This Day In History: September 21

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The mutilated body of 13-year-old paperboy Danny Joe Eberle is found in his hometown of Bellevue, Nebraska. Eberle had been stabbed multiple times, bound with rope and tortured to death.

FBI investigators called in to help catch the vicious killer found only one clue that could help them: The rope that had been used to tie up the victim was so unusual that the FBI had no records of similar ropes made by any domestic manufacturers. As they began looking into international rope manufacturers, the body of another 12-year-old boy, Christopher Walden, was found deep in the woods near Bellevue, covered with snow.

With no leads as to the origin of the rope, the FBI concentrated on a witness who claimed to have seen Walden with a young man shortly before his disappearance. The witness, who agreed to be hypnotized to try to provide a description of the man, couldn’t produce a vivid picture, but managed to remember a tan sedan and seven digits, in no particular order, from the license plate. Unfortunately, Nebraska had over 1,000 license plates with these digits.

The break in the case finally came on January 11, 1984, when the operator of a Bellevue day care center noticed that a suspicious man was cruising the street outside, and reported the license plate number to the police. Detectives traced the car to a dealership that told them that the car was on loan to John Joubert, a 20-year-old radar technician. Joubert’s car, which was being fixed at the dealership, was a tan sedan that had a license plate containing two of the seven digits that had been recalled by the witness earlier.

When police caught up with Joubert, he had a duffel bag with a hunting knife and a length of rope inside. The rope turned out to be identical to the one found on Danny Joe Eberle, and Joubert was charged with multiple counts of murder. Apparently, the unusual rope had been especially made for the military in the Far East and brought back to the United States by one of Joubert’s friends.

Delving deeper into his background, investigators found that Joubert was also responsible for an earlier murder of an 11-year-old boy in Maine. After being convicted of the two murders in Nebraska and sentenced to death in 1984, he was convicted of murder in Maine as well and executed in 1996.