This is yet another vanishing case that is part of a series I have been writing up this week. Two of the children I have highlighted are part of a worldwide issue. They exist one day, they are us. They have lives which have all the laughter and tears we do. On another day they are gone. Amy Fitzpatrick and Sarah Benford were 15 and 14 years old. Clara Marie Grunst was 21. There were many years between them going missing, but they shared a tragic sinister quality. So who looks for the young as the years go on? Volunteers do. It is quiet and it is an uphill battle, but I applaud their efforts. The vanishing people should not be forgotten because in many cases someone wants them forgotten.
Clara Marie Grunst was at a family wedding. On 9th October 1984 she got word from her landlord that should have been good news. She had been looking for work and employers were wanting to set up interviews with her. The problem was she was in Carthage, Missouri and lived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Ms Grunst would not have seen that as a huge problem. She had been in Carthage with family and was going to return home anyway. Not having a car was not a huge problem either. Ms Grunst liked to hitchhike, she was a keen CB radio user so she got on the radio and organised a lift with a trucker who was heading her way. At 11.40 am she called her family and said she was set up for a ride and was in Pittsburgh, Kansas. That was the last time anyone heard from her.
This lady was only slim and at most 5ft 6 inches tall. She had money ( her brother had given her quite a sum) and she was wearing a new suede coat. She was no impoverished traveller from what I can gather. She had faith in people and her own abilities. Somehow those beliefs did not pay off. In many ways it is the common thread that runs through so many stories. The young have the gift of faith and the rose coloured view of the world that I have lost as the years went by. I envy them that outlook. In many cases it works out. Adventurers like Ms Grunst get to do things I don’t. For some though it is a death sentence.
On various websites you can find mention of this lady. Several mention that the trucker who was giving her a lift was traced and interviewed. The general consensus is he came across as suspicious because he gave inconsistent accounts. Any suspicion remained only that, no-one was ever charged with a crime from this.
Ms Grunst had scoliosis which meant she had a noticeable issue with her back. None of that stopped her. Her CB handles (the call sign they use) spoke much about her. They were Blondie, Missouri Sunshine and Blue Eyes.
I can image how she was getting into the cab of that truck. She probably felt lucky, she was smiling and thinking of the jobs she might land. That nice new jacket and money in her pocket would have helped her mood. Then the picture fades from the outside in. She is gone.
So who looks for the missing? I am less about missing person’s than unsolved for sure. I am less about looking and more about keeping the names and stories alive. So here are a few places I have found where the details of the like of Ms Grunst are actively promoted.
National Databases For Missing People
The Charley Project was started in 2004 and has become a huge missing person’s database. Incredibly, to me at least, it was founded by Meaghan Good when she was just 19 years old. I look at the site with awe. The criteria for cases to be posted is very sensible. Especially given most missing persons are traced quickly. It was on this site I found out about Ms Grunst. They have a Facebook page as well. The links are below.
Talking of Facebook you will find many small pages on there that keep the search for missing people as a glimmer of hope. One example of a larger effort is Missourilostnmissing. It is part of a wider project called lostnmissing which was begun in 2006.
There are dots of well intentioned goodness to be found as individual endeavours. You can find Facebook pages dedicated to unsolved murders which have been started by the family of the victim. I often check back on these for updates as not every detail is covered by local press.
In the UK I have found a site called Missing People and they are equally marvellous. They have a database that includes very recent missing cases along with the older ones.
International Efforts To Find Missing People
I have just started looking at international sources and databases. I have found one called Missing Persons Centre but it appears to be USA mostly. Not that there is anything wrong with that, I hope it grows.
Then there is the Red Cross and ICMEC ( International Centre For Missing And Exploited Children) and several others. Here I am going to be critical. They are glossy and what you would expect more from a commercial corporation. I went on one Facebook page and saw an announcement about the big wig going on a TV show to talk about a case that had been solved. Not one of theirs, it was the case of an Australian child rescued from her abductor. I didn’t see a button I could press to check if a case was still live. There were lots of shots of glossy people in glossy surroundings.
I think I will stick to smaller, more focused outfits. It has been my experience that as soon as well meaning charities get big enough to attract the attention of charity professionals they lose their way.
The Small And Good
In effect you are talking about hundreds of thousands of people who quietly keep a candle in the window of the internet. From my perspective, when it comes to very suspicious vanishings, I hope that candle makes any offenders at least a little nervous. Just a touch anxious that their victims have not been forgotten.
Ms Grunst had no reason to vanish to Milwaukee. There is no innocent reason that she apparently stopped existing from 9th October 1984. This young woman called family to tell them she had a lift. It seems illogical she would have been in contact over a detail yet after that she went off into silence. Something bad almost certainly happened to her.
If you have any cases like Ms Grunst I would be more than happy to share them.