Wife Vanishes, 42 Years On They Look At ID And Act
Disappeared Without A Trace
She had a medical appointment that day, and he was the one to take her. At the time, nothing seemed to be wrong. She just had a bit of a head cold, but that was it. When he dropped her off, he told her he’d be back to pick her up after her appointment- 1 hour later.
The hours flew by as he sat there, waiting for his wife to come out. But she never arrived. Now, 42 years later, the old cold case is closed but nowhere near being solved. What could a simple word and a photograph have to do with it?
Florence “Flora” Stevens was last seen by her husband on the night of August 3, 1975. She was a 36-year-old woman full of life and adventure who worked at a resort in the Catskill Mountains. That night, she was feeling under the weather due to the flu.
Her husband drove her to a doctor’s appointment in Monticello, New York. But, when he went to pick her up, she was nowhere to be found.
The whereabouts of Flora were utterly unknown. The case was opened and was in full force, with detectives searching for her and her bizarre disappearance. But the case eventually went cold as they could not for the life of them figure out what happened to Flora.
They would have never guessed the case would be reopened almost half a decade later.
In 2017, Yan Salomon, a senior investigator with the New York State Police, had just stumbled upon something that might just give him answers to a case he did not know existed.
The skeletal remains of a woman had been found, and he was in desperate need of identifying the body. His next move had him scrambling for his phone.
Salomon called the sheriff’s office in Sullivan County; he needed to talk to a detective. The woman they had found the remains of had been buried near the Catskills and they had to discover who this woman was. But nearly 70,000 women over the age of 18 go missing in the United States each year.
It was going to be an impossible task to identify this woman until they had a brilliant idea.
By January 2016, there were still 21,894 active cases of missing women throughout the U.S. Files that went cold and were put in storage but remain very much alive.
Salomon knew he had a tough task ahead, his team and himself would have to go through the thousands of open cases and find similarities to the body the had found. This created a series of possible identities for the woman. Until one stood out.
It was a long shot, but Salmon headed to Sullivan County and began his research. He decided to simplify the investigation a little and went on to do local searches that could pinpoint the identity of the woman.
With his various skills, he learned that the woman they had found must have been from the area, and began, one by one searching for answers.
Sullivan County had an open case from years ago that roughly matched the description. Could that be it? Would the case be closed? Salomon asked the investigators to see this woman’s case file, to see if the missing woman had any living relatives.
The missing woman’s file was old; it dated from 1975 and the information provided on it was null. But something did click.
Connect The Dots
Salomon passed the case over to the Detectives in Sullivan County. Detective Rich Morgan was assigned to it, and his main task was to connect the dots between these two women.
The missing woman’s work ID was found, and she had worked in the Catskill Mountains, where the corpse of the woman was spotted. But that wasn’t the only incredible discovery.
Detective Morgan had connected the dots. The found woman and the cold case were linked in many ways. He then began a further investigation into the life of Flora Stevens. When she went missing, her husband had actively been trying to find her. He had dropped her off at a medical appointment, but when he went to pick her up. She wasn’t there.
From then on, her case was opened, but nothing appeared. Flora’s husband died 10 years after she disappeared, as did the case – until now.
Social Security Number
Detective Morgan had a pretty tough job on his hands, with no relatives and no one he could speak to about Flora, he did not know how he could prove that this was the woman who had been found dead.
He started shifting through local and national databases and hit on one crucial clue – someone was using Flora Steven’s social security number in Massachusetts.
250 Miles Away
He tracked the number down to an assisted living facility north of Boston. He was shocked, someone had stolen a missing woman’s social security number.
Detective Morgan called the facility, and the staff there confirmed that the number belonged to a Flora, but her last name was not Stevens, it was Harris and had been in the facility since 2001.
Detective Morgan and another investigator went to the facility. They could not believe what they had found. A case that went cold, so many years was now emerging itself into their lives. Admittedly, this meant something. “Same first name, different last name, but same birth date and social security,” detective Morgan told CBS Boston. They had to talk to Flora.
Was this an identity theft crime?
Just in case, the detectives went with the only picture they had of Flora in the database, her old work ID she used while she was at the Catskill Mountains. They headed over to see Flora, and as they introduced themselves, she swiftly did something that left the detectives gasping.
Flora took the picture and pointed at it. “She says that’s me, or me, she responded with one word, me,” detective Morgan told CBS. How could this be possible? But then, they showed her a picture of her husband, and she uttered “Robert.” They had found the missing woman.
Sadly, Flora couldn’t clear up the mystery surrounding her disappearance. She suffers from dementia and doesn’t remember anything in the last 42 years.
She was able to recognize her own picture, but she could barely form intelligible sentences or communicate with people. However, there was something else the police showed her that she did immediately recognize.
According to reports, “when investigators showed her old pictures of the Concord Hotel, Stevens lit up immediately”. That was her former workplace.
There’s a reason for that. As a matter of fact, it’s a pretty common type of occurrence among Alzheimer’s disease patients. Here’s how Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services at the Alzheimer’s Association, explains it:
They’re Still There
“One of the things we talk about for late stage care is to find alternative ways to connect with them,” says Kallmyer.
“They’re still alive, they’re still living here, so that helps make their quality of life better when you can find ways to connect with them. One way to do that is to look through old photos or to tell them about old memories or past events.”
Left In The Dark
However, there seems to be no way of knowing what really happened to her during all those years, due to Flora’s inability to communicate. “We really don’t know the circumstances of why or how she disappeared,” detective Morgan said.
But they did have more clues about what could have happened. Flora’s caregiver Mbuva got bits of her background.
A Troubled Past
She says Flora told him she came from a bad marriage, and that her husband had been abusive. That she had grown up in Yonkers, and that the main thing that characterizes Flora is this one phrase: ‘none of your business.’
But that’s not all. Mbuva has her own theory about what might have happened to Flora.
“To be honest, I don’t think she ever really wanted to be found. You can tell something happened in her past that she didn’t want any part of.”
Let’s not forget that Mbuva has extensive experience working with people with Alzheimer’s disease; she knows how this type of patient behaves and how to read them. But what was Flora hiding? What exactly was she escaping from?
Case Closed, But Not Solved
We may never know for sure. Sullivan County has officially closed the case, they confirmed Flora Harris was indeed Flora Stevens.
“It is not too often that you get to solve a 42-year-old missing person case,” Sheriff Mike Schiff said in a press release. However, this is not the first time something of this nature has happened.
In February 1978, Steven Kubacki, a 23-year-old student at Hope College, disappeared without a trace in an area known as the Lake Michigan Triangle. The area stretches from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Ludington, Michigan, and south to Benton Harbor.
He went on a solo cross-country skiing expedition, but at one point, he vanished. However, the area where he went missing had been the scene of other mysterious disappearances before.
The Thomas Hume
In 1891, a schooner named Thomas Hume was sailing Lake Michigan in search of lumber. The Hume and its crew of seven seamen vanished. Not even a sign of the boat was ever found.
This led many to suggest the wildest theories about the lake, many of which had to do with the paranormal. These rumors gained even more traction after Steven’s disappearance; considering its details and circumstances, one understands why.
The details of how his disappearance was first reported are not entirely clear, and there are different versions. However, the following seems to be the most accurate one.
The day after his trip began, snowmobilers in Saugatuck spotted Steve’s skis, along with his backpack. Immediately, they knew what was going on: someone was missing. They contacted the authorities to report it.
Looking inside the bag, the authorities saw Steven’s identifying documents. Right away, a search and rescue mission began.
It didn’t take too long before they found some signs that, undoubtedly, corresponded to Steve’s presence in the area. However, they were far from informative; as a matter of fact, they left the authorities even more confused.
A trail of footprints was found. The trail continued for about 200 yards until it stopped right at the frozen water’s edge. However, there was one shocking detail about the discovery.
The frozen surface of the water was absolutely intact; there weren’t any signs that the ice had been broken anywhere. Therefore, it didn’t seem like Steven had ventured into the frozen lake and fallen into the water after the ice cracked. Then what happened?
No Clear Explanation
Regardless of that, the authorities concluded that Steve had fallen through the ice and passed away in the water. After all, that seemed like the only possible explanation. What else could have happened?
Steven’s parents were heartbroken when they heard the news. But 15 months later, while still immersed in their grief, they heard someone knocking on their door.
It Was Their Son
It was Steve. His parents couldn’t believe their eyes, but it was real: their son was there. But why so suddenly? Why hadn’t the police told them anything? And most importantly, what happened?
What Steve told them was baffling: he didn’t remember the last 15 months. He had recovered consciousness just a few days ago, in really strange circumstances.
Steven had woken up lying naked in a meadow in Pittsfield, 40 miles away from his parents’ house. Next to him, there was a backpack with maps that he did not recognize as his.
He had absolutely no idea about what had happened. His last memory was walking across the Lake Michigan area, right before his disappearance. But what was even more confusing was Steve’s behavior after he came back.
Refused To Discuss It
He might very well have cashed in on his astounding story by giving interviews to the media, but he refused to do so. He also refused to undergo any psychological treatment or hypnosis that could help him regain his lost memories from the months he was missing.
He argued that he wasn’t experiencing any “psychological problems” and wished things to continue that way. But what really happened to him during those 15 months?
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.