High profile missing person cases stay with us as a nation. Despite lapses in coverage, when we see their photo again, we are reminded of the details we know about the case, our personal feelings based entirely in speculation, and remember all over again that there is still a family waiting for them to come home. The more mysterious the circumstances, the more we stare in horror, watching their family’s world fall apart. Here are ten of the most fascinating and mysterious missing persons cases in recent history.
10: Karlie Gusé
The night before she disappeared, Karlie Gusé was seen at a party with friends in a neighborhood not far from her home in Chalfant Valley, CA. She called her stepmother in a panic, saying she needed to be picked up from the party. Melissa Gusé picked Karlie up from the party, and later stated that she seemed disoriented and exhibited paranoid behavior. Once home, it took hours to get Karlie calmed down enough to sleep. When Melissa awoke the next morning, October 13, 2018, Karlie was asleep in bed, but when she checked on her a second time around 7AM, Karlie was nowhere to be found. Law enforcement canvassed the neighborhood and turned up two witnesses who said they saw Karlie walking towards Highway 6 with a piece of paper in her hand. All of Karlie’s belongings, including her cell phone, were found at her home. Karlie had been experiencing problems prior to disappearing. Her father and stepmother acknowledged Karlie’s history of experimenting with drugs and attending alternative education in order to improve her grades. Despite these factors, there appeared to be nothing that would have prompted Karlie to leave the house that morning. Investigators, both in law enforcement and independent firms continue to search for Karlie, while her father, stepmother, biological mother, and the rest of her family wait anxiously for Karlie to come home.
9: Teresa Butler
Teresa Butler’s husband came home on January 25, 2006 to find his wife gone, their two young children unsupervised. At the time, the family was living in Risco, Missouri. There were no signs of a struggle, nor forced entry, but there were a series of valuable items missing from the home such as a gaming console, camcorder, stereo, and Teresa’s cell phone and purse. Her car was still in the driveway, and her wedding bands were also at the residence. Investigators were stymied by this mixed bag of a scene. Was it a crime scene? Or had Teresa simply left of her own accord—and if so, for what reason? More whirlwind revelations came when investigators realized that Teresa’s cell phone made two calls after she had vanished. Both calls were to unfamiliar numbers, in two different Missouri towns. The owners of those numbers both claimed that they had no idea who Teresa was, and did not speak to her. Thirteen years later, there are still no answers in her disappearance.
8: Laureen Rahn
In 1980, Laureen Rahn was living with her mother in an apartment in Manchester, New Hampshire. She was last seen on April 26 at that apartment in the company of two friends. When her mother returned home that evening, she had to grope for the door because all of the lightbulbs in the hallway had been unscrewed. When she entered the apartment, she checked Laureen’s room, and she appeared to be asleep in her bed. The next morning, she realized the body she’d seen asleep in the bed was actually one of Laureen’s friends, and that friend was clueless as to Laureen’s whereabouts. Authorities treated Laureen’s case as a runaway, but details that emerged in October of that year cast a different light on the case. Her mother, Judith, noticed three calls to a California number on her phone bill that she knew she didn’t make. One was to a sexual assistance call line for teenagers, helmed by a doctor’s wife who took in runaways—could Laureen be with her? The second number was to a motel run by a child pornographer by the pseudonym “Dr. Z.” But unfortunately authorities were unable to connect the 14-year-old’s disappearance to either of these persons of interest. To this day, what became of Laureen Rahn remains a mystery.
7: Lauren Spierer
Many Hoosiers are familiar with the cautionary tale of Lauren Spierer, an Indiana University Student who disappeared on June 3, 2011 after a night out partying with friends in Bloomington, Indiana. After leaving her apartment around 2:30 in the morning, she walked around the corner and was never seen again. It wasn’t until her boyfriend, Jesse Wolf, realized that Lauren had been separated from her phone that something was wrong. When he sent her a text message two hours later, one of the employees at Kilroy’s bar responded. Wolf reported Lauren missing. Witnesses who had seen Lauren that night reported that she was highly intoxicated, which might explain why she left both her cell phone and shoes behind at Kilroy’s. Her observed level of inebriation has led to speculation that Lauren might have been drugged while at the bar, possibly with a drug like GHB, also known as “the date-rape drug.” Her family has remained suspicious of the men she was reportedly hanging out with that night, claiming that they know something about their daughter’s disappearance. That being said, investigators also spoke to friends of Lauren’s who informed them she was known to use drugs when she partied as well as alcohol. As of January 28, 2016—when FBI and other investigating bodies searched a property in Martinsville for signs of Lauren with no success—Lauren still remains missing.
6: Cynthia Anderson
The disappearance of Cynthia Anderson is regarded as stranger than fiction. She vanished on August 4, 1981 from the law office where she worked as a secretary. Her personal belongings were missing, but her vehicle remained parked in the lot. While investigating her disappearance, authorities discovered an open romance novel. In an eerie coincidence, Cynthia had stopped reading during a scene in which the main character is abducted. Police were already investigating Cynthia’s disappearance with the possibility of foul play, but this gave them pause. Could she have faked her own abduction to disappear and start over? There were anonymous tips months after her disappearance that she was being held captive in the basement of a remote residence, but authorities were unable to corroborate this statement. The wildest theory about her whereabouts came when a lawyer from her firm was arrested for drug trafficking. There was speculation that Cynthia might have known too much about some illegal dealings going through the law firm, and met a violent end as a consequence. But that’s all it is: a theory.
5: Maura Murray
Mara Murray is perhaps one of the most famous missing person cases in recent history. The University of Massachusetts Amherst student disappeared on February 9, 2004. In the days leading up to her disappearance, Maura told university staff and her professors that she would be taking a week’s hiatus from school to handle a family emergency. Around 7:30 that night, a car crash on Route 112 was reported to 911. When first responders arrived, the driver, Maura, was nowhere to be found. During the investigation, law enforcement turned up a witness who had passed Maura following the crash. When asked if she needed help, she said no, that she had called roadside assistance. In a window of less than 15 minutes, something happened to Maura Murray. What’s most puzzling about Maura’s disappearance is that her story about a family emergency could not be corroborated by her family. So the question remains: Why was Maura taking a week off from her education? What could have been so important? Maura Murray’s disappearance is regarded as the first missing person case of the social media age, having disappeared the week that Facebook launched. Her story has spawned many true-crime specials, documentaries, and a highly popular podcast called Missing Maura Murray.
4: Asha Degree
Asha degree was just nine years old when she left her house on the morning she disappeared, Valentine’s Day, 2000. Inexplicably, she had packed her school backpack and left the house in the early morning hours, after which she was sighed walking along North Carolina Highway 18, just a little over a mile from her home. When approached by passing motorists who noticed her, Asha reportedly ran into a wooded area just off the highway. At first, it appeared to investigators that Asha had run away from home. After interviewing family members, they learned that the child had bene reading a fantasy series about children who have spectacular adventures while the adults are asleep. While it’s unclear whether or not Asha intended to return home, early search efforts for her proved fruitless. Belongings of hers, including a pencil, marker, and Mickey Mouse hair bow were found near a shed behind a business that sat parallel to the highway. About 18 months later, Asha’s bookbag also turned up at a construction site, curiously double-bagged, leading investigators to think someone other than Asha had left it there. In October 2018, investigators were appealing to the public for information regarding two key pieces of evidence—a children’s book that was borrowed from the Fallston Middle School library in 2000, and a New Kids on the Block shirt. Asha Degree remains missing to this day.
3: Annette Sagers
Eight-year-old Annette Sagers went missing on her way to school in October of 1988. Less than a year earlier, her mother, Korinna Lynne Sagers Malinoski had gone missing. There was little evidence to paint a picture for investigators, except that her car was found parked in front of their home. When Korinna’s daughter went missing as well, they searched the bus stop where she should have been picked up for school. Investigators found a cryptic note that placed her mother’s disappearance in a whole new context: “Dad, momma come back. Give the boys a hug.” Authorities weren’t sure what to make of the note at first, as they suspected someone may have forced Annette to write. After careful examination, handwriting experts did determine that Annette likely wrote the note. This looks like Korinna could have disappeared of her own accord a year prior, and had returned to reclaim her daughter before vanishing again. What could not be explained was that Korinna had left behind two boys when she disappeared in 1987. Despite anonymous tips that claimed burial locations for Annette’s remains, the mystery of the missing mother and daughter remains unsolved.
2: Tara Calico
The case of Tara Calico continues to haunt the true-crime world, with both investigators and armchair detectives alike speculate to the circumstances surrounding this bizarre case and its sensational clues. Like Annette Sagers, Tara Calico disappeared in 1988 after leaving her home in Belen New Mexico to being a bike ride along Highway 47. Tara was never seen again. In the search for Tara, pieces of her Walkman were found along Highway 47. The bike was never recovered. Leads in the case dried up and it went cold until a year later when a disturbing piece of evidence emerged that has become famous throughout the internet. In Port St. Joe, Florida, a woman reported that she had found a Polaroid outside in the parking lot of a local convenience store. The Poloaroid featured a boy and a young woman, both bound and gagged, propped up against pillows in what appears to be the cargo area of a panel van. The witness told authorities that a white van had previously been parked in that spot, driven by a white man with a mustache. There is still speculation to this day about whether or not the woman in the photo is actually Tara Calico. The book lying next to the young woman in the photo is V.C. Andrews’ My Sweet Audrina, which was allegedly one of Tara’s favorite books. While no official cause for Tara’s disappearance has ever been established, the sheriff of Valencia County offered his theory: He claimed that boys who knew Tara were involved in some kind of accident along Highway 47, involving Tara’s bicycle and the boys’ truck. However, without a body, law enforcement were unable to make a case.
1: Diane Augat
In 1998, 30-year-old Diane Augat of Odessa, Florida walked out of her home and vanished without a trace. About ten years prior to her disappearance, Diane received a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, a mental illness that causes massive mood swings between periods of intense emotional euphoria, or highs, and deep depressive lows. Her case was so severe that it led to losing custody of her children and her husband divorcing her in 1991. She self-medicated with drugs and alcohol. On April 10, 1998, Diane left her home and was never seen again. What followed was a series of strange events that amount to the plot of a Hollywood movie. Just three days after she vanished, her answering machine received a chilling message, “Help, help, let me out,” followed by “Hey, gimme that.” It sounded as though there was a struggle over the phone in the background. The caller ID said Starlight, but when Diane’s mother called back, there was no answer. Two days after that, the severed tip of Diane’s right middle finger was found. Two weeks later, in perhaps one of the most bizarre events in any missing person case, a bag of her clothing was found in the freezer of a local convenience store. Despite the details reflecting that of a Hollywood blockbuster thriller, there has never been any satisfying resolution in her case.