Months after a motorcyclist disappears, his bones are found 500 miles away.
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:
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.
Barbara went to bed that night anxious and upset:
According to Det. Carl Costanzo of the Burbank Police Department, it seemed like a typical missing person’s case:
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:
The closing words:
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
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.
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:
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.