Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Joubert, Nebraska Boy Snatcher

A Reckoning

Two years earlier, on the evening of August 22, 1982, Richard "Ricky" Stetson, eleven years old, had gone out jogging in Back Cove, not far from his home in Portland.  His family had passed by him in the car, so they knew where he'd been the last time they spoke to him that day.  He didn't return by dark, and they looked everywhere for him, to no avail.  They knew that something terrible had happened, so they called the police.

Witnesses who had been in the area of Back Cove that evening recalled seeing the red-headed boy in the gray sweats out jogging.  Many of them also recalled that another young man with dark hair was riding behind him on a ten-speed bicycle.  Someone else, says Pettit, saw that young man riding in the opposite direction shortly before nine o'clock, and he was alone.  But it was dark out now and difficult to see, so the police decided that a search would have to wait until daylight.

The next morning, a man driving along highway I-295 spotted a body by the side of the road, near a bridge.  The male decedent appeared at first to have been the victim of a hit-and-run, but it became clear that he'd been stabbed to death and that there had been some attempt to undress him.  His jogging pants were pulled over his hips, and his sweatshirt seemed to have been removed and put back on.  The victim was young Ricky Stetson.

The autopsy indicated that Ricky had died from strangulation, resulting in asphyxia. He had also been stabbed in the chest, and there were bite marks on him made by human teeth, which had been slashed over with a knife, as if to obliterate them.  But the bruise from the bite showed that the killer had a distinctive set of teeth, which would make a comparison possible, should they find a suspect.

A suspect was charged with murder, but his teeth did not match the imprint and there was no conclusive evidence against him, so after a year and a half, he was freed in 1984. 

That's when the detectives learned about the arrest of John Joubert.

Hair samples and dental impressions made the case against him.  Dr. Lowell Levine, the director of the Forensic Science Unit for the New York State Police, confirmed that Joubert had bitten Stetson.  Joubert was indicted for the boy's murder.  It took nearly another five years, but Joubert was finally convicted late in 1990, and sentenced in Maine to life without parole.  Should his sentence in Nebraska ever be commuted, and should he get parole, he would have to go to Maine to serve his time.  In other words, he'll never get out of prison.


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