Last Updated on October 28, 2022 by Ben Oakley
The Halloween death of Kurt Sova, in Ohio, Cleveland, is one of those cases that the deeper we dive into it, the more confusing it becomes.
For many of the stories I write in my books, I tend to follow a course of logic and most likely conclusion. However, there are many stories where things don’t always add up.
Over 40 years ago, on Friday 23rd October 1981, 17-year-old Kurt Eugene Sova went to a Halloween house party with his friend. The same night, he disappeared.
Five days later, on Wednesday 28th October, three young boys were exploring a ravine when they found Kurt’s body.
His body was found just 500 metres from where the party had taken place, and in an area which had already been searched.
Kurt had gone from a missing person case to unexplained death in just five days. But was his death an accident, murder, or a conspiracy to hide an unimaginable truth?
The Night He Never Came Home.
Halloween is a big deal for a lot of people. It’s a time to meet up with friends, attend parties, dress up, and become a ghoul for the night.
On 31st October, Celts believed that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. It was the day before their New Year, November 1st.
Kurt lived with his parents, Dorothy and Ken, in Newburgh Heights, the youngest of four brothers. He was the kind of kid that stayed close to his parents and would never normally go too far without them knowing where he was.
Which made his disappearance and death all that stranger.
On Friday afternoon, Kurt left his home and met with a friend. That evening, they decided to go to a Halloween party at a residence in the town.
For Dorothy and Ken, nothing seemed untoward. Until the following morning, Saturday the 24th, when they realised Kurt had not returned home.
Dorothy refused to sit around and wait for things to happen. She contacted Kurt’s friends throughout the day but not one of them could confirm where Kurt was. It was as if he simply disappeared.
The Halloween House Party.
Dorothy began to hear rumours of a Halloween party in the town that Kurt had attended. By the evening, Dorothy had found the location of where the party had taken place.
She personally visited the duplex residence to meet with the owner, who was known as Susan. A friend of hers opened the door and said Susan was out babysitting but would ask her to call Dorothy when she got back.
On the Sunday, Kurt’s parents spent the day sharing missing persons flyers around the town and asking anyone if they had seen him.
That night, a day after visiting the residence, Susan phoned Dorothy with an unexpected story.
Susan claimed there had been no Halloween party at the house and she had not seen Kurt at all. She abruptly hung up on Dorothy, who became suspicious something more was going on.
Dorothy reported Kurt missing to the police, and an official investigation began. Police began piecing together a timeline of the night of Kurt’s disappearance.
They contacted food delivery companies, as if there were a party, then food would normally be delivered at some point in the night.
They got lucky when a local pizza joint confirmed they had made a delivery of pizza to the address on the night Kurt vanished. They also confirmed there was a party in full effect.
But what was Susan hiding? Why did she tell Kurt’s mother there was no Halloween party?
Details of The Party Emerge.
When police went to the residence to question Susan, she admitted that there was indeed a party and that Kurt Sova had been there that night.
She told police that word of the party had got around and many of the partygoers had come from Detroit, 180 miles away.
With Susan’s help, police managed to track down a number of people who had been at the party. Most were able to confirm that Kurt had been there.
A picture of Kurt’s behaviour that night began to emerge. As he didn’t know many out of towners, he kept himself to himself.
He was seen drinking a powerful alcoholic drink called Everclear. The unusually strong drink was sold in bottles between 60% to 95% alcohol, or 120-190 proof.
For comparison, the average spirit in the UK is around 45% alcohol. Everclear was closer to industrial strength alcohol.
For a 17-year-old who rarely got drunk, Everclear was as dangerous as it got. Kurt was seen drinking it straight from the bottle.
Police learned that Kurt’s friend, who had taken him to the Halloween party, was the last person to see him alive.
By the time Kurt was fully intoxicated, he and his friend went outside to get some fresh air. Realising how cold it was outside, his friend went back in to get a jacket.
When he returned, Kurt had vanished.
Susan was of no help to the investigation and her story changed with every retelling. After police had spoken to her, she told Dorothy it was possible Kurt had slept on a bed in the basement as he was too drunk to walk.
Ken, who at that point had not become overly involved in the investigation, decided to take matters into his own hands.
He stormed over to Susan’s residence and forced his way inside and down to the basement, believing his son might have been down there. Though he didn’t find Kurt, he did find a bed that had recently been slept in.
One of Kurt’s schoolmates told police he had been going to a job interview on Monday 26th October, when he saw Kurt walking towards an unidentified van. It was three days after Kurt had disappeared.
The owner of a record shop where one of the missing persons leaflets had been displayed, contacted Dorothy with an unusual story.
He claimed that on Monday 26th, a man had entered the store and told him to take the leaflet down as Kurt would be found dead within a few days. The record shop owner had never seen the man before or after that day.
What exactly was going on in the small town of Newburgh Heights?
Probable Death by Natural Causes.
Five days after his disappearance, Kurt’s body was found just 500 metres from where the Halloween party had taken place.
The location of the body was confusing to Kurt’s parents. Ken had searched the ravine a number of times, had passed the same location, and had not found his son’s body.
An autopsy was carried out due to the circumstances of his death. It was concluded that Kurt had been deceased for between 24 and 36 hours. It meant that Kurt had died at least three days AFTER the party.
However, there was nothing to prove Kurt had been murdered. His death was officially listed as probable death by natural causes.
Kurt Sova’s parents believed he had died – or been murdered – the night of the party and that someone was hiding the truth of what happened.
For years, they tried to unearth a conspiracy that may not have existed. Kurt’s parents have since passed away with no satisfactory conclusion to their son’s life.
Accident, Murder, or Conspiracy?
What are the options here?
- Kurt Sova died from exposure while attempting to walk home.
- Murdered by someone who had attended the party.
- Died from alcohol poisoning and his death covered up.
The anomaly in the case is Susan. She was the only person to change her story. It is possible she didn’t know Kurt was at the party and told Dorothy the truth.
Before being questioned by police, she might have learned from someone else that Kurt was in fact there. Someone would have slept on the bed in the basement, and perhaps Susan thought it was Kurt.
It’s likely she too was drunk and unable to give a proper timeline of the night. Despite mixing up her story, Susan would likely not have been complicit in Kurt’s death.
The only possibility is that Susan and others realised Kurt was suffering from alcohol poisoning and put him to bed in the basement. He then could have died, and she and others placed his body in the ravine a couple of days later.
It’s extremely unlikely he was murdered. The autopsy confirmed there were no signs of trauma, and that his death had been natural, caused by exposure to the elements.
The man in the record shop could have been stating what many people were thinking that Kurt was dead and would be found soon enough.
Kurt’s friend could have been mistaken in seeing him two days after his disappearance. He could also have been exaggerating the situation or even deflecting attention away from himself.
The Unassuming Truth of the Kurt Sova Case.
Yes, this is a true crime blog, and perhaps the Kurt Sova case does not really fit under the category of true crime. But in the past few years, it has fallen into true crime legend, where uncertainty still remains.
Alcohol does astonishing things to the human body and mind. We’re not ourselves when we drink and our perception changes. We certainly don’t feel the cold as much as a straight person.
When Kurt’s friend went back inside to get a jacket, Kurt might have wondered off, to go home. Due to consuming a large amount of powerful alcohol, he staggered along the road, until eventually falling into the ravine.
When his father searched the ravine, it could have been just bad luck that he missed the part Kurt had fallen into.
To explain the time of death, it was considered that Kurt had fallen into the ravine and into a coma that lasted at least two days before succumbing to the cold.
Despite a large crowdsourcing event in 2020, and numerous pages written about the case, no new information has come to light. It appears that the tale of Kurt Sova ended with himself.
And yet, three months after Kurt died, and in the very same town, a 13-year-old boy named Eugene Kvet was found dead – in the same ravine.
His death was also listed as accidental, but it hasn’t stopped the theory that maybe something sinister was really afoot in the town of Newburgh Heights.
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