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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14 Comments

  1. I remember the Brenda White story. My mom told me about when it happened. I was four years old. We lived in Norman. It was the first abduction/murder story I had ever heard. My name is Brenda, too, and my next door neighbor’s last name was White. My little mind formed a connection and I just knew I was next, lol. I’ve thought about Brenda White many, many times over the past 54 years.

  2. It was Ann Marie Burr for me… She disappeared in 1961 from Tacoma, Wa. She was 8 years old. I was the same age and lived about three miles away. I felt as if would be next. This has haunted me for years. Many people think that she may have been Ted Bundy’s first victim. After watching Netflix’s “Conversations With A Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” I realized that he had lived in the same small neighborhood I lived in as a child, at the same time! The neighborhood was a grid of about five streets with maybe 20 homes on each. In that movie there is an interview with Sandi Holt that made my blood run cold! Sandi was my age and lived two streets from me and Ted lived three streets from me. Her brother Doug was Ted’s best friend. You will have to see the movie or online articles to know more details.

  3. Brenda, I am not sure if my first comment was captured. It disappeared before I was finished. I will wait before trying again.

    In the meantime, please look for an email that I will be sending to you sometime soon. Hopefully it makes it’s way to you. It is the address I had for you from 2009-20013. We had a few exchanges about our childhood experiences.

    If you are able to see my email (in your comment settings) then please contact me. I have wanted to write about childhood trauma and your professional background on the subject will be very helpful. I would appreciate your input and possibly your assistance if you are interested. Thank you, Bunny Jean (Margie)

  4. I lived about a mile from Brenda White. She came from a big family. I was in the same class as her brother Billy. I am 62 now and I have never forgotten about her. I cannot even imagine how hard it was for parents and family always wondering where she was and if she was still alive. So heartbreaking

  5. I just came across your blog. I clearly remember when this happened, although I was only five. I’ve never forgotten the fear and have studied these cases for years. I’m happy to see there are others who have not forgotten Judith and Brenda. I do not believe the two girls disappearances are connected. Brendas case could still be solved and possibly justice served. Justice for Judith will come only from God.

  6. I never met Brenda but we lived in the same neighborhood. She was two years younger. We walked to the same corner store for candy; which is where she disappeared . I feel connected to her because I remember hers and Judiths kidnappings that year. I was always out playing and by the street. That same predator could also have seen me and taken me. Today I put flowers on Brenda’s grave. Remembering you both, Brenda and Judith ❤️❤️

    1. I read that someone back in 2013 was pretty sure who it was , but wouldn’t turn him in until he was absolutely sure. Those dear sweet girls 💔

  7. Brenda,
    I am a mother of two girls and I was hyper-protective when they were growing up. I knew all of their friends and parents and they went no where unchaperoned! I had a job that allowed me flex hours to be able to pick them up after school. I ultimately pulled my youngest from girl scouts because of their endless selling cookies door-to-door. Now they stage themselves in front of stores and restaurants with adults and I applaud the change; it’s so much safer for the children.
    I can’t imagine the horror of your child being abducted and murdered or never being found. No worse agony on earth! Perhaps, you should ask your police department’s cold case unit to re-open her case. In my state (Washington), there has been multiple cold cases solved recently. It might be the impetus and justice that Judith Ann Elwell’s case receives.

  8. In September 1982 in Edmonton, Alberta a six year-old girl, Tanya Murrell disappeared walking to school. My child was exactly the same age down to the month and year. I was driving my child to school and we were living in a small town 200 miles north of Edmonton. This disappearance affected me deeply and like you re. Judith Ann I think of Tanya often although I was a 30 year old mother of two and not a ten year old possibly traumatized by this event. Madeleine McCann is also a case that haunts me. Where are these beautiful stolen children?

  9. I read online recently that 80,000 children disappear in this country each year!! That is so beyond ok…it rather illustrates that our culture, if you want to call it that, has largely gone to the depths…and whyever is it that these cases are not the top cases needing to be solved?? Something fishy someplace!! Of course, moreso, we have so much surveillance now…why has that allowed so much to be unsolved? And of course, we may have even an increase now since a lot of prisons and jails have released sex offenders…and everyone says that they are never cured of their evil addiction. People should be more concerned about these problems than anything else. The lives of all these thousands of families are ruined every year…parents and families never recover from such loss. It is something that your brain remembers these kids, Brenda…

  10. It’s too bad the file/evidence for Brenda White was destroyed. There may have been tissue samples preserved that could be analyzed today for DNA and then a forensic check on genealogy sites may have revealed a relative of a suspect that might lead to a break in the case. This has been done over the past few years in a small number of cold cases where a suspect has been successfully identified.

  11. Wow this is so fascinating and also so sad all at the same time. I think being a mother I would never be able to live with not knowing what happened to my child after she or he went missing. It is horrible to find an abducted child deceased after coming up missing but at least you know what happened. To live all those years never knowing if your child was dead or alive and what is happening to them has got to be unbearable. These cold cases of missing children are the hardest.
    Kris

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