Sunday, July 30, 2006Missing but not forgotten
By GUS LAMBERT / Staff Writer
BARSTOW April Beth Pitzer has been missing for more than two years, but her mother still hears her voice every day.
Gloria Denton of Clarksville, Ark., is April's mother, and she has been working with a variety of people to help find her missing daughter.
San Bernardino County Sheriff's deputies are still working the case, and independent organizations have come forward to assist, but the most compelling help is likely to come from a new DNA method that has been helping the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Coroner solve missing and unidentified persons cases.
Denton said her daughter went missing on June 27, 2004, shortly after they spoke on the telephone.
According to Denton, Pitzer was living at a home in Newberry Springs, and she had packed her bags to leave for the Barstow bus station.
Denton had arranged for her daughter to take a bus back home to the Fort Worth, Texas, area and was told that "Uncle Chuck" was going to drive her to the station.
But Pitzer never made it to Barstow, and her bag and clothes were found in the desert near Ludlow along with a mattress and sheet that had blood and body fluids on them, Denton said.
She said that San Bernardino County Sheriff's investigators recently confirmed that the blood and fluids were human and that DNA testing is pending.
According to Denton, Pitzer was 30 years old when she left her family in Texas to travel out to California for a short hiatus.
She left her husband, Chase, and two daughters, Bradley Elisa, now 7, and Kennedy Marie, who is now 5 years old, on the advice of an acquaintance.
"She came to Barstow to get a new life, but that advice that may have cost her life," Denton said.
Denton said that Pitzer traveled to Barstow with several people, including a man named John Lopez, who abandoned her in Barstow shortly after arriving in December of 2003.
Without a job or friends, she began living on the streets and eventually became friendly with a woman named Barbara in Newberry Springs who allowed her to stay for periods of time.
Denton said it was during this time, May 4, that Pitzer called her, and she was upset about being diagnosed bipolar. She never told her about her poor living conditions until late June, she said.
"After talking to her daughters on the phone one day when they were here with me," she said, "then she became homesick and decided that she wanted to come home."
SBC Sheriff's detective Steve Pennington is now working the case, and he recently sent all information to the producers of America's Most Wanted in the hopes that they will run a feature about Pitzer's disappearance.
"The local talk is that she was killed, and the case is still active," Pennington said.
He said that he has interviewed four people in the last two months and has been working at contacting other people who knew her.
Every piece of information has been investigated, and there continues to be hope that something significant will come to light.
Such as the recent discovery of human blood on some material found in one of the mine areas investigated.
"We are waiting for DNA analysis results, and if it is positive for Pitzer, a more thorough search of that area will be conducted," Pennington said. According to SBC sheriff's coroner spokesperson Sandi Fatland, DNA is becoming a more useful tool in missing persons investigations. It has brought closure to many families, she said And it's closure that Pitzer's mother is seeking.
"I know she's gone and that someone did something to her out there in the desert." she said "We just want to bring her home and put her to rest with us." While awaiting the DNA testing results, Pennington is working the case from other angles as well. He recently sent an appeal to WeTip with the hope they will offer a reward for new information regarding Pitzer's disappearance.
Anyone with information about this case can contact Pennington at (760)-256-4870, or to remain anonymous, call WeTip at 1-800-78CRIME.
For more information about missing and unidentified persons, go to the California Department of Justice's Web site at http://caag.state.ca.us/