Ricky McCormick’s mysterious notes…

ricky mccormick cleaned up Ricky McCormicks mysterious notes...

The story of how Ricky McCormick was found dead with two (apparently enciphered) notes in his pocket hit the news a while back, but I hesitated to write it up as a cipher mystery at the time because I didn’t think the media coverage was even remotely reliable. But revisiting the whole affair recently, I found a simply splendid online article courtesy of the River Front Times called “Code Dead” (by Christopher Tritto), which turned my opinion of the whole case right round.

This revealed…
* that McCormick had just travelled back from Florida, from where he had allegedly brought back baseball-sized zip-lock bags of marijuana for Baha Hamdallah, brother of the owner of the gas station where McCormick worked.
* that he was closely associated with some violent (if not actually sociopathic) individuals, such as Gregory Knox
* that the stretch of road his body was found on was used for dumping dead bodies both before and after his death
* that the FBI’s Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU) sat on the two mystifying notes for 12 years before announcing their existence
* that McCormick’s family knew nothing about the notes until they heard them mentioned on the news. (“Now, twelve years later, they come back with this chicken-scratch shit.”)

Moreover…
* McCormick fathered two children with a girl he called “Pretty Baby” before she was 14 (for which he went to prison)
* he experienced chest pains and shortage of breath the week before he died, severe enough for him to check into ER. (Though admittedly he had smoked “at least a pack of cigarettes a day” since he was ten, and typically drank “more than twenty caffeinated beverages a day”).
* McCormick could hardly read or write when he left school. (“The only thing he could write was his name”, and that Ricky “couldn’t spell anything, just scribble.”)

Coincidentally, everyone’s favourite crypto-gal Elonka Dunin lives close to where McCormick’s body was left, and she’s taken an interest in the cipher mystery aspect of the case, even doing a video interview for the River Front Times explaining how monoalphabetic substitution ciphers work (not that that’s what we’re looking at here, *sigh*). But having learnt more about McCormick’s background and situation, she concludes “I don’t think McCormick wrote these notes”, and that “[P]erhaps he was a courier.”

(If you haven’t seen the notes before, the two thumbnails below link to decent quality scans of them – well worth opening up in a browser to see what all the fuss is about.)

note1 small Ricky McCormicks mysterious notes...

note2 small Ricky McCormicks mysterious notes...

So, what *are* we looking at here? Well, the Internet (as always) has plenty of commentary to wade through. The CRRU’s Dan Olson points out that “There are many E’s… that could be used as a spacer”: while Elonka notes the plethora of patterns periodically peppering the pages (such as “WLD”, “NCBE”, “SE” etc). There are also lots of bracket pairs (which have somehow led to the suggestion that it may in part be lists) as well as punctuation marks, most notably an apostrophe, which would loosely imply that the word preceding it (“WLD”) may well be a noun.

Olson seems convinced that the writer of the notes was ingenious and calculating, while Elonka too appears to think that they are of a complexity that would have been beyond McCormick’s abilities. Respectfully, I have to disagree: for I suspect that the main key to the notes’ impenetrability lies not in paranoia or secrecy but in a probable explanation for why McCormick failed school (and, conversely, why school failed McCormick) – dyslexia.

Look again at three highly structured consecutive lines from the notes:
first second third Ricky McCormicks mysterious notes...

To me, this looks a lot like a mixed-up version of:-
* FIRSE PERSON D 71 NCB[E]
* SECND PERSON’S D 74 NCB[E]
* TRD’S PERSON R D 75 NCB[E]

Specifically, I think “NCB” will turn out to be a local address in St Louis (maybe even initials for Clinton Peabody?) – and if that’s right, why would the numbers not be the flat / house numbers of people buying drugs? McCormick preferred moving round at night (like “a vampire”), and he carried and held big bags of marijuana from Orlando for Baha Hamdallah (according to McCormick’s girlfriend), so the suggestion that he might have been some kind of small-time drug runner or dealer probably isn’t totally wild.

I don’t know, though: it’s all just awful. Victorian-era historians saw their job as weaving narratives around Events In History for the moral edification and correct instruction of Society In General, and even many moderns would find it journalistically tempting to take McCormick’s life of denial and ignominious death as launching pads for some glib commentary on a whole set of social macro-epidemics – guns, drugs, poverty, social inequality, education, dyslexia, whatevuh.

But all I’m actually left with is a feeling of deep sadness – that what we’re glimpsing into in these two notes is the life of a poor, illiterate guy who aspired to ride the horse of opportunity, but only ever got dragged behind it.

So, what strikes me most powerfully is that quite unlike other cipher mysteries, I don’t actually want to read what was written on McCormick’s two notes. I understand people often feel a deep-seated need for closure, but does any kind of (capital-j) Justice have the power to right the wrongs of these slow-motion train-wrecks?

49 Comments

  1. avatar SirHubert March 12, 2013 6:11 pm

    I agree with most of this – it’s all rather horrible and pathetic. Personally, I feel this way about the Zodiac ciphers too. But if deciphering these notes were to lead to the conviction of someone who would otherwise get away with murder, isn’t that enough justification for trying?

    That said, doesn’t quite a lot of the River Front Times article strike you as odd? I’m not an experienced dumper of corpses but isn’t leaving enciphered notes on the body a bit too Dorothy L. Sayers? Do we really not know whether the notes were written in McCormick’s handwriting? If I were going to play at being a conspiracy theorist for the afternoon, I’d wonder if this were some kind of mind-game by the FBI…

  2. avatar nickpelling March 12, 2013 6:47 pm

    SirHubert: I’m a cipher guy, not a policeman – which means I get to choose what I do. :-)

    I think it’s fair to say that the FBI could have done a better job on giving us supporting evidence to work with, e.g. verified Ricky McCormick handwriting, etc. “Cock-up” gets the vote over “conspiracy” almost every time! ;-)

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  3. avatar SirHubert March 12, 2013 10:37 pm

    I’m not a policeman either. I’ve served as an expert witness, which wasn’t much fun but was probably the right thing to do. But social responsibility versus individual action is better discussed over a pint, I think.

    I also agree with you about preferring cock-up over conspiracy, and indeed incompetence over malice. But I still have a feeling that there is a lot which hasn’t been made public – probably with good reason. The paper is distinctive, the pen must be identifiable, the handwriting can surely be matched – but we are still told that it is uncertain whether McCormick wrote these notes? (And does the first of these documents really have P1 at the top right hand corner? If so, what can this stand for apart from Page 1 – and what has happened to Page 2?)
    Of course, if the police have a shrewd idea whom these notes were intended for, releasing them in this way might just provoke a reaction. And with that, I’ll leave the conspiracy theories and rejoin the sane part of the Internet.

  4. avatar Diane March 13, 2013 7:31 am

    Nick
    error vs collusion – the odds are not greatly different even at the best of times. And then what began as error can become collusion when colleagues or ‘mates’ cover when they believe one of their number has made a mistake they might one day make themselves.Add to those factors elements as drugs (possible) and some kind of pressuring (not unlikely) and odds on the cause being error alone reduce very considerably, I’d say.

    I’m puzzled by these clean looking copies. And by why a person functionally illiterate would voluntarily write anything if not obliged.

    On one side the formatting looks oddly practiced – very “admin.” so to say.
    D.

    http://voynichimagery.wordpress.com/

  5. avatar Diane March 13, 2013 10:17 am

    Nick – a request, from p.o.v. of someone only recently a total newbie.

    You once wrote a post explaining clearly the difference between code and cipher.. and a few other terms, I think.
    If you can still find it, would you put it as a permanent page in the side-bar?
    I wanted to refer someone else to it but – search ‘code’?
    :D

    http://voynichimagery.wordpress.com/

  6. avatar SirHubert March 15, 2013 5:51 pm

    A little research (OK, two minutes on Google) shows that much of this story comes from the FBI’s own website…

    http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2011/march/cryptanalysis_032911

    …where it is claimed that Ricky McCormick was in fact able to read and write as a boy, and had been playing around with ciphers and codes from a young age. His own mother, however, allegedly described him as ‘retarded’ and the Riverfront Times article states that he was barely literate.

    It’s going to be very difficult to find an angle to approach these notes when the context and background is so murky.

    Hmm.

  7. avatar Toby March 26, 2013 4:05 pm

    Wow. Is that supposed to be the translation? It certainly doesn’t make much more sense to me than the original!

  8. avatar boydt May 28, 2013 10:38 am

    plenty of glass see out
    you’ll see me see me first
    person drives wild an see me
    puts on the like you would see in Mexico
    and dumps it in the box
    cause last trees tress make mess
    and seizing me nuts
    cause last tries makes me tries
    and im not to see past to be with..
    36 minutes because to kens old place
    35 see close and to cross the past the hill
    65 minutes me see hills and gutter more
    99 soon pass place where old kens been
    —puts it with –
    an me sees in trailers and see in shack
    and using space makes her be …excellent
    write down 19 mile across the lakes

  9. avatar nickpelling May 28, 2013 10:51 am

    Boyd: a spirited try – almost poetic, even – but I suspect the real thing will turn out to be prosaic, desperate, and far sadder.

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  10. avatar boydt May 28, 2013 11:51 am

    It is my translation of the code headed “NOTES” typed at the top. Came up with that in December last year. Only just found the file on my computer. Woke up one morning and wrote out what I read phonetically on the note. Cannot say I tried to make it poetic, just fresh from sleep and wrote down what I read. Took less than an hour. Have never attempted to rationalise it.

  11. avatar nickpelling May 28, 2013 11:56 am

    Boyd: obviously you’re a poet in your sleep. :-)

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  12. avatar boydt May 28, 2013 11:58 am

    Maybe Ricky was…:-)

  13. avatar Jose Galofre Manero-SPAIN_europe June 14, 2013 12:24 am

    Hello from Spain

    If it is a letter, signature of the author should be at the end (2nd note)

    –In my humble opinion the master key is in the 2nd note, last line.
    –I see that: “O-W-m-4 H8L XORLX”

    Can you see which letters aee repeated and where?
    Can you remember the Arthur´s C. Clarke joke about HAL 9000?

    Have a pen and paper handy?

    Yes? Then my solution is like a child game……

    +If O=O, W=W and R=R
    +If m=N, H=I and L=M using Caesar Code B or +1 move
    +If X= Variations of the letter “C” (MC,C and KC) using shorthand
    +If 4= four= FOR by phonetic solution like SMS language.
    +If 8= eight= eit= ei= letter “A” by phonetic solution like SMS language (example L8= late or leight, H8= hate ….)
    +If the hyphen join the letters in a word.
    +If we add vowel “i” by transcription shorthand solution.
    THEN…..

    “O-W-m-4 H8L XORLX” means “OWN-FOR I AM MCCORM(i)CK”.

    It is the signature on the last will or testament of Mccormick.

    + If you think “4″ is not “4″ but “y”
    + If you think “8″ is not “8″ but “I” then the solution is:

    “Y”= wai= WHY or WAY by phonetic solution, similar sound.
    “I”= ai= letter “A” by phonetic graphic representation.

    THEN= “O-W-m-Y HIL XORLX” = “OWN-WHY? I AM MCCORMICK”

    Bye from Spain.
    JSP

  14. avatar Danny-boy June 18, 2013 4:19 pm

    Im perplexed and baffled and much intrigued by these notes…still
    I feel the true meaning/translation (call it what you will) will never be known.
    I think people are massively over complicating this, and much of what is ‘put out there’ via the internet is misleading.

    If you want to shoot me an email nick, i’d be happy to compare some notes on what I have learned thus far….which is not too much!

  15. avatar nickpelling June 18, 2013 4:34 pm

    Danny-boy: if anyone genuinely wants to get to the bottom of this, I think they would have to talk with McCormick’s family and try to understand his situation in a rather more sympathetic way than has been managed to date.

    Sadly, because the FBI people kept this to themselves for such a long time, I’d be fairly unsurprised if his family were less than receptive to the idea of raking these coals over.

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  16. avatar danny-boy June 19, 2013 11:11 am

    Exactly Nick, it’s leaning in my mind to 50% profiling work and 50% understanding the notes themselves.

    Unfortunately due to time passing and the lack of updates or new information from any reliable source it is extremely difficult for an ‘outsider’ to get a decent handle on it.
    It is very similar in more ways than one to The Somerton Man case.
    I think your page is by far the most recent discussion page still ongoing….glad to have found it!

  17. avatar Lynn Tailor July 10, 2013 5:28 am

    hi im just wondering if the FBI confirmed if it’s really McCormick’s handwritting, cause i have been trying to solve this case for sometime now and i might have an idea about the murderer.if McCormick did’nt write those notes, the murderer might have just jot down some random letters and put it on McCormick’s body so it will confuse the police because he knows the police will only figure out what the note is about, sure McCormick have histories in writing puzzles but i think the murderer knows that, so he killed McCormick and just put the notes to confuse the police. thank u for listening i wish i atleast helped a little bit in this case.

    Lynn Tailor

  18. avatar Liz July 31, 2013 1:49 pm

    I agree, I think the written notes are a combination of the writer having dyslexia, being barely literate and spelling phonetically, and his own code to help aid his memory, which I think was probably poor, which is why the order of some longer words have the ending before the beginning.

    I’m convinced on the second page he’s writing something about his nurse and medication instructions, that whatever they put him on were the slow release variety. I think the hospital told him the code written on the tablets, so he knew which one to take half a tablet of. Maybe a doctor can make more sense of that part.

    He may be talking about first person, second person, third person, or first prednisolone, second prednisolone, third prednisolone – cortisone tablets used for asthma or inflammatory conditions. If he was having trouble breathing, they might have wanted him on a high dose of anti-inflammatories. It would be unusual to come out of hospital without some sort of written discharge summary. Obviously he couldn’t read someone else’s notes, so he wrote his own.

    It’s also very telling he writes a sum of money, 99.84 and puts the dollar sign after the figures … again indicating that this might be how he constructs his words, not releasing the sequencing is a crucial part of normal written language.

  19. avatar Charles E. Witteck, III September 23, 2013 5:28 pm

    Diane,

    I am responding to March 13 post. I think you are definitely correct regarding error v. collusion angle.

    I am emphatically NOT a conspiracy theorist, however,
    experiments have been conducted over the years, which
    indicate how potentially pliable human beings can be towasrds
    figures of authority, leading to, as Dr. S. Milgram memorably put it,
    “potentially destructive results.”

    I think the difference in the details between Mr. Tritto’s article
    and S. Anthony’s article, written mere days after Mr. McCormick’s body was found, may well be instructive-and illuminating

  20. avatar Diane September 23, 2013 10:32 pm

    Charles,
    I’m no fan of Hall or Milgram, whose experiments I consider improper.

    I think those involved in conspiracies think of their behaviour as closer to self-protection of ‘our lot’ than effort to rule the world.

    Sometimes comes down to the same thing, though.

  21. avatar Charles Witteck November 21, 2013 10:40 pm

    To Lynn Taiylor (and others). There are three questions, not one, and they are interlocking: One did McCormick write the notes, yes or no? If so, what do they mean, and if not, what do they intend? If the FBI claim it could be a “love letter” or “supermarket list”, then that could have already been be proven if the the letters, numerals, and punctuation
    are not random. (Since there are numerous iterations, it is unlikely they are random, but represent some sort of jargon known to its author. (As for bafflement, or misleading
    federal, state or local agencies: that ship has long sailed!)
    Third, if McCormick did not write them, or found them, or as I suspect, could not have written them, who did?

  22. avatar Brent Adkins November 24, 2013 2:22 am

    In reading the wiki article on the encrypted notes, it is said that the notes were confirmed to be written by two different hands from the FBI. That is what seems to elude the story to him being a courier for drug operations.

    I do not see anything on the FBI website that says it was a correspondence between two “hands.”

  23. avatar charles witteck November 26, 2013 3:27 am

    It is extremely unclear from the few facts published on the McCormick case allude to whether he was a courier of any kind; that is speculation. The notes themselves display damage and smudging unrelated to the handwriting. Such a sample of two pages. Would’ havee not be sufficient to draw any such conclusions, far more material would be required; hence-the Bureau in effect deputizes john and Jane q. Public for assistance with ideas: could they refer to Orienteering with its critical points; or letterboxing and so on. I will not let this matter rest: the country where I was born would never let a human being; or should let a human being be left like trash near a levee. For when the levee breaks-it will for all.,

  24. avatar Charles E. Witteck, III November 26, 2013 5:41 pm

    Apologies, all. Made lousy typos on cellphone, and I hate phones! (Just to be clear on that.) Anyway, Diane, on her March 13th note, as usual, made an interesting remark about the “clean looking copies” of the Notes. It is very unlikely, possible yes, but unlikely, as above, that the troubled, underemployed, very nearly transient victim would have made an effective courier of any kind. (Not to mention the lack of vehicle for any prompt or distant service.)

    Yes, Diane, the clean looking copies are strange. They speak of someone writing in an official capacity, with a jargon known to a sender to receiver, or vice versa, but
    not a third party (i.e. us.) The reiterations of SE, NE at first glance appear like they could be anything, anything that is to a “motivated” reasoner. Like SE, for example. Have you ever noticed how Digital discs for example, could be a Special Edition, or Limited Edition, on the sides of the packaging for example? Problem: this kind of guesswork
    is too unsystematic to break into what ever semantic lies
    within the Notes themselves [thanks to journalist Margalit Fox for this insight], and worse, not solve the highest possible percentage of what these letters could be abbreviations of (If they are that) I propose, then, that a sort of “analogical”, not digital method might be used. Like the modular math of grade school, with a clock face, and have
    the letters be coded a color (say, green) if they appear to be
    a, or b, or c to z. If however, they are either a number, punctuation, or undetermined/indeterminate letter, (color code that red) and move, and talley counterclockwise. (One of the benefits of someone typing up the notes resulted in typing an “n” when I thought it looked like a “u”. Conclusion: we, the typist and I, could well both be wrong, it could have been “mu”, or “nu”, small Greek letters.) Then, one could make a dummy plaintext, say, “Went to Publix for Grave Nuts @8 Not On Sale (remember NO SOLE!?) and compare it, to the Notes. I suggest the result will reveal a level of skill, knowledge, or professional circumspection, beyond the level of the victim (perhaps, most of the contiguous forty eight!)

  25. avatar timothy December 5, 2013 7:54 pm

    List of people he killed or saw killed?

    First person d (ead) (19)71, N(ot) C(oming) B(ack) E(ver)…

    I’m unsure of when this occurred, so if the numbers make no sense, my bad.

    http://facebook

  26. avatar Charles Witteck December 23, 2013 8:56 pm

    Happy Holidays to Nick and Everyone! May the New Year bring more surprises.

    ERRATA: Nov. 26, 2013 post should have read “Went to Publix for Grape Nuts @ 8 Not on Sale…

    RE: McCormick case. Have worked both “ends” now of this strange case; the “location” and environs of where body was allegedly found (or transported)…

    The other end, would be of course, the code itself, have submitted various ideas to (Federal) authorities, but no one in particular seems interested.

    However, someone on State level might be, so stay tuned…….

  27. avatar domripp January 7, 2014 10:20 am

    jrst r ainn yjomgd u nsle i nsgw yjis ez 4u kidy like Ricky yjuml about it poor guy

  28. avatar Peter M January 21, 2014 7:51 pm

    You need a linguist, not a code breaker. This is not encrypted, and is not cipher (but you already knew that), but it seems to have a structure and grammar. I suspect it is a non-standard transliteration of Arabic. For example, in the parenthetical (TFXLF TCXL NCBE) if we substitute Q for F, and L for “XL”, and KH for the C, and let the E be silent (that is B for BE) we get: TQLQ TKHL NCB. We type that into Google Translate for Arabic to English and we get: تقلق تخل نسب or “Worry prejudice ratios”, or “Worries about changing rates”. If we take the parenthetical (NOPFSE NLSRE NCBE) and apply the same substitutions, but also changing the “SE” to the numeral 2 (the hamzah letter of Arabic: it is a guttural stop with no easy analogue letter in English), and P to V, we get: NOVQ2 NLSR NCB. We change the spacing between the words and get NOVQ 2N LSR NCB, which Google renders as “Reconcile the mystery ratios”, which I take to mean “Calculate the unknown rates”. If we take the parenthetical (SAE6NSE SE N MRSE) and make similar substitutions we get: SAE6N2 2 N MR2. We make the adjustment of joining the standalone “2″ to the first word with a vowel, and moving the first N sound by deleting it and adding M to the stand alone N to get: SAE62A2 MN MR2, which Google Translate renders as “One of the mediators” or “One of the brokers”. When I do similar substitutions on the parenthetical beginning (TENE TFRNE . . .) it is roughly translated as “Calculate the combination of the old rates with your rates.” These seem to be business notes of someone trying to qualify for a loan or refinancing a mortgage.
    Now, I realize that many of these changes or substitutions may seem arbitrary, but they are all somewhat justifiable given the phonetics of the language. For example, changing F to Q is substituting one voiceless fricative for another: the F is labio-dental while the Q is velvar. We think of them as very different letters, but their sounds are similar: the F being made in the front of the mouth and the Q in the back. Similarly, in the first parenthetical I substituted “kh” for the first c, but not the second. While a code-breaker would see this as arbitrary, a linguist views this as recognition that the English C is pronounced two very different ways: the hard “C” and the soft “C”, one of these is taken to be a hard C and the other is a soft C. Someone whose native tongue is Arabic, but immigrated to the US or England at an early age might become literate in English, but remain unable to write in Arabic. If they were to write notes, they might use just this type of non-standard transliteration, using the Roman letters to approximate the sounds of their native language.

    Some further comments:

    1. Ricky McCormick worked for a Palestinian immigrant who until 2002 used the name David Ratigan.
    2. On June 18th, 1999 a David Ratigan purchased a house in Ballwin, MO 63011, a few blocks up the road from one of the larger mosques in St. Louis. The home was financed with a mortgage originated by CTX Mortgage.
    3. For the week of June 11th, 1999, the Wall Street Journal listed mortgage rates for 30-year fixed mortgages as follows: Month Ago: 7.10%, Last Week: 7.40%, This Week: 7.10%. These are the 71, 74 and 75 referred to in the note. (“NCBE” stands for rate or percentage and the numbers are written without a decimal point, as are almost all of the numbers in the note.)
    4. The “26 MLSE 74 . . . 29 KE . .. 73” line are notes from a conversation with a mortgage broker about the different indices and margins used for variable rate mortgages. For May 1999 (the last full month then available) the 1 year CMT (constant maturity treasury) index rate was 4.8%, which plus a 2.6% margin equals a 7.4% fully-indexed rate, the 3 month T-bill (on an investment yield basis) was 4.4% which when added to a 2.9% margin equals 7.3%. So 26 and 29 are the margins and 74 and 73 are the fully indexed rates. (The mortgage broker is explaining that you shouldn’t compare ARMs on the margin rate alone, that the index rate must be considered as well).
    5. The “65\” is a reference to the fact that 6.5% was the lowest rate ever for the 30-year fixed rate mortgage up to that time.
    6. The dot in “99.84” is not a decimal point, it is a dash “99-84”, noting that the decline in interest rates to 1999 had begun back in 1984, many years ago. (In the line above, the phrase “NCUTCTRS NMRE” if we render it as “NKUTH KTHR MN RE” this is a more standard transliteration of “نكوث اكثر من ير” which means “going back over the years of”.)
    7. The “35” refers to the preferred back-end debt to income ratio of 35% that would make it easy to qualify for a loan. (In that line DK, rendered as DKH becomes دخ or “Income” and “PSEHLE” rendered as “P2SHLE” becomes “بأسهل” meaning “the easiest”.)
    8. The line beginning “NMNRCB . . .” refers to the typical two point cap on annual rate increases. (NMN becomes “نمنع” which is the verb “prevent” or “bar” which is a loose translation of “cap” or “capped”; “R CBRNSE” is the “annual rate increase”; “WS” rendered as “ ‘us” or “أس” translates to “index” and “PTE” is probably “points”.)
    9. The line “(194 WLD’S NCBE) (TRFXL)”: WLD rendered as “ ‘uld” becomes “ألد” or “worst”, 194 is 19.4%, the worst possible rate. “NCBE” becomes “نسبي” for “proportional” or “NCB” becomes “نسب “ for “rates”, “TRFXL” written in a more standard transliteration becomes “TRQ KL” or “ترق كل” translated literally as “Lived all”, but better translated as “lifetime”. So the full line is: “(19.4% worst rate)(lifetime)”. 19.4% is the loan margin added to the maximum amount the 3-month t-bill index has ever been.

  29. avatar nickpelling January 22, 2014 2:56 pm

    Peter M: from what his family and friends have said, it seems clear that Ricky was barely literate in English, let alone in a non-standard transliteration of Arabic. Are you suggesting that someone else wrote the notes?

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  30. avatar Peter M January 22, 2014 11:05 pm

    Yes. According to the Riverfront Times article his boss and his boss’ family were Palestinian immigrants. Perhaps David Ratigan wrote the note and left it or dropped it at the gas station he owned (and where Ricky worked and might have picked it up).

  31. avatar Charles Witteck January 23, 2014 3:27 pm

    To Peter and Nick. Unless someone, somewhere can produce evidence
    to the contrary: yes, it is very unlikely Mr. McCormick wrote the eponymous notes. Such evidence would include, for example, samples of his handwriting or far more material than has been thus far on offer.

    Regarding whether “Notes” are cipher, substitution or otherwise:

    1. In any dark room mystery, one remains quite literally in the dark, unless some sort of key, or method of producing illumination to find a way out is found. Mr. McCormick’s, acquaintances, friends, arrest or criminal background may, or may not, be relevant. But, this ground,
    presumably covered adequately by local LEOs. (Again, the details of Ricky’s employment is sketchy at best. So, this is becomes another dead end.)

    2. However, there is one incontrovertible fact here glimpsed in the Riverfront account; especially, if Mr. McCormick journeyed as far as Lamberton Avenue, St. Louis Int’l Airport, as I have every reason to believe he did: petroleum.

  32. avatar Honest ABE March 22, 2014 3:25 pm

    I think I have solved part of it. There are actually more than one type of encryption that appears to be used. There appears to be a set of directions. And possibly locations. I am guessing that he was held just prior to his death based on what I see in the text.

  33. avatar Charles Witteck March 24, 2014 8:39 pm

    Abe. Honestly, I hope you have solved it. Though I suspect
    one or a combination of encryptions would have been decrypted by the CRRU after a decade in their possession.
    (It is, however, not without interest to note, seventy five hours after Mr. McCormick’s death, an early news item by Shane Anthony, does not mention any scrawled writing or “notes” later claimed to be found in the pocket of his jeans.This would not be revealed until 2011 when the FBI asked the public for assistance on the Notes.) Surely, the Bureau believed, but now(?) that a decoding of the Notes would lead to information about his possible whereabouts before his death. I’ve thought about this a bit: I do not think this is correct. Regarding directions and locations, though, there may be something to this: after all, consider the SE area of Missouri; there are two great geographical and topographical features, respectively,the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, essentially trisect it (i.e. Southeast Missouri & East St. Louis and downtown St. Louis, for a circumference of miles and miles. This includes the distended shape of St. Charles County, MO where, as it happens, Mr. McCormick’s body was apparently disposed of, or moved to. Whether one moves north or south, east or west, in this SEastern area you will come upon one of these rivers, so this leads me to tentatively conclude that whomever dumped the corpse knew this area somewhat well. (Consider, too, how Mr. McCormick was not even given the minimal dignity of a shallow grave. Why? Because whomever placed his corpse there, did so hurriedly, I believe, but cannot confirm, in haste.) However, if the “Notes” were “decoded” to reveal Mr. McCormick was, say, on the other side of E. St. Louis, the other side of the Mississippi river, say, Fairview Heights, IL, this would not necessarily contribute to finding how Mr. McCormick was killed. Especially, if he was on the other side of the Mississippi, (at several locations, in fact) where many witnesses had placed him before the (presumed date of his death), around June 27th.

  34. avatar charles witteck March 25, 2014 3:06 am

    Apologies, Abe. I erred in citing the Anthony article. It should have read “75 (or thereabouts) hours after the discovery of the corpse in July 1999″. The main point remains unchanged, but error accrue over time cause needless confusion.

  35. avatar Charles Witteck March 27, 2014 9:05 pm

    Peter M., I have rethought your earlier post, and you may be right about the idea of transliteration of some sort. (Not persuaded for various reasons it is Arabic, though.) The CRRU chief Olsen, then, too may also be correct if the original is not English that the “E” are break or rest, (or rather) silent vowels.
    If the original system, will call it L, for now, is not English, than could explain why Olsen hewed closely to the “laundry list idea” this would work, however, if the original system L is not written
    in English.” That is to say, an item list in English would, i think
    tend toward verticality, while the “Notes” have a very pronounced horizontality. I am going to work on a more fuller explantation soon, and appreciate the input of all on this site.
    Thanks.

  36. avatar Charles Witteck May 27, 2014 11:48 pm

    Ah, these “Notes” how they have become akin to a sort of bizarre, insistent music, that somehow, have gotten beneath my skin. All my efforts, thus far, have proven short of a complete unraveling ( of the “Notes” anyway!)

    I think Liz in her comments of July 31, 2013 have provided one partially correct, if unintended clue: Mr. McCormick was not alive in St. Charles county or what I heretofore believed, even at Lambert Avenue, St. Louis International Airport, via the Metrolink. No, I don’t think, alas, he made it that far.

    However, I suspect the truth will emerge, because it is allied to a still larger truth, assiduously hidden; but, like Mr. McCormick’s undignified corpse,it will become unburied, despite the best efforts of those who’d prefer to conceal their tracks.

  37. avatar asim July 6, 2014 8:30 am

    GLSE-SE ER+E
    new london missouri
    611184-184 417+4

  38. avatar Dan B August 11, 2014 4:16 pm

    Just how big were the bags?
    71 Ounce?
    74 Ounce?
    75 Ounce?

  39. avatar Charles Witteck September 11, 2014 12:42 pm

    Unpublished work by L & W Klim have produced yet another geographical angle to McCormick case. This research may yield answers to some questions surrounding the case. Why did Federal officials form a task force with local authorities in the earliest phase of the case? Why were the “Notes” revealed more than a decade later? Still (allegedly) without knowledge of their semantic or syntactic significance. Will keep VM posted with followups as they come in.

  40. avatar Charles Witteck September 22, 2014 8:29 pm

    RE: Sept. 11th comment. I wish to add several clarifications to last post. First, as I’ve stated in earlier messages, I am definitively suggesting nothing conspiratorial in regard to any government agencies. However, in light of more than a few cases of significant laxness (or as CBS News has put it, “dysfunctional”) governmental bureaucracies accross the entire Executive branch (State, Defense, Justice, Treasury, etc.) Mr. McCormick may have fallen through a crack much larger than anyone has previously suspected. The Government Accounting Office (GAO), is largely responsible for the herculaean task of keeping these
    monstrosities in check, as an official arm of the U.S. Congress. However, as Professor Alan Ryan has pointed out, Americans, (myself included) tend to be “self-congratulatory” about the idea (rather than the reality) of “check and balances”. The Legislature passes (and repeals) laws and attempts to balance (or fails to balance) Federal budgets after all, and by the time malfeasance or waste is uncovered it is far too late for anything to be done about it….

  41. avatar george r September 24, 2014 6:17 am

    the answer to the code is an imput method with rules repeting…..i have an ideea about the imput device, if it is lost you have no chance to decode……so i supose:
    1.the killer had it …papers can be omited on a fast body search but the device not
    2. after all this years de device is junk at his last residence or home, or on the location he was found
    3.i only hope its in a box of evidence
    4.where was last time seen ? with who?

  42. avatar Rafael melendez October 2, 2014 4:57 pm

    This is not encrypted is ease to read this he has something on a looker romm in wet and wild and the looker number and password is there

  43. avatar Charles Witteck October 6, 2014 8:44 pm

    To: George R. The notion of an “input” device is intriguing, and the accompanying notion of a key decoder-as-”one-off-pad”, has some a parallel, of course,(as several Cipher Mystery contributors have pointed out) in the Somerton Man case. However, it remains unclear (even apparently) to the authorities what, or for that matter,if the “Notes” are “encoded” in some strict crypto-mathematical fashion. (n.b. the authorities “simply” wish to identify what the symbols or sign could be represented in the ” Notes”, not the fate of the victim himself.)

    For me, the McCormick case has two (does anyone require more?)enormously frustrating aspects, “Finding (X)” and “Proving (X)”. The former aspect, would be initially
    easy, in other words, the “Notes” may make semantic sense, if and only if, the “key” (what the symbols or signs represent) could be found. In other words, a straightforward algorithm, in principle could be found to “decode” the message. If this view is mistaken, however, the problems would grow explosively very, very fast.

    The second aspect, “Proving (X)” is far more interesting, but I cannot expand upon this at the moment.

  44. avatar george r October 8, 2014 8:15 pm

    Charles Witteck….i belive you…sorry for mi english i’m from Romania..so sometimes i write like i speak…excusable….i hope ))))))))… i suposed that he used a device to encode his notes because he had no other posibility…mental or expensive ideeas…
    so a fool throw a rock in the lake and 10 wise guys are not capable to find it….in this case everibody ask why, but no one is realy loking for the rock)))))))….well………. if i share what i know on this site what’s in it for me ?
    i’ve seen crazy ideeas, complicated math, or algorithms, but in my opinion we must ask with what he could wrote those pages not how!!!!!!!!>>>>>thinking outside the box is to close the box and leave those complicated things in it ….
    and if he developed a code asociated to words and memorise it, we will never know!!!!!!

  45. avatar Charles E. Witteck October 10, 2014 6:32 pm

    George, not to worry, your English is better than my Roumanian. I concede your point: like your countryman, Ionesco, the case has an absurdist dimension to it.
    But, is that a feature of the case, or our fate as human beings?
    (what it is “in it for you?” if you share your information, is a question only can be answered for oneself. (For me, my allegiance is simple: (and yes, I have been publicly accused of being “simplistic” regarding it): the truth. Also, I do believe
    the victim’s family, ultimately, deserves to what happened to their son or nephew.)

    It may well be, too, that when the “exotic” possiblities of the “Notes” are exhausted what may remain, is a rather prosaic one.

    “The wise guys”, the authorities [?] you mention,are not able to find the “rock” because, I suspect, the documents were
    originally and mistakenly routed to the wrong department within our (US) troubled crime laboratory bureau. If had been processed by, say, a behavioral sciences unit, and not a cryptographic unit, the “crazy ideas, maths, and algorithms” you mention, may not have emerged at all. (Though, it should be noted, the signs, and symbols appear not to be random,
    that is “machine generated”, so they were made with some sort
    of intention, what that intention (mneumonic, acronomic, etc)
    was, remains, like the fate of what happened to the victim,
    upon which they were found, unknown.

  46. avatar Charles Witteck October 20, 2014 12:30 pm

    RE: October 10th post. Two typographical errors were made.
    First paragraph should read: ” deserves…to know….” Second paragraph, should’ve read: ” intention (mneumonic, acronymic, etc.)

  47. avatar george r October 21, 2014 11:01 am

    Charles Witteck……you are….simply……right….so…can you provide a link ore pictures from that date with the site crime? the position of the body, etc, i want to see if it was watter involved around the body……first pictures of the site?…is it posible?

  48. avatar Charles Witteck October 21, 2014 8:48 pm

    George, thanks for your gracious comments. Regarding pictures of the site where the body was found, their are various search engines available on the Internet that
    could provide, maps, pictures and even video of the site where the victim’s body was recovered.

    I don’t know whether I am right, or wrong, regarding this
    case. It does not matter; only that some sort of genuine effort was made on behalf of the victim. What really happened, and why? Perhaps you have some angle that might bring the whole matter greater clarity: the (encryption?)device you mentioned.

    For my part, I’ve come to look at the “Notes” differently.
    The central idea of the authorities: crack the code, and the
    author will become “visible” to them. I no longer think that may be true: the code tells us something about its author, yes; it is “cryptic”, yes; but the “map” it describes may not be entirely, or strictly geographical, as I wrote in earlier posts. Thus, their “author” remains “invisible” .(This is why, in part, I think the cryptanalysts were stumped: when is a cryptogram not a cryptogram? When it is not [strictly speaking a cryptogram.) How can the author of the “Notes”
    become ” visible”?

    Will provide further comments in near future. Thanks again for your kind words.

  49. avatar Torben October 24, 2014 9:59 pm

    I believe I have a likely solution to this mystery. It came to me when I initially saw the code and it actually fits perfectly with the background of McCormick’s personal history as well.

    Let’s put ourselves into the shoes of McCormick. He came back from a long journey and was facing eviction. This means a.) his trip wasn’t financially successful, otherwise he would have paid up and b.) he will have had relationship trouble coming along with about any eviction stress. In short he was out of luck. He likely then did something (maybe to get money) which didn’t resonate well with his killer. Actually to me, it doesn’t matter what he did to whom or who killed him – my guess is it was about some criminal activity, maybe drugs or also just an argument he had. For the code, these circumstances don’t really matter.

    He was illiterate, maybe “a retard” as his own mother called him. At he same time, he has a code on him that is perceived so complex that it remains unsolved for now more than a decade. And which hasn’t been carefully drafted in writing but which was rather quickly scribbled onto a piece of paper. This would hint towards the author to be a true genius to be able to create such a coded message on the fly.

    I believe it is not a a code. If you ever have been to a psychatric ward, you will have seen patients with thought disorder. Thought Disorder/Hypergraphia can have many different symptoms, especially when combined with psychosis. Patients repeat the same words over and over, sometimes syllables or they make up new words. This is what I believe happened to McCormick. He came back from Florida already changed, as his girlfriend recalled. The financial stress, eviction fear and relationship trouble then put him over the edge. He was unable to write anything other than his name his parents said and they should know. In an acute psychotic phase he however scribbled letters on a piece of paper. These texts are usually characterized by repetitions and long strings of words or symbols. And it is all here: the SEs, the NCBEs, the long chain of symbols.

    He scribbled this text on some paper, stuffed it in his pants, went off to get some money and was killed. The last days of McCormick. I don’t think there is a code, it is the scribbles of a mentally deranged man with acute psychosis that happened to be in his pants when he was killed.

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