Telephone Games

Date Published 11.28.12

I'm proud to introduce True Crime Diary's first guest blogger, Paul Haynes.  Paul is a graduate of Florida Atlantic University (Multimedia Studies).  He's created several short films, and has contributed writing on film and media to DVDBeaver.com, Orlando-based publication The Indie, and others.

Paul's insights into unsolved crimes are always first-rate.  Here he tells the story of the bizarre, little-known case of Dorothy Scott.

 

*****

"Ok," the voice warned, "now you're going to come my way, and when I get you alone, I will cut you up into bits so no one will ever find you."

For months, Dorothy Jane Scott had been receiving phone calls at her workplace from the same mysterious admirer.  The voice sounded vaguely familiar, but she just couldn’t place it.  Sometimes he expressed fawning adoration, and other times, resentment and violence.  He let her know that he was trailing her wherever she went, and he described details of her daily activities to prove it.  This volatile, unseen stalker so alarmed her that she took up karate and considered buying a handgun.  

Dorothy was a 32-year old single mother who lived with her 4-year old son at her aunt’s house in Stanton, a small city in Southern California nestled between Anaheim and Garden Grove.  She was employed as a secretary for Swingers Psych Shop, in Anaheim, which was conveniently attached to Custom John’s Head Shop.  Swingers and Custom John’s were jointly owned servicers of the area’s vestigial hippie culture, so one could pick up a “waterpipe” at the latter and then go soak in the groovy posters in the former’s blacklight room.  

Dorothy worked in a back room office and led a life far less colorful than the tie-dye shirts and multicolored bongs sold at the other end of the store.  “As dull as a phone book,” one friend described it.  She almost never left the house for recreation.  She was religious.  She rarely dated, if ever, and worked from morning till night, leaving her son Shawn in the care of her parents during business hours.  She was a dependable worker, and by all accounts, a kindhearted and compassionate person.

 

Dorothy Scott

 

It was on a breezy Wednesday evening on May 28, 1980 that Dorothy Scott dropped Shawn at her parents’ house and headed back to work for an employee meeting.  As the meeting began, Dorothy noticed that fellow employee Conrad Bostron looked ill-at-ease.

The meeting marched on, and he couldn't sit still.  Something wasn't right, which was made all the more apparent by the conspicuous presence of an ever-deepening red streak on his arm.  Spooked by this escalating inflammation, Dorothy convinced Conrad to let her take him to the emergency room.  Another colleague, Pam Head, offered to accompany them.  They stopped briefly at Dorothy’s parents’ house to check on Shawn before heading to UCI Medical Center.  Once there, doctors made a surprising determination: Bostron’s arm was infected due to a spider bite.

As Bostron was treated, Dorothy and Pam held vigil.   Deep into the night but lulled by the institutional security of the hospital lobby, Dorothy read magazines and exchanged small talk with her coworker. Finally, a weary Conrad Bostron emerged from his ordeal, still trying to pinpoint the time and place he may have encountered this nefarious spider.  As Pam Head stood in line with Bostron at the pharmacy, Dorothy volunteered to pull the car around front.  And so she walked out into the black, the lobby doors closed behind her, and her coworkers waited.

Bostron got his prescription, and he and Pam looked out front, expecting to see Dorothy’s car.  But it wasn’t there.  They stepped outside, and still, there was no sign of her.  Their puzzlement grew into impatience, which grew into concern, and then relief descended upon them when they saw Dorothy’s car approach.  But it approached at a relatively high speed, a speed...not conducive to stopping.  Blinded by its high beams, Pam and Conrad waved their arms, but the car turned a sharp right and raced out of the parking lot.

“Can you believe that?” Pam gasped.

They ran after the car.  Its headlights suddenly went out, it left the parking lot and  vanished into the night.

Struggling to make sense of why their friend stranded them, they considered that maybe she had gone to get her son.  Perhaps she remembered an obligation that, in the excitement of the evening, slipped her mind.  But an hour passed.  Then two.  UCI police were notified, but they saw no cause for alarm.  Pam phoned Dorothy’s parents to ask if she’d picked up Shawn.  They hadn’t seen her all evening.

The outlook darkened tenfold when, several hours later, Dorothy Scott’s car was found abandoned some ten miles away in a Santa Ana alleyway.  Burning.

Inside, there was no trace of Dorothy Scott.

In the days that followed, UCI police investigated the disappearance.  They advised Jacob Scott, Dorothy’s father, to keep a tight lip for now—no newspapers, no television reporters, no media.

That all changed when, a week after the disappearance, the telephone rang at the Scotts’ house.  Dorothy’s mother Vera answered.

“Are you related to Dorothy Scott?” a male voice inquired.

“Yes,” Vera replied.

“I’ve got her.”  The caller then hung up.

Another week passed and Jacob Scott had run out of what little patience he had agreed to affect.  He contacted the Santa Ana Register, and they ran a story about his daughter’s disappearance.  On the day the story ran, a call came in at the desk of Santa Ana Register editor Pat Riley.

“I killed her,” the male caller told Riley.  “I killed Dorothy Scott.  She was my love.  I caught her cheating with another man.  She denied having someone else.  I killed her.”  The caller authenticated himself by providing details a crank wouldn’t know, details that hadn’t been printed.  He knew that Dorothy had been wearing a red scarf that night.  He knew about Bostron’s spider bite.  He claimed Dorothy Scott had phoned to tell him she was at the UCI Medical Center.

However, Head insisted this couldn’t have been the case, as Dorothy never left her presence throughout the evening, except once—to use the bathroom, right before heading out to the parking lot.

Investigators checked out Shawn’s father, but he had an air-tight alibi: he was at home in Missouri on the night Dorothy disappeared.  They questioned everyone at the Psych Shop.  And then questioned them again.  The consensus was that, since Dorothy worked out of public view, it’s unlikely her harasser would have been a customer.  Police looked at area sex offenders.  They plumbed Dorothy Scott’s social circle for any potential enemies, or even questionable characters, but they found none.  Dorothy’s parents consulted a psychic, then another psychic, and then police detectives consulted their own psychic.

Leads fizzled, and the investigation cooled.  But the menacing phone calls kept coming.  Almost every Wednesday, for four years, the phone rang at the Scotts’ home.  The calls came during the day, when Dorothy’s mother was home alone.  The caller would either ask “Is Dorothy there?” or reassert that he had killed her.  Or he would say, “I’ve got her.”

The police planted a recorder in the Scott residence and the caller’s voice was preserved on tape.  No one recognized the voice, which was gruff and plainly disguised.  The Scotts had the lines tapped.  But the caller would never stay on long enough for the call to be traced.

The calls finally stopped in April 1984, when Jacob, and not Vera, answered a nighttime call from their unknown tormentor.  Jacob speculated that the caller probably assumed that new residents were now living in the house.

Three and a half months later, a construction worker happened upon skeletal remains in some brush off Santa Ana Canyon Road, in Anaheim.   The remains were of a dog.  And then beneath the dog, covered lightly with soil, were human bones.  A pelvis, an arm, two thighs, and a skull.  Along with the bones were a turquoise ring and a watch, which had stopped at 12:30am, May 29th, 1980.  

Vera Scott identified the turquoise ring as belonging to her daughter.  A week later, the remains were positively identified as those of Dorothy Scott.  After the announcement ran in the newspaper, the Scott family received two more calls from a now familiar voice, asking “Is Dorothy home?”

Jacob Scott died in 1994, one week shy of his seventieth birthday, and Vera Scott died in 2002—both without having learned the identity of the man who killed their daughter, the man who couldn’t help but salt their wound on a weekly basis for the better part of four years.

It takes a special brand of psychopath to so diligently torment the parents of someone whose life they’ve snuffed out.  Most communicators will reach out to the press or to law enforcement, the obvious objectives being recognition, or a need to “outsmart’ the investigators.  It’s rare that one will reach out to victims’ family, rarer still that one will call the family, and moreover, call the family repeatedly, over a span of many years.

One of the only similar cases that comes to mind is the disappearance of 17-year old Amy Billig in 1974, who was last seen hitchhiking in her hometown of Coconut Grove, Florida.  Billig was never located and remains a missing person.  Almost immediately after her disappearance, her mother began receiving telephone calls from a man who said his name was Hal Johnson, and that he’d abducted Amy and sold her to a biker gang as a sex slave.  Over the next two decades, Hal Johnson’s bogus clues and red herrings sent Billig’s mother, Susan, all over the United States, interviewing biker transients and transient bikers in dusty corners of the country she couldn’t have imagined existed.  The devotion to finding her daughter nearly bankrupted her, and she and her husband Ned had to sell their business and move into a smaller home.


After her husband’s death from lung cancer, Hal Johnson called Susan Billig to pay his respects: “Ned's dead, isn't he? You're alone now, aren't you? You'd better watch out."

Offering updated information about her daughter’s whereabouts, Hal Johnson told Billig that her daughter had been trafficked overseas, and wound up in Saudi Arabia, by way of London, where the sheikh who purchased her had a special request: “He wants to see you and her together.”

The phone calls persisted, sometimes six or seven a night, until 1995, when advanced call tracing technology finally uncovered the identity of the Billigs’ harasser: he was 48-year old Henry Johnson Blair, a U.S. Customs agent and 25-year veteran of the agency.

Blair attributed his 21-year campaign of “just a bunch of crank calls” to unchecked obsessive-compulsive disorder, stress at work, and alcoholism.  He was convicted of Aggravating Stalking in 1996 and sentenced to two years in prison.  In 1999, Susan Billig accepted a $5 million settlement in a lawsuit she had filed against Blair.  What she never received from him, however, was an apology.

 

Amy Billig


Though Blair denied having anything to do with Amy Billig’s disappearance, he couldn’t be concretely ruled out from culpability.  Remarkably, an entry Amy had written in her diary mere weeks before her disappearance read: “Hank says as soon as I finish school, he wants me to go to South America with him. I told him he's crazy.”

Henry Blair’s nickname was “Hank,” and furthermore, he had taken quite a few trips to South America in the early 1970s, in his capacity as a sky marshal.  A photo taken with Amy’s camera before her disappearance showed a van that was identical to descriptions of a white van Blair had driven at that time.  And witnesses had said that Amy was last seen getting into a beige van.

Blair died in 2006, and whatever answers he may have harbored died with him.  Susan Billig died a year earlier, deprived of those answers—just like the parents of Dorothy Scott.

In his role as a U.S. Customs investigator, Blair was well-decorated, highly respected, and a group supervisor, overseeing an anti-smuggling outfit at the end of his career.  He was married with two grown daughters.  Nothing in his early life, as a Coast Guard brat, or in his adult life could have belied the profoundly warped and sadistic character that operated covertly and nearly undetectedly.

As far as the Dorothy Scott case goes, it’s now completely obscured by frost at the far end of the cold case locker.  Online references to it are few.  An entry for it exists on the Unsolved Mysteries wiki, yet the case was never even profiled on the program, nor on any other.  Ostensibly, Dorothy Scott’s killer has gotten away not only with murder, but with the protracted psychological torture of the victim’s family.  He planned, waited—with the patience and precision of a spider—struck, gloated, and then receded back into the greater social fabric.  The example of Henry Johnson Blair reminds that the “mask of sanity” can look like any one of us.



The Feed

RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary: https://t.co/ijA8xHJ8Tm
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.