Let’s talk about it: The Guthrie family

Last night I was plugging the names of various old cases into Newspapers.com to see if I could find articles. My persistence yielded a bountiful harvest — I found out the ultimate ending to the Matory/Williams/Marshall murder-without-a-body case for one. One of the names I plugged in was the Guthrie kids, Julie and Timothy, and their mom, Leslie, who disappeared in February 1977 from Katonah, New York. I was able to get another picture of Leslie and a clothing description for her, and that’s on today’s updates.

Two details that I learned last night but did not include in the casefiles:

  1. Leslie’s mother lent her the too-small, borrowed boots she was wearing that day, and also gave her $10 for gas. Which would indicate that (A) The car was low on gas and (B) Leslie had no money.
  2. The police do not believe the car wound up in a lake somewhere. The winter had been a severe one and the ice was thick enough that a car could have driven on it without it breaking.

Usually, when a person or persons disappears under circumstances like this and their car never turns up, I tend to believe they wound up in the water. But now it seems that theory is no longer viable.

I’m stumped. It seems highly unlikely that Leslie took the kids and left on her own, with almost no money and shoes that didn’t even fit. Timothy Sr. seems to be in the clear. It’s like this young family and their car just vanished into thin air.

Let’s talk about it.

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25 thoughts on “Let’s talk about it: The Guthrie family

  1. Jessica December 29, 2016 / 1:54 pm

    I wish that they would test her against the Bearbrook, NH family. If they were kidnapped, the guy could have gotten rid of Timothy early on and disposed of him elsewhere. They aren’t ruled out on namus.

  2. Anon December 29, 2016 / 2:33 pm

    I used to be a figure skater, in fact, my home rink was at the Harvey School in Katonah, and it is just almost impossible for believe that there was ice thick enough to withstand the weight of a car. I lived in that area for my entire childhood, and I can only remember one year when it was cold enough for us to even skate on the small pond in my hometown — and since I was a skater, that’s something I paid very close attention to. I guess if the police are saying that, it might be true..but was that written contemporaneously with her disappearance? Or after the fact? It just seems incredible to me, since the average low temp in Katonah in the coldest month is 18 degrees, and the average high in the coldest month is 34 degrees. Ice has to be VERY THICK to stand the weight of a person, much less a car. And to think that every single body of water was entirely frozen (not just small ones here and there — which would include some very large reservoirs between White Plains and Katonah) amazes — no, astounds — me.

    • Meaghan December 29, 2016 / 4:45 pm

      Thanks so much for commenting. I’m always happy to get comments from local people who can provide knowledge of cases that aren’t available from other sources. The info about how the police think she didn’t end up in one of the reservoirs came from a 1993 article in the Fort Myers News-Press. (The reason a Florida paper was covering the case was someone from Fort Myers kept calling Leslie’s mom anonymously and also writing the police, claiming Leslie and the kids were down there.) I quote from the article:

      “Bedford police Lt. Ted Wyskida said it was unlikely that Locke [that is, Leslie] and the children wound up at the bottom of one of the nearby reservoirs, as some suspected. Cars could have driven across the ice on the water that winter, he said.”

      • terromangerro January 2, 2017 / 1:28 pm

        But I wonder if there is a difference between a vehicle being intentionally driven across ice and a vehicle being catapulted off of a roadway after an accident. There could be a lot more force in the latter case. Also it’s possible she drove outside of the suspected range and drove into water elsewhere.

  3. Justsayjulie December 29, 2016 / 2:45 pm

    I know that the police don’t think that the car could have ended up in the water, but I’m not so sure. I am really thinking that some body of water is where they ended up. It’s not likely that Leslie could have gotten far away if she had to borrow $10 for gas and a pair of ill-fitting boots, and the odds that they all were carjacked and taken away, I think, would be even less likely.

  4. Alice December 29, 2016 / 5:22 pm

    Part of me thinks that someone, maybe a trucker or something, found them. Another, child-like, part of me thinks aliens.

    However, if the kids are alive, they were probably sold or something and might not be together.

  5. jaclyn December 30, 2016 / 2:48 am

    Very good information from Anon, the figure skater. It crosses my mind often that a car can be taken to a junk yard and smashed pretty easily. I am pretty sure there are seedy dealers that will do that regardless of the laws governing such. Or even a car and be stolen, stripped and the parts sold. My cousin had a car stolen and within a few hours it was altered and painted. The only way they discovered what happened to their car was through a snitch. When the car was picked up, the identifying VIN had been eliminated, but they were able to identify the car through a unique feature on it, which I can’t recall.

  6. diamondlil16 December 30, 2016 / 4:27 am

    Well did the Hudson River freeze up that year? I looked on the map and there are lots of water areas. No idea how far the drive would be from the estranged husband’s home to get to the Hudson. What is really known about the mom? Did she have any medical conditions like diabetes or seizures? Depression or post partum? Was she dating or keeping paramours a secret from her mom? Is the area populated with deer? If the roads were icy that day, and a stretch of road that didn’t have a guard rail…

    • Anon Figure Skater December 30, 2016 / 1:52 pm

      The Hudson River is not far at all from White Plains, and I’m sure THAT didn’t freeze over. That being said, there aren’t a huge number of places where one could easily slide into the water just given that in most places there are train tracks between the water and most surface streets along the Hudson in that part of Westchester. $10 worth of gas would have been more than a full tank in 1977, and she could have headed toward NYC (about 20-30 miles from White Plains) which was very dangerous back then. If your car broke down on the way in, people would literally come running over to start stealing pieces of it before you were even able to get away from the car. The sight of burnt-out shells of former cars were not unfamiliar back then along the highways leading to NY. Still, I lean toward an accident. Borrowed boots…$10 to her name…two kids in the car in bad weather.

      Going from White Plains to Katonah, she probably would have taken the then newly-opened 684. She also could have taken a route that would have taken her by the Kensico dam near Armonk (could have been habit since 684 hadn’t been around that long) and over to the Saw Mill River Parkway. The Saw Mill is an old, narrow parkway that passes a number of bodies of water, and also is mostly wooded and had very little by way of guard rails. One could skid off into the woods, even if ALL THE BODIES OF WATER IN ALL OF NEW YORK STATE were frozen over.

      Still, the claim by the Bedford PD seems ill-considered and awfully casual.

      • Meaghan December 30, 2016 / 4:59 pm

        I’m inclined to agree with you now. I wonder if any serious searches have been conducted in the woods and local reservoirs etc.

      • diamondlil16 December 31, 2016 / 12:16 am

        Thanks so much A. Figure Skater – it’s great to have such inside local knowledge of the area. It seems like a very pretty area and I just looked up and saw this about Katonah – Area: 512 acres (448 acres Land / 51 acres Water). I think it is more likely that with road conditions, skidding could have very well been a factor. and if it happened in an area with no guard rails, and no one noticed damage to trees and bushes, factor in her ill-fitting footwear it seems more probable that it was a single vehicle accident.

        If they survived an accident, they likely succumbed to hypothermia. And the police should realize that driving across ice is different than a two ton vehicle becoming air-born and then crashing onto an icy surface (if that was the case).

        This likely could be solved by volunteers or a hired search group using drones and deep water sonar equipment following the route that would seem more likely she would take to get back to her mother’s home in White Plains.

    • Anon Figure Skater December 30, 2016 / 2:43 pm

      To answer some of your questions, yes, there are a ton of deer. Despite its proximity to NYC, Northern Westchester is still very wooded today, and was even more-so back then. The Harlem-North commuter train line to New York was very slow until the mid-80s, when the trains and lines were upgraded, so commuting to NYC was rough from the northern part of the county which kept growth relatively slow. Katonah is still really too far to commute to NY on a regular basis.

      Because the roads were built relatively early, they were not as sophisticated as highways that were built later, like the big ones you see in the midwest and in the south. They tend to be narrow, windy, and built more for carriages or pleasure driving than for commuting. They were not really intended to be driven at high speeds, and things like guard rails are an afterthought in a lot of places. Also, my sister remarked that the last time she drove there, she was surprised that there were no curbs on the parkways. That is not something I have ever noticed, but I guess I’m not surprised. I-684 is a more modern highway (than the Taconic and Saw Mill), but even so, it didn’t have the big concrete jersey barriers you see in a lot of places now back in the 70s.

      Sorry for the history lesson on that area, but it’s one of the few things I know very well 🙂

  7. Joseph Tesoriero December 30, 2016 / 2:51 pm

    I remember that winter quite well. My grandfather died in January 1977. That was a very cold and brutal winter. I remember I was not able to go to the funeral (which was near there) because it was cold and very icy. The Guthries lived in an area with many reservoirs. While driving they probably slipped off the road and into a reservoir. Even if they broke through the ice and sank the water would freeze rather quickly hiding any evidence of an accident. Anyone with a sonar device can probably find them. Maybe fishing with a magnet could work just like Scott Dunlap found Rita Zul in Florida.

    • diamondlil16 December 31, 2016 / 12:30 am

      Thanks as well Joseph for adding your local knowledge. So the time of year, icy conditions, windy, narrow roads, an abundance of deer, she could’ve slid off by trying to avoid even a squirrel. Deer tend to be more active at night but nature can be unpredictable. While it was daytime when she was last seen and arrived safely to Katonah per Mr. Guthrie, perhaps there wasn’t much road traffic for anyone to have been an ear or eye witness to a car accident.

      I agree that trying sonar is worth doing if there are groups in the area willing to help solve this mystery.

  8. Celeste Keenan December 30, 2016 / 3:31 pm

    I don’t want to think about the possibility that mom might have accidently rolled her car in the water with herself and the kids still inside. But if the police have ruled out dad as a suspect then there might be another explaination as to what happened?
    Did the police ever look into mom’s mental state before she disappeared with Timothy and Julie? The reason why I ask is because I think this case is so similar to the Sanchez case because dad had mental issues and then drove his car into a lake and took his three boys with him.
    Again I don’t want to think about that but I think the police just have to look into this being a theory.

  9. Upstate NY December 31, 2016 / 6:59 pm

    To add to the previous local comments, I couldn’t agree more! I currently live in Brewster, NY, about 12 miles north of Katonah. I happen to live on a lake (Tonetta Lake) and the lake I live on has frozen over many times over the years enough so for some knuckleheads to take their cars on the frozen lake and do donuts (driving really fast in circles). The area of northern Westchester and Putnam counties is full of lakes, ponds and reservoirs. During the winter some bodies of water are frozen, others not, likely for a variety of reasons. To rule out the possibility of submersion completely with the assumption that all bodies of water were frozen seems odd. There is also the possibility she traveled to Danbury or Ridgefield Connecticut as they are also within a few miles away; and have many lakes and ponds and winding roads leaving open the possibility of submersion in another state. I travel frequently through Katonah and always wonder to myself about this woman and her children just disappearing out of the blue. Many of the major thoroughfares are windy with no guardrails (Saw Mill, Route 22, Bronx River Parkway, Sprain Brook Parkway, Taconic, etc) so I think it is entirely possible there was some sort of water related accident.

    In my active imagination however, I do wonder if this woman met with foul play. Katonah is not too far from where a woman named Kathleen Durst went missing in the early 80’s if memory serves. Her husband has been the subject of a recent documentary and has been in the press quite a bit lately for his involvement in another unrelated crime. I am not making any accusations, but I do find myself wondering if there is any connection?

  10. Julie January 11, 2017 / 3:30 pm

    What did you find out about the Matory/Williams/Marshall murders?

    • Meaghan January 12, 2017 / 9:50 pm

      Two hung juries, then the prosecutor dismissed all five counts of murder.

  11. Passer-By January 19, 2017 / 4:14 pm

    Hi there, wanted to leave a link to a current discussion at Reddit in the Unresolved Mysteries forum. Short version, someone was viewing the route the Guthrie’s might have taken and used Google Maps satellite version and there seems to be something in the water there.

    During the discussion it’s been discovered that Google shows different dated images to different viewers but it was enough that someone called the police in the area.

    • Meaghan January 19, 2017 / 4:15 pm

      Wow. I hope there’s something to this.

  12. Anon Figure Skater January 19, 2017 / 9:11 pm

    Yep. That’s exactly the body of water I once said I thought they should search in — it’s right off the ramp that you get off of when you take the Saw Mill/684 to the Harvey School. I passed it thousands of times on the way to skating. I’ll have to see if I can dig up my comment. I made it a couple years ago on Websleuths, I think. I’m amazed at his eye though; I have looked at that satellite photo many times and have never seen anything.

    I doubt it’s frozen enough to hold a car right now.

    • Passer-By January 19, 2017 / 9:25 pm

      Hi there Anon Figure Skater! Someone posted some of your observations in the thread in fact!

      One curious thing discovered is that Google shows different satellite images to the same area to different devices. It may also be showing different images to people from different viewing areas, if that makes sense.

      The OP sees a dim square shaped object where as others can see an image (at the same exact location), in more details. To me, this looks like a car. http://imgur.com/6JPiQNp

      There are two images others are shown by Google of the exact same area, one seems a little too big to be a car, but at first glance it looks like a car with it’s door open. http://imgur.com/a/kUyhL

      (One slightly smaller image is a little below the larger one.)

      The difference may be that some are viewing it using Google Earth and Some are using Google Maps, but from reading the thread it just seems like Google shows the area in different seasons to different viewers.

      • Anon Figure Skater January 20, 2017 / 8:08 am

        I’ll have to go take a look at the thread — realized after I posted that that it sort of sounded like I was trying to take credit, but I didn’t mean it to come off that way — I think it’s GREAT that he thought to look there and spent the time to look through the satellite photos and took the next step of contacting law enforcement. There are many bodies of water around there, so the fact that he was able to narrow it down and find something potentially interesting is awesome.

  13. Anon Figure Skater January 19, 2017 / 9:26 pm

    Weirdly, if you stand on that ramp facing the body of water where the car may be, then turn 180 degrees and look across 684/Saw Mill toward the entrance ramp to the highway from that same road (RT. 35) you can see the train platform where Kathleen Durst was last seen.

  14. Anon Figure Skater January 19, 2017 / 9:27 pm

    (or supposedly last seen, according to Robert Durst)

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