What Happened To The Children?

A parents worst nightmare is losing their child. Doesn’t matter how, or why, it only matters is that they are gone. They could be grown and leaving the house, they could be ill and taken too soon from us, or as in the case of the The Sodder family, they may disappear completely and never be seen or heard from again.

George and Jennie Sodder, were both immigrants from Italy, but met in the United States where they married and started their family. In 1923 they had their first child and by 1943 their 10th and last child was born. Joe, John, Marion, George Jr, Maurice, Martha, Louis, Jennie, Betty and Sylvia.

Christmas Eve 1945

Due to the festivities of the season, Jennie, allowed the younger children to stay up later than their normal bedtime. At about 1 am. Jennie woke and immediately smelled smoke. She woke George, and they, along with 4 of the children escaped the house. The other five children who slept in the attic, were unable to escape the flames. Sadly due to phone lines, the war, and the limited fire fighters available; the fire department didn’t arrive to the home until later in the morning.

By 10 am, The Sodders were informed that they had not found any bones as would have been customary if the children were in the house when it burned. Death certificates were issued on December 30, 1945 for the five children, and a funeral was held on January 2, 1946.

Jennie, Martha, Maurice, Betty and Louis Sodder Missing since Christmas 1945

The Sodders began to rebuild their lives, but started to ask questions about the official findings about the fire. Some things that didn’t add up including:

  • If the fire was from an electrical problem, why were the Christmas lights still on during the early stages of the fire, when they should have gone out?
  • How had the ladder that had been missing from the side of the house on the night of the fire be found at the bottom of an embankment 75 feet away?
  • If it were to be believed that all five children perished in the fire, with no trace of bones as claimed by the fire chief, then why were the household appliances still recognizable? Another family of seven all perished in a house fire around the same time, and their skeletal remains were found as reported in the newspaper.

Evidence later emerged that the fire was deliberately set, and that the five children had survived. While the house was burning a woman who was watching the fire from the road, said she saw the children looking out of a car while the house burned. Another woman said she served them breakfast a rest stop the next morning, where a car with Florida license plates in the parking lot was seen.

In August 1949, there was a new search at the house site. There were a few bones discovered that were determined to be human vertebrae. However these bones sowed no sign of exposure to flame, and it was “very strange” that these were the only bones found, since the fire should have left full skeletons behind.

The billboard that the Sodders had at the site of the fire.

Sadly the case was closed at the state and federal level as there were no new leads. That didn’t stop the Sodders from hoping for answers. They had flyers printed up with pictures of the children, offering a $5000 reward for information that would have settled the case.

Louis 1945 (L), Picture received in 1967 (R) claiming to be Louis Sodder

George and Jennie never gave up hope, and George continued to follow up on leads as they came in. The most promising lead was a letter postmarked in Central City, Kentucky, and in it was a picture of a young man in his thirties, strongly resembling Louis, had he survived the fire. The family hired a private investigator, but nothing ever came of that, as he never followed up with the Sodders and was unable to be located afterwards.

George passed away in 1969, Jennie passed away in 1989. The remaining children and their families continued to publicize the case and investigate leads but nothing further has been learned or found.

Were the Sodder children, kidnapped, murdered, or did they burn in the fire on Christmas Eve 1945? Unfortunately we may never know. What are your thoughts on this mystery? Leave them in the comments section, I would love to hear what you have to say.

Be strong, be beautiful, be you

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