5 of Most Shocking True Crime Stories of 2020, From the Case of the Missing Idaho Kids to Pop Smoke's Killing

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks with journalists during a rally
Photo by Maxim ZMEYEV / AFP) (Photo by MAXIM ZMEYEV/AFP via Getty Images

The top five true crime stories to happen in 2020.

The Hip-Hop Community Mourns Rising Artist Pop Smoke

The hip-hop community reckoned with a loss earlier this year, when Bashar Jackson, otherwise known as “Pop Smoke”, an up-and-coming Brooklyn-based rapper whose songs that were produced by 50 Cent topped the charts, was shot dead in his house during a break-in on Feb. 19. Four suspects in hoodies were caught on surveillance footage, entering the Hollywood Hills home around 4:30 a.m. where the 20-year-old rapper was staying. The break-in ended in Jackson being shot in the torso. He later died at the hospital. The rapper was renting the multimillion-dollar home from Real Housewives of Beverly Hills Teddi Mellencamp and her husband’s home through a third-party agency, Vulture reported.

Two adults and two teenagers were charged in connection to the death of the artists on July 13. Corey Walker, 19, and Keandre Rodgers, 18, were charged with killing the rapper during the robbery, according to the Los Angeles Times, which cited a news release issued by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office. Walker pleaded not guilty and his next hearing is February 21, the district attorney's office said. Rodgers is being tried in juvenile court along with a 17-year-old and a 15-year-old who were also charged with murder and robbery in a juvenile court. 

Vanessa Guillen’s Murder Leads to Sexual Assault Reform in the Military

Vanessa Guillen, a Fort Hood soldier who went missing from the nation’s third-largest military base on April 22, was later found over a month later about 20 miles from the base, buried in concrete, dismembered and burned, Inside Edition Digital previously reported. Prosecutors on July 2 charged a soldier identified as U.S. Army Specialist Aaron Robinson, 20, with her killing. But Robinson fatally shot himself with a pistol a few days before the charges were made public.

His 22-year-old girlfriend, Cecily Aguilar, was also arrested for allegedly assisting in dismembering and burning her remains after Robinson allegedly confessed to hitting Guillen on the head with a hammer, killing her, and hiding her body in a box, according to the criminal complaint. Aguilar was indicted by a grand jury in Waco, Texas for tampering with documents or proceedings including the body of Guillen. She pleaded not guilty on all counts and is being held without bail.

Guillen was born and raised in Houston along with her five siblings, according to The New York Times. She enlisted as a soldier when she was 18. Soon after the news of her horrific death, Guillen’s family said that their daughter was a victim of sexual harassment at the Texas base, and was afraid to report it, Inside Edition Digital previously reported.

U.S. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced that Fort Hood has the highest number of sexual assaults and harassment in the entire branch of the military. The details of Guillen’s case have revealed the abuse and fear that have haunted women in the military, ever since they were legally admitted into the military in the 1940s. Thousands of women have come forward to social media platforms to post photos of themselves in uniform and sharing their stories of abuse and how they say their cries for help were ignored. A movement was conceived, lead by the hashtag #IAmVanessaGuillen  ––and a bill with the same name is pending in Congress that will create an independent board to review claims of abuse and encourage military members to talk about their sexual harassment and assault experiences.

An investigation into Army officials at Fort Hood led to the firing and suspension of 14 individuals, some high-ranking, after finding “major flaws” at the base for fostering an environment “that was permissive of sexual harassment and sexual assault,” the Times reported.

Chad and Lori Daybell Case Unravels Into Bizarre Findings

For over a year, the disappearance of siblings Joshua “JJ” Vallow, 7, and Tylee Ryan, 16, has led investigators into a dizzying goose chase ––leading them from East Idaho, to Hawaii, and ultimately to a backyard in Rexburg where the young children’s bodies were found buried beneath the soil. 

Lori Vallow Daybell, the biological mother to Tylee and the adoptive mother of JJ, and her husband Chad Daybell were arrested in connection to the deaths of the children after their remains were found on Chad’s property in June 2020 –– months after they were reported missing without a trace, Inside Edition Digital previously reported.

The last time anyone saw Tylee was on a trip with JJ, Lori, and their uncle, Alex, after a Sept. 9, 2019 visit to Yellowstone National Park. JJ was last seen at his elementary school in Rexburg nearly two weeks after, on Sept. 23. The day after, Lori unenrolled the boy from Kennedy Elementary School with the alleged plans to homeschool him, the principal told East Idaho News.

After the kids were not seen for months, a welfare check was requested on behalf of JJ’s grandmother in late November. When authorities arrived at their home, authorities say Lori and Chad, newly married, told police that JJ was staying with family friends in Arizona. Police returned the next day, to discover both Lori and Chad “abruptly vacated their residence,” Inside Edition Digital reported. The couple allegedly fled to Kauai –- and Lori was given until Jan. 30 to produce the children to authorities. She did not produce the children and was eventually arrested and extradited back to Idaho. After many more months of searching for the kids, they were eventually found on June 9, 2020, buried in Chad’s backyard, and he was subsequently arrested.

During the investigation, detectives learned that the couple has adopted beliefs that the children became “zombies,” according to an unsealed affidavit. Their friend, Melanie Gibb, told investigators that the couple believed that while a zombie's "dark spirit" is inhabiting a person's body, "the person’s true spirit goes into 'limbo' and is stuck there until the host body is physically killed," adding that it was a belief Lori had learned from Chad. 

They are set to go to trial in 2021. The case has also led investigators to look into a number of suspicious deaths surrounding the couple including Chad’s first wife, Tammy, Lori’s fourth husband, Charles, and her brother, Alex.

Lori and Chad are charged with conspiracy to commit destruction, alteration, or concealment of evidence. They have both pleaded not guilty to all charges. They have not been charged with murder. Both are being held in Idaho jail on $1 million bond. 

Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny Poisoned 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny mysteriously fell into a coma after falling ill on a flight from Serbia to Moscow on Aug. 20, Inside Edition reported. He was airlifted to a hospital in Berlin for treatment where he remained in a coma for a month. It was later announced that the outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin was poisoned by a nerve agent known as Novichok. Navalny was denied registration as a candidate in the March 2018 presidential election, NPR reported.

In the past, other high-ranking officials have been poisoned with Novichok. Former KGB agent, Alexander Litvinenko, who died in 2006 after being fed a dose of penomium. And Boris Berezovsky, a Russian oligarch, also died in 2013 under suspicious circumstances in the U.K. 

The poison is a “very conspicuously Russian poison,” Heidi Blake, an investigative journalist, told Inside Edition. “There are a lot more subtle ways within the armory of the Russian state to kill people.”

“That attack was intended to send a message to traitors, that if you cross Vladimir Putin, your life is in danger,” she added.

A recent report by a research group in Bellingcat details that security agents and two doctors are connected to Navalny’s poisoning. The findings suggest that Navalny may have been poisoned through ingestion of a cocktail at his hotel the night before, in a shampoo bottle he used, added to his laundry, or even put on a pillowcase or towel he used, CNN reported. At the end of the year news conference, Putin denied any government involvement in the poisoning despite Navalny's insistence that the ordeal was approved by the leader, NPR reported. Earlier this year, the president, now 68, was the driving force behind a constitutional change that allows him to run two additional six-year terms, the outlet reported.

Psychologist Kills Twin Daughters, Then Herself in Murder-Suicide That Rattles Small Washington Town 

A licensed psychologist in Washington fatally shot her twin 7-year-old daughters as they slept before pulling the trigger on herself in a murder-suicide that rattled their small town, Inside Edition Digital previously reported. The bodies of the children and their mother, Michele Boudreau Deegan, 55, were found on Oct. 24. Investigators believe the primary motive behind the grisly killing was over a custody dispute. Deegan has specialized in mental health since 1990, according to her website. 

Investigators said that evidence from the scene leads them to believe that Boudreau had planned the killing for several days, the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said. They also said that she stated her suicidal ideations and “that she would never leave her daughters alone without her,” according to Oxygen.

Deegan and her estranged husband were awarded joint custody of their daughters just days before on Oct. 20. The sheriff’s office ruled out any involvement from Deegan’s estranged husband.