A man receives a mysterious phone call that his missing mother is still alive.
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:
According to Mary Anne’s brother, Wayne Thomas, Dorothy called to report that Mary Ann was having 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.
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 :
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
Mary Ann’s brother, Wayne, wonders if his sister might have amnesia:
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.
UPDATE: Eight months after Perez’s disappearance, unidentified remains were found in a cornfield near Grand Bay, Alabama. And now, after 40 years of painstaking investigative and forensics work, DNA testing has determined those remains to, in fact, be that of Mary Ann Perez.