Unfortunately, the sad fact is that a lot of people go missing in the United States. In fact, on average 70,000 women over the age of 18 go missing every year. Some turn up eventually, while others are never found and their cases remain open, yet inactive.
This is the story of Flora Stevens, who went missing more than four decades ago.
36-year-old Flora Stevens worked as an employee at a Catskills resort and lived with her husband in Monticello, New York. On August 3, 1975, her husband dropped her off at a doctor’s appointment, and came back two hours later to pick her up.
A missing-person report was filed with the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office, but they couldn’t locate her. A few years went by and police were still searching, with no luck. No one could figure out where Flora had gone.
After arriving at no conclusions, Flora’s case became inactive, but police would periodically pick it up again to try to connect the dots. Over the years, clues seemed to become more and more scarce. She reportedly had no living relatives and detectives couldn’t even figure out where she was from.
It was in September that the sheriff’s office in Sullivan County got a call from Yan Salomon, a senior investigator for the New York State Police. Salomon told the Sheriff’s Office that the skeletal remains of a woman had been found in a nearby county, but he was having trouble identifying them. He wanted to take a look at regional missing person reports to see if they could be identified.
The Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office said that they did have a missing person report that roughly matched the description of the woman’s remains that Salomon had found. The missing person in question? Flora Stevens. A DNA test would need to be done on a relative of the missing person, but of course, Stevens had no living relatives that anyone could find.
Sheriff’s Detective Rich Morgan (pictured) was assigned this particular case. On top of not having any living relatives, Stevens’ husband had also died in 1985. It seemed that they were out of luck on that front.
They also discovered that this person resided in an assisted living home, and had been since 2001. The person in question’s name was Flora Harris. Could this be a coincidence, or had they actually found their person?
“Same first name, different last name, but same birth date and social security,” Morgan told CBS Boston.
Morgan and another investigator then traveled to the assisted living home to try and solve the mystery. They found Flora, a 78-year-old woman in a wheelchair. She was frail and suffering from dementia, but beaming nonetheless.
The investigators showed Flora an old blurry photo they had: it was a Catskills staff photo of Flora Stevens in 1975. Immediately, Flora Harris’ eyes lit up as she pointed and exclaimed, “me!”
She also helped them identify Robert, her husband who had dropped her off at the doctor’s appointment back in 1975. And so it was confirmed that Flora Harris was actually the Flora Stevens from four decades ago.
But unfortunately, Flora couldn’t offer much more information than that, due to her dementia. The last 42 years of her life had practically been erased from her memory. “We really don’t know the circumstances of why or how she disappeared. She had psychiatric problems leading up to that point,” said Morgan.
Perhaps the most amazing part of Flora’s disappearance is that she managed to avoid any type of police contact for all those years. Authorities found that her medical records could be traced back 30 years, but anything before that will remain a mystery.
Nonetheless, investigators are content for the most part: “It’s a neat feeling,” said Sullivan County Undersheriff Eric Chaboty. “The main thing is we know that Flora is safe.”
Although the investigators didn’t get the answers to all of their questions and probably never will, they were still happy that they were able to find Flora after all of these years. Sheriff Mike Schiff said in a release, "It is not too often that you get to solve a 42-year-old missing person case.”