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    Join Date
    Jan 2008

    Beverly Sharpman (17) - Philadelphia PA, 1947

    Lost, but not forgotten

    Philadelphia Daily News
    difilid@phillynews.com 215-854-5934
    FOURTEEN-YEAR-OLD Anthony Tumolo vanished on a brisk October afternoon in 1966, after pedaling away on his bicycle to meet a friend. More than 41 years later, the Tacony teen's relatives and friends remain haunted by the unknown.
    Was he kidnapped, molested and killed? Did he drown in the river and get swept into oblivion? Was he run down by a car whose panicked driver hid his body? Did he hit his head and develop amnesia, forgetting his life and forging a new one elsewhere?
    Beverly Sharpman's disappearance in 1947 seemed without mystery: The 17-year-old girl from the city's Parkside section was last reported seen at a train station with a suitcase, and sent her parents a telegram telling them she was leaving home to marry and not to worry.
    But the uncharacteristic move and her absolute silence since then aroused police suspicion and tormented her frantic parents for decades.
    The two then-teens are Philadelphia's oldest active missing-juveniles cases.
    And although the case files are yellowed and many potential witnesses are long dead or have moved on, police still search for Anthony and Beverly and about 100 other missing adults and juveniles who vanished months, years and even decades ago.
    "They never leave our radar screen," said Capt. John Darby, head of the Special Victims Unit, which handles long-term missing-person cases. "We never forget about these people, because their families don't."
    A telegram, then silence
    In 1947, President Truman battled Communism and launched the Cold War. The United Nations created the territory that would become Israel. Jackie Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers, becoming the first black man to play professional baseball. And the discovery of mysterious wreckage near Roswell, N.M., convinced legions of stargazers that alien life exists.
    On Sept. 10 of that year, in a towering brick rowhouse on Viola Street near 42nd within walking distance of Fairmount Park, a 17-year-old girl went to her mother and said she had something to tell her.
    Beverly Sharpman seemed "troubled," her mother later told police.
    Nettie Sharpman went to make tea and did not pressure her daughter to reveal her secret. And Beverly, apparently reconsidering, later went to bed without confiding her concerns.
    The next day, she disappeared, leaving her parents and brother agonizing over what could have driven the dark-haired, ruby-lipped teen away.
    "She wouldn't do such a thing on her own," her mother lamented in a 1949 letter to city newspapers. "Please help me find 'My Baby Girl.' "
    Police labeled Beverly - who family called "Babe" - a runaway.
    Although she'd gone to Overbrook High School to register for her senior year the day she disappeared, she was last seen carrying a suitcase at the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Station at 24th and Chestnut streets.
    Her parents received a telegram that night, heartbreaking and succinct: Got married. Leaving town. Will not be back. Don't worry. Babe.
    The telegram left them bewildered.
    Beverly had no boyfriends, and her friends told police and relatives that they knew of no men in her life, nor of anyone with whom she might have eloped.
    But police found that Beverly had taken $173 from her savings account, resigned her clerk job at a downtown firm the day before she vanished and told co-workers she was going to Chicago.
    Although she seemed to have left willingly, police still searched for her, baffled that she hadn't left a trail.
    Detectives checked marriage-license bureaus in all 50 states but found no evidence that Beverly had married. And although the Sharpmans had family in Chicago, those relatives reported that they hadn't seen or heard from Beverly.
    Police received hundreds of letters from people nationwide who reported seeing her. But searches in cities from Chicago and Detroit to New York and Los Angeles proved fruitless.
    Her family's public pleas for her return were heartrendingly tireless, appearing sporadically for years in newspaper classified ads.
    In 1949: Beverly Sharpman. Call TR7-7379. Will send money for clothes. Mother.
    A year later: "Beverly Sharpman - Babe, where are you. Please come home. We love you. I'm ill. Call TR7-7379. Mother."
    Two years after that: Beverly Sharpman - "Babe" - it's Mother & Dad's Wedding Anniversary today. Call or write . . . Love Bill.
    Another year later: Beverly Sharpman, Happy brthdy., Babe. Come home. Call TR7-7379. Mom&Dad
    In 1950, Nettie Sharpman offered this appeal in a newspaper article: "I want some word or sign that you are alive. Please contact me in your own way. I'll meet you anytime, anywhere. I'll sell my home and belongings, if necessary. I've got to find you."
    But one slip of paper in Beverly's missing-persons file suggests that her family never lost hope of finding her. A letter, sent by a life-insurance company to Philadelphia police in 1981, indicated that her father had died and listed her as his beneficiary. Beverly's mother also died. Police haven't located her brother.
    Detective Valarie Miller-Robinson, who still occasionally reviews the case, wonders if Beverly fled to conceal an unwanted pregnancy.
    Most juveniles who disappear are runaways who eventually turn up, said Officer Robert Rajchel, who investigates Philadelphia's long-term missing juveniles.
    "They're growing up and they want to be on their own, or they're escaping discipline problems or family abuse at home. Some might find themselves pregnant and afraid to tell their parents," Rajchel said.
    People plotting suicide also may vanish to spare loved ones grief and gruesomeness, but Miller-Robinson doesn't think that's what happened to Beverly.
    "I think she did run away and probably got married," she said, "but this is one of those cases that sticks with you. I'd still love to know for sure."
    Darby agreed: "Some people may voluntarily go missing. But we still have an obligation to the family to find them to make sure they're OK."

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