Cold Cases: 4 people who will not be forgotten
WKYC reexamines the cases of four people whose deaths remain a mystery.
Cold Cases: 4 people who will not be forgotten
Photo: Luka Lajst, Thinkstock
Author: Phil Trexler
Published: 11:33 AM EST February 22, 2019
Updated: 11:41 AM EST February 22, 2019
CRIME 4 Articles

Cold Cases Not Forgotten is a series of unsolved mysteries WKYC reexamined through the month of February.

Take a look back at the four cases, all of which took place across Northeast Ohio.

EXPLORE

Cold Cases: 4 people who will not be forgotten

CRIME
Chapter 1

Linda Pagano

A college student ended one mystery, one remainsSubtitle here

She’s an American girl. Forever locked in 1974.

Her fresh face, serving up hot dogs and root beer after high school classes.

Her shiny, new orange Mustang hitting the highway, jettisoning her to friends.

At 17, the music and Linda Pagano died that Labor Day weekend 1974.

Forever silent.

For four decades.

"I pretty much gave up," said her older brother, Mike Pagano. "I was an angry young man for 40 years."

Angry at his loss. Angry at his violent step-father, who was the last to see Linda alive.

Angry at law enforcement who, either through apathy or incompetence missed early clues that could have spared the Pagano family decades of uncertainty and possibly led to her killer’s identity.

It took a curious college kid, who wasn’t even alive in 1974, to unearth the truth behind Linda Pagano’s disappearance and death.

Now, all that’s left is justice, as fleeting as it may be.

--

Linda Marie Pagano was the baby of the family. Mike Pagano, tough and rebellious, was a year older and constantly in trouble. Cheryl was the oldest, by about six years. The three lived for varipis times in a home headed by a stepfather prone to violent and unpredictable outbursts.

Linda seemed unaffected by it all. She was the good kid. Smart, hard-working, and honest as they come. She’d take money from her siblings to stay quiet when they misbehaved, then tell her parents anyway when the guilt overtook her.

She had tons of friends and seemed to somehow get along with her stepfather, for the most part.

“Linda had a good head on her shoulders,” Mike Pagano said. “She always did the right thing. Things were going good for her. She had a lot of friends.”

A senior at Springfield High and a server at the A&W in Tallmadge, Linda loved her new Mustang and rock music. And on Aug. 31 she took in both, driving with a boyfriend to Cleveland to attend a World Series of Rock concert at the old Stadium.

According to her stepfather at the time, she came home early the next morning, sparking an argument. He kicked her out of the apartment in Akron, curiously leaving her new car behind.

Linda was never seen again.

"That was it. it's like she vanished right off the face of the earth," Cheryl Pagano said.

The next day, the stepfather called Mike’s mother at their home in a Springfield mobile park. He was looking for Linda.

“At first, I didn’t panic," Cheryl Pagano said. “I just thought she was with friends.”

Police treated the case as if Linda ran away from home. Unlike today, there was not massive media attention. None at all, in fact. Only the Paganos were looking, drawing up their own missing person’s fliers.

“We always kept searching,” Cheryl Pagano said.

Still, there was only silence.

In February the following winter, Mike Pagano heard a TV news report about the remains of a young woman being found in a park in Strongsville, 30-some miles from Akron. Against his mother’s wishes, he made the call, he said, to police in the Cleveland suburb.

A woman answered.

“I gave her the description, told her the name and how long Linda had been missing, and she said, ‘Oh, no. This girl is a little older and probably a little taller. Oh no, that’s not your sister.’ And that was the last of it,” Mike Pagano recalled.

Police tried to link the bones to Patty Hearst, the heiress missing from California, thousands of miles away. They never tried to link them to Linda Pagano, missing just a short drive away.

The remains went unidentified and were later buried in Potter’s Field. They were, however, noted in a directory that Christina Scates would read: Forty years later.

“Unknown white female bones. Strongsville Ohio. 20 years old. Gunshot wound," Scates read aloud.

Now a senior at Cleveland State University, Scates was researching her family history when she came upon the coldly worded cemetery entry that noted a nameless woman’s violent ending.

'It's just... it's just a weird feeling, it really was. I really can't describe it." Scates said. "Kind of confusion as to why she wasn't identified..."

Scates then went on a mission, taking her findings to the internet, contacting police and park rangers, looking for any clues on who this woman was and why she was never identified.

Months passed before the remains were added to a national missing person's database. But when they did, Akron police and its cold case detectives quickly made a potential link.

The remains were eventually exhumed. DNA tests were eventually performed. And finally, Linda Pagano’s disappearance was solved in a press conference in 2018.

“It was pretty shocking. I wasn’t expecting anything like that to happen,” Scates, 27, said. “Surreal. Like, I don’t know how to feel. It feels like it’s not as important as it definitely is.”

Mike and Cheryl Pagano know their little sister would never have been found without the determination of Scates.

“If it wasn’t for her, we never would have found Linda and she’d still be in that Potter’s Field.”

Police are now trying to determine who killed Linda Pagano. The case hasn’t moved, a police spokesman said. The Pagano children’s stepfather is dead. Mike and Cheryl believe he was responsible in some way, but they want to be sure, even against great odds.

“If this could happen, anything could happen,” Cheryl Pagano said.

Anyone with information about the Pagano case can call Akron police detectives at 330-375-2490 or Metroparks rangers at 440-331-5530.

Chapter 2

Joann Bartholomew

Legacy lives on as Stow mother's slaying goes unsolvedSubtitle here

Joann’s Pantry bustles most days in this Akron neighborhood. Hundreds of residents are still hurting from the Great Recession, lugging a box of food to help carry them through another month.

Overlooking 45 volunteers is a photograph of the food bank’s namesake: Joann Bartholomew.

It’s been this way for over 30 years, a tribute to the Stow woman brazenly abducted and killed in the fall of 1987.

"It was heartbreaking,” said Lawana Partlow, who runs the pantry for First Church of Tallmadge with her husband, Jim. “To know that someone who would have given you anything you ask her for would have been treated in such a way. It broke your heart. it really did."

Joann Bartholomew, 47, taught Sunday school classes at First Church and ran a local Dairy Queen with her husband, Chuck. The couple had two adult sons.

Chuck Bartholomew can easily recite nearly every minute of Oct. 21, 1987, the last day he’d be with his longtime love.

"I live it every day,” he said. “It never will go away."

"[Joann] was my best friend. My business partner. The mother of my children. I just could not have had anything greater than what I had with her. We had a great marriage and our church was in the middle of it."

It’s no surprise then that the last hours of her life were spent at her church.

While her husband worked into the evening, Joann attended Wednesday night church services.

Chuck arrived home about 9 p.m., grabbed a bite to eat and settled into the couch to catch Game 4 of the World Series. Dozing off to sleep, he wasn’t alarmed by his wife’s absence. Not yet.

At midnight, he awoke.

“…and I got up and I called and she wasn't there. And I looked in the garage and her car wasn't there. And I got scared."

Chuck called his son, but didn’t want to alarm others. He went out driving, trying to locate his wife. Under department policy, Stow police couldn’t take a missing person report until the next day.

The following day, Joann’s car was found. Parked askew at the Chapel Hill Mall. She was not inside.

Friends and family now joined in the search for Joann. Day and night. It ended Saturday when her partially clothed body was found by a family member in a wooded patch off Buchholzer Boulevard.

"I wish I had found her. I wish I had found her sooner," Chuck said.

Joann’s purse and other personal belongings were found a few miles away, scattered in the street. An autopsy found that Joann had been sexually assaulted and stabbed repeatedly.

"The kind of hate that had to be in this person's heart that did that to someone… I just can't imagine," Chuck said.

Joann’s death came on the heels of the abduction and slayings of three other women. Police initially thought the cases were connected. Detectives no longer believe that, an Akron police detective said this week.

Decades of police work have yet to yield an arrest. While the case remains open, there’s been little movement.

DNA collected at the scene has yet to provide a suspect.

For Chuck Bartholomew, all that remains are memories. He’s since remarried and has three grandchildren. He’s now 79 years old, but remains a hands-on Dairy Queen owner.

He said his faith continues to carry him and his family.

"People have said to me, because of her faith, where was God?” he said. “He was there... He held her hand so she could go through what she had to go through."

Anyone with information about the death of Joann Bartholomew can call Akron police detectives at 330-375-7491.

Chapter 3

Tonia Aldrich

22 years since she was seen

Richard Woodburn just wants a funeral.

He’s not consumed with revenge or knowing who may have killed his little sister.

He’s past all that.

"It's been eating me up for 22 years…not a day goes by that I don't think about her,” he said.

It’s been almost 22 years since Tonia Aldrich of Elyria was last seen. For Woodburn, it’s time to bury the past and his sister.

"I love her and I miss her,” he said. “I know somebody knows what happened to her. This ain't my claim to fame. I want to find out what happened to my sister is the bottom line.”

Tonia was a single mother at 39 when she stepped out of a Clark Street tavern and into the early morning darkness, never to be seen or heard from again.

Her home was a short, quarter-mile walk away, but only her purse made to there. The date: March 29,1997.

Elyria police have investigated possible suspects, but without a crime scene and without a body, their case has stalled.

“Right now, things have come up very cold,” said police Capt. Chris Costantino. “We haven’t gotten any types of information in quite a few years.

"The family deserves some closure and understanding and quite frankly, Tonia deserves, you know, a proper burial, if that's what in fact happened."

Cheri Van Wormer was Tonia’s close friend, sharing karaoke songs and family events. She holds hope that Tonia is alive, but she also knows she wouldn’t just walk away forever.

"It's all very crazy because…the wondering is the hardest ….the wonder…your mind just goes in every direction of what could've happened," Van Wormer said.

Richard Woodburn said he’s not interested in “street justice” or criminal charges. Tonia was spunky, never afraid to speak her mind, he said.

He said he simply was a tip, some clue, as to where his sister may be. No questions asked, he said.

"It hurts me to my heart not knowing,” he said. “All I want to do is find her body, give her a decent funeral, and life goes on. I can accept that and be done with it."

Anyone with information may do so anonymously by calling Elyria police at 440-323-3302 or Richard Woodburns cell phone at 440-365-8181.

Chapter 4

David Hall

David Wayne Hall's mysterious death leaves voidSubtitle here
David Wayne Hall
Courtesy of the Hall family

There’s a noticeable void at the dinner room table whenever David Hall’s seven older brothers and sisters gather.

His empty chair symbolizes their loss. An absence that will never be filled. It’s been this way for 13 years, when the Akron man was found shot to death.

“I’ve taken the fact that he’s gone and won’t see him again,” his oldest brother Lawrence Hall said. “But it sure would be nice to know who did that. And it sure would be nice to know they got punished for doing that.”

What happened to David Wayne Hall the night of Oct. 9., 2005 seems random. Gunned down in cold blood as he rode his bicycle on the city’s near west side.

Hall’s body, underneath his bike, was found a mile from home, in a backyard along Bacon Avenue. His life ended with a single gunshot wound to the head. He was 44 years old.

“I heard about it and just, ya know, couldn’t believe it because, like I said, we’re a close-knit family and I couldn’t believe that one of our members was lost… like that?

“Murder? What’s more difficult to accept than murder?”

He wasn’t looking to turning his life around. By all accounts, David Hall was already a solid, good man. He didn’t use drugs and toxicology tests after his death affirmed that.

His smile was as ubiquitous as the street cleaning machine he drove for the Downtown Akron Partnership. He connected with business men and women. He was also studying to become a legal aid.

“He was a happy go lucky guy,” a sibling recalled around the dinner table of older sister Amy Barnes.

“He was always positive, he was always up.”

Women loved him. Men respected him, Barnes said.

The night he died, he was riding his bike about a mile from his apartment. Why he was there late at night is uncertain. He wasn’t robbed. He wasn’t mugged. He wasn’t in a fight. He never had a chance. It appears he was shot and then rode into the backyard and collapsed.

To Hall’s family, the lack of witnesses and an arrest is as difficult to accept as his death.

“And we’ll never have closure until that happens and just the idea of knowing who did it,” Lawrence said. “And also, why? That’s a big deal. Why?

“A guy like this, who doesn’t bother anybody, a guy like this who goes about living his life making people happy, making people feel good… Why?”

Akron police detectives say they empathize with Hall’s family. Despite their efforts, they have no suspects. No magic DNA. Frankly, there’s little physical evidence.

Just a bullet, David’s body and his bike.

“But unfortunately, we’re no closer to solving this than we were in October 2005,” Lt. David Whiddon said. “It’s hard because there’s not a lot to go on, just people floating their names out there.”

As the cold case languishes, his family pushes forward. They can only hope that a guilty conscience sparks a tip for justice David.

“If you knew David, all you could do is shake your head because whoever done that, they didn’t really know David,” Lawrence said. “Because I couldn’t see my brother doing something to someone that bad.”