The Disappearance of Cathy Moulton

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EARLY LIFE:

Cathy Moulton was born on June 28, 1955 to parents Claire and Lyman Moulton. The eldest of three, she and her family lived in the Woodford’s Corner area of Portland, Maine. While her parents were firm, they were known for their compassion, and Lyman was the owner of Ray Moulton’s Used Cars.

Growing up, Cathy was described a quiet, kind-hearted and loving. She was known for being contemplative and for easily trusting others, though she had few close friends. She would often help out around her neighbourhood, sitting with those who were elderly and helping them out.

Cathy’s hobbies included making her own clothes and writing poetry. When not babysitting or doing chores around the house, she could often be found indulging in her love of dance, regularly attending dances held at the local 7-11 Club.

Cathy was a junior at Deering High School. The school was located just down the street from her house, and she is reported to have been a good student.

During the summer of 1971, Lyman took some time off work and led the family on an 81-day trip across the United States and Mexico. This was the first time Cathy had travelled so extensively, and she is said to have enjoyed the trip. As she celebrated her birthday during this time, her parents purchased her a multi-coloured, reversible leather bag whilst they were in Mexico.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

During the evening of September 24, 1971, Cathy was planning on attending a YWCA dance. To prepare for it, she had made a pantsuit and was in need of a new pair of pantyhose, which she planned on purchasing earlier in the day. She asked her mother for some money, who in turn asked her daughter to pick up two tubes of toothpaste, and Lyman agreed to drop her off. At 1:15pm, he let her out in front of the New England Telephone and Telegraph Office, located at the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Forest Avenue, where she then made her way toward Congress Street.

At around 5:30pm, after buying the pantyhose and toothpaste, Cathy stopped by Starbird Music Store to visit her friend, Carol Starbird. After chatting for a bit, she told Carol she was heading home to take a shower and would see her later at the dance. The last time Carol or anyone saw Cathy, she was walking down Forest Avenue, toward her home, which was a mile and a half away.

DISAPPEARANCE:

Cathy still hadn’t returned home when dinnertime rolled around, which struck her parents as odd. They had set a rule for their daughters where they were to call home if they were going to miss dinner. Worried, Claire called the police to report Cathy as missing. However, she was told she’d have to wait 72 hours before a report could be filed.

That night, the family checked with local hospitals and talked with Cathy’s friends, but could find no sign of her. This led Lyman to drive down to the police station and, after some persistence, he was able to file a missing persons report for his daughter.

SEARCH:

Upon receiving the missing persons report, the police initially believed the case to be that of a simple run away, this after speaking with Cathy’s friends and family.

About 10 days into October 1971, the case received its then only newspaper coverage, with the Portland Press Herald and the Maine Sunday Telegram running stories. Eager to get the word out, Claire and Lyman got in touch with Portland’s local FBI office and spoke with the director. While he was unable to launch an official investigation due to there being a lack of evidence to show an abduction had occurred, he ensured that Cathy’s image ran after several episodes of The F.B.I, a television series that ran from 1965 to 1974.

According to Claire, a neighbourhood boy told her that an older friend of his had given Cathy a ride the night of her disappearance. This story is similar to that of a woman who worked at a gas station in Presque Isle, Maine, who said she’d seen Cathy with two boys. One of the young men had escorted her to the bathroom, stood guard, and walked her back to their car.

Police checked into this story and have since confirmed that they feel Cathy had most likely gotten into a car with a boy, who had asked her to go with him to pick up his friends. However, when investigators tracked him down, they discovered he had since passed away. They have not stated why they’ve focused on this theory.

Given there was a young girl resembling Cathy is Presque Isle, her parents travelled to the city and canvassed the area, handing out flyers and going door-to-door. Upon speaking with local authorities, they discovered there had been no communication between the Presque Isle Police Department and Portland authorities. In fact, officials in Presque Isle had not even heard of Cathy’s disappearance.

When the girl resembling Cathy was found, it was learnt that she was a missing girl from Connecticut. She was returned home not long after.

General talk amongst Cathy’s classmates was that she had potentially travelled to Boston. This after another girl in her class had talked about how much fun she’d had whilst visiting the city. According to other students, Cathy had been particularly interested. However, no evidence has been uncovered to point the investigation in this direction.

For two years, the Moulton family didn’t lock their front door and always made sure the telephone was near, in case Cathy contacted home. Lyman and Claire never left the house together, ensuring one of them was always home, and schedules were rearranged. Cathy’s bedroom also remained untouched.

Throughout the early days of the investigation, Lyman was critical of the police and vocalized his dismay over how the case was being handled to a local newspaper.

At one point in the investigation, a psychic offered up his services for free to the family.

There have been numerous tips called in throughout the duration of the case, but none of them have led to a resolution. One was from a local man, who said he’d picked up a boy and a girl with an unusual looking handbag and drove them to Brunswick Center, while another caller claimed to have seen a girl matching Cathy’s description hitchhiking on Route 88 in Falmouth, Maine.

Cathy’s case was reopened by investigators in the 1980s, but no evidence was uncovered to help progress the investigation. In 1983, a hunter in Smyrna, Maine came across skeletal remains that were surrounded by female clothing. However, he was unable to retrace his steps upon contacting authorities and, despite three days of searching, the remains have never been found.

Some investigators believe these remains belong to Cathy.

Throughout the years, police have continued to interview and re-interview people in relation to the case. In 2004, after speaking with the hunter again, the Maine Warden Service helped organize a new search of the woods around Mill Stream in Smyrna. According to the hunter, he’d come across a triangular-shaped pile of six maple syrup barrels, which were stacked beside an old stove. The search was conducted in conjunction with the Maine State Police and Portland police officers, who used cadaver dogs. Cathy’s sister, Kimberley, also participated.

Around the time of the search, Portland police shared that they believed Cathy to have visited the Mars Hills area in 1971 before being dropped off at a camp in Smyrna. They also touched on speculation that she may have been with people from Smyrna, northern Maine or Canada.

Unfortunately, no trace of the remains first discovered in 1983 were found during this search effort.

Throughout the years, Cathy’s DNA has been tested against that of numerous Jane Does found across the United States. Her dentals and DNA continue to be available for future comparisons.

THEORIES:

1) The initial theory in this case is that Cathy ran away. However, she had given no indication that she was unhappy, and both her family and current investigators don’t believe her to have run away from home.

2) It’s possible that Cathy left of her own accord with her friend, Lester Everett, who was travelling in a stolen 1963 blue Cadillac. There were reported sightings, though none confirmed, of Everett, Cathy and another male working in the potato fields of Aroostook County a few weeks after her disappearance. The county is located in northern Maine, about 300 miles from Portland. However, when investigators finally located Everett, he was alone and claimed to be unaware of Cathy’s location.

A detective who worked the case in the late 1980s believes Cathy got into a car with two boys, one of which she is reported to have liked, but there is no evidence she was taken to Aroostook County or abducted. It isn’t clear if the two boys discussed are Everett and the unknown male or another pair.

3) The final theory in the case is that Cathy is currently deceased and her remains are located within a wooded area in Smyrna. Proponents of this theory believe she was either killed and her body dumped in the woods, or she got lost in the wilderness and died of exposure.

AFTERMATH:

Cathy’s disappearance is one of the oldest cold cases in Maine’s history.

Lyman passed away in 2017. Both he and Claire never gave up hope that their daughter is still alive. They continued to live in the same house and kept their original phone number. While the case was a burden on them, they always hoped for a resolution.

A book about the case, Cathy Moulton Missing & Endangered, was written by Kevin Cady and Bill Meltzer.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Cathy Moulton went missing from Portland, Maine on September 24, 1971. She was sixteen years old and was last seen wearing a navy blue all-weather, double-breasted coat with brass buttons; a wool, short-sleeve navy blue pant dress; and brown leather shoes. She was also carrying a reversible brown leather Mexican clutch purse, which contained her house key, two tubes of toothpaste and a small amount of change. At the time of her disappearance, she was 5’4″ and weighed 98 pounds. She has light brown to sandy blonde hair and blue eyes, and she wore thick eyeglasses with heavy, dark-coloured frames. She had braces and her four bicuspid teeth had been removed. She had scars on both her feet from wart removal, flat moles on her back and a white spot on her left elbow.

Currently, her case is classified as endangered missing. If alive, she would be 64 years old.

If you have any information regarding the case, you can contact the Portland Police Department at 207-874-8479 or 207-874-8575.

Image Credit: B98.5

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