Disappearance of Evelyn Hartley
Evelyn Grace Hartley
November 21, 1937
|Disappeared||October 24, 1953 (15 years old)|
La Crosse County, Wisconsin
|Status||Missing for 66 years and 26 days|
|Residence||La Crosse County, Wisconsin|
|Height||5 ft 7 in (1.70 m)|
Evelyn Grace Hartley (born November 21, 1937) was an American missing teenager from La Crosse County, Wisconsin, who disappeared on October 24, 1953. Her disappearance sparked a search involving 2,000 people. In the first year following her disappearance, investigators questioned more than 3,500 people. As of 2019[update], no trace of her has been found.
On October 24, 1953, Viggo Rasmussen, a professor at La Crosse State College (now University of Wisconsin–La Crosse), hired Evelyn Hartley, the daughter of a fellow professor, to take care of his 20-month old daughter. That evening, Evelyn's father Richard called the Rasmussen house several times after she failed to check in as planned at 8:30 PM; he received no answer. Concerned, he drove to the Rasmussen house. When Richard arrived, the doors were locked, the lights and radio were on, and items were scattered all over the house. The living room furniture had been moved around to different places, as were Evelyn's school books. Richard found her shoes in different rooms, one shoe upstairs, and one downstairs. He also found his daughter's broken glasses upstairs. Richard did not find Evelyn in the house.
Richard also found every room in the house locked, except one in the basement that was located at the back of the house. An opened window there was missing a screen, and the screen was found leaning against an outside wall. He also found a short stepladder belonging to the homeowner positioned at the opened window. Pry marks were found on some windows, and footprints had been found in areas of the house. Blood was found both inside the house and in the yard, with bloody hand prints about 100 feet away in a garage and in a nearby house. The child Evelyn had been caring for was found asleep and unharmed.
Police believe someone took Evelyn through the yard, but dropped her on the ground before carrying her further. The police used dogs to pick up her scent trail, which ending at Coulee Drive two blocks away. Police thought Evelyn was most likely put into a vehicle there and driven away. They were told by one neighbor they had seen a car repeatedly driving around the neighborhood, and another person who lived nearby claimed they had heard screams an hour earlier. The witness thought it was just children playing. Two days after the incident, local resident Ed Hofer told police that while driving his vehicle, he was almost hit by a Buick as it was speeding in a westerly direction. Inside the Buick, Hofer reported seeing one man was driving the vehicle while a second man was in the backseat with a girl.
Over 1,000 members of the local community, including law enforcement officers, the National Guard, Boy Scouts, and La Crosse State College students and faculty, participated in a search in October 1953. The Civil Air Patrol and U.S. Air Force were also used in the search. A vehicle inspection program was also undertaken with the intent of searching every vehicle in the La Crosse County. Gas station attendants were asked to check cars for blood stains. Recent graves were reopened to determine if Evelyn's remains were placed with a recent burial.
In May 1954, mass lie detector tests were conducted on La Crosse-area high school boys in an attempt to find more information about Evelyn's disappearance. Though local authorities had planned to test 1,750 students and faculty, the testing was controversial and was halted after around 300 were tested.
After his arrest, murderer Ed Gein was considered a suspect in Evelyn's disappearance, as he was visiting a relative a few blocks away from the Rasmussen house at the time. However, Gein denied involvement in the disappearance and passed two lie detector tests; police found no trace of Evelyn's remains during a search of Gein's Fairfield property. In November 1957, authorities announced that Gein had been cleared of any connection with the disappearances of both Evelyn and Georgia Weckler, an 8 year old who disappeared in 1947. Despite this, some still consider Gein a suspect.
Evelyn's kidnapping led to one of the biggest searches in the history of Wisconsin. Public efforts to find her have included the Charley Project and the Soddy-Daisy-Roots Project. A reward fund established in the immediate aftermath of the event reached $6,600 (equivalent to $62,000 in 2018). Her parents moved to Portland, Oregon in the 1970s, and are now both deceased.
In 2004, a man named Mel Williams came forward with a conversation he recorded years earlier at a bar. Although his goal was to record a band which was performing, the conversation between two men was unintentionally recorded as well. On the tape, one of the men, Clyde "Tywee" Peterson, implicated himself, Jack Gaulphair, and an unnamed third party in the disappearance, claiming that Evelyn was murdered and buried in La Farge, Wisconsin after her kidnapping. Gaulphair and the unnamed party are now deceased. Although authorities promised to investigate the lead, no further developments were ever made.
- "The Doe Network: Case File 1388DFWI". www.doenetwork.org. Retrieved 2016-08-30.
- "Evelyn Grace Hartley". www.nampn.org. Retrieved 2016-08-29.
- Rosso, Jerome (October 22, 1978). "Our Greatest Mystery". La Crosse Tribune. p. 9.
- "Lie Detector tests for 2,000 in vanished Girl Case". The Sun-Herald. Sydney, New South Wales. May 16, 1954.
- Edmonds, Chris (October 27, 1953). "Baby Sitter Abduction Shocks Town". Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph. Quebec City, Quebec, Canada. AP.
- Good, Meaghan Elizabeth. "The Charley Project: Evelyn Grace Hartley". charleyproject.org. Archived from the original on 2018-01-03. Retrieved 2016-08-28.
- "Search Pressed for Missing Baby Sitter; Death is Feared". The Spokesman-Review. AP. October 27, 1953.
- Schechter, p. 49.
- "Bloodstained Pants Found in La Crosse Search Area". The Daily Reporter. UP. October 22, 1953.
- "Evelyn Grace Hartley – The Charley Project". charleyproject.org. Retrieved 2018-09-09.
- Schechter, p. 177.
- "Sanity Trial Due Farmer in Murders". The Victoria Advocate. Victoria, Texas. November 21, 1957.
- Schechter, Harold (2010). Deviant. Simon and Schuster. p. 177. ISBN 978-1-4391-0697-6.
- Whatever happened to Evelyn Hartley? Full documentary, retrieved 2019-10-09
- White, Bill (February 27, 1997). "Hartley a trace: Whatever happened to young Evelyn Hartley". La Crosse Tribune. p. A-6.
- West, Nathaniel. "Old Tape Gives New Clues in Half-Century Old Death of Former Charleston Girl". Journal Gazette & Times Courier. Retrieved 29 October 2017.
- West, Nathaniel (May 24, 2004). "Old tape gives new clues in half-century-old death of former Charleston girl". The Journal-Gazette & Times-Courier. Matoon, Illinois: Lee Enterprises. Retrieved October 29, 2017.
- "Evelyn Hartley – News archives 26 Oct 1953 to 27 Feb 1997". La Crosse Public Library. Retrieved August 31, 2016.
- "Mass Lie Detector Tests Planned in Evelyn Hartley Case". Deseret News and Telegram. Salt Lake City, UT. UP. May 5, 1954.
- "Police Hold man in Abduction Case". Reading Eagle. Reading, PA. UP. January 21, 1954.
- "Shoes of Abductor Found in Hartley Case". Reading Eagle. Reading, PA. AP. November 1, 1953. p. 1.
- West, Nathaniel (May 24, 2004). "Old tape gives new clues in half-century-old death of former Charleston girl". Journal Gazette/Times-Courier. Mattoon, IL.