The Mysterious Unsolved 1952 Crater Lake Murders

The car had been abandoned by the side of the road. It was a clear summer afternoon — July 19, 1952 — and two auto company executives had plans to meet some associates for an overnight fishing trip at Oregon's Crater Lake National Park, according to the Medford Mail-Tribune. The front passenger door of their green Pontiac hung open and the keys were still in the ignition, but the men were gone. "We figured they were probably just sight-seeing around here," Alan Eberlien — who along with his father and a business associate were supposed to meet the men at the national park — told KATU in 2013. When the men never showed up, they contacted a park ranger.

Two days later, after an intensive search in the heavily wooded park, a search party found the two men a little less than a mile from their car. Someone had murdered both Charles Culhane and Albert Jones. The killer — or killers — had shot them in the head after gagging them with torn pieces of an undershirt secured by the victim's neckties. They were both in their stocking feet, and one pair of shoes was missing. Their money and watches were also gone. The FBI quickly stepped in to investigate the murders, and while the agency conducted hundreds of interviews and detained several suspects, the case went cold and remains unsolved.

They planned to go fishing

Charles Culhane, 53, was the national sales manager for United Motor Service, a subsidiary of General Motors, per the Medford Mail-Tribune. He and Albert Jones, 56, the company's West Coast sales rep, were on a tour of Jones' sales area. They had attended a meeting the day before with F.W. Eberlein and his partner John Vaughn, who owned a local auto parts store. With their work done, Jones planned to go fishing with Eberlien and Vaughn. Culhane was going to drop Jones off and meet up with him later. But neither businessman made it out of the park alive.

The investigators found little evidence to work with besides two shell casings from a .32 automatic pistol at the scene, according to the Crater Lake Institute. Lincoln Linse, an employee at a local lodge, believed he saw the killers that day. While hauling a truckload of canned goods to the lodge, he witnessed four men walking into the woods and later heard "two bangs," per the Associated Press. Two were dressed in suits, while the other men looked "scruffy." The next day, while Linse was gassing up, the two men pulled into the station in a black car. Linse distinctly recalled one of them. "I could tell he had a tattoo on his arm," he told KATU. "The tattoo was of a naked lady with a bikini. Also at that time, he had a beaded belt. There was a name on the beaded belt: Ralph."

The suspects

Lincoln Linse told the authorities what he had seen, but FBI agents discounted his story, per the AP. Linse believed the agents thought he was a "smart aleck." Just hours after the murders, someone called a local auto repair shop and asked them to pick up Jones' car and store it there after alleging Jones was in the hospital, per the Medford Mail-Tribune. The FBI never found the caller, and his fingerprints didn't match any they had on file.

The FBI and state police tracked down several suspects, including "an old man of the mountains" named George Dunkin, who had murdered a police officer and was living in the backwoods and staying a step ahead of the dragnet. After his capture in September, police determined he hadn't been anywhere near the scene of the Crater Lake murders, per the AP. The FBI also looked into a California gang called the Mountain Mob — which was led by a killer named Jack Santo — as the possible culprit, according to KATU. Santo had an alibi, but two other members of the gang had been in the area. California executed Santo and two members of his gang in 1955 for an unrelated killing, per United Press. While theories continue to abound as to who killed the two businessmen at Crater Lake, the case remains unsolved.