Charlotte’s unsolved mysteries


The Observer is running a six-part series this week on the death of Ira Yarmolenko, a 20-year-old UNC Charlotte student who was found dead near the Catawba River in 2008.

Mark Carver, who was fishing nearby with a friend, was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. He still insists he didn’t do it. The series raises many questions about what actually happened eight years ago. (If you’re not reading the series, “Death by the River,” you should start now. Part 3 was released this morning.)

I know this case isn’t technically an unsolved mystery, but the mystery surrounding what happened to Yarmolenko got me thinking some of the Charlotte region’s unsolved crimes and disappearances.

Denise Porch

Denise Porch HANDOUT

When: 1975

Where: South Charlotte

What happened: Denise Porch, then 21, disappeared from her south Charlotte apartment at around 3 p.m. July 31, 1975. The TV was left on and the air conditioning was running. Her purse lay on a table and her Camaro was parked outside. She was seen that day around the apartment complex, where she was a resident manager. The only thing missing from her apartment were the keys to vacant apartments and a log of available units.

Any leads?: Not really. This is the oldest unsolved case in CMPD’s missing persons files. A sketch of a possible subject turned out to be an Observer employee who stopped by the complex to see a friend. One man was arrested after seeking a ransom but wasn’t involved — he just wanted money. A man who lived 300 yards away and was later convicted of killing two S.C. women never confessed to the abduction, and was executed.

The family filed to have Porch declared dead in 1982.

Kim Thomas

Kim Thomas charlotte muder

When: 1990

Where: Cotswold

What happened: Kim Thomas, 32, was stabbed 20 times in her Cotswold home one July morning in 1990 while her 10-month-old son was left unharmed in his crib, alone until nearly 10 p.m. when the father alerted police to the killing.

Any leads?: The husband/father, Dr. Ed Friedland, was charged with the murder but that charge was eventually dropped, though he’s never been publicly exonerated. In 2010, police said they were investigating another “person of interest” but didn’t name the person. Friedland won a wrongful death suit against Marion Gales, who did yard work for Thomas and was seen in the neighborhood that morning.

Asha Degree

Asha Degree charlotte murder

When: 2000.

Where: Shelby.

What happened: Asha Degree, then 9, left her Shelby home in the middle of the night Valentine’s Day 2000. Her family last saw her asleep at 2:30 a.m., but about 90 minutes later a trucker saw her walking along N.C. 18 a little more than a mile from home, the last reported sighting.

Any leads?: In August 2001, a construction worker found a book bag containing some of Asha’s belongings buried along the same highway in Burke County, about 20 miles from her home. Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman called it a “very active case” in 2014 and the Charlotte Division of the FBI is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

Kyle Fleischmann


When: 2007.

Where: Uptown.

What happened: Kyle Fleischmann hasn’t been seen since the early hours of Nov. 9, 2007, after partying at an uptown nightclub. He had gone with a group of friends to a comedy show and, later, Buckhead Saloon. His friends left the bar between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. A surveillance camera caught a woman approaching him before the bar closed. They danced, then she left with her boyfriend and two other men. Fleischmann, then 24, left the bar alone — without his coat and debit card — and was last seen at a nearby Fuel Pizza.

Any leads?: Kyle Fleischmann tried to call family and friends. His father believes he was looking for a ride. The father, Richard Fleischmann, believes Kyle was murdered and buried near a construction site at 16th Street and North Davidson, a place where search teams have looked before.

Kristen Modafferi


When: 1997.

Where: San Francisco

What happened: This one wasn’t in Charlotte, but Modafferi grew up in Charlotte and graduated from Providence High, and her story was actually featured on the show “Unsolved Mysteries.” She was a Park Scholar at N.C. State and went to California to take a photography class at University of California at Berkeley. She disappeared at the age of 18 after her shift at a local coffeehouse.

Any leads?: Police eventually said they suspected foul play. A man was identified as a person of interest but never charged. In 2015, a private investigator investigating her Oakland home had a cadaver dog that seemed to pick up the scent of human remains.

h/t to the Observer archives, this /r/Charlotte thread and this previous C5 piece for inspiring and informing this story. What did I miss? Tweet us @Charlotte_Five or send us an email.

Photos: Charlotte Observer file.