This week’s featured missing person is a very old case, over 60 years old in fact: Thomas Eldon Bowman, an eight-year-old boy who disappeared during a hike with his family in Arroyo Cinco Canyon in Altadena, California on March 23, 1957.
Investigators believe he was abducted and murdered by serial killer Mack Ray Edwards, who was active in the fifties and sixties. He pleaded guilty to the murders of three children and has been linked to the disappearance of six missing kids besides Thomas. His known and presumed victims’ ages ranged from seven to sixteen.
Edwards suicided on death row in 1971. He was a heavy equipment operator who worked on high construction in California. A good job for a serial killer; police think he buried the missing children’s remains under the highways.
Middle-aged married couple William Durrell Patterson, 52, and Margaret M. Patterson, 42, vanished from El Paso, Texas on March 5, 1957. They were last seen by a neighbor who dropped by with some Girl Scout cookies. Margaret looked upset at the time and William didn’t seem to want company. That night there was unspecified “unusual activity” observed at the Patterson home. The next day they were gone, and it looked like they had left in a hurry.
William in particular seems to have been involved in some kind of sketchy things. His own father said he “made his living doing sleight-of-hand tricks” and he had always expected the Pattersons to disappear eventually.
There are some indications that they left of their own accord, the appearance of the house nonwithstanding. Let’s break it down:
- On March 15, the Pattersons’ accountant got a telegram with instructions on how to manage their business in their absence. HOWEVER, the telegram was signed “W.H. Patterson” and not “W.D. Patterson.” The obvious explanations I can think of are (1) William did not really send that telegram or (2) William did send the telegram but messed up his initials on purpose as a duress signal.
- William’s mistress, who lived in Juarez, said she saw him in the early morning hours of March 6 (the day after he and Margaret were seen in El Paso) and he told her he had important things to tell her and “when they come for me, I’ll have to go in a hurry.” HOWEVER, she later recanted this statement. What I’m wondering is: if William had important things to tell her, why not just tell her right then, since they were together and all?
- The couple’s business associates went around telling everyone they were on an extended vacation. No word as to where they were getting this information, but as a result they weren’t reported missing for five months.
- The Pattersons’ lawyer eventually got a letter, supposedly from William, postmarked May 29. It said they were getting out of dodge and would not be returning, and instructing that their property should be divided up. HOWEVER, the selection of heirs was…curious, to say the least, and handwriting experts were not sure that William had actually signed the letter, and for several legal reasons (starting with the fact that Margaret co-owned the couple’s photography business), it had no actual value as a will.
In 1984, a witness went to the police and said he had been hired to clean the Pattersons’ home after they disappeared and he saw blood in the garage, a piece of human scalp stuck to William’s boat propeller, and someone carrying away bloodstained sheets. The witness was an illegal immigrant and he said he didn’t go to the police at the time because he was afraid he’d be deported. I’ve got no idea if there’s any evidence to back up his statement. I’ve watched Forensic Files; I know they have all sorts of gizmos and experts in all kinds of obscure fields of crime scene analysis and it seems like if the house had still been there, they might have found something.
For what it’s worth, Margaret was completely estranged from her family. They hadn’t heard from her in 20 years and they assumed she was dead, which is an odd assumption if you ask me. She was a young healthy woman and she doesn’t appear to have vanished out of their lives into thin air; she became estranged from them because they disapproved of her marriage to William. So why would they assume she was dead?
Now, it’s been 60 years, and both of the Pattersons would be over 100 years old by now, so it’s a safe bet to assume they’re not alive anymore. What I would like to know is: do y’all think they were alive after 1957?
Let’s talk about it.
This week’s Flashback Friday case is Gerald Montrio, who vanished from Plymouth, Massachusetts on September 9, 1957. He disappeared together with his friend Bobby Rasmussen, but I don’t have a photo or any stats for Bobby other than his age — thirteen. Gerald was fifteen.
To all appearances, the boys drowned: their clothes were found by the harbor. But Gerald and Bobby’s sisters think there’s a chance they faked their deaths and ran away to escape a troubled home life.
If he’s still alive, Gerald would be 73 today.
(Appropos of nothing: I got a book out of the library called Strange Red Cow: And Other Curious Classified Ads from the Past, by Sara Bader. When I took it off the shelf it fell open to a page about ads parents placed regarding missing children, and specifically the Charley Ross case. Strange coincidence.)
My ever-reliable source Jaime sent me this article about Elsie Roane. It turns out the suspect in her case is male, and still alive. He was about her own age at the time of her disappearance.
But more to the point, the police chief is quoted out of nowhere saying, “My focus right now is to find Elsie Mae and her child and give them a proper burial.”
Um…child? What child? No one previously said anything about a child.
I’m guessing she must have been pregnant at the time of her disappearance, then. I’ll have to make a note in her casefile. I wonder if the suspect is the baby’s father.