"This means something," Olson says. "We look at a lot of things that are gibberish, arbitrary strikes on a keyboard. This is not that case."

The McCormick notes eventually moved to the back burner. But a few years ago, with some new staff and capabilities in the FBI laboratory, Olson decided it was time to revisit the case and bring in some fresh eyes. Approximately fifteen of the twenty analysts on staff applied their experience and techniques to the codes. Still nothing worked, putting McCormick's handiwork in rare company. The FBI examines hundreds of suspected codes each year. After weeding out those that are nonsense from the codes the bureau categorizes as solvable, only about 1 percent go unbroken, Olson says.

In September 2009, Olson's frustrated team looked outside for help. They presented the McCormick puzzle to a room of about 25 amateur code breakers gathered in Niagara Falls, Ontario, for the annual convention of the American Cryptogram Association. The challenge generated interest, but association members have been unable to make any breakthroughs.

Despite investing hundreds of hours to decipher the mystery over nearly a decade, the FBI's elite CRRU — the same unit that cracked the codes of Nazi spies during World War II — remained foiled by the apparent craftsmanship of a high school dropout.

Olson's rare, and some would say humbling, decision to appeal to the masses last year for help garnered immediate attention. Local newspapers and TV stations in Missouri and Illinois ran with the update. So did news organizations from as far away as New Zealand, Germany and Ghana.

The deluge that followed prompted the FBI to establish a special Web page just to handle the more than 7,000 public comments and theories that have poured in so far. Respondents have suggested the encrypted notes could mask information about everything from vehicle identification numbers, gambling books and drug-dealing transactions to addresses and directions, mental-health episodes or medications. The list goes on and on. Sifting through them all has prompted seven or eight conversations about potential leads between Olson's team and local investigators, he says. But no arrests or significant developments in the case have emerged. The secrets buried in the codes remain as mysterious as the events that precipitated McCormick's death.


Ricky McCormick always stood out as different from his peers. His mother, Frankie Sparks, describes him as "retarded." His cousin Charles McCormick, who shared a brotherly relationship with Ricky for most of his life, says Ricky would often talk "like he was in another world" and suspects Ricky might have suffered from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

"Ricky went to see a psychiatrist, and he said Ricky had a brick wall in his mind," remembers Gloria McCormick, an aunt better known as "Cookie" in whom Ricky often confided. "He said Ricky refused to break that wall. He didn't like the life of living poor and had an active imagination."

It's unclear whether McCormick ever received formal treatment for mental illness, but family members recall Ricky's penchant for concocting tall tales and his displays of unusual behavior. As a boy he spent so much time at recess standing off by himself that his mother would receive calls from school administrators asking if anything was wrong.

Teachers shuffled McCormick along from grade to grade, but he could hardly read or write when he dropped out of St. Louis' former Martin Luther King High School on North Kingshighway.

McCormick subsisted on occasional odd jobs — floor mopper, dishwasher, busboy, service-station attendant — and disability checks he collected due to chronic heart problems. He preferred the graveyard shift and developed a reputation as a night owl, heading out the door at dusk and dragging himself home at dawn.

"I called him a vampire," Gloria McCormick says. "He slept all day, and then at night he rises."

As a teenager and later as an adult, he frequently hitched a ride or caught a bus to distance himself from the street toughs who dealt drugs and picked fights outside his now-bulldozed home near the present-day intersection of Lindell Boulevard and North Sarah Street.

Eventually Ricky found trouble himself. In November 1992, St. Louis police arrested the 34-year-old McCormick for having fathered two children with a girl younger than fourteen years old. McCormick had been sleeping with the girl since she was eleven, according to court files, which protected the girl's identity. McCormick's mother and aunt knew the girl simply by her nickname, Pretty Baby.

While awaiting trial on the first-degree sexual-abuse charge, McCormick's public defender noted she had reasonable cause to believe McCormick was "suffering from some mental disease or defect" and requested that the judge order a mental-health exam. Dr. Michael Armour, a local psychologist, evaluated McCormick at the former St. Louis State Hospital. Following Armour's report and a hearing, however, the court certified McCormick was fit for trial. Six weeks later, on September 1, 1993, McCormick pleaded guilty to the crime. State inmate 503506 would spend thirteen months behind bars in the Farmington Correctional Center before being sent home a year early on conditional release.

McCormick's relationship with Pretty Baby reflected an obvious lapse of good judgment. It wouldn't be his last.


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21 comments
HonestABE
HonestABE

He was possibly held prior to his death.  There are actually more than one encryption.  It's based on two different types of encryption.  And there appears to be directions.  Have fun.

jdpinkninja
jdpinkninja

It looks like he was sounding out words. Some of the words has to many letters.

dan.schlueter.1.1.2.
dan.schlueter.1.1.2.

I just wanted to say that this was an incredibly well researched and well written article.  I read articles every day that are just trash with nothing to say and poorly written at that.  You sir, give me hope.

Richard1980
Richard1980

I've been thinking about where RM's body was found. The location was 20+ miles from his residence and the hospital where he was last seen five days earlier. After poking around on the map a bit, I got the idea that the casino might be the reason. In 1999, the Alton Belle was docked in Alton, IL, about 4 miles from the site of RM's body. Also during that time, the Casino Queen was in operation in East St. Louis only three miles from Chouteau Ave. (Coincidentally, the Mayfair Hotel where Maury Travis was employed 2000-2001 is practically within walking distance of Chouteau.)  http://bleacherreport.com/users/1493055-buy-green-coffee-bean-extract-online http://bleacherreport.com/users/1419367-food-lovers-fat-loss-system http://bleacherreport.com/users/1416296-buy-cigarettes-online-with-free-shipping

JustARedditor
JustARedditor

It is just a key for an encrypted ebook. Notice the (ACSM). He most likely wrote it down after buying the book to put it on another computer. When you start to download an Adobe PDF a small file with the extension .acsm is first downloaded. This is used by Adobe Digital Editions to send the activation ID to the delivery server which will use that ID to generate an encrypted PDF/ePub eBook, which is then downloaded to your PC. Write the code in a file and save it as 'foo.acsm' Login to the dead guys account and download his encrypted adobe ebook. Case solved!

irony free
irony free

Schizophrenic is the answer. Only Ricky knows.

Burris Travis
Burris Travis

what George replied I'm amazed that anyone able to earn $5349 in one month on the internet. did you see this site lazycash42.c()m

Scott19674
Scott19674

I made it to the part where he had knocked up a child, then dredged Givafuck Bay unsuccessfully to muster up the energy to read about his unjust end.

Burris Travis
Burris Travis

A buddy's mother makes $65 every hour on the computer. She has been without a job for seven months but last month her payment was $14505 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more on this web site lazycash42.c()m

MandoMadMan
MandoMadMan

Perhaps he didn't write the notes and perhaps they are not based on the English language. I'm sure they've looked into that? Maybe he was keeping them as a bargaining chip or insurance? Didn't work as it turned out.

sherlock holmes
sherlock holmes

okay i got it figured out. the note was not actually written by mc cormick . it was written by his drug dealer and it says: "this mother funking n word shoulda paid his funk ing drug debt. man don't play me for no f-ing b!tch cause you end up face down ina vacant lot wit maggots crawing all up in n out your orifices like dis scroungy @ss b!tch". well, that's what it says word for word and so i hope that puts this matter to rest.

Gilbert
Gilbert

my neighbor's sister-in-law made $12565 the prior week. she makes money on the internet and moved in a $438800 house. All she did was get fortunate and use the tips revealed on this web site lazycash42.c()m

steve allen winkelmann
steve allen winkelmann

I worked with schizos for decades as an RN in mental health facilities and on the med floors. I guartentee you , you will never decipher the writings. I had pages of writing by schizos. I would ask them what they were saying in the jibberish writings and they would tell me. Days later, the same writings would have a different meaning when I would ask the same question.

srv
srv

what i love is how the police do not tell his family anything and that the middle eastern gun toting drug lords go free. what fools we are to have any hope that our st. louis police force is not corrupt.

Ricky Hollywood
Ricky Hollywood

I think I've solved it. It says: l;kasdlk;jaflkjsdajklf poop poop poop al;kjdalk;akl;sad alkjdl;kaljk;dfa peepee akl;jdasl;ka

Gentry June
Gentry June

what George replied I'm amazed that anyone able to earn $5349 in one month on the internet. did you see this site lazycash42.c()m

Danieljoeoconnor
Danieljoeoconnor

.... and the idea that they gotta use a state of the art ibm computer to figure out a mysterious code written by some bum who could barely write his own name is preposterous.

Danieljoeoconnor
Danieljoeoconnor

i agree with the people who knew him best . he didn't write no code that could fool all these fbi and german enigma code experts when he could barely sign his own name. or if he did write these scribblings he probably couldn't tell you what it said five minutes after he wrote it. i recall reading another story similar to this where some guy had supposedly written some mysterious code and by lucky chance the experts stumbled onto the logical explanation and proof that he never wrote diddly. however, i can't recall the details but there was no one able to find a complex solution cause there was simply nothing to solve. i believe this mystery mostly likely has an obvious solution to someone more closely familiar with his lifestyle.

Jose Galofre Manero
Jose Galofre Manero

Hello from Spain. - The master key to understanding Mccormick´s notes should be sought in the last line of the 2nd note the signature of the deceased. - I saw that certain letters were repeated as in the word "Mccormick" and i remembered the joke of Arthur C. Clarrke in the movie "2001" (IBM= HAL 9000) - And this is my solution: "O-W-m-4 H8L XORLX" = "OWN-FOR I AM MCCORM(i)CK" because ... + O=O, W=W and R=R + m=N, H=I and L=M by use Caesar code B or +1 + 4= four= for by phonetic solution + 8= eight= eit= ei= letter A by phonetic solution + X= Variations of the letter "c" (MC, C and CK) by shorthand use. + The hyphen join the letters in a word. + Vowel "i" by usual solution in shorthand transcription - If you think 4 is not 4 but "Y" and 8 is not 8 but "I" then the solution is: +"Y"= wai= WHY or WAY by phonetic solution, similar sound. +"I"= ai= letter A by phonetic solution, graphic representation of a sound. "O-W-m-Y HIL XORLX" means "OWN-WHY? I AM MCCORMICK" -This is the master key and means the note ia a last will or testament. -The plaintext not exist -Only exist a stenographyc text that was hidden with a personal shorthand system with some measures of deception.It is a children´s game, literally .... -Finally, in Marais Temps Clair C.A. (mo) there is a suitcase buried by Mccormick with money ($99.840) and more, after the central curve in a bird watching position. - Good luck. (Search the house 35 next to northern entrance to Marais ...) bye.

 
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