Blonde, Blue-Eyed and Gone

Two girls from Connecticut vanish. Two from Southern Massachusetts are abducted and found dead. Are these high-profile cases connected?


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THERE ARE SEVERAL THINGS I recall from the late 1970s with a clear sense of nostalgia. One is that we moved from East Hartford to Vernon and my parents divorced. Second is the Bicentennial. Third would have to be that life seemed so much simpler; while death—especially the abduction and murder of a child—felt more tragic, shocking and rare. I remember seeing media reports of the Atlanta Child Murders and the arrest of Wayne Williams. I can still see Williams’ face, those gaudy, tortoise shell glasses covering a crazed look in his eyes, and his rather pronounced Afro. The horrible things Wayne Williams had been convicted of set a new standard for parents watching their children.

As I stumbled my way through Vernon Center Middle School, several names became synonymous with the idea of a ghostlike figure roaming through Tolland County, snatching up young females: Lisa White, Janice Pockett, Debra Spickler, Patricia Luce. These were the names of “the missing.” There was a predator in the area, abducting girls at will—this at a time when the Amber Alert system did not exist; there was no 24/7 reporting of missing children on television; or the fearful notion of sadistic serial killers and task forces set up to hunt them. The idea that a girl you knew personally had been here one day—walking down the street (as in Lisa White’s case), or parking her bicycle on the side of the road (Janice Pockett)—and gone the next, was sobering. In those days, we walked everywhere without any supervision. No one worried. We played kick-the-can until dark. We came and went from our homes without having to report to mom or dad, providing we were at the dinner table on time.

The basis for my television series is simple: Think Silence of the Lambs meets Catch Me If You Can. I am an investigative journalist; five of my books focus on serial killers. In 2006, I met criminal profiler John Kelly, who had been working with an incarcerated serial killer as a consultant on unsolved cases. My relationship with Kelly and his killer was the inspiration for “Dark Minds.” The serial killer we use helps me look into unsolved murders. He allows me to step into the mind of the monster I am tracking. Kelly, a psychotherapist and addiction specialist, helps me keep my mind and emotions in check, in addition to assisting in my understanding of the sociopath. As strange as this might sound, the three of us work as a team.

The names Lisa White and Janice Pockett were in the back of my mind as I began work on the first season of “Dark Minds.” I had profiled the Connecticut River Valley Killer of the 1980s, which reinvigorated my interest—both personal and professional—in Lisa and Janice’s disappearances. Not that I thought the Valley Killer cases were connected. But those memories from childhood flooded back. So as I thought about season two, Janice and Lisa were at the forefront of my mind. What I never saw coming was the potential connection to two extremely high-profile murders New Englanders have been familiar with for over a decade.

Based on the U.S. Department of Justice numbers, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children reports nearly 800,000 children younger than the age of 18 “missing” each year, or an average of 2,185 children per day—staggering numbers.

Just over 500,000 are attributed to runaways and other non-nefarious reasons, while more than 200,000 children are abducted by family members, the DOJ claims. More than 58,000 children are abducted by nonfamily members. Yet only 115 of those children are “the victims of ‘stereotypical kidnapping,’ crimes that involve someone the child does not know or a slight acquaintance that holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.”

What we know is that Lisa White waited until her mother, Judi Kelly, then a waitress at a local restaurant, left for work at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 1, 1974—Lisa was grounded because of some trouble she’d gotten into the night before—and then walked to Prospect Street in the Rockville section of Vernon two miles from her home to hang out with a friend. Lisa was wearing green pants and a blue denim jacket. Near 7:30 p.m., Lisa left her friend’s house, headed back home from Prospect Street so she could beat Judi.

She hasn’t been seen since.

Initially, investigators pursued Lisa’s case as a runaway. Lisa left her mother a note on that day. In part, Lisa said she was “in love” with an older boy … “and maybe you think I’m a little girl, but I’m not.” She never said she was running away. But the tone of the note would imply as much.

In the days after Lisa went missing, Judi told the Hartford Courant that she harbored an “unbearable fear” “realizing Lisa was gone, maybe dead. … I’m her mother and I’ve got to know where she is.”

For 37 years Judi never wavered from that position.

Blonde, Blue-Eyed and Gone

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