On Christmas Eve, 1945, the Sodder family home burned down. The cause was traced to defective wiring despite the fact that Christmas tree lights were still on after the fire started. The oldest two sons and daughter and the youngest daughter survived, but the five middle children were missing and no trace of their remains were found. Believing that the fire was a cover for the abduction of their children, George and Jennie Sodder spent a fortune on detectives to investigate.
Several pieces of evidence and eyewitnesses backed up George’s kidnapping belief. In 1968, a photo was mailed to the surviving family; on the back was the message: “Louis Sodder, I love brother, Frankie. Ilil boys A90132 (or 90135)” Detective C.C. Tinsley was hired to investigate the photo and where it came from, but he vanished and was never seen again.
A billboard describing the family mystery was erected near the site of their house. Local law enforcement did not do any investigation into the children’s whereabouts. The coroner’s report declared them legally dead.
George Sodder eventually died in 1969; Jennie in 1988. The billboard now no longer stands.
Suspects: None known, but speculation suggests the kids were abducted by an illegal child-selling agency similar to Georgia Tann’s, with help from the local police. Two months before the fire, the Sodders had an argument with another Fayetteville resident who tried to sell them life insurance. He warned that their house would burn and the children would vanish. He was also a member of the coroner’s jury which ruled the fire accidental.
Other amateur sleuths point out that Mr. Sodder had a coal-trucking business. The coal industry was under constant pressure from the Mafia, which may have been involved in the children’s disappearance. “90132” was a postal code for Palermo, Sicily at the time. The Sodders themselves were of Italian descent; the original name was Soddu.