Full Summary of Killer’s Cattle Log Case
In the 1980s, the cattle auction industry of Missouri was facing a crisis of bad cheques. Drifters were known to buy off cattle with forged cheques and sell off their purchase before the cheque can bounce.
While investigating one such case, the investigators came across Ray and Faye Copeland, an elderly couple owning a farm. Many of the suspected scammers were employed on their farm for temporary help.
Upon inquiry, Ray Copeland admitted that he too has been scammed by them. But upon further investigation, a long history of forged cheques was discovered under Ray Copeland’s name.
He often spent time in jail due to his swindling business and another such case could have acquitted him for good. This combined with the poor financial status of the family made their story doubtful.
All the authorities needed a reason to investigate the family further, which they got from a tip-off. This led to a week-long search and five dead bodies was recovered from the Copeland’s property and the neighboring farm where Ray worked.
The bodies recovered were identified to be Paul Jason Cowart, John Freeman, Jimmie Dale Harvey, Wayne Warner, and Dennis Murphy, all alleged scammers, and ex-employee on the Copeland farm.
Other pieces of evidence like the clothes of the deceased made into a quilt and a list of names also connected Ray’s wife Faye Copeland as an accomplice in the murders.
A long-standing history of domestic violence came to light which further incriminated Ray Copeland as a cold-blooded serial killer and sentenced him to death.
List of Victims and Evidence Against Ray and Faye Copeland
|1.||5 bodies in the Copeland’s farm and around||Identified as Paul Jason Cowart, John Freeman, Jimmie Dale Harvey, Wayne Warner, Dennis Murphy|
|2.||.22 caliber rifle owned by Ray Copeland||Weapon of murder|
|3.||Forged cheques||Proof of scam|
|4.||List of names of the scammers with “X” in front of the deceased||In Faye Copeland’s handwriting connecting her to the murders|
|5.||A quilt made from the clothes of the deceased||Made by Faye Copeland connecting her to the murders|
Why does Ray Need Workers? How did he Choose and Hire them?
Ray was an old man and had to manage a huge farm. He was hard at hearing and could not maintain the log books. For these reasons, he felt the need to hire young men to help on the farm.
How does Ray Choose Workers? The perfect candidate was the drifters in the local homeless guys. These men themselves were on the run and had no family or money or addiction problems. So, no one going to look for them.
- Ray approaches local homeless persons and promises daily wages in exchange for helping Ray on the farm and also helping him with their finances.
- He also provides a home and food along with a $50 wage per day.
- He also told them they could leave whenever they wanted.
Amongst the people who Ray hired were Paul Jason Cowart, John Freeman, Jimmie Dale Harvey, Wayne Warner, and Dennis Murphy who ended up on the list of cattle log scammers of Missouri.
How had Cattle Auction House Log Fraud Done by Ray Copeland?
Step 1: Create a Local Account in the bank
Ray Copeland hired local homeless drifters and transient workers. He created accounts in their names in the local bank against a post office locker that he got them.
Step 2: Build Initial Trusts
He took these men to cattle auctions where these homeless buyers bought the cattle with good cheques. The first purchase is usually at lower rates and only be done to establish the trust of the auctioneers.
Step 3: Kill the Auctioneers Trusts
On their second purchase, they trade the bad cheques that were going to bounce for the exchange of cattle.
Step 4: Sold the Cattle
Before the cheque can bounce, he sold off the cattle, making money from them. There was multiple cheques fraud like this and it was called to be “Cattle Log Fraud.“
Step 5: Ray Kills Homeless Workers
As all the cheques and accounts were in the name of the homeless guys, Ray Copeland had no direct link to the fraud.
But in reality, Ray Copeland was the mastermind behind this scheme. To cover up his tracks, he eliminated the only witness (workers) of his fraud racket by putting a bullet in their heads.
What were the Difficulties in Matching with Forensic Odontology?
Dr. Ronald Gier, the forensic odontologist investigating the case examined the skulls that were recovered from the Copeland property and the neighboring farm.
He photographed the skulls and took an x-ray to prepare transparent dental charts for comparison with premortem records. But the main issue was the lack of reliable premortem dental records.
Some of the dental records were more than three decades older and the person did not receive dental attention since. In addition, the skulls also had missing teeth. Dr. Gier also matched the bone density of the available records.
Later, a malformed mastoid condyle was observed in the premortem records that helped to identify the body of Dennis Murphy which was recovered in the well of the farm.
How did Ray and Faye Copeland get Caught?
When police were investigating the drifters in a cattle log scam, one of the names, Dennis Murphy, led them to the Copeland farm.
Ray Copeland admitted that he was a victim of Dennis’ forged cheques too. With a tip from another ex-employee Jack McCormick, investigators were now intimidated that human remains might be seen on the property.
This led the police to conduct a week-long search in the 40-acre land owned by Ray and discovered three bodies of men. Further searching in the barn and neighboring farm where Ray also tends to work, authorities found two more bodies.
All of the bodies have a bullet holes in their head. And a .22 rifle was seized from the Copeland household to match the ballistic evidence. Jack McCormick testified as a victim of Ray Copeland who escaped after Ray threaten him with the barrel to his head.
What was the conviction for Ray and Faye?
Ray was convicted of five counts of murder and sentenced to death. However, before his execution, he died in jail in 1993. Faye Copeland was also found guilty and sentenced to death but in 1999, her death roll was commuted to a life sentence.
What was the motive of Copeland for killing?
Ray’s only motive is to earn good money and dispose of the leverage. He hired homeless workers and make them frauds. And once he got the money he killed them so he don’t have to share the money and also eliminate any chance of witnesses linking him to fraud.
Where and how many bodies were recovered?
There are a total of five bodies recovered by investigations. Three were recovered from Ray’s owned farm and the rest of the two were from the nearby farm where he used to work.
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