Challenge "Twelve-Year-Old Murder Case"  

  By: admin on April 7, 2011, 8:59 a.m.

An unsolved FBI case: In 1999, an encrypted message was found in the pockets of a murder victim. No one was able to decrypt it so far.

 Last edited by: admin on Sept. 7, 2022, 3:06 p.m., edited 1 time in total.

typing mistake  

  By: TheBlackBox on Jan. 8, 2012, 12:39 p.m.

I think there is a mistake in the computer written text below the picture:
Line 6 of note 1 says :
You forgot the S i think.

sorry if this mistake was brought to you already, or if it´s from the FBI, or if I made a mistake and got something wrong =)


PS: Is there someone Spanish out there? I think the "N"s in the Note could somehow stand for the "y" you use as an "and"?

typing mistake part 2  

  By: TheBlackBox on Jan. 8, 2012, 12:53 p.m.

just looked up other sited with this cipher, and everyone who copied this note forgot this S
please, I showed this text to friends and family, and everyone told me the same as i think: there is an S!
so please someone explain my mistake to me, or why nobody mentions this S =(

Re: Challenge  

  By: Dennis Grunert on Jan. 8, 2012, 1:02 p.m.

Hey TheBlackBox,

You are right, there is clearly a missing "S" for me, too. The transcript is not from the FBI but from the next-to-last website in the "sources" section. I checked the transcript in parts, but not all of it. I'm sorrry about that and I will write an email to the site admin that the files will be updated.

Thanks for noticing that!


Re: typing mistake part 2  

  By: be on Jan. 8, 2012, 2:36 p.m.

just looked up other sites with this cipher, and everyone who copied this note forgot this S

Thanks a lot – its great that you took such a close look comparing the photos with the transcript.
Do you know whether the mistake is in the original transkript on the FBI website too? If so, would you or should someone from us inform the FBI also. Please mention our MTC3 contest too, as we added this FBI challenge as an MTC3 level X challenge to make it further well-known in the hope this crime could be illuminated.
Best regards, Bernhard

Re: Challenge  

  By: TheBlackBox on Jan. 8, 2012, 4:06 p.m.

On the official FBI-Site there is no transcript, but I think they have a quite perfect transcription in their case-files.
But there are some other things that made me wonder:
1st:There are only these two notes published, and in the official statement, they say that there were no other ciphers to compare with: Why not? If the parents and friends are right that he made ciphers from childhood on, where are these? I think its quite impossible, that he made a new cipher for every note! These other notes, from his home or wherether, they should be published, too!
2nd: Didn´t he had friends? Someone who could tell if he was writing his shopping lists in ciphers? Every clue is important! For example that the second note was written on a paper with the word "note" printed on it, shows that it probably is no love letter…

Too bad that not very much people seem to be interested in this case! Also I don´t like this email-form by the FBI! if there was someone mentioned as a contact person, it would be interesting to get into correspondence with someone knowing ALL facts, and not this single publicity extract….


Re: Challenge  

  By: Yener333 on Jan. 24, 2013, 12:02 a.m.


first Letter and first line with ( )

( Me and my knare\knea are …Knare )

2 Line : Friend………Prison
3 Line : Prison …Prehold….
6 Line : Al Weapons let me luse\loose ….
Line 7 : ( No Prisonfence ) in the godmens career
Line 8 : ( Ten Fence …..
Line 9 : First Prison 11…
Line 10 : Second Prison 14…
Line 11 : Third Prison 15…
Line 12 : I fuck ? my Pistole murder luse\loose to the WLD

Second Letter

Line 2 : You will see me ? ………first
Line 3 : sep(tember) ? three ? tree ? on prison wall ? dance
Line 5 : (D)o (Y)ou (L)ove (M)y T….T You never see ?

Semptember 2 Weeks ?
36 miles 14 parks 29 kenoble 175 trees
35 ? ?
651 ?
99.84.5 zune please encrease deal ? to see
nurse 2 controller ?


Ricky McCormick Case Additional Information  

  By: The_Shocker_12 on Jan. 9, 2016, 12:29 a.m.

In 2012, The Riverfront Times (a local independent weekly newspaper in St. Louis, Missouri, USA) published an article written by Christopher Tritto about the Ricky McCormick Case. C3 solvers may find the article an interesting read.

It includes alternate theories about the case such as the possibility that McCormick was merely a courier and a statement from his mother that she believes he did not write the notes.

It can be found at: ... id=2498959

  • Shocker

Re: Challenge  

  By: BPFM on Oct. 23, 2017, 7:18 a.m.

A. Preamble:

These are notes made by Ricky McCormick and are based on a poorly literate man's transcription of fricatives, sounds, etc., in a shorthand written language he could make reference to.

The notes were likely made during phone calls or on listening to phone messages, probably made at pay telephones. The script is uncertain in certain areas of execution, as noted below, and is inconsistent. For example, "NCBE" and "NCBETS" both represent the same concept: no cash being exchanged.

As such, they are not accurate, consistent, nor are they encrypted; they are just hastily written by an unsophisticated transcriptionist with moderating pressure depending on the writing surface (soft / hard / while standing, etc.) and pace of the oral instruction.

B. Page 1 of McCormick Notes:

Page 1’s notes concern drug deliveries, types, including ecstasy, and all references to “AL” & "HM" are taken to refer to a name like “Hamdallah”, as “AL” would be appropriate phonetic shorthand for a drug dealer with the syllable “AL” in his name. No actual suggestion is being made here to any person, living or dead, and this is simply argumentative academic analysis only.

Top right: “ALSM” = Hamdallah's message(s); query whether on voicemail / recording accessible by public telephone

NPRSEINC = Refers to price increase stages, detailed below in note

AL-PRPPIT XLY PPIY NCBE = “AL”(?) instructs McCormick to prepare the bundles / loads of drugs being delivered himself (“PPIY” is “prepare it yourself”); and to weigh them exactly (“PPIY XLY”).

NCBE = No cash being exchanged. (As (?) did not trust McCormick to handle the cash, the payments would be made by other means than through McCormick's receipt of the funds.)

NCBE MEKSE WLD RCBR NSE PRSE: No cash being exchanged. Given this arrangement, “with load delivered” the receiver (“RCBR”) already knows (“NSE” the price “PRSE”). This payment is not for McCormick to receive or manage, but has separately been prearranged by Hamdallah

What follows is a pricing upgrade with each successive delivery, which McCormick noted the details of, particularly as they related to the drug "ecstasy".

(5th line down) ENTXSE-CPSLE = ecstasy capsule

SE = "ecstasy" phonetically written in McCormick's shorthand as note progressed, while McCormick took notes during oral instruction.

WLD RCBR NSE NT OBN ENXTXSE-CPSLE = With load delivered, the receiver knows not to open ("OBN") the ecstasy capsules. And: The circumstances sugggest that the next ecstasy delivery will cost extra, and, as always, no cash is to be exchanged.

Notice the phonetic transcription the word "open" and "receiver", with the "p" and "v" both being transcribed as "B". Additionally, there are further details on the factual arrangement of McCormick's deliveries of drugs for Hamdallah, and Hamdallah's terms of their arrangement, on Page 2 of the McCormick Notes.)

C TTRSE WLD NCBE = "cut twice (?) with load delivered, no cash being exchanged." CTTRSE maybe refers to a filler for ecstasy, such as "cut".

The "TT" shows uncertainty in spelling a word McCormick was challenged in transcribing.

AL WLD CD NCBETS mE LRSE RLSE URGLSNE AS N WLD NCBE = As per “AL”, when load / lot delivered, no cash being exchanged (“CBETS” is “cash being exchanged”, spelled differently as the instructions were further transcribed. In this passage, "mE LOSE RLSE U R GLS NE" means: "money ("mE") lose - release ("RLSE") your "UR" [(?)] as no delivery ("WLD") if NCBE ("no cash being exchanged")

”AL” does not trust McCormick to handle the cash, as McCormick was suspected of stealing previously: see Page 2 of the McCormick Notes.

NOPFSE NLSRE NCBE = No pills for sale unless (“NLS”) you are sure (“SRE”) no cash being exchanged. (“AL” is ensuring McCormick knows not to try to take cash on delivery.)

C. The pricing escalation schematic is then described…

  1. TENE TFRNE NCBRTSE NCBE INC – Twenty for any ("TENETFRNE") - no cash brought; say…. ("NCBRTSE")… no cash being exchanged (“NCBE”), [cost of ecstasy] ("INC”)." – a professional discount on first order of the ecstasy tabs or pills for a distributor to try out for his purchasers.

  2. FLRSE PRSE on DE 71 NCBE – First price increase, on delivery, $71, no cash being exchanged

  3. CD NSE PRSE ONSDE 74 NCBE – 2nd delivery of ecstasy, the price increases to $74 per delivery, no cash being exchanged (the latter being a term of negotiation for informing the receiver / (?)distributor)

  4. PR+SE PRSE ON REDE 75 NCBE – Price thereafter on re-delivery is $75 per lot, no cash being exchanged

TF NQCMSP = If any questions, call me as soon as possible.

SOLEMRDE LUSE TOTE WLD N WLD NCBE = sold, more ready ("RDE"), lose tote ("LUSE TOTE", meaning, throw away or ditch the tote bag) with last delivery and with each load, no cash being exchanged.

194 WLD’S NCBE = McCormick will get paid $194 with last deliveries ("WLD's") completed, provided no cash being exchanged.

(TRFXL) = a local or pre-set “Traffic Crossing” or “Traffic Circle”, where McCormick will retrieve his pay. Maybe near Hamdallah's gas station.

D. Page 2 of McCormick Notes:

AL PNTE GLASE – SE ER+E = a reference to the gloves(?) or gasoline station where the ecstasy (“SE”) to be picked up for (“AL”) from, or the local hospital's ER emergency area.

YLSE = Why else? ("YLSE")…

mTSE-CTSE-WSE-FRTSE = hyphens suggest random words, such as "must", "cuts", "was", and "forties", perhaps describing a hospital ("ER+E") personnel who would hand over the ecstasy to be delivered.

PNRTRSEONDRSEWLD NCBE – A term of the sale and delivery: “payment will rise on deliveries (if successful) with load delivered, no cash being exchanged”

N WLD XL RCMSP NE WLD STS ME XL = when last delivered, circle back, go to traffic circle / crossing ("XL") – call me as soon as possible; meet at gas station ("STS ME" extra late

Or: XL = ecstasy load or lot

DULmT 6T UNSE NCBEXC = “Do you want money (“m”) - $60, [but no pay] unless sale [is successful] – no cash being exchanged (“NCBEXC”)

MUNSARSTEN MU NARSE = money… ours ("ARSE") or "nurse" (NARSE)*

RLSE-LRSTE-TR SE-TRSE-mKSE n - MRSE = “Or else: steal – try - ecstasy - makes no - more"; such that the hyphens represent discrete statements

SAE6NSE SE MRSE = “say 6… knows… ecstasy ("SE") - more"

NMNRCBRNSEP+E 2PTE EWSRCBR+XE = [Note the] name and number of receiver [of the load]; was receiver of ecstasy

35 GLE CLGSE UNNUTXEDKRSE PSESHLE = 35 gel (?)capsules, an extra dose especially ("PSESHLE")

651 mT CSE HTLSE N CUTCTRS NMRE = $65 (“m” = money) "I" make "cuz" he’d lose – “no cutting quarters no more”

99.84.3 2UNE PLSE NCRSE AOIT SENSE RSE N DSE = $99, $84, [made by McCormick in]June ("2UNE") - place ("PLACE", referring to McCormick's residence from which he was evicted) - since ("SENSE") rise in (?) dose

NSRE ONSE PUTSE WLD NCBE (3xORL) = “nurse once puts ["with load delivery"] no cash being exchanged - 3 x oral”. (“AL” knows once McCormick put a delivery load together that was missing 3 oral doses of a drug, but no cash being exchanged. Thus, McCormick must have sold the missing drugs himself. Hence, on Page 1 of McCormick Notes, the requirement that the drug loads be "prepared exactly" ("RPPIT XLY PPIY…")

NMSE NRSE IN2NTRLERCBRNSENTSRCRSNE = Names nurse; [McCormick to go] (?) into trailer; CPR; brings into car station ("BRNSENTSRCRSNE")

LSPNSE N GSPSE MKSE RBSE NCBE AL XL’R = “AL” [“L”] suspects [McCormick] "gips" ("GSPSE") – makes, robs ("RBSE") - [no cash being exchanged] - [“AL”] to meet McCormick "extra late" ("XL'R")

HM CREN MORE NCBE = home (“HM”) – see rent ("CREN") is costing more – "no cash being exchanged" sworn to by McCormick, meaning McCormick is swearing to not steal to make ends meet

½ mUNDDLSE – half the money now, the rest on deliveries ("DLSE").

D-W-M-YM*L XORLX = Day, week, month, formulate, ecstasy oral ecstasy: a note / record to keep (better) records of the successful deliveries

E. Note on my manner of approach to attempting to solve the McCormick Notes:

Although I have no experience in cryptography per se, I deal with a lot of cryptanalysis in simply deciphering doctors' records. Doctors' records are not always uniform, and are invariably most challenging when handwritten. I also frequently write in an indecipherable and inconsistent shorthand.

That said, there was something about my notes that I recognized in McCormick's notes: misspelled and inconsistently misspelled phonetic shorthand. The result makes better sense if understood through McCormick's personal capabilities and limitations, as well as socioeconomic context.

  • BPFM

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