Five of the Sodder children were assumed dead by all except their parents, who had begun to piece together the strange occurrences leading up to and after the fire. Just before the family went to bed that night Jennie (one of the daughters presumed dead) answered the phone.
When she later recounted this event to her father she said that there was a woman on the other end that asked for someone Jennie had never heard of. The woman laughed and Jennie thought she heard others in the room with the woman just before she hung up abruptly.
Around 1:30 a.m. some of the children recalled hearing something land on the roof of their house followed by a rolling sound just before the fire broke out. Coupled with eyewitness accounts of balls of flame rising up over the house and then lading on the roof, began to paint a sinister picture of what truly happened that night.
A telephone repair man who had gone out after the fire noticed that the wires had been cut. This was obviously strange to George as it had been reported to him that the start of the fire was an electrical malfunction; but if this were the cause, then why had the lights downstairs been illuminated as they escaped the fire?
The family continued to search for clues among the rubble and eventually they found a few bones and a charred organ. Their hearts sank as they considered this to be the evidence that would prove their children had died, but after examination it turned out that the bones belonged to someone much older than the children and the organ was, in fact, a cow’s liver. Evidence that didn’t fit. Evidence that appeared to be planted.
They brought their findings and suspicions to the police, but law enforcement refused to reopen the case, insisting that their investigation had showed that the children died in the fire. They advised George and Jennie to stop torturing themselves and to grieve for their dead children. But George and Jennie would do no such thing.
A billboard was erected near the site of the Sodder’s old home which announced a $10,000 reward for the safe return of their children. They talked to neighbors, eyewitnesses, anyone who would listen to their story. A bus driver claimed that she saw the missing children peering from a passing car while the fire was in progress. At the time she didn’t think much of it, until she began to see their pictures around the town.
George and Jennie even contacted the FBI for help, but were denied federal assistance as it was “not within the investigation jurisdiction” of the bureau.
For years new tips would come in sparking a glimmer of hope that would always be extinguished. Stories of sightings and supposed pictures would come in periodically. Twenty years after the fire, in 1968, Jennie received an envelope in the mail addressed only to her. The postmark came from Kentucky, but there was no return address. It contained a photo of a young man and on the back it read:
I love brother Frankie.
Ilil Boys. A90132 or 35.”
Louis was nine years old at the time of his disappearance and the man in the picture did have a striking resemblance to Louis as a boy. They were convinced that this was their son, but unfortunately the photo was the only correspondence they would ever receive.
One year after the letter arrived, George died at the age of 74. After this, Jennie only ever wore black, mourning over her lost children, the loss of her husband, and the loss of hope of ever finding her five children. She had a fence erected around their house and continued to build rooms within the house; effectively placing barrier after barrier between her and the outside world. She died twenty years after her husband, in 1989.
The billboard erected by the Sodders has since come down, but the children and grandchildren continue to investigate the bizarre circumstances surrounding that night.
Sylvia, the youngest sibling, now age 72, was only two at the time of the fire, but she says she can recall seeing her father’s bleeding arm and the chaos unfolding that night. She does not believe that her brothers and sisters perished that night. But after so much time has passed- there is little hope she’ll ever see them again.