A man receives a mysterious phone call that his missing mother is still alive.

Mary Ann Perez

Missing:

Gender: Female
DOB: 1943
Height: 5’4”
Weight: 108 lbs.
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Reddish-brown

CASE DETAILS

On March 25, 1976, Mary Ann Perez of Chalmette, Louisiana, went out with a girlfriend and left her teen-aged daughter, Donna, to baby-sit the younger children. Shannon Miller is Mary Ann’s youngest daughter:

“She told Donna that she would be calling to check on us about ten, 11 o’clock. And Donna said she got a phone call from Momma first, stating that she was okay and that she would be home shortly. And then Donna said she got a phone call from a woman by the name of Dorothy.”

Her car was found abandoned at the bar

According to Mary Anne’s brother, Wayne Thomas, Dorothy called to report that Mary Ann was having car trouble.

“When I heard about the call and heard the name Dorothy, I couldn’t imagine who in the world that could’ve been. I knew there was something wrong somewhere, the car being practically new and no reason for car trouble.”

Mary Ann never called and never came home. Her family soon discovered that she had gone to meet her friend at a country-western club on the outskirts of New Orleans.

David Courtney, convicted killer

The next morning, police found Mary Ann’s car parked in front of the club, but saw no evidence of car trouble. Three days later, Mary Ann’s purse was found in Lake Pontchartrain, ten miles away. It had been weighted down by a brick. But there was no trace of Mary Ann Perez.

Nine years passed.   Then finally, New Orleans Police got their first solid lead. A man named David Courtney and his wife had confessed to a multi-state killing spree. According to New Orleans Police Detective Bob Lambert, one of their victims seemed to have a lot in common with Mary Ann Perez :

“When I went up to Kansas to interview David Courtney, he told me about the female he abducted in New Orleans. He stated that he was driving down the highway and pulled in the parking lot of a country western bar.”

Did Mary get up after she was dumped?

According to Det. Bob Lambert, Courtney told him that he offered a ride to a woman who was too drunk home. After she accepted, he picked up his wife, and the three of them went back to the couple’s trailer:

“He stated that this female fell asleep on a chair in the trailer and there was some sexual advancements by his wife, which woke this female up and she became disturbed and irate and upset about what was going on and then they agreed to give her a ride home at that time.”

David Courtney stated that as his wife drove, he sat in the back seat with Courtney and strangled her. Courtney said he had already killed once. He and his wife were afraid that this woman would go to the police if they let her live. According to David Courtney, they dumped their victim near the Louisiana/Mississippi state line and made no attempt to hide her body.

Detective Lambert had Courtney pick Mary Ann’s picture out of a line up to verify that she was indeed their victim. Lambert next questioned Courtney’s wife, specifically about Mary Ann’s purse:

“I asked her if the female they abducted had a purse and she said yes, that she threw it over the side of a bridge that they were crossing at the time.”

An extensive search was conducted, but no body was recovered, even though all of Courtney’s other victims had been found where he said they would be. The Courtneys were never charged with Mary Ann’s murder and her family kept their hopes alive.

Then, fifteen years after Mary Ann disappeared, the family got a phone call from a woman who claimed to be Mary Ann’s best friend. Shawn Perez, Mary Ann’s daughter-in-law, spoke to her:

“And she said ‘Well, it’s about Mary Ann.’   And I said, ‘What about Miss Mary Ann?’   And she said, ‘Well, Miss Mary Ann’s still alive.’

The caller told Shawn that she was calling for Mary Ann because Mary Ann was not allowed to call herself. The caller insisted she would not be able to call again.   She said, like Mary Ann, she was “not allowed.”

The call gave hope to Mary Ann’s brother, Wayne, and the rest of the family:

“That caused me to think, you know, more positively that she was alive. And, of course, there were statements made that it was possibly a prank call. I don’t know. But I do know that if she is alive, I’d like to see her.   I’d like to find her.”

Shannon Miller clings to the hope that David Courtney, who admits he was drunk at the time, did not succeed in strangling her to death:

“Maybe he might have strangled her unconscious, thinking that she was dead and threw her out. Maybe she got up several hours later. Maybe there’s a possibility that she is somewhere out there.”

Mary Ann’s brother, Wayne, wonders if his sister might have amnesia:

“Or maybe some of the brain cells were, you know, destroyed and she can’t remember who she is.’

David Courtney is currently serving a life sentence for the murder of one of his other victims. His wife served ten years for being his accomplice.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season four with Robert Stack and in season three with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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14 Comments

  1. Denise

    I was friends with Shannon in high school, I remember her brothers too Shannon was a sweet and beautiful girl who looked a lot like her Mom. The disappearance of her Mom weighed heavily on her. I pray that one day they will have closure. I miss you Shannon, RIP.

    Reply

  2. Jason

    I was curious if the police ever interviewed Mary Anne’s friend from the bar. Or, the bat tender, or OTHER PATRONS at the bar. No one saw anything? A 33 yr old with kids at home “closed the bar?” Was she really that wasted?? It could’ve been anyone who abducted her. I think the Courtney guy and his wife aren’t responsible. Did they interview Courtney’s wife? How did they find her purse in the lake, but no sign of her? I can’t seem to find anymore info on this.

    Reply

  3. T J Doherty Madisonville La.

    My parents grew up in New Orleans I was born in 1977 My mothers father my grandfather died of a Heart attack in September of of 1976 just a few Months After Ms Mary Ann so my heart goes out to this story David Courtney is clearly not telling the complete truth About where he dump her body David Courtney is a man that deserves to be tortured
    He should be tortured until he tells the complete truth of the whereabouts of her body Because he clearly knows more than he is saying Anyhow I grew up on the West Bank In Jefferson parish Louisiana After 41 years I don’t think Miss Mary Ann is still alive cannot believe that this case has somehow gone cold When thinks gonna be done to the question Courtney to find out the complete truth And nothing is being done by law-enforcement Ms Mary Ann was probably thinking That Courtney was from the surrounding area’s And could be trusted she did not know he was a serial killer 1976 was a different time wish there was something that I could do to help find Ms Mary ann God bless her soul memory and her family Also God bless her daughter Sharon who is now passed away in 2009

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    Hey there, great website. Keep going the good work.

    Reply

  5. Mary annes grandson

    If there is anypossibility that she is still alive she most likely would be in a mental Inst.or been held captive for years idk but this drove my mother crazy thinking of all this I watched her be depressed on and off because of it . I think the wife should be serving life as well.

    Reply

    • Kathy Thompson

      I was very shocked when I saw that she only had to serve 10 years.
      How horrible for your poor mother and your whole family.
      I am so sorry that this happened to you, this shouldn’t happen to anyone.

      Reply

    • Nurrieum

      I am so sorry for your family’s loss. I am so sorry that you never received answers. My heart just goes out to you all.

      Reply

    • Luis Rubén Jordán

      I’m so sorry for you and all your family, but I know that Mrs. Mary Ann is with God and wishes that you finally have the peace that all these years have sought so much.

      Reply

  6. Anonymous

    What was David Courtney’s wife name. The reason I ask is. The women who called said her name was Dorthy.. I hope they get closer.

    Reply

  7. fixed matches

    Hey there owner of unsolved.com. Great site. I think you should be little more strict with the comments.

    Reply

  8. no name

    My sister Tammy Lynn Taylor was their last victim. Glad that the killing spree has ended. Sorry for the pain & great the family is going threw. I hope they can get closure.

    Reply

  9. Anonymous

    What if shes in a mental institution and thats the reason why she cant make no calls an she remembered her number n had one of the workers call for her

    Reply

    • Voyzofresin

      What if a three-headed monster captured her and they flew away on a space ship to Mars and she’s up there staring down, desperately screaming, trying to tell someone on Earth!? Hey, Earth to Anonymous: she’s clearly dead and this scumbag and his wife killed her.

      Reply

    • Jason

      Why would she be in a mental institution? And for the record, you are allowed to make more than 1 phone call from psychiatric hospitals.

      Reply