Every Monday, I'm presenting a new mystery. Some have been solved...some remain unsolved to this day.
The 50s were an innocent time, where families felt safe raising their children. Evelyn Hartley's story is especially touching not only because it happened in 1953, but also because it happened in the small town of La Crosse, Wisconsin.
On October 24, 1953, the entire town of La Crosse was preparing for the big game between La Crosse State Teachers College and River Falls. Professor Vigo Rasmusen and his wife were planning to attend the game, but their original babysitter had to cancel. He then called Evelyn Hartley, a 15-year-old who had babysat their child before.
Professor Rasmusen picked Evelyn up at her house and drove her to his home, five minutes away. His wife gave her instructions that included putting the baby to bed at 7 p.m. and covering her with a blanket at 7:15. The professor, his wife, and their 7-year-old daughter left the house at 6:45.
|Professor Rasmusen's house|
At 7:00, Evelyn's mom got a strange feeling. She decided not to call, though, since she knew her daughter always called at 8:30.
|Evelyn's parents and sister. Photo courtesy Thin Air Podcast.|
At 8:30, when Evelyn didn't call, her dad called the Rasmusen house. After another try, he decided to go to the scene himself. At 9:20, he arrived at the house and saw one of Evelyn's shoes and her glasses on the floor through one of the windows. Continuing around the house, he saw an open basement window. He found his daughter's other shoe at the foot of the stairs.
When the police arrived, they found a pool of blood just outside the basement window. There was also blood inside the basement near the window. Both were tested and matched Evelyn's blood type.
An active search began for Evelyn. The footprints indicated a men's size 11 shoe. Police found those footprints inside and outside the house, as well as in the backyards of neighbors, leading them to believe the perpetrator may have considered several houses before breaking into the Rasmusen home.
|Crime scene photo|
Neighbors in the area reported hearing three or four screams around 7:15 p.m. The baby was in bed but not covered, further suggesting the abduction happened between 7 and 7:15 p.m.
Neighbors also reported seeing a dark tan sedan in the area around that time. Blood stains were found on the side of the Rasmusen home, including the bloody imprint of a human hand. More blood was found smeared on the side of a neighboring garage. At a house on the corner, the pool of blood was so thick, the police are certain someone likely lay in that spot for a long period of time.
The blood trail vanished at the end of the road. Police believe Evelyn was taken away in a car. A couple of days later, a man reported nearly hitting a two-toned early 1940s car that was speeding away that evening. He said he saw a man and young girl inside. He said just a few minutes earlier, he'd seen the same two people walking together in the area where the blood was spotted. They were staggering, but he'd assumed they were just drunk.
A similar car was reported near the La Crosse River Bridge. The car sped away when it was seen by the police. Later police found a size 11 "Hood Mogul" shoe and a jacket nearby. Blood on the shoes and jacket were confirmed to be Evelyn's blood type.
Although Evelyn's disappearance sparked one of the biggest searches in Wisconsin history, no one was ever charged. Notorious killer Ed Gein has long been considered as a possible perpetrator, since he was visiting relatives just a few blocks away. He was questioned but never charged. He died in a mental institution in 1984.
What do you think happened to Evelyn Hartley?