Unsolved Mysteries: The Husband Did It

Dottie disappeared on her way to the train station. Her husband wrote to his secret fiancé that he would do anything for her, “even kill.”

Image for post
Image for post

Last summer I was in the mood to binge watch something nostalgic and settled on old episodes of Unsolved Mysteries, the original version with Robert Stack. As I made my way through the episodes I began to notice a theme emerge: almost every case involving a missing or murdered woman was clearly linked to domestic violence.

Having been a domestic and sexual violence victim advocate for 7+ years, I noticed the red flags pop up here and there throughout each story. I began tweeting about the things I noticed, and also about the research I had done after watching the episodes, but it was difficult to adequately tweet out the nuances of each case and how they were linked to something as complex as domestic violence (DV).

This writing is my attempt at a more nuanced story-telling.

For legal purposes, the husband in this case was never charged with crimes against his spouse. I have no physical evidence at all, only circumstantial evidence, the narrative given to us by those involved, and extensive knowledge on the dynamics of domestic and sexual violence. I have tried to make it clear when giving my opinion versus stating objective facts of the case.

The case of Dorothy “Dottie” Caylor is on season 1, episode 1 of Unsolved Mysteries.

Image for post
Image for post

Here is the narrative according to Robert Stack:

The last time Dottie was reportedly seen was June 12, 1985. Her husband, Jule Caylor, claims he was the last one to see her.

Jule says that on June 12 he drove Dottie to the Concord BART station in Pleasant Hill, California for an overnight trip with a friend. Dottie suffered from agoraphobia so the trip was a big deal for her.

Well, after the first few days I thought she had left temporarily to — well, simply to make things inconvenient for me. — Jule

Diane Rusnak, Dottie’s sister, says it’s possible Dottie disappeared to punish Jule for being gone most of their marriage, but doesn’t think it is likely.

Image for post
Image for post

In 1981 their marriage became physically violent. Dottie’s friend, Paula Powers, says Jule hit Dottie over the head with a board after they had an argument, and that Dottie grabbed a pair of scissors in defense and told him to leave her alone.

Jule claims that Dottie started the fight:

And she was standing over top of me with those scissors, swearing at me and saying “I’ll kill you, you son of a bitch, I’ll kill you.” And I grabbed her little typing stand and hit her with it.

In 1984 Dottie joined a support group called “Women in Transition” and secretly went to meetings without telling Jule. She opened a private bank account, PO box, and credit cards in her name. She took out a $5k cashiers check in her name shortly before disappearing.

Image for post
Image for post

A month before Dottie disappeared, Jule says he told her he got a promotion and that they would have to move to Salt Lake City, but she refused to go with him. He says that the next day he returned home early from work and got off at the Concord BART station. He got to his car and noticed Dottie’s car parked next to his with her purse inside.

She told me how important it was to her to have her purse with her all the time. She felt secure if she felt she had a lot of her things with her. And she felt safe out in the world. That’s one of the things that made me feel so terribly upset when I realized that she had not taken her purse with her. — Shelley Wilson, Dottie’s friend

Over the next few days Jule returned to Dottie’s car and left notes for her, pleading with her to come home. He didn’t report her missing until five days had passed.

Two weeks after Dottie disappeared Jule moved to Salt Lake City.

I suspect that she either willfully disappeared and then was helped to permanently disappear, or perhaps just got in with the wrong person, right at the start. It was living hell living with Dottie. It was hell having her disappear the way that she did. And yet, since I’ve gotten here and gotten settled and into a new job and that whole problem is behind me, things are really pretty good. — Jule

Image for post
Image for post

Since 1985, and the airing of the episode, new information has come to light. Here is what I found:

When Dottie first met Jule he told her his name was “Jim Rupp” because he was already married with a child and he didn’t want her to find out.

Before Dottie disappeared she told friends and family that she was afraid of Jule. Six months before she disappeared, Jule was engaged to a woman he had met on a business trip to Colorado and they purchased rings. Dottie was unaware of the affair.

Jule announced that he accepted a new position in Utah with the US Department of Forestry in June 1985, but Dottie’s family says she planned to stay in Concord. She told Jule she wanted a divorce and they agreed that she would pay him for half of the house, and that when he went to Utah she would own the whole house. She packed up his belongings and put them in storage. Dottie told family members that at that time he threatened her.

In 2006, a 140-page search warrant was filed asserting that Dottie was murdered by her husband Jule in the home they shared. The affidavit contained two documents never before released: a four-page letter Jule left in Dottie’s car, and a mysterious letter and map that alleged Dottie was murdered in her garage, and that gave vague directions to where her body is said to be buried beneath the roots of a birch tree. The affidavit included information about Jule signing a contract on June 7, 1985, even though he told police he was forced to do so because Dottie disappeared on June 12th.

The affidavit included information on the letters Jule wrote to his fiance in Colorado saying he made a “Herculean effort” to be with her, and it was an “effort that she might never know or understand,” and that he “would do anything for her, even kill.”

The court file also included an intriguing type-written letter postmarked January 4, 1988, from Gary, Indiana; “To Whom It May Concern,” the letter began.

Dottie was killed by her husband the morning she disappeared. It happened very early in the morning. He brought her out to the garage and struck her with a tire iron (Source: Joan Morris, Dottie’s story: Focus on husband in revived cold case).

Included with the letter was a hand-drawn map of an unidentified Concord neighborhood and a diagram of the garage showing the car and blood stains.

The letter accused Jule of taking Dottie’s body to a remote area of Concord where new homes were being built. Instead of burying her underneath what would become a foundation for a house, the letter writer said, he dumped the body in a ravine, then dug a hole beneath the curving roots of a birch tree and hid the body there.

Further, the affidavit included the letter Jule said he wrote to Dottie and left in her car. The handwritten letter started off speaking of how worried he was about her, but then it turned angry and he accused Dottie of messing up his life by refusing to sign loan papers. In a post script, Jule blamed Dottie for his seeking out female companionship saying it was her idea.

Joan Morris, a reporter for The Contra Costa Times, interviewed Jule during the summer of 2001, 16 years after Dottie vanished. Jule told Morris that he forgot about his wife’s disappearance, saying that he assumed she was deceased. Additionally, Jule changed his version of his wife’s disappearance when he spoke to Morris. He now claims that he never drove Dottie to the BART station, but that he thought she drove herself.

No charges were ever brought against Jule, nor anyone else. A search of his property found no physical evidence of a crime. Jule still lives in Utah with a woman assumed to be a romantic partner. According to Reddit his fiance at the time of Dottie’s disappearance dumped him after learning he might be involved.

Domestic Violence

Women are killed by intimate partners — husbands, lovers, ex-husbands, or ex-lovers — more often than any other category of killer… Intimate partner homicides make up 40 to 50 percent of all murders of women in the United States (Source: National Institute of Justice, NIJ Journal).

“The husband did it” is a popular phrase for a reason.

We’ve known for decades that domestic violence is strongly linked to homicide, however we didn’t identify the concrete steps leading up to intimate partner homicide until 2019. In her study, Intimate Partner Femicide: Using Foucauldian Analysis to Track an Eight Stage Progression to Homicide, Dr. Jane Monckton Smith established the eight stage process that most male abusers take before murdering their female partners.

The stages are not necessarily followed chronologically and sometimes couples loop back to earlier stages, for instance if an abuser is able to reestablish control. However, if the relationship culminated in homicide, all eight stages were likely involved.

For a full breakdown on the stages, read the article below.

Stage 1: Pre-relationship

A pre-relationship history of stalking or abuse by the perpetrator. Before Dottie and Jule were married, he was married and had a child, but didn’t tell her. He additionally lied and gave her a fake name so that she wouldn’t find out. I do not think it would be unreasonable that Jule’s previous relationship had markers for abuse.

Stage 2: Early Relationship

The romance developing quickly into a serious relationship. Dottie and Jule married shortly after they began dating.

Stage 3: Relationship

The relationship becoming dominated by coercive control. This is where most of the variation of abuse occurs among abusers.

Coercive control is an act or a pattern of acts of assault, threats, humiliation and intimidation or other abuse that is used to harm, punish, or frighten their victim. This controlling behaviour is designed to make a person dependent by isolating them from support, exploiting them, depriving them of independence and regulating their everyday behaviour… Experts like Evan Stark liken coercive control to being taken hostage.

In Dottie’s case we have multiple accounts of physical and emotional abuse throughout her entire relationship with Jule. He repeatedly cheated on her, neglected her, physically abused her by hitting her and throwing things at her, and made her afraid of him.

One of the biggest pieces of evidence that this abuse was indeed occurring is the presence of DARVO, a manipulative tactic that perpetrators use when confronted with their crimes. Its existence alone is often proof enough of crimes.

You can read the total breakdown of what DARVO is in my article below.

In 1997, Dr. Jennifer J. Freyd introduced the term DARVO to explain the gaslighting strategy perpetrators (typically people accused of sexual crimes) use to confuse and silence their victims. DARVO is an acronym that stands for Deny, Attack, and Reverse the Victim and Offender.

Instead of admitting error and apologizing or offering evidence that the accusations are false, the perpetrator, outraged at having his power challenged, denies having done what he is accused of doing and attacks his accuser, thus reversing roles and assuming the mantle of victimhood. The true victim is transformed into an offender (Source: Dr. Jennifer Freyd, When the True Victim is Blamed).

Jule used DARVO to frame the “fight” he had with Dottie as her fault. He claimed that Dottie just randomly attacked him and so he had no choice but to hurt her. He additionally claimed that he didn’t understand why, but it was just her mission in life to make him miserable and maybe she disappeared to further that aim.

Stage 4: Trigger/s

A trigger to threaten the perpetrator’s control — for example, the relationship ends or the perpetrator gets into financial difficulty.

The reasons given for men killing their partners overwhelmingly revolved around withdrawal of commitment, or separation (Source: Dr. Jane Monckton Smith, Intimate Partner Femicide: Using Foucauldian Analysis to Track an Eight Stage Progression to Homicide).

I think the trigger was that Jule knew Dottie wanted a divorce. In regards to domestic violence, victims are in the most danger when attempting to leave their abusers. This is because domestic violence is about power and control. When an abuser realizes he has lost all control of his victim, he will do anything to “gain” that power back, even if it means ending her life. Abusers often resort to an “If I can’t have her, then no one can” mentality.

Leaving can be fatal: In 45% of the homicides in which a man killed a woman, an immediate precipitating factor of the fatal incident was the woman leaving or trying to end the relationship. For clinic/hospital women who were abused on followup, 69% of those who had left or tried to leave an abuser in the previous year but whose abuse continued despite their attempted departure experienced severe incidents compared to 44% of women who had not left or tried to leave (Source: Carolyn Rebecca Block, Risk Factors for Death or Life-Threatening Injury for Abused Women in Chicago).

Stage 5: Escalation

An increase in the intensity or frequency of the partner’s control tactics, such as by stalking or threatening suicide. I think there is evidence of Jule’s escalation where Dottie began putting into place specific safety mechanisms for victims of domestic violence. I think it is reasonable to assume she did this in response to his escalating abuse.

Dottie opened secret bank accounts and mailboxes under her name, and joined a group for abused women (“women in transition” is code for women leaving abusive relationships and starting new lives). Those are some of the things that advocates today still suggest that abused women do in preparation to leave.

Stage 6: A Change in Thinking/Decision

The perpetrator has a change in thinking — choosing to move on, either through revenge or by homicide. It is difficult to determine evidence of this stage based on the information we have, but it is clear that at some point Jule made the decision that he would rather kill Dottie than have her leave him.

Stage 7: Planning

The perpetrator might buy weapons or seek opportunities to get the victim alone. I think Jule planned to murder Dottie around the time she was scheduled to go on her trip because then he would have a plausible excuse for why she was missing and why he did not contact police.

Stage 8: Homicide

The perpetrator kills his partner, and possibly hurts others such as the victim’s children. Given what police reported, I think it is reasonable to conclude that Jule murdered Dottie the morning she disappeared, and that he hit her in the head with a tire iron in their garage until she was dead. He then put her body in his trunk, drove to a ravine and dumped it, dug a hole beneath the curving roots of a birch tree and hid her body there.

Based on those markers for domestic violence, plus the information provided by the affidavit, I think that Jule Caylor murdered his wife, Dottie Caylor, in 1985, after following the eight stage progression to domestic violence related homicide.

In other words, the husband did it.

This writing is part of a continuing series on cold cases linked to domestic violence. Since my interest first began with Unsolved Mysteries episodes, the first few dozen will be from there, but then the rest will be taken from the news.

an advocate for victims of violence | ~on a mental health break, publishing only They Matter articles for the time being~

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store