Months after a motorcyclist disappears, his bones are found 500 miles away.

Tom Roche

Missing Persons flyer

CASE DETAILS

Tom Roche

Tom Roche and Barbara Rondeau of Burbank, California, loved nothing more than to hit the road on their Harley-Davidson. Barbara says that after 15 years together, cycling was a passion that they shared:

“We’ve known each other since ’76.  And all our extra time was spent riding.  Tom’s my father, lover, teacher, guide, he’s…  Tom’s my life.”

In the fall of 1991, Tom accepted a well-paid management position with a company that plated aircraft parts.  Three days before Tom was to start his new job, he drove Barbara to work, and then they made plans to meet for lunch.

But Tom never showed up for lunch. When Barbara got home, she still had not heard from him. She was surprised to find the front door was unlocked.  The newspaper was still unopened – strange, since Tom always read the sports page in the morning.

A motorcycle battery that Tom had planned to install that day was still on the counter.  The answering machine was off, which meant that Tom had planned to be at home most of the day.

Did the killer write it, or was it a hoax?

Barbara went to bed that night anxious and upset:

“I didn’t sleep at all that night.  Just trying to figure out where Tom was and why he hadn’t called to let me know where he might be.”

According to Det. Carl Costanzo of the Burbank Police Department, it seemed like a typical missing person’s case:

“There’s a lot of different circumstances for different types of missing persons.  They could take off because of family problems.  They could take off because of money problems.  They could take off for a number of different reasons.  We really don’t know the reason until we get into talking with the family or friends.”

Neighbors were questioned, but no one had seen Tom that morning.  Police didn’t know whether Tom had left on his own or if he was a victim of foul play.  Barbara posted flyers at his usual hangouts, but no one came forward with any information.

Days passed with no word. Then a letter arrived.  It was addressed to “the family of Tom Roche.”  It contained Tom’s driver’s license and the earring he had been wearing the day he disappeared.

The letter also contained this bizarre confession:

“You don’t know me and hopefully never will, but I am the one who killed Tom Roche.” 

The closing words:

“I am very sorry for what I have done and I know in time that the guilt will leave me.  So will your pain.”

Tom’s boot was discovered with other items

Was the letter a hoax?  Tom’s family couldn’t think of a single person who would want to harm him, and they simply could not accept that he was dead.

Authorities once again reviewed the day he disappeared.  On that day, Tom made two deposits at his bank at approximately 8:20 A.M. But he did not withdraw any money, indicating he had no plans to leave town.

Tom was next seen by a neighbor talking with an unidentified white male at about
9:30 A.M.  If the letter was not a hoax, Det. Carl Costanzo believed this man may have been Tom’s killer:

“We contacted one witness who told us that she had seen Thomas that morning with another subject standing by a pick-up truck, looking into the bed of the pick-up truck.  She said that they were not arguing.  It looked like they were just carrying on a normal conversation and there was nothing suspicious about that.  And I believe that was the last time Thomas was seen.”

However, a statement from one eyewitness suggested the letter might be a hoax after all. An employee at a motorcycle parts store was convinced Tom came in one day after his family received the letter saying that Tom was killed.

The employee who talked to Tom, Andy Marsala, said Tom was not his usual self:

“He acted a little strange in the sense that he didn’t joke around with me.  I mean, we would always joke around about what kind of motorcycle he rode and about it leaking oil and stuff, you know, so I mean, I knew Tom well enough to know Saturday, that it was Tom that came in.”

Authorities believe Andy Marsala did see Tom Roche, but suspect that he is mistaken about the date.  With no new leads, the case became inactive.

On January 11, 1992, four months after Tom vanished, authorities in Placer County, California, 500 miles north of Burbank, were called to investigate weathered bone fragments and personal effects that were found on a remote hillside.  Motorcycle emblems on the clothing linked the items to Tom Roche.

A duffel bag, flashlight, hunting knife, two pairs of prescription eyeglasses, an empty prescription medicine bottle and several shirts were also found, suggesting that Tom had packed for a trip.

Barbara Rondeau recognized all the shirts and a pair of eyeglasses as Tom’s:

“I do feel that what they found is Tom.  But there’s that hope that he is still out there somewhere and that in fact I will find him.”

Update:

DNA tests have confirmed that the remains found in Placer County are those of Tom Roche and that he died of a gunshot wound.  The exact circumstances of his death, as well as the identity of the letter writer, are still a mystery.


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

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28 Comments

  1. Pepito Escobar

    If you want to commit suicide, why make a bank deposit the same day???

    Reply

  2. thinkingoutloud

    why were police so quick to overlook the fact that Tom and this male had a convo the day he disappeared?
    maybe tom was looking at this truck, he just got a better paying job so maybe he was treating his family. So the male arranged this meeting so Tom could check out the car. Maybe after that, they planned to do some riding around or some sort of small trip (why his bag was filled with belongings) afterwards and the man really did lure him in and kill him for whatever reason.

    could it this person be is jealous of Tom’s new position?

    Reply

  3. Chanita

    I Think He Had Committed Suicide

    Reply

  4. Anonymous

    Blue, I’d love to know your opinion or just a hint. Tammy2

    Reply

  5. Anonymous

    Wow…thank u so much for posting that article..u just solved alot of questions on this thread…it should be at the top of the page. I believe it was a serial killer who liked to kill.

    Reply

    • So Sad

      Hi Anon. Thank you very much for your comment. What happened was i watched a re-run of this story on the T.V. and decided to see what was on the internet about it. My opinion is that the killer always had this underlying uncontrolable need to kill again as he enjoyed doing it so much in another country. Still wanting to kill he befriended Tom with the intention of wiping him out in a similar way as he had always done. However, what the killer did not expect was that he actually must of made a true friend in Tom, and when he finally ‘cleanly’ murdered him, he must of realised afterwards that he had actually killed a good man, a friend – HIS FRIEND. He DID NOT get the same feeling as before because he must of liked him allot as he got to know him personally. I expect he must still miss him, even now ………..
      And now he has no friend as good as him and probably never will. Sad but true 🙁

      Reply

  6. So sad

    If you go here – http://articles.latimes.com/1992-07-19/local/me-4840_1_man-disappears it gives you more details on the crime and what was witten on the letter. The murderer apparantly served in Nam’ and loved it, saying that it was the ‘happiest times of his life’. He loved the thrill of killing and could not get used to normal life after leaving. He still wanted to kill, but did not want to get caught so he figured L.A. would be perfect. He lured Tom after befriending him 500 miles North and shot him ‘quickly and efficiently’. So very sad and a total waste. I am glad the person feels guilt and i hope he always does for the rest of his life.

    Reply

  7. Mr. C

    Tom Roche hired me at my first job following my layoff from Lockheed Burbank (1991-92) working the NDT Department at A-H- Plating (sister station to Sunvair landing gear of Sun Valley) I remember he said he was impressed at my experience & “longevity” with Lockheed. I always kidded him about his long hair…that he needed to cut it. He was a super good boss and we that were working there knew his girlfriend and we were all there when his wife came in very upset and crying, saying he was missing. We were all very surprised at his disappearance. Joaquin, Alex, Paco and I in the NDT Inspection department. Woody Robinson was president at the time. Woody moved on to Crown Chrome Plating and Bill Simmonds took Tom’s QA Mgr job at A-H. As I remember, there was some rumor about faking his death to collect insurance. To my knowledge, none of us were questioned about Tom.
    Interesting to come across this site after all these years (now is 2016)

    Hey…any of you A-H Plating guys out there ? , I would love to re-connect !

    Reply

  8. Schnucki

    Can anyone tell me where Tom was lad to rest? I have looked online a lot but to no avail. If anyone can tell me I’d appreciate it,

    Reply

  9. Hayasi

    Interesting. I think the unidentified male he was seen with is a key factor; He was probably the one that caused Tom to suddenly leave without warning. Since Tom was supposedly having a “normal conversation” with the guy, it’s very likely they’ve had contact before. If the eyewitness account is correct, and Tom did show up at the motorcycle parts store after the letter was received, it might not be too far off to assume that Tom was the one who wrote the letter, probably to throw off the investigation. Whatever the case, my theory is that Tom knew what he was getting into, and he was still alive even after the letter was sent, but eventually was killed by the murderer. The question is Tom’s motivation for leaving, if authorities had figured that out, there would probably be more information leading to the murderer.

    Reply

  10. B. Lincoln

    Apparently killed by a drifter??? Please explain.

    Reply

  11. Tammy Thomas

    I miss Robert Stack too. He was the best. Was Tom’s bike ever found? Puzzling case.

    Reply

  12. Susan

    Just seen this as a rerun wish that the family had closure it’s been so long!

    Reply

  13. Jen

    I remember watching this when it first aired (boy, I miss Bob Stack ! So eerie but authoritarian) I don’t think there will ever be an answer to this case.

    Reply

  14. Johnny

    This is one of those haunting Unsolved Mysteries. Tom Roche sounded like a great friend and husband. My theory Tom was lured to his death. There were some tough biker gangs out in California. They probably wanted his cycle and killed him for it. Unsolved Mysteries did another recreation of a young man who worked on bikes and rode them. He was tracked down by a biker gang and killed. Sounds similar to this one. The only other scenario he stopped in a rest area for some sleep or to eat and met his death by an opportunistic type criminal.

    Reply

  15. Neil Westin

    This has all the hallmarks of a biker hit. There is the lone wolf rider, there is the mysterious person who makes an appt with him. They go off together, and whether he was alive for the trip or not is questionable. I think that he pissed off the wrong club. They made arrangements to meet him, and get close to him. Maybe by asking him to do repairs on a bike. He goes to their club with the new guy for a drink on a day off and to talk bikes and that’s when they kill him. They took him to a spot that they knew he would be a while being found. No doubt, identified during a club ride. I don’t think it was a woman who was the point of contention. I think that he either ratted on, or insulted someone from the local club. I’d look at the 1% clubs.dM

    Reply

    • Chipmunk

      “Biker hit”?

      He would be hit, without any close contact – so there could be nobody to say, “I saw him with this guy at the gritty bar…”

      Reply

  16. Nick Bucci

    Shows u the crazy world we live in. This is a weird case though. Apparently killed by a drifter. That’s my opinion.

    Reply

  17. Sandmand

    He packed and probably went riding on a motorcycle to the place where he was found dead. If he was on his own motorcycle, then it is pretty obvious who should be suspected. The planning to instal a new battery on his motorcycle, new job, and general state of his life do not suggest suicide… but the letter could be a sort of suicide note or at least a proof of death for the family. There is something missing in this story and I don’t know what it is. The girlfriend is not giving the whole story imho, she had to know if he was meeting someone or packing things or acting strangely (having an affair, getting involved with some other person for some other reason) and whatever that information is likely is the key to why he died. She probably did not reveal whatever it was because she wanted the cops to take the missing person case seriously and did not want police to think of him in that way (seeing another woman, drug deal, bank robbery, some family secret, who knows). I think she probably does, but she may not know the WHO.

    Reply

  18. Tammy Thomas

    Does anyone suspect Barbara? It’s obvious that she loved him and misses him.

    Reply

  19. Tammy Thomas

    It makes me crazy to think about this one. He was going to start a new job so it doesn’t seem he would vanish on purpose. If he did leave his life with Barbara, who did he leave with? Presumably the killer.

    Reply

  20. blue

    strange case i have my own opinion on this one.

    Reply

  21. Tammy Thomas

    If you’re planning to be outside installing a battery why would you turn off the answering machine? I’ve never heard of a killer writing a letter admitting to a crime but I’ve heard of letters that were fraudulent or part of a hoax. Just saying.

    Reply

    • hank

      Killers particularly serial killers admit to crimes albeit they do it anon. much like this guy did e.g. BTK Killer, Zodiac Killer, & The New York Zodiac Killer (Copycat) come to mind but I am sure there are many more.

      Reply

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CMP implements commercially reasonable security measures to help protect against unauthorized access to or unauthorized alteration, disclosure, or destruction of data. Except for membership directories, membership lists and registration lists, and the sharing of information as set forth in this Privacy Policy, we restrict access to Personal Data to certain companies who need the data to operate, develop, or improve our services. These individuals or partner organizations are bound by confidentiality obligations and may be subject to discipline, including termination and criminal prosecution, if they fail to meet these obligations.

 

Unfortunately, no data transmission over the Internet or electronic storage is fully secure. Accordingly, and despite our reasonable efforts to protect your Personal Data from unauthorized access, use, or disclosure, CMP cannot guarantee or warrant the security of the Personal Data you transmit to us, or to or from our online Sites. If you have questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us.

 

Certain areas of the Sites require the use of a user ID, email address, or password as an additional security measure that helps protect your Personal Data.  To help you protect your privacy, these Sites have tools to help you log in and log out.

ACCESSING, CHANGING AND DELETING PERSONAL INFORMATION

We rely on you to update and correct your Personal Data.  If you are a user of our Sites, subscriber to [CMP product], purchaser of CMP products and services, you can review, update and correct your information directly on CMP’s website or by contacting us using the information in the “Contact Information” section below.

 

Typically, we retain your Personal Data for the period necessary to fulfill the purposes outlined in this Privacy Policy, unless a longer retention period is required or permitted by law.  This may include retaining your Personal Data indefinitely, even after you are no longer a CMP member, in order to provide you with future marketing opportunities and other purposes, as well as to comply with our legal obligations, resolve disputes, or enforce any of our agreements.  

 

Please note that you can request, at any time, that we delete your Personal Data.  All requests must be directed to the contact in the “Contact Information” section below.  We can decide to delete your Personal Data if we believe that the data is incomplete, inaccurate, or that our continued use and storage are contrary to our obligations to other members, individuals, or third parties.  When we delete your Personal Data, it will be removed from our active databases or anonymized so that the data is no longer identified with you, but the data may remain in our archives if CMP determines that it is not practical or possible to delete it.

Your Personal Data is processed in the United States, where privacy laws may be less stringent than the laws in your country and where the government, courts, or law enforcement may be able to access your data.  By submitting your Personal Data to us, you agree to the transfer, storage and processing of your Personal Data in the United States.

You, as the data subject, have the right to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority, in particular in the Member State of your habitual residence, place of work, or place of the alleged infringement, if you believe that the processing of your personal data does not comply with legal requirements.

In the event we determine the occurrence of a data security incident, we will notify you by email, US mail, telephone, or other means as permitted by law.

If you have questions, comments, or complaints concerning our privacy practices or if you wish to change, access, or remove your Personal Data, please contact us as indicated below.  We will attempt, where practical, to respond to your requests and to provide you with additional privacy related information.

Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. is the owner of this Website and retains all ownership rights to the information collected at this Website. Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. reserves the right to change, modify, add, or remove provisions of this Privacy Statement. Any changes to this Privacy Statement will be posted here, and we encourage you to check back from time to time. In addition, Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. will notify registered users of changes as they occur.

We allow third-party companies to serve ads and/or collect certain anonymous information when you visit our web site. These companies may use non-personally identifiable information (e.g., click stream information, browser type, time and date, subject of advertisements clicked or scrolled over) during your visits to this and other Web sites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services likely to be of greater interest to you. These companies typically use a cookie or third party web beacon to collect this information. To learn more about this behavioral advertising practice or to opt-out of this type of advertising, you can visit networkadvertising.org. Your use of the site constitutes your agreement to accept cookies, beacons and third-party advertising. Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. assumes no responsibility for third-party ads.

ARTICLE 1. Personalization
1.1 We may use the contact information you give us to better tailor your Website experience to your interests, and to send you information about Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. and its services as well as promotional material on behalf of some of our partners. We may use other information that you provide to us to show you content in which you may be interested and to display the content according to your preferences. We will also share this information within Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. in order to enhance your experience on this and other Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. Websites.
1.2 In addition, we may share this information with advertisers or other third parties that are not part of the Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. family on an aggregate or other basis that does not disclose your identity or contact information.

ARTICLE 2. Online Surveys/Contests
2.1 From time to time, we may conduct online surveys and contests. These may ask you for contact information (like name or email address) and demographic information (like zip code or age).
2.2 We may use this contact information from our surveys and contests to provide you with information about our company and promotional material on behalf of some of our partners, and to contact you when necessary.

ARTICLE 3. Shopping/Commercial Services
3.1 This Website may offer shopping services, which may be offered by us or by a firm that operates a store under contract with us. If our Website offers shopping or other commercial services, you will use a customer order form to request information, products, and services. The order form will ask you to give us contact information (like name or email address), financial information (like account or credit card numbers), and demographic information (like zip code or age).

3.2 We will use the financial information that you provide to bill you for products and services. By giving our Website your credit card and related personal information, you are authorizing our store to give that information to the merchant and credit card company in order to confirm and fulfill your order.

3.3 We will use contact information from the order form to fulfill your orders. We may also use contact data to get in touch with you when necessary. We will not otherwise use or distribute your financial information without your prior approval.

ARTICLE 4. Public forums
4.1 This Website may make available chat rooms, blogs, forums, message boards, and news groups. Please remember that any information that you disclose in these areas becomes public information and you should exercise caution when deciding to disclose your personal information. Information disclosed by you or by others enters the public domain and may be freely used by any other persons or entities using the site.

ARTICLE 5. Information Sharing With Third Parties
5.1 From time to time we may enter into a special relationship with another company that is not owned by Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. to provide additional features at this Website. These special relationships may include “powered by” partners, business partners, sponsors, and co-branded sites (referred to here as “co-branded pages”). These might include, for example, pages that share our name and that of another entity. You should look for a specific privacy statement on any such co-branded page. Any personal information that you provide when signing up at one of those co-branded pages may be shared with our third party partner. You should also check our partner’s website for information regarding its privacy policies.

5.2 Also, the nature of some features of our Website may require that we share personal information about you with persons or companies outside of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. For example, this may occur at a feature that enables you, via our Website, to ask questions of persons or entities that are not part of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. By responding to those features of the site, whether by email or direct entry of information on our Website, you are consenting to our transferring that information to such persons or entities.

5.3 With respect to specific registration modules, like contests, we may disclose personal information collected, and we may post a conspicuous statement on the registration module to the effect that we will be disclosing the information collected with third parties.

5.4 Finally, we may share any of the information collected from you with these other non- Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc companies in an aggregate basis. The aggregated information is not linked to any information that can identify you.

ARTICLE 6. IP Address and Log Files
6.1 We may use your IP address to administer our Website, to help diagnose problems with our server, to analyze trends, to track users’ webpage movements, to help identify you and your shopping cart, and to gather broad demographic information for aggregate use.

ARTICLE 7. Cookies
7.1 This Website may use a standard technology called a “cookie” to collect information about how you use the Website. Cookies reside on your computer and help our Website to recognize your computer’s browser as a previous visitor. This information allows us to customize delivery of information. For example, our Website may use cookies to save and remember registration information or preferences that you may have set while browsing the Website, to keep track of your shopping cart, to ensure you don’t see the same ad content repeatedly, to deliver content specific to your interests, and to save your password so you do not have to re-enter it each time you visit our site. We use cookies only to gather information as indicated in this policy.

7.2 In addition, on occasion our site may also set a “session cookie” which helps us administer the Website. The session cookie expires when you close your browser and does not retain any information about you after it expires.

7.3 Finally, we may also use an ad network provider to help present advertisements on this and other Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. websites. This ad network provider, like other advertising service vendors, uses cookies, web beacons, or similar technologies on the hard drive of your computer to serve you advertisements tailored to interests you have shown by browsing on this and other sites you have visited, and to determine whether you have seen a particular advertisement before and to avoid sending you duplicate advertisements. In doing so, the provider collects non-personal data such as your browser type, your operating system, web pages visited, time of visits, content viewed, ads viewed, and other clickstream data. The use of cookies, web beacons, or similar technologies by these ad network providers is subject to their own privacy policies, not ours, and Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. assumes no responsibility for the collection or use of such information.

ARTICLE 8. Banner Advertising
8.1 We have contracted with an ad-service to place banner advertising on our Website. All of the data provided and generated by the ad-server software remains in our possession. This feature of our Website may, on occasion, set “cookies” on your computer. Any information collected or stored by the ad-service or the cookies is treated in the same manner as other information described in this statement.

ARTICLE 9. Children’s Personal Information
9.1 Consistent with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act:

9.1.1 This site does NOT collect, use, or disclose personal information (including online contact information) of children under the age of thirteen (13).

9.1.2 In the event that a child under the age of 13 attempts to register on our site, we will NOT accept the registration and will delete information received from the child.

9.1.3 In the event that a child posts personal information in a public forum such as a chat room, we will attempt to delete that information once we become aware of it.

ARTICLE 10. Security of Your Personal Information
10.1 Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. employs reasonable security measures consistent with standard industry practice, for information collected through this Website. We believe that we have adequate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of the information we collect on our Website. We also use internal protections to limit access to users’ personal information to only those employees who need the information to perform a specific job.

ARTICLE 11. Sale or Merger
11.1 If this Website is sold to, or merges with, another company not owned by Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc., you should expect that some or all of the information collected from this Website may be transferred to the buyer/surviving company. If so, CMP will seek to obligate the acquiring company to use any personal information transferred by this Website in a manner consistent with this statement, but cannot guarantee that it will be able to impose that requirement or that the acquiring company will comply.

ARTICLE 12. Legal Process
12.1 You should be aware that Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. may be required to disclose your personal information to the government or third parties under certain circumstances, such as in court or regulatory proceedings.

ARTICLE 13.  Contacting the Website

13.1        If you have any questions about this Privacy Statement, the practices of this Website, or your dealings with this Website, please contact us at: unsolved@unsolved.com.

ARTICLE 14.  general information

14.1        Choice of Law:  This Agreement and the Additional Terms shall be governed by, construed and enforced in accordance with the laws of the State of California , as it is applied to agreements entered into and to be performed entirely within such state, without regard to conflict of law principles.

14.2        Choice of Forum:  You agree that any cause of action you or Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. brings to enforce this Agreement and/or the Additional Terms, or in connection with any matters related to this Website and/or the Privacy Statement, shall be submitted to arbitration in the County of Los Angeles, State of California, United States of America in accordance with the commercial rules and regulations of the American Arbitration Association then in effect (as amended herein), provided that said arbitration shall be heard before a single arbitrator, who shall be a retired judge, selected pursuant to such rules and regulations, and shall be conducted on an expedited basis and in confidence. The arbitrator’s decision shall be controlled by the terms and conditions of this agreement and any other agreements I may enter into with you, and shall be final and binding, and shall provide for each party to bear its own costs of arbitration and attorneys’ fees.  Each party expressly waives any right to a jury.  Judgment upon the award of the arbitrator may be entered or enforced in any court of competent jurisdiction. 

14.4        If any provision of this Agreement, or the application thereof to any person or circumstances, is held invalid or for any reason unenforceable then such provision shall be deemed superseded by a valid, enforceable provision that matches, as closely as possible, the original provision, and the other provisions of this Agreement shall remain in full force and effect.  The failure of either party to insist upon strict performance of any provision of this Agreement shall not be construed as a waiver of any provision or right.  Unless expressly provided otherwise, this Agreement is the entire agreement between you and Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. with respect to the use of this Website and shall not be modified except in writing, signed by an authorized representative of Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc.

ARTICLE 15.  European Union and Other Foreign Nations

15.1        This Website is governed by and operated in accordance with the laws of United States of America and is intended for enjoyment of residents of the United States.  Cosgrove Meurer Productions, Inc. makes no representation that this Website is governed by or operated in accordance with the laws of other nations.  By using this Website and submitting any personal information, visitors from outside of the United States acknowledge this Website is subject to U.S. law, consent to the transfer of personal data to the U.S., and waive any claims that may arise under their own national laws.