Ray Copeland’s modus operandi was to lure transient workers to the family farm. They were promised wages, room, board, and help to get back on their feet. Ray Copeland would set the new worker up with a checking account, and the worker would attend livestock auctions with Copeland and bid on cattle and hogs. Barred from bidding himself, Copeland would have the hired hand bid on the livestock, which was then paid for from the unsuspecting worker’s checking account (via New York Daily News).
As the check was written from the worker’s account, there wasn’t a legal way to attach it to Copeland. And before the financial investigation would begin to heat up, the worker would “disappear” from the Copeland farm. Not that this would be too surprising. After all, transients and migrant workers were notorious for picking up and leaving without any notice. Local investigators questioned Copeland numerous times about his workers and their bounced checks (totaling over $30k), but Copeland steadfastly denied having any involvement. He went as far as to say that he, too, was the victim of bounced checks that were written by former farmhands.
For three years this routine continued until August of 1989 when a Crime Stoppers hotline received a mysterious phone call. According to Investigation Discovery, an anonymous caller left a message claiming that the Copelands had been murdering farmworkers and that he had personally seen human bones and a human skull on their property. This was enough to get the authority’s attention.
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