Huge article.. includes some other mysterious cases. rbbm.
4 Mysterious Cold Cases to Know in 2020: Unsolved Murders, Disappearances
Aug 6 2020 By Daniel Dumas
''The meaning of McCormick’s notes has baffled both professional and amateur cryptanalysis to this day.
The Last and Only Cipher of Ricky McCormick
On June 30, 1999, the body of 41-year-old Ricky McCormick was found in a cornfield in West Alton Missouri. In McCormick’s front pocket were two pages of hand printed notes containing a complex cypher that the FBI, the American Cryptogram Association, and countless amateur codebreakers have—to this day—failed to crack. McCormick was a high school dropout who, according to a family member, “Didn't write in code. He couldn't spell anything, just scribble."
What We Know
McCormick’s body had been decomposing in the field for several days prior to its discovery —authorities had to use fingerprints to make a positive ID. The rate of decomposition made it difficult for medical examiners to determine a cause of death—even after an autopsy and a toxicology report. But after considering the suspicious nature of where his body had been found (the area had been used to dump murder victims before) investigators classified the death a homicide.
The two notes police found inside of McCormick’s pocket consisted of 30 lines of seemingly random letters and numbers. Some of the code contains parenthesis, other parts of it is circled.
St. Louis PD
McCormick was an ex-con who was semi-employed at a gas station and alternated between staying with family and living on the streets. He also suffered from heart and lung ailments and had been collecting disability at the time of his death. His criminal record consisted of a handful misdemeanors plus a stint in prison for statutory rape. McCormick’s body was found some 15 miles from his residence even though he did not own a car and public transportation did not service the area where he was found. McCormick also sporadically traveled by bus to Florida where a former girlfriend says he acted as courier for drug runners, shuttling marijuana back to Missouri.
There are conflicting reports about McCormick’s mental condition. According to a Riverfront Times article
, while awaiting trial for statutory rape, his public defender believed McCormick might be "suffering from some mental disease or defect." She had him tested by a local psychologist who found McCormick mentally competent to stand trial. Though he was never diagnosed with any mental disorders, McCormick was considered to be street smart with an active imagination yet also possessed a naïve, childlike attitude towards the world, according to the Riverfront Times.
A few days before his death, McCormick’s girlfriend stated that after he returned from a drug smuggling job in Florida shaken and anxious. He went to several hospitals for treatment of chest pains and asthma in the days before his death. Some investigators believe he wasn’t actually looking for medical attention but believed his life was in jeopardy and was seeking a safe place to stay.
Parenthetical and circles on the notes suggest it could have been a to-do list.
Where the Case is Today
By 2011 the FBI’s Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit had exhausted its resources trying to crack the cipher. “Breaking the code could reveal the victim’s whereabouts before his death and could lead to the solution of a homicide,” the FBI said in a 2011 statement.
Some people, including some members of Ricky’s family, believe the notes to be the nonsensical script of a mentally disabled person. Other family members claim that Ricky had been writing in code since he was a boy. Experts, including the FBI agent in charge of the case, assert the notes are authentic. Small details in the handwriting—like circles around portions of the code—indicate that it was personal in nature, possibly a to-do list. According the FBI, the greatest challenge in this case is that McCormick likely intended the notes only to be read by himself. Other famous cyphers—like the Zodiac Killer—wanted their codes to be eventually cracked.
There is, of course, is the possibility that McCormick did not write the code — experts have not been able to conclusively prove that the notes are in his handwriting. It’s also feasible the code was written for him by the drug dealers he was working for or that he was just transporting the cipher from one place to another and was unaware of its meaning.
The FBI has an entire website dedicated to the case and invites amateur codebreakers to try and solve it. Ultimately it is believed the code contains information that will help catch McCormick’s murderers.''