Debbie Allen, William Schmidbauer, and Hattie Brown each served in the U.S. Military before they each vanished without a trace. While the circumstances of their disappearances vary, all three have this in common: their cases remain unsolved.
Debra Ann Allen: Missing since February 8, 1992 from Kill Devil Hills, NC
32-year-old Debra Ann Allen was last seen on February 8, 1992 in Kill Devil Hills, NC. After leaving her job at the Sea Ranch Marina II around 10 PM, she returned to a motel across the street where she then lived with her boyfriend. Allen’s boyfriend stated they got into an argument after he claimed she took money from him. The boyfriend told Allen’s family that she then left angry and on foot, and never returned home. A few days later, Allen’s purse was found by a truck driver on the roadside near the marina. No trace of her has since been found.
According to the “Help Find Missing Debra Allen” Facebook page, Allen’s family spent months attempting to contact both Debbie Allen and her boyfriend. After four months passed without seeing or hearing from Allen, a police report was filed on June 24, 1992. Allen’s boyfriend passed away in 2011, according to the Facebook page.
Debbie Allen was a North Carolina native and a veteran of the U.S. Navy. She left behind her parents, one brother, and four nieces and nephews, all of whom say it was uncharacteristic of Allen to go without contact for so long.
Allen’s family has stated online that no substantial leads have come to light in the 25 years since Debbie Allen vanished. The case has unfortunately received minimal media attention, and if you’re a Facebook person, I strongly urge you to like and share the “Help Find Missing Debra Allen” page. Her family is sure that someone out there has to know something.
William Schmidbauer: Missing since September 23, 2007 from Manchester, NJ
64-year-old William Schmidbauer was last seen by his wife on September 23, 2007 at Cedar Glen West Development, the senior community in which they lived. The father of two kissed his wife of 41 years goodnight—he and his wife slept in separate rooms—at around 11:30 PM. His wife reported hearing him get up the next morning at 5:30 AM. His newspaper was spread hen she woke up around 9:30-10:00 AM.
Mrs. Schmidbauer thought her husband may have gone to visit a neighbor, but soon learned that neighbor had not seen Mr. Schmidbauer that morning. He left without his medications, COPD inhalers, cigarettes, vehicle and keys, credit cards, veteran’s ID card, and cash. Police also stated he left no note and found “nothing suspicious” about his disappearance.
Mr. Schmidbauer’s mental state was described as “fragile”: the was dealing with depression and possibly post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his Army career. Mr. Schmidbauer served with the 11th Armored Cavalry Black Horse Regiment in the Vietnam, where he was wounded and subsequently earned a Purple Heart before retiring in 1981. He was taking psychiatric medication and attending group therapy at the time of his disappearance, but reportedly had recently began skipping group therapy sessions. He recent change in medications may have left him agitated, according to his wife.
Although not considered suicidal per the Charley Project, Mr. Schmidbauer was distraught by the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars at the time of his disappearance, and concerned about the welfare of returning veterans. He also reportedly told a neighbor he wanted to “end it all” just a few days before he vanished.
Although foul play is not suspected, the investigation into his disappearance was active as recently as 2015, including fruitless aerial, canine, scuba and foot searches. While there have been unconfirmed sightings of Mr. Schmidbauer, no trace of him has been found.
Sources: The Charley Project | Missing Veterans |NJ.com
Hattie Gertrude Brown: Missing since May 16, 2009 from South Boston, VA
48-year-old Hattie Brown was last seen in her silver 2003 Volkswagen Jetta early in the morning of May 16, 2009. Brown picked up her adult nephew Derek Edward Brown at a gas station at the intersection of Routes 501 and 58 in South Boston, Virginia and was captured leaving at 2:33 AM on the gas station’s surveillance tapes. Hattie reportedly dropped Derek off at a party, outside of which she was last seen idling in her car. And while Derek made it home safely, neither Hattie nor her car did.
After failing to attend the bridal shower for a relative she’d helped plan as well as the wedding, Brown’s family became worried and a filed a missing person report on May 20, 2009. Investigators determined her purse, medication for an unspecified but “critical” medical issue, and her Chihuahua, Grasshopper, had been left behind.
On July 7, 2009, the charred remains of Hattie’s Volkswagen were found abandoned behind a barn in Southeastern Halifax County near Virgilina. Authorities believed the car had been parked on the property for quite a while, and was likely abandoned there by a local. State authorities conducted ground and air searches for two weeks after her car’s discovery, according to The South Boston News & Advance. In November, divers searched the water near where the Jetta was found, all of which came up empty.
On July 28, 2009, Derek Brown—who had previously been called a “person of interest” in the case—was publicly named by Virginia State Police as a suspect in his aunt’s disappearance, but has yet to be charged in connection. In November 2009, a 24-year-old Halifax woman was subpoenaed in connection with Brown’s case. A warrant was issued for her arrest after she failed to appear in court, and the woman turned herself in to the County Sheriff’s Office in February 2010, according to The News & Advance. But I’ve yet to find any follow-up reporting and, as far I can tell, the 24-year-old either didn’t or couldn’t provide any relevant information.
Brown was a U.S. Army Sergeant in Desert Storm and the first female sergeant in her platoon. A few years after her 1998 retirement, Brown moved back home to help care for her ailing mother. Brown’s family says she wouldn’t go so long without as much as even a call to check in about her dog. Her bank accounts have not been touched since her disappearance.
On July 1, 2016, Hattie Brown was declared legally dead, without any determination as to what ultimately happened or where her remains might be located, according to News & Record and Mecklenburg Sun reporting. Both her family and law enforcement believe the case can be solved, and still ask anyone with information to come forward.