Her name was Judith Ann Elwell and she was 5 years old.
In 1967 she mysteriously disappeared.
She was wearing a blue and white striped pullover shirt, light green shorts, white socks and blue canvas sneakers.
I must have seen news about her on our black and white TV when I was 10.
For some strange reason her name occasionally flashes in my head like a beacon in the night.
She was last seen at her home in Oklahoma City, about an hour from where I lived, sometime before 9 p.m on July 6, 1967. And she was never heard from again. She went up like a wisp of smoke. It was almost like she evaporated from the face of the earth.
The day after her disappearance one of her shoes was found next to an abandoned house half a block from her home. There was a short length of braided rope under her shoe. The authorities believe that she lost her shoe in a struggle with her kidnapper(s).
Judith’s brother Mark said he believed that his sister’s abduction was planned. He said that he saw a suspicious black car near their home three weeks before Judith went missing. He said the driver, a man, had also followed him on his newspaper route.
He saw the same vehicle on the night Judith went missing and believes the driver to be his sister’s abductor. But nothing was ever proven and the case was never solved.
Judith Ann Elwell’s parents are now both deceased. Her brother Mark is her only living relative.
Nearly a month later on August 3 a little girl named Brenda Lois White disappeared from a nearby suburb. She was also 5 years old. Her mother reported her missing after her bicycle was found at a store two blocks away.
In November of that year her remains were found in a shallow grave in a field outside yet another abandoned house 11 miles from her home.
Brenda White’s homicide remains unsolved. Her killer could be the same person who abducted Judith, but no one knows. Both were the same age and disappeared from the same area within the same time span.
I couldn’t find much online about Brenda White. But I did find a PDF copy of her autopsy report. It reported that her cause of death was undetermined due to advanced post-mortem decomposition. There was only a partial recovery of skeletal remains.
Brenda Lois White’s case file is believed to have been accidentally destroyed in a flood. And Judith Ann Elwell’s police case file was misplaced or destroyed sometime after 1967. But both girls’ cases remain open and unsolved.
The kidnapping of children would be a recurring theme that kept appearing in articles I would later write as an adult. Mysteries involving lost children got under my skin and festered there.
I really don’t have a lot of concrete memories from my childhood. Which is why it is curious that Judith Ann Elwell’s name still sticks in my head all these years later.
And it’s lived there for well over half a century.
Another child gone. But not forgotten.
“Sadly enough, the most painful goodbyes are the ones that are left unsaid and never explained.” ― Jonathan Harnisch
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