George, immigrated to America from Sardinia, where met his wife, Jennie, was also from Italy, so getting married, settling in West Virginia, and having 10 children. It seems that George had very strong political views, and there are rumors that he or his family in Sardinia, might have been involved at some point with the mafia. He also often spoke out about his extreme dislike for Mussolini and had argued with some Italian residents in the community in the past.
In the last months, a few strange things had occurred. A stranger had appeared at their house asking about work. He wandered into the backyard, pointed to 2 fuse boxes, and said that This is going to cause a fire someday. Around the same time, another man showed up trying to sell the family life insurance. When George Sodder had declined, he became angry and said that his goddamn house was going up in smoke, and his children were going to be destroyed. Still, George did not take his threats seriously.
On December 24, 1945, Marion, the oldest daughter, had surprised some of the younger siblings with early gifts. They begged their mom, Jennie, to let them stay up late to play with their new toys.
The mother went to bed, letting five of the ten children play in the living room, promising to put everything in order at the end of the evening.
The woman received a chilling call at midnight, during which someone was looking for a man with an incomprehensible name.
The conversation broke off abruptly with a shrill laugh, ominous presage of the events that happened later.
When she went to go back to bed, she noticed all the lights were on, the curtains were open, and the front door was unlocked. Marion (the oldest) was asleep on the couch and she assumed her youngest children were in bed asleep. After turning out the lights, closing the curtains, and locking the door, she went back to bed.
At one o’clock in the morning a roaring noise like a bang woke the woman, but since nothing happened, the lady went back to sleep. About half past one am, a fire broke out inside the house, and the parents with four of their children managed to get out of the burning building.
George Sodder and his eldest sons, John and George Jr, climbed the house in an attempt to rescue the brothers who were stuck inside. The father managed to break the glass of a skylight, seriously injuring himself, but there was no answer from inside the building. The daughters and the mother tried using the phone to contact the firemen, without success, and then ran to the neighbors, but each attempt failed.
Marion, Sylvia, John and George Jr were safe, while for Martha (12), Jennie (8), Betty (5), Louis (9) and Maurice (14) there was nothing to do.
George Sodder also tried to take a ladder to go and save the five children, but he did not find it in its usual place.
Someone had removed it.
The first floor of the building was completely inaccessible because of the flames, and the two parents, with four of their children, could not help but observe the flames that destroyed the building and burned the five remaining little brothers. Or not?
The next morning the firefighters, searched inside the destroyed house to give the little innocents a proper burial. To the surprise of the parents, no body was found in the house, not even the remains of bones or anything else that made anyone think that, at the time of the fire, someone was inside the building.
The lack of the remains of the children gave way to the investigations, which ascertained several facts that made people think about the kidnapping.
The telephone wire from the house was cut at 60 meters from the house, the staircase that George Sodder was looking for was found on the slope of a road, a long way from the house,
the electrical short circuit, presumed cause of the fire, did not extinguish the Christmas lights of the house. Moreover, the authorities certified the absence of remains of corpses.
Despite these circumstances, they suggested the dolorous fire and the kidnapping of children, the investigations were officially closed and the five Sodder declared dead on December 30, 1945.
The local coroner summoned an investigation that led to the result that the fire was caused by “faulty cables”. So, the case was archived. Curiously, among the jurors who defined the conclusions, one had recently threatened George Sodder for his anti-fascist statements, specifically “Anti-Mussolini”, promising that his house would be burned and his children “destroyed” as punishment.
The parents did not give themselves peace for their whole life. The family hired a private detective, C.C. Tinsley, to investigate the disappearance of children, but he died later in mysterious circumstances. George Sodder tried in every way to discover the fate of their children. He also contacted the FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, who told him that he would deal with the case only if the local authorities had requested federal intervention, but both the police and the fire brigade refused to ask for help. He hoped. The site of the house was excavated several times in search of human traces, but always without success. Some vertebrae were found, but a Smithsonian professor certified that they belonged to an individual of at least 16/17 years, too big even for Maurice, who barely reached 14 years.
22 years after the accident, in 1967, the Sodder received a photograph by post, without the sender’s address, with a photo of a boy, Louis, who was incredibly similar to his namesake son.
On the back of the photograph was written:
I love brother Frankie
A90132 or 35
Many believe it to be a hoax, except for the Sodder’s, who believe it was proof their children survived and were taken. They hired a private investigator and sent him out to Kentucky. He was never seen or heard from again.
A theory, considered most likely by both the surviving children and those interested in the case, wants children kidnapped by a mafia-style organization linked to Sicily (the ZIP code of Louis’s photograph was 90132 – Palermo) corroborated by the fact that Sodder themselves were of Italian origin (the original surname was Soddu). The abduction was perhaps for the purpose of extortion, but something went wrong and no one ever asked for a ransom.
Nothing helped the torment of the poor two Sodder and their children, since the children were never found. The adults died without ever knowing what happened to the boys, George Sodder in 1969 and Jennie in 1989. The case remains one of the most disturbing mysteries in the world.