No arrests ever materialized. Yarbrough says that despite ongoing suspicions, detectives never could substantiate claims from informants suggesting a connection between the Hamdallahs and Knox or prove either was responsible for McCormick's death.

Still, both Knox and Baha Hamdallah found their way to prison, at least for a time.

Knox was arrested on July 25, 2000, and pleaded guilty in January 2001 to charges of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine and carrying a firearm during and in relation to a drug-trafficking crime. A March 2001 HUD report to Congress noted Knox "was a suspect in at least four homicides that occurred in 1998 and 1999 in the LaSalle Park Homes and Clinton-Peabody public housing developments (in St. Louis). He was also the number one supplier of narcotics to LaSalle Park Homes." Knox is currently serving his sentence at the Federal Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky, and is scheduled to be released in November 2013.

The notes seem to display elements of secret languages and simplified phonetic spellings. For example, “MLSE” could be code for “miles.”
The notes seem to display elements of secret languages and simplified phonetic spellings. For example, “MLSE” could be code for “miles.”
The FBI has been stumped for a decade but  insists the writings have meaning.
The FBI has been stumped for a decade but insists the writings have meaning.

On October 13, 2000, Baha Hamdallah was managing another store, Charlie's Food Market in Madison, Illinois, when he got into an argument with a customer named Robert Steptoe. Different versions of events were later presented in court, but ultimately a jury convicted Hamdallah of first-degree murder after he shot Steptoe in the face with a 9-mm Glock pistol outside the store. In September 2002 a Madison County judge sentenced Hamdallah to 38 years in prison for killing Steptoe.

Nearly four years later, however, in May 2006, an Illinois appellate court ruled Hamdallah's lawyer erred by not calling a gunshot-residue expert to testify in person in the shooting case. The appellate court granted a retrial. In the second go-round, the jury bought Hamdallah's claims of self-defense and his version of events in which the gun went off while he and Steptoe were struggling for control of the pistol. On May 15, 2008, Hamdallah walked out of court a free man.

Attempts to contact Baha and Juma Hamdallah for this story were unsuccessful. Brother Bahjat Hamdallah says Juma now lives in the Philippines and that Baha has married and relocated back to the Cleveland area in his attempt to start over following his Illinois murder trial.

Gregory Knox, responding by e-mail from prison to questions about McCormick and allegations he was involved in McCormick's murder, wrote: "At this moment this is all new information to me, and I have no information that could help your case."

With little left to go on, investigators now believe that the codes found on Ricky McCormick may offer the best hope to explain how his corpse ended up in that isolated cornfield so many years ago. The FBI's Olson is convinced an answer to the codes is out there, though it will not appear out of thin air.

"Can it be solved? Yes, I am absolutely confident," Olson says. "But you can't just will it."


Today the field in West Alton offers no hint of its murderous history. No marker or makeshift memorial stands in the place where McCormick's body was found. The cycle of seasons erased long ago what little impression he left behind.

A few miles south, no headstone identifies McCormick's final resting place at Laurel Hill Memorial Gardens. If not for an entry in the cemetery's log book, one would never know his bones are buried beneath the grass designated as Space #2 in lot 11D. Here and there other graves are decorated with red silk flowers and plastic green wreaths, but not McCormick's. There is no sign anyone has ever visited his anonymous plot.

Back in St. Louis, McCormick's family members say they have never heard from police about the Hamdallahs, Knox or other details of the investigation into Ricky's death. They never heard about the encrypted notes found in his pocket until the local evening news broadcast a report on the codes.

"They told us the only thing in his pockets was the emergency-room ticket," McCormick's mother, Frankie Sparks, says. "Now, twelve years later, they come back with this chicken-scratch shit."

Contradicting the FBI's statements to the media, family members say they never knew of Ricky to write in code. They say they only told investigators he sometimes jotted down nonsense he called writing, and they seriously question McCormick's capacity to craft the notes found in his pockets.

"The only thing he could write was his name," Sparks says. "He didn't write in no code." Charles McCormick recalls Ricky "couldn't spell anything, just scribble."

Don Olson stands by his assessment, however.

"I have every confidence that Ricky wrote the notes," Olson says. "They are done in more of a format of something written to oneself than something written to someone else." As an example, he points to circles drawn around some segments of code that suggest a to-do list where items are marked as tasks are completed.

Elonka Dunin, an expert amateur cryptographer who has consulted novelist Dan Brown of The Lost Symbol and The Da Vinci Code fame, agrees the McCormick notes appear to be personal. They might be a message from one person to another but do not look as if intended, as with some other famous ciphers, to be challenges to a broader audience, she says. Dunin, a computer-game developer who happens to live a short distance from where McCormick's body was found, has spent tens of hours during the past year analyzing his notes. Like Olson, she suspected McCormick might have authored them for his own private consumption. Upon learning more about McCormick's illiteracy and personal background, however, she has second thoughts. "I don't think McCormick wrote these notes," she says. "Perhaps he was a courier."

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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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