Mollie Chambers

While Christmas this year amidst a pandemic was strange for me, nothing can compare to Christmas for the Sodder family in 1975.

In Fayetteville, North Carolina on Christmas Eve, George and Jennie Sodder were asleep in their home along with their nine children. In the middle of the night, the couple was woken up by the smell of smoke. Upon leaving their room, they discovered a fire had started in the home. George and Jennie were able to escape the blaze along with only four of their children.

The children remaining inside were Maurice , Martha, Louis, Jennie, and Betty. All five of the children shared two bedrooms upstairs. George attempted to go back for the remaining children but by the time he got back inside the staircase was in flames.

In another attempt to save his children, Sodder went to retrieve his ladder. However, upon looking he realized that both his ladder and two coal trucks had been moved away from under the children’s window. This seems to me like it was someone’s attempt to keep George from saving his children. While I believe that the misplacement of these things could have been a coincidence, this was only the beginning of strange occurrences surrounding the Sodder children.

The first of these strange occurrences being the behavior of law enforcement regarding the house fire. Marion, one of the children who escaped the home, went to a neighbor's house to call 911 but her call received no answer. Marian even went to another neighbor’s home to call authorities and was met with the same fate. Finally, one of the neighbors drove into town and alerted the fire chief about the fire.

Despite the fire station being merely 2.5 miles away from the Sodder family home, it took the fire crew seven hours to arrive at the home. These two indisents were what first led me to believe the house fire was premeditated. I think it's highly unlikely that officials would take that long to get to the scene of a fire unless they had been instructed otherwise. Not to mention how bizarre it is that neither of the Sodder’s neighbors could get in contact with the fire department.

The bizarre occurrences continued once law enforcement finally reached the Sodder home that was now only a pile of ash. Authorities looked through the ashes and found no signs of the five children that had been inside. This led officials to presume the children were dead due to the fire. The fire chief believed that the fire cremated the children’s remains. However, it was later discovered that even when flesh is burned, bone fragments are typically left behind. 

While this scenario seems odd to me, things get even weirder when the authorities come up with the cause of the fire. The fire chief seemed to believe that the fire had been started due to faulty wiring. George tried to argue that the wiring in the home had been checked just earlier that month and had been deemed safe.

I understand that freak accidents can occur, however I do not believe that the Sodder home caught on fire due to the home’s wiring. The lack of human remains along with a suspicious house fire leads me to believe that the children were kidnapped.

I also come to this conclusion after looking into the family’s past, specifically the past of George Sodder’s. George was an Italian immigrant who moved to Fayetteville due to it having a close-knit community filled with other Italian immigrants. George was outspoken about his dislike for Mussolini and this seemed to anger other members of the community. Sodder also never revealed why he left Italy, which led many to believe he was involved in shady business pertaining to the Italian mafia.

If anyone could pull off starting a fire and convince local officials to stay away I believe it could be the mafia. I believe some powerful organization was behind all these occurrences thus far.

One major clue that leads me to believe that the Sodder children were abducted is the numerous times they have reportedly been sighted in public. The Sodder children were allegedly spotted both the night of the fire and in the morning after the fire by two separate witnesses. Each witness was able to describe each of the children perfectly and claimed that they were occupied by two women and two men.

Both George and Jennie Sodder believe their children were kidnapped and have pulled out all the stops to attempt to locate their children. George Sodder even hired a private investigator to seek out every lead tied to the whereabouts of his children, however they all came up empty. The Sodder family also had a giant billboard on Route 16 advertising their missing children where it has remained for the last 40 years.

Despite the parents' tireless efforts to locate their children, Okey L. Patterson held a hearing where he officially declared the Sodder case closed. He even told the parents that continuing the search for their children was hopeless.

The disappearance of the Sodder children saddens me deeply. I feel as though the Sodder family was done wrong in every way. I feel like the disappearance of these children had to be an inside job seeing as though officials were so quick to give up. I can only hope that one day the truth comes out about what really happened to the Sodder children. 

Mollie Chambers is a sophomore majoring in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at mollcham@vols.utk.edu.

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

 
 

 

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