It’s a cold morning in Pennsylvania, and contractors are hard at work outside a Pittsburgh home. But when they look beneath the deck of the century-old property, they discover something sinister buried in the dirt. For decades, a strange mystery has haunted the neighborhood – and now the grim truth has finally been revealed.
Built at the beginning of the 20th century, the two-story, red-brick house sits on Black Street in the northeast of the city. And in 2018 it was the subject of a substantial renovation project. But when the owners instructed workmen to tackle the rear of the property, something that would forever taint their dream home was uncovered.
There, hidden beneath the deck in the backyard, contractors discovered a set of human bones. But who could have met with such a strange and grisly fate? As investigators rushed to identify the remains, they stumbled across a secret that had been kept hidden for more than 50 years.
For retired cop Therese Rocco, it was a chance to finally lay old demons to rest. In 1964 her friend and neighbor Mary Arcuri had vanished while leaving a husband and children behind. According to some, she’d simply fled a broken marriage – but other rumors suggested a far more sinister explanation.
And half a century later, human remains were discovered in the backyard of the Arcuris’ former house. But would they finally lead to the truth about what really happened to Mary? As Rocco joined forces with the Pittsburgh police to get to the bottom of the mystery, a bizarre story began to emerge.
Historically, of course, it would be far from the only time that a missing person mystery has been solved uncomfortably close to home. For example, in December 2017 Marcia Eubank revealed the truth about what had really happened to her husband Howard. He’d been missing for six months by that point – but his wife knew more than she was letting on.
Back in 1994 Marcia had married Howard, who was already the father of two adult sons. And for more than 20 years, they lived together as man and wife. By mid-2017 they were residing in Coventry Township, a small community in Northeast Ohio. But Marcia shocked their neighbors by suddenly informing them that Howard had left.
According to reports, Marcia and Howard’s marriage was troubled – although there was little to suggest that they would call it quits. Nevertheless, she insisted that her husband had moved more than 1,000 miles away to Houston, Texas. Marcia claimed that he’d begun a new life there working as a driver.
Understandably, Howard’s family were upset and confused by these developments. But as time passed, messages from the missing man began to trickle in. “I will reach out to people when I’m ready to,” one Facebook post read. “Please don’t try to contact me.” In another, he claimed to be pining for his wife.
As the months went by, however, Howard’s family still struggled to understand his decision. Then, in December 2017 his son Howard Jr. made a gruesome discovery. Having forgotten the keys to the house that his father and Marcia once shared, he decided to let himself in through an open window. But in his stepmother’s office, he found a rubber bag crawling with flies and maggots.
Disgusted, Howard Jr. dragged the bag outside and messaged Marcia to ask for an explanation. She then made a startling confession. Over the phone, she informed him that the object contained part of Howard’s body – and that the rest of the corpse could be found in the basement. What’s more, Marcia stated that she’d murdered her husband herself.
After police arrived, they were quickly able to confirm Marcia’s story. For six months, she’d been posing as her husband online while the real Howard’s body lay decomposing in the basement of their family house. And in February 2019 she was handed a sentence of life behind bars.
Before that, there had been the case of Latanisha Carmichael, a three-year-old girl who’d disappeared back in November 1979. At the time, she’d been living with her mother Madeline and three siblings in an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. But one day, Latanisha mysteriously vanished. By way of explanation, the family simply said that the girl had moved away. On other occasions, however, they claimed that she’d gone into care.
Five years later, an aunt questioned Latanisha’s twin brother, Andre, about his sister. By that point, however, the boy couldn’t even remember Latanisha. And when he then spoke to his mother about the matter, he claims that she responded with violence. For years afterwards, the girl’s whereabouts remained a mystery.
Then, in 1999 Andre finally worked up the courage to talk to his older sister Sabrina about Latanisha. And shockingly, she informed him that the girl had been murdered. With her brother’s encouragement, Sabrina eventually contacted the authorities and told them the truth about what had happened back in 1979.
According to Sabrina, she’d witnessed her mom Madeline and Gregory, the oldest Carmichael child, beating Latanisha to death. Afterwards, she claimed, they’d stuffed the girl’s body into a suitcase and hid it in their apartment. For years, Sabrina had been too afraid to speak out about her little sister’s gruesome fate.
Eventually, police arrived in Brooklyn to investigate the Carmichaels’ apartment. And there, they discovered a closet containing a number of air fresheners. Inside, they found a trunk packed with baking soda, which concealed another, smaller case. This time, the object had been covered in multiple plastic bags and handfuls of mothballs had been put in between.
Shockingly, this makeshift tomb did indeed contain the remains of Latanisha. And off the back of the startling discovery, Madeline was arrested on suspicion of murder. In court, the prosecutor called the crime “bizarre and unthinkable” and referred to it as a “deep, dark family secret,” according to the Associated Press.
At the time, Madeline’s defense attorney claimed that Latanisha had died in an accident. According to him, the distraught mother had hidden the body in an attempt to conceal the truth. This approach didn’t convince the jury, however, and the 61-year-old was found guilty of murder. Gregory, meanwhile, was charged with criminally negligent homicide.
So, would Mary Arcuri join the ranks of missing people who ultimately turned up dead in their own home? By February 2018 the house that she once shared with her husband had been extensively remodeled. But when the new owners decided to renovate their backyard, they were in for a shock.
On the morning of February 28, contractors were already at the property and conducting work on the deck that spanned the back of the house. But then, they made a macabre discovery that would stop them in their tracks. There, buried in a Pittsburgh backyard, was a set of unmistakably human remains.
At just after 9:30 a.m., workers at the house contacted emergency services. And an investigation soon began. Police initially believed that the discovery was linked to the case of an unnamed missing lady. But when they reached out to Therese for assistance in identifying the remains, there was a bizarre change in direction.
By coincidence Therese had once lived near the house at 5445 Black Street. And as a result, she had clear memories of the family who once lived there. In fact, Therese even recalled a special bond that she’d shared with Mary. “I was just a young girl, and [she] came to the door with this tiny little baby. And she put the baby in my arms and said, ‘I want you to be the godmother,’” Therese told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in February 2019.
According to reports, at the beginning of the 1960s Albert and Mary had purchased the home on Black Street. And for the next few years, they’d resided there with their two children. Therese recalled, however, that the couple’s relationship had been troubled. Then, in 1964 life in the Arcuri household had changed for good.
That year, Mary disappeared. According to Albert, his wife had left him, taking all of her possessions but leaving the children behind. By then, Therese had become a policewoman and headed up the local missing persons unit. But because Mary had allegedly left of her own accord, it seems that no record of her disappearance was ever made.
When Mary first vanished, there were rumors in the neighborhood that Albert had claimed she’d been unfaithful. And as time passed, some people remained puzzled about her disappearance. “I knew there were problems, and I thought, ‘Leave it alone,’” Therese recalled. “But I also wondered why she didn’t try to get in touch with her kids.”
In addition, some of the Arcuris’ relatives, who lived in another unit at 5445 Black Street, had also grown suspicious. “My mother, we talked about it, and she knew something happened to her,” Charles Sberna, who was just a boy when Mary disappeared, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Moreover, he recalled that Albert had constructed a terrace on his property not long after his spouse had allegedly run away.
Before long, more gossip had sprung up in the neighborhood. This time, they were whispers that Albert had murdered his wife. But without anything more concrete to go on than hearsay, Mary’s disappearance was never investigated. And so for five decades, her whereabouts remained a mystery. Then, though, Therese was contacted about the remains discovered at the Arcuris’ old home.
Soon, Therese was able to prove that the investigators’ initial theory was wrong. And when she realized where the body had been found, she began to wonder if it could be connected to Mary’s disappearance. And so, she put the police in touch with her goddaughter. Using DNA testing, investigators were quickly able to discover the truth. Tragically, Mary was dead, and her body had been buried in the backyard of her family home.
Before making news of the discovery public, police reached out to Mary’s surviving family members to inform them of what had been uncovered. “It’s good we found out,” Charles said. “We waited all these years.” But even though the development finally gave him some closure, he regretted that many of his older relations had died without knowing the truth.
Therese wasn’t surprised to find out that her neighbor and friend had been dead all along. “When you don’t know where a person is for a number of years and you don’t hear and there’s no indication that there’s a communication of any sort, you generally have to think the worst,” she told KDKA in February 2019.
So what had happened back in 1964? And how had Mary ended up dead and buried – with Albert insisting that she’d run away? Well, according to Charles, his great-uncle had been a harsh man who hated children. But was that enough to consider him capable of murdering his wife?
In contrast to Charles’ recollections, however, Therese remembers her neighbor as a mild-mannered man. And even though she accepts that Mary’s death was suspicious, she still struggles to believe that Albert could have been behind it. “I never, in my own thoughts, believed this woman had left,” she admitted. “And I could never, never believe that this man had any involvement in her disappearance.”
According to investigators, Mary’s remains consisted entirely of bones by the time they were discovered. And in this state of decomposition, it’s difficult even to determine the cause of death. However, they noted that there were no signs of injury, which in turn meant there wasn’t enough evidence to deem the case a homicide.
Sadly, then, the mystery may remain forever unsolved. One year after Mary’s disappearance, a tragic story had appeared in the Pittsburgh Press. Apparently, Albert’s car had veered at high speed into a local car dealership around the corner from his home. According to the report, the accident had been fatal, and Mr. Arcuri passed away at 40 years of age.
Therese believes that Albert may have committed suicide by intentionally orchestrating the collision. “That accident was deliberate,” she told KDKA. “He rammed his car on Baum Boulevard into a building, and it was determined that he had no reason to do that.” Had the guilt-ridden man been involved in his wife’s death and then killed himself just a year later?
For Therese, such an idea is hard to accept. “Even to this day, it is difficult for me to believe he could have killed her, or anyone for that matter,” she explained. “The mere fact that he buried her right under their home and continued to live there with his two children is almost unbelievable… but it wasn’t long after that, that he took his own life.”
Investigators have not yet made any arrests or charges in relation to the death. And according to a press release from a police spokesman, they’ve been unable to shed any light on the strange case. “Police cannot speculate on how Mary Arcuri died or why she was buried in the backyard,” it read.
Six months after the terrible discovery was made, the property at 5445 Black Street went on the market. Just a few weeks later, it sold for a little under $400,000. At the moment, it’s unclear whether or not the new owners know the gruesome history of the home. And as time passes, it seems less and less likely that Mary’s family will ever get to the bottom of her death.
Was the unfortunate woman the victim of a tragic accident, which was then covered up by a broken-hearted husband? Or was there something altogether more sinister at play? Like the other missing people who never really left home, the story of Mary Arcuri serves as a tragic reminder that things aren’t always what they seem.