arsonists were part of the mafia, and ended up taking the children, the mafia may have directed the children to be distributed to around the country.
Did anyone recheck the child in the ballet pic from NY? and see if the child could be interviewed?
If Jennie’s family in Florida were involved in the mafia, they may have given samples that were not from the actual children in question. But other close young relatives.
I would want to get proof of their lives before the fire to prove the children really had lived there before 1945. And also the boys in Texas. DNA could also prove a lot.
The witnesses may have talked about it with their children or other relatives that are still living.
It seems odd that the pic mailed to Jennie would mention a brother Frankie, who is not one of his brothers in his original family. Is this a clue to which family he was actually in.
If mafia scared the children that they would kill their family if they talked, might explain why little communication after they got older. They may have been forced into marriages with Mafia families who watched over them tightly and kept the threats going
Might also explain why the boys in Texas denied anything.
Also, the children may have been too traumatized to remember anything about their original family, but may have a history of nightmares about a fire.
John might have yelled for them to get out, but could not see them because –if the lower floor office was on fire, then the attic would have been choked with smoke.
I would love to see the FBI report!
Just wondering, sincerely,
I’m sorry but I worked on this story over ten years ago, and the details are no longer fresh in the mind.
I was curious about where the site of the tragedy was and I could find nothing about it save your photograph. Searching with Google Earth it appears to be around 38.086325° -81.110964°, and if you are accurate about the site being to the left of the driveway in your old photo, it appears the have put a driveway through the site since then. See:
It is imaginable that the cause of the fire might have been arson, but it does not follow from that a kidnapping of the five children was plausible. Why would they be kidnapped, after all?
The Mafia at the time seems to have engaged in kidnappings for ransom. This means that the parents would have been told by the kidnappers of the abduction. That no one came to them, promising the children’s return or even survival if only the Sodders stopped behaving in a way that would justify these Mafia atrocities, is indicative. Killing them outright, leaving them to die in a heavily-observed fire, makes much more sense than a quixotic abduction. When the Mafia in contemporary Italy has killed children, either they were innocents killed by stray gunfire, or they were relatives of mafia leaders intentionally murdered. These killings were very public, and not hidden.
(What, exactly, would be the point of forcing the Sodder children to pretend to be different people? How could they keep the children doing this?)
Mind, this assumes that the Mafia would have done this fire at all. Are there any instances in 1940s of Mafiosi engaging in lethal arson attacks against the homes of non-Mafia members? The American Mafia seems, again, to have done its best to try to limit bloodshed to internecine feuds, with other gangsters, to avoid external scrutiny. Killing five children in a Christmas house fire would be a decided break–I wouldn’t be surprised if the persons who did this attack ended up getting killed or turned in by others. That nothing like this seems to have happened is another point against the idea.
As I recall, the Websleuths discussion thread did try to find that photo of a student looking like one of the children. The consensus from the discussion was that the information George Sodder gave did not seem to match any magazine in existence, and that the photo does not seem to exist.
Is the accidental death in a terrible, hot, hours-long fire of five sleeping children really less probable than a ridiculously contorted mass kidnapping of five children from a house in flames by Mafiosi?
Great, one typo;
> SGT. MIKE SPRADLIN: … the authorities had know way of knowing if it had been dug and bones planted or bones taken out.
> no way
Thank you for pointing that out! Fixed!
No … thank you!
Fourteen years and no one’d noticed … hmph.
Your work reminds me of the most excellent draught of common sense from Laurie Snyder on the disapearance of her great-great-grandfather Louis Le Prince here.
Hi Stacy. I really enjoy your stuff!
I’m working on a podcast episode about the Sodder fire and one of the things I find interesting is that nobody talks about Joe. Has anyone ever provided information about exactly where he was in December 1945? Everything I’ve read said he was “Away in the Army” but I’ve hit a brick wall as far as details…
Do you mean where he was serving at the time? You can request military records here:
As a writer why on earth would all of your “notes and files” not be saved on a computer? Why not go dig them up and continue with follow up to the conversation
Just wanted to comment to your post why Stacy wouldn’t, on earth, have all her research available to everyone or handy. I do not know Stacy but can relate to changes in anyone’s life.
Stacy did a great job. Ten years ago all our lives were different, our interests, demands and commitments. Life changes, is altered and moves on. That’s the beauty of Stacy having started this blog; for communication, discussion and the hope that it may peak, add or enlighten someone else’s interest or knowledge. The possibilities are as endless as the possibilities that lie within the Sodder Family Tragedy!
Technology has changed greatly in the last couple years; then think what it was like 12 years ago.
I did my family history starting at age 14 (early 1990s). Now I’m 41. I got married 15 years ago, had two children with special needs (unexpected), chose to divorce, move, etc. My family history is precious to me but I haven’t everything filmed, on the computer or updated. My life has changed and I’ve had to move on. But I have a paper trail for someone seriously vested to pass on my 20 plus years of research. It’s waiting for that one person to arrive one day who will continue the passion I began …
I can relate to Stacy. The story is fascinating and I have my own thoughts and questions. The discussions open different angles. There are also other sites that can be pieced together to this family’s story.
So let’s kindly thank Stacy for her time and interest that we benefitted from, and use our own abilities to gather and question.
Best wishes to you both. I enjoyed reading everyone’s feedback. Amy
Biggest questions that remain, in my opinion ———
1) Was the barn checked to see if there were any traces that would have placed the children out there? I mean, it’s a bit strange that the doors would just be unlocked until everyone decided to go to bed – I’ve never heard of it being common to just let anyone and everyone come in freely until the last member goes to bed.
2) Were the doors actually unlocked prior to the mother locking them
3) What was common in the area for the mother to hear a loud thud and simply ignore it?
4) Why did only the mother seem to be bothered by these noises and such
5) What caused the father to bulldoze the scene – for certain
And well, there’s endless questions to be completely honest. Is it possible bones were found? of course. Is it possible they perished? Of course. Is it possible they were lured away/given away by their siblings for protection? Of course. I really question the brother who changed his story…he could have easily attempted to kill his entire family, failing to kill the remaining as his mother awoke to the smoke. I think every option at this point could be seen as far fetched, due to how much time has passed.
We have so many advances today, but I can’t imagine any of them finding 5 missing people after 80 years, I can’t imagine finding bones, I can’t imagine ever finding out the truth and it’s terribly sad to accept.
Could guilt have overcome the family, leading them to endlessly search for those who no longer exist? Definitely. But I just find it hard to believe not a single definite skull, body or anything has ever come up. Someone doesn’t want them to be found and sadly I think that’s what this comes down to… Also…how did pictures remain if a fire was set?
Jack and Randy F McDonald,
Who ever implied that the children were kidnapped during the fire? If a kidnapping took place, it obviously happened while the parents were in bed.
I only have 1 question and a couple comments, and yes i realize this story was from 2005 so everything isn’t at the top of your mind but you might be intrigued by the thoughts.
Question: Why was racism as a motivator never mentioned?
You see until the early 60s Southern Italians, Sicilians, and Sardinians were seen as black by the general populace
of the US. If all the research I have seen, and I’ve seen a lot, you remove the word Italian and insert the word Black it creates a whole different feeling in your mind. From an Irishman saying they were well respected members of the black community to a black man’s house burns down and the fire department doesn’t get around to showing up till the next morning. Its just something I’m surprised to have never seen covered as a black gay man who knows a thing or two about bigotry.
The other thing that just sticks in my craw is the well respected member of the community thing. How can a well liked and respected member of the community be a person whose views on politics are so despised and disrespected by the majority of the community? It just doesn’t line up. But the fact that it was said by someone outside the community is a way to stop a lot of lines of questioning by people that don’t think critically. So many things that so many investigators dig so deeply into that they just take an outsiders comments about who is respected inside a community seems inane and journalistically deficient.
This story will never stop fascinating people. Thank you for your comments and point of view.
I feel strongly that the children were kidnapped. I think it occurred prior to the fire. Most likely when the children went outside to the barn to complete their chores, they ran into some nefarious person(s). There most certainly would have been some human remains if they died in the fire! The fact that none were found indicates to me that they weren’t in the house during the fire. And the fire was arson. My belief is that the insurance man was responsible. The comment he made to George about his house burning down and his children being destroyed is pretty startling and too coincidental— and I don’t believe in coincidences!