FORT WORTH — For the last few years, Fran Langston has let this day come and go without any special observance.
But Langston has never forgotten the day, and she never will.
Thirty-five years ago today, Langston's 17-year-old daughter, Mary Rachel Trlica, Trlica's 14-year-old friend Lisa Renee Wilson, and Julie Moseley, 9, went to the Seminary South shopping center. They were supposed to be home by 4 p.m.
They never came back.
This week, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Alexandria, Va., and Fort Worth police again appealed for the public’s help in locating the girls.
"I don’t think they’re alive," Langston said this week. "But I’d like to know what happened to them just for closure."
The morning after the girls disappeared, a letter arrived at the Trlicas’ residence, addressed to Thomas A. Trlica, Rachel’s husband.
The name Rachel was written in the upper left corner of the envelope.
The letter stated that the girls had gone to Houston and would return in about a week. It also give directions to the Trlicas’ car in the shopping center parking lot.
Authorities have never determined who wrote the letter.
'I let her go’
Julie "was asleep in bed the last time I saw her, but she called me wanting to go with Rachel and Renee," Rayanne Moseley of North Richland Hills, Julie’s mother, said on Tuesday.
"At first, I said no because she didn’t have any money, but she kept saying she didn’t have anyone to play with that day. I knew Renee, and her family knew Rachel’s family, so I finally decided the girls would be able to watch over Julie, and I let her go."
The girls left home before noon and stopped at an Army/Navy store to pick up Christmas presents that were on layaway, authorities said.
They then headed to the shopping center, which is now La Gran Plaza, 4200 South Freeway, and parked the Trlicas’ Oldsmobile on an upper-level parking lot near Sears.
Witnesses later told police that they saw the girls inside the center during the day.
Investigators believe the girls returned to the car during the afternoon.
The Oldsmobile was found about 6 p.m., where they left it, locked, with the presents inside, authorities have said.
"I believe the girls went with someone they knew for a Coke or burger," Moseley said. "Then something went wrong."
Dozens of people have been interviewed by police, and the families hired a private investigator. He committed suicide in 1979. Another private investigator has helped the families, but no leads were found.
In January 2001, Fort Worth police officially reopened the investigation, and homicide Detective Tom Boetcher was assigned to the case.
"The case has so many possible suspects," Boetcher said this week. "But there hasn’t been any new information. It’s still an active and open case."
Richard Wilson, Renee’s father, said he was pleased when Boetcher was assigned to the case. Wilson doesn’t believe he’ll ever see his daughter alive again. But, he said, he hopes that someday someone involved will either admit his or her role or slip up and give someone else a clue that can be passed along to authorities.
"I know there’s somebody out there that knows what happened," he said. "But they’re keeping their mouth shut awful tight."
Boetcher said it was possible that whoever’s responsible for the girls’ disappearance has died.
Langston said that she talks to Boetcher once or twice a year. "I try my best to believe that she’s still alive," Moseley said.
MissingTrio.com offers information and any updates on the case. Just after the disappearance, the families walked creek beds and country roads looking for their missing children.
Langston said she has lost contact with Rachel’s husband, who has moved away from Fort Worth. The other families still live in the Fort Worth area and keep in contact. But they have grown apart, talking only occasionally, Langston said.
"You have to move on, but we all still want to know," she said.