Real Name: Jerry Dean Michael (given name)
Aliases: Liz Carmichael, Elizabeth Carmichael
Wanted For: Conspiracy, Grand Theft, Fraud and Counterfeiting
Missing Since: 1980
Details: In 1973, Liz Carmichael seemed to be the consummate Los Angeles businesswoman. Claiming to be a farmer's daughter and widow of a NASA engineer, Carmichael founded 20th Century Motor Car Corporation, which designed a fuel-efficient low-priced car with only three wheels, in which she claimed the lack of a fourth wheel eliminated 300 pounds from the car's weight, allowing better gas mileage than four-wheeled cars. The nationwide aftershock of the 1973 oil crisis had shifted customer tastes to more fuel-efficient vehicles. The Dale, claiming 70 miles to the gallon, seemed the solution to the oil crunch.
Investment money poured in, aided in part by a mention of the Dale by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. One political cartoon showed Carmichael staring down well-heeled Detroit automobile magnates, which also gave the impression of women making their way in the workplace. The Dale, a sedan, was meant to be produced with the Revelle, a full-size, and the Vanagon, a family van, all 3-wheeled. However, as it seemed too good to be true, the Dale was.
Investigators from the California legislature began to investigate her case. She was originally accused of illegally selling dealer franchises and cars that did not yet exist. The California DMV discovered that the company did not have a state permit to manufacture cars and that there was no evidence that these cars were even being manufactured. The investigators found a lack of machinery and equipment at Carmichael's business, and the Dale cars that were made had been constructed from shoddy materials. Of the three Dales in existence, only one was able to run on its own power. No Vanagons or Revelles were ever reputed to have been produced.
With the authorities closing in, Carmichael moved her business to Dallas. Two weeks later, however, the D.A. filed criminal charges against her for grand theft. Armed with a search warrant, Dallas police arrived at her home. She and her five children had since vanished. While looking through her home, investigators found evidence that Carmichael was hiding her true identity.
Nine weeks later, she was discovered living in Miami with her five children. A neighbor recognized her from a news photo and called the police. Carmichael was working for a dating service and calling herself "Susan Raines". Investigators soon discovered another identity for Carmichael: Jerome Michael. Michael/Carmichael claimed that she had begun taking hormone treatments in preparation for a sex change operation. She had been wanted for counterfeiting since 1961, and was swindling millions out of several investors.
On April 12, 1975, Carmichael was arrested, extradited to Los Angeles, and put on trial. During the entire trial, she maintained that the Dale was a real car and could still be released. On January 24, 1977, she was convicted of conspiracy, grand theft, fraud and counterfeiting charges. She was released on $50,000 bail which was paid by a TV company that wanted the rights to her story. For four years, she appealed her conviction. Finally, in 1980, she failed to show up in court for sentencing. She and her five children have not been seen in almost a decade.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the April 5, 1989 episode.
This case was also featured on "Mysteries at the Museum."
Results: Captured. Liz Carmichael was finally arrested two weeks after the broadcast thanks to a viewer tip near Austin in Dale, Texas. She was working as a flower vendor going by the name Kathryn Elizabeth Johnson. Interestingly, the town she was located in has the same name of the car that she "planned" to make.
Carmichael was returned to California where the judge gave her a one-to-ten year sentence. She served two years in prison for her Los Angeles convictions. Carmichael died of cancer in 2004. A prototype of the Dale is in permanent collection of the Peterson Automobile Museum in Los Angeles, California.
- Liz Carmichael on Unsolved.com
- The Dale in simanaitissays.com
- 20th Century Motor Car Corp at Wikipedia