ME CATHY MOULTON: Missing from Portland, ME - 24 Sep 1971 - Age 16


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Cathy planned to attend a YWCA dance during the evening hours of September 24, 1971 in her hometown of Portland, Maine. She asked her father to drop her off on Cumberland Avenue that afternoon. Cathy wanted to purchase a pair of pantyhose and some toothpaste before preparing for the dance.

She stopped by a music store on Forest Avenue later in the day to visit a friend. She told her friend she would walk home and would see her at the dance that evening. Cathy was last seen walking down Forest Avenue to head home. Her residence was about a mile and a half away.

She was carrying a brown leather Mexican clutch purse which contained her house key, two tubes of toothpaste, and a very small amount of cash, not even enough for a bus ticket. She never arrived home and has not been seen again. Her parents reported her missing after she was not home by dinnertime.

It's possible that Cathy left of her own accord with her friend, Lester Everett (sometimes spelled "Everette"), traveling in a stolen blue 1963 Cadillac. There were reported sightings of Cathy, Everett and another male working in the potato fields in remote Aroostook County in northern Maine, 300 miles from Portland, a few weeks after Cathy's disappearance. Cathy reportedly kept saying she wanted to go home.

The sightings have not been confirmed, however. Everett was eventually located alone. He said he did not know where Cathy was.

In 1983, a hunter said he came across a skeleton in the woods near Smyrna, Maine, surrounded by female clothing. Some investigators believe the remains were Cathy's. The hunter was unable to retrace his footsteps and lead police back to the site, however, and the bones were never seen again.

Cathy's case was reopened in the 1980s, but no evidence was uncovered regarding her whereabouts. She was a junior at Deering High School at the time of her disappearance. She gave no indications that she was unhappy and investigators don't believe she ran away.

Her parents are both still alive, still live in the same house they shared with Cathy in 1971, and have kept the same phone number. They continue to hope for a resolution in her case. Her disappearance remains unsolved.

edited by staff to add media link

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The cold case of Cathy Moulton: The oldest unsolved true crime in Maine

The evening of September 24, 1971 combined a series of events that deterred Cathy from the course of fun to one of assumed tragedy.

That evening a dance was being held by the local YWCA. Cathy had planned on a night of excitement – so much so, that she spent the early afternoon crafting her own outfit to wear. In need of a new pair of tights to tie the look together, she asked her mother Claire for some money.

Claire Moulton obliged her daughter and provided her the much needed funds, but not without requesting that Cathy use some of the money to buy two tubes of toothpaste and return home before the dance.

Cathy’s father Lyman dropped her off in the center of town. Cathy reportedly purchased the toothpaste as asked and proceeded to meet her friend Carol Starbird at another popular hangout spot, Starbird Music Store. Cathy Moulton left the store at 5:30pm hoping to return home with time to spare. She was seen leaving for the mile-and-a-half walk home; that is where all certainty ends.

Following the eve of Cathy’s disappearance, her parents reported the incident to the Portland Police. The police insisted on waiting the standard seventy-two hours, but Lyman Moulton’s persistence expedited the opening of a missing persons case.

Lyman also approached the FBI office in Portland in the early days of Cathy’s disappearance. They initially shrugged the matter off as a classic case of a teenage runaway, and neither party had evidence to suggest otherwise.

It took ten days following Cathy’s disappearance to prompt action in the media. The case received coverage from the only two newspapers in Portland and notices were run by the FBI during a popular television series named The F.B.I.

When the word got out, a trickle of information was presented by the residents of Portland. Some was hearsay & some was theory or speculation (or both) – but very little helped to yield results.

Police and Cathy’s parents chased leads across the state of Maine. Several reports came in that a girl who looked like Cathy was last seen in a strange car with a boy – sometimes one, sometimes two – in Portland that evening. A similar report came from Presque Isle, Maine, located hundreds of miles north of Portland by the Canadian border.

This search was a dead end, but coincidentally led authorities to rescue another missing girl from Connecticut. Cathy’s classmates even suggested she may have run away to Boston after hearing about the city from a friend. Others suggested she may have ran off with a boy she loved. With no evidence uncovered, the case was closed.

Lyman Moulton was reported to have said in an interview that “ trusted people”, while mother Claire was quoted acknowledging the way her daughter “seemed to helping people”. Could this sense of kindness have led to Cathy’s disappearance? Does no good deed truly go unpunished?

Despite the lack of evidence, Cathy Moulton’s case was reopened in 1983 when a hunter claimed to come across human remains with the clothes of a young woman in the woods near Smyrna, Maine. After he contacted authorities, they were unable to retrace his steps to find the alleged site of the skeleton.

Police departments believe Cathy may have ended up with people from the Smyrna area of northern Maine and been dropped off there in 1971. They speculated that she may have even ended up in the company of people from northern Maine or as far as Canada – but the case was closed again shortly thereafter.

Fifteen years passed before the unsolved case of Cathy Moulton was again opened in 2004. Portland police collaborated with the Maine State Police Department. They again interviewed the hunter from 1983, and this time brought canine teams to search the area. They were joined by Cathy’s sister, Kimberley. Sadly, the result was the same.

Many theories of Cathy’s disappearance have persisted: she was abducted by two boys, or one boy, or that she was killed & abducted in the forest of Smyrna, Maine. Although Cathy Moulton’s father Lyman died recently in 2017, her mother remains at their house in Portland, Maine. The family never changed their phone number and were often cited as keeping their door unlocked to welcome the return of their missing daughter.

To this day the FBI and Maine Police still keep Cathy Moulton’s file open, hoping that someone, somewhere, will come forward with new information. Hopefully some day a theory will lead the Moulton family to justice for their daughter. But nearly fifty years after her disappearance, a growing city in Maine is still seeking answers on one of its own.

‘She didn’t just disappear’: Fifty years later, missing Portland teen’s family aches for answers​

It was almost dinnertime on Sept. 24, 1971, and 16-year-old Cathy Moulton had to get home.

The Deering High School junior planned to meet up with friends that night at the 7-11 Club dance at the YWCA, but first she had to buy pantyhose, toothpaste and thread to finish hemming the new pantskirt she had made to wear. She went to Porteous, Mitchell & Braun on Congress Street in Portland to buy what she needed, then stopped by Starbird Music to visit a friend.

When she stepped out of the music shop on Forest Avenue to head back to her house on Clinton Street, Cathy was carrying the toothpaste and a brown leather handbag her parents had bought her as a birthday gift.

She never made it home.

Fifty years later, hers is one of the oldest active missing child cases in Maine and the United States. The search for the Portland teenager has been marked by frustration, first with police officers who didn’t seriously investigate why she had gone missing and later with witnesses who were unwilling to give up details of what happened to Cathy during the fall of 1971.

“This wasn’t in the press. This wasn’t a big talked-about thing like it might be today with social media. It certainly would have gotten a lot more fanfare now,” said Kevin Cady, a now-retired Portland detective who worked on the case in the 1990s and later wrote a book about it. “The story back then was she just disappeared like she was abducted by aliens on Forest Avenue. Until we looked into this, that’s all we had.”

More than 20 years after Cathy went missing, detectives painstakingly pieced together her movements after she left Starbird Music. They believe she was taken from Portland against her wishes by an older boyfriend and his acquaintance, prevented from leaving while working on a potato farm in Aroostook County, then died on a Maliseet Tobique First Nations reservation in New Brunswick.

But Cathy’s body has never been recovered and no official suspects have been named in her case. The investigation into her disappearance remains open and detectives follow any leads or new information in the case, according to a spokesman for the Portland Police Department.


Database: 137 open missing persons cases in Maine​

In Maine, there are 137 open missing persons cases, according to the NMUPS.

The Portland Police Department is investigating six long-term missing persons cases, some of which date back decades.

Cathy Moulton was last seen in downtown Portland in September 1971. In the decades since her disappearance, police have followed leads across New England and even into Canada searching for the then-16-year-old.

Martin said several years after Moulton’s disappearance, a new team of detectives began intensely investigating the case and made some progress, but now, definitive answers on what happened to the teen were ever found.

“It just seems like something happened, that there was some third party involved in her disappearance, and that’s the troubling thing,” Martin said. “Was it someone she knew? Was it someone that just came upon her walking down the street.”

Martin said today, most missing persons investigations handled by Portland are resolved relatively quickly, pointing to the use of new technology like video surveillance, cellphones and electronic financial records to pinpoint those who go missing.

Technology is also being used to keep a spotlight on cold cases like Moulton’s.

Portland police regularly share images and information on older investigations in hopes of drumming up new leads.

Police are not alone in their work to keep missing people like Moulton in the public view.

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