I haven’t done a spotlight case in awhile, so today I’d like to write about Toni Danieelle Clark. She was seventeen years old and two months pregnant when she vanished from Oakland, California on March 16, 1990. Her case is one of the stranger ones in the Charley database.
It’s an established fact that Toni was driving to her boyfriend’s house when her car stalled on a bridge and another car rear-ended her. It’s an established fact that by the time police arrived at the accident scene just minutes there, Toni had vanished without a trace. Beyond that, no one really knows what happened.
Toni’s mom believes her daughter called her about a week after the accident. She heard someone crying on the line for less than a minute before the connection was broken. The call couldn’t be traced and there’s no proof that it was really Toni. The authorities were (and, mostly, still are) of the opinion that Toni was thrown from her vehicle in the accident, went off the bridge and was killed. They actually charged the other driver with manslaughter, but there just wasn’t enough evidence to prove Toni was actually dead. Her body was never found. The driver was acquitted.
I think I’d have to know a lot more about the collision and Toni’s car to buy into the accidental death theory. Like: was Toni’s windshield broken in the wreck? (Indicating she’d gone through it.) Or was she driving a convertible, maybe? What I really don’t understand is how a rear-end collision is supposed to have thrown her sideways over the bridge rail, rather than forward onto the road. Unless Toni perhaps tried to pull over before the car stalled, and was angled towards the side of the bridge? There are frustratingly few details about this.
But the abduction theory doesn’t really make any more sense than the accident. How could someone snatch a woman like that, in front of witnesses, and get away without anyone seeing anything suspicious? The accident occurred at midnight, but a place like the San Francisco Bay Bridge would have had traffic even at that hour. It’s likely at least half a dozen people were watching and no one saw a kidnapping. There were reports of a black man looking under Toni’s car, but that hardly seems significant — after a wreck, of course you, or bystanders, will look under the vehicle to check for damage. The phone call Toni’s mom got is odd, but how does she know it was her daughter? Perhaps it was someone who heard about Toni’s disappearance and was playing a sick “joke.” Or perhaps the call was entirely unconnected — someone getting a wrong number, say.
If this was an abduction that has got to be the luckiest abductor in the world, I think, or the smartest. The fact that there were no witnesses makes me think (assuming this was an abduction) that the kidnapper was actually in Toni’s car already when the accident occurred. Maybe hiding in the backseat, waiting to strike, then the wreck, and he realized he had better get out now or he’d get discovered. So she’s trying to collect herself and assess the damage, and he jumps on her from behind, covers her mouth, and whisks her off into the darkness. This sounds wildly implausible, I know, but the whole story is wildly implausible.
I suppose the abductor could have been someone Toni already knew. The fact that she was pregnant makes me wonder about the boyfriend. I don’t know anything about him or their relationship, but when a pregnant woman disappears you always have to look at her partner.
None of my theories really hold water.
Your guess is as good as mine.