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Missing Woman: Roxanne Paltauf - TX - 07/07/2006

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All That Remains

Roxanne Paltauf vanished three years ago, leaving her family with only memories and investigators with few clues



The dreams are all strikingly similar.

In the shadows of the hallway outside the bedroom door, the air feels thick and gloomy; it's hard to see what lies ahead or behind, or any details of the surroundings. At the far end of the hall, the front door suddenly opens, and there is Roxanne, wearing her yellow shirt, her hair brushed smooth and falling over her shoulders. She walks into the house – bright and light and so very real. Your eyes widen, and you walk toward her. You can smell the powdery scent of her Love's Baby Soft perfume. You are full of questions: "Where have you been? What happened to you?" She smiles nonchalantly and quickly brushes aside your inquiries. "I'm fine," she says, "don't worry about me. The real question is," she says, "how are you?"

And then you wake up.

If you are Elizabeth Harris, or one of her four children, this is the kind of dream that consumes your sleep. When you wake, you know at least one thing is real: Roxanne Paltauf – your first born, your big sister – is gone. She's been gone for nearly three years now, vanished in the dusk of a July evening outside the Budget Inn near Rundberg Lane and I-35. There are leads to finding her – some very good ones, in fact – but as yet there are no answers. There is little hope that she will be found alive. Indeed, for Roxanne's siblings and her mother, the reality that haunts waking life is that Roxanne is likely dead. Murdered. And what now remains are only questions: What happened, where is she, and will her family ever be able to bring her home?


'Have You Seen Roxanne?'

The last time Elizabeth Harris saw her daughter was just before July 4, 2006, when Roxanne dropped by her mother's Cherrywood neighborhood home to pick up a few personal items. She had been staying for the previous few days with her boyfriend, then-30-year-old Louis Walls, at different motels off the interstate near Rundberg Lane. She and Walls, with whom Roxanne had been romantically involved for nearly two years, had made a habit of spending time together at one of the motels along that stretch of southbound I-35. Mostly it was out of necessity: Roxanne's mother did not like Walls, and for whatever reason, Walls' mother, with whom he lives with his two young children, didn't particularly care for Roxanne. If the two wanted to spend any time together, they had to find somewhere away from home to do so.

Truthfully, Harris didn't like the idea that her daughter would spend any time with this man – and at 18, Roxanne was still just a girl, Harris says – let alone in a motel near Rundberg Lane, an area known as a crime hot spot. But what could she do? Roxanne was legally an adult, and she was going to do what she wanted. Walls is "a hustler. He's a player. I think he's a burden to society, to tell you the truth. ... Before Roxanne went missing, I told her that," Harris recalled recently. "I said, 'This guy is no good.' [but] the more you pull her away, the closer she gets to him. It was just one of those things. She was a young girl – she is young."

Indeed, Walls isn't exactly a saint. According to court records, he's been in and out of trouble since 1995 – for robbery, selling fake crack, and more recently, for threatening his current girlfriend (who, like Roxanne, is also significantly younger) and for violating a protective order she has against him. Harris said Walls boasted of being a member of the Bloods street gang, but she thinks his involvement is likely marginal, that he only fancies himself a player. Nonetheless, Walls' behavior toward her daughter made her nervous, and she made it clear to Roxanne that she didn't want him around the house. (Walls did not respond to phone messages requesting an interview for this story.)

Despite how Harris felt about Walls, Rox­anne and her mother were close. "She [told me], 'We talk two or three times a day,'" said Tim Young, a private investigator who has worked pro bono on Roxanne's case. "Mothers say that all the time, so I didn't necessarily believe it" – not at first. "But [Roxanne's] phone records showed that was true." Everyone connected to Roxanne's disappearance – friends, family, and Austin Police investigators – agrees Roxanne and her mother had a special relationship. In fact, their close bond made Roxanne's disappearance – and Walls' account of what happened – all the more disturbing. "Wild horses couldn't have kept that girl away from this house," says Harris' longtime boyfriend Patrick Doyle.

According to phone records, Harris last spoke with Roxanne on the afternoon of July 7, 2006. "The day she came up missing ... I asked her to come home," Harris recalls. The family planned a shopping trip to San Marcos the next day, and Harris wanted Roxanne to join them. Harris wasn't "jealous of her time with Louis," but Roxanne had been with him for nearly a week, and her mother thought that was enough. "She said: 'I'll be home mom. I'll be there; we'll go shopping.'" Rox­anne never showed up, "so we went ahead and went without her." By the time the family got home, Roxanne still had not returned to the house – Harris was puzzled by her absence but not yet worried. That changed several hours later when Harris received a call from Walls. "He goes: 'Have you seen Roxanne? Have you heard from Roxanne?' I said: 'Well, what do you mean? She was with you.'"

Walls said he hadn't seen Roxanne since roughly 8:30pm the previous evening, when the couple got into an argument "about the past," Harris said Walls told her, and Roxanne stormed out of their motel room. Walls told Harris that he went out after her but that she told him to leave her alone and continued walking, along the service road toward Rund­berg, making a left onto Middle Lane. Walls told Harris that he went back to their room to "cool off" and that 20 minutes later he went back out to look for Roxanne. He couldn't find her. She had simply disappeared, he told Harris. "Four hours after I talked to my daughter she came up missing," Harris says.

She called police to report the disappearance and, at her urging, so did Walls – although he'd already checked out of the Budget Inn and returned to his sister's apartment at the Walnut Creek complex. But because he'd cleared out, taking Roxanne's belongings with him, neither Harris nor the police were able to search her belongings, as they were when she left the room, for clues to her whereabouts.

More disturbing was Walls' behavior in the hours and days after Roxanne disappeared: According to Harris, he was not at all interested in helping her search for Roxanne. He kept her cell phone for nearly a week after she went missing and used it to make some 300 phone calls, beginning with a breakneck pace of dialing all over town: to the main number for a series of motels strung along the Rundberg/I-35 corridor, to local singles "chat" lines, to a strip club, to various friends and ex-girlfriends – one call after another, literally, for hours and hours on end – before finally returning it to Harris. He also kept her purse and other personal effects – including clothing that has never been returned. Indeed, when Harris finally got Walls to meet her to return Roxanne's property, she said he provided her with a bag of clothing belonging to some other female – clothes that were way too large for Roxanne, whom some friends lovingly referred to as "the pencil," and that were not at all her style. Although Walls maintained – and continues to maintain to police – his initial account of the circumstances surrounding Roxanne's disappearance, his behavior was quickly making Harris very wary. Even the initial conversation she had with Walls the night after Roxanne supposedly took off started to take on a different tone as she replayed it in her mind. "It was the way he asked about Roxanne, he didn't ask, 'Can I speak to Rox­anne?' He said, 'Have you seen Roxanne?'" she recalled recently. Walls was perfectly aware of his girlfriend's close relationship to her mother, and it would seem logical, Harris thinks, that he would assume she'd left him and gone home. "To me, he was saying he already knows that something happened to her."


An Insane Situation

Harris' suspicions were not without basis. The two-year relationship between Roxanne and Walls had been volatile. "I never approved of Louis from the beginning," says Rachel Gonzales, who had been friends with Roxanne since the two met as students at Kealing Junior High. The relationship didn't exactly start on a positive note: According to friends and family, Walls lied about his age to Roxanne, telling the 16-year-old that he was just 19, when in truth, in the summer of 2004 when they met, he was already 28. It wasn't until well over a year into their on-again-off-again affair that she finally learned he was actually closer to 30. The deception felt purposeful and manipulative, say Roxanne's friends and family. The relationship was also abusive – starting "at the beginning," says Gonzales. "He would cheat on her every once in a while and push her around." Gonzales said she tried to tell Roxanne that she should end it, but Roxanne defended Walls. "It got to a point that we were being separated, that she was telling me less and less [about] things that were going on."

According to another friend, Elizabeth Ellis, Roxanne was simply too trusting and too generous. Roxanne stayed with Walls in part, she believes, to help take care of his two young children to whom she had grown attached. She would buy them presents at the dollar store – dinosaur toys for his son, for example, and pretty accessories for his daughter's hair. She'd go to the apartment Walls shared with his mother and babysit for the kids by herself when Walls wanted to go out, sometimes overnight. "She had a big heart and was a nurturer," Ellis says. Ellis says that she and Harris tried to convince Roxanne that she was being used. "She really didn't know how to pick 'em," Ellis recalled recently. "Roxanne was always trying to [get Walls to] get himself a job, to be a man. And that's something that her mom and I would always tell her: 'You can't tell a man to be a man; he needs to just be one.'" But Roxanne would always stick up for him – and, perhaps, lie for him.

That's what seems to have happened in 2005, when Harris found Roxanne sitting alone at a bus stop, her face bruised and puffy. Her nose was not just broken but internally detached, requiring serious surgery. Roxanne told Harris that the injury had been an accident: She and Walls had been down on Sixth Street when a group of guys began to catcall her, saying she should leave Walls and go off with them. Before she knew it, Walls was fighting the whole group – Roxanne tried to break up the fight and instead got popped in the face. Walls had gone off to have a doctor at Brackenridge Hospital look at his hand.

That was the story Roxanne initially told Gonzales too, and Gonzales didn't believe a word of it. "She stuck to it, but I knew it wasn't the truth. He was pushing her, slapping her," she says. "I honestly believe he did that to her." Ellis says that Roxanne ultimately admitted to her that Walls was responsible for the damage to her face but shrugged it off. "It was just an insane situation," Ellis says.


Time to Go

In the months leading up to Roxanne's disappearance, it seemed to her friends and family that she was finally pulling away from Walls. Although she'd dropped out of McCal­lum High School as a junior, she had found her way to the Goodwill job training and GED program and was thriving there, said her case worker, Sandra McDowell, and her teacher Jane Comer. "She wanted to grow, to become more, to get a good education and ... a good job," says McDowell. "She had friends who did not have those credentials and wants in life, [but] that was her ambition." Roxanne was "very artistic," Comer says, and she was excited to land an unpaid mentorship spot with Charlotte's Fiesta Flowers on Lamar Boulevard, near the cluster of hospitals and medical facilities off 38th Street. "Everyone loved working with her," says flower-shop owner Charlotte Wainscott. "She was just such a sweet and nice person." She did so well in her mentorship that after it ended Wainscott hired her on. "She learned and caught on quickly. She was one of those people that really loved flowers." Indeed, says McDowell, Roxanne thought that one day she might be able to have her own flower shop.

Roxanne was also making progress in her school work, says Comer, and by early 2006 had passed all but one of the tests needed to receive her GED – only math was standing in her way. But like many young adults who fail to secure a GED on the first try, Roxanne began to drift from the program; she didn't come around as often and put off further study. But she kept working and eventually took a second job, working for the Census Bureau.

Not long after that Walls began to reappear, says Ellis. According to phone records, in the month before Roxanne disappeared, Walls was calling her constantly. Roxanne would tell Walls what neighborhood she was working in that day doing Census business, and then "she'd run into him at a park on that side of town," Ellis recalls. "He'd just randomly show up places where she would say she was going to be. He was way weird." Less than two weeks before she disappeared, however, it seemed to Comer that Roxanne had made up her mind: She wanted to get back to school and get on with her life. "I think the job made her think, 'I need to get my GED and do something else,' so that's when she decided ... that 'I'm going to go back and do this.'"

Yet Roxanne had also apparently reconciled with Walls – at least enough to go with him at the end of June to spend a week together, ending up at the Budget Inn just south of Rund­berg. Harris, Ellis, and Gonzales now insist they believe Roxanne was truly and finally done with the relationship. Ellis called her the last weekend in June and caught Rox­anne crying. Was there trouble with Walls, she asked? "And she was like, 'I can't talk about it now.'" Ellis told Roxanne to get dressed, and she would pick her up; Roxanne agreed.

Ready to go, Ellis called back, but Roxanne never answered. Gonzales says she had a similarly cryptic conversation on July 4, 2006. "She told me that they were arguing," she recalls. "She was trying to leave him alone, but he wasn't letting her. I said, 'Just leave; don't talk to him anymore.' But you can only tell a person so much."

Harris and Patrick Doyle now wonder if Roxanne had decided to break things off with Walls for good – and if, perhaps, that's what kicked off the argument they had on the evening of July 7, 2006. "I think that argument he said they had, I think it finally clicked for her ...," says Harris.

"That it was time to go," finishes Doyle.

"Time to go," agrees Harris. "I've got nothing else to go on."


The Boyfriend

Walls has never wavered from his version of events – that he and Roxanne argued and she walked out, alone, and disappeared completely within 20 minutes. But in the years since, police investigators have developed a more complete picture of Louis Walls, and it's not impressive. "Louis, among his peers, is an idiot," says 15-year APD veteran Detective James Scott, one of two investigators assigned to the department's missing persons detail. "I mean ... you can look at his criminal record and tell he's not the smartest criminal out there." Indeed. In March 2005, for example, he was popped for agreeing to sell three rocks of crack for $50 to an undercover APD officer. The cop had spotted him walking along Rundberg, and gave him a ride to the Ramada Limited just off the highway. Walls fetched the rocks and was promptly arrested. After testing, it turned out that the crack was fake. (Walls was handed a 120-day jail sentence.)

Walls has also exposed a far darker side, and particularly a history of trouble with young women – trouble that started before he met Roxanne, says Harris, who made contact with an ex-girlfriend Walls called numerous times in the hours after Roxanne disappeared. The girl told Harris that she had taken out a protective order to keep Walls away. More cryptically, Harris says the young woman told her that when Walls called her he told her that he was "in trouble" but did not elaborate. (The ex-girlfriend, who lives out of state, did not return a call from the Chronicle.)

Since Roxanne disappeared, Walls has apparently not changed his ways. In March 2008, he was charged with making a terroristic threat against his current girlfriend, Cassan­dra Tolbert. According to court records, she told police she'd met Walls to make arrangements for him to see the son he'd conceived with her but that he wanted instead to talk about her getting "back with him." When she said no, Tolbert recalled, he whispered in her ear, "I don't want to kill you like I did that girl Roxanne," and, "I really did kill her; I know how to do something with bodies." (He pleaded no contest to the charge, was found guilty, and sentenced to 140 days in jail.)

More disturbing, says Harris, is that Tolbert told her that Walls had tried to pimp her out. Could it be, Harris wonders, that Walls tried the same thing with Roxanne? That is a possibility, says Scott. "I don't think she was straight-out tricking for him," he says, but he could have been trying to groom her for that role. Ultimately, Scott says, he thinks Roxanne did not see the writing on the wall: "She was naive; she was in over her head and didn't know it. Of course, in missing persons there are a lot of young ladies who feel like they're part of the 'in' clique – they're with a gang leader, or whoever, and they don't realize who they're with."


The Missing

Working missing persons is a daunt-ing task. APD's two-man missing persons investigation team works roughly 4,000 cases each year – including runaways (the bulk of the cases), disappearances, and abductions. In the first five months of 2009, the unit already had 1,681 cases in its queue. And working these cases is a distinctly different proposition than working, say, a robbery or homicide. There, says Scott's partner, Detective David Gann, you've got a distinct crime scene, and the question becomes: Where did the perp go from there? In missing persons, the first order of business is to determine whether a crime even happened (see "Missing in Austin," p.25).

In the case of Roxanne Paltauf, there wasn't necessarily anything at first to suggest she'd done anything else than just walk off. "The case came [to us] as, they got into an argument, and she walked off – with just that information," Gann says. "Well, you can imagine, working missing cases in a city with a population the size we have, that's a pretty common occurrence. Boyfriends and girlfriends get into arguments, and one of them walks off. They don't come home that night, [and the] very next morning their significant other reports them missing." Often the question of how to proceed in such cases turns on a consistency of behavior – for example, has the person walked off before? According to Walls, Roxanne had done just that.

At first, police had no reason to suspect that Walls – the one who initially reported the disappearance – wasn't being honest. "It's really hard in this profession to pick and choose which cases have nuances that make you say, 'There's something to this; we need to immediately grasp what happened,'" says Scott. "And in that sense, I guess everything that could go wrong [with Roxanne's case] did go wrong." Not that police didn't, as Scott puts it, "use due diligence." Roxanne's name was immediately put into a be-on-the-lookout alert for all patrol officers, and vital information was fed into the state and national crime computers. But it wasn't until later that police had enough information to suggest that there might be far more involved in Roxanne's disappearance than just an unremarkable lovers' spat.

For example, there was the purse: Roxanne's pink purse that she supposedly left, with her cell phone, her wallet, and her jewelry, inside the hotel room. Roxanne never went anywhere without her purse. Never. On that point friends and family completely agree. Ellis says she would actually get into arguments with Roxanne about her always needing to carry her purse everywhere they went. Gonzales agrees: "Anywhere she goes, she's got that purse on her shoulder." When Harris told Gonzales it had been left behind, "I knew immediately that something was wrong." The fact that her jewelry was also left behind, inside her wallet, let Ellis know something was not right. Roxanne never went without her rings: "No. ... Even when we went swimming, that girl wore accessories." If Roxanne was going to storm out of the room – even to cool off – she would have taken her purse and certainly would have taken her cell phone. Harris is adamant about that – and she would have called home, say those who knew Roxanne well. "That made me very nervous, the fact that her mother never heard from her," says Comer, Roxanne's teacher. "I couldn't see her being strung out, or whatever, so bad that she wasn't going to call her mother."

Everyone insists that Roxanne talked to her mother two, three times, or more, each day. On the evening of July 7, 2006, those calls ceased. "The one thing that struck me, the day she disappeared, the calls stopped," said private investigator Tim Young. To him, that clearly means that whatever happened, Roxanne did not simply disappear of her own volition. "At that point in the investigation, it seemed clear that she was not with us anymore. There was absolutely no trace of Roxanne."

There was, however, one additional clue that appeared just six days after she went missing. A security guard named Bryan Parker noticed Roxanne's Texas identification card tucked into the wallet of another man who was accused of assaulting a woman at the Motel 6 just up the street from the Budget Inn. According to the police report of that July 13, 2006, incident, a man named Geoffrey Moore, now 33, picked up a Perfect 10 Men's Club dancer and her husband, outside the Chevron station at Rundberg and I-35. Moore asked, "How much for her?" She replied that she was not a prostitute but would do a private dance for him at the motel. The three went to the motel, and Moore and the woman entered the room. He locked the door, however, before the husband could get inside.

The woman alleged that Moore attacked her and tried to rape her. The husband heard his girlfriend shouting, got Parker and a passkey, and the two men tried to get into the room. When they finally got the door open, the husband attacked Moore, who fled, leaving behind his wallet and his hearing aid. When Parker picked up the wallet, he found Roxanne's ID. Moore later came back to the scene, to retrieve his things, and was arrested by police. He was never charged – in part, it seems, because the chain of events that led to his alleged attack of the woman aren't entirely clear. Moore, for example, told police that he tried to get intimate with the woman but she refused. He then went into the bathroom and came back out to find her rifling through his pockets, trying to steal from him. Could it have been that the woman and man lured Moore and then tried to roll him? Or was it an unprovoked sexual assault? Ultimately, the Travis Co. District Attorney's Office declined to pursue sexual assault charges against Moore, and the case was closed. (Moore could not be reached for comment.)

But the incident did provide Harris and police with yet another lead. How had Moore gotten Roxanne's license? To date, that is not entirely clear – even though detectives have spoken with Moore about Roxanne's disappearance. But police say they're certain that neither Walls nor Moore have told everything they know about Roxanne. Walls' attitude is especially frustrating. "People don't realize that although I feel that he could be more forthcoming," says Scott, "I don't have any legal rights to force him to do anything. And until I get the kind of forensic evidence that would allow me to go to a grand jury, to force him to answer questions, I can't. I mean, it's not like in the movies, where you can just go to somebody and say, 'Well, we're taking you downtown.' Because if they don't want to ... all we can say is, 'Well, that's a real bummer.' We can't just throw you in a car."

More importantly, says Scott, Walls "just doesn't care that he's a suspect. [H]e's no stranger to bad-acting, so it's not a huge burden for him."

Ultimately, though, Scott says he will find the truth, from Moore or Walls (or whoever else), to solve the mystery of Roxanne's disappearance. "Basically, I've got two violent offenders. Both of them are lying to me," says Scott. "[T]hey're both hiding criminal activity. But I think one of them is hiding a murder."


Waiting for Answers

The questions continue to haunt Harris. Where is Roxanne? What happened to her? As the years have passed, the questions have become more detailed and more disturbing: Did Walls try to roll Moore? Could he have used Roxanne as bait to do just that? Did Moore, who had been popped before for carrying a butcher knife in his car while trolling for hookers along Middle Lane, happen upon Roxanne and try to solicit her? Or maybe, did he recognize her as Walls' girlfriend, from a previous encounter?

The questions, the possibilities, feel endless. Harris and Doyle have staked out motels near Rundberg, they've walked the streets handing out fliers asking people to "Please Help" Harris find her daughter, they've posted alerts and questions on the Web, gotten Rox­anne's story featured on America's Most Wanted, and in turn they've been approached by psychics. So far they've made little progress. Harris still holds great hope that the right person, with the right tip, will finally have the courage to tell the truth. "My biggest thing is, is Roxanne out there? Is she alone? Is she scared? Is she crying out for help and I just can't hear my daughter?" she asks. "I need my closure. I need to find my daughter one way or another."


Anyone with information about the disappearance of Roxanne Paltauf can call an anonymous tip line at 800/670-6760 or APD's missing persons unit at 974-5250

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AAN Annual Poster Notify Sent to AAN Subscribers  Code 62

Help us find the missing: Become an AAN Member and receive notifications about missing persons via email.

Click here to become a part of the solution:

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TV: Bill would create national missing persons database for adults

Saturday, October 31, 2009



Video-"Billy's Law"-Bill would create database for missing adults

The nation's missing children have one. There's even one for criminals. But there's no national database for missing adults in the United States.

The nation's missing children have one. There's even one for criminals. But there's no national database for missing adults in the United States.

Two federal lawmakers are hoping to change that with the introduction of "Billy's Law".

"If we can keep up the best we can with information about these people when they are found through a national database using all our resources through local, state, federal information then these people are more likely to be found and get back home", said U.S. Congressman Ted Poe, R-Texas, one of the two sponsors of "Billy's Law".

The proposed bill presently before the U.S. Congress is named after 31-year old Billy Smolinski of Conneticut, who has been missing for five-years. Billy's Law would do several things, including create one central database for the nation's law enforcement agencies and medical examiner's offices so information on missing adults or unidentifed bodies could be found in one place. The law would also provide federal money from the U.S. Department of Justice to purchase up to date databases for law enforcement agencies and it would provide funding for the nation's forensic units to pay for D.N.A. testing on unidentified bodies.

"If someone happens to die and they're an adult that information is not shared with other law enforcement agencies and that person remains a missing person in some jurisdictions", added Congressman Poe.

Such a database could prove invaluable to people like Liz Harris, an Austin mother whose oldest daughter, 18-year old Roxanne Paltauf, went missing in July of 2006. Paltauf vanished after having an argument with her boyfriend at a North Austin hotel. Countless searches, media coverage and even an appearance on the T.V. show America's Most Wanted yielded few to no clues.

Congressman Poe told KVUE he thinks Billy's Law will pass the U.S. House and Senate with no problem since it has bi-partisan sponsorship.

The congressman is hoping that Billy's Law becomes a reality by the end of the year.

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Posted Image

Project Jason announces the featured missing persons in the December 2009 issue of the Online Magazine, which can be viewed at  This month's ad is on page 18. The site receives thousands of visitors per day.

Each month, publishes a full color ad in their popular online magazine which will feature 5-6 of Project Jason's missing person cases from across the country. The ad has clickable links which take the reader to additional information about the missing person, and a link to their printable poster.  Readers are encouraged to sign up for the AAN program and help with poster distribution. "You can be a Hero" is the theme of the joint venture.

Awareness Angels Network (AAN). AAN, begun by Project Jason in 2008, provides a way for the public to assist the families of missing persons. Missing persons posters designed specifically for the AAN program are disseminated via email to those enrolled in the program. Participants can then upload the posters to websites, print and place the posters in public areas, and forward them to their contacts. The program helps spread the word and increase the chances of finding the person.

In the December issue, the following missing persons were featured:

Jeramy Burt, missing from Boise, ID since 2/11/2007:

Jessica Foster, missing from North Las Vegas, NV since 3/28/2006:

Roxanne Paltauf, missing from Austin, TX since 7/7/2006:

Shelva Rafte, missing from Pittston, PA since 5/29/2006:

Daniel Reeves, missing from Madison, IN since 5/30/2008:

Jennifer and Adrianna Wix, missing from Cross Plains, TN since 3/25/2004:

You can read more about this program at

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From the family:

Just a reminder to all That Roxanne Paltauf, missing since 7-7-06, will be featured on "Disappeared"  this Monday, January 31,2011. This is on the Investigation Discovery channel at 8p.m central time. 9 p.m. Eastern time.

Please spread the word for all to watch. Awareness is the key to find the MISSING...

Let's bring Roxanne Home

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APD unit solves cases gone cold


Posted on April 21, 2011 at 6:12 PM

Updated today at 6:35 PM

On TV police shows, cold cases are solved in an hour. That is not the case in real life. It can take years before cases are solved, and many times, victims' families never have answers. KVUE got a look inside the life of APD Cold Case detectives.

In the middle of Sgt. Ron Lara's office are two picture frames. One holds photos of the four teens killed in the yogurt shop murders. Next to them is the face of a six-year-old girl.

"She's super cute. She's a darling little girl,” said Lara. "When I saw her photograph, for me, it was something that I really needed to pursue."

In 1985 Volith Long was sexually assaulted, her body wrapped in a curtain and thrown into a dumpster.  Lara solved the case 15 years later.

"Every day I come in and I see those girls in my office, and it's a reminder for me that, you know, we have to make a conscious effort every day to solve those murders,” he said.

Outside of Lara's office are rows of file cabinets packed with old police reports.

"I see a lot of families that are wanting their cases solved,” Lara said glancing around the room.

There are 140 unsolved murders at APD dating back to 1967. The most recent case is the disappearance of Roxanne Paltauf.

The 18-year-old was last seen by her boyfriend at the budget inn off IH-35 and Rundberg in July of 2006. For years, it was believed  to be a missing persons case. Now detectives believe there is evidence she may have been murdered.

"Our detectives are just starting to review and assess that investigation to kind of give us a starting point where we want to go with that,” Lara said.

The investigation will not be easy.

"These cases come to use because they are the most difficult cases within the department. They may be missing critical evidence; witnesses may be in a different county or a different state. Biological evidence may not be at its best at this time, we may have to wait for technology to catch up in some of these cases," Lara said.

Recently, it was a phone call that helped detectives solve a case.

The wife of 60-year-old Dennis Davis called police questioning his connection to the murder of his ex-girlfriend Natalie Antonetti. Last week jurors found him guilty.

"Every tip, no matter how small it is, is something this unit investigates very thoroughly and meticulously. So if you don't think it's that important, we do,” Lara said.

Since the creation of the cold case unit in 2000, 26 cases have been solved. Lara recently framed the photos of those victims and placed them in the hallway for all to see. In the middle is a picture that says "Justice is ageless."

In Lara's office there is no giving up.

"Nothing happens in 24 hours. It's a slow process, but it's a very rewarding process in the end,” said Lara.

You can look at some of the APD cold cases here and see if you hold the clues to solving one.

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New information in a 5-year old missing persons case could make it a homicide


Posted on April 22, 2011 at 10:12 PM

KVUE News has learned that a nearly 5-year old missing persons case in Austin is now being handled as a homicide investigation.

Neither Austin Police nor the mother of 18-year old Roxanne Paltauf will go into the details of new information prompting detectives to move the case from the Missing Persons Unit to the Cold Case Homicide Unit of A.P.D.

“Five years later, we're getting worn down and it's the most logical thing that happened to her. There's nothing that has come up with Roxanne,” said Liz Harris, Roxanne’s mother.

Harris has done everything from getting her daughter’s case on the popular television show “America’s Most Wanted” to getting a billboard with her picture donated to searching and marching in the area of Rundberg and I-35 where she was last seen. The family also peppered parts of Austin with missing person fliers with Roxanne’s picture.

On July 11, 2006 Roxanne Paltauf was staying at the Budget Inn Motel on I-35 and Rundberg with her then boyfriend Lewis Walls. Walls told Austin Police that Paltauf walked away from the motel after he and she had an argument. No one has seen or heard from her since.

Close to five years after she disappeared her family is finally coming to grips with the fact that she may not be coming home afterall.

“We may not know what happened to Roxanne. My main thing right now is just to find her and put my mind at ease, put her brother's and sister's minds at ease,” added Harris.

Anyone with information on Roxanne Paltauf’s whereabouts are encouraged to call A.P.D.’s Cold Case Homicide Unit at (512) 477-3588

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Austin teenager missing for 5 years

Roxanne Paltauf last seen near Rundberg, I-35

Updated: Thursday, 07 Jul 2011, 11:01 AM CDT

Published : Wednesday, 06 Jul 2011, 9:47 PM CDT

AUSTIN (KXAN) - On the eve of the five year anniversary of her daughter's disappearance, Elizabeth Harris says she is doing what any mother would do as she staples a flyer to a tree.  The words at the top say, 'Still Missing' and underneath are several pictures of Harris' daughter, Roxanne.

"It's been a 5 long years and we just really miss her and we just want some answers," said Harris.

Roxanne Paltauf disappeared on July 7, 2006 in the area of Rundberg Lane and IH 35 in North Austin. Her boyfriend told police they got into an argument and Paltauf left their room at the Budget Inn angry. Louis Walls told police that Paltauf did not take any of her belongings and left her purse, wallet, and driver's license in the motel room. He said he waited about 20 minutes and then went after Roxanne, but he could not find her.

No one has heard from her since that evening.

"We're trying to put a puzzle together and we need that missing link - and we need it really bad to help us find Roxanne," said Harris.

In February, Austin Police Department cold case detectives took over the Paltauf case. Detective Richard Faithful has boxes full of information on the case.

"There's some inconsistencies a lot with some of what Roxanne's boyfriend said at the time, but you know, he's not the only person who had inconsistencies," said Faithful.

Investigators believe there is little doubt something bad happened to Roxanne and said she would have contacted her family if she was able.

"Roxanne's mom - she's never going to give up - so we're not going to give up," said Faithful.

Harris and her four other children spent Wednesday evening in the sweltering heat plastering flyers with Roxanne's photo all over the IH 35 and Rundberg area.

"If she's out there we still need to find her one way or another so we can bring peace to this family," said Harris.

Detectives ask anyone with information in this case to call the APD Cold Case Unit or 512-472-TIPS (8477).

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Roxanne Paultauf

When 18 year-old Roxanne Paltauf leaves a motel in Austin Texas on Friday July 7th 2006 after an argument with her boyfriend, and doesn't return, family and friends are immediately concerned that something ominous has happened to her. A much-loved daughter and sister, Roxanne fails to call home, something that is unheard of.

The concerns of her family and Austin's police department increase when they discover that the motel she stayed in is situated in an area notorious for drugs and prostitution. They comb the locale for clues to her disappearance but to no avail.

The investigators zero in on Roxanne's boyfriend, the last person to see Roxanne before she disappeared. They're surprised to discover he has a criminal past and a propensity for violence but he also has a witness, someone who states they were with him for most of the night in question. Before the police have a chance to polygraph this witness, the case takes an unexpected turn. Another man is arrested in a motel a block away from where Roxanne went missing, in an unrelated incident. He has Roxanne's ID in his wallet.

Despite many leads in the case, after four years police are still looking for clues to solve the mystery behind Roxanne's disappearance.

If you have information about Roxanne Paltauf, contact Austin Police Dept, (512) 974-5250.

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Today marks 6 years since Roxanne disappeared.  Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and loved ones.

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Family remembers missing teen on 6 year anniversary


Posted on July 7, 2012 at 8:01 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 8 at 3:27 PM

AUSTIN -- Family and friends held a prayer Saturday for an Austin teen who went missing six years ago.

"It has been surreal. It has been an on-going nightmare," Rosa Paltauf said. It is a nightmare her family relives every time another day passes and their sister is still missing.

Her face is plastered on billboards, bumper stickers on the back of cars and fliers throughout town. It's the face of an 18-year-old Roxanne Paltauf.

"It a struggle everyday. I wouldn't wish this upon anybody," Rosa said.

Six years ago Saturday, Paltauf went missing after reportedly arguing with her then boyfriend and walking out of their Budget Inn motel room, on Rundberg and I-35.

"I knew something was wrong immediately and I started searching for her the minute she went missing," mother Liz Harris said.

Saturday friends and family gathered at Paltauf's childhood home. They called the gathering a "celebration of Roxanne," and wrote letters, attached them to balloons, and sent them off. They called the act a sign of their hope that no matter where she is, she will know they still love her and they're still searching for her.

Last year her case was moved from a missing persons case to a cold case homicide.

"I told her I would continue searching for her, in this life, or when I get to heaven," Harris said. 

Since that moment the family has been searching for Paltauf, praying she is still alive.

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Austin police to combine missing persons, cold case homicide units

Posted: 4:37 p.m. Friday, Nov. 23, 2012

By Patrick George

American-Statesman Staff

At the Austin Police Department’s missing persons unit, a team of detectives sort through about 4,000 reports of missing people every year.

Most of those people turn up again. Some are children involved in bitter custody disputes, some are teen runaways, and some are elderly or disabled people who become lost.

But others stay missing for good, like Roxanne Paltauf, the teenager who disappeared from the Rundberg Lane area of North Austin in 2006, or Julie Ann Gonzalez, who was 21 when she vanished from South Austin in 2010.

When people are missing without a trace for many years, there is a strong likelihood that foul play is involved and that they are dead, said Police Cmdr. Steven Deaton, who oversees the department’s violent crimes command. For that reason, the department is merging its missing persons unit with the cold case homicide unit, Deaton said.

Now, a team of six detectives — three from each unit — plus a lieutenant, a sergeant and an administrator will comb through the list of outstanding missing persons cases to see which ones need to be investigated as potential homicides.

Among the most suspicious of missing persons cases are those that don’t come up in any online searches.

“That’s very hard in this age of technology,” Deaton said. “One way or another, you’re in some kind of system.”

Even if people leave a city willingly and don’t want to be found, if they don’t show tax records, a work history, contacts with law enforcement, an application for government assistance or even a Facebook page, foul play could be suspected, Deaton said.

Examples of those kinds of cases include Paltauf, who was 18 when she disappeared while staying with an on-and-off boyfriend at the Budget Inn near East Rundberg Lane and Interstate 35. She was last seen July 7, 2006. Investigators said they have spoken with the boyfriend, Louis Walls, “many times” but have been unable to either eliminate him as a suspect or implicate him in Paltauf’s disappearance.

Another case investigators mentioned was the disappearance of Gonzalez, a young mother reported missing March 28, 2010. Police have said her estranged husband, George De La Cruz, was a “person of interest” in the case, but he was not charged and has maintained his innocence. Gonzalez’s family has since launched a campaign to find her that includes billboards and fliers.

Both the cold case and missing persons units have had considerable success at what they do. Last year, the missing persons unit located or returned 97 percent of the people reported missing, a figure that includes 98 percent of 2,460 runaway-child cases and 94 percent of 276 “request-to-locates” cases in which an adult is missing but not suspected to be in any kind of danger.

Since the cold case unit’s official inception in 2000, they have solved 25 of the department’s outstanding homicide cases — something its supervisors say is remarkable considering they work on cases where evidence is scant, has degraded over time or is nonexistent. More than 160 outstanding cold cases remain, a number that police say is far lower than other major cities in Texas.

The new combined unit will work out of police headquarters downtown. Its supervisor, Lt. Michael Eveleth, said the unit’s analyst sifted through hundreds of missing persons cases listed as outstanding in their system. Many of those were cleared through talking to family members or other means, Eveleth said. About 100 remain outstanding, though Eveleth said he expects that number to go down.

But some of them will not, and may need to be investigated as possible homicides.

“We realized, after looking into some of these cases for a while, that they need to be investigated by homicide detectives,” Eveleth said. “If we do find some cases like that, it will fall under the umbrella of cold case.”

Eveleth said that combining the work of the two units will mean a great deal more work for detectives. He said they can pull investigators from other units when they get hot tips that need to be followed immediately.

“It’s not an insurmountable,” he said. “I think this is something we need to do, especially looking at old missing persons cases with modern technology and social media. If someone has been missing since the ’90s and is still missing, something is wrong."

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Austin woman still missing seven years later


by HEATHER KOVAR / KVUE News and Photojournalist JP Harrington

Posted on July 7, 2013 at 6:05 PM

Updated Monday, Jul 8 at 7:58 AM



AUSTIN -- It's been seven years since Roxanne Paltauf disappeared, but her family isn't giving up hope of finding some answers.

Roxanne Paltauf was last seen at the Budget Inn Motel on I-35 and Rundberg Lane in 2006. Her mom, Elizabeth Harris, was joined by family and friends near the hotel on Sunday to give out fliers and bumper stickers, urging people to come forward with information.

"She was 18 years old, just starting her life. She wanted to go to beauty school," Harris said.

Family members say Paltauf was celebrating her two-year anniversary with her boyfriend at the motel when they got into an argument.
He has told family and police that Paltauf walked off, never to be seen again. Roxanne was the oldest of five children. Her siblings, as well as her mom, were all out on Rundberg on Sunday.

"It was her and her boyfriend's two year anniversary so they were spending time together at the hotel. What he says is they got into argument, and she walked out, with the shoes on her feet," said Harris.

She left her purse and cell phone behind.

Her mom says there is still hope someone will come forward with any sort of information.

Roxanne was born and raised in Austin. She would be 25 this year.

"I'm just really pleading with the public. If somebody is out there, please come forward. It's been a long time," said Harris.

Harris has been in touch with the detectives working on the case, which is now considered a cold case homicide instead of a missing person.

"I'm out here to find my daughter. I know somebody has an answer out there, if we are diligent we'll find some answers," said Harris.

Anyone with information is asked to call Austin police at 512-974-5250.

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Officials call off search of North Austin field for remains of Roxanne Paltauf


Updated: 3:33 p.m. Thursday, March 6, 2014 | Posted: 9:13 a.m. Thursday, March 6, 2014

By Ciara O'Rourke

American-Statesman Staff


3:30 p.m. update: Nothing has been found after police searched and dug in a North Austin field Thursday for remains of Roxanne Paltauf, who disappeared in 2006.


The case remains open, police said.


Anyone with information regarding Paltauf’s whereabouts can call the cold case/missing-persons unit at 512-974-5250


11:30 a.m. update: Officials are searching a field in North Austin for the remains of Roxanne Paltauf, who disappeared in 2006 when she was 18, police said Thursday.


A tip that police received six months ago led them to the empty lot, where a cadaver dog had twice alerted them to the possible presence of human remains, said Cmdr. Mark Spangler. More cadaver dogs were sent to the field Thursday, and Spangler said that officials are prepared to search past nightfall, if necessary.


There are two particular areas authorities plan to excavate, he said.


The field is off Rundberg Lane between North Creek and Georgian drives.




Investigators have developed new leads in the disappearance of Roxanne Paltauf, who went missing when she was 18 in 2006, Austin police said Thursday.


The department’s homicide cold case and missing persons unit and federal authorities will be searching for evidence Thursday at 300 E. Rundberg Lane in North Austin, according to police, several blocks from Barrington Elementary School on Cooper Drive.


School authorities have been notified, officials said.


Paltauf was last seen by her on-and-off boyfriend Louis Walls around 8:30 p.m. on July 7, 2006, police officials have said. The couple had been staying together at the Budget Inn near East Rundberg Lane and Interstate-35, not far from where police are now looking for evidence.


A cold case detective told the American-Statesman in 2011 that Walls said the two had an argument and that she left the hotel without any of her personal property.


Police are asking anyone with information about the case to call detectives at 512-974-5250 or Crime Stoppers at 512-472-8477.

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8 years later, Roxanne Paltauf's family is still searching for answers

Posted: Jul 06, 2014 3:00 PM PST Updated: Jul 07, 2014 9:36 AM PST

July 7th, 2006 was the last time anyone saw Roxanne Paltauf. Roxanne was 18 years old, staying at the Budget Inn near I-35 and Rundberg Lane with her boyfriend the night she went missing.

"Roxanne was a very beautiful person and so everybody loved her," Roxanne's sister Rubi Paltauf said.

It's been 8 years since Roxanne went missing, but Roxanne's family said it still feels like it was yesterday.

"Each and every day there's not a moment that somehow she's incorporated in our daily lives one way or another," Roxanne's mother, Elizabeth Harris said.

Roxanne's family and friends struggle through the anniversary of the day she went missing every year.
"July 7. We call it Roxanne's day," Harris said.

Each year the family travels to Rundberg Lane, close to where Roxanne went missing, to post fliers and tell anyone they meet to keep looking for Roxanne.

"We have to do it. We have to come forward and continue looking for her cause if we don't do it nobody else will," said Harris.

The family said it's not any easier after all this time.

"Just put yourself in our shoes for one second and imagine the heart ache it is," said Rubi.

"Wishing that we could resolve this already and just put things to peace," Harris said.

The family said they will never stop searching for Roxanne and the truth of what happened that night at the Budget Inn.

"I truly believe that somebody knows something and that they should find it in their heart to come forward and give this family the help that we need to find our Roxanne," said Harris.

Roxanne's boyfriend, Lewis Walls, told police the night she went missing they had an argument. He said Roxanne left the room without her cellphone and never came back.
Her family said they are hoping that closure is on the horizon.

"She's somewhere one way or another, but she's out there and we need to bring her home," said Harris.
Over the years police have received almost 1,000 leads on the Roxanne Paltauf case. In November, they had a very specific tip that led them to a field on East Rundberg Lane. After searching 10 acres for Roxanne's remains, police came up empty handed.

If you have any information about the disappearance of Roxanne Paltauf you are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS.

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Family marks eight years since daughter went missing

Tina Shively, KVUE 6:10 p.m. CDT July 6, 2014

AUSTIN -- Eight years after an Austin teenager went missing the search for answers continues.

Roxanne Paltauf was just 18-years-old when she vanished in North Austin in July of 2006.

Family and friends have tried to keep Roxanne's name at the tops of everyone's minds every July since the Austin teen disappeared.

They hand out flyers and bumper stickers bearing Roxanne's picture.

Roxanne's sister Rubi was only 14 when she vanished. She explained one reason why the effort continue. "She'd have been out here for us if one of us went missing, so we didn't want to stop, you know?" said Rubi.

The searches for Roxanne near Rundberg Lane and Interstate 35 began immediately after she disappeared.

Most recently, police thought they had a lead when cadaver dogs picked up a scent in a nearby field in March.

It turned up nothing, but Roxanne's mother Elizabeth Harris says many people saw the headline and mistakenly thought Roxanne was found.

Harris hopes to clear that up by talking to neighbors.

"You think after eight years it would gt a little bit easier," she said."But it seems to be harder because we still have no answers and we've been searching for so long its been hard on the family."

Roxannes then boyfriend told police the pair had an argument while staying at A Budget Inn hotel off East Rundberg Lane and she walked out.

Harris believes there is more to the story.

Harris recently sent a flyer to that man Louis Walls, currently in prison on burglary charges.

Austin police tell KVUE he doesn't have a viable alibi and remains the "biggest question mark" in the case.

Harris said "While he's spending time where he's at, I want him to be thinking about Roxanne. Hopefully he can come forward with the information we need to find her...she was only 18 and bad things happen out there in the world. We just want to find her and bring her home. She deserves it and we love her a lot."

In 2011, the case was handed over to APD's cold case unit.

If you have information on Roxanne Paltauf's whereabouts, you can call them at 512-974-5250.

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APD Combing Through Cold Cases After Accused Indiana Serial Killer’s Arrest


Updated: Tuesday, October 21 2014, 11:37 PM CDT


Austin Police are looking through cold cases, continuing to investigate whether an accused Indiana serial killer had any victims in Austin. Darren Vann, 43, of Indiana is accused of killing seven women. Before he lived in Indiana, Vann called Central Texas his home.


According to Austin Police, there are 167 cases assigned to the missing persons and cold case unit. While some families are hoping Darren Vann's arrest will bring them answers, others say, after decades of wondering what happened to their loved ones, they know better than to get their hopes up. 


"She was very outgoing, bubbly... definitely had an attitude and personality. She was just a leader," Rosalynn Paltauf says of her older sister, Roxanne. Roxanne Paltauf went missing near a north Austin motel in July of 2006. Not a day goes by that her family doesn't wonder what happened.


"It's a horrible cycle to be stuck in," says Rosalynn.


After Darren Vann allegedly confessed to murdering seven women in Indiana, Austin Police began combing through missing persons and cold case files.


"We try to get as much information as we can about that individual... his whereabouts, her whereabouts, where they lived --any involvement they've had within the city with the police department or any other agencies-- and try to develop a very tight, concise timeline of that person's activities... when they came to Austin and when they may have left," explains Austin Police Department Lt. Scott Ehlert. Austin Police would not answer specific questions regarding Vann, but spoke generally about how they respond to a situation like his.


Roxanne's family is interested in Vann's case. They want to know if he has any information about what happened to her.


"It crosses my mind. Is that the answer we've been looking for? Closure?" asks Rosalynn.


However, the Paltauf family isn't getting their hopes up. They say they know this arrest, 1,000 miles away, could very well mean nothing for Roxanne's case. If that's so, they hope it can bring new leads and peace for others.


"Even if it doesn't help our family out, hopefully it can help someone else out because I know exactly what they're going through. If someone... if another family can have that closure, it'd be all worth it," says Rosalynn.


Rosalynn says Roxanne went missing at age 18. She was the oldest of 5 siblings.


Anyone with information about Roxanne's disappearance or any missing person/cold cases in Austin can call reports tips to (512) 472-TIPS. The Austin Police Department has 7 detectives working on missing persons and cold cases.

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Search for Roxanne Paltauf continues after 9 years


Posted: Jul 05, 2015 8:39 PM EDT

Updated: Jul 06, 2015 10:05 PM EDT


It's been nearly nine years since Roxanne Paltauf went missing off I35 and East Rundberg Lane. To this day, her family has never given up hope in finding her. What happened the night of July 7, 2006 is still a mystery.


"None of it makes sense and that's why we're still out here. You know, it wasn't like she ran away, it wasn't like she took a plane out to Hawaii. Something happened to her that night and we're trying to figure out where she's at," says Rosalynn Paltauf, Roxanne's sister.


18-year-old Roxanne Paltauf was last seen at the Budget Inn off I35 and Rundberg Lane. It's been almost nine years but the family remembers it as if it were yesterday.


"We were supposed to go shopping at the San Marcos outlet mall. She was supposed to come with us. It was the Fourth of July weekend in 2006. It was really strange that she didn't show up because we were expecting her to be there that morning. That's when we got a phone call a few hours later from her boyfriend saying that he hasn't seen Roxanne," says Rosalynn Paltauf, Roxanne's sister.


At the time, Roxanne's boyfriend told police they had gotten into an argument. She reportedly stormed out of the hotel room and was never seen or heard from again. On Sunday, family and friends passed out fliers in hopes of getting any bit of information that could bring them closure.


"Just my love for my daughter. She's a missing person, she needs to be found. Something isn't right. I mean, as a mother, that's all I can do. I would expect the same from her and I know I have to do that for my daughter," says Elizabeth Harris, Roxanne's mother.


Austin Police have received close to one thousand leads on this case over the years. It was March of 2014 when a tip led them to a field in North Austin.


Unfortunately, nothing turned up.


"Personally I'm tired of it. You know, I'm exhausted from it. I wish it was over with but you wish in one hand and get in another. You just keep your boots on the ground and keep on doing it year after year because I truly believe there will be an answer one day," says Harris.    


An answer that might lead them to the truth. If you have any information about the disappearance of Roxanne Paltauf, you are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 512-472-TIPS.

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From the Family:


"On July 7th, 2006, Roxanne Paltauf was last seen at the intersection of Rundberg and IH- 35. This July will mark the ten year anniversary of Roxanne’s disappearance.


Saturday July 9th, 2016 at 10 AM friends and family will meet west of Rundberg at the block of 9400 North Creek Drive Austin, TX 78753 for Roxanne’s anniversary.


We will be passing out flyers, bumper stickers, and bracelets in the hopes of raising awareness about Roxanne’s disappearance.


Please join us, even for the briefest amount of time, as we unite in an effort to find answers."

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Austin family hopeful daughter will be found after disappearance 10 years ago

By: Marcus Officer
Posted:Jul 09 2016 05:24PM CDT
Updated:Jul 09 2016 05:27PM CDT

The pain of a search, that has gone on for a decade, has taken it's toll on the family and friends of Roxanne Paltauf.

"Roxanne if you're out there baby girl just know that mama loves you very much and I miss you and I won't stop until I find the answers," Elizabeth Harris, Roxanne's mother, said.

Roxanne went missing on July 7, 2006. Just days after her 18th birthday.

"When it first happened, when we got the phone call, we didn't really understand the full effect of what was going on. it wasn't until a couple of weeks later when (Roxanne) wasn't home it really hit us. Now it's 10 years later and we're still trying to find answers," Rosalynn Paltauf, Roxanne's sister, said.

However that search for answers has come at a cost.

"It's a very difficult thing. It's an everyday process. I mean you can't forget it, it's there when you first wake up in the morning, it's the last thing at night that you think of is: where's Roxanne? What happened to her? Trying to solve this," Elizabeth said.

Rosalynn is part of a group of family and friends working to find the person who can answer the question that can end a family's decades-old pain.

"We walk around where she went missing off of Rundberg and I-35. We hand out fliers, pass out bumper stickers, we talk to anyone who wants to talk to us." Rosalynn said, "I want to know what happened to Roxanne. I want to know where she is at and I want closure for myself and my family. I want to be able to bring her home or to at least put her to rest. That's all we want. We want closure,"

The family is asking anyone with information about the case to call 512-974-5250 or 512-472-TIPS.

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Project Jason shines light on desperate lives

Posted by Joe Bollig on August 26, 2016 in Archdiocese, Leaven News, Ministries
by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Marianne Asher-Chapman’s daughter Angie Yarnell disappeared on Oct. 25, 2003.

Angie’s husband, Michael Yarnell, later admitted to killing her, but to this day has refused to tell anyone where he put Angie’s body.

So Asher-Chapman keeps looking.

“I’ll never, ever give up looking for Angie — not ever. As long as I have breath, I’m looking for Angie until I bring her home,” she said.

“It’s a very desperate way of life,” she added.

Asher-Chapman was one of 19 people who attended the Vigil of Hope for All Missing Persons held on July 30 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas. The vigil was part of the “Keys to Healing” retreat July 29-31, sponsored by Project Jason.

Project Jason, a 501©(3) organization, was established in 2003 to provide care and support for families of missing persons, primarily adults.

Becoming a relative of a missing person means having one’s normal life suddenly shifted to “a new life of gut-wrenching, grieving and struggles that seemingly have no end,” said Kerry Messer, from St. Genevieve County, Missouri.

Messer went to bed with his wife Lynn on July 7, 2014. When he awoke the next morning, she was gone. There was simply no trace of Lynn, then 52. They had been married for 36 years.

“We all know many people who have lost loved ones due to accidents and illnesses,” said Messer. “So, among my friends are widows and widowers. Yet, they can’t comprehend the type of depth of grieving when your wife is just — gone.”

Asher-Chapman said, “It’s like a chronic illness — you don’t ‘get it’ until you get it.”

Being the relative of a missing person is like living in a surreal, parallel universe. Suddenly, the world you took for granted becomes sinister and frustrating, said relatives of the missing. There is no resolution. The world is colored by doubt and unknowing, and the duty is to keep the missing loved one’s name in the public consciousness lest they be forgotten.

“You feel like you don’t fit in any more with the rest of the world, because [other people] don’t understand what you’re going through and feeling,” said Elizabeth Harris, who attended the retreat with her daughter Ronica Paltauf. “You react to things differently. You see life in a whole different way, too — you see the harshness and realities of life.”

Harris’ daughter, Roxanne Paltauf, went missing on July 7, 2006, in their hometown of Austin, Texas. Roxanne Paltauf was 18 at the time.

On any given day, there are as many as 100,000 active missing person cases in the United States, according to NamUs, the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System, part of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Most cases are resolved, but there are more than 40,000 sets of human remains that cannot be identified in evidence rooms of medical examiners and coroners across the nation. NamUS calls the unfound missing “the nation’s silent mass disaster.”

Despite the large number of missing, there is relatively little help for relatives of missing adults, said Kelly Murphy. She founded Project Jason after her then- 19-year-old son, Jason Jolkowski, vanished without a trace on June 13, 2001, in Omaha, Nebraska, while walking to meet a co-worker for a ride to work.

“What I found through the course of time and my own personal healing is that there is little assistance for families of missing adults,” said Murphy.

Murphy discovered that “no one gives you a handbook” on how to deal with this trauma. No one tells you how to deal with law enforcement, or the media, or how to cope.

“When the investigation hit a standstill, I felt God was calling me to take what I learned and help other families,” she said.

Project Jason teaches families how to heighten public awareness of their family’s case. Project Jason also offers guidance and emotional assistance.

“I found there was a gap,” said Murphy. “There wasn’t anyone providing these families emotional assistance. There wasn’t anyone out there teaching them . . . how this particular trauma affects the brain and then the body. We also teach them coping mechanisms and stress relievers, dealing with things that are frustrating, and changed relationships.”

These “survivors” need care for their minds, bodies and spirits — and the spiritual process was definitely an important part of the weekend. Faith in God can literally be a lifeline.

“We teach them what is the appropriate place in their life for ‘the search,’ and then to find themselves again — find joy and meaning in their life that has nothing to do with their missing loved one,” said Murphy. “You can feel joy without guilt.”

For information about Project Jason, click here, call (402) 932-0095; or write: Project Jason, P.O. Box 59054, Renton, WA 98058.

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