Murder of Vicki Lynne Hoskinson
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Vicki Lynne Hoskinson (February 2, 1976 - September 17, 1984) was an 8-year-old girl who disappeared while riding her bike to mail a birthday card to her aunt on what were believed to be safe streets in Tucson, Arizona.
On Monday, September 17, 1984, Vicki asked if she could mail a birthday card to her aunt by herself. Her mother, Debbie Carlson, said yes, and told her to be back before 3:30 p.m.. This was the first time Debbie Carlson had allowed any of her children to go out on their own, previously using the buddy system. Vicki's older sister Stephanie was staying late for school due to track practice. After 20 minutes, Carlson heard the sound of the door closing, and believed Vicki had come home safely, but discovered it was in fact Stephanie, who had returned home due to track practice being cancelled. Carlson asked Stephanie to look for Vicki, and Stephanie said she thought Vicki might be playing with her friend Jennifer. While out searching, Stephanie found Vicki's bike lying on the side of the road, and after calling for Vicki and getting no response, returned home to tell her mother. Carlson was surprised to hear that the bike had been abandoned, because Vicki had adored the bike and cared for it like a prized possession. She placed Vicki's bike in her car's trunk and called the Pima County sheriff and her husband home from work.
Search and possible sightings
Deputies went to the post office and asked the mailbox manager if he had seen Vicki. The manager recognized her from previous visits but said he had not seen her that day. Deputies went to Jennifer's house to ask Jennifer's mother if she had seen Vicki that day. Jennifer's younger brother said Vicki had stopped by earlier looking for Jennifer. After telling her she was not home Vicki left riding towards her house. Two older boys approached the deputy claiming that they had seen a small black car with a California license plate. They said the car was heading in Vicki's direction but didn't see if it passed her and didn't see the driver. The sheriff called Pima County Sheriff's Detective Gary Dhaemers, and a few hours later a command center was set up.
A toy store clerk at the Tucson mall called the command center stating she saw a woman with an upset little girl who resembled Vicki. She said the woman wore a wide brimmed hat and was carrying a shopping bag from another store in the mall, and tried to placate the child with a toy, paying money from an envelope. The police used this information to create a composite sketch. Investigators went to Vicki's neighborhood to see if anyone recognized the woman depicted in the sketch, but met with no results. They returned to the mall to see if anyone recognized the woman, and were informed by a clerk who recognized the woman that she had been wearing a wide brimmed hat that had not been included in the sketch. Agent Bagley believed that it was very unlikely that Vicki's abductor would take her to a public place. Debbie Carlson stated that Vicki would not walk with a stranger and would try to run away, and raised the idea that Vicki perhaps knew her abductor.
A high school student reported he saw Vicki looking out the window of a dark color car of a strange woman. A woman who lived across the street from where Vicki's bicycle had been found brought her son in to tell police that he had reported seeing a "bicycle being knocked down by a black racecar", and then "a big girl got out of the car and helped the little girl into the car".
Agents checked the area where Vicki's bike was found, and found a fresh gouge on a mailbox post 16-18 inches above the ground, and believed this to be where from the car that had allegedly hit Vicki's bike. After inquiring about possible witnesses, Sam Hall, a coach at an elementary school, stated he saw a suspicious vehicle at the schoolyard on September 17–20 minutes before Vicki was last seen in the neighborhood. He saw a California license plate and wrote it down. He noticed the driver was watching the children play, and described the driver as male with long hair rising on the back of his neck and a beard.
A woman came forward to describe how her son was almost abducted. She said she was doing laundry in her apartment. While she was busy with the drying machine, a woman wearing a wide brimmed hat tried to lure her son away, but she managed to drive the woman off. Police showed her a sketch of the woman at the mall. She said she didn't believe it was the woman who grabbed her son, but she couldn't be sure. Police later discovered that the woman was merely a harmless local eccentric, and she was released.
Frank Jarvis Atwood
The trace on the license plate lead to a 28 year old Los Angeles man named Frank Jarvis Atwood. Agents ran a background check and found kidnapping and child molestation charges. Frank Atwood was out on parole in California. They went to the address where Atwood's car was registered. It was the home of Atwood's parents, Frank Jarvis Atwood Sr., a retired army brigadier general and his wife, who told investigators that his son had visited earlier but didn't know where he had gone afterwards.
A few hours later, Atwood called his parents stating his car broke in Texas and needed money wired to get it fixed. His mother wrote down the address and told him not to worry. Frank Jarvis Atwood Sr. copied the address, went outside to a payphone, called the FBI and gave them the address in Kerrville, Texas where his son awaited a new transmission. The California office called agents in Arizona who called agents in Texas to apprehend Frank Atwood. The Texas Bureau called the garage where Atwood was waiting, who confirmed Atwood was there with one other man, but did not know if he was armed. Agents then arrested Atwood and his traveling companion James McDonald in Kerrville, Texas.
Atwood and McDonald were brought in for questioning. Atwood told the sheriff that there were "certain things" that he would speak to them about and "certain things" that he would not speak about. During questioning, Atwood told investigators he was in Vicki's neighborhood on September 17, the day she disappeared, staying in a nearby park. About 3:00 PM, he left to buy drugs and returned to the park about 5:00PM, but did not say where he was during the two hour period. James McDonald corroborated Atwood's story, and told investigators that he and Atwood had an argument in the park about 3:00. After that, Atwood left for 2 hours and returned with bloodstains on his hands and clothing. Atwood told McDonald he got into a fight with a drug dealer and stabbed him. Investigators found two men who claimed Atwood spent two nights in their trailer. One of them, known as Mad Dog, claimed Atwood's clothes and hands were bloodstained, and that they had suggested Atwood get rid of his clothes. Atwood told them that he stabbed a double-crossing drug dealer.
Investigators searched the trailer Atwood was staying in, and found a bloodstained blanket and a hairbrush believed to be Atwood's. Both were subjected to blood and fiber tests and proved nothing in connection with Vicki's disappearance. Atwood's clothes and knife were never found. The search continued for evidence against Atwood. Detectives revisited the park where Atwood had stayed. They found a couple that knew Atwood who said that Atwood had had bloodstained clothes the day Vicki disappeared. Atwood told them he had stabbed a double-crossing drug dealer. The timing of the stabbing and the timing of Vicki's disappearance were consistent.
Evidence against Atwood
Investigators had corroborating stories that suggested Atwood's guilt but required physical evidence. They compared hair samples from Vicki's bedroom and hair found in the car, but these were not matches. Investigators also found pink paint found on Atwood's vehicle's front bumper, and after comparing it to a sample of pink paint from Vicki's bike, it was determined to be a match. Chrome plating from the bumper was found smeared on the bike.
Almost three weeks after Vicki's disappearance, Atwood was arrested and charged with kidnapping. Tucson residents protested lenient laws against convicted child molesters, some wearing yellow ribbons in hopes of Vicki's safe return. A month after Vicki's disappearance, Atwood returned to Arizona to stand trial for kidnapping. Because of the publicity of the case in Tucson, the judge ordered the trial to be moved to Phoenix. Jury selection took almost 6 weeks, and bail was denied. On December 3, 1984, Atwood pleaded not guilty to kidnapping charges.
Discovery of remains
On April 12, 1985, a man taking a hike found a small human skull in the desert in the northwest of Tucson. The skeleton had been scattered and animals moved a number of parts around. Dental records confirmed they were Vicki's remains. Atwood was indicted on first degree murder, found guilty of first degree murder, and was sentenced to death on March 26, 1987. Appeals continue.
"Don't Forget Vicki Lynne". — 15 minute video