Too Good to be True

An affair that changes everything, the promise of a new and better life, and maybe even happiness. In Gwen’s own words, “It was almost too good to be true.”

Episode Info

Episode Transcript

Amanda Reno: On the last episode of Solvable…

We learned more about Gwendolyn Mae Clemons, the biological mother of Baby Alisha Heinrich, the same baby whose tiny body was found in Mississippi’s Escatawpa River in December 1982.

Figuring out what happened to Gwen became an ever-evolving mystery for Mississippi law enforcement and Gwen’s family in Missouri.

We know from talking with Gwen’s sister Teresa and her sister-in-law Aunt Alicia, that Baby Alisha’s father, Gwen’s first husband, was named Rick Heinrich.

Rick and Gwen divorced shortly after Baby Alisha’s birth, and Rick is no longer alive.

Gwen’s second husband, a man we’re calling James, revealed that his marriage to Gwen was also brief and ended in divorce.

But unlike the reason Gwen and Rick split up, which was alcohol use on Rick’s part, Gwen and James broke up for a VERY different reason.

James: I found out a Webb City Policeman was making routine visits to my house & partaking in extracurricular activities with my wife. Well, I basically caught them in the act. I knew because I found cigarette butts on my side of the bed in the ashtray, she didn’t smoke, and they weren’t the kind I smoked.

Greg Bodker: James says he and Gwen hadn’t been married long before this Webb City policeman came into the picture.

Just like we’re doing for James, we’ve decided to use a pseudonym for the man Gwen was involved with to protect his family and Mississippi authorities’ current investigation.

Going forward we’ll refer to the Webb City police officer as “Phillip.”

While interviewing James last year, we asked him if he’d ever met Phillip in person and if he could explain how Gwen and Phillip’s affair started.

He said that around the time Gwen and James started seeing one another after she divorced Rick, a man had come by James’ house unannounced and the Webb City police had to be called.

*Police siren blip*

Phillip was one of the responding officers.


James: Here’s how we met, her ex or some dude showed up on my porch one day, and was wanting to talk to her, but she didn’t want to talk, so I told him to get off my porch, but he wouldn’t. I called the cops and he was one of the cops. After that incident, he started showing up. He knew I wasn’t home. He would show up in the police car, he was working and on duty, the car would sit for hours. I started talking to neighbors, I was working and paying the bills, she didn’t work.”

Amanda Reno: After James uncovered the affair, Gwen left him.

It’s at that point that Teresa, Gwen’s sister, believes Gwen moved to Michigan for a few months. Teresa isn’t sure if Phillip went with her or not.

While living in Michigan, Gwen wrote Teresa a letter.

It’s dated November 2nd, 1982, which is just five weeks before Baby Alisha’s body showed up in the Escatawpa River in Mississippi.

Obtaining a copy of the letter was critical for our team to understand the frame of mind Gwen was in late 1982. It gives us just a little insight into the mystery of her and her daughter’s life during that time period.

Here’s a voice actor reading Gwen’s handwritten words with the name of the Webb City police officer substituted as Phillip.

Gwen’s Letter: Dear Teresa, Hello!  How’s everybody?  I’m ok I guess a little lonely here all by myself.  But it’s worth it to have Phillip. I guess it’s only supposed to be a couple more weeks. Around November 15th. I wish it would hurry up.

You should have seen Alisha dressed up for Halloween. Of course, I couldn’t find a costume little enough for her. So, I bought her some little girls play make-up and painted her face like a clown. She was really cute. Everyone talked about her smile. She even tried to say trick-or-treat a couple of times. Her new words are rain, and I fall. She’s really talking up a storm now, when she wants to, of course. I took a few pictures of her over the weekend I’ll send you one.

You know, I can’t remember when I felt so in love. Romantically in love. It’s beautiful. Almost too good to be true sometimes. One reason, because I never thought it would happen and, two it really feels great. I know it sounds dumb maybe, or like high school stuff, but I just feel so good about it. Besides I don’t care if we are acting like high school lovers, we’re, I’m happy. And will be even more happier when we are finally together, once again, to share each other in every way possible. True Love! Ah!

Well, gotta go. Got things to do. So, see ya later.

Love ya’ll, Gwen & Alisha

 Amanda Reno: Because Gwen mentions in this letter that she is in Michigan alone, missing Phillip and eager for them to finally be together again, I think it’s safe to say that for that brief few months Gwen was in Michigan with Baby Alisha, Phillip the Webb City officer didn’t accompany her.

According to Gwen’s former sister-in-law, Aunt Alicia, at some point, while either still living in Michigan or after returning to Missouri, Gwen and Phillip reunited like Gwen said she’d hoped they would in her letter.

It’s at that point Aunt Alicia says Gwen and Phillip made the decision to start a new life together and move out of state. Like really far out of state.


Aunt Alicia: She met a policeman there in Joplin that she started having you know, a relationship with. But, uh, I joked with her, I says, “You went from my brother, my brother liked his alcohol,” and I said, “You went from him to a policeman.” haha

Amanda Reno: Phillip was allegedly going to quit his job as a Webb City police officer and leave his wife and three kids to run away with Gwen.

Together with Baby Alisha, the couple planned to move to the Sunshine State and open a dog grooming business.

Greg Bodker: In our interview, Teresa, Gwen’s sister, explained that right before leaving for Florida Gwen, Baby Alisha and Phillip stayed with Teresa and Gwen’s parents for a few days.

Teresa: So, she came here, it wasn’t a week, maybe 5 days, I think. A few days and come down here, to Joplin and met up with him, and stayed here a couple of days at my parent’s house, and loaded up all her furniture and her little girl, and left to go to Florida we thought.

Greg Bodker: Aunt Alicia remembers Gwen and Alisha’s departure for Florida too.

The memory still plays vividly in her mind to this day.

Aunt Alicia: I know that right before she left that she had come into where I worked at and told me that she was leaving town but she wanted me to be part of the baby’s life and she wanted my address and stuff so she could keep me updated with pictures and stuff, to communicate with her that way, and said she would always keep in touch and make sure the baby knew this part of the family that since they weren’t together no more she still wanted her to be part of the family.”

Her boyfriend was in the car with the baby, and she came in.

She was excited the last time I seen her cause she says they gonna move and make a new life for themselves and she said she thought it would be best for her.

Greg Bodker: Aunt Alicia remembers questioning Gwen about why she wanted to move so far away from her family and friends in Missouri.

Joplin is more than a thousand miles away from Florida…and takes at least a full day of driving to get to. Probably more like two days if you have a baby with you.

In 1982, Gwen was very close with her father and Aunt Alicia figured so much distance would be hard on Gwen, especially because she had a baby to care for.

Aunt Alicia: She was very, very close to her dad and told her, “Isn’t that gonna bother you moving away from your dad?” She goes, “Yeah,” she says, “It will be an adjustment.”

Greg Bodker: Aunt Alicia had no idea, until months later, that her conversation with Gwen in November 1982 would be their last.

She says now if she’d known she’d never hear from Gwen again maybe she would have tried to convince her not to move to Florida, but hindsight is always 20/20 in cases like this.

Amanda Reno: When Gwen and Phillip left Missouri together around Thanksgiving of 1982, Gwen had not technically finalized her divorce with her second husband James.

According to James, he initially filed the paperwork, but a few weeks later when it came time for the actual divorce proceeding in court, Gwen didn’t show up.

James: They took off to Florida. He left his wife and she left me, and they went to Florida. And that’s the last time I saw them. I got a divorce, I called an attorney and said get me out of this marriage. We weren’t married, but 6 months.

I contacted the lawyer right after we split up, it wasn’t long, she didn’t show up to court, it was over at that point.

I went to the court, she didn’t show up, the judge granted the divorce, and that’s the way it was.

Greg Bodker: James told us in his interview that after the divorce was official, he didn’t really think about Gwen and Phillip again.

He never knew what part of Florida they moved to and for him, that’s where everything that had to do with Gwen ended.

Meanwhile, unknown to James, Phillip had returned home to Missouri in late December 1982.

Gwen’s family immediately became suspicious because Phillip showed up alone.

His abrupt return was only a short time after he and Gwen left for Florida.

Gwen, Alisha, and the U-Haul full of their belongings were nowhere to be found.

There’s mixed information in police records about exactly how long Phillip was gone before he returned from Florida, but it is our belief that the most accurate estimate came from Phillip’s wife.

Sergeant Eddie Clark interviewed her in 2020, during Mississippi investigators’ second trip to Missouri.

Sgt. Eddie Clark: We made contact with his wife, she was very knowledgeable on this because it was very traumatic for her. She remembered the exact date because her husband disappears with the family vehicle. He was in law enforcement, but they had a side job, they were the dog groomers in Joplin and they also done the pet sitting, right, and she remembered it extremely well because it was Thanksgiving 1982 and people were wanting to board their dog to go out of town to visit relatives and he had took off with the van and didn’t tell her anything. So, of course, she remembered it well. She remembered reaching out to his friends when she found out he was having an affair. Found out this girl’s name.

Greg Bodker: Eddie and the other investigators on his team also took time during their second trip to Missouri to speak with Phillip’s former coworkers from the Webb City Police Department.

Back in 1982, the subject of Gwen and baby Alisha and Phillip’s involvement with them was no secret.

Sgt. Eddie Clark: You know we talked with a lot of his cop friends, they also knew that he was having an affair, and knew the circumstances, and knew that he run off with her. It seems like the only one who didn’t know was the wife.

*Phone ringing*

Greg Bodker: Eddie says that Phillip’s wife only learned about the details of her husband’s affair when Phillip called her a few weeks after Thanksgiving of 1982.

He was in a panic and had an ALARMING story to tell.

According to a recent interview Mississippi investigator conducted with Phillip’s wife in Missouri, back in December 1982, Phillip called home shortly after leaving Missouri with Gwen and Baby Alisha.

He explained to his wife that he was in Florida and claimed he was out of his mind and didn’t know how he got there.

Here’s Sergeant Eddie Clark, a current investigator on Gwen’s case, to explain Phillip’s wife’s interview more.

Sgt. Eddie Clark: She received a phone call saying, “Hey, I’m in Florida. I don’t know how I got here, I don’t know. I have lost my mind. I’m completely crazy. I don’t know how I got here. Can I please come home now?” And she let him come home.

Amanda Reno: Back in 1982 when this was all going down, Gwen’s first husband Rick who had long been divorced from Gwen, and his sister who we know as Aunt Alicia began to question the situation and Phillip’s story.

Aunt Alicia said back in 1982 she did find it strange that she’d never heard from her sister-in-law in the weeks after her move.

I mean, after all, Gwen had made that special trip to stop by Aunt Alicia’s work before moving to Florida to make sure that Gwen had everyone’s addresses so she could send letters and pictures of Baby Alisha.

Aunt Alicia: I never heard from her, you know, and then her dad never heard from her. I just, I knew something had happened.

Greg Bodker: When Phillip returned to Missouri in 1982 without Gwen and Alisha, Gwen’s father spoke with him.

Unfortunately, due to the fact that her father died before Mississippi investigators could interview him recently, they’re not completely certain what exactly he and Phillip discussed.

But based on other interviews with family members, authorities gathered that Phillip told Gwen’s father that shortly after leaving for Florida he had taken Gwen to Kansas City to meet up with a wealthy man from Oklahoma who had a yacht.

According to Phillip, Gwen and Alisha left with this man.

Unfortunately for investigators nowadays, Gwen’s family members can’t remember the name of the man with the yacht that Phillip claimed Gwen had gone with.

Sergeant Eddie Clark told us that Phillip’s wife eventually did allow him to return home to her and their three kids.

But she had some requirements.

Sgt. Eddie Clark: She made him go to a psychiatrist when he came back because of how he was acting.

She said she wouldn’t even let him in the house around their children.

He agreed, he goes to the psychiatrist for a couple of weeks.

Greg Bodker: A few weeks into those psychiatric appointments, Phillip’s wife received a concerning phone call from the doctor.

Sgt. Eddie Clark: The psychiatrist contacts her and says you’re wasting your money.

This guy is a pathological liar, we are never gonna get anywhere with this. You’re just throwing money down the drain.

She, she agreed to let him come back home. They stayed together for a few more years, but eventually, they divorced.

She was very protective, mostly of her children, they have three kids together. I think she knows that something happened.

She didn’t want her kids to have any idea that their father could have done a possible murder.

Amanda Reno: Back in 1982 and in the years that followed, nobody in Missouri really questioned Phillip about his bizarre story where he claimed he dropped Gwen off with a man in Oklahoma who had a yacht.

Gwen’s father and ex-husband Rick, who are now both dead, had their doubts that Phillip was being honest, but they couldn’t prove anything.

Everyone else just seemed to accept that Gwen and Baby Alisha were with another man. They thought perhaps she’d had another change of heart in a fleeting moment of frustration with Phillip. Maybe she just wanted to live life on her own.

No one really knew.

After a few years, Aunt Alicia remembers Rick, her brother, longing for answers as to what happened to his biological daughter.

He knew that he had not been the best father to baby Alisha or husband to Gwen because of his alcoholism, but he lived until his dying breath wanting to know where his daughter had ended up.

Aunt Alicia: I know this might be 2 weeks before my brother passed away. He says you know, he worked at a store in Texas and he told me, “Every time a girl comes in my work, I always look at her and say, I wonder if that can be my daughter.” We always wondered, thought maybe someone had took the baby, raised her as their own. That’s what we always hoped, that she was ok somewhere. Someone just took her and raised her as their own and someday we would find her. We never dreamed nothing like this would happen to her.

Amanda Reno: According to Aunt Alicia, Rick died long before Mississippi police connected with Teresa in Joplin and formally ID’d Baby Alisha as the baby who’d been killed and dumped in the Estcatawpa River.

Now knowing the truth about what happened to Baby Alisha and what is suspected of happening to Gwen, is hard for Aunt Alicia to comprehend.

Aunt Alicia: I just go back and I keep thinking how could you kill a baby? They could have, she was little enough, they could have dropped her off some place or something. But why kill? I just I don’t understand people’s thoughts. I mean, it’s a little 18 month old baby, she didn’t hurt nobody. I don’t know the situation with Gwen, I just know that she would never let nothing happen to that baby intentionally. So whoever did it, I don’t know if they, I always think…did they separate them? Did they kill the baby first? Or… I just, breaks my heart. How you can even, I just always fear Gwen had an awful traumatic ending to her life but I just can’t believe that they would do that to a baby too.

Greg Bodker: It is an incomprehensible thought. Someone taking Baby Alisha away from Gwen and killing her, and killing Gwen at the same time or afterward.

It’s a theory that by this point in our investigation seems so likely but it’s not the only theory that law enforcement has had to consider.

In Jackson County, we joined investigators as they gathered to review the updates in the case and discuss theories, including how they could pursue leads like Phillip’s story all of these years later.

Jackson County investigators: We’ve accomplished a lot. We potentially have an ID for the child and an ID for the momma, and now last person that’s seen her alive. If the information is good, then we gotta find him, if he ain’t dead.

I just think the U-Haul guy, that’s what I call him, is either gonna have information, where she got out, or else he’s the guy that killed them both.

Greg Bodker: That’s next time on Solvable…