THE LAUREL CHRONICLES
Who Killed Carol Replane?
By Kevin Leonard | This article originally appeared in Voices of Laurel Summer 2021
Carol and Bill Replane in 1962.
Life was much simpler in 1963. Kids played outside all day, only going home when they were called for dinner. As the dinner hour approached on February 6, Jimmy Goldsmith, 13, and his friend, Bobby Hinegardner, 8, were playing a game they made up called “deer.” They were the deer being chased by two other friends in the woods just south of Ellicott City, along College Avenue, a remote country road that was—and still is—well off the beaten track.
They didn’t let the cold weather interfere with their game. Ellicott City’s average temperature for the entire month of February in 1963 was 18° Fahrenheit.
With Jimmy’s dog on their heels, the pair ran down a short dirt road that was known as a local lovers’ lane and turned left, into the woods, scaling a small mound. They stood at the top and saw something in the shallow ravine below. Bobby told the Washington Star, “At first, I thought it was a dummy. Then I saw her hands and I knew it was a woman.”
The boys had stumbled onto the body of Allene Carol Replane, who went by her middle name. Carol had been missing for 16 days, ever since her car was found abandoned about a quarter of mile from—and within sight of—the Snow Hill apartment she lived in with her husband, Bill, on Laurel-Bowie Road (Route 197).
I’ve spent almost three years researching this crime. I combed through dozens of newspapers and web sites (Carol’s disappearance was reported across the country) and interviewed numerous people with knowledge of the Replanes (including Bill Replane, who is now 86 and retired in Florida). An explosive alternate theory based on a popular Netflix documentary series was explored and I informally tested some results from the police investigation. Most importantly, I analyzed (with help from police and other sources) the extensive FBI file on the case that—after a two-year wait—was provided to me in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Officially, sad to say, the case is as cold today as it was in 1963. But has my research uncovered the murderer? You be the judge.
Carol & Bill Replane
Carol Replane, 25 years old in January 1963, was the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Allen Johnson from Burgettstown, Pennsylvania. She had a degree from Muskingum College in New Concord, Ohio and did graduate work at Penn State.
Bill Replane, 28 years old in 1963, is from Midland, Pennsylvania, graduated from Slippery Rock College, and also did graduate work at Penn State, where he met Carol.
The Replanes had lived in Laurel for about two years, first in an apartment on Post Office Ave. off Main Street and then at the brand-new Snow Hill apartments on Laurel-Bowie Road since September 1962. Carol substituted at various schools in the area and was hired to teach a night-time adult education sewing class at Laurel High School. Bill was a full-time science teacher at Laurel Junior High School.
Although the couple had no children, that part of their future caused problems. Carol’s parents, who raised her as a Lutheran, objected to her marrying Bill because he is Jewish. According to the FBI file, Carol and Bill “had [a] very serious discussion concerning [the] religion of their future children. Both desired to have children. However, [Carol] wanted them brought up in [the] Lutheran faith and [Bill] wanted them in [the] Jewish faith. This problem was not resolved.”
Bill’s outgoing, garrulous personality was in sharp contrast with Carol’s, whose shyness was an issue. The FBI file stated: “Mrs. Replane has been described as withdrawn, shy, reticent, and a teacher who has had difficulty in getting along with students. The MSP [Maryland State Police] have advised that she was disqualified from two teaching positions due to extreme shyness and reticence.” Neighbors told the Washington Daily News that Carol was “so shy that she blushed when you spoke to her.” Carl Bell, Laurel High School’s Vice-Principal, described Carol as “very reserved and shy” to the Washington Star. He remembered that “Between classes, in the teachers’ lounge, she rarely participated in conversations.”
But Bill Replane described Carol differently to the media. He told the Washington Daily News that Carol “was not a moody person, but bright and carefree. If something had been on her mind, she’d have wanted to talk it out. That was her way.” Student Marie Cooke claimed that Carol “was just about the best substitute teacher we ever had. She was nice and friendly.”
“Vanished, as though into thin air”
Carol’s first adult sewing class at the old Laurel High School on Montgomery Street was on the night of January 21, 1963. She was excited to show off the blue dress she was wearing to the class because she made it herself. By all accounts, the class went well, and Carol was the last person to exit the building. The janitor told police he locked up when she left at 10:00 pm.
When she didn’t arrive home by 11:00 pm, a worried Bill began calling around. He spoke to Laurel High’s principal, who wasn’t there that night and had no idea. Laurel Police told him their apartment was out of their jurisdiction, but they would check the school.
After numerous calls yielded nothing, Bill decided to go look for Carol himself around midnight. He didn’t get far. Less than a quarter mile on Laurel-Bowie Road, at approximately where the entrance to the Town Center shopping center is today and just north of Contee Road, he found Carol’s car on the side of the road facing home—but no sign of his wife. Bill flagged down a passing motorist and asked him to call police. Besides being pitch dark, the weather was below freezing, which it had been for weeks.
Laurel-Bowie Road in 1963 was a dark two-lane country road. Before Snow Hill Apartments were built, there was very little housing development in the mile and a half stretch between Laurel Pines apartments and the Baltimore Washington Parkway. The Briarwood neighborhood had some houses completed, with many more still under construction. Contee Road was another dark country road and connected to Laurel-Bowie Road via a short service road.
Aerial photo of the intersection of Laurel-Bowie Road and Contee Road in 1962 showing (A) the location of Carol’s abandoned car and (B) the Snow Hill apartment where the Replanes lived.
The first policeman to respond, State Trooper Robert Long, encountered a confusing scene just after 1:00 am. Carol’s car—which was exactly as Bill found it—was pulled over at the end of a driveway that led to a house 200 feet back from the road. The car’s bright lights were on, but the motor was off, the keys were in the ignition, and the emergency brake was set. Long noted that the motor was already cold. The driver’s side window was rolled down about three inches. There was no sign of Carol or her purse, and no signs of a struggle either inside or outside the car. As reported by the Washington Post, “although the battery was a little low, it started instantly at the turn of the key.”
Desperate for answers, Bill told the Baltimore News Post and other papers that he “always told my wife never to set the brake in cold weather because it might jam. By setting the brake, maybe she was trying to tell me something.”
At 5:00 am, MSP issued a 13-state general alarm for Carol. Dozens of newspapers across the country reported that “When last seen Mrs. Replane was wearing black, horn-rimmed glasses, a blue dress, and a camel’s hair coat.” Police initiated a search of the immediate area at daybreak, concentrating on the wooded areas around the intersection of Contee and Laurel-Bowie Roads, but turned up nothing. The owner of the house at the end of the 200-foot driveway told the Washington Daily News that “he heard nothing during the night.”
Carol’s parents arrived in Laurel from Burgettstown the next day. They stayed with Bill in the Snow Hill apartment while waiting for any news.
The next day, the Baltimore News Post reported that “Police admitted they were baffled today in their search for an attractive 25-year-old Laurel teacher who vanished, as though into thin air, last night on the way home from instructing an adult class in home economics.” The Washington Evening Star quoted MSP as declaring that “the circumstances under which [Carol] vanished indicated the possibility of foul play.” Bill told the Washington Post that “his wife apparently was waylaid en route to their home.”
Baffled Police Have No Clues
Two days after Carol disappeared, lead investigator Det. Sgt. Wilton May of the Maryland State Police told the Washington Evening Star, “We’re about where we were last night.” He also admitted that the police had “no clues” other than Carol’s car. They were baffled.
Investigators received conflicting information from the public. Some neighbors claimed to have seen Carol on the road that night. According to the Baltimore News Post, one neighbor told police “he saw Mrs. Replane’s car, with the lights burning, when he passed along Bowie Rd at about 11:15 pm. The information indicated to police that the car was parked for at least two hours before the missing woman’s husband spotted it.”
But another neighbor, Mrs. Jean Tiren, said that “she saw Mrs. Replane’s car traveling on the Bowie Road toward the apartment at about 11:20 pm,” according to the Washington Star. Mrs. Tiren also told the Baltimore News Post that she saw Carol’s car pull off the road onto the driveway and that “whoever was inside the car ducked from sight to avoid detection.”
One witness provided police with what could have been a prescient observation. He saw Carol’s car parked on the side of the road and, as he approached it in his car, “he observed another car parked in the rear of Replane’s car and which departed the scene at a high rate of speed.” In the darkness, he thought the vehicle was blue, green, or black. Lacking any evidence, this clue was filed away like all the others.
In total, five passing motorists claimed to have seen Carol’s car on, or pulled off, Laurel-Bowie Road at various times between 10:00 pm and 1:00 am. Sgt. May told the media that “We have no reason at this time to suspect foul play. We are treating the case as a missing person until we either find Mrs. Replane or something to indicate foul play.”
With the absence of clues, police explored a variety of theories. Potential problems in the marriage were examined, and Carol’s mother told the Washington Daily News, “If she had been mad at Bill, she would have called us. We were extremely close.” Bill discussed the problems that arose with their interfaith marriage, but defended Carol’s parents, the Johnsons. “My parents were upset at first, but her parents stuck by us. I am very close to them,” he told the newspaper.
That same day, January 24, State Police picked up Bill and took him to the Pikesville Barracks, where he was given a polygraph test. Sgt. May characterized the test as “a routine investigational device” to the Washington Post.
Sgt. David Sexton, who is currently with the MSP Criminal Enforcement Division, Central Homicide Unit, was very gracious in spending time with me discussing the case. When I mentioned that Bill underwent a polygraph, Sexton indicated that was a standard way to begin an investigation. “You always go inside—out,” he told me, meaning investigators start with the people closest to the victim.
“I’m glad they gave me the test,” Bill told the Baltimore Sun the next day, “If they check me, I know they’re checking every angle. I had nothing to hide.” Sgt. May later said Bill “passed the examination without incident,” according to the Washington Daily News. The FBI file stated that Bill’s polygraph “indicates he has no guilty knowledge re her disappearance.”
Police also discussed the possibility that “Mrs. Replane was surprised by someone who may have lurked in her car waiting for her to finish” her class at Laurel High School. One of the adult students told officials she “noticed a man sitting” in a car in the parking lot after class.
Another theory had Carol voluntarily leaving. Police had to sift through numerous reports of people claiming to have seen Carol after she disappeared. An anonymous caller told the FBI that he saw her in a car at a gas station in Waldorf. Another caller claimed to have seen her in a car with Oregon license plates “in the company of [an] Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. Mrs. Replane appeared to be attempting to attract attention by blinking [her] eyes and making facial expressions.” A Pinkerton detective reported seeing a woman who closely resembled Carol at the Union Bus depot in Philadelphia with luggage. Police checked all train, bus, and airline terminals for any sightings but came up empty.
As in any investigation that receives extensive publicity, crank calls and oddballs also had to be checked out. Among the many calls in this category, a hypnotist told the Chief of Police in Takoma Park that a client—under hypnosis—claimed to have seen the abduction and knew where Carol was.
Five days later, on January 27, MSP announced that laboratory technicians had examined Carol’s car and found no useful evidence. Also on that day, a snowstorm in Laurel brought to a halt any foot searches and a planned search by helicopter.
The strain of not knowing anything, and having to answer constant questions from the media, seemed to be taking a toll on Bill. He admitted to the Washington Star that, contrary to his previous public statements, the MSP subjecting him to a lie detector test “made him a little angry. Sure, I could have concocted the whole thing—but if they found her dead, then I might as well be dead, too. She is my life.” He also admitted publicly, for the first time, the issues with their interfaith marriage and future children.
Being unaccustomed to the spotlight, combined with his natural outgoing personality, Bill did himself no favors in his dealings with the media. According to the FBI report, “many veteran news reporters have remarked re Mr. Replane’s calmness. They believe it unusual. Feel most persons in similar situation would be nervous and unavailable for interview. One reporter very suspicious of Mr. Replane since Replane endeavored to extend interview. Same reporter states Replane has contacted radio stations and offered to tape recording [sic] of himself requesting wife’s return.”
It wasn’t just reporters who had their doubts. According to the FBI, Carol’s parents returned home to Burgettstown on Jan. 28 to await any developments. But on the way, unbeknownst to Bill, they stopped at MSP’s Waterloo Barracks to talk to Sgt. May. The Johnsons “wished to express their concern that [Bill] appears extremely calm and relaxed as if [his] wife never disappeared. Parents unable to understand William’s attitude.”
The next day, to make things worse for Bill, MSP questioned him for three more hours at Pikesville. Later, he told the Baltimore Sun that the police “are trying to dig out some facts about her that I might not even realize myself. They are trying to find something out of her past that might have some bearing on the case.”
The same day police questioned Bill for a second time, an unusual anonymous letter arrived at the FBI’s Baltimore office. This was a week after Carol disappeared—a week of intense media scrutiny of the case. The handwritten letter, which was sent in a franked FBI Baltimore office envelope, read:
Suggest the following areas be checked re Mrs. Replane in case she met a certain personality who lives near Laurel High:
Route 32 South area, especially near Annapolis Jct & 32.
Route 32 North – near Boys’ Scout [sic] summer camp.
Patapsco State Park near box factory.
Old Route 50 to [??] motels – may be drugged
Route 1 motels – may be drugged
The FBI lab found no fingerprints on the letter, stamp, or envelope and determined that the franked envelope had been discontinued for at least a year. Once again, investigators came up empty.
Over the next week, a few suspects were questioned but released. A handyman who worked at Allen’s Motel on Route 1 was released after passing a polygraph, and a drifter hitchhiking on the BW Parkway was similarly questioned and released. The case went nowhere.
A week after the disappearance, on January 29, Bill resumed teaching at Laurel Junior High School while the investigation continued. Principal William Bevan told the Laurel Leader, “His classes were very sympathetic and cooperative with him, but he was quite distraught and seemed to want to search the area again where Carol’s car was found, so all the male members of the faculty, about ten of us, organized a search of the area last Wednesday afternoon.”
The hundreds of tips submitted to police were all checked out and discounted. More than 800 people were interviewed but the police were still baffled.
Carol is Found
When they found Carol’s body off College Ave., the boys ran home and notified Bobby’s mother, Betty Hinegardner, who went to investigate herself. She told the Baltimore Sun that when she saw the body, “I thought right away it was that Laurel woman.” She called the police and Howard County Police Officer Robert Moore and Corporal J. Elwood Kauffman responded. In his incident report to Howard County Police Chief Jack Larrimore dated Feb. 6, 1963, Kauffman wrote that “It appeared that subject had been thrown into the gully, and due to the ice and snow formation of the body, it was felt that she had been there for approximately two weeks. Subject was wearing a tan Camel Hair Coat, blue skirt, and white blouse.” The two officers “thought it might possibly be Allene Replane of Laurel, Md and contacted State Police.”
Officer Moore’s report, also dated Feb. 6, went into more detail about the condition of the body:
She was lying on her back with her left arm turned under the body and right arm free. The feet were held up at an angle by brush. From the way she was lying in the pot hole it was determined that subject was carried to the above location, already dead, and just heaved into the brush.
Howard County Police cordoned off the area and, together with MSP, conducted a search of the scene. Nothing was found.
Bill Replane was brought to the Baltimore City Morgue and made a positive identification of the body as Carol. “Reporters on the scene said Replane did not break down, but seemed as if in a trance,” reported the Hagerstown Morning Herald.
The State Medical Examiner (ME) had to wait a week before he could conduct an autopsy—Carol’s body was frozen solid. Once the autopsy commenced, some interesting details were apparent right away. Carol’s clothes were “rearranged” in an unusual way. Under her coat and scarf the blue dress she wore to the first class was inside out and unbuttoned. Her slip was also on inside out. Her stockings and girdle—still attached—were found in her coat pocket and her “underclothes were torn near vaginal area,” according to Officer Moore. Carol’s purse, shoes, and glasses were nowhere to be found.
The ME estimated that Carol’s body “had been at the scene for two weeks or more,” according to the Washington Post. The autopsy provided three startling conclusions: Carol was struck on the left temple with a blunt instrument hard enough to knock her unconscious but not kill her, the cause of death was freezing, and there was no sign of sexual assault. He also concluded that the time of death was in the overnight hours of January 21, when she disappeared.
Carol’s car in front of the couple’s Snow Hill apartment. SOURCE: BALTIMORE SUN
Dr. Charles S. Petty, the assistant ME, acknowledged to the Frederick Post the confusing conclusions. “In the absence of any definite cause of death, it is my opinion that the woman was struck on the head and abandoned in the freezing cold—13 degrees—and before recovering consciousness, froze to death. There is no evidence that the woman had been sexually assaulted. However, it is interesting to note that the dress was unbuttoned on the body and inside out.” The Washington Star reported “Neither police nor the medical examiners could offer any explanation of how it was that Mrs. Replane’s clothing was so strangely disarranged, yet there was no evidence of sexual assault.”
The FBI was also assisting the investigation by providing forensic analysis of Carol’s clothing. They discovered that “the loop opposite the collar button on the coat is broken, and a portion of the loop is missing. The dress would normally be secured at the waist with a snap fastener and two sets of hooks and eyes. The inside eye is missing.” The FBI lab also found “small seminal stains” and “four small particles of a dark gray enamel” on Carol’s dress.
MSP also consulted with Dr. Harold M. Boslow, Director and Psychiatrist in charge of the Patuxent Institute in Jessup to gain a profile of the type of person who would commit a crime like this. Dr. Boslow’s four-page report concluded that “the most likely type of sexual deviate to have committed this crime was a fetishist or one addicted to the cult of fetishism.” In particular, he noted that whatever did happen to Carol “definitely … [did] not occur in a motor vehicle but more likely a secluded, possibly abandoned building where the fetishist would have felt safe.” Sgt. May, MSP’s lead investigator, noted in Boslow’s report that “there had been some evidence of possibly household dirt found on the seat of the victim’s panties.”
Weeks went by with no new leads developing until April 15. On that day, John King, 12, from Maryland City, and his friend Richard Cox, 11, from Alexandria, Virginia, were playing near Brock Bridge Road along the Patuxent River, downstream from Fort Meade Road (Route 198). They found a dark blue purse in the mud with some credit cards in it. The boys took the cards and showed them to John’s mother, Mrs. Edward Welsch, who recognized Carol’s name on the cards and called police.
Carol’s purse contained Esso, Gulf, and G.E.M. credit cards, a pen and pencil, and some papers. The Baltimore Evening Sun said, “Sgt. Wilton May, head of the State Police search for her killer, said the discovery of the pocketbook was the first significant clue since Mrs. Replane’s body was found February 6.” But he admitted that “I don’t think it will pinpoint anything. I wish it did, but it doesn’t look like it.”
Carol’s glasses and shoes were never found.
An Alternative Theory
I contacted the Maryland State Police Central Homicide Unit for the first time in October 2018. Carol’s case is still listed on MSP’s Cold Cases webpage (Case Number: CCR3889). When I asked Sgt. David Sexton if I could access the files, he immediately said those files were missing. How did he know that? This was a cold case from 1963—55 years ago! Sgt. Sexton said someone else had recently asked for those files and he discovered them missing.
He explained that record-keeping back in those days was slipshod compared with modern computerized databases. It wasn’t unusual back then for investigators to take files home or for files to be lost in transit from one organization to another. No one knows what happened to Carol’s file at MSP.
He wasn’t allowed to tell me who requested the files, so I asked him if he would contact the person and give him or her my information. He did, and I was contacted by a man named Kent Johnson. It turns out Johnson is an amateur sleuth but with a good reason for trying to satisfy his curiosity about the case: he had both Carol and Bill Replane as teachers in the 1960s. He had always wondered what happened to Carol. The timing of our requests was just coincidence.
I met Johnson and he eagerly shared his findings about the case. I found his recollections of both Replanes as teachers very interesting. Johnson’s father had been in the military and stationed at Fort Meade. Bill Replane was Johnson’s science teacher in 8th grade at Laurel Junior High School.
At the end of the school year, his family moved to the other side of Fort Meade. Carol was one of his teachers in 9th grade at Corkran Junior High School in Glen Burnie, but she was only there for a couple of months. He never knew what happened, but he remembered that Carol was very shy and quickly lost control of her classroom to the 9th graders.
“She seemed to have problems dealing with the 9th graders at Corkran, at least in my class. They were unkind to her. I think that’s why she left. I thought she was kind and tried hard to teach her subject in spite of her treatment,” Johnson told me.
Actually, the FBI file explained what happened. The principal of Corkran Junior High School told the FBI after her disappearance that Carol taught there for only two months in the Fall of 1962, when she resigned. According to the principal, Carol “was very withdrawn and kept to herself when teaching … if she had not resigned, she would have been fired due to her personality.” A teacher at Corkran told the FBI that Carol “appeared normal but was a very bewildering type personality, speaking only when spoken to and generally answering questions with a yes or no reply.”
Johnson then talked about the “eerie similarities” of Carol’s case with the subject of a recent documentary series on Netflix: The Keepers. The show follows former students investigating the unsolved case of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a nun who taught at Archbishop Keough High School and was murdered in Baltimore County in 1969. Johnson shared a list he compiled of the similarities in the two cases:
Both women were young, slim, with short dark hair and glasses.
Both women were teachers.
Both women were from Pennsylvania.
Both abductions occurred after dark while the women were out alone in their cars.
Both women were abducted from a different Maryland county than the one where their bodies were found (was this to confuse jurisdictional authorities?).
Both women had been struck hard on the left temple area to incapacitate them.
Both women were found lying on their backs.
Both women had their shoes and hose removed.
Both women had their clothing “rearranged.”
The locations of the bodies were described as “lovers’ lanes” about 10 miles apart.
Both bodies were described as possibly being disposed there subsequent to their demise elsewhere.
In both cases, the killer had to know these areas pretty well.
Both women’s cars were found very near their apartments, some miles from where the victims’ bodies were left, which implies the murderer may have known something about them, or trolled their parking lots looking for a victim, and abducted them from their respective parking lot.
Both cars were left unlocked.
The keys were left in the ignitions of both cars.
There were no signs of struggles in their cars.
His list certainly got my attention. The questions were buzzing in my head. Does Carol Replane’s murder follow a pattern? Is there a connection with other unsolved murders from the 1960s in the Baltimore area? Can a link be established with the murders described in The Keepers documentary?
I discovered a Facebook page devoted to the show filled with people intent on continuing the research on the case. I posted about Carol’s case and asked if anyone had any information that could possibly link the cases. Nancy Pederson, a regular contributor to the page and a dogged researcher, helped me look into the particulars of Sister Cathy’s case with an eye to any possible links. But our efforts did not turn up anything to suggest a link. How could the cases be so similar and yet unconnected? I put this alternative theory on the back burner but was always on the lookout for a connection.
Bill Replane Interview
I interviewed Bill Replane at his home in Florida in April 2019. He and his wife, Deena, were very accommodating and spent an entire afternoon answering questions. I walked Bill through my research, sometimes asking specific questions to help me understand things and get a better perspective on Carol, but more often just listening to what he remembered. Bill was 84 when I interviewed him but seemed to still have good memory, with a few exceptions.
At the end of my interview, I asked Bill point blank, “Did you have anything to do with your wife’s death?” He answered “No.”
To prove that point, I tested whether he could have been involved. As I described above, I knew exactly where Carol’s car was found and where her body was discovered. I pored over maps from 1963 to determine what roads were in existence then between Laurel and Ellicott City. Using only those roads—and knowing full well that they have all been improved since 1963—it took me 45 minutes to travel between the two points. I used a different path for the return trip with the same result: 45 minutes. That means it would have taken Bill 1½ hours (on today’s roads) just in travel time, round trip. Given that he first started calling school officials from his apartment around 11:00 pm, it would have been impossible for him to be involved.
So, What Happened?
After a few years of working on this, I developed some of my own theories about what happened.
Why did she pull over? Bill told me she was not an adventurous type and would be wary of strangers. Would she pull over if someone was flagging her down? Maybe. But would the killer flag down a car at random? Doesn’t seem likely. There’s no way he would know who was driving. But something—or someone—got her to pull over.
No sign of a struggle. Since her driver’s side window was down about three inches, she was talking to someone outside the car on the freezing night. But the window was still down, and she was gone. If she wasn’t taken by force, why was it still down?
Condition of her car. There’s no doubt to me that Carol expected to get back in her car. That’s why it was turned off, left unlocked, with the keys in the ignition, and bright lights still on. She would have needed the bright lights on Laurel-Bowie Road at night.
Her purse was missing. Whatever the reason for her to get out of the car, she reached for her purse. That indicates to me that there was no force used to get her out. Also, there were no signs of a struggle, inside the car or out.
The rearrangement of her clothes. The ME thinks she was knocked unconscious at or near her abduction in Laurel. I agree with that. But with the freezing weather, the rearrangement of her clothes means that whatever was done to Carol was done in a car or inside somewhere. Given the extensive nature of the “rearrangement” I doubt it was done in a car. The time and effort to manipulate an unconscious woman inside a car seems almost impossible. And the broken and missing fasteners on her dress suggest someone fumbling—or worse—trying to remove her clothing.
From all the reports and Bill’s description, Carol was very fastidious. So, if she was conscious, no matter how rushed she may have been, she would never have put her slip and dress on inside out.
The killer had to know the area. As I said above, College Avenue is not a place you would likely find at random. The place where Carol’s body was found was a perfect spot to avoid detection.
Sexual assault? Despite the ME’s conclusion that there was no sexual assault, that is not definitive, according to an Emergency Room nurse I talked to. Even if there was no sexual assault, Dr. Boslow’s profile of a possible suspect rings true. Where did the small semen stains come from? Since her shoes and glasses were never found, were they kept as souvenirs?
Location of the purse. Since the purse was found downstream from the bridge on Route 198, that seems the most likely place where it was thrown into the Patuxent River. There are other roads on the way to Ellicott City that cross the river, but they are much further from where the purse was found. It also may mean that Brock Bridge Road was the route taken by the killer toward Ellicott City. Did the killer travel on Fort Meade Road?
In discussing these theories with Sgt. Sexton, the current head of the MSP Criminal Enforcement Division, Central Homicide Unit, he agreed with me that these are reasonable theories, but without any evidence, that’s all they are.
Connecting the Dots
Finally, after waiting more than two years, I received the FBI file in January 2021. It was all I hoped for, and then some. Investigators in 1963 were frustrated by their inability to detect a pattern or suspect after combing through hundreds of leads and interviewing hundreds of people. They just weren’t able to connect the dots. But it turns out that there were clues that indicated a pattern and, more importantly, a viable suspect. It just didn’t emerge until three years later and was buried in the extensive FBI file.
In 1966, Special Agent Malcolm MacDougall of the FBI was investigating a different unsolved murder of Marta Santa Cruz, a 22-year-old Bolivian who was strangled and dumped in a creek in Fairfax County in 1961. There are numerous references to the Cruz investigation in the Replane file, with police speculating that the crimes could be connected. MacDougall, who was aware of the unsolved Replane case, came across a radio log of the Howard County Police Department from January 23, 1963—the day after Carol was abducted.
According to the FBI file, the radio log disclosed that “John A. McGee, a guard at the New Haven Cardboard Carton Company, Ellicott City, Md., notified the Howard County Police Department, while in Ellicott City, Md., that he had observed an airplane crash in the vicinity of College Avenue.” The police determined that there was no crash but sent an officer to interview McGee.
Sgt. Robert O. Mathews, who would eventually be named Chief of the Howard County Police Department in 1975, “met McGee on the road near where Mrs. Replane’s body was eventually found. According to Sgt. Mathews, McGee reported observing an aircraft, with motors out, disappear in a fog bank and which appeared to go down behind St. Mary’s College in a wooded area adjacent to College Avenue.” St. Mary’s College was near Ilchester and Bonnie Branch Roads, part of the remote area next to the Patapsco River. McGee’s report was discounted and filed away.
Three years later, however, MacDougall speculated that McGee’s report to police may have been “his intention to attempt to alert local authorities to the whereabouts of Mrs. Replane’s body by using the pretense of reporting a downed airplane.”
John McGee was a Master Sergeant at Fort Meade and worked part-time as a guard at the New Haven Cardboard Carton Company, on River Road across the Patapsco River from College Avenue. The anonymous letter received by the FBI a week after Carol’s disappearance suggested certain areas be checked, including “Patapsco State Park near box factory.”
I wasn’t aware of any factories on the Patapsco, but after investigating the area, I suspected that the large concrete pad on River Road, just before the road bends over the river and becomes Ilchester Road, was all that remained of the factory. I turned to Gordon Carpenter, who is currently the Chief, Division of Public Safety, at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, NY, and is also an Adjunct Instructor in the criminal justice program at Hilbert College for advice. Chief Carpenter spent 17 years on the Howard County Police force. He confirmed that the concrete pad was indeed the site of the New Haven Cardboard Carton Company.
According to the FBI file in 1963, McGee was being investigated for a Crime on Governmental Reservations (CGR) charge. MacDougall reviewed McGee’s CGR file and discovered:
that McGee, as a result of his watchman’s employment, had detected young couples parked and petting in parked automobiles near the carton company, at Patapsco State Park, and would, after posing as a law enforcement officer, attempt to extort affection from the women involved with the threat of exposing their activities to their parents and/or the juvenile courts.
McGee was arrested during May 1963 by Baltimore [FBI] Agents on government property, while making an attempt to apply his illegal trade after having detected a couple near Patapsco State Park. Federal prosecution was declined in favor of administrative action by the military.
According to his CGR file, McGee “would pose as a law enforcement officer to assure cooperation from his victims,” and as a guard at the cardboard factory “had been furnished a blue uniform” and a nightstick.
MacDougal interviewed Howard County Police Sgt. Mathews in 1966 and learned that:
Prior to June 1963, their department experienced numerous complaints from women about being stopped in their vehicles at night, by an individual posing as a law enforcement officer. These women sometimes complained of criminal assault, and others complained that the subject would attempt to take certain liberties or attempt to make dates. Upon further questioning, Sgt Mathews advised that since May 1963 (month of FBI arrest of McGee) his department has not received any additional complaints.
McGee drove a 1953 cream and green Pontiac, similar to observations of witnesses “in both the area of the Replane abduction, and the area where Mrs. Replane was eventually found.”
If indeed Carol’s purse was thrown from the Fort Meade Road bridge into the Patuxent River, that would be “the most logical route of travel” to Fort Meade, where McGee was stationed.
However, after McGee was arrested by the FBI for attempting “to extort affection” from one of his victims in May 1963—just four months after Carol disappeared—and turned over to the military for “administrative action” (which usually means he would be discharged), he died from a heart attack in November 1965. At that point “all investigation was terminated.” There’s no information as to any further investigation of McGee during the 2½ years he was in military custody.
Special Agent MacDougall, who passed away in January 2021, concluded his report by writing:
In view of the above set of unusual circumstances concerning McGee and Replane, Baltimore is of the opinion that McGee should be considered a prime suspect in the Replane case.
Sgt. Sexton and Chief Carpenter agree with me that “McGee is the guy,” as Sexton put it after we reviewed the FBI report.
It’s not hard to imagine, given McGee’s history, that maybe he spotted Carol at a traffic light on her way home, followed her on the dark Laurel-Bowie Road, and probably flashed his lights (or, as Sgt. Sexton speculated, he had an illegal blue light) to get Carol to pull over. He got her out of the car on some pretense posing as a policeman and knocked her unconscious with his nightstick. Chief Carpenter told me that it was common back then for motorists who were pulled over to sit in the officer’s car while a ticket was written.
As a guard, he certainly had keys to the box factory, which would have been empty that time of night. Whatever he did to Carol, he did it in the security and warmth of the empty factory. He then dressed her, accidently putting on her dress and slip inside out, and drove her to the spot on College Avenue (“known as a lovers’ lane”) where he dumped her body.
In the absence of a trial or confession, unsolved murders officially remain open “cold cases.” Sadly, that appears to be the case for Carol Replane.
My thanks to Bill and Deena Replane, Sgt. Dave Sexton of the Maryland State Police, Kent Johnson, Nancy Pederson, Chief Gordon Carpenter of the Division of Public Safety at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, and Richard Friend for their assistance.
Bill Replane in the 1967 Laurel Junior High yearbook, and photographed during his 2019 interview by Kevin Leonard.
The New Haven Cardboard Carton factory on River Road, next to the Patapsco River. SOURCE: HOWARD COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY
The cardboard factory was only 1.8 miles from the spot on College Avenue where Carol’s body was found.