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FBI Needs Your Help to Break Code, Solve Cold Case

St. Louis Post Dispatch


Ricky McCormick was found dead on June 30, 1999, near a cornfield off Highway 367 in St. Charles County. In his shirt pocket, investigators found two coded notes.

They were never able to crack the codes.

Today, nearly 12 years later, the FBI wants the public's help in a new attempt to break the codes and, maybe, help solve the mystery of how and why the 41-year-old St. Louis man died.

The FBI believes he was murdered, and so do the St. Charles County sheriff's detectives who originally worked the case. But evidence from the medical examiner's office only allowed them to classify it as a 'suspicious death," said Lt. Craig McGuire of the sheriff's office. Investigators were intrigued by an apparent head injury, but McCormick's body had decomposed enough to stop short of making a clear ruling of homicide.

The case has been reviewed by detectives over the years but has essentially gone cold, McGuire said. The two notes filled with a scribbled jumble of capital letters, numbers and parentheses were discovered in the early stages of the investigation. McGuire does not know why they were not made public at the time.

According to the FBI, McCormick was a high school dropout who had experimented with codes and ciphers his whole life. Investigators believe he wrote the two notes within days of being killed.

"We asked the family, and they said he did it quite often," McGuire said. "Nobody really knows what it means. It's kind of like private diary writing."

The system McCormick devised was cryptic enough to stump multiple experts with the FBI's Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit. With no leads, and given the unique nature of the case, the agency on Tuesday posted McCormick's codes on its website to challenge the public to try solving the mystery.

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posted: 3/31/2011

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