Evelyn Grace Hartley

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Above Images: Evelyn, circa 1953

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: October 24, 1953 from La Crosse, Wisconsin
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth: November 21, 1937
  • Age: 15 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'7, 126 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, blue eyes. Evelyn wears eyeglasses, but did not have them on when she disappeared. Her blood type is A. Evelyn's nickname is Evie.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A size 34-36 plain white broadcloth Ship n' Shore blouse with pearl buttons, size 16 heavy red denim White Stag jeans with a side zipper and cuffs rolled up above the ankle, and white bobby socks.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Evelyn was baby-sitting a twenty-month-old girl at the home of La Crosse State College professor Viggo Rasmusen on the evening of October 24, 1953. Rasmusen and his wife, along with many other La Crosse residents, were attending the town homecoming game. The Rasmusen house was located in the 2400 block of Hoeschler Drive. The family had a regular baby-sitter, but she also planned to attend the homecoming game that night, so Evelyn was hired as a replacement. She brought four or five schoolbooks with her and planned to study while the baby slept. She was supposed to call her parents at 8:30 p.m. to check in, but she never did. Her father tried to call several times that day and never got an answer. He became worried and went to Rasmusens' house to check on his daughter.

    Evelyn's father found the house's doors locked and the lights and radio on. The baby was unharmed, asleep in her crib, but there was no sign of Evelyn. The furniture inside the living room was disarranged and Evelyn's textbooks were scattered. One of her shoes and her eyeglasses, which were broken, were on the living room floor. Her other shoe was found in the basement. All the windows in the house locked except a basement window in the back of the house. The screen for that window had been taken out and was leaning against the outside wall. A short stepladder was positioned at the window in the basement; it belonged to the Rasmusens and they'd been using it to help paint the basement. Three other windows had pry marks. There were footprints from a pair of tennis shoes in the basement window box and in the living room.

    In addition to the indications of forced entry, was a significant amount of blood of Evelyn's type both inside the home near the basement window, and outside in the yard. There were two pools of blood in the yard; one stain was 18 inches in diameter. There was a bloody handprint about four feet off the ground on the wall of a garage 100 feet from the Rasmusens' home, and stains on the home of a neighbor's house. Authorities believe Evelyn's abductor(s) carried or dragged her through the yard, and blood pooled twice when the kidnapper(s) stopped and rested her on the ground. Tracker dogs traced Evelyn's scent for two blocks, then lost the trail at Coulee Drive northeast of the Rasmusen home. Authorities believe whoever took her put her in a car.

    One neighbor reported seeing a light-colored car circling the neighborhood at approximately 8:00 p.m. Another local resident said they heard screams at about 7:00 p.m., but they assumed it was children playing. Authorities believe Evelyn was abducted around that time. Two days after her disappearance, a local man named Ed Hofer came forward to say that at about 7:15 p.m. that night, he almost hit a two-toned green 1941 or 1942 Buick which was speeding westward. He noticed two men and a girl inside. One man was driving and the other was in the backseat with the girl, who was slumped forwards with her head leaning against the front seat. Hofer said he'd seen the car's occupants a few minutes earlier, staggering down the street near where the blood was later found. Hofer had assumed the three people were en route to the homecoming game, as he was. He didn't realize the significance of what he saw because, at that time, no one knew Evelyn was missing. Hofer's information was publicized, but his name was withheld from the media for nearly 50 years after Evelyn's disappearance.

    Several days after her disappearance, a pair of underpants and a brassiere that could have been Evelyn's were found near the underpass on Highway 14, two miles south of La Crosse. They too were stained with blood. A bloodstained pair of men's pants was found along the same road four miles away; it is unknown if the pants are connected to Evelyn's case.

    A pair of size 11 bloodstained Goodrich tennis shoes was found in the Coon Valley area southeast of La Crosse. They were apparently dumped there only a short time before they were discovered. The soles had a suction-cup pattern very similar to the footprints found near where Evelyn was last seen and the blood was her type; investigators believe they were worn by her abductor. Inside one of them was a single human hair, possibly from an African-American. Authorities consulted the Goodrich company and learned that that particular model of shoe was called "Hood Mogul" and was sold in Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. Based on the pattern of wear on the shoes, investigators believe their owner worked with machinery. The shoes also had a distinctive circular wear pattern on the soles, suggesting that their owner frequently operated a Whizzer motorbike. Investigators determined that two different people had worn the shoes; the second wearer's feet were too big for them.

    Within 800 feet of the shoes was a well-worn, size 36 blue denim jacket with metallic buttons and bloodstains on the front, back and sleeves. The jacket had some base metal paint flecks on it. It had been cut off at the bottom and roughly re-hemmed with white thread, and one of the four buttons was missing. There was a worn mark running the entire width of the jacket under the armpits, possibly from a safety harness. There were bast fibers, like the kind used in scrubbing brushes, in the left-hand pocket. The blood on the jacket was Evelyn's type and blood smears found at the house she was taken from were made by cloth with the characteristics of denim; authorities believe the jacket was worn by her kidnapper. However, it appeared to be too small for a person big enough to wear size 11 shoes. One investigator concluded, based on the pattern of wear on the jacket and the way it was cut off, that whoever owned it worked as a steeplejack.

    Evelyn's kidnapping sparked one of the biggest searches in Wisconsin history. Among other extreme measures, investigators conducted mass searches of local vehicles and gave lie detector tests to all the students and teachers at Evelyn's school. They took the shoes and the jacket to 31 different communities in the area and displayed them to an estimated 10,000 people, but no one recognized them. Many suspects were questioned over the years, but there was on evidence to implicate anyone.

    Some people suspect Edward Theodore Gein may have been involved in Evelyn's case. A photograph of him is posted below this case summary. He was visiting relatives in La Crosse, just blocks from the home where she was babysitting, on the night of her disappearance. In 1957, police went to question Gein about the disappearance of a local barmaid and found human remains all over his house. He had killed two women and had dug up other women's bodies in the cemetery and mutilated them. Gein was declared insane and died in a mental institution in 1984. No trace of Evelyn was found on his property and he denied any involvement in her case. He has still not been completely cleared, however, and is also being considered in the 1947 disappearance of Georgia Weckler.

    Evelyn was a junior at Central High School at the time of her apparent abduction; she had a straight-A average and was involved in many school activities. She also played the piano and sang in the choir at the First Presbyterian Church. She had had few dates with boys and had never had a steady boyfriend. She is the youngest of four children; one of her older brothers died of polio several years prior to her disappearance. Evelyn's parents are now deceased. One of her siblings lives in Oregon and the other in Australia. Her case remains unsolved.

    Gein
    Above: Edward Gein

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    La Crosse Police Department
    608-785-5962

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    Source Information
    The Doe Network
    Find Evelyn Hartley
    Crimewatch
    The Crime Library
    Seize the Night
    Edward Theodore Gein "American Psycho"
    The Child Seek Network
    NewspaperArchive
    La Crosse Public Library
    The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
    Where's Evelyn: The 1953 babysitter's kidnapping that shook the nation
    by Susan T. Hessel

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    Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated April 29, 2011; middle name added, distinguishing characteristics, clothing/jewelry description and details of disappearance updated.

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