This post is dedicated to both the individuals involved and the family and friends of those affected.
I write this post, and all the other unsolved mystery posts, out of respect for the individuals, and to shed some light on the cases – most of which have been dormant for some time.
We all hope these people are found soon, alive and well.
1) Michael Negrete
Somehow, time has not afforded Michael Negrete with the same level of publicity compared to others who disappeared around his age.
Perhaps this is due to the lack of evidence, clues or suspects in his case.
December 10, 2019, marked twenty years since he went missing – and the case is just as mysterious as it was back then. No new leads have been reported since the summer of 2000, and the case lies as cold as the December night that he went missing.
Background and Disappearance
Michael was a student at UCLA in his freshman year. A popular and well-liked student, Michael was a talented musician who played steel drums. On the last day of term before Christmas break, Michael celebrated by going to a gathering on his campus, Dykstra Hall. Once there, he partook in some moderate drinking and socialized with his peers until the early hours.
Once he returned to his room, he took part in an online video game against other players who were also in the same building, albeit in different rooms. The game lasted until around 4am – after which Negrete shut down his computer, and left his room to congratulate his other players. This was the last sighting of him, as his roommate awoke the next morning to find Negrete gone. All of his possessions, including his wallet and keys, were left in his dorm room.
Police dogs tracked his sent to a bus stop near Sunset Boulevard, but the trail stopped there. Police also found this unreliable as the canines seemed to be following a pattern that would have been rather confusing and disorienting to walk. Those who partied with Negrete were questioned, but no leads came out of the investigation.
However, the following July, one witness came forward to say they had seen a man in Dykstra Hall at around 4:35 A.M. on December 10. He was allegedly wearing a silver jacket with a turquoise design and seemed to be in his mid-30s. Nobody could account for this man – and despite a police sketch, he has never been identified.
Whether or not the man seen in this sketch was involved remains a mystery, but police consider him at least a possible witness. Authorities are investigating the case of Michael Negrete as a homicide.
Negrete remains missing today – and no trace of him has ever been uncovered.
2) Jason Jolkowski
19-year old Jason Jolkowski was a shy, reserved young man. He had few friends and worked at a fast-food outlet (Fazoli’s) in Omaha, Nebraska.
On the afternoon of June 13, 2001, Jason called his workplace and stayed he was running late due to his car being at the mechanics. A friend of his was giving him a ride to work – and Jason agreed to be picked up outside his former high school, Omaha Benson High.
Jason never showed. The last sighting of him was at 10:45am when a neighbour spotted Jason taking the garbage out. Surveillance cameras from Omaha Benson High School were checked, but none recorded Jason on the premises.
Somehow, Jason vanished in broad daylight between his home and his former school, which was only a short walk away. There were no witnesses, no suspects, and nothing unusual was reported. Some speculate Jason was the victim of a hit and run, but this is unlikely as Jason was 6ft tall, and his body would not have been moved easily – let alone with nobody spotting the incident in the bright sunlight.
Jason remains missing almost twenty years later. The lack of a single clue in the investigation has rendered his case near-unsolvable.
3) The Sodder Children
Jennie, Martha, Maurice, Betty, and Louis Sodder
On the evening of December 24, 1945, a massive fire broke out at the Sodder residence in Fayetville, West Virginia.
The home was owned by parents George and Jennie – and nine of their ten children lived in the large home with them. The oldest son was away fighting the last embers of World War Two.
George Sodder had made some disparaging remarks about fallen leader Mussolini to a life insurance salesman in the weeks leading up to the fire. He threatened Sodder by saying his house would go up in smoke if he continued to make such comments, and that his children would suffer greatly. Furthermore, several of the children reported seeing a strange vehicle on the street, whose occupants watched the younger children walking home from school.
The fire broke out after Jennie Sodder heard a loud bang coming from the roof, followed by a rolling sound. Thinking nothing of it, she returned to sleep – but was awoken again after smelling smoke.
Four of the children, and both parents, scrambled to the outside – whereas five of the children remained in the house. The phone lines were out of action, and a passing motorist spotted the inferno and tried to reach aid by calling from a local bar. However, the phone line didn’t work there either. The ladder that usually rested against the Sodder home was nowhere to be found, a large water barrel that could have contained the blaze was frozen rock solid. Furthermore, George Sodder’s truck would not start – he hoped to park it near the fire, and then climb on top of it to reach an upstairs window. The truck had been fully operational in the preceding hours.
When the fire department eventually arrived, they were too late to save the house. However, no trace of the five children who were inside could be found. The fire was nowhere near intense enough to cremate all of the remains – so a large amount of evidence should have been left behind.
The missing ladder was found around 75 feet away from the house. It was later discovered that the phone lines had been sabotaged with by someone, rather than being cut off due to the blaze. This man was identified and arrested, but he denied starting the fire. Bizarrely, the police let him go after his denial. His identity has been lost to time – and the perpetrator was never positively identified.
Sightings of the children were reported the next morning. One was in a vehicle near the house at the time of the fire, and another person believed he had seen the children in a diner on Christmas morning with an unknown male whose car had Florida license plates. However, the fate of the Sodder children remains a mystery.
In 1967, twenty-two years later, the Sodder family received a mysterious letter in the mail. It came from Kentucky, but an exact return address was not present. The letter read:
I love brother Frankie
A90132 or 35
Attached was this photograph – picturing a young man whose features are very similar to Louis Sodder, albeit several years older – as he would have been.
I’ll let you decide on the identity of this man.
As is the situation with all of the cases here, the Sodder family mystery remains unsolved.