Karen Marie Mitchell

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3 AP
Upper Images and Lower Left: Karen, circa 1997;
Lower Right: Age-progression to age 30 (circa 2010)

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: November 25, 1997 from Eureka, California
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: November 30, 1980
  • Age: 16 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'5, 130 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Sandy brown hair, blue/green eyes. Karen has pierced ears. Her hair was neck-length at the time of her disappearance.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A long-sleeved tan shirt, baggy dark brown corduroy pants, tan leather buckled shoes, small hoop earrings, three silver rings and a silver necklace with a crystal.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Karen was on holiday vacation from high school on November 25, 1997 in Eureka, California. She departed from her place of employment, the Coastal Family Development Center, during the afternoon hours. Karen's aunt, Annie Casper, was her legal guardian and owned a store inside Bayshore Mall. The shopping center was in the 3300 block of Broadway Street, approximately one mile from Karen's place of employment. She briefly visited her aunt's business before departing from the mall at approximately 2:45 p.m. Karen was last seen walking towards West Sonoma Street shortly afterwards. She has never been heard from again. She was carrying a Nalgene water bottle at the time of her disappearance.

    A witness stated that Karen may have entered an unidentified light blue four-door 1976 to 1978 sedan, which was possibly a Ford Grenada, a Mercury Monarch, or a Nissan. The vehicle had California license plates and "Eureka" imprinted on the rear plate's frame. The driver of the car is described as a Caucasian male, approximately 60 to 70 years old, with balding light gray or sandy blonde hair. The unidentified man had green or gray eyes and a large-sized nose that appeared to have been previously broken. He had a small build and wore eyeglasses. The driver was wearing a long-sleeved button-down light blue shirt. Sketches of both the driver and vehicle are posted below this case summary. The driver is wanted for questioning as a possible witness in Karen's case. The witness claimed that the car pulled across Broadway Street and nearly hit him before stopping for a girl matching Karen's description.

    Authorities identified a vehicle similar to the car reported by the witness shortly after Karen vanished. The owner passed a polygraph exam and was cleared of any potential involvement in her case. Confessed murderer Wayne Adam Ford, who killed several women in California during the 1990s, denied any involvement in Karen's disappearance. His photo is posted below this case summary. Ford turned himself into authorities one year after Karen vanished. He has never been charged in connection with her case.

    Robert Durst apparently visited Casper's store several times in March 1998, four months after Karen disappeared. Robert's first wife, Kathleen Durst, disappeared from New York in 1982. Her case remains unsolved and Robert is considered the prime suspect, although he has never been charged in connection with her case. Robert was charged with the 2001 Texas homicide of Morris Black. He claimed he murdered Black in self-defense, and was acquitted in 2003. Investigators looked into the possibility that Robert was in the Eureka area at the time of Karen's disappearance, but he has never been charged with any involvement. Ford and Robert's photos are posted below this case summary.

    Karen moved in with her aunt and uncle when she was thirteen, after her parents divorced. She had liberal views in 1997 and was passionate about politics, the environment and children. She planned to attend Humboldt State University after high school. Her case remains unsolved.

    Sketch Of Driver Sketch Of Car
    Left: Sketch of unidentified driver;
    Right: Sketch of the driver's vehicle

    Durst Ford
    Left: Robert Durst; Right: Ford

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Eureka Police Department
    707-441-4044

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    Source Information
    The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children
    The Polly Klaas Foundation
    Child Protection Education Of America
    America's Most Wanted
    Nation's Missing Children Organization and Center For Missing Adults
    The Eureka Times-Standard
    The Las Vegas Review-Journal
    The Child Seek Network
    NamUs
    The Willits News

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    Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated April 29, 2011; age-progression added.

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