In 1961, North Buffalo, New York was a great place to live. It had beautiful tree lined streets and family oriented homes. The grass was green in the summer time and the winters were picturesque. One of the most unique features of the area was the Delaware Park. It was a 350 acre wonderland of forests and meadows and gardens. There was a zoo and a golf course as well. It was also known for its beautiful, peaceful Delaware Park Lake, a large, tree-lined pond of serenity.
Richard Edgington, Ritchie, as he was called, was five years old in the summer of 1961 and he was one of those lucky kids who was growing up in one of those nice North Side Buffalo, New York city neighborhoods.
HIDE AND SEEK
On Thursday afternoon, June 22nd, Richie was playing out doors with some of the neighborhood kids. They were all playing hide and seek. Suddenly, a woman, that Richie didn’t recognize, walked up to him. She said “My mother is with your mother and you’re supposed to come with me.”
Richie hesitated, instantly confused by the stranger’s stern words.
Suddenly the woman grabbed his wrist and jerked him to motion. “If you don’t come with me, I’ll drown you,” she hissed.
Now confusion leaped into fear and little Richie, too young and too scared to wrap his brain around what was taking place, simply allowed the woman to lead him away down the street.
The strange woman kept reassuring Richie that he was going to be fine, as long as he did not cry. As they moved onward, the woman shoved one tootsie roll after another into her mouth. She promised him, however, that if he was good and did not cry, she would share her candies with him later. She also instructed him that, if by chance, anyone would stop them in their walk, he should say his name is Davey Johnson.
A STROLL THROUGH THE PARK
Holding Richie firmly by the hand, the unknown woman asked several passerbyers for directions. She collected strange items, a plastic bag and some twine, from the ground as they headed toward the zoo. They continued through the zoo and into the Delaware Park.
Paul Costa, a grounds keeper at the golf course in the park, yelled at the woman and Richie to get off the fairway, stressing that her high heeled shoes would cause damage to the turf and they were both in danger of getting hit by a golf ball. The woman, Costa would recall, gave him a dirty look and simply continued on across the green.
But, for one reason or the other, the woman started backtracking them out of the park and they did not stop until they came upon a set of tracks.
COWBOYS AND INDIANS
The strange woman, who still held tightly to Richie’s hand, walked the two of them a bit of a ways down the railroad tracks. When they came to a place where a high embankment emerged, the woman stopped walking. Next to the embankment was a shallow pool of water. Pointing to it, the woman said to Richie, “This is where I’m going to drown you and you’ll never see your mother or father again.”
But that is not at all what happened. Instead she offered him a tootsie roll and said that they were going to play cowboys and Indians. Chyrel then stripped Richie down to his underpants and bound his hands and feet. She then gagged him and put the plastic bag over his head. She tied him to the railroad tracks and then she walked away.
THE COWBOYS ALWAYS WIN
Richie worked to free himself. He was able to get his feet free and get from the tracks. With his hands still tied behind his back he made his way up the embankment. Once rescued, Richie told authorities “I broke the ropes on my feet and I climbed up the embankment with my hands tied behind my back. I was able to get the gag out of my mouth and ripped the plastic bag with my teeth.” Richie inched his way up the steep incline and over a chicken wire fence. He then made his way on to Linden Avenue. “And that’s where a woman saw me and she took me into her house and called the police.”
Richie and his mother spent much of that evening at the precinct. Although he was bruised, scratched and tired, five year old Richie Edgington did a great job at recalling, and detailing for the investigator, every moment of the days terrifying ordeal. Little did Richie know, or maybe understand, that the officers wanted to get every little detail they could from him, because a very similar kidnapping had taken place just a few months earlier and it happened in the exact same neighborhood.
It had been in April that Susan Benedict, just five years old as well, had been lured away by a woman who had offered her candy and a trip to the zoo. She was found alive, bound and gagged, just as Richie, and tied to the same stretch of railroad tracks that Richie had escaped from.
A DERANGED WOMAN ON THE LOOSE
The next day, officers took Richie and his mother along the route that the abductor had taken. Fearing that a deranged woman was running around kidnapping and trying to harm children was an immediate, and top priority, concern of law enforcement. The officers were paying very close attention to Richie and what he had to say.
At the same time that officer’s were out with Richie and his mom, another little boy, Andrew Ashley, left his home, to go play with a friend. He was only 3 years old. It was not uncommon for the tyke to walk to the neighbors, so his parents, Donna and Francis Ashley, both 26, had no worries when the little one set out for a day of play with his buddies.
When Andrew had not returned by 6:00 p.m. and he had not been the neighbors that Ashley trusted he was with, they began a panicked search. When he had not been found by eight that evening, Andrew’s parents called the law and reported their little boy missing.
The disappearance of Andrew Ashley spread like wild fire. A massive search began and hundreds of law enforcement agents, concerned citizens and even the boy scouts were out looking for the three year old.
During the search a neighbor boy, who lived close to Andrew, and knew the child quite well, told officers that he had seen Andrew on Friday. He said that the boy was with a woman and they were headed toward the zoo. He also added that little Andrew did not appear to be going willfully, that he (Andrew) displayed a “definite reluctance” to go.
WITNESSES STEP FORWARD
After the news of Richie Edgington kidnapping surfaced, a few witnesses stepped forward. The descriptions varied, but somethings were corroborated repeatedly. First, the potential kidnapper was definitely a woman. She was slender and about five five. She wore a dress and no hat. Her age was between 28 and 40.
By Saturday, the FBI had taken on the case. Due to the fact that Richie had been threatened with being drowned, the Park lake and nearby ponds were dragged.
That same day, Mrs. Palermo approached investigators with a bit of information of her own. She said that she had caught a “big girl” leading her 6 year old daughter away by the hand not long ago. The ‘girl’ took off running when Mrs. Palermo shouted at her. Mrs Palermo said that she chased after her, but she didn’t have to chase her far. Mrs. Palermo told the FBI that Mr. Brown stopped the girl. He himself was out looking for the ‘girl’ that attempted to gain his 5 year old by offering her candy! They had called the law at once.
CHYREL JOLLS TALKS WITH THE LAW
Officers took the ‘girl’, and a very agitated Mrs. Palermo and Mr. Brown, to the police station. At first Chyrel lied about her name and her address but Mrs. Palermo called her on it. When pressed, Chyrel finally told the truth and gave her proper name and address and also stated that she was 15 years old.
Odd as Chyrel acted while answering the questioned posed at her, the officers were not convinced that Chyrel was suspect and assured the two parents that they were looking for a woman, not a girl, and they felt that Chyrel had simply chosen the wrong day to invite children to fetch candy with her. She was released and the officers returned to the streets in search of the ‘woman’ attempting to kidnap the neighborhood children.
The next day, early Sunday morning, a call came to the mother of the yet missing boy, Andrew Ashley. The caller said that her son would be returned to her if the investigation was called off. Mrs. Ashley kept the caller on the phone long enough for the FBI to trace the call. It came from a phone booth not far away. Officers went to the phone booth and arrested Chyrel Jolls, who was still on the phone talking the Andrew’s mother!
SHE WAS JUST TRYING TO HELP!
Chyrel was immediately taken into custody but explained herself away by stating that she was simply trying to “console” Mrs. Ashley. Unaware of her conversation with local law enforcement the previous day, the FBI too dismissed the ‘girl’ and sent her on her way.
While local law enforcement and the FBI were doing their part, Lieutenant John Dugan was still trying to unravel his take on the nightmare that North Buffalo was dealing with. He, and a handful of officers, were combing the kidnappers route once again and running the scenario through again with Richie, when they suddenly spotted something that hadn’t been there before. It was Richie’s ball hat!
Richie had previously told officers that the ‘woman’ had taken it from his head and had placed it on her own when she told him they were going to play cowboys and Indians. Right before she had stripped him and then tied him up. Richie said “They found it (the ball cap) floating in the water, showing that she had come back to get me.”
The very idea was horrifying. The kidnapper returning to be certain she had accomplished what she’d set out to do. And was that murder? Did she return to see if the child had died? What had she done when she realized he was not only not dead, but gone!
NOT A THOUGHT THEY WOULD THINK ON FOR LONG
At 2:34 that afternoon, Andrew Ashley was found. His small body was discovered in three feet of water, in Delaware Park Lake. He wore only his underpants and a tee-shirt. His hands and feet were bound with a nylon stocking. He had had a dishrag stuffed into his throat.
The coroner determined that Andrew had been tossed into the lake within an hour of his abduction and that he had died of suffocation due to drowning.
As Mrs. Ashley mourned her son, law officials became more and more frustrated. They were certain that the ‘woman’ who had murdered little Andrew, had also kidnapped the other two children. And, they now decided, the perpetrator was one of their own citizens. They didn’t need to look wider, they needed to look closer.
Officers turned one more time to their most reliable witness. Richie! He once again gave a description of the woman who had tried to kill him. He said “she was old enough to be a mommy but not old enough to be a grandma.”
The sketch artist drew a revised drawing according to little Richie’s description. Immediately the law heard from Mrs. Palermo and Mr. Brown. They both believed the ‘girl’ they chased down looked an awful lot like the drawing!
CHYREL JOLLS TALKS TO THE LAW – AGAIN
On July 3rd, Chyrel was brought in for questioning. This time, however, Chyrel was openly hostile. She carried on, ranting and raving about the ‘dirty cops that were following her and bothering her.‘ She denied any involvement in any of the crimes.
While in the precinct, witnesses were brought in to view Chyrel Jolls in a lineup. Richie recognized her at once and immediately identified her as the ‘woman’ who had kidnapped him.
A warrant was issued and Chyrel Jolls’ house was searched. While there, officer’s discovered a journal and hand-drawn map of a route through the Delaware Park. It was labeled “The way I went last Friday.”
Chyrel was taken to police headquarters. A background check revealed the she had quite a troubled history. Although Chyrel was just 15 years old, she had already been confined to a mental hospital on two occasions. Her treatment? Shock therapy.
It came to light that when Chyrel was just 12, she was the person of interest in a fire that happened at a group home while she was living there. An aunt reported that she had once found her young son tied up and left in a back room while Chyrel was staying in her home. And an uncle stepped forward to say that, although he did not believe Chyrel was responsible for any of the alleged crimes, she had called him before the Ashley boy was discovered and had rightly predicted how and where the poor child’s body would be found.
While in custody Chyrel soon confessed to Dr. Yochelson, who she had immediately taken a shine to, all that she had done. She admitted to all three of the the kidnappings, but steadfastly denied throwing Andrew into the lake. She said that she had left him bound and gagged, like the others, and that he must have found himself into the lake on his own. Law enforcement didn’t buy it.
In August of 1961, a grand jury indicted Chyrel Jolls. She was found not able to stand trial and was committed to the Matteawan State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, on January 12, 1962.
On April 1st, in 1964, Chyrel Jolls was returned to Buffalo, now deemed mentally capable of standing trial. However, two weeks into the proceedings, a judge deemed differently and sent Chyrel back to the insane asylum.
Five years later, in November of 1969, Chyrel petitioned for release from the hospital. With the help of two psychiatrists, who stated that Chyrel was no longer psychotic, but feared that a trial would bring on another psychotic episode and cause her to relapse, recommended that the charges against her simply be dismissed!
The court accepted the recommendation and all criminal charges against Chyrel Jolls were dropped!
She was transfered to a civilian mental health facility in 1970 and released, a free woman, in January of 1971.
Her present status is now unknown.
credit – crime feed