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The Assignment Letter from the Forrest City Police Department states the goals for your investigation: (1) uncover the sequence of events leading up to the homicide, (2) identify the killer, and (3) determine the motive for the murder. 


The Assignment Letter also states 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 accurate 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.



To uncover the sequence of events leading up to the murder of Charlotte Dawes, it is useful to create a timeline as follows:


02/28, 4:00 pm:  Morgan House Hotel front desk attendant Isaac Van Harten checked in Gianna Lancaster and Charlotte Dawes (who arrived together).


02/28, 5:15 pm:  Witness Marjorie Castor saw Gianna Lancaster and Charlotte Dawes at the gravesite of Autumn Taylor in Ascension Cemetery.


02/28, 6:00 pm:  Sasha Whittington checked into the Morgan House Hotel.


02/28, 6:20 pm:  Ximena Cross checked in to the hotel.


02/28, 9:50 pm:  A witness saw Gianna Lancaster and Sasha Whittington in a heated discussion at the Bacchus Wine Bar.


02/28, 11:20 pm: Ximena Cross was seen on the sidewalk in front of the Morgan House Hotel drunk and yelling into her cell phone.


03/01, 3:00 pm:  Olivia Thorn, Emma Savage, and Zoe Cavanaugh checked into the hotel between 3:00 and 4:00 pm.


03/01, 5:00 pm:  Dawes and a group of friends met at the Old Bones Bar for a reunion.  


03/01, 6:45 pm:  Witness Madeleine Randall overheard an argument between two women coming from room 312, Charlotte Dawes’ room.


03/01, 7:15 pm:  Randall saw a young woman slip a note underneath the door of room 312.


03/01, 8:35 pm:  The Mardi Gras parade arrives at the Morgan House Hotel, per an article on page 6 of the newspaper.


03/01, 9:00 pm:  Medical examiner Dr. Jennifer Bryce stated in the newspaper that Charlotte Dawes was killed between 9:00 pm and 9:10 pm. 


03/01 9:15 pm:  The note that was slipped under the door of Charlotte Dawes’ hotel room asked her to meet at the Old Bones Bar at 9:15 pm.


03/01, 9:35 pm:  Gabriela Morales discovers the the victim’s body.




Dawes was lured by the note that was slipped under her door to the hallway on the first floor of the Morgan House Hotel where she was killed. It stated: “Please don't ruin my life. Can we talk? Meet me at Old Bones at 9:15. Just hear me out. That's all I ask. Then you can do whatever you think is right.”


The killer's motive relates to the death of Autumn Taylor, the Anson Academy student who fell to her death from the roof of the dormitory on campus called Wycliffe Hall. Dawes and all six suspects were all in 8th grade and lived on campus in the dorms when the death of Autumn Taylor occurred.


According to Amanda Killion, a former classmate at Anson Academy, Dawes “hung out mostly with the popular girls from extremely wealthy families like Emma Savage, Gianna Lancaster, and Olivia Thorn, and Zoe Cavanaugh, all of whom were part of that group. And Sarah Whittington. If they didn’t like you, they could make your life pretty unpleasant.”


Andrew McCallister, the headmaster of Anson Academy, stated that Autumn was bullied by a group of popular girls who lived in the same dorm, but Autumn “still tried to fit in with them. Apparently, some of the girls would sneak up onto the roof of Wycliffe Hall after dark. On the night that Autumn died, she was on the roof with several popular 8th-grade girls. The bullying started again, and one of the girls pushed Autumn too hard, and she fell off the roof. No one came forward to admit what happened or take responsibility.” Instead, the group of girls on the roof of Wycliffe Hall that night decided to conceal the circumstances surrounding the death of Autumn Taylor.


The evidence does not directly indicate which suspects were on the roof that night with Autumn Tylor.  But it does reveal that Charlotte Dawes had been a troubled person since Autumn’s death. After going to college, she returned to Forrest City but had difficulty maintaining stability in her personal and professional life. She never worked in her field of study (architecture) and instead held several jobs procured for her by her mother as favors from friends. None of these jobs lasted for more than a few months. Her last job had been as a copy editor at the Forrest City Examiner newspaper.


Hotel employee David Giorno saw Dawes crying in the hallway outside her hotel room when she was killed. Dawes was also seen by witness Marjorie Castor visiting Autumn’s gravesite with Emma Savage. According to Castor, Dawes “appeared to be quite emotional.”  Dawes was likely having trouble coping with the dark secret that she had carried since 8th grade. 


The contents of the note slipped under Dawes’ hotel room door suggests that Dawes was going to reveal the truth about Autumn’s death. The note pleaded with her: “don’t ruin my life.” The note also set a trap to lure Dawes to an infrequently used hallway at the Morgan House Hotel.


The killer murdered Dawes to prevent Dawes from revealing the killer’s role in the death of Autumn Taylor. But which of the suspects is the killer?



William Spooner was interviewed by the police and stated that he took a young woman to his hotel room right as the parade started to pass by the Morgan House Hotel (at 8:35 pm per an article in the newspaper on page 7). They remained in his room until after the body of Charlotte Dawes had been discovered. Spooner did not remember her name but described the young woman as follows: “[s]he had a purple and green mask painted on her face. Wearing a ton of beads. Red streaks in her hair at the front. Nose ring. Purple feather boa.” This precise and unique description matches the photo of Emma Savage on her suspect profile. Since Emma Savage was with Spooner in his hotel room when the murder occurred, she cannot be the killer.



Witness Madeleine Randall observed a young, white woman slip the note under Dawes’ hotel room door (the note that lured Dawes to the hallway on her way to the Old Bones Bar). Since Zoe Cavanaugh is black, she can be ruled out as the killer.



Trace evidence recovered from the victim’s body was sent to the forensic lab for analysis. This evidence consisted of epithelial cells and brown hair. The DNA report in evidence concluded that all of these samples came from the assailant who attacked and killed Charlotte Dawes. Since Gianna Lancaster has blonde hair, she is not the killer.  


The photos of Sasha Whittington from Mardi Gras appear to show that she has red hair.  This would seemingly rule her out as the killer. However, an image in the evidence from an “8th-grade dance” shows Sasha Whittington in a group of girls with Cavanaugh, Dawes, Thorn, and Cross. In the photo, she has brown hair. Whittington’s suspect profile provides the final, definitive clue on the matter: it states that Sasha Whittington’s hair is brown. The red hair seen in the photos from Mardi Gras must be a wig. The DNA report does not rule out Sasha Whittington as the killer.



Medical examiner Dr. Jennifer Bryce stated in the newspaper that Dawes’ attacker overpowered her, knocked her to the ground, and sat astride her body to strangle her. Dr. Bryce concluded that the killer weighed at least twelve pounds more than the victim. The autopsy report states that Charlotte Dawes weighed 118 pounds.  Therefore, her attacker had to weigh at least 130 pounds. The suspect profiles reveal that all but one of the suspects weigh more than 130 pounds. Olivia Thorn only weighs 125 pounds. Therefore, she is not the killer.



In her statement in the newspaper, Selene Day stated that all the suspects and Charlotte Dawes were in the same grade together at Anson Academy. According to headmaster Andrew Mcallister, they were all in the 8th grade when Autumn Taylor died (on March 12 of that year, as revealed in a newspaper article about Taylor’s death).  However, Selene Day stated: “In 8th grade, for all of February and March of that year, she [Ximena Cross] just disappeared. For two months, I had my own room. Her sister told me that Ximena had to go to some sort of in-patient hospital in New York.” Since Cross was not present when Autumn Taylor died, she does not have any known motive to kill Charlotte Dawes



The killer is Sasha Whittington. She killed Charlotte Dawes to prevent Dawes from telling the truth about the death of Autumn Taylor when they were students at Anson Academy.


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


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



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