Discussion in 'Sodder Family' started by Cubby, Nov 27, 2010.
Please continue here.
Hello! Not an update with any groundbreaking information, but I did locate the daughter of Joe Sodder, who I believe is the son who was away in the military at the time of the fire, if I remember correctly.
I wrote her what I hope was a very kind, please-don't-answer-if-you-don't-wish-to letter and received a nice response. She stated she does not have any other information beyond what has been published "many times" and does not wish to discuss her late father's theories on what may have happened to his siblings, understandably. I thanked her profusely for responding!
Also, I have access to a media contact database and sent personalized notes about the Sodders to a couple people at Dateline and 48 Hours Mystery. I wish I'd thought of doing this sooner, as Christmas Eve falls on a Friday this year (the typical air day for these shows) and 2010 marks the 65th anniversary of the Sodder fire. Probably won't hear anything back from these folks, but it was worth a shot.
Thanks for doing that, RMIC! I would love to see this story on such a show.
What were Joe's theories on what happened? I don't recall if I've read about them.
I haven't read anything about his thoughts, either; I was hoping to glean those from his daughter, but she understandably preferred not to share. Since he wasn't at the home at the time of the fire, he might not have been able to comment specifically on the events of that evening, but I'm sure he had his own guesses as to what happened.
By the way, if anyone has ideas on other old magazine issues to search for the potential photo of Betty Sodder that George Sodder thought he saw about a year after the fire, feel free to let me know. I live near Washington, D.C., and would be happy to visit the Library of Congress archives! This mystery has me fully in its grips
I know somewhere in the threads there was a poster who was in contact with a librarian at the Library of Congress...I think they might have listed what they'd ruled out.
Mystery of Missing Children Haunts W.Va. Town
by Stacy Horn
"The Sodder parents and four of their children escaped. But five of the Sodder children, ages 5, 8, 9, 12 and 14, were never seen again."
This is the first I have read of this case...very sad!
My initial thoughts...the investigative work back then is primative to present day. Unfortunately, one can only guess as to just really how many bones & organs were actually discovered in the ashes and if they were from one or five children.
I'm new here and this is my first post. I've read and read, and I may have missed the relevant post: JBandy (Jonathan, I think) posted somewhere that he got permission to excavate on the site. I couldn't find any posts that would say if the excavations actually went ahead and what the results were, if any. Apologies if I'm wasting people's time and the thread is somewhere obvious.
I'm also curious as to whether or not the children spoke any Italian, or were they brought up as English-speaking. If not, or if they only spoke very basic Italian, and if I go on the assumption that they were taken to Italy, that could have been part of why they never looked for their family/family history etc. I keep thinking that if that was the case, the children may have been separated, isolated, never spoken to in English, never got the chance to speak English to anyone, or to speak amongst themselves - Betty at least was young enough to completely eradicate most of her memories if anyone set their mind to it. Also, it is easy to intimidate and control girls to the point where they stay in the same situation for years, decades - by isolation, telling them that the rest of the family is dead, threatening them that the life/lives of other siblings depend on their obedience. It still happens.
I can't stop thinking that there is something sinister about the way no one heard anything. What comes to my mind is that a violent abduction doesn't fit, since the children were of such age span (5-14) that they wouldn't have gone quietly. At least some of them would have cried for fear, or resisted, shouted, fought. The scary thought is that they may have known someone who was outside the house and left the house voluntarily, not suspecting that anything untoward might happen. Someone who said something like, let's go carol singing, let's go see Santa, let's go play, or even help me find my puppy. I think Mrs. Sodder found the door unlocked (or was it even 'open', not just unlocked?) and the lights still on?
It is such a sad story, and I wish the children would be found, or their fates would be known. The family is in my thoughts. I hope I have not upset or offended anyone.
I'd love to know the results of this excavation as well, if it ever took place. That would be the easiest way to put this mystery to rest, IMO.
Thinking of the Sodders today, as I'm sure many of us are.
Yes, I was too.
I've heard a lot of theories about the mafia, but what about the Klan?
The Klan did not just spread hatred of blacks; they were also anti-Catholic, which means they were against Italians, Poles, etc.
I'm not sure of the Mafia presence in West Virginia, but there was definitely a Klan presence there. (Speaking of a recently deceased Senator from that state who was in the Klan when he was younger.)
I have spent hours reading the threads and my heart is heavy once again and of course wishing I could solve this for this family. I don't have much to add but to suggest TES, contacting a movie producer to see if they would do a movie, perhaps someone out there knows and is older now and will at least submit a tip? It would be a great movie as long as they keep it not a cheap thriller movie.
The only thing that struck out to me while reading is the Fire Chief, them not having equipment, maybe some other volunteer fireman started the fire to garnish funds for equipment? Notoriety? Or could there have been an arsonist on the prowl? As to them being alive or not. I'm not convinced either way but no evidence is just astounding!
Grandma and family, thank you for your grace and sharing, you've touched me deeply. I've never ever heard about this case, now I have.
Oh one more ounce of speculation to think about. What if this is a case of mistaken identify? Someone thought this family was a German sympathizer or a distant relative was and sought out retribution? To me this would explain why the children were taken and house set on fire.
This was the time when the Nuremberg trials started right?
The Nuremberg Trials were going on, yes.
I don't see it, though. The war was over, and I'm not sure that an Italian accent would be mistaken for a German one. The name isn't really German-sounding.
I know of Italian-Americans who changed their last name to something more English-sounding just to be able to get jobs and avoid hatred due to their Catholicism and immigrant status.
I think it's more likely that the Klan was after them. According to Wikipedia, the Klan was engaged in firebombings during the early fifties, including one on Christmas Eve. The KKK was active in West Virginia; according to a discussion on a message board the Italian-Americans in West Virginia were afraid of the Klan.
Maybe the kids managed to escape but fell into the hands of Klansmen who were waiting, and they decided to murder and dispose of the bodies?
Paul. That is a good theory. The fact that it happened on Christmas eve could have meant something to them. If the children saw them, the klansmen, say, when they went outside to begin their chores, they could have been grabbed before getting anything done. Does anyone know if there were any signs of a struggle that night, outside of the house? A bucket laying on it's side on the ground, a child's shoe, anything that would suggest they had gone outside to do the outdoor chores and were stopped before getting to them?
Ok I did some research. Something interesting for you all to ponder, the Klan was started Christmas Eve in the 1800's. They have killed people in the past on their anniversary of when they began.
I am from this area, I was born and raised here in a coal camp outside of Fayetteville. My grandfathers, great grandfathers and uncles all worked the mines here and this tragedy has always been a topic of discussion. Yes there was mafia here but not in the form some think, it was not your typical NY, NJ or Chicago mob. It was more so men who liked to push others into use of there businesses or the you scratch my back and I will scratch yours type of deal. They were not the type to have people killed off or hurt. The story I have always heard passed down was that Mr. Sodder was very vocal about his dislike of the Old Country leadership (in which I agree with his views) but others who were hear and still holding onto those Old County traditions did not like his viewpoints. My family too was immagrants and came to America for the freedom that was here and the chance to raise their families out of these traditions still encountered those who thought the same rules were to apply here just because you were of Italian, Polish or whatever other descent. I was always told that Mr J was upset that Mr Sodder would not scratch his back and take out the insurance so in retailiation he sent word through Mr Sodders family back home that he was rebelling againest Italian authority. Mr Sodder whose name was changed in coming here (our familys was also just one letter change in the name but none the less it was changed) had family who worked for Mussolini and Mr J knew this and he also knew there would be retailation for the rebellion. That is why he made the threat. I have also heard that Mrs Sodders family had heard talk through connections that the retaliation would take place that night and the fire was set with intentions of killing the entire family. They (whoever was told from the Old Country) looked at it as it was better to get rid of all of them then to raise another generation that would rebel againest Italian traditions. I was told it was Mrs Sodders family who took the kids to get them to safety and they were then split up going to different cities so that they could never be found. I am not sure who much of this is truth but it was just what was passed down through the family. I have always wondered why the children have never came back but then I have always thought that maybe they knew the seriousness of the threats that were made during that time and was still afraid of consquences to others if they ever did come forward. From the things I have read and heard the Italian government or whatever was not to be played with or mocked during that time. There are still things with this case that makes no sense to me, just like finding out the mans name who was stealing that night from the Sodders, there was a man by the same name when I was a little girl who burnt up in a trailor fire along with his brother and his children. I can not say it was the same man or maybe his son but I am going to do some checking because that to me is a little strange also.
That is an interesting idea FayettevilleWVgirl. But I have some problems with that theory. If it is true, that Mr. Or Mrs. Sodder's family members took the children to keep them safe, wouldn't Mr. Sodder and Mrs. Sodder been told? So why the billboard? At the very least, I would think that the family would have told them to "TAKE IT DOWN NOW" or you will put your children in grave danger. And even that small tidbit of information should have been enough for the Sodder family to retract the reward and pull down that billboard right away, because living children you never got to see would be better than dead children. The only thing that would seem to fit this theory is the photo of Louis, the one where he looks much older, if the family was behind the disappearance, and knew Mrs. Sodder was soooo broken hearted, they may have gotten a photo of whichever child they could, and sent it to her, kind of a, "Look they are all right", sort of a thing.
But the rest of it, doesn't make much sense. Why would the family of George and Jennie Sodder allow them to almost be killed? Wouldn't the family have done something to warn them? Could the warning possibly have been that phone call that night? The one with people laughing in the background? Was that meant to wake Mrs. Sodder up? But why would there BE LAUGHING on such a call? You would think someone would call, and maybe say something like, "Jennie get up and make an excuse and get the kids all on the first floor." or something of that nature. Not laughing, asking for someone who didn't live there, etc. Was than, the bang on the roof, the clue? They threw something to awaken them? Ok. But than what about the bus driver who saw flaming balls being thrown at the house? Surely a warning would never come in the form of flaming balls being tossed on the roof.
And if you are saying that the family knew about it all along, and understood what was going to happen that night, why the lies? If Jennie was so determined to find the children, and George too, why would they lie about what happened that night, knowing their kids were safe, and afterwards, knowingly put the kids in danger by searching for them?
Too many questions with this case.
the way I have always understood it was her family never told them they took the kids because they did not agree with the way Mr Sodder was voicing his opinions about the Old Country but yet they knew the kids would be in grave danger because of what was being said. I do believe the call was a warning call for all to wake up but I think in the end they saved who they thought they could out of the children. Grandpa has always said that the Sodders would not have known because of it would then put Mrs Sodders family ( can not remember what he said their name was) in danger also. I do truely believe Mr and Mrs Sodder had no idea what was going to happen or they would have never let it happen, but her family did know the seriousness of the retaliation that was coming. You got to look back at how the times was then, you did not openly put down Mussalini in front of his followers and by Mr J contacting Mr Sodders family member back in Italy that worked for Mussalini there was going to be something done about his bad mouthing him. You just did not openly defy those people back in the day. I believe that is why her family then stepped in. If I knew someone was coming to kill my siblings family over voicing their opinions I would do whatever I could to protect all or some that I had a chance to. Even if it meant always holding this dark secret to protect the ones that did get out and would remain safe. I hope this makes sense but like I said this is just what was passed down to me and the theory that went through the coal camp I lived in
I just found a photo. Remember the photo Mr. Sodder saw, the one from New York, that he believed was his daughter Betty? We have looked and looked for this photo, someone even contacted the library of congress on it and they couldn't find anything. Well what if the photo was a younger version of a girl who later ended up in London, they called her Patricia Whittle, and I can't find anything on her past. This may mean nothing at all. But there is a strong, I think, resemblance between Betty and Patricia. Of course, the photo I found is from when Patricia was much older, and the photo says it is from 1962. If Betty was born in 1950, which should be about right, depending on month of birth, so in 1955 she was 5 and in 1962, she would be what, 12? Around there? 12 or 13 or maybe 11... Depending on the month she was born in.
Now, I am in no way stating this is betty. I still believe and always have that the photo that Mr. Sodder saw was more likely to be a look alike, not a real Betty. Everyone has a double, imo. My husband was going to college when he met a man who stared and stared at him and showed him a photo of his best friend from back home and they were nearly identical. When I moved to where I live now, tons of people were coming up to me and calling me "Rebeccah". I had to tell them I wasn't Rebeccah. I finally met her a few months ago, and we could be twins. I am in no way faulting George Sodder, he wanted to hold onto the hope that his children were alive. And if it was my children, I would do the same exact thing.
Anyway, if he had seen a photo, of this girl only younger and years earlier, and the photo was taken here in the states, it would seem very plausible that it was his little girl, and of course, he would track it down in an attempt to find out for sure if it was, and if it was her, to take her home. To her rightful home and family.
Does this child look like Betty? Or have I been searching for this photo for such a long time that I am beginning to see resemblances out of sheer exhaustion and a need to close this case?
Patricia Whittle, portrait of this young dancer, Royal Ballet, London, 1962 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Take a look. And than look at Betty, and please be honest. If I am on the wrong track, it is def. time to take a little break for a week or so, and than go back to the drawing board.