Mary Rachel Trlica

1 2 AP
Left and Center: Trlica, circa 1974;
Right: Age-progression at age 55 (circa 2013)

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: December 23, 1974 from Fort Worth, Texas
  • Classification: Non-Family Abduction
  • Date Of Birth: November 15, 1957
  • Age: 17 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'6, 108 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown to blonde hair, green/blue eyes. Trlica is addressed by her middle name, Rachel. Her upper front tooth is chipped. She has a small scar on her chin. Her maiden name is Arnold. She is left-handed.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: A wedding ring.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Rachel set out for an afternoon of Christmas shopping at the Seminary South Shopping Center (now known as the Fort Worth Town Center) on December 23, 1974. She was in high school at the time, but had been married to Thomas Trlica for six months. Rachel asked her friend Lisa Renee Wilson to accompany her to the mall; Lisa agreed. The two girls allowed Julie Ann Moseley, a neighborhood child and friend of Lisa's family, to tag along with them. Rachel was not familiar with Julie before this day.

    The three girls departed before 12:00 p.m. and arrived at the Army/Navy Store to retrieve Christmas presents that were on layaway. They then headed to the Seminary South Shopping Center, parking the Trlicas' Oldsmobile on the upper parking level near Sears. Witnesses informed authorities that they had seen the three girls inside the mall during the day. Authorities believe that they returned to the car at some point during the afternoon, but what happened to them afterwards remains a mystery. The Oldsmobile was discovered locked in the lot with the presents still inside when the vehicle was located at approximately 6:00 p.m. that evening. There was no sign of the girls.

    One witness claimed she observed the three girls being 'hustled' into a pickup truck by unidentified men the day they vanished. nother witness came forward in 1981 (seven years following their disappearances) and stated he saw an unidentified male forcing a girl into a van in the mall's lot. When the witness approached them, the man told him it was a "family dispute" and asked him to "stay out of it." Neither of these stories has been verified by authorities.

    Police initially assumed that the girls had run away of their own volition. Their families, however, insisted otherwise. A letter arrived at the Trlicas' residence on the morning of December 24, 1974 -- the day after the girls were last seen. It was addressed to "Thomas A. Trlica" and the name "Rachel" was written in the upper left corner of the envelope. The letter stated,

    I know I'm going to catch it, but we just had to get away. We're going to Houston {Texas}. See you in about a week. The car is in Sear's {sic} upper lot. Love Rachel.

    The letter had been written on a sheet of paper that was wider than the envelope in what was termed a "childish scrawl." The original loop for the the letter "L" in Rachel's name was short and appeared to be a lowercase "e." The letter writer had gone over it to make it appear more like a lowercase "L." Rachel's mother and her husband never believed she was the letter's author; Rachel called her husband "Tommy" and the address clearly stated "Thomas A. Trlica," a formality which Rachel rarely bothered using.

    In addition, there was no city name on the postmark; only a blurry Postal Service number: 76083. The "3" appears to be printed backwards, leading one private investigator to believe that the last two numbers of the postmark were hand-loaded in a stamp. If the stamper indeed erred and the final two numbers are supposed to be "38", the letter was stamped in Eliasville, Texas. If the numbers were "88", the letter was postmarked from Weatherford, Texas.

    Handwriting experts' tests on the letter have been inconclusive as to date. The author of the letter remains unknown. Thomas retrieved the letter out of their mailbox himself and stated that he thought it was sealed. The ten-cent stamp on the letter had been cancelled the morning it arrived at their residence (December 24, 1974).

    Rachel's sister Debra claims that their childhoods had been unhappy and that she and Rachel had been frightened of their father, who is since deceased. Debra was once engaged to Thomas Trlica before his marriage to Rachel, but she now says the relationship was not serious. Rachel began seeing him afterwards and the two were married in 1974. Rachel then moved out of the Arnold family home and lived with Thomas. Debra had been arguing with her then-boyfriend at the time Rachel and the girls disappeared and was temporarily living with Rachel and Thomas in December 1974. Both Debra and Thomas maintain that their romantic relationship was over by that time and it was not uncomfortable having all three of them living in the same quarters. Rachel asked Debra to accompany her on the shopping trip on December 23, but Debra decided to stay in bed instead. Debra was also in the Trlica home the following day when Thomas recovered the strange letter.

    Some members of the Julie, Lisa and Arnold families believe that Debra knows more about the three girls' disappearances than she has maintained. They sent her a letter after her interview with Mary Rogers of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper in Texas in January 2000. The families' letter pleaded for Debra to divulge all the details she may know concerning the girls' whereabouts and to "fully cooperate with the Fort Worth Police Department and the FBI" investigations. Debra continues to state that she knows nothing more about the case and has "nothing to hide." Debra does admit that her brother Rusty Arnold believes she knows about the case and that she wrote the letter to Thomas, not Rachel. Debra denies this accusation and said in the January 2000 interview with the Star-Telegram that she believes her sister may have been forced into "slavery."

    Through the years, the families of the three missing girls have struggled to deal with claims that the girls' bodies were in different places throughout Texas (none of these claims have panned out). The families hired Jon Swaim, a private investigator, in 1975 after frustrations with the police investigation. Swaim committed suicide in 1979 and his records were destroyed, but it is unclear if he uncovered any legitimate information concerning the case.

    Rachel's family members are now divided due to differing opinions concerning the circumstances of the disappearances. Her brother Rusty located private investigator Dan James in 1999, a man who maintains he has never received any financial compensation for his work on the case. James and Rusty believe witness reports that Rachel and Lisa were seen alive in the initial days following their 1974 disappearance at stores and a gas station. They now believe that both Lisa and Julie are deceased, but that Rachel is alive and being "kept" from visiting the Fort Worth area by person(s) unnamed. James does claim that several 'credible' witnesses reported seeing Rachel in the Fort Worth area during the Christmas holidays as recently as 1998, however. James and Rusty also believe that the unidentified person(s) are maintaining efforts to keep Rachel cloistered away. They refuse to detail their evidence (if any) supporting these claims. It is worth noting that James began offering a $25,000 reward to any person whose information about the case leads to the arrest and conviction of the responsible party (or parties) in December 1999. James is also one of the sponsors of the Web site MissingTrio.com, a site that offers information and news updates on the missing girls' case.

    In April 2001, KXAS NBC-5 in Texas reported that a witness came forward and told Fort Worth Police investigators that he saw the three girls inside a pickup truck with a young male security guard from Seminary South Shopping Center at approximately 11:30 p.m. on the evening of their disappearance. The witness stated that the girls seemed relaxed and were in the vehicle 'willingly.' The witness said he contacted the authorities a few days following the girls' disappearance, but that investigators failed to follow through with his lead until April 2001. Authorities told reporters that they located the security guard who was identified by the witness, but that the man denied the girls were in his truck on the evening of December 23, 1974. Detectives went on to state that they are actively looking at five suspects and also utilizing DNA testing in their investigation. Police officials have said that they now believe the girls left the mall with an individual that they trusted and were harmed afterwards.

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Fort Worth Police Department
    817-877-8345
    OR
    Tarrant County District Attorney's Office
    817-496-9402

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    Source Information
    The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children
    MissingTrio.com
    MSNBC
    The Fort Worth Star-Telegram
    The Amarillo Globe-News
    Texas Department Of Public Safety
    NamUs

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    Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated January 20, 2014; age-progression updated.

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