Code Dead: Do the encrypted writings of Ricky McCormick hold the key to his mysterious death?

Olson insists the only reason he decided to make the notes public was to see if somebody would recognize the code or provide new information that could help decipher it.

"Sometimes tips generate a seed that generates an ultimate break," Olson says. "The codes were released in the hope that someone would see this and suggest ideas. We can become tunnel-visioned. We know a little bit about this case, and sometimes that puts us at a disadvantage."

At St. Charles County Sheriff's Department headquarters, detective Yarbrough peers through eyeglasses over a salt-and-pepper mustache. A career cop since 1979, he has seen his share of murders, frauds and other crimes. Few have generated as much exasperation as the McCormick case.

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.

Unincorporated St. Charles County has only seen about five unsolved murders since the 1960s, Yarbrough says. The McCormick investigation remains an unfinished job, an unmet challenge and a professional frustration. He remains unsure whether he will ever know McCormick's true fate and be able put the mystery surrounding Ricky's death to rest.

"I still have the same feeling that things don't add up," Yarbrough says. "It's kind of like Humpty Dumpty. All the pieces are there, but how do you put them back together?"

More great, true-crime writing from Village Voice Media available in the new ebook, Seven Sins.

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