The Disappearance of Elizabeth Ann Campbell

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EARLY LIFE:

Elizabeth Ann Campbell was born on May 31, 1967 to parents Tom and Sam-Soon Campbell. Her father had been a Marine engineer who served 20 years in the army during the Korean War and the Vietnam era before retiring as a Sergeant First Class, and he married Elizabeth’s mother in Korea on April 14, 1959. After his retirement from the military, he became the chief engineer for a private firm, and he and Sam-Soon had a total of four daughters and one son.

Nicknamed “Liz”, Elizabeth led a quiet, sheltered life. While a sweet young woman, she was also known for her high moral standards and for being very responsible and obedient of her parents. She was also incredibly bright and was a student at the local junior college, Central Texas College. She could speak some Spanish and knew a few Korean words, which were learnt from her mother. However, due to her sheltered upbringing, she is said to have been naïve of the dangers of society.

Elizabeth and her mother were exceptionally close and the two often spent time together. Elizabeth would always keep in touch with her whenever she went out, and oftentimes she would invite Sam-Soon along when out with friends, so that her mother could have fun with them.

When 1988 rolled around, Elizabeth was planning on leaving home for the first time. She was finishing up her latest semester at Central Texas College and was hoping to transfer to Texas A&M University in the fall to study marine biology.

LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:

The day of April 25, 1988 started out like any other. Elizabeth had attended classes at Central Texas College before heading to her job at the 7-11 on Rancier Avenue in Killeen, Texas, by the East Gate of Fort Hood Army Base.

After her shift, Elizabeth made her way to her boyfriend Ricky Ray’s home for a study session, approximately 30 miles from her parents’ house in Lampasas. The pair were studying for the last of their exams when they got into an argument. Elizabeth asked for Ricky to take her home, but he refused. As such, she left the house on foot between 9:30pm and 10:00pm. Elizabeth’s decision to walk home meant she would have had to head down Highway 190, which was dark at the time and features long stretches of desolate road.

About an hour or so later, a clerk at another 7-11 located along Highway 190 in Copperas Cove reported seeing a Central Texas College student driving a green Gremlin drop Elizabeth off outside the store, approximately 17 miles from her home. She entered the store and asked to use their phone, which they allowed, and she called Ricky. The pair got into another argument over Elizabeth leaving the house without informing Ricky and she hung up. She then decided to call her brother, but as the call was long-distance she decided to use the payphone located outside the store. Sam-Soon is said to have been awakened by the house’s telephone ringing in the dining room a little after midnight, but it stopped ringing by the time she’d made it downstairs.

Elizabeth has not been seen or heard from since.

DISAPPEARANCE:

As a family rule, the last person to return home was to turn off the porch light. Assuming Elizabeth had returned and simply forgotten to do so, her brother, Tom, turned it off for her on the night of April 25.

On the morning of April 26, Sam-Soon asked her 2-year-old granddaughter to check on Elizabeth, but the young girl said she wasn’t in her room. Concerned, she asked her daughter, Barbara, to call Ricky and see if Elizabeth was over at his house. When pressed, Ricky told Barbara that she’d gone to her sister’s residence at the Central Texas College housing complex. However, when Barbara and Sam-Soon drove to the complex, they found Elizabeth was not there.

Right away, her parents knew something was wrong, as it was out of character for her to not tell them where she was when she wasn’t home.

SEARCH:

Immediately, the Campbell family attempted to report Elizabeth as missing, but the numerous police stations they went to told them they would have to wait until she had been missing for 72 hours, as she was an adult. Not wanting to wait, her parents and friends decided to conduct their own search until they were allowed to file a report.

Tom and Sam-Soon went to the Central Texas College campus and were able to locate the man who had dropped Elizabeth off at the 7-11 in Copperas Cove. He said he’d been working late at the college’s computer lab and when he was leaving around 10:48pm had seen Elizabeth walking alone down the service road near the college. Recognizing her as a fellow student, he drove up to her and offered her a ride, which she accepted. According to the student, it was Elizabeth’s request that she be dropped off at the 7-11 store and he obliged. The time had been around 11:00pm.

Upon the police getting involved, Ricky was cleared as a suspect. Investigators believe it’s likely that someone gave her a ride from Killeen to the spot near Central Texas College, approximately 6 miles from Ricky’s house, from which she was picked up by the male student. However, no one has come forward to say they did this.

Six days after she was reported missing, a girl matching Elizabeth’s description was spotted by a convenience store clerk near Waco, Texas, 85 miles from where she disappeared. The possible sighting was discovered when Sam-Soon entered the store a few weeks later to put up a missing persons poster in the window. Upon seeing the poster and another photo of Elizabeth, he was sure his sighting was positive. According to the clerk, he’d seen a car drive up to the station. A man exited the vehicle and pulled out a young woman by her arm, bringing her into the store with him. Once in the store, he used his free hand to pay the clerk $20 from a roll of bills, careful to not loosen his grip upon the woman’s arm. At some point during the interaction, the young woman looked up at the clerk and he acknowledged her. This caused the man to speak to her in another language, after which she dropped her head. The pair left soon after.

Not long after learning of this potential sighting, Sam-Soon learnt of yet another two miles from where Elizabeth was last seen. According to another store clerk, Elizabeth was spotted two weeks after she’d vanished with a rough and mean looking Asian man. Like in the previous sighting, the man was holding her arm and it looked as if she wasn’t with him by choice. The pair purchased ice cream, and during the entire interaction she only looked up once before lowering her head again.

Despite the two potential sightings, investigators weren’t convinced the young woman seen with the man was indeed Elizabeth. This goes against the belief of others, who presume the man seen with the woman during the second sighting is the one she was seen with during the first. Even though they were skeptical, a sketch of the man was released, along with a description, which stated he was between 25 and 30 years of age, stood at 5’7″ and weighed 160 pounds. He is said to have acne scars on his face and plucked eyebrows, and both times was seen wearing a silver martial arts medallion on a gold chain.

The man has never been identified.

Hoping to find any trace of her daughter, Sam-Soon searched the side of Highway 190, where she came upon a bone. When sent in for testing, it was determined to have belonged to a deer.

During the initial phases of the search, a reward was issued for any information that could lead to Elizabeth’s return.

On July 10, 1988, a gas station customer in Garland, Texas claimed to have seen Elizabeth. According to her story, she was entering the station to pay for gas when she bumped into a girl resembling Elizabeth at the door. The young woman was acting frightened. When she saw a photo of Elizabeth, she was certain the girl was her, as she’d had a tooth that overlapped on the right-hand side when she smiled, just like the missing girl.

The Campbells have written hundreds of letters to law enforcement agencies throughout Texas and have attempted to get media coverage of the case wherever they can.

In 1992, Elizabeth’s purse was discovered in the evidence room at the Crocket County Sheriff’s Department when employees were cleaning. It was learnt that it belonged to a missing person upon Elizabeth’s ID being ran through the system. While there was no record of who had turned it in or when, it’s said to have been located just off I-10 in Ozona, Texas, over 180 miles from where she was last seen. It was in good condition, and while there was no physical evidence relating to her disappearance present, it’s said her Social Security card, military ID and credit card were all present. The only items missing were her lipstick, hairbrush and keys. Investigators are hoping someone will remember turning in the purse, which is believed to have arrived at the sheriff’s department between April 1988 and January 1989.

Elizabeth’s family has followed leads across Texas and out of state. They’ve spent the majority of their money on trying to search for her, including selling cars, cattle, three houses and anything they could, with much of the funds being spent on the printing and distribution of flyers, phone bills and postage for letters. They followed up on every unidentified body found in Texas and have had them examined to see if they were Elizabeth. They’ve also turned to religion, approaching churches of all denominations and asking them to pray for their missing loved one, and frequently post about the case on online forums.

Elizabeth’s case remains one of Copperas Cove’s oldest cold cases. As the years have gone on, tips are called in less frequently, and police have begun to consider the possibility she’s dead. As such, her DNA and dentals are on file and available for comparison. Despite what investigators say, the family remains hopeful they’ll be able to bring her home.

THEORIES:

1) Based on two of the reported sightings, her family feels Elizabeth is still alive and was forced into sex work. This theory is also brought up in an episode of Unsolved Mysteries. Given the young woman seen looked to be controlled by the man she was with, it’s thought he might be her pimp. As such, it’s believed she may have been taken to either Mexico or California, where she worked as a prostitute.

2) The theory held by investigators is that Elizabeth was abducted and murdered on the night she went missing. There are many facets to this theory, with some feeling she may have set off on foot from the 7-11 after not being able to reach her brother and was picked up by someone will ill-intentions, and others saying she may have been a victim of what have been called the Texas Killing Fields and the Highway to Hell. However, as Elizabeth’s body nor evidence of foul play have been found, it’s hard to say if this theory is the correct one.

3) Online sleuths have posited that the Central Texas College student who drove her to the 7-11 in Copperas Cove may have been responsible for her disappearance. Those who follow this line of thought believe he may have waited outside the store to see if she needed a ride elsewhere, after which something nefarious occurred. While it’s unknown if he’s been cleared of involvement by investigators, it’s assumed he has been and, as such, this theory is seen as unlikely.

4) The final theory in the case is that Elizabeth was a victim of Robert Ben Rhoades, also known as the Truck Stop Killer. Rhoades worked as a truck driver and is said to have killed women along his routes between 1975 and 1990. One of his victims was found off I-10 in Ozona, the same town Elizabeth’s purse was located. Despite Elizabeth having gone missing during the time Rhoades was active, no law enforcement agency has tied him to her disappearance.

AFTERMATH:

In 1993, the family moved from Lampasas to Killeen.

Elizabeth’s case has been featured on The Young & The Restless, America’s Most Wanted and Unsolved Mysteries. Despite numerous people calling into Unsolved Mysteries and AMW, none of the tips panned out.

Tom Campbell passed away on June 16, 2018. In his obituary, Elizabeth is listed as one of his surviving relatives.

Sam-Soon has kept her daughter’s possessions. She is said to be elderly and in poor health.

CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:

Elizabeth Ann Campbell went missing from Copperas Cove, Coryell County, Texas on April 25, 1988. She was 20 years old and was last seen wearing a white t-shirt with a design imprinted on the front; blue jeans; white tennis shoes; a Wittnauer Diamond Romance watch; and a 10-karat ring with three imbedded sapphires in the centre surrounded by diamonds. She was also carrying a faded yellow jacket, college textbooks and papers, her 7-11 smock and name tag, and a maroon purse. At the time of her disappearance, she stood at 5’2″ and weighed between 96 and 106 pounds. She has long, dark brown hair and brown eyes, and her ears are double pierced. She has the following scars: a 1″ horizontal scar under her chin; a 1″ horizontal scar on her forehead, near her hairline; a scar on her elbow; and a small scar on the inside of her right eyebrow. She also has a small birthmark on her right buttock and a small mole in the centre of her back, between her shoulder blades.

When she went missing, she was known to smoke Virginia Slims and Capri cigarettes. She is allergic to cola beverages and is said to sometimes have problems with her sinuses. While she wears glasses and contact lenses for distance vision, her contacts had been left at home on the day she disappeared.

Currently, her case is classified as endangered missing, with foul play suspected. If alive, she would be 52 years old.

Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Copperas Cove Police Department at either 817-547-4273, 254-547-1357 or 254-547-8222. Tips can also be called in anonymously to the Texas Missing Persons’ Clearinghouse at 1-800-346-3243.

Image Credit: Unsolved Mysteries Wiki

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