In a time when pandemic restrictions and the continued turn of the globe already play a direct role in causing family members and friends to lose touch, many families are also struggling to remain in contact with some of their more vulnerable family members—folks who may suffer from a chronic illness, folks who have high-pressure jobs, or folks who suffer from substance abuse. In these difficult times, some families have been forced to file a missing person report when they could not get in touch with their loved ones. One such Indianapolis mother is continuing the search for her missing son, Jason Culliton, whom she has not seen in over a year.
April 6, 2020 was the last time Judy Culliton saw her son. It was a mild, cloudy day in Indiana—the day of his grandmother’s funeral. While the event was far from a happy occasion to reunite with relatives, Judy had no idea that it would be the last time she would speak to her son in person. Following the funeral of his grandmother, Jason continued to remain in contact with his mother via a sparse series of text messages in June 2020. Now more than a year later, his family has not heard a word from Jason.
Jason Culliton has struggled with substance abuse issues and transience in the past, but knowledge of his whereabouts was rather nebulous in the months before his disappearance. It was believed Jason had been living with a close friend on N Oxford Street in Indianapolis, Indiana before that friend lost his home. Now it is unknown if Jason is travelling, if he is alone, or how he is living day-to-day.
After 18 months without answers, Jason’s family has retained an independent missing person investigator to assist them in the search. Lauth Investigations International is a family-owned-and-operated private investigation firm located in Indianapolis, Indiana. Their CEO, Thomas Lauth, is one of the nation’s foremost missing person experts, specializing in critically missing children and adults. Indianapolis missing person cases are diverse in needs, but often do not get the attention they need from law enforcement. Having a private investigator on the case ensures that no stone is left unturned in the search for a missing person. In addition to their professional expertise, Lauth’s missing person investigations also have a multi-pronged approach in awareness campaigns for their cases to assure that missing persons like Jason still get the media exposure necessary to help solve the case. In an interview about the case, Thomas Lauth said, “The media is one of the greatest tools in a missing person investigation, because keeping the missing person’s face in the media is one of the best ways to garner fresh leads in a case. Cases like Jason’s receive a disparate amount of media exposure because he is not young or female. We’re here to make sure no one forgets about Jason and to help his family get the closure they desperately need in these trying times.”
Jason is 5’11” tall, weighs approximately 205lbs, has brown hair, and hazel eyes. Anyone with information on his whereabouts should call Lauth Investigations International at 317-951-1100.
True crime fans are some of the most voracious in media—always looking for the newest documentary, series, or podcast to devour on their commutes, during work, or while relaxing at home. While the North East and the West Coast have had the majority of media exposure as the setting for many horrific true crime cases in the United States, there are fascinating, less well-known cases that originated right here in the heartland! Here is an essential list of Indiana true crime podcast listening as spooky season draws near.
Infamous Indy is a podcast that claims to explore “the darker side of Hoosier Hospitality,” discussing and detailing some of the more violent associations with Indianapolis, Indiana—including the setting for some of cult leader, Jim Jones’ earliest sermons and the tragic story of the “Delphi murders,” when 13-year-old Abigail Williams and 14-year-old Libby German were found deceased in the area of the Delphi Historic Trails. On the podcast’s website, the creator says, “Indiana is full of true crime stores to make you cringe and your blood boil. There are also plenty of little known murders, rapes and crimes that have disrupted small towns all across the Hoosier State. I know what you’re thinking, I thought the same thing, “whatever happens in Indiana, it’s just a Midwest flyover state with people who are just too nice.” The truth is, there are stories here that will keep you up at night and make you question everything you thought you knew.
Likely the most well-known Indiana true crime podcast is Crime Junkie. Ashley Flowers and Brit Prawat host this Indianapolis-based true crime podcast that has shed light on obscure cases, as well as the true-crime cases all fans are familiar with. Prawat is a former private investigator and brings a unique professional perspective to the cases. The show recently took a deep dive into the infamous Gabby Petito case, and the very first episode is about a Niqui, McCown, who disappeared from Richmond, Indiana only weeks before her impending nuptials. In 2018, they also covered the tragic story of April Tinsley, who was murdered in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
This true crime podcast covers crime with a special focus on how mental health and social service play a role in the machinations of the crime and everything that follows. The episode titled “Gertrude Baniszewski, Rent is Due,” the podcast tells the story of an Indianapolis woman who imprisoned, tortured, and murdered a teenaged girl named Sylvia Likens in her care—even going as far as forcing other children in her charge to participate in the torture. The podcast examines how mental health and systemic failings ultimately culminated in Sylvia’s murder.
The Cold Case Chronicles team consists of four Indiana women who discuss cases that have long been cold, including the infamous case of Linda Weldy in La Porte, Indiana back in 1987. With a touch of local Indiana color and delightful “Hoosier-isms,” Cold Case Chronicles is a one-stop shop for cases both notorious and obscure.
Perhaps one of the most famous true-crime podcasts that’s currently in circulation is My Favorite Murder—one of many in a new subgenre of true crime media that combines true crime with comedic elements. The hosts attempt to find scraps of humor in their cases, including those about Indiana true crime. During one of their live show tours, hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark recorded an episode on the 2012 Richmond Hill explosion and the 1970 murder of heiress Marjorie Jackson.
After weeks of piecing together the last moments of the life of Gabby Petito, her family and her supporters finally have a crucial answer in her case. A Wyoming coroner disclosed on Tuesday that after examining Gabby’s remains—located on September 19 in the Bridger-Teton National Forest—that Gabby had died as a direct result of strangulation. The Teton County Coroner, Dr. Brent Blue, had previously ruled her death as a homicide with the manner of homicide undetermined. No further details have been released at this time. The Petito cause of death likely comes as little comfort to the country at large, which is currently in the grips of a wide-scale man-hunt for Gabby’s fiancé, Brian Laundrie, who has been named a person of interest in her murder.
The Petito cause of death is just one more piece in composing the 1000-piece puzzle of Gabby’s last days. Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie were on a cross-country trip in a repurposed Ford Transit van, documenting their travels and experiences through social media. Before Gabby fell completely out of contact with her family in late August, her family was unable to determine if the scant few text messages they received were even authored by Gabby. Even more disturbing, Brian Laundrie returned to his home in North Port, Florida alone on September 1, 2021. Gabby wasn’t reported missing until her family finally filed a missing person report on September 11, 2021. However, when authorities went to question Brian Laundrie on his knowledge of Gabby’s whereabouts, his parents shielded him from police. Not long after that, Brian Laundrie was nowhere to be found, leaving even more questions about what his exact role was in the Petito cause of death. He told his family on September 14 that he was going out for a hike and has not been seen since.
In addition to determining cause of death, Blue was also able to determine that Gabby’s remains had been in the wilderness for approximately 3-4 weeks before she was found by authorities, placing her time of death in mid to late August. While Laundrie has only been named a ‘person of interest’ by law enforcement, there is still a warrant out for his arrest after authorities determined Laundrie used Gabby’s debit card without her permission. While the internet has speculated highly about the relationship dynamic between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie, one of the only hard pieces of evidence available to the public is a police body-cam video that captured the aftermath of an argument between them following a report to 911 that a man in Utah had witnessed Laundrie slap Gabby. When the responding officer pulled the Ford Transit over with Gabby in the passenger seat, the couple was separated for the evening to avoid domestic violence charges.
While the search for Brian Laundrie continues throughout the United States—even with the help of Dog the Bounty Hunter—missing person experts like Thomas Lauth suspect that Brian had evaded police through a combination of survival knowledge and help from third parties, “I have never thought he would stay in Florida very long,” Lauth said. “I believe he had some outside resources available to him early on, but those outside resources have likely cut him off because he’s a fugitive…He’s been a savvy traveler for many years. When I say ‘savvy,’ he’s able to live off the land and he knows how to travel alone and lightly.”
The hunt for a 28-year-old male boater reported missing on Chippewa Lake in Ohio ended in great sadness on Sunday, 27th of June, when his body was recovered from the water. According to witness accounts, the unnamed man jumped from a boat into the water at roughly 9pm on Saturday and did not resurface. Some reports suggest that the boat may have been occupied by a group of people, although this has not been officially confirmed.
After the alert was raised, Chippewa Lake was closed off to the public while the Ohio Department of Natural Resources led efforts to locate the missing man. Several additional agencies including the Medina County Sheriff Office, the Medina Count All Hazards Team, the Westfield Fire Department, the Medina Park District, and Wooster Township Dive and Rescue all rallied to assist in the search.
Local Communities Rally
Volunteers are reported to have searched alongside the numerous rescue crews overnight, while divers and Ranger boats took to the water on Sunday morning in the hope that the man might still be found alive. As one of the largest of Ohio’s natural lakes, and spanning 325 acres, Chippewa Lake represented a vast body of water within which to mount such a challenging rescue effort.
After almost 24 hours of searching, the worst fears of all involved were realized when the missing man’s body was discovered. Although his identity has not been shared with the public, the Medina County Coroner Dr. Lisa Deranek confirmed that he resided in Seville. In a Facebook post, the Sheriff’s office described the investigation as complicated before expressing, “Our thoughts go out to the victim of the incident. The patience of the community is appreciated during this difficult time.”
The Loss Of A Loving Family
“This is very tragic,” the county coroner continued, sharing that the man “came from a very loving family.” Sharing her empathy for their loss, she continued, “they were all there waiting the entire time, until we were able to recover his body, more than 24 hours straight. You don’t always see that in these kinds of situations, believe it or not. They’re just a very loving family, a wonderful and supportive family.”
Speaking to 19 News, friends of the unidentified man in his twenties are reported to have said that he grew up boating on Chippewa Lake. A witness shared that the man’s hat blew off into the water, and he jumped in to retrieve it. Framed by this unfortunate and unexpected turn of events, the investigation continues in an effort to understand how such a tragedy might have occurred. An autopsy and toxicology screen have been initiated through Cuyahoga County, but results are not expected to emerge for four to six months.
Safety On The Water
Chippewa Lake is a popular destination for boaters, offering the added draw of sights of a neighboring abandoned amusement park that has been closed since 1978. Following this recent fatal incident, safety on the water has been drawn into debate. Medina County Park District Director Nate Eppink stated that while a park district boat was on the water for much of the day on Saturday, they were no longer out on Chippewa Lake at 9 pm in the evening. He shared, however, that a ranger was stationed on Kennard Road, “a minute around the corner, in the close vicinity,” when the call came in. There are reportedly no immediate plans to increase lake patrol, but Medina County Park District recently purchased the adjacent Chippewa Lake Amusement Park property and has expressed intentions to develop the site in the future. Eppink also shared his sentiments on such a loss of life, saying “This was a tragic event and our hearts go out to the family.”
It’s the kind of story you see in movies—a young woman discovers that the circumstances of her past may not be what she originally thought. An adoption, a missing person case, possible DNA evidence; these are all plot points in a crime film. However, for Kaylynn Stevenson, the truth could be stranger than fiction now that she has her suspicions that she may actually be Brittany Williams, who disappeared from Richmond, VA when she was only 7 years old.
Kaylynn Stevenson has been sharing her story on social media, claiming she has proof that she is actually a missing seven year-old girl who disappeared from Virginia more than 20 years ago, “Who are you? I am Brittany Renee Williams. Are you sure? Yes, I am. Why are you sure. I’m sure because I have a DNA test to prove it.”
Stevenson was raised by adoptive parents in Columbus, Ohio, and only moved to Fort Wayne within the last year. While researching her biological family, Stevenson claimed to have flashbacks to childhood. After searching her surname ‘Williams,’ Stevenson was shocked to see results for a little girl on a missing person poster. She claims she recognized the little girl as herself.
Brittany Williams was only seven years old when she vanished from her foster home in Richmond, Virginia back in 2000. Brittany was suddenly absent from class and stopped appearing at court hearings with her foster mother, Kim Parker. Parker was so uncooperative with authorities that they deemed it wise to conduct a search of her yard in search of the missing girl’s remains. The missing girl’s case had many exacerbating factors that increased the urgency for answers—for example, Brittany Williams was born with AIDS, and required medication as a result. After some time with no answers in the investigation, authorities believed the little girl to be dead without access to her medication. Allegedly, Parker attempted to give Brittany to her sister out of an inability to care for her. Her sister refused, and Parker told authorities that Parker had paid two women in California to take Brittany. Both women deny ever having custody of Brittany and do not know her whereabouts.
In addition to sharing a surname with Brittany, Stevenson also claims to have had flashes of life in Parker’s foster home called “Rainbow Kids.” Stevenson also has scars on her body from a catheter and eating tube. Catheter scars were one of the distinguishing characteristics listed on Brittany William’s missing person poster. However, a crucial thing Stevenson and Brittany do not share is a diagnosis of AIDS. Despite this crucial inconsistency, WWBT has reported that the FBI and Henrico Police are looking into Stevenson’s claim by comparing her DNA sample to that of Brittany Williams’ half-sister.