Where is Francis Wetherbee?
A Missing Persons Case Reopened
She was a teller from a small bank outside of Arcadia, Texas and she is the subject of one of my Uncle Paul's most memorable portraits. It hung on his studio wall for years. I lost count of how many times he told me her story. He photographed thousands of people over three decades but said he'll never forget the girl with the curly hair and hazel eyes. "She was always energetic in front of the camera, but on this day something was very unusual. She sat motionless and quiet as if she was somewhere else. It wasn't the Francis I knew," he said.
I asked why she would allow him to take this photo when she was clearly upset. He replied, "I don't know why she was upset. I asked her if she wanted me to stop but she said 'no no keep going' so I did. That's when I took this shot. I had no idea it would be her last photo ... but maybe she knew."
What was she thinking?
Just a week before this photo was taken, Francis was taken hostage during a robbery at the bank. She was eventually rescued. Just one week after my uncle took this portrait, she disappeared and was never seen again.
Filmmakers shoot bank robbery documentary in Live Oak County
Austin filmmakers Andrew Shapter and Tanner Ferguson were in Live Oak County last week filming a documentary about a bank teller who disappeared two weeks after a bank robbery in 1974.
Shapter said, “This is a film I have been wanting to make for years.” His uncle was a photographer and he took a photo of a bank teller named Francis Weatherbee about a week after her bank in Vanesco, Texas, was robbed.
The photo hung on the his studio wall for years. “Her eyes looked sad and haunting. After my uncle died, I knew I had to find out what happened to her and tell her story,” said Shapter.
Last edited by RubyRed; 09-22-2010 at 08:00 PM.
Before his uncle died, he told him Francis was taken hostage during the robbery at the bank. She was eventually rescued when someone shot the thief as he tried to escape with her.
The wounded young man got away with thousands of dollars and was never seen again. The incident only lasted a few minutes and Francis was unharmed. “So it’s hard to say if she was traumatized by it or not,” his uncle said. “But, I swear I think she is still alive.”
After digging into the past, Shapter learns the bank robber was believed to be a Vietnam veteran who had been court-martialed for saving dogs. His name was Oliver Pearce, he was a newcomer to Vanesco and took a job as a projectionist at the movie theater.
The concession attendant tells Shapter that in 1974, Francis would go into the theater every evening but she did not watch the movie. She ran upstairs to the projection room and talked with Oliver. It was believed the two were romantically involved.
Then in late 1974, the bank was robbed and Oliver ran away. Two weeks later, Francis went missing as well.
Wow, that was interesting photo of Francis Weatherbee. It's sad that she's nowhere to be found since missing.
Do you think she was involved in the bank robbery? I think there is a possibility she was.
Shapter interviewed retired Chief Deputy Glenn Thompson at the Live Oak County Sheriff’s Office. He asked Thompson to relate similar cases of bank robberies for the documentary on Francis. He asked Thompson, “If a bank robber grabs a teller and the teller may have been romantically involved with the bank robber, would she be considered a suspect in the bank robbery?”
As the camera was rolling, Thompson answered, “Yes, I would think we would be looking at her as a person of interest. But 35 years later it would be hard to try. The witnesses involved may have passed away or moved off, married, changed their name. They would be difficult to locate but, yes, she would be a person of interest.”
I don't see Francis on any missing persons sites. Was she ever reported missing? I'm wondering if it was always assumed she and Oliver ran off together.
Well, I hope they did run off and have had a happy, productive life together. I'm a hopeless romantic!
But if she and Oliver ran off together, they were likely able (with the money) to establish new identities without question.
It would have been so much easier then, than it is now.
Am I the only one who's wondering how old she was, when she disappeared?
Say she was 25; 36 years later, she's 61. If she's not died of a disease, an accident, or another crime.
Is it Wetherbee or Weatherbee? I see it both ways....
Here are some more pics of her (not the last 3 in the set though). She is soooo pretty.
Last edited by Recovering-Lurker; 09-23-2010 at 01:41 PM.
What an extraordinarily beautiful woman. Come home soon.
My only question is: Why be sad? If I knew I was running away with the love of my life and thousands of dollars, I'd have a happy look on my face. It's like, based on the story from the uncle, she sensed something more ominous was going to happen. Maybe Oliver threatened to turn her in if she didn't run away with him.
This black and white photo is so amazing. All her photos speak to me. She really was photogenic.
Thank you for starting this thread RubyRed. Her story really touched me.
What a beautiful, beautiful girl. I'm going to go ahead and imagine that Francis and Oliver were soul mates, madly in love, and ran off to begin a wonderful, new life together. It's hard for me to hold the bank robbery against him knowing he was discharged from the service for rescuing dogs!
It's possible that the plan was for Oliver to escape with her, but he was shot and she was 'rescued.' Oliver ran off without her. So for a week or two, she didn't know where he was. She was probably worried or scared she'd never see him again. That could explain the despondancy that read so true in the photograph.
nothing seems black when i see your red shoes
No regrets! Mistakes are just lessons I needed to learn!
Here's a link to her page on the Doe Network;
I think that she was so distraught over her being taken hostage and Oliver, her intended soul-mate getting shot, that events escalated into a deep depression for Francis and she had set off on a mission to find Oliver.
LE would have to dig into any information about their pasts. Where did they spend their time together? Where either seeking counseling or professional help after the bank ordeal? Sadly, so much time has passed, that it is possible that they may have fled the country, if either are still living, and might be living under alias names to protect their identities from the ordeal.
Due to the emotional impact that this experience might have been for both of them, this could explain not only Francis' sadness in the picture, but the possibility of a new life searching for each other, assuming they are still living.
What a haunting photograph