Cindy Song: A Bone-Chilling Halloween Disappearance

Hyun Jong “Cindy” Song

Cindy Song (also known as Hyun Jong Song) grew up in South Korea before moving in 1995 at age 15 to Springfield, Virginia where she lived with an aunt and uncle. She enjoyed living in America, and she felt that she had more freedom there.

In 2001, Cindy was 21 and an art major at Penn State University in State College, Pennsylvania. She was petite, only five feet tall and weighed 110 lbs. Cindy had good grades and two part-time restaurant jobs.

It was Halloween, October 31, 2001. It may have been a Wednesday, a school night, but still, it was Halloween. Cindy and two of her girlfriends Lisa and Stacy decided to go out to one of their favourite places and popular student hangout, Player’s Nite Club, which was hosting a Halloween party. Cindy dressed as a bunny. The costume consisted of bunny ears, a white skirt with a bunny tail attached to the back, a pink sleeveless shirt which featured an embroidered image of a bunny, a red knee-length hooded coat and brown suede knee-high boots. Her friend described it as such: “She had bunny ears and a tail that she had bought. It was a very cute outfit. It wasn’t like a sexy outfit. It was a very cute outfit. That was her thing, she was very cute. She liked to look cute.”

A photo of Cindy in her costume on Halloween 2001

The girls partied until 2am, before stopping at a friend’s place to play video games. They finally headed home a few hours later in the early morning hours of November 1. Stacy drove and dropped Cindy off at Cindy’s apartment at 4am and waved goodbye, but she did not see Cindy enter her home. Cindy had been drinking on the night of her disappearance and was said to be slightly intoxicated when she was dropped off at home. This was the last known sighting of Cindy.

Cindy was reported missing on November 4, 2001, three days after she was last seen. Her friends had grown concerned because they hadn’t heard from her. On November 6, police investigators searched Cindy’s apartment.

It is believed that Cindy did enter her home in the early hours of November 1, as her backpack she was wearing that evening was found in her bedroom. Her false eyelashes she wore the night of her disappearance were found in the bathroom, indicating she had come home and taken them off. Her cell phone was found in her backpack.  Not found in the apartment was Cindy’s bunny Halloween costume or her purse which contained her credit cards.

It is believed that Cindy returned home and then left shortly after. Friends pointed out that Cindy always had her cell phone with her, however it was found left at her home. It is believed that she left voluntarily and locked the door behind her. Police found no sign of forced entry at Cindy’s apartment, nor did they find any indications of a struggle. It is possible she went to a nearby 24-hour market, as she was known to do late at night. Perhaps she planned to only be gone a few minutes and did not see the need to bring her cell phone with her.

A few days after Cindy’s disappearance, a witness came forward with a chilling story. The witness said that she saw a woman matching Cindy’s appearance was seen crying and yelling for help in Philadelphia’s Chinatown district which is nearly 200 miles from Cindy’s apartment. Police do not believe this story to be related to Cindy’s disappearance and have stated that the witness was unreliable and changed her story multiple times.

Cindy’s mother Bansoon Song travelled from Seoul (South Korea) to be in State College where Cindy went missing. She wanted to be involved in the investigations, and she attended vigils for Cindy. She is quoted as saying “My life is my family and to not know what happened to my only daughter is devastating”. The family later lambasted the police department in a press conference, saying that the case was not investigated properly.

Lead investigator Detective Brian Sprinkle stated that Cindy’s case was his biggest case at the time, explaining “We get missing Penn State students all the time. But come Sunday night, they come back for a class on a Monday morning.” His office held dozens of binders labelled “Cindy Song”. The police department cut contact with the family after the press conference. We did it for Cindy’s sake in the case and not the family,” Det. Sprinkle explained, “We pretty much cut them off.” The police also blamed the family for destroying evidence by cleaning Cindy’s apartment. The family were allowed in the apartment by police.

Police got nowhere in their investigation, despite the large volume of tips called in. The police even called in a physic to help them find Cindy. The possibility of suicide was also explored; Cindy and her boyfriend had broken up a month before her disappearance, but Cindy’s friends maintained that Cindy had no personal problems and was not upset about her recent break-up.

Hugo Selenski

Hugo Selenski is a convicted bank robber and a suspect in Cindy’s disappearance. Police found the remains of twelve people burned and buried in a pit in his backyard, but none of them are Cindy. One of Selenski’s associates, Paul Weakley, turned on him and became an informant for police. He stated that Hugo Selenski and Michael Kerkowski kidnapped Cindy, took her to Selenski’s property and killed her. Informant Paul Weakley stated that Selenski told him this story, and Weakley had given police a lot of accurate information other than this story.

Suspected serial killer Hugo Selenski. He has been convicted of two murders.

Selenski himself would later admit to police that he killed Cindy. He said himself and his ‘best friend’ Michael Kerkowski mistook Cindy in her costume for a prostitute. He then claims they abducted her and kept her imprisoned in a walk-in safe where she died. As for Michael Kerkowski, he is not around to corroborate Selenski’s story – he’s buried in Selenski’s backyard. Selenski says he killed Kerkowski for keeping Cindy’s bunny ears as a souvenir. Rumours online speculate that Selenski has confessed to other crimes that he had nothing to do with. This has happened with many killers in the past. They may brag about a crime to seem cool or dangerous, or they may confess to other crimes to try and buy themselves time during a trial or cut a deal. For example, infamous serial killer Ted Bundy confessed to other crimes right before he was to be executed as a stalling tactic: if police wanted to solve these cases, they would have to prevent Bundy’s execution so they could hear his confession and investigate further. Selenski was facing the possibility of the death penalty for his role in Kerkowski’s murder.

Selenski was sentenced to 32.5 to 65 years in prison in 2003 for robbery. Despite the twelve bodies in his backyard, Selenski was acquitted of two murder charges when he went on trial in 2006 for the shooting murders of two men (suspected drug dealers). In 2015, Selenski was given a sentence of life in prison for the murder of Michael Kerkowski and Michael’s girlfriend Tammy Fassett, who were strangled to death. Kerkowski was a pharmacist who ran a prescription drug ring on the side. It has not been proven that Kerkowski was involved in the murder of Cindy or any other victims.

Selenski was first apprehended in 2003. None of the bodies found in his backyard have been proven to be Cindy. Police now have DNA from Cindy’s parents in the missing persons database.

My thoughts

The investigation

I’m going to try not to judge the police too hard.. It really does seem like Cindy vanished into thin air. However, from what I read, it seemed like their conduct with the family was questionable. ‘Cutting off’ the grieving family from the investigation? Blaming the family for cleaning Cindy’s apartment? I’d like to know if the apartment was properly cordoned off as a crime scene. I never read that Cindy’s family were told not to clean the apartment, and how were they to know better? You have to wonder if the small-town police force was a bit out of their depth with this investigation.

Selenski’s M.O.

In one of Selenski’s cases, he first buried bodies behind a high school and then later moved the bodies onto his property. Is it possible that he did murder Cindy, but her body is buried elsewhere?

The cases that we know of do not have the same victim profile as Cindy. All four murder victims that are public knowledge were involved in selling drugs. We do know that there are eight more bodies on Selenski’s properties, so it’s possible that there are other young women like Cindy buried there.

The motive for the other murders that Selenski is accused of is believed to have been financial. There is no financial motivation for murdering Cindy.

Selenski’s Story

The part about mistaking Cindy for a prostitute could make sense. A lot of killers want to abduct and murder low-profile vulnerable victims who won’t make a big splash in the media, it’s how they can get away with it for a long time. Selenski murdered drug dealers, which perhaps the press had turned a blind eye to. If Cindy is indeed his victim, she may be the most high-profile of his victims.

At the end of the day, I’m not taking Selenski’s, or his accomplice’s, word for it. If you killed twelve people and buried them on your property, you’re probably a psychopath, and pretty good at lying. Proper evidence needs to be obtained to prove that Selenski is responsible for Cindy’s abduction, otherwise we are just wasting our time and energy on a liar, and getting distracted from the true goal which is finding Cindy. The bodies were found on Selenski’s property in 2003, 14 years have passed since then, and it doesn’t look like anything more will come out of Selenski in regard to Cindy. Cindy has been missing for 17 years now.

Final thoughts

The lack of coverage on this case in recent years is disappointing. This seems like the type of case that could have its own podcast or documentary. A beautiful young college student disappears without a trace on Halloween? A likely serial killer confesses to the crime, but none of the twelve bodies on his property are her? There is still so much to explore about this case.

2 thoughts on “Cindy Song: A Bone-Chilling Halloween Disappearance

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