By Ashleigh / Nov 18, 2022
When he took her to her medical appointment that day, nothing seemed wrong. She was a bit under the weather due to a head cold but nothing more. While dropping her off he told her that he’d be back in an hour when she’d finished.
He sat there, waiting for his wife to appear, but the hours kept ticking by, and she never showed. Up until now, 42 years later, with a single word and one photograph, the cold case is closed but still unsolved.
A Long Time Ago In Monticello, New York
Her husband last saw 36-year-old Florence “Flora” Stevens on the night of the 3rd of August 1975. She was still young and full of life and adventure. Flora worked at a resort in the Catskill Mountains but that night she was a little under the weather due to a flu.
SETH WENIG / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
So they made an appointment, and her husband drove her to her doctor’s office in Monticello, New York. However, she couldn’t be found when the time came to pick her up.
A Case Re-Opened
Flora’s whereabouts were unknown, and a case was quickly opened. The investigation went on in full force, with detectives trying their best to solve the mystery of her bizarre disappearance. However, the case eventually turned cold as the investigating team couldn’t find out what happened to her that fateful night.
No one could’ve known that the case would be reopened nearly half a decade later.
A Shocking Discovery
Yan Salomon, a senior investigator with the New York State Police Department, stumbled upon something in 2017. He had no idea that his discovery could give him answers to a case he never knew existed.
New York Police Station
Yan had found the skeletal remains of a woman and he was desperately trying to identify the victim. The next move he made had him grabbing his phone.
Nearly Impossible Task
The remains of the woman they discovered were found near the Catskill Mountains Resort, so Solomon called the sheriff’s office in Sullivan County. He needed to find out who this woman was, but nearly 70,000 women over 18 are reported missing in the United States annually, making it a daunting task.
Catskill Mountains Resort
Identifying the woman would’ve been impossible. But Solomon and his team came up with a brilliant idea.
Going Through Cold Cases
21,894 cased of women who went missing throughout the US were still active by January 2016. The cases that went cold were still kept on file and stored away, but they were not forgotten.
Sullivan County Department
Solomon understood that he and his team had a tough task ahead of them, but that wouldn’t stop him. He tasked his team and himself with going through all of the open cases so they could see if there were any similarities between them and the body that was found. They found many women that would fit the bill, but one of them stood out.
A Trip To Sullivan County
Knowing it would be a long shot, Solomon made his way to Sullivan County. He needed to do some research, but it wouldn’t be easy, so he decided to simplify the investigation. Instead of searching the vast area, he did local searches that could help him pinpoint the woman’s identity.
Sullivan County Department
Using his vast array of skills Solomon learned that the woman they found must’ve been a resident in the area. So he began picking apart the clues one by one.
A Piece Of The Puzzle
The Sullivan County Police Department had an older open case roughly matching the woman’s description. But could it be her? Was the case still open? Solomon couldn’t just give up, so he asked if he could see the file. He wanted to find out if the missing woman had any living relatives that could be questioned.
Sullivan County Department
The file was old. It was dated all the way back to 1975 and didn’t provide much information at all. But something did fall into place for Solomon.
Finding The Missing Link
Detective Rich Morgan of the Sullivan County Police Department was assigned to the case once Solomon handed it over to them. It was his task to find the missing link and to connect the dots between the two women.
Sullivan County Department
He found the missing woman’s work ID and learned that she worked at the Catskill Mountains Resort. It was a vital clue since the body was spotted in that area. But it wasn’t all he discovered.
Could It Be Flora?
Detective Morgan found that the cold case and the body that was found were linked in many ways. He had started connecting the dots, but more investigation was needed. He started looking into Flora’s life and found a bit of information. She went missing after a medical appointment. Her husband came to pick her up but couldn’t find her. And afterward, her husband was actively looking for her.
That was when a case was opened but no trace of her was ever found again. Detective Morgan couldn’t question her husband because he died ten years after her disappearance, as did the case. Well, until now.
Social Security Number
Detective Morgan had a pretty tough job on his hands, with no relatives and no one he could speak to about Flora, he did not know how he could prove that this was the woman who had been found dead.
He started shifting through local and national databases and hit on one crucial clue – someone was using Flora Steven’s social security number in Massachusetts.
250 Miles Away
He tracked the number down to an assisted living facility north of Boston. He was shocked, someone had stolen a missing woman’s social security number.
Hallkeen Assisted Living
Detective Morgan called the facility, and the staff there confirmed that the number belonged to a Flora, but her last name was not Stevens, it was Harris and had been in the facility since 2001.
Detective Morgan and another investigator went to the facility. They could not believe what they had found. A case that went cold, so many years ago was now emerging itself into their lives. Admittedly, this meant something. “Same first name, different last name, but the same birth date and social security,” detective Morgan told CBS Boston. They had to talk to Flora.
Boston 25 News
Was this an identity theft crime?
Just in case, the detectives went with the only picture they had of Flora in the database, her old work ID she used while she was at the Catskill Mountains. They headed over to see Flora, and as they introduced themselves, she swiftly did something that left the detectives gasping.
Sullivan County Department
Flora took the picture and pointed at it. “She says that’s me, or me, she responded with one word, me,” detective Morgan told CBS. How could this be possible? But then, they showed her a picture of her husband, and she uttered “Robert.” They had found the missing woman.
Sadly, Flora couldn’t clear up the mystery surrounding her disappearance. She suffers from dementia and doesn’t remember anything in the last 42 years.
She was able to recognize her own picture, but she could barely form intelligible sentences or communicate with people. However, there was something else the police showed her that she did immediately recognize.
According to reports, “when investigators showed her old pictures of the Concord Hotel, Stevens lit up immediately”. That was her former workplace.
Holden Luntz Gallery
There’s a reason for that. As a matter of fact, it’s a pretty common type of occurrence among Alzheimer’s disease patients. Here’s how Beth Kallmyer, vice president of constituent services at the Alzheimer’s Association, explains it:
They’re Still There
“One of the things we talk about for late-stage care is to find alternative ways to connect with them,” says Kallmyer.
“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.”
Left In The Dark
However, there seems to be no way of knowing what really happened to her during all those years, due to Flora’s inability to communicate. “We really don’t know the circumstances of why or how she disappeared,” detective Morgan said.
But they did have more clues about what could have happened. Flora’s caregiver Mbuva got bits of her background.
A Troubled Past
She says Flora told him she came from a bad marriage, and that her husband had been abusive. That she had grown up in Yonkers, and the main thing that characterizes Flora is this one phrase: ‘none of your business.’
But that’s not all. Mbuva has her own theory about what might have happened to Flora.
“To be honest, I don’t think she ever really wanted to be found. You can tell something happened in her past that she didn’t want any part of.”
Let’s not forget that Mbuva has extensive experience working with people with Alzheimer’s disease; she knows how this type of patient behaves and how to read them. But what was Flora hiding? What exactly was she escaping from?
Case Closed, But Not Solved
We may never know for sure. Sullivan County has officially closed the case, they confirmed Flora Harris was indeed Flora Stevens.
“It is not too often that you get to solve a 42-year-old missing person case,” Sheriff Mike Schiff said in a press release. However, this is not the first time something of this nature has happened.
In February 1978, Steven Kubacki, a 23-year-old student at Hope College, disappeared without a trace in an area known as the Lake Michigan Triangle. The area stretches from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, to Ludington, Michigan, and south to Benton Harbor.
He went on a solo cross-country skiing expedition, but at one point, he vanished. However, the area where he went missing had been the scene of other mysterious disappearances before.
The Thomas Hume
In 1891, a schooner named Thomas Hume was sailing Lake Michigan in search of lumber. The Hume and its crew of seven seamen vanished. Not even a sign of the boat was ever found.
This led many to suggest the wildest theories about the lake, many of which had to do with the paranormal. These rumors gained even more traction after Steven’s disappearance; considering its details and circumstances, one understands why.
The details of how his disappearance was first reported are not entirely clear, and there are different versions. However, the following seems to be the most accurate one.
The day after his trip began, snowmobilers in Saugatuck spotted Steve’s skis, along with his backpack. Immediately, they knew what was going on: someone was missing. They contacted the authorities to report it.
Looking inside the bag, the authorities saw Steven’s identifying documents. Right away, a search and rescue mission began.
It didn’t take too long before they found some signs that, undoubtedly, corresponded to Steve’s presence in the area. However, they were far from informative; as a matter of fact, they left the authorities even more confused.
A trail of footprints was found. The trail continued for about 200 yards until it stopped right at the frozen water’s edge. However, there was one shocking detail about the discovery.
The frozen surface of the water was absolutely intact; there weren’t any signs that the ice had been broken anywhere. Therefore, it didn’t seem like Steven had ventured into the frozen lake and fallen into the water after the ice cracked. Then what happened?
No Clear Explanation
Regardless of that, the authorities concluded that Steve had fallen through the ice and passed away in the water. After all, that seemed like the only possible explanation. What else could have happened?
Steven’s parents were heartbroken when they heard the news. But 15 months later, while still immersed in their grief, they heard someone knocking on their door.
It Was Their Son
It was Steve. His parents couldn’t believe their eyes, but it was real: their son was there. But why so suddenly? Why hadn’t the police told them anything? And most importantly, what happened?
What Steve told them was baffling: he didn’t remember the last 15 months. He had recovered consciousness just a few days ago, in really strange circumstances.
Steven had woken up lying naked in a meadow in Pittsfield, 40 miles away from his parents’ house. Next to him, there was a backpack with maps that he did not recognize as his.
He had absolutely no idea about what had happened. His last memory was walking across the Lake Michigan area, right before his disappearance. But what was even more confusing was Steve’s behavior after he came back.
Refused To Discuss It
He might very well have cashed in on his astounding story by giving interviews to the media, but he refused to do so. He also refused to undergo any psychological treatment or hypnosis that could help him regain his lost memories from the months he was missing.
He argued that he wasn’t experiencing any “psychological problems” and wished things to continue that way. But what really happened to him during those 15 months?
In order to protect the privacy of those depicted, some names, locations, and identifying characteristics have been changed and are products of the author’s imagination. Any resemblances to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.