FBI Asks for Help Cracking Murder Victim’s Secret Code

In 1999, Ricky McCormick was found murdered in St. Louis, MO. In his pocket, investigators found hand-written notes in a secret code, which they’ve not been able to break–despite years of work by the FBI’s Cryptanalysis and Racketeering Records Unit (CRRU) and the American Cryptogram Association. On Wednesday (March 29, 2011), the FBI released the text from the to notes and a formal plea for help. “We are really good at what we do,” said CRRU chief Dan Olson, “but we could use some help with this one.” As of yet, there are no witnesses and no suspects.


Though McCormick was a high school drop-out, he was said to be smart; he’d been keeping notes in code since he was a child, but no one in his family knows how to decrypt them. The notes are written in a jumbled system of letter, numbers, parentheses and dashes, and traditional cryptoanalytical techniques have proven useless against them. And without a third (or similar) sample, there is very little to work with in the way of clues.

Though there is no monetary reward being offered by the FBI, any whip-crack decoders out there might find the key to solving this crime. If you’d like to give it a shot, the transcribed text is available for both notes. And should you feel you’ve made a valuable breakthrough, correspondence can be sent to the following address:

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

[source]

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25 Responses to FBI Asks for Help Cracking Murder Victim’s Secret Code

  1. why don't fbi try to detect the writing.
    Since he's not a clever high school boy, he know nothing about encrypting something…

    the possible theory is to check the ink life. Precisely, if we know which alphabet was written first, so we will now what he was actually writing

    He's just jumbled the words!

  2. Looks like an algebra based code…
    It would appear to be that the spaces are equal signs, and that the letters have been assigned values – but whether those values are single digit numbers, multi-digit numbers, other letters, or whole other formulas, I can't be sure just yet.
    It also seems to be somewhat self-governing. Meaning, earlier parts of the cypher, effect the translation in later parts of the cypher.

    I suspect a double cypher – one to translate into, and one to translate out of – they're tricky, but possible with a math based cypher. Unfortunately, that often means multiple translate-out cyphers, since it could very well depend on which formula was used.

    Also can't rule out that calculus derivatives and/or integrals weren't used to further transform it.

    • i dont think it would be that complicated, since he used it since he was a kid. deciphering would be a pain, well im not sure if he wrote himself simple notes like that for fun or if this was really important that he wanted no one else to read. if it is the latter, then yes, i can see it being a complicated mathematical type of coding, whereas if its not, then i think there would be some way to read it to where its pronunciation is somewhat phonetic, like "h8" "2sday" "nrg", etc./

      not sure on how old he was when he developed his coding, but if he were in elementary school, i think they should try to get a student of that age to try to read it

  3. I highly doubt the story to it is genuine.
    Pretty sure they're looking to hire a coder/decoder and this is how you find the best. It's how i would do it.
    Still, although i dont want to work for or with them, i'm giving it a shot anyway xD
    One of the reason's i'm not convinced is because there are alot of common phrases in there, and some intriguing "mistakes", revealing some common ground across a couple of characters…

  4. Kevin: I was thinking the same thing! Key-codes for software.The dashes and parentheses gave it away. It reminded me of the countless pieces of paper that used to litter my computer desk.

  5. I think the FBI would have trouble reading that even if it weren't written in code. What a mess!

  6. I think the FBI would have trouble reading that even if it weren’t written in code. What a mess!

  7. I think the FBI would have trouble reading that even if it weren’t written in code. What a mess!

  8. I have a question: How would someone get into/learn about Cryptanalysis and ciphers? It's something that has interested me for a while, but I don't really know where to start.

  9. sup everywun
    I doubt that FBI and co didn't try it before, but I find the letters Pi in circle (upon, right) maybe are kinda key for this letter. In other words, Pi number is the key, and algorithm was kinda OTP (One Time Pad).
    It was pretty good chosen key for this situation IMHO.

  10. sup everywun
    I doubt that FBI and co didn't try it before, but I find the letters Pi in circle (upon, right) maybe are kinda key for this letter. In other words, Pi number is the key, and algorithm was kinda OTP (One Time Pad).
    It was pretty good chosen key for this situation IMHO.

    • One of the points they made is that they don't have a 3rd document to compare it to. A schizophrenic with hypergraphiac tendencies would have many examples scattered all over the place. Also his mental state is not determined, and if he were creating codes at a young age he's more likely to be semi autistic.

  11. So i was just about to crack it when my five year old daughter looked at what I was doing and said,
    'They get two tubs of ice cream, some bikkies and green cordial. Can we get two tubs of ice cream ext shop?'
    I'ts a shopping list all. He got bumped off on the way to the store.

  12. Best answer I've found so far.

    Source: http://yhoo.it/gqiJFz (Tenth Comment. From a man names John)

    It is a shorthand log of historic episodes in the mid seventies on (page 1, actually written second, but numbered one to keep events in chrono order) and medications taken with the effects listed. The key at the end is day week month year morning day latenight. It was started on page 2 and then page 1 was added as a log of the earlier childhood which is the basis for diagnosis and the "page 2" is indepth records of changes in meds. The 3 month periods are normal with bipolar episodes in the 4th QTR (September through December in the seventies. These seasons suggest seasonal disorder.

    ALPNTE GLSE-SE ERTE

    A: Latenight, Phenergan, taken in evening G: Latenight Serenace/Seroquel or Seroquel/Serenace Extended Release Taken Evening

    VLSE MTSE-CTSE-WSE-FRTSE
    V: Late Serenace Morning take Serenace

    On page 1 are lists of manic episodes

    (FLRSEPRSEONDE71NCBE)

    From late september really severe episode on December 1971: No cause before episode
    (CDNSEPRSEONSF/DE74NCBE)

    Chronic Depression in September, really severe episode on the start of December in 1974, no cause before episode

    26MLSE74SPRKSE29KENOSOLE173R7RSE

    2x 6mg Serenace in 1974 or 2x 600mg Seroquel in 1974
    99-84.B2UNEPLSENCRSEAOLTSENSKSENRSE

    1999 through 1988
    NSREOUSEPUTSEWLDUCBE(3XORL)

    D-W-M-YH/MD/IL XDRLX
    Day weekday month year: morning day or latenight

  13. I still think it's a PEACE of PI, just type it into google and you will find the exact altitude and longitude of a business called PEACE of PI on Cozens and Francis in St. Louis. Look at google images and you will find a tshirt called PEACE of PI. Look at Ricky's letter. Top right is PI. Second line is a longitude or latitude mark (That's what I entered and came up with Peace of Pi business. Now look at that Peace of Pi T-Shirt and imagine it is the key to the code. You will find some of those number sequences there if you look carefully and they are next to each other; 74, 75, 99 Start looking at this as the key, symbol, code or clue. Lol, it could be as simple as designating some letters next to the the numbers and go in a spiral till you run out or have enough. Then take a literal slice of pie which is a triangle and position it in the designated section and you will have a code that is only one piece of the pi. You can make multiple codes and multiple layers of codes like this. No one has ever figured out the secret of pi since it's been around so it makes the PERFECT CODE. Maybe Ricky figured it out which would be a tragedy and a discredit to him or the FBI already knows this and they hope someone can figure out or maybe it's just an April Fools Joke on all of us.