CrimeCon 2018 Special Report: How Angela Bellah Stopped the Music City Killer

If you thought the CrimeCon 2018 weekend murder mystery game was going to be easy to crack, you probably quickly realized you were mistaken. One thing is clear: CrimeCon producers do not underestimate the sleuthing skills of our attendees. To those of you who hit me up for hints on Twitter, I must apologize for letting you down; I asked the CC producers not to tell me anything about the murder mystery so I could try to solve it myself. Turns out I'm a terrible investigator and was no help to you guys at all. 

Many of you have sent exasperated tweets and posts to learn the solution to the mystery, so I caught up with CrimeCon 2018 Super Sleuth Angela Bellah (who won two VIP tickets to CC19 in New Orleans for her efforts!) to learn how she and her daughter finally cracked the case.

 Angela Bellah and her daughter Whitney accept the CrimeCon 2018 Super Sleuth award. 

Angela Bellah and her daughter Whitney accept the CrimeCon 2018 Super Sleuth award. 

CCI: Everyone got the same Nashville Times newspaper and first puzzle (See Figure A) at check-in. So where’d you start?

AB: We were so excited to play this game. When we started studying the first challenge, we thought it had something to do with the numbers in the paragraphs, but finally noticed the numbers spelled out in the first row of the columns, and that gave us what we needed to move on. [Informant's Note: The numbers in the sentences were all red herrings. The key was to read vertically and, if you used the killer’s “X” symbol as the final letter, you got: ONE-THREE-DOUBLE SEVEN-SIX]

 Figure A

Figure A


CCI: Okay, so that got you into the voicemail, which pointed you to the CrimeCon app and the “Fat Lady” clue and allowed you to enter your room number so that you’d get the overnight clue under your door. I thought that puzzle was REALLY hard, how’d you solve it?

The direction puzzle (See Figure B) was very difficult and took a while. At first we thought we had to have a word with the same meaning as the words in red. We finally realized that there was an initial of the directions in each word, then it was a little longer before we figured out we had to use the red words in the puzzle and put the two letters of the directions in the red boxes. Then from there we got to the next website from the killer.

 Figure B

Figure B

The next puzzles were not too hard, we figured them out pretty fast. And this is what gave us the best clues for the end.

CCI: Was there a big "AHA!" moment when you knew you had it figured out?

On the last puzzle we knew “plaque” wasn’t in the riddle by accident. So Sunday morning on our way to our first breakout we walked around looking for a plaque thinking the victim’s name would be on the plaque. However, my daughter realized the trash cans also had advertisement that had the word “commitment” on them. [Informant's Note: The solution to the word find puzzle included the phrase "commitment will soon help you narrow my targets. . ." See Figure C.)

 Figure C

Figure C

So then we figured the plaque would be by a set of trash cans. We didn't find it on our way in but we spotted a plaque above a set of trash cans by the entrance of the conference on our way out. The final “AHA!” moment was when we realized the number on the trash cans upside down said “SHIELD BILL.” (Figure D)  There was only one speaker named Bill that weekend so we knew it had to be him. [Informant's Note: Throughout the mystery the killer wrote HELLO in upside down numbers, ultimately leading sleuths to realize that the phone number by the trash cans was really a word if you turned it upside down.]

 Figure D

Figure D

After we figured out it was Bill, the whole riddle made sense: “Don’t set the alarm” (the fire alarm was right next to it); “your choices down to two” (waste & recycle); the plaque; “commitment.”

CCI: I wasted a lot of time focusing on pieces of evidence that turned out to be red herrings. Did anything throw you off or make you wonder if you were on the right track?

A couple things threw us off:

We kept thinking the newspaper had more meaning to it. I think my husband, daughter and I read through that thing a hundred times thinking we would find something. We were looking for a pattern in the past victims’ names or initials.

When we finally got the code to the website and got to the portion where it asked for the victim’s name, we saw “There’s your trouble” italicized. That sent us looking through the Dixie Chicks song lyrics to see if there was a bigger meaning. There just happened to be a “John” in the lyrics but it didn’t feel right. That was when we realized we weren’t on the right track.

When we found the trash cans on the last day, there just happened to be a big piece of tape on the back, so we thought maybe the name was written on a piece of paper and someone had beat us to it. To make things worse, before we read the number upside down we called & texted it just to find out it was Mexico number. We thought it might have been actually been placed there by the Gaylord Opryland Hotel.

CCi: Did you work with anyone to solve it?

My daughter Whitney and I were in this together, she got some of it first and I got the others, with a little help from my husband. We were willing to miss a breakout to solve the mystery, so he let us handle it.

CCI: Last year we had several people knocking on random hotel room doors in the middle of the night. Do you have any amusing stories from your investigation to tell future generations of CrimeCon Super Sleuths?

We kept waiting for the clue to come under the door in the middle of the night. And I’m sure we at least looked funny hanging out by the trash cans for half an hour.

CCI: How was your overall experience at CrimeCon?

It was phenomenal! We cannot wait to go back next year!

Don't miss the ENTIRE SOLUTION to the Music City Killer game!  Thanks to all citizen sleuths who joined forces to keep our CrimeCon 2018 speakers safe and sound!