In 1976 several residents of Circleville, Ohio began receiving letters from an unknown individual. The letter writer knew personal details about many of the townsfolk and hinted at a number of mysteries and scandals perpetrated by important members of the town. When Mary Gillespie began receiving letters it resulted in the death of her husband, the attempted murder of Mary herself and the arrest and imprisonment of her brother-in-law as the supposed letter writer. However, the letters continued and the true identity of the Circleville Writer is still subject to debate.
The letters started in 1976 when numerous Circleville residents began to receive them. They would often contain personal information about the recipient, and some issued veiled threats demanding they stop whatever they were accused of. Some of the letters referred to murders, affairs, and even legal authorities' crimes. During the summer of 1977 Mary Gillespie, who worked as school bus driver began to receive letters which accused her of a supposedly non-existent affair with the Superintendent of School, Gordon Massie. Subsequent letters a week later demanded she stop the affair and the writer told Mary that he/she had also been observing her home and knew she and her husband had children. All of the letters were postmarked Columbus, Ohio and none had a return address. Not knowing what to do, Mary kept them secret from her husband.
One day her husband Ron Gillespie received a letter telling him, "That if he didn't inform the Westfall School Board about his wife's affair with Gordon Massie, that he would be killed." Mary denied she was having an affair and they decided to keep the letters secret for the time being. A fortnight later more letters arrived and the writer threatened to go public with the affair, telling the Gillespie's it would be broadcast on TV, CB Radio's and even billboards. Unsure of what to do, they told Ron's sister Karen, her husband Paul Freshour and Paul's sister. Mary believed she knew who was sending the letters, and told Ron about David Longberry a fellow school bus driver who had become angry when she rebuffed his romantic advances. They decided to have Paul compose a letter to the suspect, telling him they knew his identity. There were no more letters for several weeks.
But the letter writer began a different kind of harassment and large signs were placed around town which referred to Gordon Massie and the Gillespie's 12-year-old daughter, specifically that they were involved in a sexual relationship. These naturally caused much distress for the Gillespie family and Ron began getting up early before work so he could drive around town and remove the signs before his daughter saw them on her way to school.
On 19 August 1977, Ron Gillespie was at home when he received a telephone call from someone who said they knew his truck and where he lived, and an argument ensued. Ron became enraged and claimed the phone-call had confirmed his suspicions about the identity of the letter writer. He retrieved his gun, kissed his young daughter goodbye and then left in his pickup truck. Several minutes later his truck was found crashed into a tree, with Ron dead at the wheel. Sheriff Dwight Radcliffe led the investigation into Ron's death and they established he had fired at least one shot from his gun before the crash.
Initially the Sheriff agreed the death was suspicious and the result of foul play, but later changed his mind and claimed tests revealed Ron had been drunk at the time of his death. These tests apparently confirmed his blood alcohol level was .16 which was twice over the legal limit. However his family would dispute this, claiming Ron hardly drank and could not have been drunk at the time of his death.
Gillespie Crime Scene
A suspect was questioned, passed a polygraph test and was eliminated by Sheriff Radcliffe, who ruled Ron Gillespie's death an accident. The pick-up truck was taken to a Certified filling station in Mt. Sterling, Ohio and immediately disposed of at a junk yard. After this several Circleville residents began receiving letters claiming Sheriff Radcliffe was involved in a cover-up over Ron Gillespie's death. They also accused the Sheriff of mishandling an investigation into the Pickaway County coroner Dr. Ray Caroll, who had been accused by several children of child molestation.
Radcliffe's enquiry found Dr. Caroll was innocent of the claims and no action was taken. During this time Mary Gillespie's sister-in-law and her husband Paul Freshour separated. He learned his wife was having an affair and after hiring a private investigator, he filed for divorce and gained custody of the couples children. Karen moved out of the family home and began living on a trailer in Mary Gillespie's backyard.
Mary Gillespie eventually admitted to her relationship with Gordon Massie but claimed it did not start until after the first letters began. She continued to receive threatening letters even after her husbands death and in February 1983, she was harassed along her bus route. The letter writer began placing threatening signs next to the road and she eventually had enough. On 7 February 1983, she went and pulled down the sign, but as she did, she discovered a booby trap had been placed underneath that was designed to kill her.
That trap consisted of a box with a small pistol inside, which would fire once the sign was pulled a specific way.The police disarmed the device and noticed someone had attempted to remove the serial number on the gun. When the lab examined the gun, they were able to raise the number and a cross reference determined the gun had belonged to her ex-brother-in-law, Paul Freshour.
Whilst living on her property, Karen Freshour told Mary Gillespie her suspicions that Paul was writing the obscene and threatening letters attributed to the Circleville Writer. Mary then went to Sheriff Radcliffe with these suspicions and on 25 February 1983 he asked Paul to meet him at the courthouse. Dwight Radcliffe requested Paul try and copy the handwriting from some of the letters and also repeat them verbally. After the handwriting test, the Sheriff asked Paul to show him where he kept his gun.
Paul took him to the garage where the gun was kept but told him the weapon had previously been stolen. After this they both returned to the courthouse and Sheriff Radcliffe arrested Paul Freshour and charged him with the attempted murder of Mary Gillespie. Paul's trial began on 24 October 1983 and although he was never charged with writing the threatening letters, they became a crucial part of the evidence against him.
Paul Freshour on Trial
The Prosecutor Roger Kline referred to thousands of letters attributed to the Circleville Writer during the trial, but the Judge ruled only 39 of the letters would be allowed into evidence. These were primarily the letter sent to Mary Gillespie and her husband Ron which the prosecution hoped would provide enough evidence that Paul had written them. A handwriting expert testified the letters were written by Paul and Mary also testified her belief that Paul was guilty after his wife visited her with those suspicions. His employer told the court that Paul was not at work on the day the booby trap was found and although he had an alibi for most of the day, he never took the stand in his own defence.
Paul Freshour was sentenced to between seven and twenty-four years imprisonment at the Oakwood Correctional Facility. Paul still proclaimed his innocence from behind bars and whilst serving his sentence, began to receive letters from the writer who stated their intention of keeping him locked up. He protested his innocence and had the letters to prove it.
Other residents of Circleville and Pickaway County continued receiving letters, postmarked from Columbus, Ohio, whilst Paul was in solitary confinement at a prison in Lima, Ohio. Some of these letters included accusations about the prosecutor Roger Kline. The Circleville Writer threatened to dig up the bones from the grave of a deceased baby and mail them randomly if the police failed to investigate Kline over his involvement in the murder of a pregnant school teacher.
The prosecutor was then an Appellate Court Judge and some believed he intentionally held back the majority of the letters because some would reveal his involvement in the murder of the school teacher he had gotten pregnant which would have ruined his career. The police investigated and questioned the parents of the deceased baby, and requested their silence on the matter. However they later spoke with a Ohio TV Station about the incident who confirmed the accusations were true.
Letter to Paul Freshour
Later more children came forward to accuse Dr. Ray Caroll of molestation, however the Prosecutor Roger Kline claimed the statute of limitations applied, and he was never charged. In December 1990, Paul Freshour became eligible for parole, and despite the impossibility of his culpability, he was denied because of the continued letter writing campaign. A Subsequent investigation by journalist Martin Yant uncovered more information about a possible suspect in the letter writing and Mary Gillespie's attempted murder.
He discovered that on the same day Mary found the booby trapped sign, a suspicious man was seen at the spot standing next to a yellow El Camino. Another bus driver on Mary's route claimed they saw this man only twenty minutes before the incident. It was then found that the brother of the prime suspect in the letter writing owned the same type of car. The description the bus driver gave did not match Paul Freshour, who had an alibi for that specific time. It is believed that the boyfriend of Paul's ex-wife was the man seen next to the El Camino on the day that the booby trap was discovered.
In December 1993, Dr. Ray Carroll, 72 was charged with 12 counts, 8 of them alleging gross immorality, sex crimes, corruption of a minor, pornography and obscenity and indecent exposure. Paul Freshour was eventually paroled in May 1994 and continued to maintain his innocence. In 1999, Mary Gillespie's former co-worker David Longberry became a wanted fugitive after raping an 11-year old girl and later committed suicide while on the run.
According to information uncovered by Martin Yant and others, it was suggested there were at least three letter writers involved, none of them were Paul Freshour. One was believed to be the son of Gordon Massie, the Superintendent of Westfall School and Mary Gillespie's secret lover, who was angry over his father's affair. The second was believed to be Mary Gillespie's co-worker, David Longberry, who was infatuated with her and vowed revenge after she spurned his advances. The third was believed to be Paul Freshour's ex-wife Karen who used the original letters in a plot to frame her ex-husband. Despite the evidence, the police still maintain that Paul was the Circleville Writer and no one was ever charged in the death of Ron Gillespie.
Written by Nucleus
Written by Nucleus