Sometimes it seems that ghosts remember those who murdered them. In 1982 Carrie Ann Jopek was a typical teenager living in a quiet, well-to-do community in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she attended middle school. Although she was mostly a good girl, she was known as being a bit headstrong and rebellious, and on March 16th, 1982, this got her into a bit of trouble when the then 13-year-old Carrie Ann was suspended from school for defying a teacher and skipping classes. She was sent home to her house, which was just a short distance away, but instead of going home she went to her friend’s house across the street to attend a house party. In the meantime, her mother and step-father waited for her to come home, but she never would, and Carrie Ann would become the center of a strange unsolved mystery.
As the hours passed, at first Carrie Ann’s parents just thought their daughter was being rebellious again and didn’t think too much of it, but when morning came and she still hadn’t come home they became quite concerned. Her mother, Carolyn, went to the friend’s house across the street, where she was told that Carrie Ann had left the party and gone home, but this led nowhere and calls to other friends and talking to neighbors turned up nothing at all. No one knew where she had gone, and so she was reported as missing. At first police didn’t take it very seriously, after all this was a young, defiant teenager who had been suspended from school that day, so they just thought it was a rebellious tantrum or that at worst she had run away from home. Considering her history of bad behavior and the safe, suburban neighborhood, foul play was the furthest from their mind, but her parent’s didn’t agree. To them something seemed off about the whole thing, and as the weeks turned to months with no sign of Carrie Ann their hope faded that they would ever see her alive again. Police would more deeply investigate the case and send out countless flyers with the missing girl’s photo, but there were no new leads, no evidence of what had happened, nothing.
With no sign of Carrie Ann, police increasingly were suspecting that she may have met with foul play and they questioned several persons of interest. One was her biological father, Fred, who lived a short distance away and was known for not getting along with his daughter or her mother at all. He had rather suspiciously just poured out a new concrete deck in his yard as well, but he was eventually dropped when he produced a solid alibi. They also questioned Johnny Mandt, who was the older brother of Robin Mandt, whose house the party had been at. According to friends, Johnny has been upset that Carrie Ann had been spurning his advances towards her, and on top of this he was known as a trouble maker, selling drugs and alcohol to underage kids. However, police could turn up nothing that linked him to the disappearance and he was also dropped as a possible suspect. 17 months would go by with no break in the case, and then a grisly discovery would be made.
In August of 1983, a contractor was working on the back porch of a neighboring house when he struck something hard. Digging further, it would be found that it was a badly decomposed body buried there under the porch, and police were able to determine that it was the long missing Carrie Ann, still wearing the clothes she had disappeared in. The cause of death was determined to be severe head trauma and a broken neck, but although it was now obvious that she had been murdered, no one had a clue who had done it or why. Once again Johnny Mandt was questioned, as it was his porch she had been buried under, but there still could be found no solid evidence that he had any connection to the death. A new lead came in when someone reported that a 17-year-old neighborhood boy by the name of Jose Ferreira had been seen standing by the burial spot crying, but after questioning police were confident that he had just been paying his respects and had been shaken up by her death.
That was pretty much the end of it for decades, with Carrie Ann’s murder never getting any closer to being solved, but then in October of 2015 a strange call came in to the Milwaukee news station WISN 12. On the other end of the line was a man who claimed that he was the one who had murdered Carrie Ann Jopek and he wanted to make a full confession. At the time, he did not identify himself, but a few days later he turned himself in to police and it turned out to be none other than Jose Ferreira, who had been briefly questioned about the murder and let off the hook decades before. But why would he come forward and confess now? He had gotten away with it, there was never any real suspicion levelled at him, he would have never been caught and could have lived out the rest of his life with no one the wiser, so why come forwards? Well, it turns out that he had been haunted by what had happened, quite literally.
Under questioning, Ferreira went into gruesome detail on what had transpired way back in 1982. He claimed that he had been at the house party that Carrie Ann had gone to and that everyone had been drinking and getting rowdy. At some point Ferreira tried to take the very drunk Carrie Ann downstairs into the basement to make out with her, but she had had second thoughts. When she tried to go back upstairs, Ferreira had pushed her to keep her from going and she had fallen down the stairs to lie still. At this point he thought she had just been knocked out, and seeing his chance he groped Carrie Ann, not knowing that she had actually broken her neck and was dead. When he realized that she was dead, he says he panicked, dragged her body through the basement to an exterior cellar door outside, and buried her in a shallow grave under the porch of the Mandt house. But why had he confessed?
When asked about his willingness to come forward after all that time had passed, Ferreira became pale and explained that he had been constantly harassed by Carrie Ann’s ghost. He claimed that she often appeared to him as an apparition, sometimes silent, sometimes accusing him, and other times shrieking. He would say that he had not been able to sleep because her spirit would wake him in the middle of the night, and that it had gotten to the point that he felt the only way to rid himself of this haunting was to confess. And so after decades of being harangued by the ghost of his victim he had finally decided to do the right thing and turn himself in. It was a wild story and was soon making headlines, but even with his confession there was no certainty he would be actually found guilty.
The problem was that so much time had passed and, despite Ferreira’s confession, there was no absolute concrete evidence to prove that he had actually done it. In the end, Ferreira made a plea bargain to plead guilty and receive 7 years in prison for attempted second-degree sexual assault and false imprisonment. As for his story about being haunted by Carrie Ann’s ghost, her mother believed it, saying “He said he was haunted. He told me, ‘Your daughter’s haunting me,’ and I believe she was.” Ferreira would later claim that after being sentenced Carrie Ann’s spirit had stopped bothering him and he was now at peace. In the end, what are we to make of this case? Is this an example of a ghost haunting her killer or just mental illness and a guilty conciousness? Who knows? Whatever the case may be, it is still pretty weird no matter how you cut it.