Murder Sheet

A Murder at White Castle

January 26, 2021 Mystery Sheet Season 1 Episode 11
Murder Sheet
A Murder at White Castle
Chapters
Murder Sheet
A Murder at White Castle
Jan 26, 2021 Season 1 Episode 11
Mystery Sheet

Edmund J. Cody is one of the worst Indianapolis serial killers you've likely never heard of. He preyed on women for years, hunting for victims like a modern-day Blue Beard. But his many crimes didn't become apparent to police until he gunned down a man at a White Castle restaurant in 1970.

 Listen to this episode of the Murder Sheet to learn more about how an early morning shooting at a fast food joint led to a decades-long search for multiple missing women.

Sources for this episode include the coverage of Cody by William Anderson and Richard D. Walton for the Indianapolis Star via Newspapers.com.

Follow the Murder Sheet on social media for the latest:

And send tips and thoughts to [email protected] 

Show Notes Transcript

Edmund J. Cody is one of the worst Indianapolis serial killers you've likely never heard of. He preyed on women for years, hunting for victims like a modern-day Blue Beard. But his many crimes didn't become apparent to police until he gunned down a man at a White Castle restaurant in 1970.

 Listen to this episode of the Murder Sheet to learn more about how an early morning shooting at a fast food joint led to a decades-long search for multiple missing women.

Sources for this episode include the coverage of Cody by William Anderson and Richard D. Walton for the Indianapolis Star via Newspapers.com.

Follow the Murder Sheet on social media for the latest:

And send tips and thoughts to [email protected] 

 Áine Cain: Content warning: This episode contains descriptions of murder and violence against women.

Kevin Greenlee: It started in the middle of a spring night in 1970, near a White Castle restaurant in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Flossie Crawley was on a date with 55-year-old William Love, a friend who she’d known for about a year.

But the romantic outing was about to take a fatal turn.

Áine Cain: As the couple wandered around Massachusetts Avenue, a short, stocky figure appeared out of the darkness. They had just run into 49-year-old Edmund J. Cody. He was drunk. And he was angry. 

Kevin Greenlee: Crawley had met Cody about six months earlier. She worked at Mister Charlie’s bar — which was also situated on Massachusetts Avenue. That’s where Cody and his wife had celebrated their wedding anniversary.

Crawley must have made an impression on Cody, a wrecker by trade. A few months later he came back and asked her out. The 38-year-old server thought he was joking at first, but he persisted and she agreed.

Áine Cain: After they went out five or six times, he gave her a 1962 Chevy. It disappeared a couple of weeks later. Then Cody came by again, rolling up in a 1970 Ford. He wanted her to run away to Florida with him. Crawley liked him well enough. And perhaps she was lulled by thoughts of the beach or the heat or the smell of midnight jasmine at twilight. She said yes.

Kevin Greenlee: When they got back to Indiana a week later, the fantasy came crashing down. Cody confessed that the Ford was stolen. And then he offered to give it to her. 

Áine Cain: “I was beginning to have doubts about Ed,” Crawley said, later. 

Kevin Greenlee: Around this time, William Love asked her out on a date — and warned her to stay away from Cody. Love said he’d heard rumors about Cody, that he might be a dangerous man for a woman to be around. This was on March 1, 1970.

Áine Cain: On March 14, Cody returned to the bar where Crawley worked. She told him she didn’t want to see him anymore. 

Kevin Greenlee: On March 15, Crawley went out on her date with Love and the couple ran into Cody. Love told Cody not to bother Crawley and then the couple ducked into a nearby White Castle. Cody went in after them. 

It was 3:50 a.m.

Áine Cain: Cody started arguing with Love, and then forcibly dragged Crawley out of the restaurant. He threw her down in the parking lot of the White Castle, and he began beating her.  

Kevin Greenlee: Love ran out of the restaurant just in time to see Cody pull out a pistol and shoot Crawley in the chest. Love ran back inside, but it was too late. Leaving Crawley, Cody sprang to the entrance of the restaurant, opened the door and shot Love in the chest, before fleeing the area.

Love was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Áine Cain: It was 4 a.m. and the world was only just about to learn about the enigma that was Edmund J. Cody. Looking down at the body of William Love splayed on the floor of the White Castle, the responding police officers couldn’t have realized that they were dealing with a serial killer. Even to this day, the story of Cody and the lives he took has faded into the background of Indiana crime lore. 

Kevin Greenlee: In our research on Cody, we ran into a few issues that spring up in many older cases. Most of the players — the murderer, those who knew him, and those who uncovered his crimes — are dead. The case is technically solved, so the Indianapolis Police weren’t in a hurry to offer us interviews, either.

But we want to share this story anyways, so we dug into the newspaper archives. 

Áine Cain: We can say with confidence that Cody is one of the worst Indianapolis serial killers you’ve likely never heard of. This man was a Blue Beard-type killer, luring women into his life only to slaughter them on a whim. And he got away with it for years. Because of a society unable or unwilling to deal with instances of domestic violence. Because too many people looked the other way. 

Kevin Greenlee: We want to show you how a seemingly-straightforward shooting in a fast food joint can be just the beginning — a bit like how a child’s searing memory or a list of seemingly random words can reveal a long-concealed horror. We want to look at this straight on. 

Ominous music plays.

Áine Cain: My name is Áine Cain.

Kevin Greenlee: And I’m Kevin Greenlee.

Áine Cain: And this is the Murder Sheet, a weekly true crime podcast. 

Kevin Greenlee: Kevin and I connected over the Burger Chef murders, a 1978 unsolved case involving the killings of four young restaurant employees. 

Áine Cain: Now we’re looking to track restaurant homicides. To help us understand the patterns of these crimes, we created a spreadsheet of nearly 1,000 eatery-related killings: The Murder Sheet. 

We’ll be drawing on that data throughout season one to give you a deep dive into under-covered crimes. 

Kevin Greenlee: We don’t just rely on skimming the headlines. We dive into these cases to bring you in-depth coverage. 

We’re the Murder Sheet, and this is “A Murder at White Castle.”
 
Eerie music plays.

Kevin Greenlee: After the White Castle shooting, police tracked down Cody quickly, finding him at the wrecking service where he worked. He was arrested for wounding Crawley and murdering Love. 

But Cody was already on the radar of the law enforcement community at that point.

Áine Cain: A few months earlier — back in October 1969 — Flo Doty had been leafing through the cards in the Indianapolis Police Department’s file on missing persons when she happened upon a case she had worked on in 1965. Doty was a detective with Indianapolis’ juvenile division. On the job, she did things like grabbing a suicidal 16-year-old before he could throw himself out a shattered window. But her renewed investigation into the disappearance of a local woman was about to take her work in an unexpected direction.

Kevin Greenlee: A 30-year-old woman named Geraldine Cody had disappeared — but it wasn’t her husband who reported her missing. It was her brother from Alabama. That seemed odd to Doty so she had called the husband in.

The husband, of course, was Edmund J. Cody. He told Doty that his wife Geraldine had simply left him. 

But no one ever saw her again. 

Áine Cain: Doty felt suspicious of Cody-- but without any firm evidence against him there wasn’t much she could do.

But that was about to change. Looking through the cards now, she noticed another missing persons report-- this one filed just a few weeks earlier. A woman named Evelyn Cody had disappeared. The report had been filed by her daughter from a former marriage, not her current husband-- a man named Edmund J. Cody.

Kevin Greenlee: It seemed like more than a coincidence. Doty alerted the homicide division — including Detectives Frank C. Zunk and future Marion County Sheriff Jack Cottey — and they started working the case.

The first thing they did was track down Geraldine’s kids from a previous marriage. It turned out that her son Michael had a story to tell, something he had been too scared to reveal when his mother first went missing in 1965. 

Áine Cain: Michael remembered an occasion when his mom and Cody got into a pretty bad fight. Cody ordered Michael out of the house, and Michael obeyed. But at some point while he was outside he crouched down and stole a glance through a basement window.

Kevin Greenlee: He saw his mother. She looked dead. She was tied up, with a knife jutting out of her chest. Michael never saw his mother again. And he was too scared to report what he’d seen to the police.

While investigators wrestled with the implications of that revelation, there was a new development. Cody’s current wife — Letha — went missing. A son from a previous marriage had reported her disappearance. Cody appeared to have a habit of failing to call the police when his wives vanished. 

Áine Cain: As before, the police had plenty of reason to suspect Cody but no hard evidence to prove he had actually done anything wrong. That changed on March 15, 1970, when Cody fired the shot that killed William Love. 

Kevin Greenlee: Now that he was in jail, the mysteries surrounding Edmund J. Cody began to attract more public scrutiny. William Anderson, a veteran reporter for the Indianapolis Star, became intrigued by the case. He would write about Cody for close to 20 years, and his reporting on the case is the main source for this episode. If you want to read up on this case, we’ve included a list of our sources for this episode in our show notes.

Áine Cain: Digging around in Cody’s past, Anderson soon discovered that the man had begun killing women much earlier than most people realized. Back in 1950 — a full 15 years before Geraldine Cody vanished — police found Cody’s 35-year-old girlfriend Helen shot to death in a parked car.

Cody was in the car too. He had been wounded in the chest but made a full recovery. 

Kevin Greenlee: He was charged with first degree murder in Helen’s death — but the jury instead convicted him of the lesser charge of manslaughter. He was sentenced in June 1952 to a period of two to twenty one years; the superintendent of the state police actually wrote a letter urging that Cody serve the full term because he was such a danger to society. 

If that had happened he would have stayed in prison until 1973. Geraldine Cody, Evelyn Cody, Letha Cody and William Love likely would not have died.

Áine Cain: Instead, Cody was released in July of 1955. 

Kevin Greenlee: He soon started relationships with other women. In some instances these women seemed to suffer a curse merely by being in proximity to Cody, even if he did not directly harm them himself. 

There was, for instance, the case of Ella Mae Voiles. Cody married her — and divorced her. She ended up freezing to death on her family farm. 

Áine Cain: And then there was Dorothy Lee Shaffer. When Cody met her she was married to another man — John Shaffer. The couple ran a grocery store together. Shaffer felt sorry for Cody, who seemed to be having a rough time as an ex-con. And so he treated the other man as a brother. 

In return, Cody ruined Shaffer’s marriage and his business, at least in the grocer’s view. Dorothy and Cody ripped Shaffer off in a business deal, costing him, he claimed, $40,000. 

On April 26, 1958, Shaffer went to the store he once operated with his wife and she laughed at him. Shaffer said he felt a rage pressing against his chest. His head started to spin. After that he didn’t remember anything, he claimed.

Shaffer ended up shooting and killing his former wife. He also took some shots at Cody, but Cody escaped. Shaffer was sentenced to two to twenty one years, the same sentence that Cody received.  

Kevin Greenlee: Even after his arrest for the murder of Love, women associated with Cody still suffered. Flossie Crawley — the woman Cody shot outside the White Castle — recovered from her wounds. But shortly before she was to testify against Cody at his trial, Crawley was beaten at a bar. 

A few months after that, a woman named Betty White — who knew Cody and had received letters from him after he was imprisoned — was beaten to death in her apartment. She’d been reading an article on Cody at the time of her death; the magazine was found beneath her body. White’s four week old son was discovered near her unconscious form. The prime suspect in the case was Crawley’s brother. 

Áine Cain: Meanwhile, things kept happening in Cody’s case, and events took  yet another unexpected turn in May of 1970. 

Kevin Greenlee: A worker at a car impound lot noticed a horrible smell coming from a vehicle the police had taken from Cody when they arrested him in March. So the worker popped the trunk and found the very badly decomposed body of Letha Cody, who had been missing since early in the year. For some reason, no one bothered to search it before.

It seemed perfectly clear who bore responsibility for her demise.

Áine Cain: On January 10, 1970 — the date Letha was reported missing — Cody showed up to work with a swollen right hand. He claimed it was because he had just happened on that day to get into a fight with a coworker. But there was no solid evidence to disprove Cody’s excuse, and nothing to definitively tie him to the homicide of his wife. That may sound hard to believe, but police felt they didn't have enough evidence proving Cody put Letha in the trunk.

Kevin Greenlee:  That changed in 1980 when Cody finally admitted to killing Letha. He told reporter William Anderson that — during a fight at their home — he strangled her and then stashed her body in the trunk of the car, fully intending to dispose of it in some way. But he never got around to doing it before he was arrested. 

Áine Cain: But the failure of law enforcement to quickly search Cody’s car after his arrest proved costly. By the time her body was discovered in the trunk it was so terribly decomposed that police could not even determine the cause of her death. This effectively made any prosecution in Letha’s case impossible, even though Cody confessed to the crime. He had gotten away with murder. 

Kevin Greenlee: Cody seemed to enjoy the notoriety and attention he earned through his crimes, occasionally even offering confessions or “clues” related to the real fate of his missing wives. In late 1970, for instance, he told police he had in fact killed Geraldine. He said it was an accident, that he and Geraldine got into a terrible fight and Cody hit her on the side of the head with his fist, killing her. 

Áine Cain: After dropping her kids off with a sitter, Cody, he claimed, went to get a female friend of his. The two of them constructed an eight foot wooden box, deposited Geraldine’s corpse inside and drove down to a meat packing plant in Kentucky.

When they arrived, they took Geraldine’s box to the cold storage room and left it there, amongst many other similar looking boxes. 

Kevin Greenlee: Cody claimed that, in later years, he and a female friend would occasionally make the drive down to this meat packing plant to “visit” Geraldine. The last time he saw her there was in February 1970 — five years after her death. Because of the cold, she remained very well preserved — and she still wore her “underclothing” and a blue dress. 

Áine Cain: Police wondered if Cody was just toying with them but they still spent a great deal of time and effort to try to find the meat packing plant. They never had any success.

Kevin Greenlee: At the same time, Cody was developing a good relationship with William Anderson, the reporter from the Indianapolis Star. Anderson would go on to win a Pulitzer Prize for working on a series about police corruption in Indianapolis. Now, he was living a story straight out of a thriller — a reporter trying to piece together a mystery by getting in the head of a notorious serial killer.

Áine Cain:  Cody kept telling Anderson that someday he would give him some clues that would lead him to a body. Anderson kept pushing — and finally Cody delivered.

*Podcast promo*

Áine Cain: Let’s take a quick break from The Murder Sheet to tell you about a podcast investigating yet another unforgettable crime. 

The Orange Tree is a seven-part series about a 2005 homicide that happened near the University of Texas at Austin. The murder of 21-year-old Jennifer Cave, who was shot, dismembered, and left in a bathtub at her friend Colton Pitonyak’s apartment, continues to haunt the area to this day.

Kevin Greenlee: Like the Burger Chef murders, this case features plenty of twists and turns, including Colton’s flight to Mexico with another UT student Laura Hall. Both were later convicted in connection with the crime, although Colton has continued to appeal his verdict and claim innocence. The business student-turned-convicted-murderer now says that he doesn’t remember much about the night Jennifer died. 

Áine Cain: The Orange Tree is reported on and produced by Haley Butler and Tinu Thomas, who were both seniors at the University of Texas when they started the project.

Together, Haley and Tinu strive to piece together this tragic story in an in-depth podcast that features audio from courtroom scenes and interrogation rooms, prison phone calls, and exclusive interviews with both perpetrators and the victim’s family.

You can binge all seven episodes of The Orange Tree today on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts. And now, back to the Murder Sheet.

And now, back to the Murder Sheet.

*End of podcast promo*

Kevin Greenlee: He gave Anderson not one clue, but four.

Áine Cain:

  1. Kentucky newspaper
  2. The color blue
  3. The number 65
  4. The word “chain.”

Cody told Anderson that those clues should be enough. Surprisingly enough, they actually were. 

Kevin Greenlee: Anderson realized that the number “65” likely referred to Interstate 65 — a highway connecting Indiana and Kentucky. He contacted Kentucky authorities and asked them for any information they might have on bodies found near I-65. And he also began searching through the archives of Kentucky newspapers, looking for an article about the discovery of such a body.

Áine Cain: He found one. 

A Kentucky newspaper covered the story of how, on June 19, 1965, a driver stopped his vehicle alongside I-65 to look for a lost safety chain for his trailer. They found something else instead: a bundle of bed clothes. There was a foot sticking out of it. 

They contacted the police. 

Kevin Greenlee: They found the body of a woman — nude except for a pair of blue panties. She was wrapped in a sheet, a couple of blankets and a quilt. A pillow case was pulled over her head and there was a rope around her neck. Her skull was fractured. She had been dead for a few weeks. 

Áine Cain: Back in 1965, the police in Kentucky had not been able to identify the woman, but her physical appearance and age closely matched that of the missing Geraldine. And in 1980 Cody gave an account of the death of Geraldine which closely tracked with the condition of the 1965 body.

Kevin Greenlee: “Hell,” he said, “I hit her with a hammer and she died.”

Áine Cain: Afterwards he wrapped her in a blanket, stashed her in the back of the station wagon, loaded in her five kids from a previous marriage and then set off on a family drive towards Kentucky.

Kevin Greenlee: There was some kind of a car accident just outside of Louisville which snarled up traffic. So, while his vehicle was stopped, an impatient Cody took Geraldine’s body out of the car and tossed it by the side of the road.

Áine Cain: Her kids — in the car with him — had no idea what he was dumping. 

Kevin Greenlee: All of this was enough to get Cody indicted for Geraldine’s murder, but the case ended up getting dismissed for lack of evidence. Once again, he had effectively gotten away with murder. 

Áine Cain: Geraldine’s case wasn’t even the only instance of Cody giving conflicting tales about the fate of his missing wives. There was also, for example, his shifting tale about what happened to his wife Evelyn.

Kevin Greenlee: At first he blamed Flossie Crawley — the woman he had shot outside the White Castle. He said Flossie had shot Evelyn for reasons that weren’t entirely clear and that her body had been left under a pile of leaves in Kentucky.

Áine Cain: The police did not take that claim seriously for a variety of reasons. For one thing, Cody said Crawley killed Evelyn in July 1969. Cody and Crawley did not even meet until September of that year. 

Kevin Greenlee: Crawley offered to take a lie detector test to clear herself. We didn’t dig up anything indicating whether or not she ever actually did this but it seems obvious that the police never considered her to be a serious suspect in the killing. 

About a decade later, Cody tried again, offering another version of Evelyn’s death.

Áine Cain: In this version, a friend of Cody's who happened to be gay was visiting while Evelyn was out. She returned home unexpectedly and caught the two of them sharing an intimate moment.

Cody said Evelyn was horrified, screaming and declaring she would call the police. At that point, Cody’s friend pulled out a .22 and shot her. “You killed me,” said Evelyn.

Kevin Greenlee: Cody said he offered to take her to the hospital but it was too late, she was already dead. So Cody and his friend got rid of the body, hiding it near Covington, Kentucky. 

Áine Cain: Cody was never charged in connection with the disappearance of Evelyn. Without any solid evidence, anything he had to say about it was nothing more than a story. When we looked through the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System for Jane Does in Kenton County, Kentucky — where Covington is located —our search turned up nothing. 

Kevin Greenlee: In fact, even though Cody was likely responsible for the deaths of several women, he only served time for one homicide — that of William Love, the man he shot outside the Indianapolis White Castle. He never bothered to deny he pulled the trigger. His defense was on the basis of temporary insanity. He told the jury that he had been drinking and had therefore not been able to fend off the irresistible impulse to murder Love.

Áine Cain: The jury didn’t buy it. Cody was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He died while still incarcerated, according to the Indiana Department of Corrections. In a 1979 article, Indianapolis Star reporter Richard D. Walton wrote the convict could still "name the Marion County deputy who arrested him for petty larceny in 1938, but cannot remember all the names, much less the sequence, of his 10 wives." 

Kevin Greenlee: When he died behind bars, Cody took with him not only the final answers of what happened to Geraldine Cody, Evelyn Cody, and Letha Cody, but other mysteries as well. In 1980, he claimed to have killed a sailor in Cincinnati in a 1944 bar fight. Was this true? If so, who was this sailor? Did his family ever learn what had happened and who had killed him? I scoured online newspaper archives to see if I could find out anything about such a case, but I didn’t have any luck.

Áine Cain: In a letter to Anderson, Cody also cryptically referred to other crimes he had committed. What are these other crimes? Who were his other victims?

There is another troubling angle to Cody that has never been fully fleshed out. Cody was alleged to have ties to Norman Z. Flick, a notorious underworld figure in Indianapolis at this time, a behind the scenes operator known for his illicit connections to police and governmental figures. Cody made several out of state trips for Flick — including to Florida.

You will remember Cody took Crawley on a trip to Florida in early 1970. Was this a trip for Flick? 

After Cody was arrested for the murder of Love, the Indianapolis Star reported that Flick and his attorney were alleged to have visited Cody’s home — and removed some records. What was in those records? What exactly was Cody doing for Flick?

Kevin Greenlee: We will likely never know. 

As far as we can tell, almost everyone involved with this case has died. Doty, Zunk, Cottey and Anderson have all since passed away. 

So we’re left to wonder how a man like Cody could have been allowed to go on claiming so many lives for so long? We can take at least some comfort in knowing that Cody spent decades in prison and so that all of his victims — known and unknown — therefore received at least some measure of justice. 

Áine Cain: But what does it say about a society where this can happen? Where women end up staying with a man like Cody, perhaps because they’re too scared to leave, or because they have no place to go? Or where investigators don’t even begin to search for a slew of missing women until it’s too late. Cody’s downfall didn’t come about until his behavior became so brazen and public that he attacked Crawley and Love in front of witnesses. By the time he fled the parking lot of that White Castle, he’d already likely killed at least four people. How was he allowed to act with such impunity for so long?

It’s important to ask these questions, because as heinous as his crimes were, Cody is no outlier. There have always been men like Cody. There are still men like Cody, walking amongst us. And knowing that, and looking straight on at the terror they inflict on others, is the only way we can stop them.

Kevin Greenlee:  Thanks for listening to this episode of the Murder Sheet. Special thanks to Kevin Tyler Greenlee, who composed the music for the Murder Sheet, and who you can find on the web at kevintg.com.  

Áine Cain:
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