While I have always been fascinated with true crime, I recently came across a mystery almost forty-years-old which I had never heard of prior: the unsolved murder of Dorothy Jane Scott. Sometimes a case grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go and for me, this is that case.
In 1980, Dorothy Jane Scott was a 32-year-old single mother of a 4-year-old little boy. Both lived with her aunt in Stanton, California about a twenty-minute drive north of Anaheim where her parents lived and where she worked as a back-office secretary at Swinger’s Psych Shop and Custom John’s Head Shop. (Both businesses were jointly owned). Friends and family described Dorothy as a kind, compassionate, churchgoing young woman who rarely dated and preferred staying at home with her little boy over going out partying and socializing. Dorothy’s brother once stated about her that “she exemplified the word ‘give.’ She’d just give and give and give, no matter what it cost her…”
Sometime in 1980, Dorothy began receiving phone calls from an unidentified man whose voice she claimed to recognize but was unable to place. At times the caller was fawning and complimentary while at others times he was angry and menacing. During one such angry call, he threatened: “OK, now you’re going to come my way and when I get you alone I will cut you up into bits so no one will ever find you.” The caller would also alert Dorothy to the fact that he was watching her every move; detailing what she was wearing that day and other information about her daily routines. These calls startled Dorothy into taking self-defense classes and she even considered purchasing a gun which she decided against for fear that her son Shawn might get hold of it and hurt himself.
May 28, 1980
On the evening of May 28th, Dorothy dropped Shawn off at her parent’s house to attend a staff meeting at the shop. During the meeting, Dorothy noticed one of her coworkers, Conrad Bostron, looking ill-at-ease. There was a large red streak on his arm that was becoming increasingly inflamed. Noticing this, Dorothy urged Conrad to go to the nearby hospital, volunteering to drive him there. Another fellow employee, Pam Head, offered to ride with them. En route to the hospital, Dorothy made a pit stop at her parent’s home to check on Shawn and inform them of her trip to UCI Medical Center. While at her parent’s home, she switched out a black scarf she was wearing for a red one.
Once at the hospital, it was determined that Conrad had been bitten by a black widow spider. Dorothy and Pam held vigil, chatting and browsing through magazines while Conrad was treated. The only time Dorothy left Pam’s sight was after Conrad was released with his prescription and Dorothy made a quick trip to the restroom roughly around midnight. Pam then accompanied Conrad to the pharmacy to fill his prescription while Dorothy decided to bring her car around front for them. After filling the prescription, Conrad and Pam walked outside, expecting to see Dorothy’s car, a 1973 white Toyota station wagon, waiting for them. The car was nowhere to be seen which was odd as the task should have taken her only a few minutes. As they patiently waited for her arrival, her car suddenly came barreling towards them at high-speed. I’m not certain if the high beams were turned on but the duo did claim that the headlights blinded them. The driver bypassed Pam and Conrad, made a right turn out of the parking lot at full speed, then turned off the headlights.
The true crime podcast that is all about Jonestown. (Post continues after audio.)
Confused, Pam and Conrad wondered if there was an emergency involving Dorothy’s son or if she suddenly remembered an urgent commitment and in a panic momentarily forgot about them. The two waited at the hospital for a couple of hours in hopes that she might come back for them. (Remember, this was 1980, no one had cell phones at this point and Uber was nonexistent.) After those couple of hours passed, and it was painfully obvious that Dorothy wasn’t coming for them, Pam phoned Dorothy’s parents Vera and Jacob Scott and asked if they’d seen her. They hadn’t seen her since she stopped by earlier, on the way to the hospital. UCI police were notified as well but, of course, found no reason for alarm.
Several hours later, Dorothy’s car would be found abandoned and set on fire in an alley about ten miles away in Santa Ana. As the days passed and there was no sign of Dorothy, UCI police began investigating and advised Jacob and Vera against speaking to any reporters. A week later, Vera received a terrifying phone call:
A disguised male voice asked, “Are you related to Dorothy Scott?”
“Yes.” The anxious Vera replied.
“I’ve got her.” The caller replied and then hung up.
Before long, Jacob Scott contacted the Santa Ana Register and the paper ran a story about Dorothy’s disappearance. The same day this piece came out the editor, Pat Riley, received a phone call of his own. The male voice on the other end informed Pat: “I killed her. I killed Dorothy Scott. She was my love. I caught her cheating with another man. She denied having someone else. I killed her.” Dorothy was dating no one at the time. The caller provided details that only the responsible party would know, information that had been deliberately withheld from the public such as the fact that she’d been wearing a red scarf and the reason for her visit to UCI Medical Center. The caller knew about Conrad’s spider bite and claimed that Dorothy had called him from UCI. Meanwhile, according to Pat Head the only time Dorothy had been out of her sight, prior to walking out to retrieve her car, was when she quickly used the restroom. At no time did Dorothy need to use a payphone.
One of the original newspaper articles, via The Freelance Star.
Shawn’s father was investigated and questioned, however, he had an airtight alibi and had been in his hometown of Missouri at the time so he was immediately ruled out as a suspect. Dorothy’s coworkers at the Psych Shop and Head Shop were questioned numerous times. As Dorothy worked in the back office and never interacted with customers the chances were slim that any one of them was responsible.
An interesting side note regarding Swinger’s Psych Shop: it was previously owned by Dorothy’s father and was eventually sold to John Kocyla who already owned John’s Head Shop. While Jacob was no longer actively involved in the business John kept him around as a handyman to take care of any repairs needed around the stores.
Vera continued to receive calls from the stranger with the disguised voice every Wednesday for the next four years. Curiously, they stopped one day when Jacob answered the phone. While the calls persisted, the Scotts had their phone tapped so that the calls were recorded but the perpetrator conveniently never stayed on the line long enough for them to be traced.
More than three months after her disappearance, a construction worker came across some skeletal remains along Santa Ana Canyon Road in Anaheim. The remains first seen were from a dog but underneath that was a human head, pelvis, two thighs and an arm. A week later, authorities would confirm that these were the remains of Dorothy Scott, although Vera had already identified one of Dorothy’s turquoise rings and her watch which had also been discovered.
Even after it was officially determined that Dorothy had been murdered, Vera continued to receive the frightening calls. They would come in while Vera was home alone and the caller taunted her by asking, “Is Dorothy home?” or telling her “I’ve got her,” then hanging up. While this type of behavior, which was also happening to Dorothy before her murder, can be classified as stalking, the laws at the time were much different from now. Nothing much could have or would have been done at the time to put a stop to it. As mentioned above, the calls continued every week for four years only ceasing the one day in April 1984 when Jacob was home and answered the phone himself.
In one of the blogs I read regarding this case, the author named crimeblogger1983 had the opportunity to speak with Shawn Scott which is how it became known that Jacob Scott was once the owner of the shop where Dorothy worked. Among crimeblogger1983’s other findings through Shawn was the name, Mike Butler. Shawn became aware of Mike Butler through some of Dorothy’s old friends in Missouri. Butler knew Dorothy through his sister who also worked at the shop and, according to those who knew Dorothy, he became obsessed with her. Butler lived around the Santiago Mountains and was known to be very unstable and involved in cult activities. Law enforcement was well-aware of him at the time but did not have sufficient evidence to take action.
Crimblogger1983 and I have done a little research to figure out who Mike Butler’s sister is but will refrain from mentioning her name. She is now a well-known singer throughout Orange County and Los Angeles. Shawn has made several attempts to speak with her only to have her rebuff his requests. As Mike Butler’s sister worked at Swinger’s for some time and he knew Dorothy, there’s a fair chance that he may have known Jacob a well, or at the very least crossed his path at some point. This might explain why he stopped taunting Vera; he feared that Jacob might recognize his voice.
My theory is this: the killer (in my opinion, Mike Butler) followed Dorothy to UCI Medical Center and waited for her in the parking lot in the hopes that she might emerge by herself, which she did. Enraged that he saw her in the presence of a man (Conrad Bostron) he confronted her when she went outside to retrieve her car. There was an altercation where he accused her of being with another man; remember, he told the editor of the Santa Ana Register that she was “cheating” on him. In an effort to calm him down she explained that she brought a coworker to the hospital because of a spider bite and things went south from there. Whether he disabled her somehow then threw her into the vehicle and drove it away himself or he threatened her to get behind the wheel and drive like hell unless she wanted more trouble remains to be seen. Pat and Conrad were unable to distinguish who was behind the wheel as they were blinded by the headlights.
Sadly, Jacob Scott passed away in 1994 and Vera in 2002 without ever having learned who took their daughter from them. This case has not only made an impact on me but I have come across many others that are intrigued by it and would love nothing more than to provide answers for Dorothy’s son Shawn as well as justice for Dorothy.
True Crime Diary: Telephone Games
Brenda Thornlow is a published author from Brooklyn, NY. Her work can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.