Make-a-List Monday: Lost files

Missing persons cases, particularly adult MPs, are not often treated all that seriously by the police. It used to be a lot worse, though. For example, it used to be that teens were automatically classified as runaways and the cops didn’t even bother to search for them. See this example (courtesy of Peter Henderson) regarding the 1972 disappearance of Carlene Sessions Tengelsen from Macon, Georgia:

The Macon Police would not take a formal missing person’s report for 24 hours and when they did they said Carlene was not missing, she was just a teen runaway who would be home soon. But Carlene never came home.

Finally at the Tengelsens’ request the car was dusted for fingerprints but none were found.

The family quickly realized they would have to head up the search for their daughter themselves. For weeks teens from Carlene’s high school would fan out looking for her, at the end of the day they would come home in tears.

Carlene’s case was treated like most missing teen’s in the seventies, “toe-tag-cold from the get-go,” her sister Joanette said.

Two years later the Macon police wrote her mother a note asking if she had come home yet, they wanted to close her file. They said it was sill an “active investigation.” Her family laughed. If that was the case why did they not know she was still missing, they wondered.

[The above quote in italics is courtesy of Peter Henderson and used with permission.]

I’ve got several cases on the Charley Project where the MP’s investigation file just up and disappeared — thrown away, “borrowed” and never returned, accidentally or intentionally destroyed, or simply misplaced. And as the years pass and the original police officers move on or retire, the police department just might forget about the MP entirely. Somebody, usually a concerned relative, has to file a second report, and then the investigation has to start all over again and this time perhaps it’s been decades.

This doesn’t happen as often as it used to, because of computers and the internet and digitizing everything, but I’m sure it still happens on rare occasions.

Anyway, this list is of cases where all the records, or a significant part of the records, got lost.

  1. Teresa Armanda Alfonso
  2. Susan Diane Wolf Cappel
  3. Judith Ann Elwell
  4. Lian Fang Feng
  5. Cynthia Robin Gooding
  6. Karen Beth Kamsch
  7. Delvacchio Lanier
  8. Lorraine Migl Light
  9. Isley McCullough
  10. Juanita Ritchie
  11. Leigh Frances Savoie
  12. Sallie Belle Maxi Signani
  13. Alice Mae Van Alstine

8 thoughts on “Make-a-List Monday: Lost files

  1. Kat November 7, 2016 / 8:22 am

    Donna Gail Manson. They might have even lost her remains. I think there’s someone else too, I just can’t put my finger on it right now.

  2. Peter Henderson Jr. November 7, 2016 / 9:25 am

    A good example of the lack of information available for most missing people who vanished in the ‘70’s is that of Marilee Lee Bruszer, 33.

    She vanished from Long Beach, California on August 22, 1978. Very little was known about Marilee’s case outside the fact that foul play was suspected.

    Existing missing person reports didn’t provide any of the circumstances surrounding her disappearance, and no achieved news reports were on line.

    Sadly, I found a small hint as to what may have happened to Marilee in the Southgate High School Alumni memorial section. – “Bruszer, Marilee 11-04-44 to 8-22-83, kidnapped in Long Beach & killed.”

    For decades that would be the extent of the information available. In October of 2015 it was announced that she was identified as Yuba Lake Jane Doe, found on 9/3/78 in Yuba Lake State Park, Utah.

    Sorry for the lack of source information this report came out a few weeks before my computer conked out (I was still using Windows XP}. I have a HP with windows 10, now.

    • Peter Henderson Jr. November 7, 2016 / 10:39 am

      –Prolog to my profile about Elizabeth Lurene Ernstein. —

      “The Young Runaways”

      The Young Runaways is a 1968 teen-exploitation film that stars 60’s TV regular Brooke Bundy, Kevin Coughlin and Patty McCormack, best known for being the angelic looking little girl who turns out to be a serial killer, in the movie, “The Bad Seed.”

      The supporting players include Richard Dreyfuss in one of his earliest roles. He has a small part as Terry, a juvenile delinquent who meets a bad end.

      Made as a cautionary tale for teenagers it features hippies, stoners, loners, hardcore drug users, prostitutes, crooks, pushers, vagabonds, violence, kidnapping and murder

      What it does not show is how little the real-life police, the main stream news media, or the public understood the problem in 1968.

      It provides a typical Hollywood happy ending as Brooke Bundy’s character “Shelly” (the movies misunderstood good girl) is saved by the cops and goes back home to her dad.

      In the years before this movie was made tens of thousands of teens across America had runaway. Most came home, a bit wiser, with colorful stories to tell their children and grandchildren. But some never came home, some were never seen again. A few never ran away at all.

      The profile below tells the story of Elizabeth Lurene Ernstein, who one Monday afternoon in 1968 left her school and heading for home. Somewhere amid the orange groves of Redlands, California – she vanished without a trace.

      By the time “The Young Runaways” premiered, Liz had been missing for six months.


      Elizabeth Lurene Ernstein, 14, missing from Redlands, California since March 18, 1968. Nicknamed Liz by friends. Known as someone, “full of life,” she became a newly minted teen in 1967, during the so-called summer of peace and love.

      Identified as an unidentified body previously believed to be that of a young male in 2012.

      The Young Runways

  3. visionjinx91 November 7, 2016 / 3:51 pm

    Reminds me of Misty Copsey’s case, the police wrote her off as a runaway (this was 1992) and assumed she was running away from a bad home life (her mom had some struggles in the past). The police’s assumptions faltered the investigation, which possibly could have been solved if they took action sooner. They didn’t take her disappearance seriously until half a year later or so.

  4. Justin November 8, 2016 / 6:18 am

    I remember talking to a LAPD Missing Persons Unit detective while trying to find the name of a missing person who went missing with another missing person whose case I was familiar with. He told me that although it had become mandatory for missing persons to be entered into NCIC in 1977, many departments hadn’t done so with the backlog of MP cases prior to that. Then in the early 1980s when they were to enter missing persons into the Missing and Unidentified Persons System (MUPS) using the archaic (and not user friendly to say the least) computer system back then, if they entered the information correctly or not, it didn’t tell you if you did. However, if you got the slightest thing wrong while entering the information, it wouldn’t accept it and the only way an investigator knew if the MP had been accepted into the system or not was to check back later… and with the old-cold cases many didn’t. The detective said about once or twice a year, they got an inquiry or a request for information about an old missing persons case that never made it from their old paper files into the computerized system or NCIC and no one had looked at for decades.

    • Meaghan November 8, 2016 / 2:24 pm

      OT: did you get my texts?

      The internet in the house has kicked it; everything is down, even my phone’s weather app. We have no idea why; we are current with the bill and everything. So it’s difficult to reply to emails. I’m writing this on my cell phone at M’s parents’ house. I’m really hoping service will have been restored by the time I get home early this evening.

      • Justin November 8, 2016 / 8:06 pm

        No. I’ve received nothing.

      • Meaghan November 8, 2016 / 10:08 pm

        I’ll email you.

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