Every year, 70,000 mothers, girlfriends, sisters, and daughters go missing in the United States. Eventually, the police find many of those women. But there are tens of thousands of active cases of missing women that have never been solved.
In 1975, a 36-year-old woman was one of the thousands to go missing in the United States. Decades went by without a single trace or lead, however, 42 years later, police got their first clue. But instead of giving them answers, it only led to more questions…
During the summer of 1975, 36-year-old Flora Stevens worked as a chambermaid for the summer at The Concord, a grand 1,200-room resort that was one of the biggest in the Catskills, which was a popular summer destination at the time.
Flora had worked at the resort for a couple of summers and earned $2.25 an hour. According to Flora’s application to work at The Concord, she went to high school in Yonkers, New York, which was less than two hours away…
Flora didn’t leave a phone number or local address on the application. The address that she did leave was a Seattle address and the only other piece of information she wrote down was that she had a husband, Robert Stevens, who also worked for the hotel.
Not much else was known about the 36-year-old before that summer and even less was known about her after the summer of 75’ because Flora Stevens was never seen or heard from again. The last person who saw her, was her own husband, Robert…
The Husband’s Account
On Sunday, Aug. 3, 1975, Robert reportedly drove Flora to a hospital in Monticello, which was a popular summer destination 75 miles northwest of New York City. However, when Robert came back two hours later to pick Flora up, she was nowhere to be found.
Soon after, Robert called the police to report Flora was missing. Normally, the police wouldn’t have given a case like Flora’s a second thought since it was normal for a seasonal worker to leave town without a word. But Flora’s case was different…
The sheriff’s detective at the time was a young man named Art Hawker, who decided that Flora’s disappearance warranted an investigation since she had last been seen by her husband, which raised some red flags in his opinion.
However, Detective Hawker failed to find any trace of Flora or any reason to believe that Robert had done something to her. Flora was gone and there were absolutely no clues as to what had happened to her. Eventually, the case went cold…
Over the years, the case was periodically reopened to see if there were any developments in the case, but detectives were never able to find anything new. “We really don’t know the circumstances of why or how she disappeared. She had psychiatric problems leading up to that point,” said Sheriff’s Detective Rich Morgan, who was recently assigned to Flora’s case.
42 Years Later
This past year, however, detectives from the Sheriff’s office in Sullivan County received a call from Yan Salomon, a senior investigator with the New York State Police, with information that would hopefully close the 42-year-old cold case…
A Rough Match
The remains of a woman had been found in a neighboring county and Salomon was having trouble identifying the body. The detective started going through regional missing person reports and discovered the file for Flora, who seemed to match the description of the woman they discovered.
The Search Begins Again
Detective Morgan was tasked with seeing if the remains found were Flora, but it was incredibly difficult since no new information had been found in decades. At first, Morgan started looking through a variety of databases to see if she had any living relatives whose DNA could be tested to see if they matched the DNA of the remains…
First New Clue
From Detective Morgan’s search, it appeared Flora didn’t have any living relatives. But he did uncover something extremely unusual during his search. Apparently, someone in Massachusetts was using Flora’s social security number.
Who Is Flora Harris?
Investigators tracked the number down to a woman named Flora Harris who had been living in an assisted-living facility in Lowell, Massachusetts since 2001. The woman had the same first name and social security number, so officers made the drive to see if they could finally close the case…
When Detective Morgan and another officer arrived at the facility, they found a 78-year-old woman with shoulder-length white hair. However, they got chills when they held up a photo of the then 36-year-old missing person and heard what the elderly woman had to say.
“She says that’s me, or me, she responded with one word, me,” Detective Morgan said after showing Flora the photo of herself as a young woman. And when they showed her a photo of the Concord, Flora lit up. “She says, ‘Wow!'” Morgan explained. “She wouldn’t let that photo go…”
“It’s not too often we get to solve a 42-year-old missing-person case,” Sheriff Mike Schiff said in a press release. “The main thing is we know Flora is safe.” While the case was finally solved, police still have no idea what happened to Flora after she disappeared and it seems no one ever will.
Unfortunately, Flora suffers from dementia and is unable to remember what happened to her after she went missing or where she’s been for the past 42 years. And that’s not the only dead-end detectives found. Flora’s husband, Robert, died in 1985, the hotel they worked at closed in 1998, and the hospital where Flora was dropped off is now abandoned…
Now, all anyone can do is speculate as to why Flora might have run away. “To be honest, I don’t think she ever really wanted to be found,” said Festus Mbuva, a former staff member who cared for Flora for a decade. “You can tell something happened in her past that she didn’t want any part of.”
Only Flora Knows The Truth
According to Mbuva, Flora was always very secretive and the only thing she ever said about her family was that she had an abusive husband. With that information, Detective Morgan thinks Flora might have bought a bus ticket from a nearby station to run away. “Most of the secrets are locked inside of Flora,” Detective Morgan said. “And I don’t think we’ll ever get them.”