The Charley Project page for 11 year-old Karen
And her 10 year-old brother Michael
I first became interested in this case upon viewing the entry for the children on the Pennsylvania Missing website. The site features the same pic of an unidentified standing stone as that featured on the childrens' Charley Project pages. Being an avid hiker, the pic caught my attention, and upon looking further into the case found it to be truly fascinating. Books have been written about this case by Joseph Wambaugh and Loretta Schwartz-Nobel, and a TV movie was produced in the late '80s. The following is from Crime Library and various articles from newpapers of the time.
Susan Reinert was a school teacher, whose husband Ken was in the Air Force. After the birth of their two children, Susan quit teaching until Ken left the Air Force in '71. At that time, she returned to teaching.
Around '74, Susan began to feel trapped in her life, and began an affair with another teacher, William Bradfield. Bradfield was considered a lady's man, especially because it was felt he was interested in women's minds as much as their bodies. Bradfield was already living with another teacher, Sue Myers, and had a girlfriend in another state (Joanne Aitken). Bradfield was also dating a student, Wendy Zeigler. Susan divorced her husband, but Bradfield always maintained that there was no relationship-Susan was pursuing him.
The principal of the school where the two taught was an "interesting" character. Jay Smith, lean, balding, with a dry sense of humor, always dressed in black suits. His wife was just the opposite. Smith's daughter, Stephanie, and her husband Eddie, were heroin addicts. Smith, a Colonel in the US Army Reserve, had "exotic" sexual tastes, collecting different types of porn but specializing in bestiality. Susan once brought her children to school, at which time Smith stated "I don't like any children". By '76-'77, Smith's work quality had begun to detoriate.
In December of '77, two Sears stores were robbed by an individual posing as a courier who made off with the day's earnings.
In February of '78, Stephanie and Eddie disappeared.
In August of '78, police stopped a car being driven erratically. The driver had a gun in hand when the officers approached. The driver was identified as Jay Smith. Four handguns, a hooded mask, bolt cutters, and a syringe loaded with tranquilizer were found in the car. Also found were marijuana, various pills, four gallons of nitric acid, security uniforms, stolen Army ID cards, pistol silencers, and several forms of bestial porn.
William Bradfield told friends he had had a dream in which he recalled meeting Smith in Ocean City, MD, on the day of the Sears robberies. However, even though he knew that Smith had not committed the robberies, Smith was in fact a hitman for the Mafia and planned to murder Susan Reinert. Bradfield told his friends that he was driving by Susan's house regularly in order to protect her from Smith (even though he had agreed to testify in Smith's defense in the robbery trial).
In January of '79 Susan tried to withdraw $25,000 dollars for an "investment", but the bank refused to allow the withdrawal. Instead, she withdrew the money in increments. Soon after, Bradfield told friends that he had collected $25,000 that he had saved over the years. By June of '79, Susan had taken out over $700,000 in life insurance, removing her children as beneficiaries and naming Bradfield the sole beneficiary.
On the evening of June 22, 1979, neighbors saw Susan and the children hurry to her car after receiving a phone call around 9:20. This is the last time Susan was seen alive, and the children have never been seen again. Susan was beaten viciously, stripped naked, chained, and may have been dragged a short distance. Susan was kept alive for 24 to 36 hours, finally being killed with an injection of morphine on Sunday morning. She was left in the trunk of her car in a Harrisburg hotel. A "Spanish-sounding" voice called police to report a woman was sick in her car. The tape of the voice was accidentally taped over. Susan's body was cremated before the investigators were finished with it.
Bradfield and friends fled to southern New Jersey then to New Mexico.
Bradfield was first prosecuted for theft by deception for the investment scheme. He was then prosecuted for the murders of Susan, Karen and Michael in October of '83. He later died in prison of a heart attack in 1998.
Smith was convicted of his part in the murder in June of '85. Though sentenced to death, his conviction was overturned in '92 due to "prosecutorial misconduct". His lawyer was also able to convince the Supreme Court to change the double jeapordy laws, preventing the prosecution from retrying Smith due to the alleged misconduct.
The photo of the standing stone was found in Bradfield's belongings around the time of his conviction. It is thought to mark the location of the childrens' bodies. One chilling thing I've noted is this testimony by a prisoner Bradfield had befriended. The prisoner testified that Bradfield had stated Susan and the kids were killed because he (Bradfield) was in a financial bind, but it was only meant for Susan, not the kids---but he could "leave no stone unturned".
I am writing Backpacker Magazine about the stone, hoping they will post the pic and that someone will recognize its unique features. I have also spoken to friends in the GeoCaching community.
I just read the full story on crimelibrary. What a long and bizzare story. I hope the childrens bodies are found soon. Do you know what ever became of the children's father? Were Jay Smiths daughter and son in law ever found?
It is my belief that these are the children BUT let me tell you why most people would disagree.
Circumstances: On July 10, 1979, the skeletal remains of a white female and of a white male were found near Hwy. 20, West of Willits, in Mendocino Co., CA.
The estimated date of death is 12/8/1978.
Jane is estimated to be 14 years old and was about 5'5-1/2" in height. She was wearing the pictured hoop with a pearched-bird earring (pierced-ear type).
John is estimated to be 13 years old and was about 5'5" in height. It is possible these children were related, perhaps brother and sister.
The photographs are computer-generated facial reconstructions done by a forensic artist at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Features such as eyes color, nose, size of lips and ears are the estimations of the artist to complete the image and should not be used as a significant marker for identification.
Michael Reinert age 10 on left, John Doe age 13 on right
Karen on left age 11 - Jane Doe on right estimated age 14
1. The children went missing June 22, 1979 in Pennsylvania - these children were found just weeks later on July 10, 1979 but were SKELETAL at that time so the coroner estimated the date of death to be December 1978 (or 6 months before being found).
***Is it possible that some kind of chemical was used to destroy the children's bodies so much that the time of death is incorrect? This would have had to have been accomplished within a matter of weeks and NOT been detected by the coroner.
2. John and Jane Doe were found in California, Michael and Karen disappeared in Pennsylvania.
***There was enough time to travel to California... why though? California is very far. Perhaps to throw law enforcement off? Maybe they were going to be sold and something happened? If they were brought to California to be sold then it delays the death, which again shortens the available time to "decompose" the bodies.
3. Michael was 10 and John Doe is estimated at 13
Karen was 11 and Jane Doe is estimated at 14
***although the ages are off by 3 years for both, they are consistent in that Jane is one year older than John.
4. I feel the reconstructions strongly resemble the children - others may disagree.
5. I don't know if its because they've been declared legally dead, but there is no listing for the Reinert children on the Missing and Exploited Children site, nor the Doe Network.
Does that mean that they have been removed from the system and therefore no match is possible because nobody is looking for them anymore?
6. Did Karen have pierced ears? I could find no information about this.
I don't know if anyone has even submitted this possibility. I am assuming someone has because its too obvious. Perhaps I've assumed too much?
Or perhaps I'm completely wrong and this is another brother and sister who disappeared at that time and simply resemble the remains?
I also thought about the young John and Jane Doe in California when I read about Michael and Karen, but thought there was too big of an age difference.
However, those Doe ages are just estimates, and when you put the pictures side by side, I think the children resemble each other.
I wish there were more vital statistics for Michael and Karen.
Also the HUGE question is... how did they become skeletal remains (not just decomposed) within a couple of weeks?
It depends on how intact the remains were. Animal and bird activity can reduce a body to a skeleton in a matter of days.Originally Posted by PonderingThings
Just when I think that I have seen the most depraved things a human can do to another human, somebody posts a new story...........
Why is it that when a custodial parent fails to provide for a child it is called neglect and is a criminal matter. But when a non custodial parent fails to provide it is called failure to support and is a civil matter?
"Just when the caterpillar thought its world was over, it became a butterfly" ~ Michelle Knight
There was a very old case - I tried to find a reference to it and came up empty - anyway, the killer had poured honey all over the body and put it near a bunch of insects (I think they were some kind of ant?) and they quickly consumed the body. Maybe by design, or just the terrain, something similiar happened?
Remember, Smith was found to have four gallons of nitric acid in his car when arrested...I haven't researched what effect nitric acid would have on a human body, but I conjure it ain't good. Burial may have erased any sign of acid usage.
Bradfield fled to New Mexico the weekend of the murder to set up his alibi....Its possible Smith stayed to finish Susan while Bradfield had the children. The CA Doe children were discussed in another thread, one of the primary questions was how the date of date was determined.
I considered these children also while looking into the case.
There is a connection to California, from the Crime Library article:
Dorothy Hunsberger contacted Smith, who told her that he had seen the couple recently. They had told him that they were going to California because Pennsylvania had a warrant out for Eddie’s arrest. Dorothy checked with authorities and there was no warrant out.
***Yes I know... its a weak connection
After Smith was arrested:
Many other items of interest to law enforcement were found in the suspect’s home. Several packets of marijuana were there, keeping company with a few illegal pills. Four gallons of nitric acid, which authorities determined had been stolen from his school, and office equipment that had been reported missing from the Upper Merion school district were found in Smith’s house.
***Could this have been used on the bones, without it being detected by the coroner?
This website http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nitric_acid
says its a very strong acid that will produce severe burns... since damaged skin decomposes faster than non damaged skin, could it be an accellerant?
Or did Bradfield find out about all of this before, hire a hit man, give him these details and set up Jay Smith?
Were we thinking the same thing at the same time?
Yes ShadowAngel! It took me a while to get my message together, and in the meantime you posted!
I found this websleuths thread http://www.websleuths.com/forums/showthread.php?t=22420
that talks about the John and Jane Doe, and there was a lot of good Sleuthing going on. Lots of comparisons to other cases. The Reinert case is not mentioned though. Actually one of the members Emma had access to the NCIC computer and searched very carefully for them.... and no hits... does this mean the Reinert children were never entered into the database??????
Edited to clarify: Emma searched very carefully for the John and Jane Doe... she never mentioned the Reinert children.
Bradfield said Jay Smith had friends in the police force that would help him beat a murder rap (but not the theft charges for some reason). Did Jay Smith, or Bradfield really have these friends?
The reason I ask is:
1. Were these obvious matches to Jane and John Doe every checked?
2. Were the Reinert children entered into the computer? Or was an alert sent out (in pre computer days on the teletype).
3. What really was the reason Susan's body was cremated - the funeral home supposedly were told by the cops not to cremate the body, but the brother asked for a cremation, so they did it. The funeral home didn't listen to the cops, they listened to the family instead???? Maybe the cops never told the funeral home anything?
4. What happened to the Police Tape with the recorded man, speaking in a spanish accent. Did it really get mixed into the recycled tapes? Wouldn't it have been in the possession of the investigating officer at that point?
5. What about the testimony at the trial where a police officer said that finger prints were lifted from the body, and sand was found between Susan's toes. Was he lieing? Mistaken? Or reports changed?
*****I'm just openly speculating here... but the case was/is plagued by "wrong turns".
Edited to add - ultimately it was this that freed Jay Smith (if he's still alive, he's a free man today)
Then, in July 1986, an anonymous tipster clued the lawyer in to another ground for appeal. That caller said that, contrary to the assertions of both witness and prosecution, Raymond Martray had gotten a deal in exchange for his testimony. Finally, Costopoulos uncovered evidence that the district attorney’s office had known of the lifters that picked up sand from Reinert’s feet and withheld it from the defense.
*******We these his friends on the force? Or was it set up so that he'd have grounds for appeal. Was the district attorney's office set up too, like the funeral home?
I noticed from the link the kids father died in 2002. Does anyone know his age or what he died of?
The circumstances surrounding the tape are a little suspicious to me. Its stated that the tapes were needed due to the number of calls related to the incident at Three Mile Island. That incident occured in March---Would they still be receving so many calls by the end of June?
Bigdaddy I'm assuming you are referring to the comment that is at the end of the Times Herald article:
LYNN HOOVER Jul, 12 2004
I read the article and it's very accurate. I was the step-mother of Karen and Michael when they disapeared and it's good to know that they have no been forgotten. You never mentioned their father, Kenneth Reinert, who died on 6/2/02, never knowing what happened to his children. Other than that, it's a good article.
****Maybe she didn't notice this in the article (although I do think its a good summary article):
"The saddest part of it is, we never found those children," he said.
In 1987, Diane and Michael Reinert were officially declared dead.
****I think the saddest part of this story is how much these children have been overlooked! Geez they couldn't even get their names right in an ANNIVERSARY article about the crime of MURDER committed against them!
There is even more oddness if you look at the details.... a dildo was found in Susan's car (under the seat I think). How many mothers, who are also school teachers, ride around in their car with a dildo under the seat???? ...it was another link to Jay Smith though as dildos were found in his basement.
At first the coroner said it was asphyxiation, then after a toxicology report comes back (another "official" document) is the cause of death changed to injection of morphine. .... that also matches the syringe they found in her car (why would the killer toss it in there?????) ...it also matches another link to Jay Smith as he had family members who were junkies.
Disclaimer: I am assuming the crime library article is pretty close to the truth as we are using it to compare evidence in the case. It could be full of errors though.
These kind of cases/situations make me MAD
Maybe a reputable TV show, like DATELINE, could showcase this case and finally have these children identified!
It would be nice to give them their real names.....
There are numerable articles on this case in NewspaperArchives, and all seem to say pretty much the same things as the Crime Library article. I would like to read the Joesph Wambaugh book, though.
The Crime Library article mentions that Bradfield and Pappas flew to New Mexico, while the girlfriend (Aitken) drove Bradfield's car the 2000 miles.
I had a very odd thought upon waking this morning... please be aware that I an NOT a conspiracy nut. I do NOT see men hiding behind every tree....
BUT... if we play "what if", and go with the possibility that there was someone in the police force, or the DAs office, that was helping the killer(s), is it possible that the information about Karen and Michael is/was in the computer but it was entered inaccurately - on purpose? Or other children's dental charts were made available to throw identification off?
As I said when I first started posting on this thread, I truly, firmly, believe its the Reinert children. If so, why do they remain unidentified 25.5 years later?
I know its odd... but I'm putting it out there....
The time frame is probably what catches most people...For the remains to be skeletal in a week seems fairly ludicrous until taking into account the person most likely to have killed them. Considering what a sick bastard Smith was/is, and the torture to which Susan was subjected, I wouldn't doubt that acid was the cause of death....
I wouldn't doubt that Smith had friends higher up. In most smaller communities it seems like school principals, board members and what not have friendships with other people in "public servant" type jobs. Like Police chiefs, etc.
Mike Echols mentioned these children in his book I Know My First Name is Steven, about the Steven Stayner abduction. According to Echols, Ken Parnell came very close to confessing to their murders, and he was in the area at the time they died. Parnell said "someone" had told him who the children were, but he had "forgotten" their identities since then.Originally Posted by PonderingThings
Of course, Parnell is a sick *&%! who likes to toy with people, and Echols was a bit of a weirdo himself and perhaps not totally reliable, so I don't know what to make of all of this.
I believe the National Center for Missing Children once looked into this and ruled it out...
I have also heard that the Doe Network does not list these children on the web site at the request of family.
I have not heard from any Reinert family members. I didn't list them for a long time because I had no pictures of them, until Crime Library wrote an article about their cases. Pennsylvania Missing mentions them though, and I think that's run by a Doe member.Originally Posted by marylandmissing
The NCMEC doesn't list a lot of cases on their site that I wish they would. If they list Shemaeah Gunnell, they ought to list the Reinert children.