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Kurt Sova: (The Mystery in Newburgh Heights)

EXIT 9 Investigations: Series 1 – Kurt Sova:(The Mystery in Newburgh Heights)

The case first gained traction on an episode of Unsolved Mysteries: Season 1 – Episode 9 entitled “Halloween Party Death.”

EXIT 9 has assembled all evidence in this case file from eyewitnesses, written sources (which we have provided links to), and have utilized our research along with Unsolved Mysteries and The Plain Dealer Newspaper to conduct this investigation.

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On the misty Friday night of October 23rd, 1981, a 17-year-old went missing in the small town of Newburgh Heights, Ohio.  What happened next is a complete mystery composed of eyewitness accounts, theories, and a botched investigation by a corrupt detective.

Kurt Sova didn’t attend school on this particular Friday; he persuaded a patron at a local liquor store to buy him a bottle of Everclear and headed to his girlfriend’s house.  Later that night he attended a party that was taking place a few blocks from his home, his friend Samuel C. Carroll tagged along.  This party was at Harvard Ave in a duplex shared by Debbie Sams, her brother Clayton, and a female roommate named Misi.

(*Debbie is referred to as Susan in the Unsolved Mysteries episode due to legal reasons during the time of its broadcast). 

The crowd at the party were a couple of years older than Kurt and Samuel.  Kurt allegedly became disruptive while consuming alcohol and/or drugs, and this caused him to fall ill and start vomiting.

Samuel stated that he accompanied Kurt outside for 20-30 minutes.  Kurt sported a yellow t-shirt, Samuel also only had on a t-shirt.  The temperature was a chilly 56 degrees, this tempted Samuel to go back into the house to grab their jackets.  Kurt rested against the chain-link fence.  After a brief trip inside (2 or 3 minutes), Samuel arrived back to the scenario of a missing Kurt.

He searched the nearby streets and a parking lot connected to J.L. Goodman Furniture Inc. warehouse, (this location not being far from the spot where Kurt was eventually found).  After no luck in locating Kurt, he assumed Kurt had walked home; Samuel went back to the party. 

Samuel Carroll’s statement: I can only guess that someone he knew picked him up because it happened that fast.  Someone had to pick him up in a car.”


The next day (Saturday) Dorothy and Ken Sova (Kurt’s parents) became worried and started to roam the streets looking for his whereabouts.  They searched the ravines, alleyways, dumpsters, the local haunted house attraction and had no luck.  On Sunday, Kurt was officially registered as a missing person; Dorothy also overheard rumors that there was a party that Kurt had socialized at.  Dorothy went to the duplex and was received by Misi, Debbie nor Clayton was present.  Misi denied any knowledge of a party and claimed to not have seen Kurt that night.

A further investigation located a pizza delivery worker who provided an eyewitness statement of the party and Kurt’s attendance.  Dorothy and Ken were sure on this information, they went to the house and found Kurt’s jacket. The Sova family was then ordered by the Police Chief James F. Lukas to cease any attempts to visit the house, notifying them that any further progression of their efforts would result in harassment.  Missing posters went up around the town, and up to 50+ volunteers participated in the search.


Slavic Village Records, a hip and stylish place that engulfed the essence of the early ’80s.  A homeless man who had been hanging around the record store had been a fixture outside for a few weeks, bragging of access to bodies flown into Cleveland Hopkins International Airport.  He talked about stealing the shoes from the bodies.  On this Monday, he finally came into the store and pointed to a flier of Kurt taped to the window. 

The homeless man said to store manager Judy Oros: “They’re going to find him and they’re gonna find him in two days, and they’re not going to know what happened to him.”


Tuesday morning around 3 a.m., Dorothy got a phone call from Debbie that Kurt was sleeping on a cot in the basement of the duplex.  Ken Sova kicked in the door but found no Kurt, only an empty cot.  The frenzy of false clues and constant defiance from eyewitnesses made the search into a living hell.


Wednesday, around 5:30 p.m., three local kids found the body of Kurt Sova in a ravine near the J.L. Furniture Warehouse, merely 500 yards from Debbie’s Duplex (Ken Sova had searched this very same area 24 hours earlier).  His body was positioned in a puddle amongst the trash, face turned to the side, to form a Christ-like crucifixion.  Both shoes were missing, his left shoe was eventually found between two rocks — twelve feet away from the body.  Kurt’s right foot had a sock on; his left foot didn’t.


(Photo from EXIT 9 reenactment)

  Kurt had a bruise on his cheek and numerous bruises on his shins.  A few abrasions were found on his flesh.  No bullet holes, knife wounds, needle punctures, or internal injuries existed.  Lt. Robert Carras from the Newburgh Heights Police Department was assigned the case.  The quote below is from his interview with Unsolved Mysteries.


It is our belief his body was dumped out there, and whoever the person or persons were, knew the area. And they knew people go back there and ride dirt bikes and kids play back there, so they knew that eventually within a certain amount of time… that he would be found” – Robert Carras


Thursday morning, the homeless man appeared back at the record store.  Judy isn’t at work yet, the man instructed a nearby merchant to give a bouquet of flowers to her.  There was an accompanying note that read “Roses are red, the sky is blue.  They found him dead, and they’ll find you, too.”  The police picked the man up and questioned him, finding him to be of no harm, they released him.  He was never seen from again.



Kurt’s autopsy was performed by Lester Adelson, Chief Deputy Coroner of Cuyahoga County.  The autopsy determined Kurt had been dead 24-36 hours before his body was found, meaning he was alive for at least three days after leaving the party.  The coroner could not determine an official cause of death.  Kurt Sova had no preexisting medical conditions, no drugs were found in the autopsy, and he didn’t have enough alcohol in his system to kill him.  Deputy Coroner Adelson cites this as “Diagnosis by exclusion.” 




(David Trunsnik)

David Trunsnik, one of Kurt’s close friends, came forward and claimed to have seen Kurt three days after he had disappeared (Monday), less than a mile from Kurt’s house.  David witnessed Kurt walking with another individual, as he gained ground on the distance between the two of them walking — David saw a van pull up, and Kurt yell out “Franko!  Kurt entered the van and was never seen from again.

The investigation did get a new lead, a local by the name of Angeline Reddicks stated she saw two males dragging what looked like to be an unconscious teenage male toward the ravine.  This account was never relayed to the Sova family and only came to their attention when they ran into Angeline and sparked a conversation.  She waited to give a statement out-of-fear but finally contacted the sheriff’s department in 1989 but never heard back. 

She stated: I seen them taking a boy down the alley.  It was just before Halloween,” said Reddicks, who said she witnessed the scene one afternoon from a window in her house on Washington Park Blvd. “One foot was barefoot.  I’m almost sure it was the right one.  I figured – “Couple teenagers with a couple beers too many, and they’re probably trying to sober up.”

Although the Unsolved Mysteries episode showed a reenactment of a crime scene in which photographs were taken of Kurt’s crucified position, none of the actual crime scenes were documented.  The only Polaroid pictures consisted of Kurt on the stretcher and in the ambulance.  The police never searched the duplex, and no request was made to nearby Cleveland PD for assistance in the investigation; an inquiry from Cleveland PD was turned away by Newburgh Heights PD, according to Dorothy Sova. 

Four different agencies (Cuyahoga Sheriff’s Department, F.B.I., Newburgh Heights PD, Cleveland PD) looked into the case and found no new leads.  Eighteen months after Kurt’s death, a Cleveland Police Detective Al Figler looking into the case found the handling of crime-scene by Newburgh PD to be a “joke.”  Missing paperwork, lack of evidence, and forthcoming witnesses plagued the cold case.

  The investigation is also tainted by former Detective Robert Carras and  Newburgh Heights Police Chief James F. Lukas.  Robert Carras pleaded guilty to striking Eric Kotonski of Newburgh Heights with a flashlight during a drunken-driving arrest in December 1990; kicking John Rogers of Cleveland as Rogers lay handcuffed after a February 1989 abduction and harassment arrest; pulling Larry Villanueva’s hair during questioning about a February 1989 break-in; and striking Donal Geib across the face during the same interrogation. 

Carras was also convicted on drug and corruption charges.  James Lukas who served as Newburgh Height’s Police Chief (1976-1984) falsified documents for a police dispatcher and was found to have a criminal history, including a conviction for dereliction of duty.  Lukas has defended the Kurt Sova investigation, stating to The Plain Dealer newspaper in 1991:


“That’s not even fair. What happened was completely unrelated.  That’s the only part I take offense to. That (Sova) case was handled on the up and up.” – James Lukas 



January 1982Eugene Kvet is found dead under similar circumstances to Kurt Sova’s death and disappearance.  His shoe was missing, and he was also found in a ravine; Eugene (14) was around the same age as Kurt.

What are the circumstances revolving around Eugene’s vanishing and murder?  What color shirt was he wearing?

  What weather elements pertain to the Kurt Sova Death?  Who was Franko?  What does the duplex that Kurt attended the party look like today?  These questions are answered in Part II


This is an official EXIT 9 investigation.

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