“Oh my God!” said the shrimper as he looked into the trash bag and suddenly jerked back involuntarily. “It’s…a head. A human head. Looks like a girl, but I can’t really tell. It’s kind of messed up.” A hand and arm were with it.
What does a family do when the dad says there is a human head inside the garbage bag on their shrimp boat? The whole family looks!
The shrimper immediately turned the boat toward the municipal auditorium, at the foot of the city’s main drag, Palafox Street. When he arrived, the police were notified.
Suddenly, the Chancy boat became a crime scene. Officer Jim Richbourg was called to the end of the auditorium. Jim was the Crime Scene Investigator. Just as sure as no one else knew what to do with body parts in a trash bag, Jim threw himself into the scene and processed it thoroughly, like the professional he was. John Hollingsworth was the investigator assigned the case, and he responded as well. After interviewing the shrimper, his wife and son, John returned to the police station and began looking into missing persons cases.
Over the next few days, body parts were found along the Pensacola Bay shoreline at different locations. But…no identification, and no one had been reported missing. How were they to find out who it was? Inquires were made across the country. One possibility was a girl named Angela Mauer. She had been known to be in the area recently. She was arrested on Pensacola Beach a few weeks prior, so her prints were on file. But how could they positively say that the dead girl was Angela? Sure, they had her fingers from the hand found on the boat, but they were badly decomposed. Besides, printing a dead body isn’t easy.
Jim Richbourg knew. He and his supervisor Bob Grant discussed it and came up with a possible solution. Using the best fingers they could find from the decomposed body, Jim and Medical Examiner Dr. Edmund Kielman lifted prints that were good enough for identification. The comparison showed that, sure enough, this was the same girl that was fingerprinted recently by the Sheriff’s Department a few weeks earlier from the incident on Pensacola Beach.
But there was a problem. Angela had no past. She didn’t exist anywhere. So, John Hollingsworth rightly considered that “Angela Mauer” might be an alias. But what was the girl’s real name? One name that came up was a 15-year-old runaway named Melissa Caronis.
The whole story, “Dangerous and Terrible Games,” along with accounts of officers killed in the line of duty and the recipients of Pensacola Police Department’s Gold Medal of Valor is included in Mike Simmons’ latest book Stories of Pensacola’s Finest, available on Amazon.