Ricky McCormick and his code (courtesy St. Louis Post-Dispatch)


The FBI is asking for help from the public to help crack a code that was found with a dead man in St. Charles County in 1999.

Both the FBI and investigators with the St. Charles County sheriff's office believe forty one year-old Ricky McCormick was murdered, but the medical examiner ruled the man's death "suspicious." McCormick's body was already decomposing when it was discovered and made work difficult for the ME; however, investigators were intrigued by an injury to McCormick's head.

On Tuesday March 29th the FBI released two encrypted notes found in Ricky McCormick’s pants pocket on June 30, 1999.  They believe if they can crack the code, agents might be able to retrace McCormick's steps in the days that led to his murder and bring a resolution to this case.
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Family members told authorities that McCormick, who was a high school dropout, was "street smart"and had used encrypted notes since childhood.  They say they don't know the key to decipher the codes, or that if anyone, beside McCormick, can translate the secret he took to his grave. 
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The last sighting of McCormick was five days before his body was found near a cornfield off of Highway 367 near West Alton, when he received medication from a doctor at Forest Park Hospital in St. Louis for chronic heart and lung problems.

He had a minimal criminal record but nothing that investigators believed would have contributed to his death.  No one had reported McCormick missing and he was identified by fingerprints.

Investigators believe the notes notes found in McCormick's pockets were written up to three days before he died. 

In a news release the FBI said, "Despite extensive work by our Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU), as well as help from the American Cryptogram Association, the meanings of those two coded notes remain a mystery to this day, and Ricky McCormick's murderer has yet to face justice." 

"We are really good at what we do,"  said CRRU chief Don Olson, "But we could use some help with this one."  In fact, Ricky McCormick's encrypted notes are one of CRRU's top unsolved cases.  "Breaking the code, said Olson, "could reveal the victim's whereabouts before his death and could lead to the solution of a homicide.  Not every cipher we get arrives at our door under those circumstances." 
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Investigators need another sample of McCormick's coded system, or a similar one, that they can compare. "Or, short of new evidence, Olson said, "Maybe someone with a fresh set of eyes might come up with a brilliant new idea."



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The maddening lines of letters, numbers, dashes and parentheses have agents stumped. "Even if we found out that he was writing a grocery list or a love letter," Olson said, "we would still want to see how the code is solved. This is a cipher we know nothing about."  

There is no reward being offered, just a challenge, the satisfaction and bragging rights that you helped the FBI possibly bring a killer to justice.

The FBI said breaking any code involves four basic steps:


  • 1. determining the language used;
  • 2. determining the system used;
  • 3. reconstructing the key; and
  • 4. reconstructing the plaintext.
Consider this cipher: Nffu nf bu uif qbsl bu oppo.

Now apply the four steps:
1. Determining the language allows you to compare the cipher text to the suspected language. Our cryptanalysts usually start with English.

2. Determining the system: Is this cipher using rearranged words, replaced words, or perhaps letter substitution? In this case, it’s letter substitution.

3. Reconstructing the key: This step answers the question of how the code maker changed the letters. In our example, every character shifted one letter to the right in the alphabet.

4. Reconstructing the plaintext: By applying the key from the previous step,

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If you have can help crack this code, please write to CRRU at the following address or call the FBI in St. Louis at 314-231-4324:

FBI Laboratory
Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit
2501 Investigation Parkway
Quantico, VA 22135
Attn: Ricky McCormick Case

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UPDATE:

Due to the extensive interest and help offered in this case, the FBI has set up a tip link for information here.

25 comments:

Fielding J. Hurst said...

Is it just me or does this guy not look like your typical crypto genius?

Anonymous said...

about the crypto note,

i was thinnking the same thing as well, but who knows, i mean he could have picked it up out of the trash or something like that and thought it was interesting, figured the FBI knows its his writing, and they probably also have his prints all over the paper, and cannot find anyone else's prints

Anonymous said...

So far this is what I have (my apologies in advance if anyone has already posted this, but I'm too lazy to go through all of the 3468 comments posted thus far to verify):

On the page titled "NOTES", the first 2 lines:

ALPNTE GLSE - SE ERTE
VLSE MTSE - CTSE - WSE - FRTSE

This is an address and phone number for the Missouri Institute for Mental Health, which is located in St. Louis, MO where the man Ricky McCormick who was murdered on June 30 1999 is from, according to the FBI help request (I have yet to find any old articles that talk about the details of this murder btw)

Address & Phone confirmed with Yahoo Maps: 5400 - ARSENAL STREET - (314) 877-6400

Anonymous said...

The three lines underneath that address...so far I got from it "PO DEPUE" (if you take every letter within these 3 lines that proceed the letter "N":

PNRTRSE ONDRSE WLD NCBE
NWLD XLRCMSP NEWLD STS ME XL
DULMT6TUNSE NCBEXL

I Googled "podepue" and "missouri" and I got results for Susan Depue, Sr. Research Specialist at the Missouri Institute for Mental Health (Interesting huh?)

The other information so far that I am getting from this first "paragraph" circled, is that this individual is talking about the nurse in charge, or the "PO" administered; meaning Per Os (mental health jargon meaning medication taken by mouth), that was given to him was the wrong dosage (thus reference to XL), sort of like Effexor XL or Welbutrin, but the dosage was given incorrectly which caused him great troubles or something like that; probably a psychotic reaction or serious health problems from this "error" or possible intentional experimentation on him. This paragraph is basically starting out by explaining what happened to him as a mental health patient and the improper dosage given. That is all I have so far...the rest is slowly coming along...the first page that I haven't started on yet, well this is a sort of diary of events from him travelling and doing something I can't tell what just yet, but you get a lot of driving directions and coordinates to a location.

I'm going to bed now. Goodnight.

I hope this helps. Thanks for your time reading this. Take care. JCM0511
email: dannysantopiettro at yahoo

Anonymous said...

Finally, I did it a 3rd time and got 314-877-6400

THEN I Googled the phone number (for the gentleman who accused me of being a farce) and found the Missouri Institute for Mental Health with that phone number...I quickly noticed the address as Arsenal Street and found those letters within the code:

ALPNTE GLSE - SE ERTE
VLSE MTSE = Arsenal Street (You use the same A twice b/c it is the first letter and the law of 2 remember?)

NOTE: If you are a computer scientist or math teacher and are pulling your hair out right now, then you will now realize why the FBI is asking for help, right? You don't use logic, you use children-like rules, which is sort of how the mind of some people work, such as autism champs! LOL

Finally, after you use those letters to get Arsenal Street....the remaining letters are:

PGLSETEVLSEME = 5400 (using the same math formula for the phone number and always, the law of 2!)

Coincidence? I get 5400 Arsenal Street 314-877-6400

Now, here is the tricky part...the next paragraph then changes "laws"...its no longer the law of 2 and the alphabet...its a game where you find the letters before a repeating letter:

Anonymous said...

Here is the next 3 lines:

PNRTRSE ONDRSE WLD NCBE
NWLD XLRCMSP NEWLD STS ME XL
DULMT6TUNSE NCBEXL

I immediately noticed the "N"s and wrote out all letters before the N's:

PODEPUE

NOW...I Googled PODEPUE...and got nothing...then I googled "podepue" and "missouri" and I got Susan Depue from the Missouri Institue for Mental Health. So for the gentleman who thought I had the answers and then Googled to make the answers fit (that doesnt even make logical sense does it?)...that's how I found her name in the pattern and confirmed with Google her association with the letter code....

Finally, I didnt even have to keep doing that, just kept staring at the code and I got the medications being wrong, the "mg" letters you'll see (after separating the "bad" letters), you'll get a message about the wrong dosage (see XL? He's talking about medications because I've gone through this where pharmacies think XR instead of XL, or EL, and that could cause you a serious health problem). Get it?

The paragraph below that seems to be a social security number or numerical code, the page titled "NOTES" is all incriminating evidence to point to the people responsible for hurting this man, the first page are directions, or a diary of where he travelled and what he did, and once all that is solved you'll get a story about the crime committed.

Anonymous said...

When you really break these two posts down and look at it you have PO(medication given by mouth), Depue maybe not Susan Depue but Heidi Depue a psychologist from Springfield, MO (psychologist's can prescribe medication). Her phone number ends in 5400 coincidence i think not...well maybe.

So my prediction is that Heidi Depue may have administered him some medication, and he had a bad reaction due to the volume of it, or something along the lines of this.

Anonymous said...

MIMH staff and interests:

Susan Depue
(Assessment, Bullying, Computer applications, Dissemination, Evaluation, Evidence-based practices, Grant writing, Mental health, Neuropsychology, Prevention, Qualitative research, Research methods, Social networking, Statistics, Substance abuse, Youth)


Heidi Depue is now in Oregon it says:

Aug 21, 2010 ... Please don't hesitate to send an email to Heidi Depue. ... Trauma and PTSD; Mental Health: Elderly Persons Disorders; Personality Disorders ...

PTSD... very interesting and Susan's Research methods are also intriguing things on her list.

Kathee Baird said...

I received the above emailfrom someone who believes this person, Danny Santopiettro, has solved Ricky McCormick's cipher code.(I had to break it down into several posts in order to share.)

Interesting, huh! I have forwarded the information to FBI agent Ann Todd.


k

Marina Gipps said...

The FBI should release more clues legally to the public (with the family's consent) if they wish to finally solve this case. Even presenting these clues on Nancy Grace's show as well as Unsolved Mysteries would give this case more access to the public and anyone who may be able to crack this type of code. I've worked with mentally ill people in the past and I've seen schizophrenics write this type of stuff. More opinions are needed. More public exposure. Even Dr. Drew...as silly as that sounds.

JOSEPH from SPAIN said...

Remember Edgar Allan Poe and "the gold bug". First the signature: Last line note 2 said:
"XORLX" is McCormick.
X=MC, C, or CK
O R = O R, is equal
L = M, Code Cesar b or +1

ALL LINE: "O-W-N-4 H8L XORLX" is
OWN-FOR I AM MCCORMICK
4=FOUR=FOR
8=eit(phonetic)=ei=A
Code Cesar b or +1 L=M and H=I

etc,,,,,

Anonymous said...

@ Joseph from spain

I think you misread something.
its not "O-W-N-4 H8L XORLX"
but "D-W-M-Y(or4)..."
"XORLX" could also be roman numbers
"10or60"

And after all - why should he sign notes with his name if they were only supposed to be read by himself?

Anonymous said...

I read so many theories about these two notes, but nothing made much sense to me. To impute mental illness to McCormick just because some people have no idea how this code works, is more insane as McCormick ever was.

I wrote this to the FBI a few weeks ago:
The code is simple, written in english and uses 4-5 quite simple rules. It is no problem for an average smart kid to work with this code.
After a while it can be written and read on the fly. Reading is easy, if one knows the topic - and this is the only tricky thing, that will take a lot of patience to decipher these two notes.
If done manually, it will take a few weeks for one person, so I guess the FBI cypto-crew will use their computers and programming skills to find the possible winners.

JOSEPH from SPAIN said...

What? you must tell more.

Anonymous said...

Here is an example. I wish I could post it in color, so you would see, or better - NOT see, what I wrote :)
A little hint: the following is not in english but in the language we speak where I live. It is a very well known quote here.

A T H E C S E-N N E I H E A M R E O S E
U D E-B N E O L G E L S E-W E S E U O S E
( O A N E O F A G E V N O T E)

JOSEPH from SPAIN said...

Translation i please.

Anonymous said...

by public demand ;) here is the translation to english I found for this quote - sorry, Joseph, I found no translation to spanish :/ maybe you try to read what is written in brackets? What is the most spoken foreign language on let's say Mallorca? The word "puño" translated into this language gives you a hint. More I will not post here, as I already posted the key somewhere else.

N H R S E-P O S E F O S E S A D E N E-M R S E
N S E-W S R E-T A S E W S E-B S E-F R S E
( O A N E O F A G E V N O T E)

Anonymous said...

To Joseph:

the most spoken foreign language on Mallorca is german. "puño" translated to german = "Faust" - "Faust" was written by author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - which is what is written in code in brackets.

The english translation of the quote means:

"And here, poor fool, I stand once more;
no wiser than I was before"

JOSEPH from SPAIN said...

july 16

Yes; i am not another thing that a traveler, a pilgrim in the world.

Then...that you thing to do whit 99.840 $ that are hidden in a case or suitcase?

bye.

JOSEPH from SPAIN said...

-My solution is in:
http://prophecyexperimentalzone.blogspot.com/
-This is Mccormick´s last will and testament.
bye

JOSEPH from SPAIN said...

Hello.

-What is the easiest solution?
+ Apply Occam´s razor, like this...

-Where you put your signature on a contract or a letter?

-Consider this:
+Mccormick is sick, has a chronic disease of the heart and lungs. Get paid for his illness. He is alone and not trust anyone (not even his mother!).
+No physical evidence of murder. Probably died a natural murder.

....then the notes are his last will or testament and are for anyone who encounters them.

-If X= Mc, C or CK and if L= M; and if he uses the shorthand... then XL= come, came... a verb. Theory that we can test in the notes as recommended Edgard A. Poe (look "the Gold Bug").

What is the easiest solution?
+Remember that the FBI says so he wrote from Childhood.

It´s a children game.

bye.

Anonymous said...

delirious Glossolalia


Or Glossolalia , with the purpose of religious Glossolalia.. Appearing to have a meaning as the only meaning ...

basically ,he knew he was dying, and so he wanted to have something to make him famous. He knew that having a coded message would make him famous, as he had been watching , in hospital, Discovery Channel, and thus the ZODIAC killer's codes.



The reason no one can say how he wrote this, is that he wrote this at hospital . That is why no one else know he wrote in code and no one can confirm he has some code written down.. No one at hospital thought it was significant that McCormick was writing bizarre stuff, because many delirious people write BIZARRE STUFF. Many people wriet Glossolalia , to ease their frustration at being able to write coherently.


So it quite possible that he wrote Glossolalia for no other purpose than to excercise his fingers at a time he felt urges to write (his last words) but was incapable of spelling !!! (due to his sickeness)


It may be that he wanted to be famous, and having a uncrackable code is one way to be famous ..

Anonymous said...

Glossolalia

He was in hospital and he died of his disease not long after

Many people in such a sick state do bizarre stuff.. when its in hospital they just throw it away .. itsj sut Glossolalia


ANother thought is that in hospital he saw the discovery channel and saw some doco about someone famous who wrote uncrackable code, eg Zodiac killer,
and so he felt he 'd have his own uncrackable code when he died.. to be famous, and succeeded. suspect it was by accident, just pure Glossolalia as he was so sick from his organ failure.

JOSEPH from SPAIN said...

Hello

+Usually. One who knows or fears his imminent death then he has no reason to lie, even he may want to repair what went wrong.

Anonymous said...

It does look like a simple telephone keypad to predictive text cipher, back in 1999 phones would hold 1000's of predictive words installed by manufacture... Then some models would allow between 100/1000 predictive words to be entered to cope with "shorthand texts" by user. top models could even predict multiple words... Has this theory been ruled out yet, just dugout a old Nokia 3310 and it was predicitng words pretty well. What I wasn't sure about was... If I was reading the letters correctly.

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