Vanished: Virginia’s other missing women

Hannah Graham’s disappearance has dragged the cases of other missing women back into the public eye. Hannah Graham’s disappearance has dragged the cases of other missing women back into the public eye.

Hannah Graham’s disappearance has dragged other local missing persons cases, abductions, and murders back into the public eye—particularly those of Nelson County teen Alexis Murphy, whose body is still missing even as her convicted murderer, Randy Allen Taylor, sits in jail, and Morgan Harrington, whose remains were found in Albemarle in 2010 three months after she vanished after leaving a Charlottesville concert.

But Virginia’s list of missing women is long, and while much attention has been given to the fact that several disappearances have taken place along the Route 29 corridor in recent years, a closer look shows that nearly every corner of the Commonwealth has its share of unsolved cases. The following reverse-chronological list is not a comprehensive one; the Virginia State Police’s online missing persons database includes more than 40 adults and upwards of 280 children. Here, we’ve gathered information on many of the women from that database considered endangered or involuntary missing persons. Some have been gone for decades, and while the flurry of news coverage of their disappearances has largely stopped, their families are still waiting for answers—just like Hannah Graham’s.

Dashad "Sage" Smith. Photo: Virginia State Police

Dashad “Sage” Smith

Age at time of disappearance: 19

Missing since: November 20, 2012

Missing from: Charlottesville

Smith was last seen on West Main Street. Dashad, who identified as transgender and also went by Sage, was allegedly going to meet Erik McFadden, who spoke with police once, then disappeared.

Heather Hodges. Photo: Virginia State Police

Heather Hodges 

Age at time of disappearance: 22

Missing since: April 9, 2012

Missing from: Rocky Mount

The mother of a 2-year-old, Hodges was last seen by her boyfriend Paul Jordan. Jordan told police he left their home around 10:30pm to get Hodges a late-night snack, and when he came home she was gone.

Dana Lynn Turner. Photo: Virginia State Police

Dana Lynn Turner

Age at time of disappearance: 43

Missing since: September 22, 2011

Missing from: Chesapeake

Turner told her family she was going to North Carolina for a job, and was never heard from again. Gene Morris, one of the last people to see her, was arrested for unrelated crimes and committed suicide in prison after Turner’s belongings and blood with her DNA were found in his home.

Bethany Anne Decker. Photo: Virginia State Police

Bethany Anne Decker

Age at time of disappearance: 21

Missing since: January 29, 2011

Missing from: Loudoun County

Believed to be about five months pregnant at the time of her disappearance, the George Mason University student was reportedly last seen by a man she was living with, Ronald Roldan, at home on January 29. Her husband Emile Decker left for a tour of duty in Afghanistan on February 2. Investigators were unclear as to whose child Decker was carrying when she disappeared. 

Samantha Ann Clarke. Photo: Virginia State Police

Samantha Ann Clarke

Age at time of disappearance: 19

Missing since: September 13, 2010

Missing from: Orange County

Clarke told her younger brother she was going out at night, and never came home. Randy Allen Taylor—who was later convicted of the murder of missing teen Alexis Murphy—was the last person to have contact with  Clarke, but was never charged.

Joan Renee Cook. Photo: Virginia State Police

Joan Renee Cook

Age at time of disappearance: 45

Missing since: January 24, 2010

Missing from: Roanoke County

The mother of a 7-year-old at the time, Cook was last seen by her husband around 11pm when she left home on foot. A text message hours later revealed that she was about six miles away near Salem’s third exit on I-81, heading south.

Hattie Gertrude Brown. Photo: Virginia State Police

Hattie Gertrude Brown

Age at time of disappearance: 48

Missing since: May 16, 2009

Missing from: Halifax County

A retired Army sergeant, Brown disappeared after dropping her nephew off at a party. Her nephew was named as a suspect, but was never charged with kidnapping or murder.

Margaret Gail White. Photo: Virginia State Police

Margaret Gail Stamper White

Age at time of disappearance: 35

Missing since: May 13, 2008

Missing from: Augusta

White’s former boyfriend Charles Melvin Spencer said she was home one night when he went to bed, and gone the next morning. Police named Spencer a suspect in the five-years-earlier disappearance and murder of his wife, Joann Spencer, in 2003, but he was never charged. In 2013 he was charged with attempted murder of his then-girlfriend, and spent a year in jail. UPDATE: According to a September 24 NewsLeader report, the case began to collapse in the spring when a judge granted a motion to suppress evidence, and the victim was reluctant to testify. On Tuesday, September 23, 2014, Spencer pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, and was given 12 months in jail with 11 months suspended. He had already been in jail for more than a year, and was released from the Middle River Regional Jail on Tuesday.

Linda Lunsford. Photo: Virginia State Police

Linda Lunsford

Age at time of disappearance: 38

Missing since: December 26, 1996

Missing from: Chesterfield County

The Walmart employee was last seen with her former boyfriend and co-worker at McDonald’s in Village Marketplace shopping center. Media reports say her former boyfriend’s kids saw her at their house the day she disappeared.

Cassandra Lee Haley. Photo: Virginia State Police

Cassandra Lee Hailey

Age at time of disappearance: 18

Missing since: May 16, 1988

Missing from: Newport News

The college freshman was last seen with Richard Call, who picked her up that day for their first date. Call’s vehicle was found abandoned on the Colonial Parkway, full of the couple’s belongings, including cash and clothing. Three other couple’ bodies and abandoned cars full of possessions were found along the Colonial Parkway between 1986 and 1989, but Hailey and Call’s bodies were never found.  

Rebecca Ann Crist. Photo: Virginia State Police

Rebecca Ann Crist

Age at time of disappearance: 25

Missing since: May 3, 1988

Missing from: Staunton

Crist received a mysterious phone call at home, asked her sister to babysit her son, then left and never returned. Media reports say that phone records from that day are not available.

Virginia Welch. Photo: Virginia State Police

Virginia Welch

Age at time of disappearance: 22

Missing since: July 12, 1982

Missing from: Roanoke

Welch was known to be associated with biker gangs and involved with drugs, and her family reported her missing after weeks of not hearing from her. Media reports say police didn’t have many leads on people to interview, but Welch’s family was always suspicious of her male roommate, whom they say changed his story multiple times.

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