On December, 23rd, 1974, Mary Rachel Trlica (who went by Rachel), Lisa Renee Wilson (known as Renee) and Julie Ann Moseley, went missing from the Seminary South Shopping Centre in Fort Worth, Texas. At the time of their disappearance, Rachel was 17 years old, Renee was 14 years old and Julie was 9 years old.
On the morning of December 23rd, 1974, just before noon, Rachel, Renee and Julie headed out to do some Christmas shopping. Julie decided to go last minute because “she didn’t want to spend the day alone.” Despite being saying no at first, Julie’s mum eventually gave in and let her go, telling Julie to be back by 6pm. Renee and Rachel, specifically Renee, wanted to be home at 4pm because Renee was going to a Christmas party with her boyfriend that night and wanted a lot of time to get ready.
Firstly, the girls headed to a surplus store so that Renee could pick up some layaway items Renee had waiting. From there, they travelled to Seminary South Shopping Centre, where several people later reported seeing them that day. They were travelling in a 1972 Oldsmobile 98.
When The girls had not returned home, their families started to worry. They travelled to Seminary South shopping centre and when they arrived at 6pm, they found the girls car that had presents the girls had brought that day in it. The families stayed at the shopping mall all night, waiting for the girls to return home.
The police were called and the case was handed over to the youth division of Fort Worth Police Department’s (FWPD) Missing Persons Bureau. The FWPD presumed the girls were runaways.
The next day, Rachel’s husband, Tommy Trlica, received a letter that had supposedly been written by Rachel:
“I know I’m going to catch it, but we had to get away. We’re going to Houston. See you in about a week. The car is in Sears’ upper lot. Love, Rachel.”
The letter was written in pen, and on a sheet of paper that was far too big for the envelope. The address on the envelope however was written in pencil. Another thing worth pointing out is that it was addressed to “Thomas. A. Trlica”, much more formal than the “Tommy” Rachel called him. Rachel’s name is also in the top-left hand corner of the envelope, however it looks like her name was mis-spelled, as the “l” in her name looked like a lower-case “e”, but it had been corrected to “l”.
The envelope did not contain a postmark to any city, only a blurred zip-code that appeared to read: 76083. The number “3” looked to be backwards, like it was applied from a hand-loaded stamp or it was a partial “8”. This means the zip-code could either be “76083” which comes from Eliasville, Texas or “76088” which comes from Weatherford, Texas. Despite handwriting experts from across America, including the FBI, looking at the letter, there have never been any solid conclusions.
The families of the girls do not believe that the letter was written by Rachel, and they do not think the girls ran away. Julie’s mother, Rayanne Moseley, said: “I know my daughter and I know those other girls and they are not runaways.”
Renee’s mother, Judy Wilson, also commented on this and said: “I could have told you that night that they didn’t run away. Renee wanted to go to that party. And what 9 year old is going to run off two days before Christmas. Everybody knows that!”
Rachel’s mother also supported this by saying: “A lot of people may think they left with someone they knew but I’ll always think – until the day I die – that the girls were taken.”
Determined to find their children, the families continued to search for them and distributed missing person flyers throughout Texas and contacting newspapers across America.
In 1975, a tip came in from a man who claimed to be an acquaintance of Rachel’s. He said that he saw the girls in the record department of a store in the mall that day, and that another person appeared to be with them. He also said he spoke briefly with Rachel.
The families became frustrated with police’s lack of efforts and in 1975 they hired private investigator Jon Swaim. In August, 1975, Swaim discovered that a 28-year old man had been making obscene phone calls in the area. He then discovered that this man was using his position at a local store to obtain information from young women to applied to the store, and Rachel had applied just 6 months prior. Although this man abused his trust, he was never charged with anything to do with the disappearance.
In April 1975, Jon Swaim alongside 100 volunteers went to Port Lavaca to search under bridges as a tip came in saying that the girls had been taken and killed there. During their search, no evidence of the girls was ever found.
Over the years, several skeletons and human remains have been found, but through DNA testing none of them have ever been connected to the three girls.
Jon Swaim died in 1979 from a drug overdose, which has been ruled as a suicide. He ruled that once he had died, all his files on the cases must be destroyed.
Over the years, more witnesses have come forward but none have provided any substantial leads. As of 2021, Rachel, Renee and Julie are still missing.
Was the letter from Rachel, or the person/people that had taken them, or was it a prank? Are the girls still alive, or were they murdered?
What do you think happened?
True crime, missing, unsolved, children, USA