One of the most interesting sub-genres of detective fiction is the “locked room mystery”. A crime is committed in a location where it is deemed impossible for the perpetrator to have committed the crime or escaped without being seen coming or going from the crime scene. The crime scene offers no hints of how a perpetrator could have entered or exited. For example, a murder that was committed in a locked room.
March 8th, 2008 Colorado Springs, Colorado. Joshua Maddux was living a fairly carefree life. He had just turned 18 and was looking to find work either writing or playing music. He did well in school and seemed to have a path figured out for himself. That morning, Joshua left his parent’s home to take a walk, and never came back.
His father, Mike Maddux, reported him missing on March 13th. Joshua’s parents considered the possibility that Joshua had just outgrown them. Since he had recently come of age, they figured he may have just decided to get a jumpstart on his career as a writer or a musician (shedding off his parents in the process). They also had to consider his mental state. Just two years earlier, Joshua’s older brother Zachary had taken his own life. With the anniversary rapidly approaching, Mike Maddux wondered if his son had gone on a walkabout in remembrance of Zachary.
After receiving no communication, Mike, along with Joshua’s other family members, began searching campgrounds, homeless shelters, and bus stations searching for him. No one could believe that the quiet and untroubled Joshua had run afoul of anyone. Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to months. And finally, months turned to years. Mike Maddux never gave up hope. When he moved a few years after Joshua’s disappearance, he didn’t sell the home he had lived in with Josh, just in case he decided to come back.
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Kate Maddux, Joshua’s sister, had hoped he had disappeared with purpose, to start a band or write the next great American novel:
“Since Josh was 18, it has been reasonable to assume he may have decided to leave town to start a new life. As one of his two older sisters, I have always chosen to believe that this was the case. I have expected Josh to return home to my father’s house at any time with a wife and small children so that they can meet their grandparents and two aunts. Josh has always been known for his musical and literary talent, so maybe we could find him playing music with a band on tour, or catch him writing successful novels under a pen name so that he could keep his preferred lifestyle of solitude in the woods”.
August 6th, 2015:
Chuck Murphy, a native of Colorado Springs, was sick of his cabin. It had sat vacant as a temporary storage unit since 2005. A builder by trade, Murphy wanted to develop the land the cabin was on so it could start making him money. Demolition began, and as an excavator smashed through the chimney of the cabin, it revealed a grisly and heartbreaking sight.
A body was in the chimney. It was curled into the fetal position. Its knees were above its head, and it held a hand over its mouth. The police were called, and with the help of the county coroner and dental records, the body was identified as Joshua Maddux. The cabin was just a quarter of a mile from Joshua’s home. Who knew that finding the body wouldn’t be the end of this mystery. In fact, it felt very much like the beginning.
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An autopsy was performed, with the coroner finding no signs of trauma, no broken bones, no bullet holes. No one knew how Joshua Maddux had died. For reasons that have never been explained, after Joshua went missing, and during the extensive searches all over the city for him…no one had ever checked the cabin. Murphy, the owner of the cabin, almost never visited and said that during his visits, he had never noticed anything strange.
The only thing the coroner would say about the state Joshua was found in was that it was not instant death. With no wounds or trauma, it initially appeared that Joshua had died of hypothermia. This is speculation, as no definitive cause of death has ever been released. The coroner declared that the death was accidental and that it appeared that Joshua had tried to climb down the chimney and had gotten stuck. With no adjacent houses, no one would have heard him yelling for help.
After seeing this statement, Chuck Murphy was incensed. He released his own statement stating that he had installed a rebar-reinforced grate over the top of the chimney to keep out pests. With the grate in place, Joshua could not have entered the chimney. The coroner fired back that the grate could have been rusted, and that no one on site had seen the grate. Unsatisfied, Murphy let him know that the grate was removed during demolition, but before the discovery of Joshua’s body.
Things weren’t adding up. On top of the revelation that the chimney was blocked, the coroner also discovered that a large breakfast bar had been torn from the wall and placed over the fireplace. Murphy has stated he did not move it. Who did? When found, Joshua was only wearing a thermal undershirt. His other clothes, and his shoes, were found neatly placed next to the chimney.
After reopening the case, and admitting that the pieces of the puzzle didn’t fit exactly, the coroner later went on to re-rule the death as an accident, insisting that Joshua tried to climb down the chimney. While this was happening, tips were pouring in. One of the tips came from a Reddit post written by someone who claimed to have gone to school with Joshua.
“I went to high school with this skinny dorky hippy named Andy who played guitar in a band. I was never good friends with him or anything, but a year or so after I graduated, one of my good friends, Josh, started hanging out with him and then went missing. Last I heard, Andy was telling another friend, “Yeah, me and josh have been spending a lot of time together, we’re planning a trip to New Mexico”.
The Andy is Andrew Newman. He did go to New Mexico in 2009, where he stabbed a disabled man that he lived with. He went on the run then and was captured in Texas a few months later. After being detained, he admitted to the stabbing and to a robbery in Washington. He would go on to claim that he had killed a woman in Taos, New Mexico. The police had already a suspect in that case and charged them instead of Andrew.
Joshua’s friends had reportedly tried to get the police to investigate Andrew from the start, but were allegedly told that Joshua was probably alive and living elsewhere. People close to Andrew have reportedly heard him brag, “I put Josh in a hole”. He has never been investigated for the death of Joshua Maddux.
The case remains to this day, unsolved.
So what do you think? Was Joshua Maddux murdered and stuffed into a chimney, or was this a simple case of misadventure? Let me know in the comments. You can also find me on Instagram @DreadTheUnsolved, on Twitter @DreadUnsolved, or on Facebook. Tips can be sent to TheUnsolved@DreadCentral.com. Thanks for watching.