Two Encrypted Note from the 1999 Murder of Ricky McCormick

Update: This story has generated an outpouring of responses. To accommodate the continuing interest in this case, we have established a page (http://forms.fbi.gov/code) where the public can offer their comments and theories about the coded messages.

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Cryptanalysts
Part 2: Help Solve an Open Murder Case

03/29/11

On June 30, 1999, sheriff’s officers in St. Louis, Missouri discovered the body of 41-year-old Ricky McCormick. He had been murdered and dumped in a field. The only clues regarding the homicide were two encrypted notes found in the victim’s pants pockets.

Despite extensive work by our Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU), as well as help from the American Cryptogram Association, the meanings of those two coded notes remain a mystery to this day, and Ricky McCormick’s murderer has yet to face justice.

“We are really good at what we do,” said CRRU chief Dan Olson, “but we could use some help with this one.”

In fact, Ricky McCormick’s encrypted notes are one of CRRU’s top unsolved cases. “Breaking the code,” said Olson, “could reveal the victim’s whereabouts before his death and could lead to the solution of a homicide. Not every cipher we get arrives at our door under those circumstances.”

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The more than 30 lines of coded material use a maddening variety of letters, numbers, dashes, and parentheses.
McCormick was a high school dropout, but he was able to read and write and was said to be “street smart.” According to members of his family, McCormick had used such encrypted notes since he was a boy, but apparently no one in his family knows how to decipher the codes, and it’s unknown whether anyone besides McCormick could translate his secret language. Investigators believe the notes in McCormick’s pockets were written up to three days before his death.

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