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Editor’s Note: This is the fourth article in a series reviewing and analyzing the facts and evidence related to the murder of Rebekah Gould. Read the first article to learn about the facts of the case, forensic evidence, and the means, motive, and opportunity of the killer. Read the second article for more analysis about the murder weapon, the crime scene, and location where Rebekah’s body was found. Read the third article for new revelations and information discovered by the author during her visit to the area where Rebekah was murdered. Additional articles in this series are listed at the end.
During my recent trip to Arkansas, I uncovered a lot of new information related to the murder of Rebekah Gould, which is discussed in my previous article. These new facts and details have provided a wealth of insight into who might have killed the 22-year old college student 14 years ago. In this article and the next, I will provide my analysis of the evidence and how it has helped me narrow down potential suspects to one person whom I believe is likely to be Rebekah’s murderer.
The Likely Route Between Crime Scenes Indicates a Local Killer
While in Arkansas, I discovered Rebekah’s killer likely drove a 10-mile stretch of well-groomed dirt roads between the primary crime scene (Casey McCullough’s house) and the body disposal site. As illustrated on the map below, these dirt roads (in yellow) lead almost directly from the murder scene to the embankment where Rebekah’s body was left just off Route 9. This route is significantly shorter than any possible route on paved roads (in red and orange) and allowed the killer to avoid nearby towns.
The killer’s likely route leads me to believe that he was someone local to the Melbourne/Guion area who had previous knowledge of the back roads. He may have even frequented the area to party, hike, and/or hunt in the woods. In the aftermath of committing murder, a stranger to the area would not have had the time to explore unfamiliar roads or consult a map in an effort to try to navigate them.
Taking the dirt roads meant there was very little chance of being seen (as there are almost no homes or traffic along this route) and almost no chance of being stopped by law enforcement (as these roads are rarely, if at all, patrolled). The killer would have been able to get to the dump site destination quickly and wouldn’t have had to worry about being delayed by stop lights or traffic. Additionally, this route would have eliminated the risk of driving past the Sheriff’s office in Melbourne. The logic behind taking this route gives me confidence that the killer was almost certainly a local person who was very familiar with this specific area.
Analysis of Why the Killer Chose the Disposal Site
Visiting the disposal site provided great insight to the knowledge, thinking process, and motive of the killer. The killer could have easily left Rebekah’s body in the wooded area lining both sides of the dirt roads instead of near Route 9. Doing so would have concealed her body where it had less chance of being found. I have two possible theories about why he chose not to do this.
- The Killer Wanted Rebekah’s Body to Eventually be Found
My first theory is that the killer, who certainly knew Rebekah, may have realized that during the standard police investigation he could be questioned or even named as a primary suspect. If her disappearance remained a mystery and her body was never found, he would likely remain at or near the top of the suspect list (in the public eye and possibly by police). To avoid living under this scrutiny and judgment, he needed her body to be discovered.
I suspect the killer consciously chose the disposal site, hoping Rebekah’s body would be found, just not immediately. The spot where she was left was near a main road, but not too close to the road. The selection of this location ultimately resulted in her body lying there for six to seven days. That passing of time opened the possibility for other persons of interest to come under scrutiny by law enforcement. However, the killer clearly did not realize that the decomposition and insect activity found on Rebekah’s body could help pinpoint her death to September 20, 2004, thus minimizing his efforts to distance himself from her death.
- A Last-Chance Spot to Dispose of Her Body
An alternate theory regarding the choice of disposal site is that the killer may not have had a specific disposal site in mind, but realized he had to get rid of Rebekah’s body before arriving at a main road, which in this case was Route 9. He may have struggled to find a spot that he felt was ideal or dignified and, subconsciously, may not have actually wanted to part ways with Rebekah. But, as the killer approached Route 9, he was left with no choice. The disposal site would have then become a location chosen out of desperation rather than strategy.
Insights from How Rebekah’s Body Was Dumped
The manner in which Rebekah’s body was left also holds many clues about the killer’s mentality in the aftermath of the crime. Based on all reports I’ve been privy to, her body was left exposed; she was not wrapped, covered, or buried in any way. Leaving a body fully exposed is often indicative that a killer has no feelings towards the victim when she was alive, and no remorse for the killing. My original conclusion that such a dynamic existed between Rebekah and her killer is likely incorrect. I am now confident that the way in which her body was left was a by-product of the killer’s attempt at self-preservation.
It’s doubtful the killer traveled with Rebekah’s body in his vehicle without covering or disguising it in some way. This is especially true if the killer transported her in the bed of a pickup truck without a topper. Because Rebekah probably died on the bed in Casey’s house, the killer may have wrapped her in the top layer of bedding and carried or dragged her to his vehicle.
Following the removal of her body from the house, he probably went back inside to conduct a clean-up of the crime scene. Cleaning up indicates that the killer hoped (1) to remain undetected by law enforcement and (2) the police would never discover where Rebekah had been killed. If he had achieved a proper and thorough clean-up of the scene, he wouldn’t have wanted to leave the bedding with her body at the disposal site because that would be evidence linking Rebekah’s death to Casey’s house. Therefore, he likely removed the bedding (or whatever she was wrapped in) when disposing her body and got rid of it somewhere.
Analysis of the Murder Weapon
After learning the layout of Casey’s mobile home, I can probably eliminate my previous theory that the piano leg, which was never found, was knocked loose when the killer moved Rebekah’s body. Reports indicate that blood was found between the bedroom where she was likely killed and the back yard. Therefore, we can make a logical deduction that this is the likely path the killer took to remove Rebekah’s body from the house. And, if that deduction is correct, the killer could not have bumped into the piano while moving Rebekah’s body because he would not have passed it on his way to the back yard.
If the piano leg was used by the killer, it is likely he already knew it was loose and that it easily detached from the piano. According to Casey’s own account, the piano leg would essentially fall off the piano if it was bumped. So, it would have taken very little time for the killer to grab it. Though this does lend support for the piano leg being the murder weapon, it is important to remember that her head wounds were consistent with other objects.
Additional New Information, Post-Arkansas Visit
After returning from Arkansas, I came across even more information I had not previously been aware of that contributes to possible circumstances of this murder.
Casey May Have Owned a Dog
It’s well-known by those who knew Rebekah, and who have followed this case, that Rebekah owned a Pomeranian dog named Lady. According to an article featured in the Batesville Daily Guard by Angelia Roberts, the officer who first responded to Casey’s house to look for Rebekah noted that there were “dogs” and “pets” (plural) in Casey’s house that had made a mess (urinated and defecated on the floor). I have not been able to concretely verify that Casey also owned a dog, but based on the officer’s use of plural words in more than one part of the statement, I believe there was more than one dog at Casey’s.
If this is true, that means Rebekah’s killer had to contend with two dogs. We know these pets were unharmed by Rebekah’s killer, so it is likely that both dogs knew him enough to not attack him. If the killer was not familiar to the dogs, it’s expected they would have created a barking disturbance and possibly tried to attack the killer once he struck Rebekah. If this was the case, it’s likely the killer would have killed or injured the dogs in order to silence them. The killer may have also incurred injuries from the dogs biting him.
Rebekah and Casey’s Relationship
The nature of Rebekah’s relationship with Casey has not been covered by the media in great detail. Most news articles identify him as her “friend.” In fact, she and Casey were in an intimate relationship for the year prior to her death. Before she left for college in Fayetteville just a couple of weeks before her murder, she lived with him, shared a bedroom with him, and slept in the same bed as him. Though their relationship had rough patches and they broke up a few times, he was, by all accounts, consumed by her and rarely spent time with anyone else. His obsession has been noted by people who were close to both Casey and Rebekah and observed their relationship first-hand.
At least two of the sworn statements provided to police by potential witnesses in the aftermath of Rebekah’s murder detail Casey’s preoccupation with Rebekah. They describe Casey as “head-over-heels” and “madly in love.” Though Casey was an easy-going young man most of the time, he is reported to have quite a temper and dark side. People close to both Casey and Rebekah witnessed his anger periodically and, on one occasion, saw him punch a door after discovering Rebekah went on a date with another man.
Future Analysis of the Autopsy
The next article in this series will provide a detailed evaluation of Rebekah’s autopsy report. In examining the autopsy report, I’ve consulted for many hours with a good friend of mine who has an immense amount of hands-on experience treating trauma victims. I will provide readers with her professional insight regarding Rebekah’s injuries and what those injuries tell us about the circumstances of her death.
A Request to Readers
After the next article in this series is released later this week, I’d like to ask readers to email me with questions about the case and my analysis of it thus far. I plan to compile a list of topics and answer questions in an upcoming article in this series. I can be reached at email@example.com.
If readers have any information related to Rebekah Gould’s murder, no matter how inconsequential they believe it might be, please call the Izard County Sheriff’s Department at (870) 368-4203 or Arkansas State Police at (800) 553-3820. Tips can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. Anyone reporting information has the right to remain anonymous.
To learn more about current research into this cold case, read the next articles in this series:
- Analyzing Rebekah Gould’s Autopsy Report
- Q&A: Answering Questions Regarding the Murder of Rebekah Gould
- Geographic Profiling and Psychology Provide Clues About Rebekah Gould’s Killer
- Circumstantial Evidence Could Bring Rebekah Gould’s Killer to Justice
- Using Behavioral Analysis to Narrow Suspects in Rebekah Gould’s Murder
- Arrest Made in 16-Year-Old Murder Case of Rebekah Gould
About the Author: Jennifer Bucholtz is a former U.S. Army Counterintelligence Agent and a decorated veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. She holds a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, Master of Arts in criminal justice and Master of Science in forensic sciences. Bucholtz has an extensive background in U.S. military and Department of Defense counterintelligence operations. While on active duty, she served as the Special Agent in Charge for her unit in South Korea and Assistant Special Agent in Charge at stateside duty stations. Bucholtz has also worked for the Arizona Department of Corrections and Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York City. She is currently an adjunct faculty member at American Military University and teaches courses in criminal justice and forensic sciences. Additionally, she is a licensed private investigator in Colorado. You can contact her at Jennifer.Bucholtz@mycampus.apus.edu.