The Trail Went Cold – Episode 14 – Edward Maps

January 21, 1962. Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania. Authorities arrive at the burning home of Edward Maps to discover that his wife, Christine, has been bludgeoned to death and their four-month old daughter, Julie Louise, has died of smoke inhalation. Edward Maps himself has disappeared and a warrant is issued for his arrest. Maps is soon placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, but to this day, he has never been found. However, over the years, allegations have surfaced that another suspect might have been the real perpetrator and disposed of Maps’ body to frame him for the crime. Did Edward Maps get away with the murder of his family or was he actually an innocent victim all along? On this week’s episode of “The Trail Went Cold”, I analyze one of the most baffling wanted fugitive cases ever.

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The Trail Went Cold is produced and edited by Magill Foote.

All music is composed by Vince Nitro.

 

20 thoughts on “The Trail Went Cold – Episode 14 – Edward Maps

  • Excellent story! I think your scenario is pretty solid, but as I was listening I had another scenario going through my mind that I’d like you to consider.

    It sounded a little like someone (Bob?) hired a hitman to kill Ed. The hitman shows up at his house with his pet dog (because some people just bring their dogs literally everywhere … ), maybe as an extra level of protection if it was a big mean attack dog. The hitman is not very competent at what he does in general, and goes into the house when Ed isn’t there. He runs into Ed’s wife, who attacks him in self-defense. This explains the defense wounds on her hands, which she likely would not have if she had been attacked by Ed. I tend to think if Ed wanted to attack her in the home he would probably have knocked her on the head from behind when she was unaware. The hitman kills her, but she gets a few digs into the dog at least, which explains the animal blood and fur at the scene. The hitman realizes the whole job has gone sideways, panics, and decides to torch the house to destroy as much evidence at the scene as he can. I would guess he doesn’t even know the baby is in the house at all. He lights a few fires and gets out of there as fast as he can.

    Ed arrives shortly thereafter, sizes up the scene, and figures he’s going to be Suspect Numero Uno, which turned out to be absolutely correct. He decides he’d rather live on the lam than risk going through the justice system. He walks out of town, maybe into the woods, hitches a ride and disappears. He calls his friend later to tell him that he forgives Bob. He is probably still in a fugue state, so his conversation isn’t all that coherent.

    This scenario is probably not as likely as the one you put together, but like you I am bothered by the unlikelihood of Ed committing such a terrible crime without any other history of violence or mental problems. It just seems like a bit of a stretch.

    Oh, and I thought of one or two other possibilities to explain the animal blood. Could it have been part of a work of art that Ed was working on? Or could the blood have leaked out of a package of roast beef or pork chops for dinner? It would really help a lot to know what animal it came from, but I’m guessing we don’t know because you didn’t say.

    Anyway, this was really an intriguing one! Nice choice, and very well presented. I look forward to the next.

    • Hey, thanks a lot for listening. It’s funny, as ridiculous as the idea of a hitman bringing a dog to his murder scene is, that was the only plausible explanation I could think of to explain the presence of the animal blood and fur. In fact, it initially made me think Maps was innocent because it seemed like pretty hard evidence that an outsider was in the house that night. I could concede that the animal blood might have been from meat in the freezer, but that wouldn’t explain the fur.

      However, I do think your explanation about the animal blood and fur being from an art project Edward was working on is a pretty clever one. He just seemed eccentric enough to do something like that and I could see how, when taken completely out of context, baffling that evidence would seem.

  • Super podcast, I’m really glad that I found this one! If I may propose you a mystery case maybe it’ll will interest you.
    The Death of Hugues De La Plaza. Here is a link to the blog made by his family : http://huguesdelaplaza.blogspot.fr/
    Being a French, this case was well-covered in the french media and really piqued my interest.
    and here is a link of a thread on the subreddit Unresolved Mysteries : https://www.reddit.com/r/UnresolvedMysteries/comments/24pms3/the_death_of_hugues_de_la_plaza/

    • Thanks. That’s an excellent recommendation. I saw that case featured on the “48 Hours Mystery” TV show. It’s one of the most ridiculous rulings of “suicide” ever. Would love to cover it in the future.

  • Hello Mr. Warder. Great podcast! Two thoughts: The animal blood and fur could be from harvested critters. Trapped or otherwise killed for food; for example rabbit, deer , turkey (although turkeys don’t have fur). Second thought is the front door locked from the outside; the killer did that on the way out to ensure victims were well and truely dead, and also to erase any evidence through the ensuing (assumed) inferno.

    • Hey, thanks for listening. That’s a pretty plausible theory about the animal blood and fur, as Maps was an outdoorsman, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he hunted and caught animals and brought their carcasses into the house at some point. I’ve also had some listeners to suggest they might be part of some strange art project Maps was working on.

  • So I googled John Birch. The John Birch society was founded in 1958, and Wikipedia says it’s a far-right anticommunist group named for a soldier who died in 1945. So, conspiracy theory time. Maps is considered sort of a hippie, and he’s prominent in the community. What if this was the work of some zealots who decide to make an example of a perceived commie? They are waiting when the family arrive home, bludgeon the wife and leave the child so they can’t continue in his footsteps and take Maps for interrogation. After they torture him for a while they have him make a call to a neighbor to spread fear, identifying himself as their namesake. Somehow he got hold of the phone unsupervised, or is allowed to make a closely censored goodbye call, and this is the second call made. He knows what happened to his family, and he knows he is going to die, so he does not mention them or proclaim his innocence. He just speaks to his parents in law. Maybe Bob was even the one who turned him in to the group. Preferring to have Maps considered on the run and dangerous, as it suits their agenda, the group makes sure his body is never discovered after his death. But if Bob turned him in, and then his daughter was killed, his guilt may have made him confess to his wife, who may have decided to keep quiet for her own safety or because, knowing Bob was not right, she felt he’d been punished enough and that no good would come of turning him in. It’s not unusual after a traumatic medical event like a severe heart attack to cause extreme personality changes and erratic behaviour, often as a result of oxygen deprivation to the brain during the event.

    • Neat, I had no idea there was a prominent person named “John Birch” out there. I wonder if he and Maps might have crossed paths at some point during World War II, which might have inspired Maps to use that name if he made the phone call. But if I had to guess, that name probably has no bearing on the murders. Maybe the woman who received the call had Communist sympathies, which is why she was being harassed by “John Birch”.

  • Okay, here’s a long, multi-faceted theory from me (new fan, so apologies in advance for blowing up your wall! 😉 ):

    According to an article on Ponoco Record (http://www.poconorecord.com/article/20080413/News/804130349), it was found AFTER Maps’ disappearance that he had a $30,000 trust fund (equal to over 200,000 back in 1960) from which he received a monthly stipend, but before his disappearance Maps made it out to seem as though he was low on money (living with in-laws, asking to borrow money for loan, etc.). Robert apparently made it his goal to prove to Julia that Maps wasn’t as penniless as he made it seem, so my theory is that perhaps the letter that Maps received prior to the fire was alluding to Robert finding out about his trust fund which prompted Maps to say he hopes Robert doesn’t cause them any trouble. They come home where they find Robert and an argument breaks out which ultimately becomes physical. Maybe Christine tries to get involved, or maybe Christine knew about the trust fund but also hid it from her father in order to receive money from him and Robert hurts her in a fit of rage, but ultimately she gets fatally injured during the argument (I believe it was probably a emotionally-induced accident on Robert’s part). Maps flees the scene after threats from his FIL to never return, then Robert attempts but fails to create a large fire to burn any evidence – and he also tries to put the blame on Maps who has fled the scene (locking the door from the inside, for example). This does not fully explain why he left the child for dead, however perhaps he came to the conclusion that it was a necessary casualty to keep himself from any future blame. Maps IS the one who calls his friend, but though it sounds like he’s admitting to being guilty he instead is saying he cannot come back because of Robert, who he ultimately forgives because he knew Christine’s death was an accident. This is the theory I have that I think makes the most sense.

    A different theory I have regards the note from Christine to Julie Louise that sticks out to me. It sounds like she’s seriously suffering from postpartum depression. The note does not, to me at least, sound as though it’s trouble in the marriage, or at least that Maps was causing any issues. She seems to be struggling with the redundancy of life (“squirrel cage”), and though Maps tells her that her daughter should be the base of their lives she struggles with that concept. Perhaps she put on a good face when visiting their neighbor, but when she got home she felt overwhelming depression again, the lowest of her low. When Maps is out of the room she makes a wild attempt to start a fire in their house, and when Maps finds out he panics and tries to stop her, ultimately causing her harm. He doesn’t know what to do and flees the scene, not realizing that he left his unconscious wife and infant child for dead. When he finds out what ultimately happened, he tries to start a new life under a different name but reaches out to his friend to send his love to Julia. This does not explain his forgiving Bob, but it could explain the note which otherwise is a bizarre aspect of the case.

    I have no clue about the animal blood…Perhaps Christine killed a squirrel to symbolize ending the squirrel cage? Haha

    Ultimately, however, I don’t believe that the murder was intentional whether it was caused by Robert or by Maps. I also don’t believe Maps was kidnapped and killed right away. I think he must have somehow gone into hiding and started a new life under a different name, whether he was innocent or guilty of the crime.

    Phew, now I should probably get back to my day job.

    • Even though I ultimately believe that Edward committed the murders, it does bother me that there were discrepancies in Robert’s story and that he wasn’t checked into the hotel when he claimed he was. There’s no evidence that Robert was in Stroudsburg or anywhere near the murder scene, but since he wasn’t reached until 8:10 AM, he theoretically could have made the trip from Miami to Stroudsburg to New York during the time frame and could have been involved. I’d probably feel a lot differently if it wasn’t for Edward’s strange phone call. I certainly would love to know the whole truth about what happened that night.

      I do agree that Christine was probably suffering from postpartum depression, but ultimately, I think that strange note was probably a red herring and had nothing to do with her murder.

  • Wow- Crazy, my Mom is #1 in Seniority at Alaska and they did not fly to Miami, FL or New York until, 2012 this is so weird? So where was he? Where was he really going. Bizarre. Interesting story, I never heard this story before. Sad all the same. The Squirrel cage letter is the only strange, strange thing, why would you write we are still alive, and why would you imply life is spinning in circles just trying to get a nut? I am going to look into this case further, so very interesting.

    • Wow, thanks for sharing that tidbit of information about Alaska Airlines. I guess if you’re looking an innocent explanation, Wolbach could have simply misremembered the airline who flew on. But for him to name an airline which didn’t fly into Miami at all is troubling.

  • This is a fascinating case I’m glad to have heard about… No one considers a suspect other than “unconventional” Maps, yet the father (Robert’s) alibi has holes which could be explained by intentional deceit.

    No one likes the idea that a father would harm his daughter, but he was forced to give her away to Maps, whom he vehemently hated, and he was a man of paranoid violent threats suggesting a need for revenge.

    The father had a motive to murder Maps, and Maps, apart from the smear of his sandal-wearing and idiotically-inferred homosexuality, didn’t have a motive to murder his wife, other than his diagnosis as schizophrenic (ultimately a term of varying meaning, and which is treated by drugs effective in a variety of conditions, from simple depression, to bipolar disorder, to PTSD, to psychosis and so on).

    Schizophrenic is an extremely emotive and sometimes derogatory term, often confused with “multiple personality disorder” (which does not exist in the sense that people are suffering from being composed of multiple discrete people).

    I once had it to described to me as “it’s when you don’t know what’s up with something,” and I think that’s about as useful description as any, and an explanation for the bizarre phone calls, which could be an attempt at manipulation. They suggest someone actually or pretending to be unhinged about who or whom is what and why.

    It’s 1962, who’s going to murder a mother, her father, or a bizarre homosexual thought to be mentally ill? The baseless claim by the newspaper that he is probably homosexual is a kind of trial by media. The inference is that the father couldn’t have done it, even though in reality he may have, due to Maps’ personality, which can’t actually be known by making superficial assumptions.

    Perhaps Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” reflects what’s going on here, that if you’re schizophrenic, you’re probably off-kilter in general, like Norman Bates, and a potential murderer of a mother. You may seem nice, but you’re actually depraved and the horror of that is just waiting to surface. Homosexuals are mentally ill and they have huge problems with their mothers. They’re in mixed states as to who or what they are, like the caller(s).

    Then there’s the crime scene. It’s all in an area of land (some 3-4 properties plus a farm), including one home backing on to Maps’ house. This is a substantial domain in which Robert didn’t want Maps to exist.

    An angry attempt was made to completely destroy Maps’ house. Ten fires plus an oven explosion is extreme. Whomever did that clearly didn’t like that house existing in any way, shape or form. It’s probably fair to say that it is a furious crime carried out by a confident individual. Ten fires suggests reveling in the demise of the house, in my opinion. It takes time to light 10 fires. You’ve probably thought about what you’d really like to burn, which brings me to the artwork.

    Robert is a literally, and perhaps it could be suggested figuratively heart-broken “art supervisor” who’s had an actual artist rammed down his throat by daughter and wife. Clearly Robert’s wife was on good terms with Maps to have slept in the same bed as him.

    So there is Maps, sleeping in his wife’s bed, languidly creating art while he merely supervises art at a distance from the four properties he has worked to establish over many years, with a rudimentary rather than passionate relationship with his wife.

    Maps has it all in next to no time and effort, including ~1/4 of the land space, daughter and mother.

    I’m not surprised Robert blamed the failure of this marriage on Maps, he clearly felt very persecuted by him, so much so that he thought he may be having an affair with his wife. The detective who relates the wife likely going overseas to see a fugitive Maps reflects this paranoia (one which could EASILY have been investigated, like Robert, but presumed irrelevant). Possibly, Julia cried about this possibility out of exhaustion. She was the interface between Maps and Robert. I think when she says Maps will be found close to the area she blames her husband for the murders.

    It’s the smashed sculptures that pin this down for me. Robert hated everything that Maps was, that he wasn’t: an actual artist, in control of his daughter/wife, in rule of his domain, and in love with his daughter/wife. He had conflict with all of them, other than the baby, who was covered under blankets, as if to be excluded from the crime. The bias against Maps and lack of any investigation fanned the flames of his satisfaction and confidence in what he’d done, and he was probably the caller(s). Locking all the house doors externally suggests someone with a key (!), and I imagine Robert locking them all in, as a sort of punishment, for all he’d perceived they had done to him… You’ll be let out, once you’ve learned your lesson.

    He raised the land, eradicated the enemy, and re-established rule.

    So basically, I think he made good on his threat to have Maps and his wife “vacate the property.”

    • Thanks for your thoughtful analysis. As you know, I said on the podcast that I ultimately believed Maps committed the crime, but I’ve had a few listeners provide compelling theories which point to Robert Wolbach, so I’ve been doing a lot of reconsidering and I’m not sure what to really think anymore. I do agree that the investigators probably had tunnel vision and didn’t bother to look at other possibilities and sadly, since Wolbach’s name wasn’t even mentioned as a possible suspect until decades later and long after he died, we’ll probably never know the real truth. I wouldn’t be surprised if people in the community already had preconceived notions about the “unconventional” Maps, which might explain why the District Attorney jumped in and took control of the manhunt for him immediately after the crime took place.

      • Considering how much land Robert had in the area (3 or 4 houses plus a farm, and prior property transactions before then) I imagine he was well-established in the region, with many people on his side, willing to hear his opinion, and sympathize with him. Perhaps he even had people around him that needed to be in tow for fear of consequence.

        The news story, which is essentially gossip presented more or less as fact, will be either the view of Robert, or the diluted view of Robert. It’s noteworthy in that it has contempt for Maps’ art, which I believe was smashed by Robert.

        No-one else has spoken up against Robert (just in support of Maps) who is objectively extremely controlling (even if he’s not very effective close to home).

        It’s notable that Maps is described as being unliked, when clearly the opposite is true. Even in the very little information available, he is in fact liked and talked about highly. This speaks of some completely dismissive or actively biased attitude toward Maps, the Town intruder, the reverse of which reflects an assumption that Robert simply couldn’t be guilty if a degenerate like Maps was present. Certainly Maps’ wife and Robert’s wife liked him quite a lot!

        Obviously I believe Robert is guilty. I imagine him going from room to room, lighting the fires, relishing each one, thinking this time he WILL win and this matter will be OVER once and for all, kind of like Roseanne Barr in She-Devil, sabotaging an entire house to culminate in a massive explosion.

        I wonder if he was disappointed that the house didn’t burn as furiously as his anger, like his interest or passion for art only resulted in “art management.”

        Well, Robert, you certainly were unable to manage artist Maps :)… Not without the loss of your daughter, anyway.

        Other than smashing the sculptures, which are very specific targets of anger, I’ve wondered just how ANGRY you would have to be, to light 10 fires… Personally, I’ve never thought of lighting one house fire, let alone ten with a gassing oven for ultimate destruction. Think of how much fire, and how large of an explosion you would be seeking. Whomever was responsible, they were MAD, mad enough to seriously injure Maps’ wife, albeit responsible enough to somewhat spare the baby, who hadn’t (yet) crossed Robert.

        I’ve wondered if the detective’s suggestion that Julia was having an affair with Maps demonstrates the ability of Robert to influence the authorities. They handle this crime dogmatically, as if under instructions. No one searches the farm, any of the surrounding properties, let alone anywhere beyond that. No one suggests Robert is guilty, at least publicly, but that is a passive insinuation, never published per se, only the thorough devaluation of Maps.

        The content of the phone call is telling, too: “I saw your painting at Wyckoff’s department store. I liked the frame but it was hung too high… I want you to give my love to Julia.” In my opinion, this was Robert (or someone very much on his side, who may have assisted in the crime) calling, demonstrating his contemptuous ability to devalue art (the content of the art is irrelevant, just the frame is ok, but even then, it’s not positioned correctly), and his unshakeable belief that his wife was having an affair with Maps. It’s an incredibly snide call.

        Goodness me, I do feel sorry for Julia. With everyone dead, she probably saw no benefit in having anyone punished.

        It’s interesting that like the Tommy Ziegler case, suggested “unconventionality,” particularly homosexuality, unfairly sway the outcome of these events. I wonder why we don’t hear of criminal purported lesbians in the same era. Perhaps it was not yet acknowledged as a difference, and therefore unable to be used against anyone as a means to an end.

  • Did the FBI ever look into who had a painting at Wyckoff’s department store?

    I guess that’s a silly question considering how much they didn’t look into in this case.

    Interesting things about the call: the retired executive who took the call claimed to recognize Maps and Julia believed it was Maps too and that she “feels” (without being sure) that he would be dead after the call. So if the executive isn’t wrong that points to Maps being responsible or abducted and/or murdered possibly being forced to make the call (this is all reported in the Pocono Record). There is a retired police officer quoted who says it must have been Maps on the line and that he was guilty because if he’d been kidnapped he would have said so. I don’t buy that. Can’t the officer conceive of Maps with a gun to his head doing whatever he’s told??

    I guess we can presume the police never tried to trace the call either…

    And taking Maps off the most wanted list and destroying the files without explanation… yeah, they knew they screwed up and maybe they worked out who did it (was this around the time Robert died?) in which case they were kind of complicit in the murders.

    • I’ve tried to find out the exact year Robert Wolbach died, but unfortunately, never uncovered that information, so I have no idea if that had any bearing in the decision to take Maps off the most wanted list. What’s strange is that even though the FBI took him off the list and destroyed the files, the local authorities still actively pursued Maps until at least the early 1990s. They made a failed attempt to get him featured on America’s Most Wanted and participated in a 30th anniversary article about the murders in 1992 and said they were still looking for him. So I have no idea if the FBI learned something we don’t know which prompted them to pull out of the investigation.

    • The police officer quoted is another example of finding Maps guilty before a trial and with very poor reasoning. Even in the present day they don’t refer to him as a suspect or individual wanted for questioning etc. The idea that he must be guilty has persisted like it’s part of their culture.

  • Basically what the police expect us to believe is that Maps is guilty because they never found him, even though they hardly investigated the crime, and despite Robert’s alibi (which didn’t clear him and hints at deceptiveness), threats of violence to all concerned, and motive. Robert’s house also backed onto Maps’ house (Robert also had property all around Maps’ house). Maybe they were still looking for Maps because technically he remained listed as a fugitive, not because it was sensible. That the FBI removed him suggests there was some disagreement between them and the local police (or the local police forgot to do something, again). The FBI did come to the conclusion (not that long after the crime) that Maps was dead. I think that says it all. Unless Maps pulled off an uncharacteristic sudden violent murder-suicide (in which he felt the need to destroy his art and home), that leaves Robert (and a possible accomplice). One would have to wonder how many other miscarriages of justice the police in this region managed to be a part of. I have no idea what 1960s Stroudsburg was like, but the prejudicial and defamatory comments in the newspaper also tell a story of carelessly rushing to judgement. Is it safe to wear sandals in Stroudsberg yet?

  • My mother knew this guy he served in WWII with my grandfather she used to tell me this story all the time even showed me where the house was it’s since been replaced by a row of condo apartments firstly I just want to say the theory of escaping in the woods not happening in the winter not only because of the cold but because he would have left footprints in the snow for the cops to follow directly to him. Secondly the way my mother used to speak about Mr. Maps he wouldn’t hurt a fly of course then again that’s what everyone thought about bearnie teede. As for the comments about the a hitman or whatever bringing a dog that’s just stretching the imagination altho it is true that he was a hunter one of his “obscure” art forms was taxedermy that’s why the blood and fur were passed over I do believe as did my mother that someone other than “Eddie” as he was known killed his wife and daughter who were meant to be blown up that’s y the gas was on and kidnapped him hoping after the hose exploded they would think his body had been destroyed in the explosion when it was reported that the house hadn’t burned or exploded the kidnapper most likely the person hired by the more likely father in law forced mr. Maps to place the two calls likely then put a bullet in his head and dumped the body in the Delaware water gap river where it would never be found many things have disappeared in the Delaware never to be seen again including people over the years the current will rip a human body including the bones to pieces and the fish and wildlife will feast whatever is left an arm or leg washes on shore a bear or other animal eats it that was my mother’s theory being my grandfather was friends with the family and served with Mr. Maps in the war. As for the truth of why he was removed from the FBI most wanted list and declared dead only the FBI knows that but I’m guessing it may have been at the request of a high ranking military official since he and my grandfather had always maintained there were things about their military careers they couldn’t talk about

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