Old Bones, New Hope For Missing Girls' Families
Reporting Lisa Cilli Oct 13, 2010 6:20 pm US/Eastern
MARATHON (CBS4) ― A cold case in the Florida Keys may be heating up after human bones were found in Marathon about a mile and a half away from where two young girls disappeared back in 1974.
"I don't think I could ever stop searching," said Mercedes Cruz, a mother of one of the missing girls. "This is my daughter. This is my life. She is my life."
For 36-years, Mercedes Cruz has been on a mission to find any trace of her 12-year-old daughter Teresa Armanda Alfonso. She disappeared on August 20th, 1974, along with her 16-year-old friend, Cynthia Gooding.
"It's bad when you don't know, I think a lot of times though, 'does somebody have her, drugging here, is she prostituting?' It's the unknown that's killing me," Cruz told CBS4's Peter D'Oench.
The girls were last seen at the Marathon movie theater, which has since gone out of business. They had been dropped off and had planned to hitchhike to a party that day. Neither of the girls was seen again.
Investigators initially believed Gooding and Alfonso had run away from home, as one of them had a history of such behavior. But they soon decided that was not the case and were almost certainly abducted.
Gooding's loved ones described her as a "typical teen" who enjoyed water-skiing. She had moved from her mother's Portsmouth, Virginia home to Florida to be closer to her father and older brothers.
Three years ago, there was some hope when remains were dug up from a Key West cemetery. Now there's hope again.
On Friday, October 8th, Barbara Thrall was digging in her flower garden and found fragments of a jaw bone and skull. The next day, detectives went to the scene and began excavating the area where the bones were found. More pieces of skull bone were found along with some finger bones.
Dogs from Islamorada Fire/Rescue who are trained to locate cadavers were sent to the yard and they 'alerted' in the areas the detectives had already been digging; they also indicated there may be more remains on property.
"I hope there can be something good that comes out of it because everything else was just horrible," said Thrall.
The County Medical Examiner says the jaw bone fragments are consistent with a female but it's not known how long the bones have been there.
Dr. E. Hunt Scheuerman added, "It's going to be very difficult to identify these remains. The remains are very scattered and fragmented."
Dr. Scheuerman told D'Oench there was digging at the site located behind Thrall's home on Saturday and Sunday. The operation was delayed because of heavy rains but digging will continue on Thursday. It's not known how long that will continue.
On Wednesday, Cruz and two of her daughters came to the site on a narrow street across from the Marathon Airport. And they became very emotional as they gazed out on the site where the latest bones were discovered.
"I want my sister at peace." said Bonnie Padron. "I know that she's wanting us to find her."
"I slept in my sister's room for nearly 12 years," said Hilda Valdes. "I want to so much for us to find some answers. I want so much for my mother to find out what happened, to find this out while she is still alive."
Teresa's mother says the pain of losing a child never goes away.
"Nobody really knows how hard it is to lose a child unless you have been there," said Cruz. "To lose a child is such a horrible, horrible thing."
"This is a constant thing and I want it to be over with, let me know, to find out that I can let her rest at peace," said Cruz.
The Medical Examiner said the remains have been taken by a forensic anthropologist at a lab at Gulf Coast University. He also said he's not sure if the remains can ever be identified or how long the process will take.
The cases are both unsolved. The Police file for the girls was destroyed in a fire sometime after they vanished.