|The man in question.|
I've been doing a lot of riffs as of late and I'm deeply sorry to anyone who doesn't enjoy them. Don't worry: they won't replace mystery blogs. It's been an excruciatingly painful—emotionally anyways—past twenty days. As such, the riff blogs have been a great outlet for me to channel most of my stress and aggravation. A shame it isn’t all of it.
That said, I wanna try to get back into the swing of things. So, let's briefly discuss Ricky McCormick.
Born June 14, 1958, Ricky McCormick was a highschool dropout who, according to his mother, was incapable of spelling anything other than his name. He held a variety of jobs that lead to his aunt—who he was close to—calling him a vampire. He’d sleep throughout the day before going to work to either mop the floors or some other janitorial work. However, this line of work wasn’t all that McCormick held; he ran drugs for people and fathered four children. Two of those kids were with a 14 year old girl, for which he was arrested for statutory rape. McCormick also suffered from chronic heart and lung problems, the latter of which caused him to rush to the doctor while wheezing due to an asthma attack.
That brings us to June 30, 1999. It was on this day that a woman driving along a field off Route 367 discovered McCormick’s body in a field that was a popular dumping ground for murderers. It was a location that had no public transport; no buses or trains for as far as the eye could see. This is struck authorities as odd: McCormick didn’t drive and could best be described as having the intelligence of a child. He was also unemployed and on disability. He couldn’t spell anything other than his name according to his mother. In spite of this, no cause of death could be determined due to the quick decomposition of the body thanks to the humidity that had weighed over the area for previous few days.
Many assumed that McCormick likely had been killed in a drug deal gone awry, but without evidence, that was thrown out the window. The case lay dormant for over a decade until March 29, 2011 when the FBI changed the official cause of death from “unknown” to “homicide”. Along with that announcement, these two notes were shown to the public.
The FBI stated that these two notes were discovered on McCormick’s body, but they were unable to decipher them. As such, they called upon the public to assist them.
As stated earlier: McCormick’s mother said that he could only spell his name and didn’t speak in “code”. His father added that he could only “scribble”. Neither was shown the aforementioned two letters when their son was discovered. This has led some to question why the FBI waited over a decade to unveil these notes, but we’ll get to that later.
In spite of the denial from McCormick’s family, Dan Olson of the FBI’s Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU) was quoted as saying, “Breaking the code could reveal the victim's whereabouts before his death and could lead to the solution of a homicide.” Despite the the CRRU’s best efforts, and the efforts of the American Cryptogram Association, the ciphers remain unbroken. This brings us to the theories as thought up by armchair detectives.
Theory one is that the notes were left there as a calling card by the killer.
Just as the Zodiac sent ciphers to the media, some speculate that these letters were a calling card by a serial killer and the FBI revealed these ciphers as more bodies were discovered with similar ciphers. Or enough were found they were able to conclude they were dealing with a serial killer. Alas, without the announcement of any more ciphers having been discovered, this theory is up in the air.
The second theory is that they were written by McCormick and mean absolutely nothing. I should say that it’s most commonly believed the author of these letters is McCormick, though with the statements by his family, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t question that theory heavily. Regardless, this theory states that McCormick wrote these ciphers some time before his death (it’s believed the letters were written three days prior to his death, but I cannot confirm that). The purpose of these letters fall into a few sub-theories. The two most prominent ones I’ve seen are as follows.
The first is that they meant something to McCormick himself. His family all believed he had an undiagnosed mental illness; be it schizophrenia or something else. If McCormick was schizophrenic, the letters may have been written in a state of extreme paranoia and could’ve been anything from a grocery list to a “to-do” list for a drug run.
The second is that they were a coded list of who was going to deliver and receive a supply of drugs. This one actually ties into the next theory.
There’s no evidence to back these up and since there was never an official diagnosis for McCormick in the way of his mental health, it’s impossible to conclude if he wrote them in a state of paranoia.
The third theory is that it was a list for a drug run. Why it was coded however is a mystery and one that brings into question who exactly McCormick worked with.
The fourth and final theory is the biggest one and the one that raises the most inane questions imaginable. It asks why the FBI is so obsessed with these ciphers and why they held onto them for so long.
Some propose the earlier theory that the FBI held onto it as it was evidence there was a serial killer at work. They waited 12 years to announce the evidence as they were piecing together the possibility and it took them that long for reasons I cannot fathom. It doesn’t help that McCormick’s family only learned of the letters via a local news broadcast.
The much larger and more bizarre theory is that the FBI was either working with McCormick or he got caught up in an FBI operation that somehow went horrendously wrong and the cipher either has a clue to whatever the FBI was working towards or contains highly sensitive information. This theory sounds more akin to the plot of a Dan Brown novel, yet it seems to be a theory people genuinely believe.
Never mind the idea that a man as smart as Ricky McCormick—a man who could spell nothing outside of his own name—getting roped into an FBI operation being nothing less than hysterical; the mere thought the FBI could botch up an operation as badly as this theory proposes raises so many questions about why we continue to fund them, it makes my head spin like a Pulsar.
A third belief is that the FBI is holding back even more letters and these are but two in what could’ve been dozens of letters found on McCormick. This begs the question as to why the woman who discovered his body hasn’t blown the whistle, but I won’t judge.
No matter what the case, this theory is bizarrely popular and I’m amazed that someone hasn’t tried to use it against Robert Mueller since he’s spearheading the Russia probe. And in the end, the case of Ricky McCormick is as cold as ever; the efforts of amateur codebreakers having led nowhere. In all likelihood, McCormick probably wrote the letters himself and did so in a state of extreme paranoia. But I trust the worst of a professional codebreaker and do wonder if the letters mean something. Whether it has to do with a drug ring or some more insidious however, we may never know.