The Case of the Ungrateful Grandson
- Paramedics treat Joshua Wolf as house burns
On Saturday, May 6, 2000, Joshua Allen Wolf, age 16 at the time, killed his grandmother, Carol Jean Lindley, age 56, by shooting her through the head with a rifle.
She was sitting in a chair in her family room, in front of the television. The family room was a "great room" with a cathedral ceiling. The second floor of the house had a landing with a balcony at the top of the steps that overlooked this family room.
Joshua Allen Wolf shot his grandmother from the second-floor balcony, with a .22 caliber Ruger semiautomatic rifle. In words he would use later, he had her in his sights "like a hunter in a tree stand" and shot her through the head. The bullet went in on the right side of her head, above and slightly to the front of her ear, went through her brain, and came out her neck just under her left lower jaw.
- Balcony from which the fatal shot was fired.
Although the murder of Carol Jean Lindley was eventually solved by the Major Case Squad, the tragedy started out as a mystery for law enforcement investigators.
The mystery began about 3:20 p.m. on Monday, May 8, 2000, when Joshua Allen Wolf called 911, reporting that his house was on fire and that he was trapped in the basement. Firefighters from the East County Fire Department were dispatched immediately, arriving within minutes.
Joshua Allen Wolf was found outside the house. As firefighters entered the house to fight the fire, paramedics arrived. Joshua Allen Wolf told firefighters, paramedics and a deputy sheriff a story about being downstairs in the basement when the fire started, and hearing a voice yelling, "Remember Mo!" "Mo" was the nickname of his paternal grandmother, who had been murdered when he was 8 years old. He added that someone in a white truck had been following him when he was coming home from school.
The fire inside was quickly extinguished and a badly burned body was found sprawled on the family room floor. Because of the burns, it was not immediately apparent whether the body was male or female, but it appeared to be that of a woman.
Joshua Allen Wolf was rushed to the hospital by ambulance, to make sure he was not injured.
Meanwhile, the Major Case Squad was activated and began piecing together the evidence.
The body was soon identified as that of Carol Jean Lindley, age 56. She was an accomplished person. She had Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing, and an Associate Degree in Nursing. She had worked in the health care field for more than 20 years, and had recently been hired by the St. Francis Medical Center to be their Director of Case Management. Although she was Joshua Allen Wolf’s maternal grandmother, she and her husband had been raising him as if he were their own son. She and Joshua Allen Wolf had recently moved to Cape Girardeau County from Columbus, Ohio. Her husband, William Lindley, the grandfather of Joshua Allen Wolf, had stayed back in Ohio. The plan was that he was going to continue working at his job with the Kellogg Company until he reached retirement age, which was going to be within the year. In the meantime, William Lindley and Joshua Allen Wolf’s younger sister were staying at the house in Ohio, while Carol Jean Lindley and Joshua Allen Wolf moved to Cape Girardeau County to set up the home here.
Investigators determined that Carol Jean Lindley was definitely alive on Friday evening, May 5, 2000. A witness from a satellite dish company had been at their house installing satellite TV for them that evening. He was around Joshua Allen Wolf for 2 ½ to 3 hours, having arrived at the same time Joshua Allen Wolf got home from school. He and Joshua Allen Wolf chatted as he installed the satellite dish over the next few hours. He saw a brief argument between Joshua Allen Wolf and Carol Jean Lindley as to whether or not Joshua would get a receiver for the satellite dish in his own room, but said it was not an ugly argument. He saw nothing out of the ordinary about Joshua Allen Wolf while he was around him.
The satellite dish worker recalled Joshua Allen Wolf talking about going to a "Farewell to Freshmen" dance at the school that Friday evening, and seemed to be looking forward to it.
Investigators located students from the Jackson Junior High School who had been with Joshua Allen Wolf that Friday night, both at the dance and afterward. After the dance, a group of them had gone to a restaurant called Tractor’s. Two students who were with him at Tractor’s recalled that he was talking and acting like any other kid at Tractor’s that evening. They noticed nothing abnormal about the way he was acting.
On the way home from Tractor’s, though, Joshua Allen Wolf told the boy giving him a ride home that he and his grandmother had been in an argument and that he was mad at her.
Investigators also determined that Carol Jean Lindley was definitely alive on Saturday morning. She had a 19-minute telephone conversation with her daughter Carisa Zaizer at 10:47 a.m. She had a 47-minute telephone conversation with her sister, Beverly Ann Lee at 11:16 a.m. She had a 13-minute telephone conversation with her brother, Ronald Floyd, at 3:29 p.m. These telephone calls were verified not only by the people who had the phone calls with her, but also by her telephone records.
Investigators also found bank ATM receipts in a pile of items in the basement, which would have burned up had the fire not been extinguished so quickly. These receipts led to important evidence.
The bank records proved that after Joshua Allen Wolf killed Carol Jean Lindley, he took her ATM bank card and got as much money as he could get out of her bank over the next three days. He got about $300 on Saturday evening, another $300 on Sunday, and another $300 on Monday. In fact, a camera at the bank’s ATM machine caught him on camera using her ATM card, driving her 1999 Dodge Durango, that Saturday evening at approximately 5:10 p.m., at a time when she was most likely already dead.
Receipts from electronics stores found at the residence also proved important in the case. They showed that after Joshua Allen Wolf killed Carol Jean Lindley, he bought and installed a new stereo system in her Dodge Durango. He bought new car stereo systems at both Circuit City and K’s Merchandise. He then took out the factory stereo from the Dodge Durango and installed one of the new ones he had bought, then took the one he did not use back to K’s Merchandise for the $300 refund. Investigators discovered that he had been photographed by security cameras at both Circuit City and K’s Merchandise. The sales clerk at Circuit City even remembered talking with Joshua Allen Wolf about the Durango Joshua was driving. The purchases at K’s Merchandise were at 7:31 p.m. on Saturday evening May 6, and at 11:03 a.m. on Sunday morning, May 7. He returned the unused stereo at K’s at 3:02 p.m. on Sunday afternoon. There were actually three separate purchases at Circuit City. One was at 6:46 p.m. on Saturday, May 6. The other two were at 11:20 a.m. on Sunday and at 3:39 p.m. on Sunday. He also bought some connectors, some friction tape and some low-volt testers at Lowe’s hardware store on Sunday, May 7, at 11:31 a.m. These items were needed in the installation process of installing the stereo into the Durango.
- Joshua Wolf buying stereo equipment while grandmother lay dead.
Although Joshua Allen Wolf at first denied killing his grandmother and tried to get away with the murder, he ultimately admitted that he had concocted what he considered to be a "flawless" plan for getting away with this murder.
After killing her on Saturday and buying and installing the stereo equipment in her Durango over the weekend, on Monday morning he went to school at the Jackson Junior High School as if nothing had happened. He stopped by the house of a boy whose mother had been driving Joshua to school each morning during the week he’d been living in Jackson and told her that she would not need to drive him to school because his grandmother was letting him drive the Durango because the hospital where she worked was providing her with a new car, a BMW.
He went to school and told teachers and administrators that he and his grandmother were going back to Ohio, so he needed to close out his lunch money account and turn in his books. As he went from class to class, he would tell basically the same story to each teacher. None detected anything amiss. He met with the principal and assistant principal and told them that he and his grandmother were moving back to Ohio. They told him that he would need to have his grandmother come in and sign the papers. He said she was at work, but would be by later.
He left the school shortly after 1:00 that Monday afternoon.
Once he got home, Joshua Allen Wolf took the expended shell casing from the shot that had killed his grandmother and walked next door and dropped it down a neighbor’s pipe. He thought it was a septic tank pipe; but actually it was a heat vent pipe for a solar-heating system. He then poured gasoline all around the house. He poured it on Carol Jean Lindley’s dead body. He poured it around the family room. He poured it on the steps leading to the second floor. He poured it down the hallway. He poured it on the murder weapon, which he had leaned against the wall in his room. He poured it over his bed. He poured in the extra bedrooms upstairs. In the course of covering up the crime, he changed shoes three times. The first pair had gotten blood on them. The next pair got gas on them. He put those shoes where he knew they were burn up in the fire with everything else.
He ran the riding lawnmower briefly, to establish a reason why he might smell like gas. He turned on a burner on the stove, to help make the fire look accidental. Then he lit the fire and went into the basement. When the fire reached the stage where he felt there was no chance it could be put out, he called 911. He claimed that he was trapped in the basement and needed help. He claimed that as far as he knew, no one else was in the house.
He quickly made it outside to the driveway, where a neighbor named James Wills, spotted him. Wills asked him repeatedly if anyone else was in the house. He told Wills no, that he was the only one home.
The fire department arrived within minutes. As they fought the fire, paramedics arrived. Joshua Allen Wolf told firefighters, paramedics and a deputy sheriff his story about being downstairs in the basement when the fire started, and hearing a voice yelling.
The paramedics did not feel that Joshua Allen Wolf was injured, but just to be safe, they transported him to St. Francis Medical Center to be checked out.
Later than evening, two investigators from the Major Case Squad, John Brown and Jamie Humphreys, interviewed Joshua Allen Wolf as a potential witness. By that time, the body of Carol Jean Lindley had been found and the officers knew she had been murdered. They listened as Joshua Allen Wolf talked about the guy following him home from school, and being trapped in the basement when the fire started, and hearing the voice shouting, "Remember Mo!" Joshua pointed out that the murder of his other grandmother had been unsolved, and that his natural father had been one of the suspects, and that, now that he thought about it, the man in the truck following him had dark hair and a beard and might well have been his father, but he couldn’t tell for sure.
The interview was videotaped.
The next day, after the investigation was starting to point the finger of suspicion at Joshua Allen Wolf as a suspect, he was interviewed again. This time, his Miranda warnings were read to him. After first sticking to his original story, and telling the officers not to try "reverse psychology" with him, Joshua Allen Wolf eventually realized that he had been caught. He admitted that he had shot his grandmother. He said they had been fighting. He was mad at her. After he shot her, he hid the expended shell casing down the neighbor’s pipe. He admitted that he put towels in the washing machine so he could claim that the sound of the towels in the machine had drowned out the noise of the intruder upstairs. He admitted setting the fire to the house to cover up the murder so he wouldn’t get caught.
He claimed that he had sexual intercourse with the dead body but because of the extent of the burn injuries to the body, it could not be determined scientifically whether or not he was telling the truth about having sex with the body.
This second interview was also videotaped. Unfortunately, the sound on the tape did not work for some reason. Luckily, the officer doing the interview used a small micro-cassette tape recorder to make a back-up tape, so 90% of the interview was recorded. Unfortunately, the tape ran out for the last 5 to 10 minutes of the interview.
In the taped interviews, it became clear that Joshua Allen Wolf was intelligent, cunning, even. While his grandmother lay dead he used her secret ATM number to get money out of her bank, and he personally removed the factory car stereo and installed a new system he preferred into the Durago. He then parked it outside in the driveway, instead of in the garage where it would not burn up during the fire he set.
Dr. Jerome Peters, a Senior Psychiatrist with the Biggs Forensic Center in Fulton, Missouri, one of the psychiatrists for the Missouri Department of Mental Health who examines people who have committed horrible crimes to determine whether they have a mental disease that would prevent that person from knowing the nature, quality or wrongfulness of what he was doing, met with and evaluated Joshua Allen Wolf. Dr. Peters, who had performed forensic psychiatric evaluations of over 500 people charged with serious crimes over the past two decades, concluded that Joshua Allen Wolf knew exactly what he was doing when he shot Carol Jean Lindley and when he set fire to her house to cover up the crime.
Joshua Allen Wolf’s case went to trial in Boone County in April of 2001 on a change of venue. He was found guilty of first degree murder, armed criminal action and arson in the second degree. Judge Frank Conley followed the jury’s recommendation and sentenced Wolf to life in prison without parole for the first degree murder, life in prison for the armed criminal action and seven years on the arson.
- Wolf tried to burn up murder weapon (left) with gasoline