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The disappearance of the Sodder children is one of the most mysterious stories that are still to be solved, and over the years this case is becoming more mysterious. So is the Sodder family mystery solved? 

In 1945, a fire started in the house of the Sodder family strangely and with that fire the five children disappeared, and not even their remnants were found in the debris. What might have happened to the kids? 

The things that were done to solve the case brought more mysteries than solving the case. So the Sodder children became the center of one of American history’s most infamous unsolved cases. So in this article let us see about the case, theories, and the Sodder family mystery solved.

What is the case of the Sodder family?

Sodder family billboard

This case happened for nearly four decades. A billboard on route 16 near Fayetteville, West Virginia bears the images of five children who are all dark-haired with solemn-eyed in the hope of expecting the Sodder family mystery solved news. This was and is a small town with a main street that doesn’t run longer than a hundred yards. 

In 1945, on the night before Christmas, George and Jennie Sodder and nine of their 10 children went to sleep, and one of their sons was away in the Army. A fire broke out around 1 a.m, George and Jennie and four of their children escaped, but the other five were never seen again.

After a while, George and Jennie began to notice signs of the missing kids to still being safe. 14-year-old Maurice, 12-year-old Martha, 9-year-old Louis, 8-year-old Jennie, and 5-year-old Betty are the five children of the Sodder family. No one agreed on whether the children were dead or alive. 

What happened on that night? 

In Fayetteville, West Virginia, on an ordinary Christmas Eve, the Sodders gathered together in their family house. The eldest son was in the army and so was not present on that day. Nine of his siblings were eating a meal happily that was prepared by their mother Jennie and they were looking forward to opening their Christmas presents in the morning. 

When it was time for the family to go to bed, five of the Sodder kids, Maurice, Martha, Louis, Jennie, and Betty were staying up a bit later and they were asked to turn out the lights and lock the door before going to bed by Mrs. Jennie

At 12:30 a.m., Mrs. Jennie woke up to answer a phone call and she heard a man’s voice as well as the sounds of glasses clinking in the background. She then went back to bed. Then she heard a loud bang and a rolling noise on the roof.  She soon dozed off again.

An hour later she woke up to see the house engulfed in smoke. George, Jennie, and four of the Sodder children including toddler Sylvia, teenagers Marion and George Jr., and 23-year-old John escaped. 

But then George realized that five of his children were not with them. So he went back into the blazing fire, but he was not able to reach the second floor since the staircase was on fire.

Sodder house burnt

George thought of reaching the bedroom upstairs through the window and went outside to find the ladder, but it was nowhere to be found. He thought of using his truck to reach the window but it did not start. He thought of another option. He tried to scoop water from a rain barrel but unfortunately, he found it frozen solid.

Marion ran to a neighbor’s house to call the Fayetteville Fire Department, but did not get a response. One neighbor decided to drive and find the fire chief. The fire department was only 2.5 miles from the Sodder family house. Seven hours after the fire, they finally arrived at 8 a.m. 

But by then, the Sodder home was already in ashes. And they couldn’t save their five children and thought that they were dead. 

A brief search was done expecting to find whole skeletons but only a few bone fragments were recovered. The investigation was postponed by the fire department as it was now Christmas Day. It was a heartbreaking moment for George and Jennie who were desperately searching for their children’s remains. 

Was the Sodder family mystery solved? 

A maintenance worker arrived at the house after the fire discovering the phone lines had been cut rather than burned out in the fire. 

According to the initial investigation of the incident, the police inspector said that the cause of the fire was faulty wiring. George and Jennie wanted to know how could that happen because there had been no previous issues with the electricity and they saw some of the lights in the home still working while the fire grew and so demanded a more thorough investigation into the matter. 

No human remains were found in the rubble and no one seemed to smell burning flesh during the fire, and if the five children died in the home, it could have been a noticeable odor. The fire of the house was not hot enough and did not burn long enough turning the skeleton into ashes. 

It was concluded by a local crematorium that the five skeletons would have been found if the children perished in the fire. 

The Sodders tried to solve the mystery of what happened to their five children. They hired private investigators were hired, but no conclusive evidence was found. The family turned to build a billboard containing the photos and names of the missing children in hopes of finding them or at least getting information about what happened to them.

The mystery behind the disappearance of the children

Jennie was devastated by the loss of her children. She decided to investigate their disappearance alone by herself. And she got to know that bones do not exactly melt, and they are very solid and more falling apart. To destroy an entire skeleton in the fire, the temperature should be burnt at more than 850 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 454 degrees Celsius for 2 hours. 

But the Sodder home only took 45 minutes to burn to the ground. Considering how long it took for the house to destroy, there should still be the skeletons of the five children amongst the debris. 

Trying to find out what happened in their house that night, Jennie burnt chicken bones in an oven to see if they could be turned into ashes by fire within 45 minutes but the bones remained intact. And George heard of a story where a house fire that killed several people and the scene of the incident had fully-preserved skeletons among the ashes.

The couple returned to the local police and demanded further investigation. They were rebuffed, as there were no signs of a crime, and the police had no grounds to reopen the case.

What could have happened to the Sodder children? 

Sodder family mystery solved

The series of odd moments 

In 1895, George Sodder was born Giorgio Soddu in Tula, Sardinia, and when he was 13, he immigrated to the United States in 1908. An older brother who had accompanied him to Ellis Island immediately returned to Italy, leaving George on his own.

So George found work on the Pennsylvania railroads to carry water and supplies to the laborers. After a few years, he moved to Smithers, West Virginia. He first worked as a driver and then launched his own trucking company, hauling dirt for construction and later freight and coal. 

One day he walked into a local store called the Music Box and met the owners’ daughter, Jennie Cipriani, who had come over from Italy when she was 3. They got married and between 1923 and 1943 they had 10 children and settled in Fayetteville, West Virginia, which was an Appalachian town with a small but active Italian immigrant community. 

The Sodders was one of the most respected middle-class families around. From business to current events and politics George held strong opinions about everything. But for some reason, he never explained what had happened back in Italy to make him want to leave.

Across the space where their house had stood, the Sodders planted flowers. There began a series of odd moments that led up to the fire. 

A few months earlier, back in the fall, a stranger appeared at the home, asking about hauling work. He wandered randomly to the back of the house and pointed to two separate fuse boxes, and said that it is going to cause a fire someday. George thought it to be strange because he had just had the wiring checked by the local power company and they said it to be in a good condition. 

Political conflicts

A man tried to sell the family life insurance but George declined it. He warned that the house is going up in smoke, and the children are going to be destroyed. He also said that George had to be paid for the remarks he had been making about Mussolini

George was indeed outspoken about his dislike for the Italian dictator and engaged in heated arguments with other members of Fayetteville’s Italian community. At the time, George didn’t take the man’s threats seriously. 

The coal-trucking business was under constant pressure from the Sicilian Mafia and George was aware of this. The older Sodder sons recalled something peculiar where just before Christmas, they noticed a man parked along U.S. Highway 21, intently watching the younger kids as they came home from school.

Many strongly believe the disappearance of the children was connected to the Mafia

The Sodder children might have been kidnapped

A woman operating a tourist stop between Fayetteville and Charleston, some 50 miles west saw the children the morning after the fire and she served them breakfast. She also saw a car with Florida license plates at the tourist court. 

At a Charleston hotel, a woman saw the children’s photos in a newspaper and said she had seen four of the five a week after the fire. The children were accompanied by two women and two men, all of Italian extraction. But she didn’t remember the exact date.

They all register at the hotel and stayed in a large room with several beds at midnight. She tried to talk to the children in a friendly manner, but the men appeared hostile and refused to allow me to talk to these children.

One of the men looked at her in a hostile manner and began talking rapidly in Italian. Immediately, the whole party stopped talking to the woman. They left early the next morning. 

Was Louis Sodder found? 

Louis Sodder found

22 years after the disappearance of the Sodder children, Mrs. Jennie received a letter from Central City, Kentucky, with no return address. The letter came with a picture that is believed to be Louis who was just 9 years old when he was last seen alive. 

A private detective was hired by George and Jennie to look into the photo and try to locate the sender. The detective was at another dead end. Despite never being able to confirm if the photo was Louis they could not go any further.  The parents still had this framed and placed above the fireplace

It remains a mystery

It was a devastating blow for the Sodder family. The home that perished in the fire was never rebuilt.  They turned the plot into a memorial garden and tended to the flowers every day.

In the same year they received the envelope with Louis’s photo, George died in 1969 and Jennie died in 1989. The only surviving member of the family was Sylvia Sodder, the youngest of the Sodder children, who was only 2 years old on the night of the fire, but she passed away recently. 

Even the own children of the remaining Sodder children continued to look for answers to the mystery. Decades have already passed and no conclusive answer has come out of all the investigations that were done. 

To this day, no one knows what happened on Christmas eve in 1945. The mystery of the Sodder children lives forever. 

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