details renew search in 1974 case; more witnesses, technology
revive quest to find 3 girls last seen at mall
FORT WORTH -- For 26 years, Rayanne Moseley watched
investigators come and go as they looked into the 1974
disappearance of her daughter and two friends from a Fort Worth
By the time one would become familiar with the case, that
officer would be promoted, moved or swamped with other work, and a
new investigator would be assigned.
"It's kind of like the football you reach down to pick up and
then kick it just before you pick it up," Moseley said.
"I think it's been kicked around enough already."
Responding to those complaints, Police Chief Ralph Mendoza
assigned homicide Detective Tom Boetcher and major case Detective
Ronald Prioleau to that case exclusively in January.
At a news conference Thursday, the detectives detailed new
developments in the case, including 20 new witnesses, some of whom
saw 9-year-old Julie Ann Moseley, 14-year-old Renee Wilson and
17-year-old Rachel Trlica at the Seminary South mall Dec. 23,
1974, the day they disappeared.
"That, combined with DNA evidence and the way DNA is
collected and processed since this case was originally
investigated, makes for a better outcome," Boetcher told
reporters, declining to elaborate on the DNA evidence.
Two days before Christmas 1974, Julie Ann Moseley called her
mother at work and begged to go shopping with Wilson and Trlica.
Moseley gave in, a decision she said will haunt her the rest of
her life. She never saw her daughter again.
When the girls didn't return home by 4 p.m., family members went
searching for them. They found only Trlica's locked car,
containing packages but still parked at the mall, now called Town
Police believed that the girls had run away. A handwritten note,
addressed to Trlica's husband, that arrived in the mail a day
later initially seemed to confirm that.
"I know I'm going to catch it, but we just had to get
away," it read. "We're going to Houston. See you in
about a week."
But the handwriting raised questions about whether it was written
by Trlica. Her family members are convinced that it was not.
Detectives said Thursday that an analysis of the letter could not
determine who wrote it.
While initially the letter was thought to have been mailed from
Eliasville in Young County, the U.S. Postal Service has determined
that it was mailed in Fort Worth, Boetcher said.
Boetcher said detectives believe that the girls left the mall with
someone they trusted.
"We can say that they were at one point seen with one
individual, but we believe there was more than one involved,"
Detectives have narrowed the number of suspects to "under
five," he said.
Detectives believe that after leaving the mall, the girls
encountered "foul play and met up with some unfortunate
circumstances," Boetcher said.
The detective would not speculate whether he believes that the
girls are dead, but said police had sent about 150 letters to
coroner offices in a five- state area, inquiring about any
unidentified female remains discovered since 1974.
Of 40 responses received, Boetcher said, the department has
learned about 10 or 11 unidentified females, including seven
bodies uncovered years ago in New Mexico.
Prioleau said officers are taking DNA samples from members of the
girls' families to determine whether the remains might be those of
It's a frustrating case, Boetcher and Prioleau acknowledge. In the
26-year span, some witnesses have died, moved or married and
changed their names. Some of those who have been located and have
been reinterviewed have clouded memories of that day.
But the detectives remain confident they are on the correct path,
a sentiment echoed by some members of the girls' families who
attended the news conference.
Rusty Arnold, Trlica's brother, listened intently to the
detectives while sitting next to Rayanne Moseley. Arnold, who was
11 when his sister disappeared, said he is encouraged by the
detectives' efforts and hopes an arrest will be made.
"I owe Mr. Mendoza a world of thanks," Arnold said.
"I feel like they have done in the last three months more
than any other officers or detectives have done in the whole
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call the
homicide unit at (817) 877- 8225.
Deanna Boyd, (817) 390-7655
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