The most recent episode of the incredibly popular podcast “My Favorite Murder” features the disappearance of Donald Boardman, whose body was found in Marion County, TN, in 1985.
The “missing person” part of the case was solved by Barbara King Ladd, who lives in Marion County, and is not a member of law enforcement (she is a life coach for elementary school kids). The murder part of the case has never been solved.
In episode 367 “High Fives with Both Hands,” hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark discuss the strange case of Boardman, who vanished after telling family he planned to attend a health food convention in Atlanta.
“Curious citizens can provide crucial assistance when it comes to unraveling decades-old cold cases,” said Kilgariff.
Bones discovered in 1985 off Interstate 24 near Chattanooga were unidentified until Ladd got involved in the case.
Here’s what you need to know about Boardman, Ladd and a case that began during the Ronald Reagan administration.
Who was Donald Boardman?
Donald Boardman was 36 in November 1985. He was a health food fanatic with an alphabetized CD collection, an ionizer in his Atlanta apartment to purify the air, and a new Chevy Camaro Z28.
He talked on the phone with his father, Harry, on Saturday night Nov. 16, 1985, making plans to visit his parents in Florida on Thanksgiving.
He never made it home for the holiday.
Boardman was a smart kid, a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist. He went to prestigious and private Pine Crest School in Ft. Lauderdale. He drew a comic strip called “The Mad Mongol” in the school paper and took the prettiest girl in the school to the prom, his sister said.
He was married twice. First, to a woman named Liz Thomas, whose father, Pete, would become well known as the narrator of the popular television show “Forensic Files.” After divorcing Liz, he married Susan Downing, who he had known only six weeks, his sister said.
His second marriage also ended in divorce. And not long after, he decided to get out of the gift shop business.
Who is Barbara King Ladd?
Barbara King Ladd, 45, has never worked in law enforcement. She rarely watches true crime shows on television. She’s not part of the legion of citizen sleuths who work on cold cases in their spare time. By day, she’s a life coach for elementary school kids.
“I’m kind of intuitive,” she said.
With a couple of taps on her phone, she figured out the identity of a man whose skeletal remains had been discovered by a fisherman on the edge of a creek near Interstate 24 near Chattanooga on Dec. 16, 1985. The skull showed evidence of blunt force trauma.
Who were the suspects?
On Friday, Nov. 29, 1985, police stopped a white Camaro Z28 in East Point, a suburb of Atlanta. They suspected the driver, who they had watched leave a restaurant named Bar BQ, was drunk.
When they checked the license plate, they found the car was owned by Donald Boardman and connected to a missing person case.
The driver was Charles Milton Robertson, and the two passengers were Dwaine Steven Foster and Thea Jane Rimingler, according to a police report supplied by Debbie Boardman.
The card had been used at convenience stores, gas stations and car dealerships (to purchase auto parts) after the date Boardman had not shown up to work.
Robertson was on federal probation for a gun charge. Rimingler was wanted for armed robbery, the police report said.
Police questioned the three suspects. Robertson, who owned Econo Auto Service in Atlanta, said Boardman had brought the car in for repairs on Nov. 18 (the day he didn’t show up for work). Robertson showed police an auto repair order for $347 with the notation “replace rear end.”
Boardman’s signature was not on the order.
Was a serial killer involved?
Over the years, investigator Larry Davis gave media interviews in which he talked about the unidentified body. He said he had pursued a theory that a serial killer was operating along interstates 24 and 75 in Tennessee.
At least two bodies were found in the same vicinity in the 1980s. One was found in Monteagle on Dec. 5, 1984.
The remains were identified as Jimmy Jones, 33, of Summerville, GA, who had last been seen at a club in Chattanooga.
Davis told the Chattanooga Times Free Press that he believed Jones and the body in the Jordache jeans may have been dumped by the same killer.