Ann Miller (21), Renee Bruhl (19) and Patricia Blough (19) arrived at Indiana Dunes State Park at approximately 10am, on the 2nd of July 1966. Ann parked in a parking lot, and then the three women headed to a spot that was around 100 yards from the Lake Michigan shoreline. A couple reported seeing the girls leave their belongings on the beach, and enter the beach together, at around 12pm.
The park rangers then learned that Ann, Renee and Patricia had all been reported missing over the weekend by their families in Illinois. The rangers started to investigate, and they found Ann’s car in the parking lot. Inside the car, the rangers found some of the women’s other clothing and some personal items.
When they investigated the shore, where the girls left their belongings, rangers found Ann’s car keys and the women’s other belongings.
One of the items that were left behind was a letter, written by Renee for her husband, Jeffery. The letter stated that Renee wanted to leave him because he spent all his spare time working with cars with his friends.
Police did interview Jeffery, who said that he wasn’t aware of any of the issues within their marriage. To add to this, Renee’s family also said that the letter wouldn’t have any significance to the woman’s disappearance and that Renee probably wrote it during a moment of anger and frustration, before calming down and deciding to not give it to her husband.
Rangers contacted the United States Coast Guard, alongside other law enforcement agencies. On the 5th of July, 1966, a search was initiated for the women – three days after they had gone missing.
Witnesses started to come forward saying that they had seen the three women enter a white boat, which was being operated by an unknown man. The man was later described as having a tanned complexion, dark and wavy hair, and being in his early twenties. He was wearing a beach jacket.
A visitor to the beach was filming home videos on the day that the women went missing, and offered the reels to the police. After searching through the tapes, police narrowed the search to two boats.
One boat was a fibreglass 16-18 foot long (4.8 to 5.49metres) tri-hull runabout with a three-hulled design. This boat was operated by a man who matched the description of the unidentified boat driver.
The other boat was 26-28 feet long (7.9 – 8.5 metres) Trojan cabin cruiser, who had three men aboard the boat alongside three women who matched Renne, Ann and Patricia’s descriptions.
The cabin cruiser was seen at around 3pm, which is 3 hours after the women were seen getting into the smaller boat.
Investigators believe that Ann, Renee and Patricia were dropped off by the man as he went to get his friends in the cabin cruiser. The women were seen at this time eating, and walking along the sand dunes. They were then approached by a different unknown man, who accompanied them onto the cabin cruiser.
Witnesses did report that the cabin cruiser had a radio/telephone antenna, but no name was printed on its stern. Police believe that this is a reliable piece of information, despite the fact it has never been officially confirmed.
The fates of Ann, Patricia and Renee are still unknown to this day.
Drowning was considered, but all three women had basic swimming skills, with Ann being an especially skilled swimmer, so it is thought to be unlikely. To add to this, divers did search the lake floor of the area, and they found no evidence that the girls had drowned (no bodies were found).
One theory was that they were involved in a boat accident, as just three miles away from where the girls were last seen, a wreckage of a boat washed up on the shore on the 6th of July. But, despite an extensive search, no new pieces of the wreckage were ever located, and no bodies were ever found. Investigators are also unable to say how long the wreckage had been there, so it’s unknown if this wreckage has anything to do with Ann, Renee and Patricia.
Another theory suggests that at least one of the women was pregnant, and wanted to get an abortion. As abortions were banned in Illinois, this theory suggests that at least one of the women died during an illegal abortion, and the other two were murdered to cover it up.
Shortly before the three vanished, Ann had told some friends that she was pregnant and that the father of her baby was a married man. Stories have also come to light in the years following their vanishing that Patricia was also pregnant, and just like her friend Ann the baby’s father was a married man.
A couple called Helen and Frank Largo was known to offer abortions for women in need, and their nephew, Ralph Largo Jr who was living with them at the time, not only matched the description of the man on the boat but also admitted to being on the beach that day.
It is thought that he collected the women from the beach, and then took them to a houseboat or cabin somewhere to have the procedure done, but that something went horribly wrong and the girls were then killed and hid somewhere.
The biggest flaw with this theory is that there is no proof that any of it ever happened. As UnsolvedCasebook mentions, it also seems strange that the women would go to have an abortion in swimming outfits, and not bring any other type of clothing for after the procedure is done.
A different theory on Ann, Patricia and Renee’s vanishing is that they got involved with the local Horse Syndicate.
A few months before she disappeared, Patricia had bruises on her face which she said was from trouble with the local Horse Syndicate.
The Horse Syndicate was a criminal network that involved vets, horse owners, trainers and riders, who would kill horses to collect insurance money. A man named Silas Jayne was heavily involved in the horse syndicate, and in the past, he had served time in prison for ordering a hit on his half-brother, George Jayne, who was shot through the heart and died under the order of Silas.
The three women had horses that were kept at George – Jayne’s stables, and to add to the theory that the Horse Syndicate were involved, a car bomb that was meant for Georg Jayne ended up killing a 22-year-old Cheryl Lynn Rude instead. Many suspects that at least one of the women, either Ann, Patricia or Renee, witnessed something or someone to do with this event, which led to Silas ordering a hit on them.
Sometime after the women went missing, Silas confessed to a local sheriff that there were three bodies buried on his land. Whilst he didn’t mention Ann, Patricia or Renee by name, the sheriff took the claims very seriously and started organising a search of the land.
But, the sheriff died in an apparent “farming accident” before the searches could take place. After the sheriff’s death, the lead into Silas was dropped, and no search ever took place.
One person of interest who was associated with Silas was a man named Ed Nefeld. Just several days after the women were reported missing, Ed filed an insurance claim that his boat was destroyed in an accidental fire. Could this be connected to the three women’s disappearance?
Of course, there is also the possibility that the three girls just wanted to disappear and start a new life. Ann told friends that she would go to a home for unwed mothers when the time came, and the letter in Renee’s purse indicated that she might have been unhappy with her marriage. Patricia had apparently told a friend a few weeks before the disappearance that she was going to “leave” and that “no-one would find her.”
However, as the women left behind a lot of money ($55 in cheques in Renee’s purse, $5 in Patricia’s purse, and Patricia had just won $900 on a horse race that she had not yet claimed), detectives think it is unlikely that they would have left to start a new life without any sort of money. To add to this, the unidentified man on the boat would have also had to have been involved with their plan to start a new life, and no connection between him and the women have ever been found.
Whatever happened to Ann, Renee and Patricia that day has been a mystery since 1966 and remains a mystery 56 years later.
Unsolved, Missing, Missing People, Investigation, Cold Case, Unknown, True Crime