Sunday, May 01, 2005

Missing by design?

The case of the vanishing bride-to-be down in Georgia has a happy ending... at least for now.
But the story isn't over yet, if history is any indication.
About 25 years ago, a 15-year-old girl disappeared on a summer Friday afternoon from a popular swim club in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Less than 24 hours after she was last seen, her local police department put out an all-points bulletin advising of the girl's disappearance. (I refuse to use the current phrase "went missing" because I think it's a linguistic abomination.)
It was a typical slow news weekend, so her vanishing act became the lead story on all of the newscasts coming out of the Philly market all weekend.
On Monday, they found the girl.
She had apparently taken off with a couple of guys who were of age and, thanks to all of the publicity surrounding her disappearance, she was spotted in Vineland, N.J.
The guys were charged and eventually convicted on morals charges in connection with the case and the girl was returned, apparently safe and sound, to her parents.
Fast forward about four years.
On a Sunday evening, that same police department was calling the local media again. The girl, now 19, was found dead at the bottom of one of the limestone quarries that dot the landscape of southeastern Pennsylvania. The cause of death? Suicide, the coroner later said.
To this day, I wonder if her decision to take her life wasn't triggered by the events of her disappearance and subsequent discovery.
You always have to think about the possibility of foul play, especially if someone takes off who has never shown an inclination of so doing. That motivated the case in Georgia; that motivated the case in the Philly 'burbs, too.
Now, we just have to hope that whatever transpired doesn't lead any of the principals -- the woman and her then-husband-to-be (who was being examined as a suspect, for crying out loud) -- to more serious problems.
The story isn't over, I'm afraid.
And I am in a position to know... In that lifetime, I was a radio reporter for a small station in the suburbs. I got those calls.