A Bike Ride to the Store, But They Never Came Back

Date Published 03.29.06
Two unsolved crimes. Two boys. One murdered. One abducted. Three years apart. One thousand three hundred and three miles between them. In some ways they're very different crimes. Maybe that's why they've never been connected before. But the similarities detailed here on True Crime Diary for the first time reveal the possibility that one man committed both crimes needs to be considered.

A web site for Warner Robins, Georgia describes a town known for its “laid-back rural charm.” It's the kind of place a thirteen year-old boy could bike two blocks to the neighborhood store for a pack of gum and not feel afraid. And that's exactly what Charles “Chuckie” Mauk set out to do around 8 p.m. on February 17, 1986. Less than a half hour later he was found facedown next to his bike. He still clutched a pack of gum in his hand. Blood flowed from a wound to his head and formed a pool around his body.

According to reports, Chuckie was last seen talking to a white male in a white car, most likely an Oldsmobile. They talked for several minutes. Witnesses reported hearing a sound like a car backfiring, and then the white car screeched away. The case immediately perplexed investigators. It's highly unusual for a man in a car to shoot a boy on a bike in the back of the head for no apparent reason. They ran theories. Had Chuckie accidentally seen a drug deal? Witnesses remembered seeing Chuckie and the man, but no one else.

Was the suspect in the white Oldsmobile a sexual predator? Investigators could not recall a single instance where a sexual predator had tried to abduct a child and used a gun to kill him instead.

Still, Chuckie had been shot in the back of the head. Was it possible that a sexual predator had threatened Chuckie with a gun, had demanded he get in the car or he would shoot, and Chuckie had turned to make a run for it and the man made good on his threat? No similar crimes matched that M.O. Investigators put together a composite sketch of a suspect. Leads dried up. The case went nowhere.

Fast forward three years, more than a thousand miles away, to St. Joseph, Minnesota and the night of October 22, 1989. The Jacob Wetterling case stunned local residents and seasoned investigators alike because the circumstances were so unusual. St. Joseph is a small town. Two thousand people small. Jacob, his brother and a friend were on an impromptu trip to the local Tom Thumb convenience store less than a mile away. They were returning home down a little-traveled country road when a masked man emerged from the dark and threatened them at gunpoint. He demanded they get into a ditch, and looked at each of their faces carefully. He asked their ages. Then he grabbed eleven year-old Jacob and told the other two to run away and not look back, or he would shoot them. Jacob and the man disappeared, and were never seen again.

The best lead investigators had in Jacob's case was a similar abduction ten months before. Twelve year-old Jared, last name withheld, was grabbed by a man in nearby Cold Spring, Minnesota. Jared was sexually assaulted and then let go. In police records obtained by KARE-TV in Minnesota, Jared told police the man said he had a gun and wasn't afraid to use it.

Small towns, each about an hour from large cities, Atlanta and Minneapolis-St. Paul respectively. Eleven, twelve, thirteen year-old boys. Crimes around the same time of night, 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. A gun. In Minnesota, the threat I have a gun and I'm not afraid to use it . We don't know what was said to Chuckie Mauk in Georgia, but we know the suspect had a gun, and used it.

The similarities don't end there. Below are pictures of Chuckie Mauk, Jacob Wetterling, and Jared. The resemblance is startling.


Eerie, too, are similarities in the leads. In the Chuckie Mauk case investigators were looking for a white Oldsmobile. In the Jacob Wetterling case, an alert was put out for an off-white, late-model GM car. Witnesses report that Chuckie's killer had acne scars. FBI profilers predicted Jacob's abductor might have a physical deformity - such as scarring, they said, or acne.

Is it possible that the same man who gunned down Chuckie Mauk in Warner Robins, Georgia in 1986 also assaulted Jared in Cold Spring, Minnesota and later abducted Jacob Wetterling in St. Joseph in 1989? We know criminals learn and evolve from their crimes. If it was the same man, he failed to lure Chuckie into his car, and then shot him, perhaps out of anger, or fear of being recognized. In the Jared case, he got out of his car and hauled the boy inside, demanding he pull his hat down over his face so he couldn't see. Still, Jared was able to help investigators put together a composite sketch. This must have made the anxious abductor rethink his strategy. Ten months later Jacob was taken, and never seen again.

No connection has ever been made between the Georgia and Minnesota cases until this writing, most likely because of the distance between the two cities, and lack of solid evidence connecting the crimes. And on the surface it would seem Warner Robins, Georgia and St. Joseph, Minnesota have little in common. But Internet research shows that a niche company in Warner Robins has a direct competitor in St. Cloud, Minnesota, only miles from St. Joseph. The companies describe what they do in almost exactly the same terms. It seems reasonable that someone working at the Warner Robins company wanting to make a move - maybe a quick one - could find similar employment in St. Cloud.

Warner Robins, Georgia is home to one of the largest air force bases in the United States. The Twin Cities also has ties to the Air Force. Air Reservation Station (934th Airlift wing) is located at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International airport.

Did a white male move from Warner Robins, Georgia to St. Joseph, Minnesota or that vicinity between the years 1986-1989? A long shot, maybe, but definitely worth a look.

Below are composite sketches of the suspects in the Mauk and Wetterling cases, respectively. Take away the mustache. Put on a hat. Add a few pounds.


In interviews, Chuckie and Jacob's mothers have described the pain of watching their sons' playmates grow taller, graduate from college, get married, move on with their lives, while their sons are forever little boys on bikes, leaving for a trip to the neighborhood store from which they'll never return.

It's been reported that Jacob's family hasn't moved or even changed their phone number since Jacob disappeared seventeen years ago. They still hold out hope, they admit, that he might one day come home.

The Feed

RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary: https://t.co/ijA8xHJ8Tm
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Know what he does believe in? PAC $. Took 10K from HRC pac 2006. That means he's in her pocket.#BSLogic
@Twaikuer @pattonoswalt @daveanthony Good one. Unfortunately Bernie on record as not believing in charity.
@johnlevenstein Thanks for asking, btw. That's the kind of elevated discourse missing lately. A lot of mud slinging. #I'mNotAboveItEither
@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.