The Circleville Letters Documentary
The Circleville Letters Documentary – It was the afternoon of February 7, 1983, and Gillespie, a school bus driver for the Westfall School District in Circleville, Ohio, had just dropped off one group of kids and headed to pick up another group at Monroe Elementary School when she spotted a signal. It is laid out along its bus route at the intersection of Scioto-Darby Road and Five Points Pike.
Gillespie stopped the bus, got out, and approached the handwritten sign, which made a lewd remark about her young daughter Tracy. Gillispie had been receiving such harassment for years, usually via letters in the mail, and she knew the mark was the work of the same unknown perpetrator. In the messages, the person warned her that the messages would be posted publicly.
The Circleville Letters Documentary
Gillispie, alarmed, picked up the banner and the strange post used to hold it, put the whole setup back on the bus and went about her business. That evening, as I inspected the sign closely, I opened a small container on the shaft. Inside was a .25 caliber pistol.
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Soon, Gillespie learned that the person who had spent years harassing her was intending for her to tear up the banner in anger. And when I did, the gun was primed to go off.
With a population of about 14,000 people, Circleville, Ohio isn’t a large enough place to house many secrets. About 25 miles south of Columbus, it’s home to manufacturing companies, Ohio Christian University, and a water tower painted like a pumpkin. The town has a sense of neighborhood intimacy—a closeness that made the Circleville letter writer an object of scorn.
In the summer of 1976, Mary Gillespie received a letter stamped with a postmark in Columbus bearing neither a signature nor a return address. She confirmed that Mary had an affair with Gordon Massey, the principal of Westfall School, and warned her not to.
Read one of the warnings: “I know where you live.” “I have been watching your house and I know you have children. This is no joke. Please take it seriously.”
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Soon, her husband, Ron, started receiving messages as well, asking him to go to the school board with the information or he would be killed. Marie confirmed to Ron that the claim was false. They decided to remain silent and hoped the letter writer would stop. But the person did not. Within weeks, more threats arrived, this time warning that if Mary didn’t end the relationship, it would be revealed on CB Radio and billboard ads.
At that point, the Gillespies decided to reveal the harassment to their families. They told Karen (Ron’s sister) and her husband, Paul Frischur, a local Anheuser-Busch factory employee who was once a prison guard and survived a harrowing 30-hour hostage ordeal when inmates briefly took over the Ohio State Penitentiary in August 1968.
Speaking to Freshours, Mary said she had a suspect – David Longberry, a bus driver who had once passed her. Perhaps, I thought, Longberry was feeling abandoned and wanted to make fun of her. It was agreed that Paul would write a letter to Longberry to prove that the Gillispies knew what he was doing and to stop immediately.
To their dismay, Mary and Ron Gillespie begin to see banners hanging around town claiming that Gordon Massey, the supervisor, was romantically involved with Gillespie’s 12-year-old daughter Tracy. Reportedly, Ron drove around town early in the morning to tear down the signs before Tracy saw them.
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No doubt the harassment campaign angered Ron. On August 19, 1977, he received a phone call at their home. The caller announced that he was watching Gillespie’s house and that he knew what Ron’s truck looked like. Ron, furious, told his family that he thought he recognized the caller’s voice and quickly walked out the door with the intention of confronting him. He brought a gun with him.
Moments later, a shot was fired. But none of the perpetrators were hurt. Instead, it was Ron Gillespie who was dead behind the wheel of his truck. No one else was in sight.
Authorities, including Pickaway County Sheriff, Dwight Radcliffe, failed to find any bullets at the scene. Ron Gillespie was drinking – his blood alcohol content (BAC) was .16 – twice the legal limit. In the absence of any conclusive evidence to the contrary, Radcliffe concluded that Ron had pushed himself into a tree by accident.
Relatives found it difficult to accept, assuring that Ron was not known to drink heavily. But the police are not convinced that anyone else is to blame. Radcliffe told Paul Frisor that an important person – he did not name – had been questioned but had passed a polygraph test.
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The identity of the author of the letter remained a mystery until investigators discovered a major crack in the case. / Photo by Olya Kolbroseva from Pexels
Soon more messages began arriving, this time to other residents in and around Circleville who presented the idea that Radcliffe was involved in some kind of cover-up over Ron’s death and that Mary and Gordon Massey were responsible for his murder.
Ron’s death wasn’t the only change in Mary’s life. Paul and Karen Frischor were divorced, and Mary allowed Karen to move into a trailer at Mary’s property. At some point after Ron’s death, Mary also confessed that she already
It was a strange admission, but not quite as bizarre as what happened along the bus route on February 7, 1983. Authorities began trying to trace the ownership of the firearm. The serial number was preserved, but they were able to secure enough to determine who it belonged to. In doing so, it seemed certain that the owner of the weapon would also be the one behind the messages.
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Both Mary Gillespie and the police were perplexed. Why Freshor? Throughout the investigation and during his final criminal trial, no one could explain exactly what prompted Farshor to threaten his in-laws. And while Furshor maintained his innocence, the evidence against him was hard to ignore.
After being released on $50,000 bail, Freshor voluntarily checked himself into the mental health center at Riverside Hospital because he wanted to be tested, possibly to help push a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. (This petition was later dropped.) Later, an Anheuser-Busch co-worker named Wesley Wells testified that Freshour had purchased the rifle from him for $35, while employee records showed that Freshour had taken a day off work on February 7. On the same day, Maryam discovered the booby trap. Even more convincing is the fact that the handwriting samples taken from Freshour’s employment file were, according to handwriting experts, matching 391 letters and 103 postcards sent to Gillispies and other locals.
In total, more than 1,000 letters were sent through southern Ohio, many complaining of political corruption. Some contain arsenic.
Farshor admitted that he bought the gun but did not know what happened to her. He also said that Radcliffe simply asked him to try to copy samples of the offending letters, which resulted in a handwriting match.
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The handwriting samples seem to confirm the responsible person. But what is his motive? / Photo by Karolina Graboska from Pexels
Farshore was indicted by a grand jury in March 1983 and set for trial in October 1983. The trial lasted a week. It only took the jury two and a half hours to pass a verdict of attempted murder with a firearm that Freshor had in his possession or under his control. (He was never formally charged with writing any of the letters, although 39 letters were accepted as evidence.) Judge William Amer sentenced him to seven to 25 years in prison (and an additional three years for controlling a firearm during the crime).
The Circleville mystery did not end there. Even during Farshor’s imprisonment, and sometimes even in solitary confinement, messages continued to reach the population. Even Farshore received one, mocking him after his parole hearing ended without allowing him early release: “Now when are you going to think you’re not going out of there? I told you two years ago: When we set them up, they stay ready. Don’t you listen at all?”
Farshor was released on parole in 1994 and continued to insist he had nothing to do with the letters. If he is guilty, his motives for writing it remain baffling. One theory is that he felt he was showing loyalty to his wife, Karen, whose brother Ron may have been aware of Mary’s affair – Mary denied it even after Ron’s death – and wanted to secretly help both of them put an end to it.
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But Frchur’s marriage seemed strained. The Columbus divorce affidavits included allegations made by Karen that Paul was physically abusive and prone to a violent temper. Karen, hated by the divorce that ended with Paul gaining custody of their children, may have wanted to frame him, though it’s not clear why she would risk killing Mary Gillespie in the process.
There was one commander who was criticized for not being followed up by the police. according to