“We searched last week and didn’t find anything. We thought the dogs we had brought in had found something at a lake but the divers didn’t find anything,” says a private investigator working on Molly’s case who asked to not be identified. “Rain will have washed things away too. I’m not saying that anything can’t happen, but it’s been a month.”
Molly, 23, was last seen on July 6. Weighing about 100 pounds and standing 5-feet tall with shoulder-length, sandy-brown hair and green eyes, she runs cross-country for Eastern Kentucky University. Molly, who grew up in Madison, was taking summer classes at IUPUI before she disappeared. She’s the youngest of nine children.
By 9 a.m. the room at the fire station is beginning to fill. Fifty people have come from as far away as Utah to help with the search. Kevin Skidmore, Molly’s brother-in-law, starts by thanking everyone for coming. “We believe there was foul play involved with Molly’s disappearance,” he says. “Everything points to the fact that something happened.”
Skidmore explains that reliable witnesses may have spotted Molly in Terre Haute. She was seen wearing a white t-shirt, jeans and a baseball hat. “She looked scared and thin. She looked as if she was in distress,” he says and asks for volunteers to drive down I-70 and put up flyers in rest stops.
Everyone breaks into groups. Some go to the interstate but the majority will stay behind to finish searching Westlake apartments, where she was staying with her brother, Nick. “There are still some doors that haven’t been knocked on,” says Molly’s cousin, Amy Dattilo, “We need to find out if someone that we haven’t talked to saw anything that day.”
On Tuesday July 6, an early morning storm washed away the heat. The day was cool and gray. Molly attended all of her classes at IUPUI. Afterward, she picked up a present for a friend’s birthday and drove to her brother Nick’s Westside apartment.
Molly’s father had told her she needed to find a summer job or he would have to take her car away from her. So she decided to walk to the local Wendy’s to apply for a job. Before she left the apartment building, she ran into her brother’s best friend, Ron Smith.
Smith spoke to her as she left, making sure that she had her cell phone with her – just in case. Later that night, her cell phone would turn up in Nick’s apartment, along with Molly’s ID and debit card.
But Nick wasn’t worried when Molly didn’t come home that night. “She’s 23 after all,” he says, “old enough to do what she wants. She’d gone on extended visits with people in the past.” But by Thursday he was starting to get worried. Ron talked Nick into calling the police. “When (the police) came they didn’t go through the house, they only took a report,” Nick says.
According to Lt. Taylor, of the Marion County Sheriff’s Department, there was and is no reason to suspect any foul play. “Anything is possible,” Taylor says. “But, as far as we’re concerned, Molly is a missing person. There is no evidence to suggest that she was abducted. But there is enough there to make a guess that something happened.” That’s why Molly is now listed as missing and endangered on the NCIC computer.
The search on Saturday doesn’t include dogs and is broken down into three teams: Orange, yellow and pink. They all have different areas to cover. “Knock on every door,” says cousin Celeste Hoffman. “If no one answers roll up a flyer and leave it at the door.” Team leaders are picked and the teams make their way downstairs to their cars. Boy Scout leader Jim Gregory and his sons, Alex and Chris, are among them. “I received an email from the district executive,” Gregory says. “We decided to come out and help any way we can.”
Walking through the apartment complex you see kids playing on swing sets, people down by the retention ponds fishing and others laying out at one of the pools. It’s not the kind of place you expect to be looking for a missing girl. “We want everyone to know that we’re still taking this seriously,” Amy Dattilo says. “And since the police don’t think Molly was abducted they won’t help with the search. Even though Lt. Taylor did show up today he isn’t going to help.”
People begin canvassing the complex. Talking to the residents. Leaving flyers where no one is home. And finding blood where there is none.
At about 11:15 a.m. searcher Anita Bunch calls Lt. Taylor and Westlake security to let them know that she may have found blood on an apartment wall. The spot is about the size of a tennis ball. About 10 minutes later, courtesy officer Frankie Medvescek shows up. “You’ve all got to leave,” he says, “I talked to the man in charge of this search and advised him that you can’t be here today. He was told last week not to come back today.”
“I’m not leaving,” Bunch says. “You can’t make us leave.”
“I can and will. Please leave the apartment complex. I’ve spoken to Lt. Taylor and he said that this search was in no way authorized by the police. If it had been and he escorted you, well, then you could stay,” Medvescek says. “But, until you get the permission of management, I can’t have you wandering around here.”
The exchange continues to escalate until Anita and the other searchers get into their cars and leave the complex. “I hope that they understand. I think something happened to that girl but she wasn’t a resident here. She was only visiting with her brother. If she was a resident I’d have all of the ponds searched and dragged. But now all they’re doing is scaring our residents,” Medvescek says, adding that the stain the searchers thought was blood was actually paint. “We’ve had complaints about them for the past two weeks. Besides I heard from the cops that the last place she was seen wasn’t anywhere near Westlake. I heard that she was at a bar singing karaoke late that night.”
Lt. Taylor can’t confirm that. “I hadn’t heard about her singing karaoke that night. I know it’s something she enjoyed doing but I’m not sure if she was singing on July 6,” he says.
Whatever happened, Molly’s family doesn’t believe she’s just taken off. “Molly is a straight A student who is gregarious, friendly, loving, and trusting. She loves to sing and run. She had plans for later that month,” Amy Dattilo says. “Who makes plans and then disappears on their own?”
Her family is afraid that her outgoing personality is what may have led to her disappearance. According to the website set up by her brother, Ben, (www.geocities.com/bfdattilo):“Despite her academic and athletic achievements, she lacks appropriate caution and is emotionally child-like. She frequently initiates contact with strangers, choosing particularly those she perceives as disadvantaged, and she readily shares personal information. She does not consider the danger that people may pose to her.”
If you have any information about Molly contact the Marion County Sheriff’s Department at 231-8576.