Unsolved Mysteries was a staple TV series in the 1980s through the early 2000s. In each episode, host Robert Stack delivered terrifying tales of alien abductions, seeming paranormal phenomena, strange disappearances, and more.
Obviously—or hopefully—the otherwordly happenings were fabricated. However, the rest were entirely true. Out of the 608 showcased mysteries, 260 were solved, some thanks to the series itself. We dig into three of the most notable closed cases here.
The Anthrax Murder
Remember when we were terrified to open our mail because random people around the country had received letters filled with deadly Anthrax?
The country learned of the threat in 2001, and it caused media hysteria. At that time, multiple postal workers had fallen seriously ill. It didn’t take long for authorities to determine that the victims had been poisoned with the deadly bacteria. Shortly after, they discovered dozens of unconnected people had recieved the dangerous mail. In the end, five people died, and 17 more became seriously ill.
It wasn’t until 2008 that the FBI finally found the killer, someone who was hiding in plain sight. Bruce Ivins, an infectious disease scientist who actually helped during the investigation was responsible for the deaths. Unfortunately, Ivins committed suicide before explaining why he committed the crimes.
The Suspicious Death of Ryan Stallings
In 1998, three-month-old Ryan Stallings died of what seemed to be antifreeze poisoning. His mother, Patricia, was initially deemed the murderer. She gave birth to a second child, DJ, while incarcerated and awaiting trial. DJ immediately became a ward of the state.
Two weeks after his birth, DJ was rushed to a hospital with the same symptoms as his late brother. One month later, doctors determined that DJ suffered from methylmalonic acidemia (MMA), a rare genetic disorder that produces a chemical byproduct nearly identical to ethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze. A judge determined DJ’s illness was not relevant in Patricia’s case because doctors could not prove that Ryan also suffered from MMA. Patricia was found guilty of First Degree Murder.
Fast forward to 1991, Unsolved Mysteries featured Ryan’s death in a Season 3 episode. Fortunately, William Sly, a biochemistry and molecular biology professor and chairman at St. Louis University, happened to watch. He got his hands on a sample of Ryan’s blood and diagnosed him with MMA. Authorities released Patricia and regained custody of DJ.
‘Unsolved Mysteries’ Found Rose Marie
In 1956, Eleanor Wozniak and John Elias, an interracial couple, met, married, and had a child, whom they named Rose Marie. Wozniak’s father, furious about the politics of the marriage, pressed charges on Elias for statutory rape because Eleanor was 17 when she gave birth. He forced Wozniak into a home for unwed mothers, and authorities ultimately took the baby.
Elias served time for the crime, but upon his release, he and Wozniak reunited with the intention of finding Rose Marie. After learning the plans, Wozniak’s father reported the couple for “failing to obey” orders, according to All That’s Interesting, a judge then tricked Wozniak into giving up parental rights. Elias was run out of town and away from his wife, and it was decades before the couple saw each other again.
In 1987, Elias and Wozniak met again, thanks to their separate efforts to locate Rose Marie. After getting remarried, they took their story to Unsolved Mysteries, and their segment aired in 1992—with a happy ending.
As Buffalo News reported, someone in New York saw a rendered drawing of Rose Marie and recognized her as Sally Lou Briggs Riley. Riley contacted the couple and learned that she was their long-lost daughter.
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