(Autographed copies available at no extra charge while supplies last.)
Early Christmas morning 1945, just outside Fayetteville, WVa, a fire destroyed the home of George and Jennie Sodder–taking five of their children. Strange phone calls, death threats, and a mysterious man watching the house were just a few of the puzzling events that preceded the fire.
No remains of the children were found–yet the official report said all five children perished in the fire. This prompted George to begin an investigation that would continue the rest of his life.
In 1949, the family re-excavated the site looking for human remains. This only raised more questions than answers.
Undeterred, Mr. Sodder took the unprecedented step of erecting a large billboard on his property with an offer of a $5,000 reward. For decades, the billboard was an icon in Fayette County. After the death of George and Jennie, the family removed the billboard and do not discuss the case.
This enduring Fayette County mystery still causes some to only speak about it in whispers, while others still fear for their lives.
Bob Bragg spent seven years devoted to researching every possible lead in this case. This is the definitive account of one of West Virginia’s most famous and enduring mysteries. A fascinating, captivating, and enjoyable read from start to finish.
I recently had the privilege of reading No Direct Evidence: The Story of the Missing Sodder Children, and it was one of the best true crime books I have ever read. Of all the activities one can be involved with every day, sitting down to read this book was one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of the day. The author’s writing style and the story he presents is exceptionally captivating. It is a true page-turner and difficult to put down once you start reading.
From a naïve young boy to an educated grown man, the author’s unwavering passion for the Sodder family and this unsolved mystery is apparent throughout the book. His resolve to amass as much evidence as he could and his fortitude to expose as many details as possible are likewise evident from beginning to end. And it was all in an effort to fashion some sort of theory and try to make some sense out of a senseless tragedy that is such a sad part of West Virginia history.
The points are presented with an easy flow that facilitates understanding of the plethora of information provided in very astutely written chapter. The author is frank but not insensitive, intuitive but not presumptuous, witty but not arrogant. It is apparent the conclusions are developed from an extensive amount of methodical research and investigation. It is a seamless blend of factual evidence and educated deductions.
I just finished your book and want to congratulate you. It is well written, has a good flow, and is researched so meticulously that in my view it cannot be faulted. I especially liked chapters 10 and 11 where you gave context by explaining the sociology and methods of the Black Hand, outlined “How it Could Have Happened” (avoiding any direct accusations) and then showing historical evidence of a market for babies and children. Well done.
I look forward to your future books, and wish you well in your work ahead.
This book is so well-researched and laid out so nicely. I live in Nicholas County and have always
been captivated by this story. I have read so many books and articles over the years about the
missing children. This book wraps it all up in one place. I learned so many new theories and
things about how West Virginia was during those days. Great job, Mr. Bragg!
Excellent!! Well researched! This is a deep dive into all available aspects of this horrible event
through personal interviews with family and locals in the Fayette County area who still
remember the traumatic events of that Christmas. The reader is taken through the events of that
night using the documented actions and inactions of neighbors, county officials, local authorities
and the like. And the referenced documents are available on the author’s website! This is a
fascinating and captivating read from beginning to end.
I finished the book last night. The way the author presented the story and laid out all information
made it easy to follow the story, the thread of evidence, non-evidence and conjecture. All the
background of the Italian culture and the mafia especially of the period really added to
understanding the big picture of the story. After reading the book I have my conclusion on the
fate of those 5 children. Congratulations to the author on a great book!
I want to congratulate you. Your book is well written, has a good flow, and is researched so
meticulously that in my view it cannot be faulted. I especially liked chapters 10 and 11 where
you gave context by explaining the sociology and methods of the Black Hand, outlined “How it
Could Have Happened” (avoiding any direct accusations) and then showing historical evidence
of a market for babies and children. Well done. I look forward to your future books, and wish
you well in your work ahead.
I have recently read your book “No Direct Evidence: The Story of the Missing Sodder Children”
and never has an unsolved mystery left me feeling so much hope. The reader can quickly sense
your passion and understand how much time, research, and heart you put into this book.
Throughout the entire work, you give nothing but facts, never pushing the reader into an opinion.
There were smaller side stories that were related to the bigger story that helped fill the gaps, that
made the story flow without dragging. Never, at any point, did I feel confused or overwhelmed
but I did find myself feeling compassion for the mother and father who never stopped their quest
to find their children.
Not until the final chapter did you share your opinion and I was so connected to what you wrote
that my own conclusion was very similar. I only wished that Mr. and Mrs. Sodder could have
witnessed what you did for them and their family. Thank you for the opportunity to experience
this fabulous story, so well told.
Review of No Direct Evidence, The Story of the Missing Sodder Children
By Bob Lane Bragg
Bob Lane Bragg painstakingly and with compassion brings a historical review to one family’s tragic story
of lost children. Mr. Bragg easily weaves together the saga of two Italian immigrants who meet, fall in
love, marry, and grow a family of 10 children. Five will mysteriously vanish during a house fire.
On the fateful Christmas eve of 1945, while celebrating their oldest son return from World War II and
waiting for the safe arrival of his younger brother as well, a fire breaks out in George and Jennie
Sodder’s home, burning it to the ground. Five of their children initially were believed to have died in the
fire. But no remains were found even though fragments of animals were presented by examiners as
proof of the children’s demise. Mr. Bragg presents the conflicting evidence found in the over seven
decades of news reports, official government documents, and interviews of those present at the fire or
who searched the debris, in a manner that makes you want to know the entire story.
The questions-why it’s the fire department so long to arrive, why there were incompatible reports from
the fire officials, and was the fire and possible kidnapping of the children due to fascist sentiment in
County West Virginia – and all still unanswered today. Many twists in the evidence are uncovered by Mr.
Sodder’s diligent search through the years, Mr. Bragg is meticulous in capturing said on the page. The
Sodder family came to the conclusion that the children were alive and in 1953 erected a billboard asking
for any information of the children’s fate. Many people including the author remember the billboard
and the five children it picture
Mr. Bragg’s use of the official record, family history, and local lore more provide an excellent read of
true crime in West Virginia.