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 12 of a serial podcast with each episode building upon the previous. If you have not listened to Episodes 1 through 11, 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. email@example.com. I also want to thank you to those of you who contacted us with tips after the last episode. We received a lot of high quality information and we are working our way through all the new information.
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.
Over the next couple episodes we are going to discuss the question everyone wants to know the answer to. Why hasn’t Jerry been arrested? Why is he still walking free? This is the question I get asked the most. It’s also one of the questions I think about often. While I don’t know the answer to these questions, I’ve spent an enormous amount of time researching murder convictions when the victims’ bodies are missing. We are going to look at what it takes to successfully investigate and prosecute a case like this. This is going to be a 2 part episode and Part 2 will be released on August 8th. I’ve put this topic off for awhile. These questions alone can be interpreted as a criticism of the Elmore County Sheriff’s Office, the investigators working on this case and of the District Attorney’s Office and that is something that has no place in this podcast about Susan and Evan. I want to address this head on before I go any further into this episode. I have no criticism of the investigators working on this case. As a matter of fact, what I’ve seen to date gives me confidence they’ve done exactly what they are supposed to do.
So why is Jerry still walking free? I think the simple answer is because Susan and Evan’s bodies have not been found...yet. A victim’s body is usually the single most important piece of evidence in a murder case. If their bodies weren’t missing, I believe we wouldn’t be discussing Jerry being free. Corpus delicti is a term from western jurisprudence that refers to the principle that it must be proven that a crime occurred before a person can be convicted of committing that crime. It is a latin word that translates to body of the crime. The term and the concept apply to all crimes but it is one of the most important concepts in a murder investigation. Wikipedia sums it up pretty simply. When a person disappears and cannot be contacted, many police agencies initiate a missing person case. If, during the course of the investigation, detectives believe that he/she has been murdered, then a "body" of evidentiary items, including physical, demonstrative and testimonial evidence, must be obtained to establish that the missing individual has indeed been murdered before a suspect can be charged with homicide. The best and easiest evidence establishment in these cases is the physical body of the deceased. However, in the event that a physical body is not present or has not yet been discovered, it is possible to prove a crime took place if sufficient circumstantial evidence is presented to prove the matter beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, the presence at a missing person's home of spilled human blood, identifiable as that person's, in sufficient quantity to indicate exsanguination, demonstrates—even in the absence of a corpse—that the possibility that no crime has occurred, and the missing person is merely missing, is not reasonably credible.
That is exactly the course I believe this investigation has taken. Susan and Evan were reported missing but I’d say that within minutes, the investigators had serious concerns for their well being. They found evidence of foul play on day 1 including blood evidence but they have been unable to locate their bodies.
There has been many portrayals by Hollywood that gives credence to the theory of no body no crime but this is not true. The phrase “body of the crime” does not necessarily refer to a physical body. A prosecutor would need to be able to prove that the person is indeed dead and that their death was caused by a criminal act. These cases are often referred to as “no body” cases. There is a former federal prosecutor who has become the nation’s leading expert on no body homicides. Thomas Tad Dibiase joined the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia in 1995 and he specialized in domestic violence and forensic homicide cases. One of his high profile homicide cases included United States vs. Harold Austin, the 2nd no body prosecution in the city. Tad wrote a book called No-Body Homicide Cases: A Practical Guide to Investigating, Prosecuting and Winning Cases When the Victim is Missing and he keeps track of all no body prosecutions across the country. It is hard to find a news story regarding no body prosecutions in which Tad isn’t interviewed and quoted. In his book, Tad notes that victimology is one of the key elements of a no body investigation. He points out that victimology is even more critical in a no body investigation because you aren’t just looking for the offender. You also have to prove that your victim was murdered and the victimology can help prove this. In his book, Tad says that all victims have habits, patterns, family and friends and that the absence of these patterns can demonstrate just as conclusively that a person is dead as someone missing work or an important family milestone. When Michael Fleming volunteered to investigate and help locate Susan and Evan, one of the first things he did was build a victimology profile for both Susan and Evan and for the person most likely to be responsible for their disappearance.
Speaker 2: (16:17)
Um, talking to family and friends and people that interacted with both Susan and Evan, we're able to put together a pretty solid, um, victimology profile. We, we can say with good assurance, um, certain things about both Susan and Evan and how they would react, um, in certain circumstances. Um, those are, are really important pieces, um, for, for us as we consider, um, the different possibilities, um, especially on the victimology side. Um, understanding, um, who Susan and Evan were and how they, what their personalities were, how they interacted with people and how they dealt with decision making and, um, stress in their life. Um, that's, that's really big. Um, and being able to narrow down how things may have gone down.
Speaker 2: (21:07)
Um, but like I said, the, the, the profiling, um, is really important. Um, because it, it, it kind of gives you a chance to get into the mind of, of both the offender and the victim, um, or victims in this case.
Speaker 3: (21:26)
Um, and [inaudible]
Speaker 2: (21:29)
as you learn and know those people, um, at that level you can look at, at new theories that come up, new ideas that are presented. Um, and having that, that background knowledge is, is really, really important. And, um, being able to sort through new theories and, and reprioritize things, um, to determine, uh, uh, cause you, you're, you're using that, that background information, those profiles to determine is this a viable option? Is this something that, um, that the offender would have considered? Um, or in the case of, of the actual events. Um, is, is this something that fits with how Susan would have reacted if she was presented with this kind of information or this kind of dilemma? How would that have played out? Um, so we, we've spent a good bit of time, um, looking over the information we have on the crime scene. Um, the, the information that has come out from, from friends, family and other witnesses to, to really kind of guide us, not necessarily nailed down, um, exactly what we're looking for. But to give us some ideas of, of, you know, who could have done this, what would it, what would the trigger points have been possibly, um, and, and then how would they have most likely reacted in the aftermath once, once they did something that's heinous. Um, so we've spent a good bit of time putting that kind of stuff together to, to help us as we, as we move down the road, um, and get closer to finding them.
I am going to share with you the profiles that Michael built for Susan and Evan.
Speaker 8: (01:13:42)
the other piece of that that that's really important is the victimology, um, because we need to have the same kind of the same level of understanding of the victims in the, in this crime. Um, so we look at, at Susan, um, and we, we talked to family and close friends and coworkers and neighbors and, and from all of that, we know that she was a very likable person. Um, she was fun to be around. Um, but she, she necessarily the center of attention. Um, she, she tended to be reserved and private. She kept things to herself. She had a limited number of close friends. Um, she, she has been hurt in the past. She's had relationships in the past that went sideways and she got hurt in the process. Um, she's made some bad decisions, um, but she's attempted to learn and move on and better herself.
Speaker 8: (01:14:41)
Um, in every case where we've talked to someone that knew Susan, um, we know that she loved her children without question. Um, and she did everything she could to provide and protect for them. Um, sometimes the decisions she made, um, you know, in hindsight we can look back and, and say, yeah, that probably wasn't the best decision, but in the heat of the moment at the time, she felt like she was making the right decisions to protect her kids even if, um, it wasn't necessarily the best decision for her personally. Um, we know she was law abiding. Uh, she was not violent. Um, she drank socially on periodic occasions.
Speaker 4: (01:15:27)
Speaker 8: (01:15:28)
she internalized stress and failures. She took those things personally. Um, but she would rarely involve someone else unless she saw no way for her to recover on her own. And she had a, a strong desire to find a way to make it on her own.
Speaker 4: (01:15:49)
Speaker 8: (01:15:50)
she also had a borderline dependent and submissive personality. She tended to defer to a strong male influence, um, but she could be vocal and defensive, um, especially when it came to her kids.
Speaker 4: (01:16:07)
Speaker 8: (01:16:08)
and then of course, weight, we also have to look at Evan.
Speaker 4: (01:16:11)
Speaker 8: (01:16:12)
Evan was quiet, reserved. Um, but once he got comfortable with someone that he knew, he was prone to being silly, he liked to make people laugh. He was very attentive, very intuitive,
Speaker 4: (01:16:28)
Speaker 8: (01:16:28)
likable, empathetic towards others. Um, he wasn't aggressive. He wasn't a bully in school. Um, he loved his mother deeply. He was very devoted to her. Um, he went out out of his way to help her with things around the house, um, and to bring her happiness. So,
Speaker 4: (01:16:53)
Speaker 8: (01:16:54)
understanding those kinds of details about Susan and Evan is also important because we need to be able to also, um, make assessments of what kind of decisions they would have made when certain things, um, certain stresses presented in their lives, um, and, and what was important to them. So, um, developing those profiles is, is another tool in this process.
Michael also constructed a profile of the likely person responsible for Susan and Evan’s disappearance.
Speaker 8: (01:04:21)
Um, we've, we've conducted behavioral analysis. Um, we've, uh, and this is the kind of stuff that, that you see on all the, all the crime TV shows it and it's, it's a real thing. Um, and it is really meaningful, um, to look at the crime scene, look at the evidence that you have and look at, um, the statistics and, and that academic studies and the papers and the reports and stuff on similar crimes and, and form a profile of the offender that committed this, this act. Um, and, and going through that process on this case. Um, we've, uh, and, uh, a lot of it depends on, on the academics, the studies that are out there and, and that stuff that, um, that you've covered. And in episode 10, you talked about spontaneous, domestic homicide, um, and, and some of the stats that go along with that, um, knowing that, uh, 65% of victims in these cases have had an end intimate relationship with the offender.
Speaker 8: (01:05:39)
Um, 78% of used drugs, a high percentage of them use alcohol. Um, key factors like, uh, only 25% of those cases does the offender have, um, a domestic violence record. But 70, 70% of the time they have a history of domestic violence. So you've got a high probability of this being a, someone who's violent in, in the house, but it most often doesn't go reported. They have no domestic violence record. Um, so we use those academics, um, those statistics, the methodologies, um, like you've already brought up with spontaneous domestic homicide to construct the profile of the type person that, that we think would commit a crime like this. And so we're based on that. Um, and, and this, this kind of thing doesn't, doesn't consider a suspect. So when you're building an offender profile, even if you have a suspect in mind, the person building the profile, they don't know that all they know is the crime scene, the evidence. Um, what, what is actually there, um, that is, has been discovered. So they use that and, and their knowledge set and um, psychology training and, and other tools to build a profile. And, and so that tells us that this offender is most likely a middle aged man. Um, he's a narcissist. He's got average intelligence. Um, he may have a military or law enforcement background and some training, um, probably does not have a college degree, but he may have dropped out of college.
Speaker 4: (01:07:37)
Speaker 8: (01:07:38)
but he does tend to demonstrate high organizational skills and attention to detail on these types of people are normally very paranoid. Um, they get very jealous. Um, and those are trigger points for them.
Speaker 4: (01:07:55)
Speaker 8: (01:07:56)
in their background, there's most likely some type of mental illness, a symptomology, um, that's compounded by feelings of low self worth, lack of accomplishments, uh, feeling of mediocre existence. Um, they tend to use lies to cover up those shortcomings that they perceive in their own life.
Speaker 4: (01:08:21)
Speaker 8: (01:08:21)
he may have a, a history of mild to moderate mental illness including depression, possibly some transient violent behavior, this linked up personality disorder. Um, but nothing, no mental illness that's, uh, that would be considered severe, um, or would call some type of impairment. Um, these people tend to be cowardly, um, but they, they try to come across to others as strong and assertive, um, again to mask what they see as a personal shortcoming in their own life. Um, they tend to be confrontational, maybe even bullying. They may bully others. Um, but rarely do they get actually get in a physical altercation, um, with someone equal or stronger than them.
Speaker 4: (01:09:12)
Speaker 8: (01:09:13)
unless they can change, they odds if, if they can, uh, um, brandish a weapon, they can pull out a weapon and, and change the odds in their favor. They, they tend to do that kind of thing, but most often they, they tend to go back to a private place and punch holes in walls, break household objects, stuff like that.
Speaker 4: (01:09:34)
Speaker 8: (01:09:36)
we also, uh, typically see in cases like this, someone, the, the offender being someone who has not had a whole lot of successful longterm relationships. Um, in fact, usually the people that they encounter, um, find those people awkward and odd. Um, they don't necessarily express fear about, about them, but they just, they think, ah, that he, he's a little bit odd.
Speaker 4: (01:10:08)
Speaker 8: (01:10:09)
the relationships that they do manage to have are usually with people that are down on their luck or desperate people that they can easily control. Um, or someone that takes pity on them for some reason.
Speaker 4: (01:10:25)
Speaker 8: (01:10:26)
because those are things they can use to, to establish dominance and, and control the relationship. Um, the end of a relationship though, because there are so few of them in these people's lives, um, the end of a relationship, um, is often a trigger point as well.
Speaker 4: (01:10:46)
Speaker 8: (01:10:49)
this offender may have ended a previous relationship to hide or escape a major failure on his part. Something like financial trouble, also jobs, something like that. Um, he doesn't want to, to have to, to have other people recognize what he already sees as shortcomings in his life. So he may have ended a relationship in the, um, to try to, to hide that or, or, or escape it. Um, and because of the relationship difficulties, um, the, the people like this, see, usually their primary social outlet is, um, something taboo, um, taboo or illegal pornography, um, maybe prostitution, um, stuff like that, other than a monogamous relationship with an intimate partner, even if they have, um, um, um, an og monogamous relationship
Speaker 4: (01:11:51)
going on, um, [inaudible]
Speaker 8: (01:11:55)
they tend to not find fulfillment in that and they look for these other sexual outlets, um, to, to meet their needs. Um, and then the final thing is that you, in most cases, they've considered murder as an option in the past. Um, and they've threatened others with violence to maintain control. Um, and that Kinda Kinda goes back into that a statistic from the, um, spontaneous domestic homicide.
Speaker 4: (01:12:22)
Speaker 8: (01:12:24)
Uh, but they are, they're typically very careful about it. Um, and they probably this, this offender probably has no criminal record or felony convictions for any of that. So, so it's one of those cases where, um, I can, like I mentioned earlier, 25% of the time, um, only 25% of the time they, they have a domestic violence record, but in 70% of the cases, there actually has been unreported, um, violence going on in the home. So having a, uh, an offender profile like that, that, that tells us, um, obviously that tells us the type of person that, that we would consider a suspect. Um, but more importantly to, to where we are in this investigation, it gives us, um, personal knowledge, personal information about how this person thinks and operates what's important to, to him. Um, so that, that we can have a better idea of the types of decisions that he might make, um, and, and what his thought processes like as he's making decisions, um, during and after,
Speaker 4: (01:13:39)
um, the crime.
Michael’s profile fits many of the descriptions we’ve been given of Jerry to a T but there is one thing he said that really jumped out at me. He said that the offender had probably considered murder as an option in the past.
Here is Hollie describing a phone call she received from Susan. You’ve heard it before but I think what Susan describes is pretty significant.
Speaker 4: (01:50:24)
I want to say about a year before their disappearance. Susie called me up one day and said that she had found something interesting. She had found her boots, wisdom on craigslist for sale.
Speaker 4: (01:50:43)
Jerry have listed her both personnel
well with this ad that she found on craigslist where Jerry had evidently listed her boat for so without Hernando much. Not only did it have my boat listed personnel, but in the description she was reading me, it was telling on Craig's list when he would be at work and when his wife would be home alone and then had a google map with directions to their house. Okay. So almost. And I told her specifically, I said, that's weird. So they're almost like a sounds like a setup, like he's having you killed or something. She said that's what I was thinking. So I told him, I said he better either take that at all or said if he sells my boat and I'm selling his motorcycle. She just said he. He removed the listing after that. I said, that sounds like a setup. I as why would he have a map with directions to your house and then be telling people when you're home alone and when he's at work. Is it. That's weird.
I’ve speculated in prior episodes that I thought it was possible that Jerry did plan the disappearances of Susan and Evan and that while he was planning it, maybe something occurred that caused the disappearances to happen sooner than Jerry anticipated. Maybe he didn’t have a comprehensive plan in place yet. Could this crazy craigslist ad be another indication of this? Who in their right mind that is legitimately trying to sell something puts their home address in a craigslist ad? And an even bigger question is what husband would provide their address along with a list of dates and times that their wife would be home alone? Let’s explore the scenario a little further. The boat was Susan’s and despite it needing work, she and Evan were really excited about it. She had no intention of selling the boat and she was unaware that Jerry was going to try to sell her boat. So just picture in your mind what it would have looked like when a stranger knocks on her door and tells her he’s there to check out the boat she has advertised for sale on craigslist. The ad he placed just doesn’t make sense to me if his true intent was to sell the boat.
Tad DiBiase notes in his book that the classic no-body defendant thinks he’s smarter than everyone else and so he thinks he can outsmart the police. We’ve heard people describe Jerry as being one of those people that thinks he’s smarter than everyone else. Tad also notes that after initially cooperating, the no body defendant will see that it is a mistake to keep talking and he’ll hire an attorney or simply refuse to speak to the police any further. Here is what Lieutenant Evans and Captain Ogden told me about interviewing Jerry.
I believe we only had one, the opportunity to interview him that first night. After that he lawyered up.
TE: Well he lawyered up in the middle of that interview.
CO: That’s right.
CO: Well part of the problem is as far as what answers he did and didn’t, he obviously retained council and this investigation kinda morphed fairly quick by the time we are getting questions we needed answered, he’s not talking to us anymore. We got shut down pretty quick on that end.
It’s just as Tad described in his book. The investigators only had one chance to interview Jerry before Jerry hired an attorney. In the short time Jerry did talk, his stories to investigators and others were full of inconsistencies. In part 2, we are going to explore the victomology and evidence related to Susan and Evan to see if we think there is enough evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that they are deceased and murdered? Join us next time.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Like Michael said, even the smallest amount of information could be the missing piece that could change everything. You can be anonymous. 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. 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.