Mother, son mysteriously disappear after secret emails allege husband's double life
11/03/2017 2:45 pm PDT
Memorial Day Weekend 2017: A married mother and her teenage son go missing. Friends and family fear the worst. And so do detectives.
Now secret emails from the missing mom to her best friend lead cops down a sordid path to a family's deep secrets.
After a day of fishing with her son Evan on the Coosa River, Susan Osborne told her best friend Hollie Hatfield that she'd caught a keeper.
"She's like 'I think he's the one, I really want to give it a chance,'" Hollie tells Crime Watch Daily.
She was talking about Air Force veteran Jerry Osborne. From the day Jerry and Susan met, Hollie says, Susan was head over heels.
Jerry was the first man Susan dated after her divorce from Evan's father. The following year they were married.
Susan's mom Linda Anklam lived in Texas and only met her son-in-law a few times. But she says he seemed to be a great fit for her daughter and grandson.
"He was very protective of them," said Linda Anklam. "He wanted Susie to look nice. He didn't mind buying her dresses all the time."
He also provided them with a nice home. Susan even quit her job so she could be a full-time wife and mother.
The last time Linda visited them in Alabama was for Mother's Day. It was a great visit. But just a few weeks later something completely out of the ordinary happened.
"I went to Michigan in June for my granddaughter's graduation, and I was sending her pictures all the time, and I wasn't hearing anything," said Linda. "She wasn't answering for several days."
Linda says her daughter had never gone more than a day or two without returning her texts or phone calls.
"And my last text was jokingly, 'Susie, if you don't answer my text I'm gonna have to come to Alabama and look for you,'" said Linda.
Linda considered calling the police, but she didn't want to upset her daughter, who was always very private.
"I said I just don't want the police to go to her door and she's gonna say 'This is ridiculous that you're checking up on me,'" said Linda.
She even sent Susan a letter. But to her shock, it soon came back marked "not deliverable."
"It made me sick when that letter came back," said Linda.
Mysteriously, around the same time, Susan also stopped responding to her best friend Hollie Hatfield, who had moved away to South Florida just before Memorial Day.
"The phone was disconnected. I started thinking 'OK, is she mad at me because I moved?'" said Hollie. "Then when I couldn't get anyone on Evan's phone either, and then they were both disconnected, I knew something had to be wrong."
Neither Linda nor Hollie knew how to reach Susan's husband Jerry Osborne.
"I had no number for Jerry. I knew he worked at the Air Force base," said Linda.
Linda admits she hardly knew Susan's new husband. Now after two months she finally called the sheriff for help. Right away, deputies spot something curious: Susan's car in the driveway.
"When we pulled up to the residence, we started to realize that this was probably more in-depth than we initially thought," said Elmore County Sheriff's Detective Chris Ogden.
With a knock on the door they learn Susan and Evan aren't there. Only her husband Jerry Osborne.
"Mr. Osborne opens the door and he's thoroughly cleaning his residence," said Det. Ogden.
Then, Jerry drops a "Dear John" surprise.
"That on Memorial Day she decided to leave him," said Det. Ogden. "A man had come and picked her up and her son up."
Jerry tells cops the next day Susan returned, taking furniture and other items from the house. He also claimed to have proof that Susan and Evan were still alive.
"He was able to produce a medical bill for Evan that he had obtained oral surgery a few days after they had supposedly left," said Det. Ogden. "The bill was for a no-show, for missing an appointment."
Detectives are quickly realizing that Jerry's explanations just don't quite add up. The next day they return to his house armed with a search warrant. They find him busy cleaning, just like the day before.
"When he found out that we actually were there to investigate the matter, it would appear that he did some follow-up clean-up," said Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin.
According to Det. Ogden, there shouldn't have been much to clean. He says Jerry had pulled off a major home makeover in just two months.
"The house appeared to be almost completely remodeled on the inside," said Ogden.
Susan's friend Hollie was in the house just weeks before Susan vanished, and she says a remodel was definitely not needed.
"She had repainted the house, probably less than six months before this," Hollie tells Crime Watch Daily.
Jerry had also bought several pieces of new furniture, telling cops he burned the old furniture in the back yard, including mattresses and bed frames. People living nearby on Waterview Lane were all too familiar with Jerry's fires.
"So much, just aroma and smell of plastics burning," said Jerry's neighbor Nicki Miller.
Miller says there were days during the summer when the sky was completely filled with smoke.
"So much smoke they couldn't even go outside in their yard, and this is four and five houses down," Miller told Crime Watch Daily.
With all the remodeling and cleaning, detectives were worried any evidence of foul play might be lost forever. So they turned to a powerful investigative tool.
"We're 60 days behind the eight-ball trying to work a missing-persons case," said Elmore County Sheriff's Detective Chris Ogden. "That's not a good situation to be in."
But Jerry Osborne told detectives his wife wasn't missing. He claimed she left him for another man on Memorial Day. Who was this man?
"He was not able to provide anything other than a vague physical description," said Det. Ogden.
As far-fetched as the story sounded, detectives learned Susan did the same thing to her first husband, Evan's father. But her brother Brian says it was only after her marriage had fallen apart, and the circumstances were very different.
"She had no money, her water was being shut off, so I moved every one of her possessions up to my house," said Susan's brother Brian Canfield.
This time, when Susan's best friend Hollie Hatfield hears news of another man, she is immediately perplexed.
"She told me everything," said Hollie. "If she was going to leave him, or do anything, I would be the first to know."
During their initial visit, detectives say Jerry Osborne was busy cleaning. They also learned that he'd done an extensive summer remodel of his home -- all by himself.
"He had freshly painted the inside of his house, new carpeting had been installed, old flooring had been taken up by him and disposed of, new furniture had been put in the house, and he had burned and disposed of multiple pieces of furniture," said Det. Ogden.
Because of the thorough cleaning and extensive remodeling, curious detectives were now left with one critical tool in the search for evidence.
"What's referred to as Luminol," said Det. Ogden.
Luminol is a chemical used to detect blood not visible to the naked eye.
In a Crime Watch Daily Exclusive, detectives reveal that Luminol used in the home unmasked a stunning development.
How many indications of blood were there?
"It was approximately 20," said Det. Ogden.
Possible blood evidence was found in the kitchen, laundry room and guest bathroom. When they have this high number is that indicative of something sinister, foul play?
"That's very indicative of something that's along the violent lines of, not a finger cut by any stretch of the imagination," said Sheriff Bill Franklin.
And they say they were only able to detect it with Luminol because someone, in this case you think Jerry, went to great lengths to clean it up?
"Absolutely," said Sheriff Franklin.
The blood samplings have been sent to a crime lab to determine if they belonged to Susan or Evan. Results will take a few months.
"Hopefully that'll lend some credence to what we already believe took place," said Franklin.
That Evan and Susan succumbed to foul play?
"Right," said Franklin.
Whatever happened to her daughter and grandson, Susan's mom Linda Anklam thought it would be captured on the home's elaborate security system. She says there were cameras at every door.
"I know that for a fact because I asked Susie was it necessary for them to have a security camera," said Linda.
But when investigators went to look for recorded data...
"It was no longer there, because what did he do? He replaced the security camera. He went out and bought another one the first of June," said Linda.
Detectives say two cadaver dogs detected possible human remains at or near a 55-gallon drum where Jerry burns his trash. But none were ever found.
Elmore County Sheriff Bill Franklin also believes some very suspicious evidence was found on Jerry Osborne's computer, but he's not revealing exactly what that evidence is.
"It's not what me or you or any other person would search for," said Det. Ogden. "I don't know how in the world he would explain that away."
With the evidence against Jerry Osborne mounting, what was still missing for detectives was a motive.
"I said 'Yes, tell the investigator they need to call me immediately,'" said Linda's best friend Hollie Hatfield.
The answer might be hidden inside the secretive communications between the two best friends.
"He said 'Oh, there's emails?' And I said 'Yes sir,'" said Hollie.
Investigators learn Susan was sending Hollie emails for more than a year, and Hollie had saved every shocking one of them.
"You could tell after he saw the emails that he knew there was more to the story," Hollie tells Crime Watch Daily.
Susan's best friend Hollie Hatfield believes Susan's estranged husband knows more than he's telling investigators -- she also believes he was living a secret double life.
Detectives don't believe Susan and her son Evan left on their own. They say secrets from Jerry Osborne's past, buried deep in private written communications, may have led to double murder.
The subject line of the email read: "Don't mention this in text." Susan Osborne was about to share an explosive revelation about her husband Jerry.
"She sent them through email 'cause she didn't want him reading her text because he was possessive over her phone, evidently," said Hollie.
The email was to Hollie, who claims not long after the couple married four years ago, Jerry became very controlling. She says he'd read Susan's texts and listen in to her phone calls.
"She would have to talk to me on speakerphone when he was around because I guess he wanted to listen in to the conversation," said Hollie.
In January 2016, Susan forwarded Hollie emails that had been written by Jerry Osborne.
"The first email she sent me was the screen shot of the emails back and forth between him and other men; and the second email she sent me the same day was the profile page back from 2011 from the escort page," said Hollie Hatfield.
Hollie says her jaw dropped.
"Hi there guys! My name is Jay..."
But there it was in print. Jerry Osborne's ad on a website called Boyscort.com.
"And I'm looking for older generous gentlemen to spend some quality time with. .... Your satisfaction is guaranteed everytime. Your sexy boy toy is waiting!"
Hollie says Susan was certain her husband Jerry was the one pictured in the ad.
"She says she was able to identify him from the tattoos," Hollie tells Crime Watch Daily.
But Jerry's ink isn't the only thing that blew his cover.
"The phone number that was in that profile page was a phone number I think he used to have," said Holllie.
Hollie isn't the only person Susan told about Jerry's alleged prostituting past.
"She called me and she was very, very upset, very sick, she said 'Mom, I need to explain something to you and tell you what I found,'" said Susan's mother Linda Anklam.
Linda says her daughter wanted advice about what she should do.
"So I had asked her, you know, 'You need to talk to him and find out why,' because I thought this only happened in the past, but I think that she believed that this was happening all along," said Linda.
Linda says she never talked about it with her daughter again. But Susan did continue to confide in Hollie.
So Susan finds out that at some point her husband was a male prostitute, and currently he's cheating on her with other men. Does she confront him?
"She did later down the road at one point start mentioning to him something she found out, because he asked her why she wouldn't sleep in the bed with him," said Hollie.
But she says Susan didn't tell Jerry everything.
"She knew a lot more than what she ever led on to him," said Hollie.
That's because, Hollie says, Susan needed to carefully plan her escape before she could leave her husband.
"So she said 'I have to get a job first. I cannot put the kids without insurance,'" said Hollie.
Hollie however isn't sure if Susan was really serious about walking away.
"I know she loved him and there were times that I would think with her, it was like she was in denial and she didn't want to leave him," said Hollie. "The last thing she said to me on May 16th, the day we left Alabama, was that they loved each other and that they had worked things out."
But after discovering her husband's secret sex life, Hollie says, Susan started to become paranoid.
"One time me, her and Evan went to eat in a restaurant and she made the comment that she would not sit with her back turned toward the door, and I said 'Is everything OK?' And she said 'Yeah, I just have to be careful,'" said Hollie.
At the same time, Hollie claims, Jerry became more controlling.
"The last time me and her went to eat by ourself, he dropped her off at the restaurant and picked her up. She was not allowed to drive there," said Hollie. "She had verbalized on multiple occasions that he was crazy and they had to watch out."
Then just two weeks after Hollie moved to Florida, investigators and family wonder: Did something cause Jerry to snap and murder both his wife and stepson?
"We obviously think that, you know, this lady and her son, you know, they're -- it doesn't look good right now," said Sheriff Bill Franklin.
Investigators say Susan may have uncovered too many of her husband's secrets.
At this point, is Jerry Osborne a suspect?
"He's a person of interest," said Det. Ogden.
"Oh, he's definitely a person of interest," said Sheriff Franklin. "He's probably our only person of interest."
Detectives confirm exclusively to Crime Watch Daily that possible blood evidence has been found inside Jerry Osborne's house. It's currently being tested to determine if it belongs to Susan or Evan.
With such a serious picture painted against Jerry Osborne, we wanted to give him a chance to defend himself, so we went to his house to talk to him.
"I've been advised under counsel not to talk to anybody. So if you have any questions refer to Mr. Trey Norman," Osborne said.
Jerry Osborne made it clear he didn't want to talk to us. But his lawyer did agree to a phone interview.
"This is not the first time that she's disappeared with people looking for her. I will say it's never been on this scale," said attorney Trey Norman. "You know, if someone wants to stay hidden bad enough, it's certainly possible if they're willing to go to those lengths."
Norman told us the remodeling done after Susan left was actually Jerry's parents' idea.
"They wanted to paint over some of the things in the house because it just looked so hideous," Norman tells Crime Watch Daily.
Not only did they dislike Susan's decorating, they claim she had spray-painted vulgar phrases on the walls and floors before leaving.
"Language that you probably don't want to put on your television show," said Norman.
Norman didn't want to comment on the allegations that Jerry was once a male escort. When we asked about the "alternative lifestyle," his only response was:
"The way the world is now, I don't know that there is an 'alternative lifestyle,'" said attorney Trey Norman.
Jerry's lawyer believes his client has been unfairly convicted in the court of public opinion.
"No one's given him a chance of 'innocent until you're proven guilty,'" said Norman.
Elmore County, Alabama Sheriff Bill Franklin believes the tests being done on blood found in Jerry Osborne's home will go a long way in proving his guilt or innocence.
"It's probably going to be a few more months, and I know that frustrates the family, probably," said Sheriff Franklin.
"It bothers me every day knowing that he is free," said Susan's mother Linda.