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  1. #1
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    PA - Karen Wells, 23, Carlisle, 12 April 1994

    The missing woman, who went by her middle name, Denise, has been mentioned in several threads on this site (http://www.websleuths.com/forums/sea...archid=8354461), but surely deserves her own.

    She was driving from her family home in Oklahoma to visit a female friend in Bergen, NJ. Her parents were unconcerned about her making this journey, as she'd often traveled long distances solo when she had previously lived in South Dakota, where she had been convicted of forgery. She was the unemployed single parent of a little boy, who was viewed as dedicated to her son and, in the parlance, trying to "get her life together."

    Denise stopped in Carlisle, PA, and checked into the Pike Motel off the Harrisburgh Pike on the evening of April 12, 1994. She called her friend in Bergen from the motel, telling her that she wouldn't be covering the rest of the distance and asking that the friend meet her there. She stated that she was going to go to the McDonald's near the motel, grab a bite to eat, and get some sleep. The friend was going to meet her up at the motel.

    The friend arrived shortly after midnight April 13, was directed to Denise's room, and knocked, but got no response. She then asked the staff to open the room, where they found Denise's belongings--as well as her room key--but no sign of Denise. After waiting until the early morning, she contacted police to report Denise missing.

    On the same morning, Denise's rental Plymouth Acclaim was found 35 miles distant, to the west and somewhat north of Carlisle, on State Route 274, in a very rural area near Tuscarora State Park, where it appeared to have "stopped in its tracks" in the westbound lane. It was out of gas, and the battery was dead. It was mud-splattered, and had scratches on it. Both the driver's and passenger's doors were "wide open." Inside were empty soda bottles, a pair of shoes, some uneaten french fries, and "indications of criminal activity, including a small quantity of marijuana." Denise's change purse, with a small sum of cash in it, was discovered in a nearby ditch.

    Police determined that her odometer reading suggested that the vehicle had traveled between 600 and 700 miles more than would have been necessary to get to Carlisle, PA, from her starting point. They also seem to believe that Denise may actually have traveled east of Carlisle before turning back and calling her friend: "A time line pieced together from witness accounts and telephone logs places Wells as far east as Schaefferstown in Lebanon County and Bernville in Berks County before she apparently doubled back to the Carlisle area." She had traveled some distance out of her way to get to Carlisle, whether by design or from having gotten bad directions or made a mistake.

    As a weird coda to this weird case, the wife of Denise's married ex-boyfriend claimed that she had received a call from Denise at about Thanksgiving 1974. She claimed that Denise had stated that she had gotten married and wouldn't be coming home. Police were skeptical.

    Oddly, the remains of Cynthia Vanderbeek were discovered in 1995 by a jogger on Tuscarora Mountain, nearby. Her husband was subsequently convicted of her murder. The husband and wife were traveling from working at a boat show in Maine back to Florida, when he strangled her and dumped her there, deviating substantially to do so. There's almost certainly no connection, but it is a strange coincidence.

    Denise's NamUs file shows DNA available, dentals not.

    Charley Project
    Official Cold Case Investigations

    Project Jason
    Last edited by KateB; 04-07-2015 at 09:31 AM. Reason: repair url tag.

  2. #2
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  3. #3
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    Looks like she met with some kind of foul play. Did they asked the McDonalds employees about it? did they check any video footage?

  4. #4
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    Hard to find any information on this one.

  5. #5
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    Was the wife of the ex ever looked into? Interviewed? Did she have any motive other than her husband was the ex?

  6. #6
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    Do we have photos? Found this poster....

  7. #7
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    As one of the few hooks in this case I thought I would look at the friend, Melissa Shepard. Whilst there seems no direct suspicion about her it does seem likely that her activities bear a closer look as one possibility is that the disappearance may be linked to something dodgy involving the two women. Why?

    * she (Shepard) was a club dancer in NJ, an environment which would mean contact with dubious people.
    * there are suggestions in reports of possible drug links to the case (including by DA David Freed).
    * the police Chief Detective Les Freehling said Shepard stopped talking to the police and later disappeared from their view.

    The following link contains some of this information; https://missingkarendenisewells.word...news-articles/

    Shepard is referred to as a childhood friend. Since Wells family home was in Haskell, Oklahoma I looked for a Melissa Shepard of the right current age (circa 45) with links to both Haskell and New Jersey. Veromi and Radaris list a Melissa Grace Shepard with past addresses in Haskell, Newark (very close to Bergen where Shepard is said to be in reports) and Las Vegas (clubs?). I would think this is our girl - especially as she is said to be 45 by Veromi.

    Further searching on Melissa Grace Shepard produces multiple records of criminal activity, including drug related, see https://opencourtrecords.org/case.php?id=7757175. The following link - http://texas.arrests.org/Arrests/Mel...pard_13287646/ - also includes a photo.

    My starting point in this case would be to ask who Miss Shepard was involved with in 1994, where was she working and what was known about that location, and do the drug rumours intersect with any of these connections? It may also be interesting to know if the Wells married boyfriend also knew Shepard.

  8. #8
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    There's a theory by some users on reddit that this may have been a drug deal gone bad.

  9. #9
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    You can drive from Bernville and Schaefferstown to Carlisle in around an hour. There is no way that the distance between them accounts for 600-700 extra miles on the car.

    Bernville sits right off Interstate 78 and Schaefferstown sits between I-78 and the PA Turnpike. I-78 is a direct shot to NJ as well as NYC, and known as a route for drug trafficking.

  10. #10
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    If you do some digging on missing person discussions on other sites you can find a lot more about this case. Definitely local chatter. Im sure I can't discuss it but if you google you will find. I am torn between random foul play, married ex with an angry wife, and melissa getting Denise involved in something illegal without Denise really being aware of it.
    Supposedly Denise was going to NJ to pick up Melissa and take her back to OK because Melissa was having a bad time and needed to get herself straightened out.
    Last edited by MysteryMaven; 07-08-2015 at 05:06 PM.


  11. #11
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  12. #12
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    Could this be her? 231 miles from Carlisle. Accounts for some of the extra mileage on her car if someone drove the car to Levittown, dumped her and took the car back to Carlisle.

    http://www.nytimes.com/1994/04/12/ny...levittown.html



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