Monday, May 01, 2017

Mystery Monday: The Missing Sodder Children

It's Monday, which means it's time for another...



***Warning: Today's mystery involves children.***

The date was December 24th, 1945. Like many families, the Sodder family opened their gifts on Christmas Eve. The three youngest children--Martha (12), Jennie (8), and Betty (5)--were so excited about their gifts, they asked to stay up late to play with them. They were told they could stay awake until the two oldest children--Maurice (14) and Louis (9)--went to bed. There were four other children, but one was staying with a friend that night.



Parents George and Jennie went to bed. At 12:30 a.m., Jennie was awoken by a ringing phone. She went downstairs to answer it. On the other end of the line was a woman, asking for the name of someone she didn't recognize. Jennie could hear clinking glasses in the background. She noticed the curtains had not been drawn and the lights were still on--two chores the children would normally have taken care of before retiring to the attic where they slept.


Jennie with her son John

Around 1 a.m., Jennie woke once again after hearing the sound of something hitting the roof. It was followed by a rolling sound. Approximately 30 minutes later, she smelled smoke. When she investigated and found one of the empty rooms was on fire, she woke her husband and they evacuated with three of the children. However, five of the children were still upstairs and they couldn’t get to them because the stairway was on fire.



George and Jennie Sodder did everything they could to get to the children. They tried to get help by phone. George tried to smash a window, managing to cut himself in the process. All efforts to save them failed.




The home burned for more than six hours before the fire department finally arrived. In the rubble that remained, no sign of the missing five children were found. While many people think of cremation, a house fire doesn’t burn hot enough to completely cremate a body — bones and skeletons should have remained. They were simply missing.



The site was investigated and examined many times over the years, with no sign of the children. The parents are convinced they were kidnapped that night, with the fire set to disguise the crime. Up until their deaths in 1969 and 1989, George and Jennie believed their children were still alive. They maintained this billboard in the hopes it would lead to answers:



What do you think happened to the Sodder children?

38 comments:

  1. I think the wrong number was random, but if the lights were still on and the curtain open, I don't think the kids ever went up to bed. Maybe they were lured outside by someone in a Santa suit and then the kidnappers set the house on fire? Maybe from the roof?

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    1. The sound of something hitting the roof and rolling caught my attention, as well. Although I have to add that the memory can be a tricky thing. We can add things in later and truly convince ourselves they happened. That makes me wonder if the mom didn't hear something on the roof and add some details to it...

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  2. Kidnapping seems to be the plausible answer. Srange, nothing came up during the following twenty- thirty years (with the parents still alive). Perhaps the remaining child has continued the efforts of solving the mystery.

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    1. There was a story where the mom swears a man contacted her saying he was her son. She believed it, but a lot of people think it was a hoax.

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  3. OMG, more than 70 years ago and still unsolved! This is yet another I never knew about. Very intriguing.

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    1. This is considered one of the most popular missing persons cases of all time and I'd never heard of it until recently either!

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  4. Yes, this is a strange one for sure. Weird that nothing turned up about the missing children.

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    1. Another possibility is that they died in the fire and investigators at the time sucked at doing their job and missed the bodies? But the parents searched, too, I believe...someone would have found something.

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  5. Did the family have 'enemies' that would want to hurt them in this way? Would the kids have run away? Was the family investigated? Sorry, I have more questions than probable answers.

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    1. As do we all!!! Nothing I've heard on this case has given me the impression the kids would have wanted to run away...but I doubt the parents would have told the media/public if so.

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  6. Wow! Someone went through a lot of trouble to steal those kids. But how did they manage to take so many at one time?

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    1. That's the tough thing. Maybe, as Alex said, someone was dressed as Santa...

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  7. It seems like the fire was set to hide the kidnapping.

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    1. Fires have certainly been set to cover up murders (MANY times) and it never works...the remains are always found in the ashes. A fire will go a long way in concealing DNA/fingerprints, though...

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  8. I read something about this years ago. The most plausible explanation is that the children died in the fire; however, I don't believe they did. If they did die in the fire, the investigators were complete idiots. Even with cremation, there are some bone fragments left and with that many bodies something should have been found. I think there was something (in the article I read) about organized crime and the possibility of the children being killed elsewhere or taken to Italy (the parents were from Italy) because of the father's refusal to "work with" the local crime faction. (There were threats to the father about his family, if I remember correctly.) I'm sure there are a lot of theories. The involvement of organized crime is mine. Great post! I love your Mystery Mondays.

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    1. Yeah, bones should have been found, but I don't have complete confidence in the investigators... I remember all that stuff about organized crime, now that you mention it!!! If it was a kidnapping, it was well orchestrated.

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  9. Wow. I Googled this and read more about it. Very strange. If someone did kidnap five children I have to think they probably killed them eventually. Hard for five kids to keep that secret.

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    1. Especially the older kids. Good point!

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  10. I've heard about this story a few times. Wasn't there an incident where they thought they saw some children resembling the Sodder children?

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    1. There were quite a few sightings, and an incident where the family received a photo with the words "Louis Sodder" (the name of one of the missing boys) written on the back. It was never proven that it was him, though...

      http://www.charleyproject.org/cases/s/sodder_louis.html

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  11. This is very sad especially that 5 children went missing all at once. First, I don't believe they died in the fire because there would be charred bodies and bone fragments. The house was being watched but why? I read in the above comments that the mafia might have been involved. They had to lure the children away so I agree with Alex that someone dressed up as Santa. I would bet the older kids were killed but you never know about the younger ones. They could have just been taken and lived their lives with the kidnappers. I feel so bad for the parents and will read more about this later

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    1. Lots of information in the comments here! This story has so many twists and turns, it was hard to fit all of them in the post, but there are many theories out there. And I didn't even know until I heard about this case that bodies wouldn't burn up in a fire, especially one that burned that long. I guess I'd never thought about it!

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  12. I agree with Alex's thoughts. I wonder with the roof noise if they never made it to bed. I do feel bad for the parents too.

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    1. If they were kidnapped, I'm guessing they never made it to bed.

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  13. Never heard of this one. Very confusing! I read all the comments, too, and that just added to the mystery.

    Odd that the mother didn't go check on all those kids the first time that phone rang and woke her up. And then she was awoken again from the sound on the roof--and never went to check on her kids. Just something wrong with that. That lack of concern...maybe they did run away and light the house on fire...or were easily kidnapped by people who knew how lax they were about the children's welfare? Even my mother would have checked on us--and I grew up in a time where people didn't lock their doors or always know where their kids were off playing all day long and she wasn't very "maternal", shall we say. Just such a strange story from the mother. The whole event is mysterious.

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    1. I'm sure they checked out the parents...but do we really trust investigators back then to do a good job of that? I can't say for sure the parents didn't have something to do with it...

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  14. They are most certainly dead, they were too old to not remember their parents and what happened. So sad for the remaining family.

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    1. That's true...they would have spoken up. There was the picture someone mailed them of what looked like their child, grown up. They never traced that back to its origins. I posted the link above somewhere in comments.

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  15. Sad story. I'm sure things didn't turn out well for the children.

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    1. I'm pretty sure you're right about that, sadly.

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  16. How awful! I've never heard about this disappearance before. God only knows what happened to those children.

    Love,
    Janie

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  17. Unsettling for sure... If it was kidnapping, it certainly seems like it would have had to be planned with a lot of detail and at least two people involved but maybe more to get that many kids at once, right? I don't know, just so sad.

    www.emilyanngirdner.com

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  18. Such a sad story. Makes you want to grab your children (and grandchildren) and hold on tight!

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  19. Hi Stephanie - so sad to lose 5 children - almost impossible you'd have thought ... always unknown/ not solved ... and then the other kids - how did they cope ... fascinating but unsettling ... cheers Hilary

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  20. I should be better at stopping by here more often. Very interesting and sad tragedy in your post. I had never heard of it before. Seems odd that the fire would start on a staircase.

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  21. This is so sad!! I do think the fire was a cover up. For what, I don't know? I wonder if they are still alive?

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  22. My goodness, Steph. This one is really spooky, and has us scratching our heads wondering what could have happened.

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