Is Evelyn Hartley Still Alive Or Dead?
The Mystery of Evelyn Hartley Is Still Alive or Dead? starting from along the banks of the Mississippi River in southwest Wisconsin lies the city of La Crosse. It’s a charming residence, and it regularly ranks as one of the most desirable places to live in Wisconsin. But her likable reputation was tarnished on October 24, 1953. On this night, 15-year-old Evelyn Grace Hartley was doing babysitting and was never seen again.
Evelyn Hartley is a sophomore at Central High School. Her father, Richard Hartley, is a professor of Biology at La Crosse State College, her mother, Ethel, is a homemaker. On the night of the incident, Evelyn went to the home of another college professor, Viggo Rasmusen, to watch Rasmusens’ 20-month-old baby. She was wearing red jeans, a white blouse, glasses and white bobby socks. Evelyn usually calls her parents before doing her babysitting work.
When some time had passed without news, Richard Hartley called Rasmusen’s house, but received no answer. Worried, he goes to the Rasmusen family residence. Hartley found the house locked and knocked on the front door repeatedly. Again he got no response. After a few minutes, he found an open basement window, through which he entered the house. To his surprise, no one was there except for the baby, sleeping peacefully in the upstairs room. Hartley immediately called the police.
Upon arrival, authorities searched the house, where they found one of Evelyn’s shoes, as well as her broken glasses. Her other shoes were found in a different part of the house. Blood was also found inside. A roving search revealed additional bloodstains in the yard, and bloody fingerprints in a nearby garage. Bloodhounds were brought in to follow the scent, which they tracked into the street. This the police theorized was evidence that Evelyn must have been put in a car and taken away.
The massive search begins. Volunteers combed the city on foot, while the National Guard, Civil Air Patrol and Air Force scanned the area from above. Sailors descend into the waterways in the hope of finding clues. Scores of college and high school students joined the effort and within the first few days, more than 2,000 people searched for Evelyn Hartley. Police asked squirrel and deer hunters to keep looking for clues while they hunt in the forest and farmers were ordered to scour their lands for traces of excavations on their farms.
To further develop the investigation, the authorities announced that all cars would be inspected. The aim is to have the backseat and trunk of every car in the county inspected for bloodstains or other suspicious signs. 40,000 stickers were printed, each saying “MY CAR IS OK.” The authorities will put a sticker on every car that has been inspected and cleaned. Police Chief George Long ordered all gas station attendants to report any suspicious vehicles, as well as the driver’s license numbers that object to a mandatory search. Police officers were also instructed to immediately inspect any car without an “OK” sticker.
Richard and Ethel Hartley made several public requests for information. Shortly thereafter, the Hartleys received two phone calls in which a man offered to exchange information about Evelyn for $500 in cash. The police helped the Hartleys set a trap for the caller. The snares worked and caught a 20-year-old man named Jack Duffrin. When it happened, Duffrin knew nothing about Evelyn. He was convicted and jailed for attempted extortion.
A number of local businesses, organizations and neighbors pooled their money to form a prize fund for any leads that might lead to Evelyn’s return. The fund soon swelled to $6,600. Hundreds of clues flooded the police station. Every lead was investigated and then dismissed. Nobody, seems to know anything. A year after Evelyn’s disappearance, Sheriff Robert Scullin estimated that his department had questioned about 1,200 people. Despite their efforts, no new leads have surfaced.
The case eventually fell to A.M. Josephson, a criminal investigator from La Crosse County. Josephson would pursue the case for many years, paying special attention to two interesting items found during the first few weeks of the investigation. The first clue was a pair of tennis shoes found near Highway 14, about 10 miles southeast of La Crosse near Shelby, Wisconsin. The sole of the shoe produces a different pattern when pressed into the mud. Indeed, a piece of dirt had been found on the Rasmusens living room floor that detectives said matched the sole of a shoe. The same pattern was also found in the footprints outside Rasmusen’s house.
The second clue was a blood-stained denim jacket, which was found within 800 feet of the tennis shoes. Josephson believes this is also linked to crime. While inspecting the shoes, Josephson found another clue. He determined that the soles exhibited a distinct wear pattern consistent with the operation of a Whizzer motorcycle. Over the next several months, Josephson sifted through sales records and receipts and even tracked down past and present owners of the Whizzer motorcycle, but never found any valuable suspects.
Photos of jackets and shoes were posted all over the area, in the hope that someone might shed some light on who owned them. Once again, calls and potential leads flooded the police station. Again, no significant clues. In the end, the bloodstained shoes and jacket were deemed unhelpful to the investigation. Moreover, the tennis shoes are a large 11 while the jacket is actually a small 36, leading many to conclude that the two are not related. Josephson however refused to give in, he saw the difference in size as evidence that the two suspects had taken Evelyn. Investigators continued their search. Unfortunately, his efforts were ultimately fruitless.
The Hartley case received an unexpected shock in 1957. A person named Gein, a murderer and mugger who confessed to killing two women and making souvenirs from human body parts was briefly considered a suspect in Evelyn’s disappearance because he was visiting relatives in the La Crosse area at the time Evelyn disappeared. However, after searching Gein’s house, no remains of Evelyn’s body were found. Gein also passed two lie detector tests in which he insisted he had nothing to do with the case. Authorities officially stated that Gein was in no way connected to the Evelyn Hartley case. Years passed without an answer. In 1959, the last remaining attempt failed and the Evelyn Hartley case went cold (frozen case).