Wednesday, November 22, 2017 Elyria 33°


CRAMER CASE: Timeline of events


June 25 — Betty Smolanovich and Mark Varasso arrived at Edward Ford’s home in Portage, Ind., from Aliquippa, Pa.

June 26 — Mark’s parents arrived to pick up Mark, and Mark refused to return home with them, saying he wanted to be on his own. Mark’s parents took his car as it was titled in his father’s name.

Mark filled out a job application with Republic Steel in Indiana. He was taken there by Edward Ford, who was employed there. There were no positions available, but they told Mark they could find one for him.

Mark said he may go back to Ohio for a few days before he settles into the job.

June 27 — Mark’s mother called Mrs. Violet Ford and said she had reason to believe Mark and Betty were married. Mrs. Ford questioned the two and told Mrs. Varasso that it wasn’t true.

July 1 — Mark gets a phone call from Norma, asking him to return to Ohio.

Violet Ford, her two children and Betty take a bus to Aliquippa later that evening. Edward Ford and Mark accompany the women to see them off.

July 2 — Norma’s roommate, Helen “Louise” Gilmore finds a note from Norma reading, “There’s a time when each of us has to make our own decisions — Don’t worry, I’ll be back in a few days.”

At 3:40 a.m., Norma visited Mrs. Varasso and said she was upset Mark went to live in Indiana, and she told Mrs. Varasso that she was going to hitchhike there to talk Mark into returning home. Mrs. Varasso tried to talk Norma out of the visit, but later agreed to pay for her bus fare.

At 7 a.m., Norma called Mrs. Varasso to say that she was in Toledo and on her way to Portage. She did not say whether she had taken the bus.

Norma arrived to visit Mark at Edward Ford’s home. Mark called Gilmore at 5 p.m. to tell her that Norma was on her way home.

July 3 — Gilmore called Mark Varasso at the Ford residence at 5 p.m. and asked if Norma was still there, because she hadn’t returned home.

July 4 — Mark called Gilmore and asked if Norma had returned home.

July 5 — Mark called Gilmore again and asked if Norma had returned home.

Gilmore called police and asked that they visit the Ford’s residence to check if Norma was there. Gilmore and Penny Byrne drop Mary off at Lorain County’s child welfare agency.

Mark called his parents and said he wanted to come home and to send money for the bus fare. Mark boards the bus around 10 p.m. to return home.

July 6 — Mark arrived in Cleveland, and his family picked him up at the bus station.

July 7 — Mark’s family leaves for Cory, Pa. During the trip, Mark leaves to visit his grandmother in Erie for a couple days, according to his parents.

July 9 — Penny and Louise, Norma Cramer’s roommates, move to Piedmont, S.C.

July 10 — Mark and his family return home to Ohio on the same day. Mark’s parents said that he didn’t travel out of state after he arrived home.

Mark worked at the Ridgeville Diner part time, according to Mrs. Varasso.

July 26 — Violet Ford returned home to Portage.

July 27 — Violet Ford called the Varasso home, inquiring about a lighter that Mark Varasso had taken from the home that had sentimental value. Mark promised to return the lighter.

Aug. 17 — A body is found in a swamp in Valparaiso, Ind., approximately 48 feet south of a traveled portion of Porter County Road and 3.5 miles west of Valparaiso city limits. The body is unidentified, but investigators note it appears to be a young woman with a large build.

Aug. 19 — The body was examined, but Dr. Leonard Sachs, the pathologist, died before he could submit a written report to the coroner.

Aug. 20 — At 3 p.m., Elmer Lenburg, of Hobart, Ind., turns in a lady’s handbag, which he said he found while cutting brush along County Road 450 W. The handbag contains the identification of Norma Cramer, a hooded serape, several papers and canceled checks, and a sales receipt dated July 16 from the Public Drug Store in Beaver, Pa.

Among the papers was an address for the Ford’s house. Edward Ford was contacted, and he confirmed Norma Cramer had visited the residence in early July.

Mrs. Varasso called Helen Gilmore “hysterical,” inquiring about Norma.

Around 4:30 p.m., Grafton police were contacted to determine if Norma was reported missing. Investigators received a call from Helen Cramer at 5:30 p.m., reporting that she had last seen Norma on June 30.

Aug. 21 — Investigators determined that the woman died of two bullets to the head, and a third hole on the woman’s back could have been from a bullet.

Aug. 26 — A gas station attendant across the street from the Ford residence told police that he saw a woman that he believed was Violet Ford leaving the home at around 9:30 a.m. July 2, crying. He said the woman left in a 1965 red Chevrolet with Indiana license plates.

Helen Cramer identifies the body found in Valparaiso as Norma’s.

Sept. 4 — The gas station attendant was shown a picture of Norma and said it looked like the woman he saw crying. He originally believed it was Mrs. Ford, but he had learned she was out of town.

The driver of the red Chevrolet was not Mark, he said.

The Fords were interviewed by police.

Edward Ford told police that Mark “sat around crying for days” after Betty and Violet Ford left, and he told him to leave if he kept crying all day. The Fords gave police a timeline of events.

Sept. 10 — Mark was interviewed by Lorain County Sheriff’s detectives Charlie Bulger and Henry Zieba at the request of the Indiana State Police and the Porter County Sheriff’s Office. Detectives noted some discrepancies in the dates Mark gave them.

Oct. 3 — Mark takes a polygraph, and investigators note that he told the “substantial truth” concerning knowledge of the crime.

Porter County sheriff’s Detective George Earley writes that an investigation of all leads has found no information concerning motive, location or suspects in the crime.

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