On April 28th 1955, 14-year-old Stephanie Bryan is abducted on her way home from school in Berkeley, California. When her body is found months later near the family cabin of Burton Abbott, newspapers tried and convicted Burton as her killer before he was even charged with murder. This is the story of Burton Wilbur Abbot. Guilty until proven innocent. Or was he?
Where we got our info, so that you, too, can travel down a rabbit hole:
Book mentioned in the podcast:A Trail of Corn by Keith Walker
How could a man be guilty of kidnaping and killing a 14-yr.-old school girl while on a fishing trip miles away when she disappeared? The district attorney claimed the suspect was a vicious sex killer who stalked the victim – and kept her possessions as a fetish. But Burton Abbott said he was 175 miles away when young, pretty Stephanie Bryan was last seen near her Berkeley, CA, home. And he had witnesses to prove it. Keith Walker’s compelling story asks: Did Abbott leave a “trail of corn”, showing evidence of his implication, as the district attorney claimed, or did someone else leave the “trail of corn”, perhaps purposely? A phone call with only two minutes to spare, a mother’s anguished cries, soil on boots nine inches down in the grave, human fingers protruding from under a trunk lid – these are some of the strange ingredients that went into this fascinating story. Burton Abbott was a tubercular ex-GI student at the University of California in Berkeley, CA, when Stephanie disappeared on her way home from school on April 28, 1955. Investigation showed Abbott made a trip to the family cabin on the day the girl disappeared. Later, Stephanie’s remains were found in a grisly grave 339 feet up a steep hillside above the cabin. But Abbott flatly denied any implication in the girl’s death. He said he was the victim of cruel hoax, a ruthless district attorney who based his case on suppositions and innuendoes, and a biased judge. The case was a controversial one, with almost everyone divided on whether he committed the crime. There was only circumstantial evidence to implicate him. Puzzling twists of the story produced blazing headlines month after month in California newspapers. Keith Walker, a newspaperman at the time, spent 35 years researching and writing this book. He has produced a powerful story of intrigue, suspense, drama, grief, conflict and human emotions. He has used his reporter’s skills to bring you the full scope of this bizarre, compelling story.