Disclaimer: the following story contains graphic details that some readers may find disturbing

Margaret Martin, a 19-year-old woman from Luzerne County, Pennsylvania disappeared mysteriously shortly after completing a few courses at Wilkes-Barre Business College with honors in December of 1938.

17 days after graduating, a neighbor who took calls for the Martin family received a message offering Margaret a job. This anonymous caller claimed to be new in town, setting up an insurance company, and was in need of a secretary. The assumption the Martins made was that Margaret’s alma mater must have recommended her to this potential employer, so Margaret arranged to meet the caller at Kingston Corners, not too far from her family home.

Margaret was last seen alive by a man who lived in an apartment at Kingston Corners who saw her getting into a brown automobile. According to this man, the person driving the car Margaret got into was a male between the ages of 25 and 30, and was slightly overweight.

When Margaret didn’t arrive home that night, the Martin family contacted the police, and launched a search party.

During this time, a six-month long strike took over the local newspapers, so Margaret’s disappearance wasn’t well publicized. In the few articles published that detailed her disappearance, it was noted that police were checking into the possibility that Margaret had been abducted by a man running a “white slave ring.”

After being deemed missing for four days, 19-year-old hunter, Anthony Rezykowski made a terrible discovery. While laying traps along the Keelersburg Creek in Wyoming County, he came across a burlap sack in the icy water. Jutting out of the sack was human remains. 

At that very moment, the search for Margret Martin was over.

Bruises and slashes covered her abdomen and legs. By the looks of it, she had been brutally abused. It is presumed that the killer had attempted to dismember her. Before being tossed into the river, Martin had been sexually assaulted, strangled, and battered with a weighty rock. Her body had also been bound with a clothesline, jamming her legs underneath her chin, in the burlap sack.

Identifying her body was a traumatizing task for her mother.

Dozens of state troopers were called upon to search the sow-covered land surrounding the creek where Martin was found. Within the next few days, the state troopers came to the belief that Martin had been murdered after being abducted by a “maniac with a cruel, distorted mind.”

They soon received an anonymous tip from somebody claiming that they had overheard the anonymous caller who made the mysterious telephone call to Martin, offering her a job. The caller was described as man between 25 and 30 years of age, with sandy colored hair. He was said to be “neat” and “suave.” This was the only tangible clue the investigative team and to go off of.

What came to light was this: the original caller had called Martin’s alma mater at approximately 9:15 a.m. on the morning of Dec. 17, the same day Martin had received the call. The Wilkes-Barre Business College gave the caller the names of two students, the second one being Margaret Martin.

There is speculation around why the caller never contacted the first student. The conclusion that many have settled on is that it’s possible that the caller had the intentions of targeting Martin in the first place, and knew that the school would share her phone number with him.

The in-depth search surrounding the creek Martin was found in turned up no clues that could point investigators in the killer’s direction, as it had snowed directly after Martin’s body was found. If there had been and trace of the killer at the scene, the snow had made the perfect cover-up.

Determined to keep looking, the team of investigators reached a breakthrough, and found the site where Martin had been tortured and murdered. Approximately 15 miles away from this location, inside of a steam boiler of an abandoned sawmill, was a pile of burnt clothes matching what Martin was wearing on the day of her disappearance. Hidden in the ash were piece of Martin’s jewelry as well.

A man living nearby the sawmill reported seeing light from the sawmill’s fire around 9 p.m. the same day Martin went missing. He explained to investigators that he had fired numerous warning shots in the direction of the abandoned mill, but ceased to investigate further, as he believed it was just a trespasser. What came to light after was the notion that it must’ve not been “just a trespasser” occupying the mill, but the possible killer of Martin.

Investigators quickly found a man and woman’s footprints frozen in mud outside of the sawmill. Suddenly the woman’s set of footprints in disappeared, and thereafter it was only the man’s tracks and signs that an object had been dragged.

On the day that Martin had planned on attending a Kingston High School alumni dance, Dec. 24, she was buried in the cemetery of St. Ignatius Church. Several police officers undercover in civilian clothes scanned the 1,000 mourners paying their respects to Martin, believing that the killer may show up at his victim’s funeral. After he didn’t show up, the Martin family attempted to gain closure.

The main theory that speculators have come to is that the killer was a local man, as he was seemingly familiar with the rugged terrain of the area. The abandoned sawmill that Martin’s clothes were found wasn’t in an easily accessible location. The killer had to have known exactly where it was, and know that it was abandoned. Another theory drawn to by locals was that the killer had a past criminal record, and was actually a serial killer from another town, but the police didn’t have the means to be able to track a killer like this during the time period.

Four years after Martin’s murder, 21-year-old Orban Taylor turned himelf into authorities, and confessed to her murder. After 20 hours a questioning, Taylor admitted to fabricating the confession. Nevertheless, the police force investigated into Taylor’s claims. In addition to the fact that Taylor didn’t fit the physique of the man who abducted Martin, no evidence was found to support his possible involvement in Martin’s murder.

For years following Martin’s murders, the search for her killer plagued the Wyoming Valley, and left many residents terrified to leave their houses. It is now over 50 years after Martin’s murder, and police are hopeful that this case will ever be solved. Some citizens of Luzerne County still ponder on whatever happened to Martin’s killer. Why’d he do it? Was he ever caught for something else? Is he still out there?

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By Brooke Boyer

Brooke is a senior at TCHS and Editor in Chief for the Timber Creek Talon. She loves theatre and bad karaoke.

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