The Tragic 1962 Murder Of The Maps Family Explained

Back in the early 1960s, a horrific crime shook the small community of Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Firefighters were called to the scene of a home in flames. Inside, they found a baby girl dead of smoke inhalation and a woman still alive but beaten unconscious with a blunt object, according to the Pocono Record. The infant was identified as Julia Louise Maps, who was 4 months old, and the woman was her mother, Christine Wolbach Maps, who was 22 years old. Christine died before she regained consciousness.

Conspicuously absent from the crime scene was the man who was Julia's father and Christine's husband, Edward Maps. Within hours of the crime, he was named a suspect in the murders. However, he was nowhere to be found, and as of July 2022, he had not been seen or heard from again.

In the decades since this crime, doubts have been raised about Edward's guilt. Unfortunately, other suspects have had air-tight alibis, and the case remains unsolved to this day.

A toxic family

Edward Maps was not the first man to have a toxic relationship with his father-in-law. However, most of those relationships don't end in violence; but in the case of Edward Maps and his father-in-law Robert Wolbach, some circumstantial evidence seems to point in the direction of the older man possibly having something to do with the murder of the younger.

At the heart of the two men's differences was money, according to the Pocono Record. Edward married Christine over Robert's objections, and for a time, the three lived together in the same house while Robert convalesced from an injury. Robert would later claim that during that time, Edward never left the house, preferring to read instead of doing household chores or getting a job. Eventually the young couple got their own home, with Robert's estranged wife, Julia Wolbach, reportedly pressuring Robert to contribute some money towards the couple's down payment. Robert was said to be resentful of the whole situation.

Robert Wolbach's alleged violence

Robert's tendencies toward toxicity and violence were reportedly not limited to his dislike of his son-in-law. Before the murders of Christine and Julia Maps, his daughter and granddaughter, Robert had allegedly instilled fear in his estranged wife. According to the Pocono Record, Julia Wolbach would claim that she had filed for divorce from her husband because she feared that he could be physically violent. Further still, she alleged that Robert, whom she accused of once storming into her home and throwing things around, was mentally ill and that she'd tried to get help from a doctor about his behavior.

Julia also alleged that one night she was staying with her daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law when her husband turned up at the home and began making bizarre accusations. She claimed that he alleged that she was having a sexual relationship with her son-in-law, an accusation that she "emphatically denied."

Two pictures of Edward Maps

Edward Maps was, by some accounts, a man who lived by his own rules. Whether that made him a murderer, or simply an oddball, is unclear.

According to The Morning Call, he was an artist, and he lived a lifestyle not unusual to artists. "He was a fine artist and a very interesting, eclectic person," said E. David Christine, who had been the Monroe County District Attorney back in the 1980s, when the case was featured on the TV show "America's Most Wanted."

The Pocono Record says that newspaper accounts, and his father-in-law's descriptions of him, painted Edward as a loser and a bum. "He is a complete sponger, lazy, insolent and nasty, is not friends with any past acquaintances and anyone who ever knew him does not speak well of him," said one account of him. Others characterized him as nothing of the sort. They described him as a kind, gentle, and caring man, if a bit odd at times. "No one could believe Maps was capable of murder," wrote journalist Joe Nixon for The Morning Call.

Suspicions and alibis

As The Pocono Record reports, the only suspect in these murders, since the beginning, has been Edward Maps. This despite the fact that the case against him was built largely on conjecture, and that there was bad blood between him and his father-in-law, something that was not made public until decades after the crime.

Authorities suspected that Edward simply wasn't interested in being married and having to be responsible for a family, particularly in light of his carefree days as a Bohemian artist before he wed Christine. Further still, according to The Morning Call, he was an avid outdoorsman; he could very well have disappeared into the forests and caves of Pennsylvania. However, an extensive search failed to turn up any signs of him.

Robert Wolbach claimed he himself was on a plane on the night of the murders, although this is impossible to prove due to airlines' record-keeping of the time. Further still, if he was bent on murdering his son-in-law, why would he murder his daughter and granddaughter as well? An unidentified witness suggested that Wolbach wasn't directly responsible for those murders, but still had a hand in them. The witness suggested that Wolbach had hired someone who committed the crime, and that Maps was probably at the bottom of a lake or river somewhere, a concrete block tied around his neck.

An unsolved double murder

Sixty years have passed since Christine and Julia Maps were murdered, and they have still not gotten justice. Further still, the case has been cold for almost as long as the bodies of the two victims have been in their graves.

Edward Maps has not been heard from again, according to The Pocono Record. Up until 1967, he was at the top of the FBI's Most Wanted list, but he was later removed. Also in 1967, authorities thought they'd caught a break, according to The Morning Call, when an issue of Life Magazine featured a cover photo of a group of artists, which included a man who bore a "striking resemblance" to Edward Maps. That lead failed to pan out.

In the 1980s, "America's Most Wanted" was one of the hottest properties on TV, and had even led to cold cases being solved. Authorities in Pennsylvania hoped that by airing the Maps murders on the show, they would get some new leads. That, too, failed, as District Attorney (at the time) E. David Christine lamented. "We were sort of disheartened. We didn't know of any other way to solve this case," he said. If Edward Maps is still alive, as of July 2022, he would be comfortably in his 80s.