Inside the Circleville Letter writer’s reign of terror over the city of Ohio, who accuses neighbors of morbid crimes from DV to murder

THE Circleville letter writer terrorized an Ohio town for two decades, but the person behind the campaign was never exposed.

Circleville residents began receiving the anonymous poison pen letters in March 1977, which contained horrific alleged secrets about their personal lives, and the author threatened to expose them.

Many around town thought Paul Freshour was the culprit, but he always maintained his innocence


Many around town thought Paul Freshour was the culprit, but he always maintained his innocencePhoto credit: CBS
One of the anonymous letter writer's notes


One of the anonymous letter writer’s notesCredit: PICKAWAY COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE/MARIE MAYHEW
Marie Gillespie was one of the main targets in the chilling campaign


Marie Gillespie was one of the main targets in the chilling campaignPhoto credit: CBS

It is believed that almost 1,000 letters were sent up until the 1990s.

Most of them were postmarked in Colombus, Ohio, 30 miles north of the sleepy town.

Now a new episode of CBS 48 Hours airing tonight hopes to unmask the person behind the infamous letters with the help of a forensic documents expert.

School bus driver Marie Gillespie was one of the prime targets, as the letter writer accused her of having an extramarital affair with a headmaster named Gordon Massie.

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One of the letters she received read: “This is your last chance to report it: I know you are a pig and I will prove it and shame you from Ohio: A pig stalks and hits other women’s husbands behind.” their backs, causing families and homes and marriages to suffer.”

Other notes to her contained threats.

“Stay away from Massie: don’t lie when asked if you’d like to meet him,” reads one horrific letter.

“I know where you live: I’ve been watching your house and I know you have children. This is no joke. Please take it seriously. All concerned have been notified. It will be over soon”

“We know what kind of car you drive… We know where your kids go to school.”

Marie’s husband, Ronald Gillespie, also received a letter in which the author spoke about his wife’s alleged affair.

The letter states: “Mr. Gillispie, your wife is seeing Gordon Massie. …You should catch them together and kill them both. … He doesn’t deserve to live.”

According to Marie Mayhew, a podcast host who focuses on the case, the letters eventually escalated to phone calls and offensive signs along Mary’s bus route.

“Ron would have to go outside and… he would have to find and pick up all the signs about his wife and kids in Circleville,” Mayhew said.

The couple went to the police, who tapped phones, monitored homes, and tried to work with the USPS to find out where the mail was coming from.

Ron received an anonymous phone call in August 1977, prompted him to answer and was killed after his pickup truck crashed into a tree.

A .22 caliber revolver that had only been fired once was found near his body.


The coroner ruled that Ron’s death was an accident.

However, some have claimed that Ron shot the letter writer and was murdered.

Among those who reportedly believed Ron had been murdered was his brother-in-law, Paul Freshour.

“He wanted the truth about Ron’s death. He also wanted to know who wrote the letters,” said Pam Stanton, a longtime family friend.

After Ron’s death, Mary admitted that she began to have a romantic relationship with Massie, but claimed that it only began after the letters began.

The harassment only grew.

“Everyone knows what you did. If you don’t believe us, just piss them off and find out for yourself.”

“It’s your daughter’s turn to pay for what you did,” said another.

On February 7, 1983, Mary was riding her school bus when she saw an obscene sign about her daughter hanging on the fence.


Horrified, she stopped and attempted to pry the sign off the fence, only to find the device was connected to string and a mysterious box.

When she got home, she found a loaded gun in the box, which police say was a booby trap.

Gun examiners at BCI – Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation discovered the gun’s serial number belonged to none other than Paul Freshour’s colleague, who, according to 48 hours, admitted to the police that he sold the gun to Paul.

After questioning Paul’s wife Karen – who is divorcing him – she told police he was responsible for the letters and was angry with Mary for dating Massie.

“She had found a torn letter in a dresser and she had found some other letters hidden around the house,” Yant said.

According to 48 hours, Paul was cooperative with investigators.

He admitted it was his gun but said it was stolen and did not ask for an attorney.

Paul even allowed them to search his home and car and gave them samples of his handwriting.

However, when he agreed to take a lie detector, he failed.


Paul was arrested for the attempted murder of Mary, but no charges were ever brought about the letters after they followed up on his conviction.

At trial, Mary was allowed to testify about the letters and answer questions from the defense about them, which experts say greatly hurt Paul’s case.

The judge allowed 39 letters to be brought to court because the writing on the booby trap resembled the block letters used in the handwritten letters.

Paul was sentenced to 7 to 25 years in prison for attempted murder.

However, some people in the community doubted his guilt, believing he was a family man who had never been in trouble with the law.

Even after Paul was in prison, the letters continue to pour in, even though he has been banned from using paper and pens.

The sheriff was convinced he was, but couldn’t say how he was able to.

Paul’s warden said it was “impossible”.

Eventually, Paul received a letter himself bragging about how they had set him up.

“If we set it up, we set it up well,” it said.

Paul believed his ex-wife Karen, who reportedly suffered the worse financial end of the divorce and lost custody of their daughters, was behind the alleged setup.

It was also argued that she had not kept the alleged letters she had found and told to the police officers.


Journalist Martin Yant said he uncovered evidence in police reports of an alternative suspect spotted by another bus driver at the time of the incident

“She said…she saw a man next to a…El Camino…but the man turned away from her and pretended to go to the bathroom…So she didn’t get a good look at him ‘ Yant explained.

“She said he was a tall man with sandy hair. And Paul wasn’t tall and he had very dark hair.”

It was reported that Karen had a boyfriend with sandy hair and that her brother also had an El Camino.

She was never named a suspect by police.

Paul reportedly told a friend he believed his son Mark was with whoever stole his gun.

“Paul… get his son into trouble? No, Uncle Paul would never have done that,” Stanton said.

“Uncle Paul would have died before he saw Mark go to jail.”

Mary Ellen O’Toole, a former FBI investigator, said she believes the author may be a woman and is uneducated due to many typos in the news.

However, “Sitting here today, I would say I can’t rule him out,” she said of Paul.

“But I… am looking for other reasons that tell me… it might actually be someone else.

But forensic documents expert Beverly East compared Paul’s letters to a friend to the horrific threats.

“The G… is a very unusual G. Looks like a six, a number six,” she said.

She also noticed a pattern in the zip codes.

“It’s like he’s not sure if it’s 4-2-1-1 2 or 4-3-1-1-3. …In the anonymous letters on the zip code …I found the same mistake.”

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“I would go to court and swear by the Bible on the evidence I found,” she said of her belief that Paul was behind the letters.

“I would say one person wrote all of this. And the one person is that person.”

Marie's husband Ron was found dead when his truck crashed into a tree


Marie’s husband Ron was found dead when his truck crashed into a treePhoto credit: CBS
The residents of Circleville, Ohio were terrorized by the letter writer for almost two decades


The residents of Circleville, Ohio were terrorized by the letter writer for almost two decadesPhoto credit: CBS Inside the Circleville Letter writer’s reign of terror over the city of Ohio, who accuses neighbors of morbid crimes from DV to murder


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