Circleville Letters

Case Notes

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READ THE LETTERS

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One of the main targets of the Circleville letter writer was a married school bus driver named Mary Gillespie .We really had a hard time trying finding any photographs of her and had to use her high school yearbook picture.

Mary Gillespie
Mary Gillespie

Mary Gillespie had been working as a bus driver for a number of years when the letters started in 1977. She is married to Ron Gillespie and has two children Tracy and Eric.

According to Mary she and her husband Ron had a close relationship with her sister in law Karen Sue Freshour but they were not close with Karen’s husband Paul Freshour. In court transcripts, Mary said relations between her husband Ron and brother in law Paul were “amicable” but not especially good. When asked if Paul Freshour made a habit of minding his own business Mary answered “no”. When asked by Paul’s defense attorney if she got along with Paul fairly well she answered “I suppose”. Mary also testified that she never felt threatened by Paul and that he had never asked her about her relationship with Gordon Massie.

Mary is pictured with other school bus drivers in the first row far right

Superintendent Gordon Massie is the man the letter writer claims was having affairs with Mary Gillespie and others. Massie moved up quickly through the ranks as an educator and was still quite young when he became superintendent of Westfall Schools. He was married and had a son who would have been a teenager when the letters started. Eventually Gordon and his wife would divorce and Massie would begin a relationship with Mary Gillespie.

Paul Freshour worked as a quality control inspector (Ron claimed supervisor) at the Anheuser-Busch plant in Columbus Ohio. Paul formally worked as a prison guard at the Ohio State Penitentiary. On August 20, 1968, prisoners at the Ohio Penitentiary rioted. Inmates in cell blocks C and D took nine guards prisoner- Paul Freshour was one of those hostages.

Paul Freshour was a US Army Veteran and held three collage degrees. Paul described Ron Gillespie as his bestfriend.

Ron Gillespie’s fatal accident

August 1977- Mary Gillespie was out of town with friends, her husband Ron stayed behind in Circleville. On Friday August 18th just after getting home from work Ron receives a phone call. Ron’s daughter was at home that evening, heard the call and believes that her father thought that he was talking to the Circleville letter writer. Ron grabs his gun, kisses his daughter and jumps into his red and white pickup truck. It is believed that Ron was going to confront the letter writer.

Around 10:25pm just a few miles from his house Ron lost control at an intersection, drove into a tree and was killed. The police found that Ron had a pistol with him and that the gun may have fired one shot Somewhere between leaving the house and hitting the tree. There was never any explanation of when or how this happened and no fired bullet was ever recovered. The police ruled Ron’s death as an accident. A toxicology report found that Ron’s blood alcohol was two times over the legal drinking limit. Most residents found this surprising knowing Ron wasn’t a heavy drinker. After this the family began to suspect the cops of covering up this tragic accident.

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POLICE REPORT-1977

Evidence Photos

Booby Trap Sign Crime Scene Photos

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in 1983, Mary Gillespie was driving her school bus near the intersection where her husband Ron had been killed several years earlier. Mary remembers seeing a disturbing sign that claimed her daughter Tracy was having sex with Gordon Massie . Mary was furious and she stopped the bus and got out to tear the sign down—the crazy part is Mary just narrowly missed being killed.

When Mary began to tear off the sign she noticed a box with a string tied to another post. Mary removed the box and returned to the bus and tried to open it. when she was finaly able to get through the thick glue holding the lid on she found a crude booby trap with a pistol rigged to fire.

Mary called the police, and they quickly discovered that someone had made a crude attempt to file off the gun’s serial number. However the police were able to trace the gun to Paul Freshour Mary’s brother in law. Paul insisted he knew nothing about the events and claimed that the gun went missing long before.

The Evidence

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State Of Ohio Vs Paul Freshour: Read the case file

The full story

Paul Freshour’s Plea for help.
written while in prison, this is Paul Freshour’s account of the Circleville letters. Paul maintains his innocence and asks for the FBI to investigate the case.

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IT ALL BEGAN IN THE Spring OF 1977.

When Mary Gillespie receives an anonyms and threatening letter, the unknown writer tells her he/she is aware of the affair she is having with Gordan Massie the Superintendent and that it had better stop. : “I know where you live, I’ve been observing your house and know you have children. This isn’t a joke, please take it serious.”

The 1st Letter Mary Gillespie received

One week later –Mary receives another threatening letter“I know everything. Call the Sheriff he can’t watch you forever RT 3 Circleville Ohio 62917 Bus Number 474-7301 I shall keep ringing. Again this is no joke either. Meet him and ride in his car so I can make headlines and get this over with. Stay away from him NOON as well as night. If I can get you together and make a fool of me such as the school has done I shall come out there and—– the rest of the letter is illegible.

CLUE: The syntax the writer uses is very distinctive and it sounds unnatural. This kind of grammatical abuse almost suggests to me that the writer is not a native English speaker.

Mary decides to try and keep it all quite, she doesn’t tell anyone about the letters-not even her husband Ron.

But Things take a dramatic turn when Ron receives a letter of his own. Ron’s letter is full of absurd language also, he is even called a “pig offender” The writer demands that Ron address the school board and bring allegations against his wife and the superintendent

find yourself a Pimple faced whore

The Gillispie’s weren’t the only ones getting strange mail. In March 1977, letters began to arrive at the Westfall Highschool targeting superintendent Gordon Massie. The letters to Massie actually pre-date the ones Mary and Ron received. There are plenty of similarities to suggest that these are written by the same troubled individual. Massie’s letters share the same block-lettered handwriting and of course contain a heavy emphasis on Gordon Massie being an unfaithful womanizer.

This letter to Gordon Massie was dated March 3rd, 1977

Dear sir, According to my GF you have asked her to go out many times. And have asked the other female bus drivers too. due to your position and their jobs with you. you should not do this. This must stop at once for the good of the school and families if they are not stopped I will be forced to write to the school board and I would hate to do that. To prey on another mans girl is untouchable. Especially when they are out trying to make a living. There is also talk of you dating a married woman and taking advantage of them.

 Do you need time and names again. Please think. I suggest you find yourself a Pimple faced whore and start up with her and leave my girls alone.

The writer is unwilling to give Gordon Massie any time to correct his behavior, in fact the very next day he sends this four page letter to the school board. The letter alleges that Gordon Massie is sexually harassing some of the school bus drivers that work for him. Stating that Gordon “doesn’t take no for an answer” and accusing him of picking on the weaker ones.

Could one of the bus drivers the writer is referring to be Mary Gillespie?

Letter to School Board March 4th, 1977

The same day the writer mailed the school board he also wrote Gordon Massie again. The writer is busy three letters written and mailed in just 48 hours.

Letter to Gordon Massie March 4th, 1977

Letter to Gordon Massie March 4th, 1977

Dear superintendent, 

This is to inform you several of your bus drivers are working under pressure due to their boss constantly putting the moves on them. Some like it. The decent ones don’t. 

Is he getting paid to run the women or run the bus lines. Again some move behind him cause they need the attention and are weak. Should this position be filled by someone capable of taking advantage of his job, school and people that work for him? Is this the type of family man that we need in a position such as this? 

Capable of using working women because of his advantages. One woman dates him cause of her job. 

This is a terrible working relations and something must be done about it. Most of the 

drivers know 

what is going on constantly. You should talk to them and also him before something drastic happens. 

For he cares not if they are married or single. Could he be allowed to hound them constantly? I was informed at first by a close friend and refused to believe it. But she proved it through several other friends. I told them to take this matter to someone, but so far they have not. Its only a few but they still should count too. I can prove this and will if her school insists on it. I feel that at first he be talked to and the drivers also. I will find out through the grapevine if he has been put in line. I know of his affairs now and can prove it. And will do so if he continues harassing drivers for dates. Espically when 

they keep saying no and he constantly hounds them. I have met him and he seems like 

a sincere man. So I would like to see this matter made right and forgotten. I cant stand the thought of him thinking about this. One of these drivers or especially more my girl which I am sure makes no difference to him. I am being informed of him daily and can point out the last drivers he has been with. I shall prove it to you. Again he needs talking to so this matter can be forgotten. Give the drivers a break. Help them. Find out for yourself. Treat all equal. Friends of concerned drivers that are in fear. I have always been against school tax dollars bonuses. Because of their purpose and wont pay it unless correction and action has been taken. 

CLUE: The writer is almost certainly a man or at least pretending to be one.

the writer implies that his girlfriend is one of the school bus drivers and that Gordon tried to get her to go on a date with him. If this is true than could this just be a case of a guy angry that some one more powerful than him is bird-dogging on his girl?

There is of course the possibility that the relationship the writer claims to be in with one of the bus drivers is imagined. If that were true than we could very likely be looking at a scenario involving a stalker.

One thing we know beyond doubt is that the writer is paying more than just casual attention to what is happening at the school.

Many more letters arrive at the school, the postmarks show that the letters were written just days apart or in some cases the same day.

While we almost always refer to the author as the “Circleville Letter Writer” the writer at times signed the letters The “Watcher Of Westfall”
  • 5th letter. March 18th, 1977 

On March 18th 1977 a by now familiar looking letter with no return address sent to Westfall high school attention Vice Principal 

Dear School, talk to Gordon Massie about his affairs. I shall warn you, I know the truth. I want to protect your school, it has a good reputation. You should keep it like that. I shall send you proof about driver number 62917. She has a child in school there now, I shall prove this shortly. I expect him then to be discharged. You’ll see that I am telling the truth. 

This letter specifically targets Mary Gillespie and identifies her by her driver number 62917. Chillingly the writer is aware that she has a child in the school. It appears that the writer is demanding both Mary and Gordon to be fired.

You are a pig defender!!!

April 14th 1977. 

Ron Gillespie receives his 2nd letter this time there is a return address 550 Ridgewood, Circleville OH which happens to be the same address as Gordon’s 3 bedroom 2 bathroom family home.

The writer is playing games he is using the Massie home as his return address. but he is also upping the ante in this letter and again making sure everyone knows “this is no joke”

The writer starts placing deranged signs along the roads of Circleville – The majority of these signs accuse Gordon Massie of having a sexual relationship with the Gillespie’s 12 year-old daughter

Gillespie, you have had two weeks and done nothing. You are a pig defender. You are also a pig. Make her admit the trust and inform the school board. If not, I will broadcast it on posters, signs, billboards, until the truth comes out. Only pigs ride motorcycles. Good hunting in your red and white truck on your way to work. Remember, she hung in his office constantly until she broke up his marriage and home. Contact people at school, they’re aware. They are starting to laugh and not only at her. Let her read this, it is no lie. She knows I am telling no lie. I followed him for weeks, since last summer, and have seen her meet him several times. He knew if caught there would be trouble. He is not as serious as people think. He isn’t concerned with your family, only himself. He can’t have

affairs with school employees and keep his job. He knows what I want. When he quits, I’ll go away. All you have to do is talk and ask questions from the people that work there. You will see this is no joke. 

Ron confides in his brother in law Paul Freshour who says the following

 “Ron was devastated and distraught, he didn’t get much sleep during that period of time in his life. He was frantic, and would drive around an hour or two in the morning before his shift began looking for any obscene posted signs. He went out of his way looking for the signs to prevent his daughter, and to any other kids on his wife’s schoolbus, from having to see them. Ron worked very hard to figure out what it was really all about, and to have the problem solved.” 

  • Paul and Karen Freshour along with Ron and Mary Gillespie get together and send letters of their own to the person they believe is their tormentor. This seems to work and the letters stop for a while 
  • Who did they send these letters to? 
  • Many people believe it was another School Bus driver.

Ron Gillespie Died In A Mysterious Car Crash

On August 17, 1977 Mary is out of town getting a much needed break, she traveled to Florida with some friends and was glad to be away from the threating letters and gossipy whispers of Circleville. Ron Gillespie had just gotten off of work when the phone rings. We may not know the name of the person on the other line but we can be pretty sure it is the letter writer—Ron springs into action, grabbed a gun, kissed his daughter and left the house alone. His family believes that Ron must have been able confirm the identity of the letter writer over the phone (he recognized the voice)

At about 10:00pm Ron Gillespie got in his truck and drove off to confront the letter writer. Around 10:25pm his car was found wrapped around a tree. Ron wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and had been partially ejected through the windshield, he died instantly. According to the Pickaway County Sheriff’s Department, Gillespie had a blood alcohol level 1.5 times the legal limit. Amazingly a forensic analysis showed that Ron’s gun had been fired, but the bullet was never recovered, and investigators can’t determine why he would have fired the weapon.

  • Ron received a phone call at home that confirms his suspicions. An apparently sober Ron told his daughter he was going to confront the letter writer, took his weapon – an H&R .22 caliber revolver, and said goodbye and left. (per Tracy’s account) 
  • Ron gets in his red & white 1971 Ford pickup (the letter writer had told him that he was watching his truck) 
  • About 10 miles from the Gillespie’s home on Brooks Miller road, Ron was traveling NW 

on Five Points Pike a busy, paved, two-way road about 7 miles (10 minutes) from the Gillespie’s home. 

  • There was no adverse weather, the road was dry. That stretch of Five Points Pike was 

rural and had no streetlights so it would have been dark. 

  • At about 10:25 PM about a tenth of a mile from McKinley road just past the Green Lawn Community Church, Ron drove straight and did not follow the curve of the road. 
  • His pickup went off the left side of the roadway (reportedly at high speed) for about 37 feet and collided head first into a tree. 
  • Ron wasn’t wearing his seat belt and was partially ejected from the left driver’s side seat of the vehicle. 
  • 10:30 pm Dispatch receives a call reporting the accident. 
  • 10:35 pm Officer Lee Gray, Unit 19, of the Pickaway Sheriff’s Office arrives on the scene followed by an ambulance. 
  • Ron Gillespie is taken to Burger Hospital in Circleville 18 miles (26 minutes) away. 
  • Presumed to have not survived the initial impact, he is pronounced DOA at Burger Hospital. Cause of death massive trauma to the head and internal injuries 

Did The SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT COVER UP RON’S MURDER?

People close to Ron believe that the sheriff’s department had attempted to cover up Ron Gillespie’s death by claiming he had high levels of alcohol in his system and ruling the crash an accident. But Gillespie’s friends and family don’t seem to remember Ron as being much of a drinker. They are adamant that it was not at all like Ron to leave his children home alone and go off drunk driving. Strangely enough there may actually be a reason why the Sherriff’s department would want to down play this. Around this time Sherriff Dwight Radcliff was running for President of the National Sheriffs association a post he would eventually win some years later. Sherriff Radcliff knew it was hard enough to get elected when you have lunatic letter writer in your community, it would be even harder if they started killing.

Never one to shy away from crazy, the letter writer himself thought the investigation was sloppy and grew angry when Gillespie’s death was publicized as an accident. The Circleville Letter Writer began sending letters to the townspeople urging a further fuller investigation.

The Letter Writer Tried To Kill Mary Gillespie With A Booby-Trap

One of the most bizarre twists in the case took place on the morning of February 7th of 1983, Mary was driving her school bus along it’s regular route she when noticed a large sign at the intersection of Scioto-Darby and Five Points Pike road. What was written on the sign was an obscene personal attack against Mary’s 12 year-old daughter. Apparently the creator of the sign wanted to let the world to know that Gordon Massie and Mary Gillespie’s daughter were having sexual relations.

The writer had told Mary he would do this in an earlier postcard she received December 17th of 1982. The writer was adamant that he would begin placing signs exposing Mary and her family if she didn’t come clean about her affair with Gordon Massie. Mary even got a chance to preview some of the writers ideas for the signs in a letter sent to her on December, 23rd 1982.

The rural intersection where the sign had been placed.

It was all too much and Mary was at her breaking point. Mary stopped her bus and got out to remove the sign, she was surprised when she found that it was attached by a string to a cardboard box— Mary took the sign and the box back with her into the bus. She remember being surprised at how much glue had been used to secure the lid, when she was finally able to pry the box opened Mary found a handgun rigged to fire with wire around the trigger and held upright between Styrofoam. The trap had been meant to fire the gun at Mary when she tore down the poster. Fortunately, the trap didn’t succeed.

Mary’s Brother in Law Paul Freshour Arrested

When the police got their hands on the pistol from the boobytrap they quickly discovered that the writer had tried to file off the weapon’s serial number, he didn’t do a very good job and there was enough of the serial number left to trace the guns owner. The gun belonged to Paul Freshour, Mary Gillespie’s brother-in-law had he been the phantom letter writer all along? When the police questioned Paul Freshour he claimed that the gun had gone missing a long time ago and that he didn’t know what had happened to it, and denied any involvement in the booby trap.

Sheriff Radcliff asked Paul Freshour to subject to a handwriting test, one in which Freshour asked to copy as best he could what was written on the curious envelopes and letters. The Sheriff encouraged Paul Freshour to try and match the strange block lettering as best he could. The Sheriff will be later criticized for this because it is an improper way to perform a handwriting test. In the end experts could not determine if Freshour had actually written the letters or not, but Sheriff Radcliff was convinced he had. There was a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing to Freshour who was arrested for attempted murder.

Paul Freshour would change his plea several times before his case actually went to trial on October 24, 1983. On August 8th of 1983 Paul had used the insanity plea and was sent to the Southwest Mental Health Center for an evaluation. Eventually Paul would be convicted of attempted murder the letters and pistol were evidence that the defense couldn’t overcome and he apparently had an alibi for the day when the booby trap was found, yet he was eventually convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to 7 to 25 years in prison. By the end of the controversial trial, despite largely circumstantial evidence, almost everyone in Circleville was convinced that he had been behind the mysterious letters, that he had attempted to kill Mary Gillespie, and that he very well might have had a hand in the death of Ron Gillespie. For his part, Freshour stood by his innocence to the end, but the public was already convinced, and it was taken as a matter of course that the threatening letters would stop with his incarceration. The thing is, they didn’t.

The letters continued unabated, increasing in intensity even, reaching hundreds of people all over the region. Yet even then authorities were so convinced that Freshour was still behind it that they placed him in solitary confinement to make him stop. Even then the letters continued over a large swath of area, taunting and terrorizing people from all walks of life, and all of them were postmarked from Columbus just as they always had always been, which was odd considering Freshour was not in prison in Columbus. In the face of the deluge of continuing letters, the postmarks, and a full investigation and observation of Freshour, the prison warden came to the conclusion that he could not have possibly been responsible for the unsettling letters.

Due to the persistent letters, it seemed more and more plausible that perhaps an innocent man had been put away in prison. However, even then many authorities bizarrely clung to the idea that Freshour was somehow responsible, to the point that his parole hearing was denied because of it, despite his being un upstanding model prisoner. In the wake of this rejection, Paul Freshour himself would get a menacing, taunting letter from the phantom sender, in which a section cryptically states: