Police seek help finding a Raleigh woman missing since 2009
Published Sat, Jun 02, 2012 12:17 PM
Modified Sat, Jun 02, 2012 12:18 PM
By Thomasi McDonald
Terry Lynn Tersak vanished without a trace almost three years ago.
Tersak called her cousin, Jamie Pendergraft, in Garner one June night in 2009 and told her she was driving from Asheville with her young son for a visit.
Her husband, Stefan Tersak, said that he remembers his wife speaking to Pendergraft on the phone but that she caught a ride with a woman named “Jen” the next day. He said the Clayton address his wife gave for him to pick her up the day before Father’s Day was bogus. He said he saw his wife briefly several months later, but then she disappeared permanently.
Terry Tersak, 33 when she disappeared, was so estranged from her family that nearly two years passed before her father and brother filed a missing person’s report with the Asheville Police Department in late May 2011.
Stefan Tersak never reported his wife as missing.
The lead investigator in the case thinks Stefan Tersak, who has custody of their son and is living in Austin, Texas, knows more than he’s letting on about his missing wife.
“He claims she just up and left,” said Detective Kevin Taylor of the Asheville police. “That’s certainly a possibility. But I have checked her credit card activity, I’ve checked with the Social Security Administration, bank accounts, her credit history and driver’s license in all 50 states. There’s been no activity since she disappeared.”
It is a mystery rife with marijuana, strip clubs, marital discord and, possibly, foul play.
“Her dad kept telling me she is probably hiding from bill collectors. He acted like she’s been known to disappear,” Pendergraft said. “I begged him to call the police. He kept asking me not to call, and I didn’t know who to call. I was only 22 at the time.”
Stefan Tersak describes his wife as a chronic marijuana smoker and pill popper on probation for misdemeanor drug convictions. She was supposed to enter drug treatment to better cope with their son, Xander, who is autistic. Instead, he says Terry Tersak abandoned her family.
“I’m operating under the assumption that she’s split and dancing from strip club to strip club to avoid arrest for probation violation,” Stefan Tersak said.
“She was a pothead, no doubt about it,” said her friend, Barbara Yelvington, 45, of Clayton. “She was not an addict. She was not a drunk. She was a one-or-two-beers kind of girl.”
Stefan Tersak thinks her disappearance was planned.
“When I drove to Clayton (to pick her up), I found out she had given me a wrong address,” he said. When he returned to Asheville, someone had entered his storage unit. He figured his wife “ambushed” him.
“She cleaned the place out while I was in Clayton to pick her up,” he said. “When I went to the police, they said, ‘Your wife left with your stuff? That’s a divorce matter. Get a lawyer.’ ”
Months later, in October, Stefan Tersak said his wife showed up at a new apartment he was renting in Asheville.
“She stopped by, and we had a brief conversation. She told me she had been living in Boone,” he said. “When Xander saw her, he had a fit, then he ran” away from her.
Vehicle not taken
But Taylor wonders why a woman intent on leaving her husband did not take her vehicle.
Terry Tersak’s family and friends say that months before the Tersaks moved to Asheville from Benson, Terry’s grandmother died and left her $36,000. They say she paid $12,000 to purchase a 2002 Chevy Blazer.
Stefan Tersak said his wife paid only $4,500 for the SUV and “blew through the rest of the money” buying drugs. Taylor said Stefan Tersak traded the car in to a dealer for another vehicle months after his wife disappeared.
Asked to comment on the case, Michael Teague, a forensic psychologist at Fort Bragg who retired from the Raleigh Police Department, said he does not think Stefan Tersak is responsible for his wife’s disappearance.
“He’s stirring the pot too hard to want it to go away,” Teague said. “She’s attractive and has such a wide range of behaviors. My God, who knows what could have happened between Asheville and Raleigh?”
Last month, Stefan Tersak set up a website, terry.tersak.net, devoted to finding his missing wife. He stated that his wife’s “preferred occupation is stripping” for the Pure Gold chain in Cary, Southern Pines and Garner.
“She used to say she could drink, get her exercise in and work all at the same time,” he said. “She thought it was a very efficient use of her time.”
Terry Tersak’s family say she worked as a stripper because her family was struggling financially.
“Yeah, she was stripping,” Pendergraft said. “That’s because he didn’t bring any money in.”
Terry Tersak’s father agreed.
“I jumped all over his case to get a job,” Thomas Pendergraft said.
Terry Tersak grew up in West Raleigh, the oldest of two children. Her father described her as an independent person who had a hard time when her mother, Lynn Pendergraft, died of cancer in 1991.
Stefan Tersak, 54, met his wife in 2000. He is twice-divorced and is wanted in Lancaster County, Pa., for failing to appear in court for violation of a 1999 domestic violence order.
That order stemmed from a complaint filed by Stefan Tersak’s second wife, Taylor said.
Jamie Pendergraft said her cousin was unhappy and trying to get away from a controlling and abusive husband.
“I don’t want to say what I think happened,” Pendergraft said. “She was very scared of him.”
Asheville police are asking anyone with information about Terry Lynn Tersak’s whereabouts to call Taylor at 828-259-5945.
News researchers Peggy Neal and Brooke Cain contributed to this report.
Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/06/01/2105469/police-seek-help-finding-a-raleigh.html#storylink=cpy