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The Assignment Letter from the FBI states that the goals for your investigation are to identify the killer and uncover the motive of the murderer. It also advises that you should observe the following protocols during your investigation: (1) solve the case by developing the most likely theory that is supported by the evidence, (2) accept statements made by witnesses or other sources of information as true unless they are contradicted by other evidence, and (3) if an inconsistency arises during your investigation, be sure to check it against the other available evidence.



The body of Leah Patterson was found lying in the snow at 9:55 pm.  She was stabbed multiple times. The murder weapon was never recovered. Patterson was wearing winter clothing including a long coat, sweater, gloves, and a scarf.

An evidence report in the case file relating to blood drops found near the crime scene contains a clue: a handwritten message with a phone number from the medical examiner. The note indicates that the blood trace evidence was rushed to the lab for testing and that results can be obtained by calling the phone number provided.


Calling the number reveals that the blood droplets were the victim’s blood. They were likely left at the crime scene as “cast-off” blood spatter which dripped from the murder weapon as the killer walked away from the body.  The call also provides other important information: the victim’s time of death was between 9:00 pm and 9:10 pm. 



DNA samples were collected as trace evidence from Leah Patterson’s body. Testing the samples revealed that the DNA belonged to three people: the victim, Robert Cooper (with whom Patterson collided in a ski accident earlier in the day), and Lucas Taylor (a ski instructor at the lodge). Only Lucas Taylor’s DNA was found on the victim of the six suspects. This suggests that Taylor could be the killer. However, it is possible that the killer did not leave any DNA trace evidence on the victim’s body. 



The newspaper indicates that Patterson was staying in the Timberwolf Cabin with roommate Nicole Fulton. The victim and Fulton walked from their cabin to the Fireside Bar on Dec. 28 at 6:40 pm to have a drink before the ’Tis the Season party began at the Sky Club at 7:30 pm. Fulton further recalled that she saw Patterson at the ’Tis the Season party until at least 7:50 pm.


Security cameras in operation at the lodge revealed that Patterson left the party at the Sky Club at 8:36 pm on the night that she was killed. She was alone and wearing the same clothing that she was found in after she was murdered.



An email in the case file from assistant manager Mariah Soto to manager Brian Atwell describes a history of thefts from guest cabins at the resort. Soto indicates that the thief is most likely a staff member at the lodge. She further advises that they keep news of the thefts quiet and not to involve the police to avoid endangering the business of the lodge. On the morning of Dec. 27, one of the ski resort’s guests, Lauren Bender, observed Lucas Taylor coming out of the Overlook Chalet and acting suspiciously. The cabin assignment list from the case file indicates that the Overlook Chalet was occupied by guests Andrew and Ella Cooper and their two children. The latest theft was from the Fireside Retreat cabin. A men’s watch and a pair of earrings were stolen. 


Ski instructor Lucas Taylor is the only staff member listed as a suspect in the murder of Leah Patterson. Is it possible Lucas Taylor was sneaking into guests' cabins to steal jewelry and other valuable items? Could Leah Patterson have accidentally surprised Taylor as he was stealing items from her cabin? Is it possible that Lucas Taylor killed Leah Patterson, either in an attempt to keep her quiet or in a struggle that ensued?  Additional evidence will resolve these questions.



The same evidence report containing the handwritten note from the medical examiner also reveals that snowmobile tracks were found near the scene of the crime.  Blood droplets on the tracks indicate that the snowmobile tracks were made before the killer walked over them carrying the murder weapon (leaving cast-off blood trace evidence). The tire tread from the snowmobile track matches the tires on a snowmobile owned by the Forrest Ski Lodge and used by its staff. 


A snowmobile log dated Dec. 28 in the case file reveals who used snowmobiles on the evening of the murder. In the suspect book, the profile for Lucas Taylor indicates that his employee number is 00135.  Comparing the employee number with the entries in the log reveals that Lucas Taylor signed out a snowmobile at 7:57 pm on the night of the murder. Although this initially seems suspicious, the log also shows that Lucas returned the snowmobile at exactly 9:02 pm. Therefore, it is not possible that Taylor was at the crime scene where Leah Patterson was killed between 9:00 pm and 9:10 pm.



The victim’s roommate (Nicole Fulton) stated that Patterson had been having an affair with a married man and was “kind of stalking” him. The affair has been going on for at least six weeks. Could the affair be related to Patterson’s murder? Was she killed by a scorned lover or a jealous spouse?   


Suspect Angel Diaz has a history of violent behavior. His profile indicates that he was arrested and charged with assault and battery (while in college) relating to a bar fight. The charges were later dropped. Suspect Andrew Cooper is a well-known criminal defense attorney in Forrest City.  Was there a connection between Diaz and Cooper that is related to the murder of Leah Patterson?  While this presents interesting speculation, there is no additional evidence suggesting any connection between Diaz and Andrew Cooper or that Diaz had any motive to kill Leah Patterson. Additional evidence is required.



An unidentified set of tracks found in the snow at the crime scene must belong to the killer. The boot impression discovered at the scene was a men’s boot, size 10. The tracks approached the crime scene from the direction of the staff cabins and then returned in that same direction.  


A note in the case file indicates the shoe sizes of the six suspects. Anyone with a boot size much larger than a size 10 cannot be the killer. Since Angel Diaz has a size 13 shoe, he can be eliminated as a suspect.  The remaining five suspects have shoe sizes the same or smaller than the boot track at the crime scene. Since someone with a smaller show size could still wear a larger boot, perhaps even to disguise their actual shoe size, the remaining five suspects can not be eliminated by this clue.



The victim was seen by Nicole Fulton having an argument with suspect Alisha Vail at the ’Tis the Season party at the Sky Club on Dec. 28. Patterson and Vail were friends before the ski trip and Patterson was the person who convinced Vail to join the singles group. There is no evidence indicating any motive for Alisha Vail to kill Leah Patterson.  Furthermore, bartender Ben Frye recalled that Alisha Vail bought a round of drinks at the bar at 9:00 pm. Since Vail was at the bar when Patterson was killed, she did not have the opportunity to commit the murder.

A MEETING.  Ski lodge manager Brian Atwell stated that he was in a meeting with the President of the Forrest City Singles group when he received a call on his cell phone about the discovery of Patterson’s body. The meeting had started at 9:00 pm. The “Singles Ski Getaway” flyer in the case file reveals that the president of the Forrest City Singles group is Alex Green. Green did not have the opportunity to commit the murder since she was in a meeting with Mr. Atwell at the time Patterson was killed.



Ali Riggins (a receptionist at Cooper Plastic Surgery Center) told the FBI that Leah Patterson visited their office for a consultation with Dr. Ella Cooper in mid-December.  Additionally, Riggins stated that Dr. Cooper and Patterson met alone in a consultation room. This was not standard office procedure. This suspicious encounter between Patterson and Dr. Cooper may be important to the case. Could Leah Patterson have been having an affair with Dr. Ella Cooper? Or her husband, Andrew Cooper?



An article in the newspaper states that Robert Cooper, the teen-aged son of Andrew and Ella Cooper, was in an accident on the ski slopes on Dec. 28 when he collided with another skier, victim Leah Patterson. This is the second incident in which Patterson had a noteworthy encounter with the Cooper family prior to her murder. Was the collision an accident?  Or was Patterson, who had been engaging in behavior her roommate described as “stalking,” purposely running into Robert Cooper on the ski slope?  Was she trying to send a message to either Andrew Cooper or Ella Cooper?  Was she retaliating against one of them by colliding with their teen-aged son and injuring him?



Ski lodge guest Lauren Bender told the FBI that she observed Leah Patterson meet Andrew Cooper for a late-night rendezvous outside in the shadows near Cooper's cabin. This suggests that Leah Patterson was having an affair with Andrew Cooper. But did Andrew Cooper kill her?

A plastic ice scraper included in the evidence contains the website address for the Forrest Ski Lodge.  Going to that website reveals information about the resort. It also displays photos of lodge guests at a party. Clicking on any of the photos reveals that the pictures were taken at the ’Tis the Season party that occurred on Dec. 28 at the Sky Club. Each photo also has a time-stamp. Several of the suspects in the murder of Leah Patterson can be seen in the pictures posted on the website. One of the photos provides conclusive evidence in the case. A picture of Andrew Cooper holding a beer at the ’Tis the Season party is time-stamped at 9:01 pm.  Since Andrew Cooper was at the party at the time Leah Patterson was killed, he did not have the opportunity to commit the murder.



Of the six suspects, only Ella Cooper had both the motive and opportunity to kill Leah Patterson. We can surmise what unfolded from the evidence in the case. Leah Patterson and Andrew Cooper had been having an affair. Patterson’s behavior was erratic. She was stalking Andrew and his family. Patterson made an appointment to see Andrew’s wife at her office. Patterson and Ella met alone in a consultation room. Although we don’t know what occurred at during the meeting, we can speculate that Patterson either revealed the existence of the affair or otherwise taunted Ella Cooper.


When Patterson collided with teen-aged son Robert Cooper on the intermediate ski slope and injured him, Ella Cooper likely came to the end of her rope with Leah Patterson. She prepared for the opportunity to confront Patterson. She obtained a pair of large men’s boots to disguise her tracks. She procured a knife. Then she waited for her opportunity. It didn’t take long. When Leah Patterson left the ’Tis the Season party alone after dark on Dec. 28., Ella Cooper was ready.


She followed Patterson from a distance until they were in an isolated area. Then she confronted her husband’s mistress. Whether Cooper intended to kill Leah Patterson or to just confront her and scare her away from Cooper’s family remains unknown. But the outcome is clear. Dr. Ella Cooper stabbed Leah Patterson with a kitchen knife and left her dead body in the snow, lying face up beneath the winter night sky.

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Articles and advertisements in the newspaper often contain hints about future murder mysteries. It also contains references to people, places and events that are important to Forrest City's continuing storylines.


Although each of our murder mysteries can be solved on its own without any knowledge of other mysteries, there are dark secrets and hidden connections that tie all of our monthly mysteries together.


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