5/25/2006 12:29:00 PMNational Missing Children’s Day carries a certain irony
Hope is still alive for finding WHS senior Joan Leigh Hall who disappeared in 1983
Warrenton - Joan Leigh Hall, a 17-year-old Warrenton High School senior, vanished in 1983, the same year President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Missing Children’s Day on May 25.
The irony is not lost on Clatsop County sheriff’s Detective Kristen Hanthorn, who is using this year’s observance to draw attention to the 22-year-old case. She hopes it’s a positive omen as the Clatsop County Major Crimes Team renews its investigation into the teenager’s disappearance.
National Missing Children’s Day, which is observed today, is sponsored by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to raise awareness of the more than 2,000 children who go missing each year in the United States.
Hall is the only unsolved missing child case in Clatsop County, at least in recent history.
“She’s out there somewhere, and someone knows where,” Hanthorn said.
Hall was last seen shortly after 2 p.m. Sept. 30, 1983, at the Warrenton Mini-Mart in downtown by a boy who gave her a ride from the high school. She told the boy she was going to buy a soft drink and walk the half-mile to Warrenton Grade School, where she helped her aunt, a third-grade teacher.
She never showed up.
Police from several agencies found no sign of the teen, despite exhaustive searches and interviews, including following hunches from psychics. Authorities suspected foul play. Hall was reliable and had a good relationship with her parents.
“She was just a good kid. Happy,” Chuck Hall recalled of his sister, who was the youngest of six siblings and seven years his junior, “She wanted to be a police officer. Be a mother, just like any girl would.”
Her disappearance destroyed their parents. Their father had a heart attack days afterward. Melvin and Mary Hall died in 1994, two months apart.
The case hit police hard: Hall was a member of an Explorer post sponsored by the sheriff’s office and was elected its president the night before her disappearance. One deputy kept her photograph on his clipboard until his retirement three years ago. All of the original investigators have retired, moved on or died.
But Hall’s case has never been closed.
Over the years, tips have come in, been investigated and added to the file. Hanthorn hopes the combination of new techniques and perspectives, as well as renewed public interest, will finally answer the question of what happened to Hall.
“We’re casting a wide net. We’re looking at the police reports with fresh eyes, using our experience from other investigations and making use of new science that wasn’t available in 1983,” Hanthorn said. “We’re re-interviewing people who knew her. They might have information that didn’t get documented in a report.”
Fliers about Hall’s disappearance will be redistributed and information about Hall posted on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Web site at www.missingkids.com
. Hanthorn will submit siblings DNA for a national database that will someday serve to link unidentified human remains and missing people.
Chuck Hall, the father of three and a certified nurse’s assistant at a local care center, said his little sister is never far from his mind, especially whenever an unidentified body is found. Joan Hall was 5-foot-6, 110 pounds with brown hair and blue eyes. If alive today she would be 40.
Before her death, their mother would talk about Joan on her birthday Feb. 24. Chuck Hall is thinking of holding a vigil at the store where his sister was last seen on her next birthday.
The family believes Hall was abducted and murdered, Chuck Hall said. “We just want to locate her, give her a decent burial, a decent memorial service.”
Anyone with any information that could be useful in tracking down what happened to Joan Leigh Hall is asked to call the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office at (503) 325-8635.