Starting in 1977, the small town of Circleville, Ohio, was shaken by a barrage of anonymous letters that exposed alleged secrets of the people living there. The mystery and intrigue surrounding these letters reached a whole new level when there was an attempt to murder one of the private citizens who had long been a target in the writings. CBS’ ‘48 Hours: The Circleville Letters’ looks at the case and tries to uncover the truth behind these letters. So, let’s find out more about what happened then, shall we?
Who is the Circleville Writer?
Mary Gillispie was a married mother of two living in Circleville. Over there, she worked as a bus driver for the local school. Sometime in 1977, she received a letter with distinct handwriting that asked her to stop her alleged affair with the school superintendent, Gordon Massie. A part of the letter said, “Mrs. Gillispie, stay away from Massie. I’ve been observing your house, and I know you have children.”
The letter also threatened harm to Mary’s young daughter, saying, “It’s your daughter’s turn to pay for what you’ve done. … I shall come out there and put a bullet in that little girl’s head.” These letters then began to go out to newspapers, government officials, and others living in Circleville, making it difficult for Mary to lead her life. She had married her high school sweetheart, Ron. They received anonymous phone calls and saw offensive signs placed along Mary’s bus route.
Most of the letters were postmarked from Columbus, Ohio, but the authorities were at a loss regarding who wrote them. In August 1977, Ron got a phone call that angered him. At the time, Mary was in Florida with a relative, while Ron said he knew the identity of the person writing the letters. But that night, he died in an accident after crashing into a tree. Ron had alcohol in his system and was found with a .22-caliber firearm shot once.
But the letters didn’t stop. Then, once Mary started dating Gordon after her husband’s death, the threats continued to come through. In February 1983, Mary saw an offensive sign about her daughter on the street while driving to work and pulled over to take it away. But she discovered that the sign was rigged with a booby trap, a cardboard box with a .25-caliber firearm. Mary later took it to the authorities who traced the gun to Paul Freshour, Ron’s brother-in-law.
Has The Circleville Writer Been Found?
The authorities then talked to Paul’s estranged wife, Karen Sue, who told the police that he was the one writing the letters. While Paul was never charged with the letter-writing, he stood trial for Mary’s attempted murder and was convicted, spending a decade behind bars. But while he was in prison, the letters never stopped. The general public believed Paul was responsible for the letters, but he always maintained his innocence.
The letters stopped in 1994, with some speculation that Karen might have set Paul up. A former FBI profiler believed that the writer was clever, deceptive, and possibly female who was not highly educated. However, a forensic document expert was pretty confident that Paul was behind the letters after comparing handwriting. The mystery, though, remains unsolved since there has been no definitive proof regarding the identity of the person who wrote the letters.
Read More: How Did Paul Freshour Die?