LOWELL, Mass. – Detectives have found a missing woman 42 years after she vanished. According to the Denver Post, the woman disappeared from upstate New York after being dropped off for a doctor’s appointment.
Police said Flora Stevens was a 36-year-old employee of a Catskills resort when her husband dropped her off for a doctor’s appointment at a hospital in Monticello, 75 miles northwest of New York City. When he returned to pick her up, she wasn’t there.
Police periodically reviewed her missing person case but kept hitting dead ends.
Amazingly, detectives “solved” the four-decades-old investigation. But while the woman has been found, the mystery to her disappearance remains in place. The woman who could not be found so long ago now has dementia and can’t explain her own disappearance.
New York authorities never thought they would solve the case, but then a state police investigator contacted the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office last month about some skeletal remains that might fit the vanished woman’s profile, reported NBC News.
Those skeletal remains pushed Sheriff’s Detective Rich Morgan to look into whether Stevens had any living relatives. By hunting through federal, state and local databases, he discovered someone was using Stevens’ social security number in Massachusetts.
Consequently, after a short drive up to Lowell, Massachusetts, Morgan and partner Detective Ed Clouse met Flora Harris, 78, in a local nursing home.
Harris recognized an old employee photograph of Stevens from the Concord Hotel, and the two police detectives soon realized Stevens and Harris were the same woman. However, much had changed.
In the feature photo, Clouse, left, and Morgan, right, pose with Harris/Stevens.
“She doesn’t speak in more than one or two words at a time,” Sullivan County Undersheriff Eric Chaboty explained, noting that Stevens suffers from dementia. “But she looked at the ID and said, ‘Me!'”
The struggle to communicate indicates a late middle stage or end stage form of dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
But Chaboty said when detectives showed her old pictures of the Concord Hotel, Stevens lit up immediately.
“One of the things we talk about for late stage care is to find alternative ways to connect with them,” said Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services at the Alzheimer’s Association. “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.”
Stevens had spent time at nursing homes in New Hampshire and New York City, but the mental health records are relatively vague. As a result, no one is quite sure what caused her to leave the small New York town of Monticello 42 years ago, officials said. Moreover, she has no living relatives who could provide detectives with gap-filling information, police said. Furthermore, her husband died in 1985.
Consequently, the case is closed, yet the mystery remains in place.
“It’s not too often we get to solve a 42-year-old missing person case,” Sheriff Mike Schiff said in a press release. “The main thing is we know Flora is safe.”
— United News America (@UnitedNewsofUSA) October 27, 2017
(Photo courtesy Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office)