Leona Disseldorf, who was 70 years old, went missing on September 26, 1958. Leona lived by herself at 1000 South Brady Street in Attica, Indiana. She had stopped teaching 24 years before and mostly lived off of her social security check. When Leona didn’t meet the mailman when her check was due to arrive, which she always did, he was worried.
After checking Leona’s mailbox and seeing that the mail from the day before was still there, the mailman asked for help from the neighbours to get in touch with her. After knocking on Leona’s door several times, her neighbours and the mailman looked through a window to see if she was there. There was no sign of her, but her two dogs and several cats had knocked over pans, probably looking for food. The police were called, and when they broke into Leona’s house and couldn’t find her, they reported her missing.
Leona’s house looked like nothing was out of place. Leona’s purse and a small watch she always wore were the only things that were missing besides her. This made the police think that she had left with the intention of coming back soon.
Leona was very busy for someone who was 70 years old. She was known to walk alone for long distances, even 8 miles to West Lebanon. Leona, on the other hand, was known to hitchhike and take rides from locals when they offered.
Fearing that Leona might have gotten hurt on one of her walks, the police and people in the area searched her usual routes, including a farm she owned near Stone Bluff. Leona’s sister had died a few years before, and when she did, she left Leona an 80-acre farm. Leona would often walk around the farm. But no matter how hard the police looked, they couldn’t find Leona.
52 days later, on November 17, two rabbit hunters from Covington, Indiana, named Bill Young and Don Hart took a break on top of a well covered with wooden planks. While they were there, they smelled something bad coming from inside the well. The well was 11 miles southwest of Attica. A woman named Mary Hickman owned it, but her brother-in-law, Guy Grady, farmed and took care of the land.
Guy and his son Gene, who had been working on the property all day, went to the well to get water for the tractor’s radiator right after Bill and Don did. Guy also smelled the bad smell, so he helped Bill and Don take the wooden boards off the well. When the men looked into the 40-foot-deep well, they saw that the water looked oily and was a strange shade of blue. They thought that an animal must have fallen into the well and was dead in the water below.
In order to get the dead animal out of the dark well, the men dropped a piece of barbed wire down into it. But when they pulled up the wire, they saw that it was covered in hair. After taking a second look down the well, the men saw what looked like a person in the 10 feet of water below. They called the sheriff right away.
Leona Disseldorf’s body, which was badly broken down, would be pulled from the rural well hours later. Her cousin was the first person to figure out who she was. He said that a pair of shoes that were found in the well were definitely Leona’s. Her dental records would later be used to prove who she was.
Leona’s arms were tied around her neck, and her feet and wrists were tied with white plastic clothesline. There were five electrical wires wrapped around her waist. Seven new bricks from the Attica Brick Yard were carefully tied to the wires. Two square knots were made in a white towel and tied around her neck. During the autopsy, a rag was found in Leona’s mouth. Later, someone’s mouth-sized piece of duct tape was found in the well.
Due to how far along the body was in breaking down, the cause of death could not be found. But people think Leona might have still been alive when she was thrown into the well. When the police went to get her body, they saw that her hand was still gripping a small pipe inside.
Leona was found with nothing on but the red sweater she wore every day. Her watch and purse were also never found.
A former classmate said that the last time they saw Leona was the day before she went missing. He said he saw Leona wearing her red sweater get out of the back seat of a car near Highway 41. He couldn’t say anything about the car other than that it had licence plates from his area.
The fact that Leona’s purse and watch were never found leads police to think that she was killed because someone stole them. There were rumours that Leona might have hidden a lot of money that she had been getting from the small farm her sister had given her. However, the police say that these rumours are “unfounded.”
Edgar Emmons was the man she was once married to. During their marriage, Edgar had Leona put in a state hospital against her will, saying she was “unable to handle her finances.” Leona said that Edgar was mean to her, and the couple split up in 1931. In 1943, Edgar helped a woman who had lost custody of her daughter take her back. During this, he shot a police officer. Edgar died after a few years. They didn’t have any kids, and Leona never got married again.
The police did everything they could to find Leona’s killer, but the case of “the woman in the well” is still unsolved.