LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:
On the afternoon of September 26, 1981, Cinda Pallett and Charlotte Kinsey attended the Oklahoma State Fair. It was the first time the pair went without their parents, as they believed they were old enough to attend by themselves.
At 5:00pm, Charlotte called home to tell her mother that she and Cinda had been offered jobs helping a carnival worker unload stuffed animals from a truck. Paula Peterson agreed, but Charlotte promise to call at 9:00pm. Norma Pallett asked Cinda to do the same thing, as the girls were planning a sleepover and she needed to know where to pick them up.
The girls were seen at the fairgrounds around 5:30pm that evening.
Their parents grew concerned after the pair failed to call at 9:00pm. When neither returned home, they called the Oklahoma City Police Department to report them missing.
Upon receiving the missing persons reports, uniformed and undercover officers scoured the fairgrounds, looking for any sign of Charlotte and Cinda. Volunteers went from booth to booth hanging up flyers, while Charlotte’s family set up a 24-hour post at the fair.
The police department formed a dedicated task force for the case, the second time such an effort was organized. The first was after the slaying of six individuals at a local restaurant in 1978. Its numbers were cut as leads began to dry up in the investigation.
Based on witness reports, investigators were able to put together the following description of a potential suspect: a male between the ages of 35 and 50, weighing approximately 200 to 250 pounds and standing at 6’1″ to 6’3″ tall. He had dark hair with grey streaks, a moustache and a full beard, and muscular arms. He was wearing silver wire-rimmed glasses, a brown-striped or plaid cowboy shirt, cowboy boots, a flimsy straw cowboy hat, a digital watch on his left wrist, a yellow badge and a leather belt with the name “Joseph” tooled into it.
He drove a tan two-door 1980 or 1981 Pontiac Grand Prix with South Dakota license plates. It had a half-vinyl roof and numerous papers scattered across the dashboard. He’d approached numerous children the day Charlotte and Cinda disappeared, offering jobs that paid $5 to $10 an hour.
His description was put on the missing persons flyers and sent to neighbouring law enforcement agencies.
Two teenage boys came forward to discuss their interactions with the man. They said he’d driven them and the girls to a truck stop off I-40 to meet the truck with the stuffed toys. When it wasn’t there, he asked the boys to wait at the stop while he drove with the girls to check the next one. He gave them $10 before driving away with Charlotte and Cinda.
It should be noted that many news outlets have mistakenly reported that these boys were Charlotte and Cinda’s boyfriends. They’d actually met them on the day of their disappearances.
The man’s yellow badge was located soon after. It bore the name and photograph of Donald Michael Corey, a 36-year-old carnival drifter who resembled the man in the witness sketches. Immediately, police charged him with two counts of kidnapping and launched a nationwide search. He was eventually arrested in Alabama, but later had the charges against him dropped after it was determined he had no relation to the case.
Investigators were able to rule out all employees with the Oklahoma State Fair as suspects, stating they felt the abductor had posed as a carnival worker in order to gain the girls’ trust.
A couple of months into the investigation, the Oklahoma City Police Department put up a $5,000 reward for information leading to Cinda and Charlotte’s return. $1,000 was added by the families, with Crime Stoppers offering an additional $2,500. All this was on top of funds raised by Highland West Middle School, where the girls were students.
Police received numerous potential sightings. Some believed they’d seen the girls in California and Maryland, while one sighting was called in from Germany. A woman from New Jersey claimed she’d seen the two amongst a group of five Hispanic men in work uniforms at the Fun Town pier, near a residence in Seaside Park.
The girls’ parents received countless leads from various organizations, all of which they passed on to police. Cinda’s father was aware that a man identified as “James Miller” had allegedly confessed to killing his daughter, while another man named “Sig Ragland” claimed to have seen the girls’ bones and burned clothing. Charlotte’s older sister, Lisa, said her former boyfriend had received a phone call from Charlotte, during which she said, “Curtis, help. I can’t get a hold of Lisa,” but it has never been verified.
Royal Russell Long, a carnie and part-time long-haul truck driver, has long been considered the prime suspect in the case. Not only did he closely resemble the suspect sketch, but he lived in Tuttle, Oklahoma and had delivered equipment to drilling rigs across the state. He’d arrived in Oklahoma City the day before Cinda and Charlotte disappeared to deliver a flatbed trailer to a local business and later admitted to visiting the fair the following day. Despite witnesses identifying him as the man offering children jobs at the fair, he denied any involvement.
Long had a history of sexual violence toward young women. He was accused of molesting his daughter, and she came forward to say she’d witnessed him attempting to lure young girls with puppies and toys. She also claimed he’d told her that no female over the age of 13 would ever sexually satisfy him.
According to an Oklahoma City prosecutor, Long was a person of interest during the early stages of the investigation, but was removed after three or four days. It would take another three years for him to reappear on their radar.
Police were able to locate the Pontiac Grand Prix he’d rented during his stay in Oklahoma, in El Paso, Texas. A witness came forward to say they’d seen the girls with a man matching his description in a similar vehicle on September 26, 1981.
The vehicle was thoroughly examined. 13 scalp hairs found in the trunk came back as a match to Cinda, and animal hairs found matched those of her three dogs and one cat. Blonde hair was also found stuck to the corner of the mat. Three separate forensic tests proved there to be a bloody boot print and other bloodstains on the mat in the trunk. While they didn’t yet have access to DNA technology, an expert was able to determine that either one large body or two smaller ones were outlined in the bloodstains. However, he wasn’t able to definitively say it was human blood.
A lock of blonde hair was found during a search of Long’s trailer home in Wyoming. While it may have belonged to Charlotte, tests proved inconclusive, as the strands didn’t have their roots. Other places known to Long were searched, but uncovered no further evidence.
Long was charged with kidnapping and first-degree murder in relation to the case in August 1985. He plead not guilty and was denied bond. While in jail awaiting his preliminary hearing, he spoke of an alleged conspiracy between authorities in Oklahoma and Wyoming to try him for the abduction of the girls and the kidnapping of another, Sharon Baldeagle.
The hearing went underway that October. Its aim was to determine if the case could move to trial, given prosecutors hadn’t found the girls’ bodies. Along with hearing from one of the boys, Lance Rumsey, the judge heard testimony from two teenage girls who claimed to have been approached by Long. They said he’d offered them a job unloading toys, but they grew suspicious and walked away.
The defence argued that Charlotte and Cinda had been spotted in Miami, Florida. They also argued it was possible they were working as prostitutes in Burbank, California, filming a porn movie titled Little Love Slaves.
The hearing ended with the judge throwing out much of the physical evidence, as well as information regarding his involvement in the case of Sharon Baldeagle and testimony from Long’s daughter and an inmate who had served time with him in California. Lance Rumsey was barred from testifying, as he’d been hypnotized during the investigation and the defence felt he was now partial to outside suggestion. He also threw out the charges of kidnapping, citing a lack of evidence the girls had been confined.
The prosecution appealed the removal of the kidnapping charges and won. During the appeal, both sides saw motions thrown out. Again, Long plead not guilty to murder and kidnapping and was denied bond. While in jail, he was offered a plea deal with the ability to serve his sentence in Wyoming if he revealed the location of the girls’ bodies, but he turned down the offer.
Both sides came before the judge in December 1985. The defence asked him to drop all charges against Long, as there wasn’t enough evidence to convict, and the judge obliged. The jury and case were dismissed.
According to the family, Long frequently taunted them throughout the court proceedings, saying he was the only one who knew the truth about Charlotte and Cinda’s disappearances.
As aforementioned, Long was involved in the abduction of 12-year-old Sharon Baldeagle on September 18, 1984. She and her friend, 15-year-old Sandi Brokenleg had been hitchhiking to Idaho when Long picked them up in Caspar, Wyoming. He’d brought them to this home in Evansville, Wyoming, tied them up at gunpoint with coat hangers and sexually assaulted them. While Sandi was able to escape and get help from a neighbour, both Long and Sharon were gone by the time police arrived.
Long was eventually arrested by the FBI in Albuquerque, New Mexico. When questioned, he said he’d driven Sharon to Cheyenne, Wyoming and put her on a light-coloured bus or truck bound for Dallas, Texas. When questioned about kidnapping and assaulting her and Sandi, he claimed the girls had willingly engaged in sexual activity with him out of a need for money and had lied about their ages.
Long took a plea deal in relation to the case. He was sentenced to two life terms in prison for charges of kidnapping for the purpose of committing indecent liberties with a minor.
In 1986, Long wrote a letter to the Daily Oklahoman, claiming he could solve the case and was willing to speak if they paid him money. The publication denied this request. He also wrote a letter to Norma Pallett, expressing how bad he felt, but claiming he never saw Cinda on the day she disappeared.
Long died of a heart attack in November 1993 while imprisoned at the Wyoming State Penitentiary.
Royal Russell Long is also a possible suspect in the following cases:
1) The disappearance of 19-year-old Carlene Brown from Rawlins, Wyoming on July 4, 1974. She and her friend, Christine “Christi” Ann Gross, were attending the Little Britches Rodeo when they vanished. Christi’s remains were located in Sinclair, Wyoming in October 1983, her cause of death two blows to the head. Carlene has never been found.
2) The disappearance of Deborah Rae Meyer from Rawlins, Wyoming on August 4, 1974. Deborah was visiting relatives when she decided to walk to a local movie theatre. She never arrived and hasn’t been seen since.
3) The abduction and murder of 10-year-old Jayleen Dawn Banker on August 23, 1974. Her family were at the Carbon County Rodeo in Rawlins, Wyoming when Jayleen disappeared. Her body was found in a field two miles southwest of Rawlins on April 24, 1975. Her cause of death was a blow to the head.
In April 1985, a report came in, which said Cinda and Charlotte had been spotted in Miami several times over the course of two months. They were said to be using names that were similar to their real ones. Despite a task force being formed to comb northwestern Dade County, the girls were not located.
The case was featured on America’s Most Wanted. After the broadcast, a woman called their hotline, claiming to be Cinda. However, she turned out to be an 18-year-old from Virginia who had a history of mental illness.
Investigators believe Cinda and Charlotte’s bodies are somewhere in Oklahoma, but will likely never be found. Foul play is suspected in their disappearances. Charlotte’s DNA is available for comparison, while Cinda’s dental records and DNA are on file, should their remains be located.
Pearla has since passed away. She kept Charlotte’s room just as her daughter left it for eight years, holding onto hope she would one day return home. In 1983, she participated in the National Child Search, providing information about search efforts to the families of missing children.
Charlotte’s disappearance greatly affect her sister, Christy Lane, who was just five months old at the time. She says her older sister’s disappearance made her very protective of her own children.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Charlotte June Kinsey was last seen at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma on September 26, 1981. She was 13 years old, and was last seen wearing a dark maroon short-sleeved pullover blouse with white stripes on the sleeves and white trim on the sleeves and neck; blue jeans; Nike tennis shoes; and a wedding band-type ring on her right ring finger. At the time of her disappearance, she stood between 5’0″ and 5’1″ and weighed 100 pounds. She has shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair and blue/grey eyes. She has a triangular-shaped birthmark on her lower back, near her waistline, and a small dot-shaped scar below her left eye. She has silver caps on her lower front teeth, and her ears are pierced.
She was suffering from depression at the time of her disappearance. Just two weeks before, she had tried to take her own life by overdosing on her mother’s tranquilizers.
Cinda Leann Pallett was last seen at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma. She was 13 years old, and was last seen wearing a white t-shirt with dark blue sleeves, the ZZ Top logo on the front and the number 81 on the back; size 12 slim blue jeans; a rope belt made of braided orange/rust-coloured nylon with a leather buckle and her name tooled in it; and two-tone blue Nike sneakers with black waffle soles. At the time of her disappearance, she stood at 5’0″ and weighed 88 pounds. She has shoulder-length brown hair and blue eyes. She has a small scar below the corner of her left eyebrow and wears a dental retainer behind her lower front teeth.
Some agencies spell her last name “Palette”.
Currently the cases are classified as non-family abductions, and some agencies state their disappearances occurred on September 25, 1981. If alive, Charlotte would be 52 years old and Cinda would be 53 years old.
Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact the Oklahoma State Police at 405-231-2121 or the Oklahoma City Police Department at either 405-297-1129, 405-297-1290, 405-297-1288 or 405-297-1000. Tips can also be called into the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation at 1-800-522-8017 or 405-427-5421 and the FBI’s Oklahoma City office at 405-290-7770.
Image Credit: Unidentified Wiki