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June 19, 2019

A Devious Plan?

A Devious Plan?

Was the disappearance of Susan and Evan planned?  Also, new information has become available on the Starr Mulder disappearance.

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Welcome to Secrets True Crime.  I am your host, Amber Sitton.  What is done in darkness will eventually come to light.  That is the purpose of this podcast...to shine light on the story of Susan Osborne and her 14 year old son Evan Chartrand. They vanished from their home in the tiny Alabama community of Holtville on Memorial Day in 2017.  They haven't been seen or heard from since and their bodies have not been found. This is episode 10 of a serial podcast with each episode building upon the previous.  If you have not listened to Episodes 1 through 9, please stop and listen to it first or you probably won’t understand what’s happening in this episode.  Listener discretion is advised.  This episode does not contain foul language and the subject matter may involve violence, sexual content, murder and adult themes.  It’s not suitable for younger listeners.  If you know or have known Jerry or knew Susan after she was married to Jerry, I want to hear from you.  Someone knows something.  Information you may think is small or insignificant could make a difference in this case and you can remain anonymous.  secretstruecrime@gmail.com.


We are going to discuss Jerry Osborne quite a bit and in this episode we are going to offer quite a bit of speculation.  I want to reiterate that Jerry Osborne has maintained his innocence.  To my knowledge, he still claims that Susan and Evan left their home with another man. 


We’ve spent the last 9 episodes sharing what information we have related to Susan and Evan’s disappearance.   The ultimate question we had as we began this podcast is where are Susan and Evan and I can promise you, there is a lot of focus and work going in to answering that question.   In 2018, the United Nations released a report in which they stated that the most dangerous place for a woman is in her own home.  Let that statement sink in.  The most dangerous place for a woman is her own home.  That’s where most people feel the safest,  let their guard down and relax.  Crime statistics show that ⅓ of all murdered women are killed by their current or former intimate partner.  While Susan and Evan are still considered missing, foul play is suspected and there has been no evidence that I’m aware of that supports a theory of them being alive and well.  If Jerry is responsible for the disappearance of Susan and Evan, was it spontaneous or planned?  The technical terms are spontaneous domestic homicide and staged domestic homicide and we are going to look at what we know about Jerry, Susan, Evan and their disappearance and see which category of domestic homicide their case might fit.


Spontaneous domestic homicide is unplanned.  The crime scene is not staged and the homicidal act is brought on by a stressful event or the build up of more than one stressful events.  Immediately, I have trouble fitting the circumstances of their disappearance into this category.  If Jerry is responsible for their disappearance, I think we can easily say he did a great deal of staging.  Things that I would classify as staging are the claim that Susan and Evan left with another man, the remodeling, the fires and burning of things such as Evan’s mattress in the backyard.  Melissa saw video of the home that was taken by the investigators when they executed the search warrant.


Melissa: (01:07:52)

They said the house was pretty much wiped out. There was not even a bed in the house. There was hardly any furniture. Um, there was maybe one. There's no silver were really only like one for one plate.


Melissa: (01:08:06)

There was pantry was completely empty. The cabinets in the kitchen were all empty. I'm most, every bedroom was empty. There was ladders and paint still sitting around where he painted everything. Um, and Hannah's room. There was recliner and a game system set up where it looked like he had private sleeping in the recliner and playing video games constantly in her room. Um, he had bought a brand new couch in entertainment center, in TV or whatever right after. So there was a couch and a TV in the living room, but they said that there was hardly anything. And I know we saw a video of the house where you walked through. So my mother in law watched it to see what was there. I think there was maybe two pictures left on the wall. That was actually that Susie had head hang up, hung up. He stuck random, weird military paraphernalia stuff hanging up. I'm on the walls a the only thing they said that they found in that house to ever see that there was a woman ever existed or lived in it was one can have girls shaving cream in the guest bathroom that they said was the only thing that even pointed to a woman every existed in that home.


I would speculate that the stressful events would be Susan’s discovery of the secrets Jerry had been keeping.  We know she’d discovered he was working as a gay escort and the things she found indicated he had been doing so for many years.  Susan has repeatedly told Hollie that she knew more and had so much more. I think about these statements a lot.  I often wonder if Susan discovered an even bigger secret.  Some secrets are so big and painful you can’t bring yourself to speak them aloud or  Susan knew that once she shared it with someone, she’d have no choice but to leave. Maybe she wanted to leave but felt unprepared and not quite ready.  She had previously indicated this to Hollie.  She was concerned about not having a job and not having health insurance for her kids, especially Evan since he had chronic health issues.  Another indicator of spontaneous domestic homicide is a prior history of abuse of the victim by the perpetrator.  We don’t know if there was any physical abuse but we have presented a great deal of testimony that gives strong indications there was emotional and psychological abuse and that Susan was being controlled and isolated by Jerry.  In spontaneous domestic homicides, there is almost always only one crime scene and that is usually the home of the victim.  We do know that the last place Susan and Evan have been reported to be seen alive is at the home they shared with Jerry.  There was a significant amount of blood evidence found in that home through luminol or a similar product.  The crime scene is usually disorderly in spontaneous domestic homicides.  Here is Melissa describing what she saw through the videos.


Melissa: (01:22:03)

There was blood in the guest bathroom or the kids' bathroom. There was blood in the top and stuff. Yeah, like a cleanup job was done. Maybe I'm the laundry room was, like I said, you'll have to watch to see what can be said. The laundry room was a wash rag that had cleaned up blood that if you, once it was covered in Luminol, it would light up a room because it had so much blood on it. You could, you could light a room with that. Um, there was blood all over in the, I guess it'd be like, called the dining room kitchen area right in, through there. There's blood all over the tile right at the back door by were the cadaver dogs hit 'em. He had repainted in everything, but at that point it was like a, I would almost say a three foot circle where it was in that grew out of the tile, um, and on the walls and the blinds aren't the only window without blinds in that house is that door and the blinds are missing and there was blood splatter up that door and you know, he repainted the walls that are already, that covered it up, but it's on the wall.


Melissa: (01:23:20)

But there's a line where the blinds used to be where the blood stopped. So I believe he took the blinds down because he couldn't clean them. And then that area is like, I don't know how to describe how I'll slate within their living room as beside that. So right side where this area was is where the living room was, where he ripped up all the hardwood floor. But if you go all the way to that end and go behind his entertainment center, there's one speck of blood on that trim that didn't get covered at the whole other end of the living room. So that's what was left behind after a complete remodel. So that hardwood floor is where I bet you most of all the evidence of blood was


Melissa: (01:24:32)

the two rooms are side by side type thing, but you're talking one in the living room to the other end for that one blood SPEC. And then they found blood in his truck. And I know they found blood in the boat, but they said lead that was fish. Um, but they did find blindness truck. But what was in his truck and the mop head glowed enough to light up a room. And then he had that carrying that around in the back of his truck two months after they were missing and he took it to the dumpster right after they questioned him, the mob. But they went and got it because he took it to the military base dumpster. And so they went and got it out. I believe they get it out of the dumpster 


Based on the descriptions of the amount of blood evidence found by investigators, I’d have to say the crime scene was disorderly.


The perpetrator usually uses a weapon of opportunity.  It is something that was readily available in the home.  Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to Susan and Evan but we do know that the investigators found numerous guns in the home and I think it is safe to say there would have been kitchen knives and other common household items that could have been used if they were murdered.  There are some other characteristics of spontaneous domestic homicide such as evidence of undoing where the killer washes or dresses his victim and evidence of escalation of violence that indicates an argument occurred and escalated to the point of murder.  Unfortunately, Susan and Evan had been missing for 2 months before their disappearance was reported so we have no way of knowing if there was evidence of these 2 indicators.  Alcohol and drugs are often involved.  This is yet another indicator we don’t have enough information to form an opinion on but Melissa shared something with me that I heard more than once as I spoke with people while preparing this podcast.


Melissa: (58:49)

I have been told that he's violent when he drinks and a creepy and he's got ptsd and he's a little off.

Domestic violence researcher, Robert E. Hanlon Ph.D and colleagues , conducted a study that was designed to examine the neuropsychological differences between individuals who committed spontaneous domestic homicide and individuals who committed non domestic homicide.  Dr. Hanlon published a paper in the Journal of Forensic Sciences about this study called Domestic Homicide: Neuropsychological Profiles of Murderers Who Kill Family Members and Intimate Partners.  I will post the link to the full paper on the Secrets True Crime facebook page but in today’s episode, I want to mention some of the very interesting findings of this study.

The study results indicated that people who committed spontaneous domestic homicide:

  • Are less intelligent than people who committed non domestic homicide.  They have lower IQs.
  • They have more cognitive impairments
  • They are more impulsive
  • Have poor emotional control
  • They are less likely to use a gun to commit the murder.  The study showed that a gun was used in only 14% of spontaneous domestic homicides compared to guns being the weapon of choice in 59% of non domestic homicides.
  • They are more likely to have a severe mental illness and often a psychotic disorder
  • But less likely to have a diagnosis of antisocial personality disorder
  • Less likely to have felony convictions prior to the murder
  • They are more likely to have a poor attention span
  • Over 80% have a history of head trauma
  • Almost 80% have a lifetime history of illicit drug use
  • Over 60% were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time they committed the murder
  • More likely to use a knife or other weapons such as baseball bats, clubs, and fists.

Staged domestic homicides are planned.  Stressors often lead to this type of domestic homicide too.  The most obvious difference in Staged and Spontaneous domestic homicides is in the crime scene itself.  It’s typically points to an organized and controlled crime with very little evidence left behind.  Fingerprints are wiped and murder weapons removed.  We know that immediately following the disappearance of Susan and Evan, Jerry began remodeling his home, ripping out hardwood flooring and replacing it with carpet, painting and burning of furniture and other household items.  Staging is very common.  Examples of this are deaths staged as robberies, suicide or even an accident.  Could Jerry’s claim that Susan and Evan left with another man fit staging?  In the book titled Crime Classification Manual: A Standard System for Investigating and Classifying Violent Crime, it notes that in staged domestic homicides, there is frequently an improvement in the relationship seen and this apparent change of heart will be demonstrated in a highly visible manner to others.  I spoke to Nicki awhile back and she described a story she’d heard from another neighbor.  Apparently Jerry & Susan did have at least one set of friends that lived nearby.  


Nicki: (40:42)

they used to spend, you know, a good bit of time in the last time that they were over there, which was a couple of weeks prior to the disappearance that had come over there to their house and they left holding hands, walking down the driveway, headed back to their house. And so they didn't suspect that anything was wrong or you know, out of the ordinary.


Initially, Susan told Hollie she had to get a job before she could leave Jerry.  She was concerned about supporting her children and providing them health insurance.  But, the day Hollie was leaving for her move to Key West, Susan told Hollie that she and Jerry loved each other and had worked out their issues.  This was 3 weeks prior to their disappearance.  

Another thing the book notes is that friends and family members often say the victim expressed fears and concerns regarding their safety.  We can check that box for sure.  Susan and Evan both had communicated to Hollie that Jerry had a temper, they had to be careful and that he was crazy.


If Jerry is responsible for the disappearance of Susan and Evan, there are some other factors that I think point to staged domestic homicide.  All these things are related to the timing of their disappearance.

    • It occurred 3 weeks after Susie’s best friend (pretty much her only friend) moved out of state 14 hours away
    • It Occurred 2 weeks after Susie’s mom visited
    • It Occurred a week after Evan was out of school for the summer
    • It Occurred while Susan’s daughter was visiting her father


There are circumstances surrounding Susan and Evan’s disappearance that point to both types of domestic homicide.  Another possibility to consider is that it’s a little of each.  It’s possible that Jerry was planning to make Susan and Evan disappear but something happened that caused him to act before he had all his plans firmly in place.  Every aspect of Susan and Evan’s lives are being thoroughly investigated and in the next episode you’ll hear from the private investigator working on this case.  


In the last episode, we shared information about the disappearance of another woman in Elmore County, Starr Mulder.  Since that episode was released, the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office has released more information.  They have now publicly identified Starr’s ex husband, Thomas Whitehurst as a person of interest.  With a lot of help from the private investigator working on Susan and Evan’s case, we did a bit of research on Thomas Whitehurst.  This new information was released right before my deadline for this episode so there’s a lot more to look into that I’ll follow up with in a later episode.  He grew up in Andalusia, AL and graduated from high school there in 1974. He was listed in the yearbook as Tommy Whitehurst. He lived in Montgomery and then it appears he moved to the Wetumpka area around 2004. Investigator Wilson described him as a tall, big man.  We were able to locate his profiles on some social media.  The first thought in my mind when I saw his profile photos?  Santa Claus.  It probably didn’t help that in one of the photos he was standing next to a Christmas tree but even without the tree, the resemblance would turn many a child’s head at Christmas time.  He has gray hair, a gray beard and is wearing glasses.  Investigator Wilson told me that in the beginning, Mr. Whitehurst was cooperative but once it became obvious he was a person of interest in Starr’s disappearance, he hired an attorney and the earlier cooperation came to a quick halt.   While this season of the podcast is dedicated to Susan and Evan, their story led us to Starr’s disappearance.  We will provide updated information on her disappearance as it develops.  


Thank you for listening to Secrets True Crime.  If you have any information that could help in solving the disappearance of Susan Osborne and Evan Chartrand, please call the Elmore County Sheriffs Office at 334-567-5546.  You may also email me at secretstruecrime@gmail.com.  I want to say thank you to those who have contacted me with information and those who’ve reached out to encourage me.  Each of you has provided a tremendous amount of help and you are making a difference in this case.  Not only am I appreciative but Susan and Evan’s families are so thankful as well.  To those of you listening that have information and fear or something else is keeping you from reaching out, please just do it.  Many like you already have and any information they’ve requested be kept private is and will continue to be kept that way.  If you are enjoying this podcast, please let us know by giving us a 5-star rating and review in Apple Podcasts.   I’m active on social media and often share photos of Susan and Evan.  Follow Secrets True Crime on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  @secretscrime.