View Full Version: Lakey, Michelle J. August 26,1986

Porchlight International for the Missing & Unidentified > Missing Persons 1986 > Lakey, Michelle J. August 26,1986

Title: Lakey, Michelle J. August 26,1986
Description: Pennsylvania

oldies4mari2004 - August 15, 2006 04:33 PM (GMT)

Michelle Jolene Lakey

Top Row and Bottom Left: Lakey, circa 1986;
Bottom Right: Age-progression at age 31 (circa 2005)

Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

Missing Since: August 26, 1986 from Scanton, Pennsylvania
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: October 21, 1974
Age: 11 years old
Height and Weight: 4'9 - 5'0, 80 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown to blonde hair, brown eyes. Lakey had long fingernails at the time of her 1986 disappearance. Her nicknames are Boozer and Boo. She goes by her middle name, Jolene; some agencies refer to her as Jolene Michelle Lakey or spell her name "Michele." Lakey had a small, slight build at the time of her disappearance and looked much younger than her age. She wore children's size 14 clothes and size 8 shoes in 1986. Her female family members are all short, and Lakey may be also.
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A white shirt with purple trim and a tie front, dark blue sweatpants, and brown sandals with straps.
Medical Conditions: Lakey has a long history of illnesses, particularly pneumonia, and may still be susceptible.

Details of Disappearance

Lakey visited her mother at Mercy Hospital in their hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania on August 26, 1986. She was last seen walking on North Washington Avenue towards her home, which was in the 1300 block of that street. She was planning on spending the night at a female friend's house on Myrtle Street. Lakey may have entered an unidentified light yellow car approximately one block from her family's residence. She has never been seen again. Authorities believe she was abducted by a non-family member.
Lakey enjoys fast food from McDonald's restaurants. In 1986 she had a dynamic, outspoken personality and a good sense of humor, and enjoyed playing with animals and wearing colorful clothes. Her father believes she may be in California. Lakey's parents are divorced; she had not seen her father for three years prior to her disappearance and he was not notified of her abduction for seven months afterwards. Lakey's case remains unsolved.

Investigating Agency
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Pennsylvania State Police
Troop R

Source Information
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Child Protection Education Of America
Yahoo! Groups: Investigatemystery
California Attorney General's Office
Pennsylvania State Police
A. Justine Lakey

Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004.

Last updated March 23, 2006; age-progression updated.

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monkalup - December 13, 2006 01:24 PM (GMT)
another pic of michelle

monkalup - December 13, 2006 01:25 PM (GMT)
Age-progression at age 31 (circa 2005)

monkalup - December 13, 2006 01:26 PM (GMT)

meggilyweggily - May 3, 2007 12:05 PM (GMT)

Notable missing-person cases

A look at some local missing-person cases:

¦ Michele Jolene Lakey — The 11-year-old girl disappeared Aug. 26, 1986, after leaving Mercy Hospital, where her mother was a patient, to walk to her North Washington Avenue home. Although there was no concrete evidence, police believed from the beginning that she was kidnapped. Searches of various locations around Northeastern Pennsylvania over the years have found no trace of the girl. She still is listed as missing.

monkalup - June 16, 2007 03:00 AM (GMT)

Disappearance takes a toll on the family


In a lot of ways, Justine Lakey is just as fragile as the yellowed newspaper clippings that hold the dark details of her sister’s disappearance.

She was almost 14 when her sister, Jolene, disappeared. Forbidden by her mother and stepfather to read or watch the news accounts of the investigation, Ms. Lakey has been largely in the dark about what happened all those years ago.

“She was just gone,” Ms. Lakey, now 34, said. “We didn’t know how or why. It really fractured our family.”

As she looked through old newspaper accounts of her sister’s disappearance at Albright Memorial Library recently, she had trouble processing the information.

“Reading about what happened now, it’s like I need to wait for it all to sink in,” she said. “It’s like reading about what happened to someone else, some other family.”

Although she and her siblings didn’t know much about what happened back then, their classmates did. Ms. Lakey said she remembers being teased at school, labeled as “that weird girl whose sister disappeared.”

Her mother, Lois Dunham, also remembers how cruel her kids’ classmates were.

“They were vicious to my children,” Mrs. Dunham said. “I think it was because ... there was no resolution.”

The cruelty eventually forced the family to move before Ms. Lakey’s senior year of high school. Mrs. Dunham said she still can’t come back to Scranton without feeling short of breath.

For years, Ms. Lakey pushed down the memories of her sister and her childhood in Scranton. She questioned the existence of God and is mistrustful of people, convinced that anyone she loves might disappear at any moment.

“There’s a physical heaviness inside me,” she said. “It’ll never go away.”

What torments both Ms. Lakey and Mrs. Dunham the most, though, is that they still don’t know what happened.

“I’m positive it was an abduction,” Mrs. Dunham said. “That child did not run away. We were very close. She was always at my side.”

Jolene’s mother, who now lives in Alabama and has suffered several strokes and other illnesses, said she sometimes feels jealous of parents who find out their missing children are dead. Then she feels guilty for feeling that way.

“At least they know what happened,” she said, her voice breaking. “I know they, like me, they lost a child. More than anything, though, I want to have closure.”

When asked what she’d say if Jolene turned up one day, Ms. Lakey begins to cry.

“I’ve never thought about it,” she said. “It would be like finding out Santa Claus is real.”

She paused, collecting herself.

“I’d tell her I missed her, I love her,” she said. “Then I’d ask her what happened.”

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monkalup - August 1, 2007 01:04 AM (GMT)

‘Gut feeling’ doesn’t lead to a conviction
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Investigators and city officials peer into a hole opened in the floor of Frank Osellanie’s Walnut Street garage in 1990. TIMES-TRIBUNE FILE
Frank Osellanie gets up at 6 each morning for the first of seven head counts.

The convicted killer shares an 8-by-12-foot cell with another inmate. Two beds, a desk and bench, a sink, toilet and two small lockers.

When he doesn’t have to work in the kitchen, he can go outside and walk the track, play horseshoes, lift weights or sit on the bleachers and soak up the sun.

Mr. Osellanie, 61, has been in prison for the past 18 years. He first came to the attention of police investigating the murder of 9-year-old Renee Waddle, a second-grader at Prescott Elementary School in Scranton.

On May 14, 1989, Dalton resident Dorothy Hayden made a grisly discovery. As she left her parents’ Roaring Brook Township home off Route 307, she saw what appeared to be a garbage fire. When she pointed her headlights at the flames, however, she saw tennis shoes.

The burning body was Renee’s, and an autopsy revealed she’d been brutally raped and tortured before being set on fire.

Police quickly settled on Mr. Osellanie as their prime suspect, charging him with murder, kidnapping, rape and related offenses on May 20, 1989. He was convicted in 1990 and sentenced to life in prison plus 20 to 40 years.

The details of that crime led investigators to believe he was responsible for the disappearances of a 22-year-old woman and an 11-year-old girl from his neighborhood, as well as the murder of a 19-year-old University of Scranton student.

If he knows what happened to any of the three women, Mr. Osellanie isn’t talking.

“There’s evidence that links him to them, enough that you could call him a suspect,” said Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola. “But there’s not enough to arrest him or anyone else.”

Mr. Osellanie has never admitted to killing anyone, not even after he was convicted of Renee’s murder. He did not respond to a letter sent by The Times-Tribune requesting an interview.

‘It’s frustrating’

From the beginning, police drew parallels between Renee’s death and the death of Laureen Finn, a 19-year-old from Englishtown, N.J., found burning between 428 and 430 Monroe Ave. on Dec. 11, 1987.

As the investigation ground on, the disappearances of Joanne Williams on Dec. 7, 1978, and Michelle “Jolene” Lakey on Aug. 26, 1986, also came up. While questioning Mr. Osellanie on May 20, 1989, Trooper Walter “Pete” Carlson, now retired, asked about the three unsolved cases. The mechanic told the trooper he knew Jolene and sometimes gave her rides home when she’d visit him at his former auto shop at 417 Walnut St. He denied knowing Ms. Finn or Ms. Williams.

“You think I did this, don’t you?” Mr. Osellanie asked Trooper Carlson, according to reports filed by investigators.

When Trooper Carlson said he did, Mr. Osellanie responded by saying, “Why would I burn this one and the other one, if I buried the first two?”

The interview ended soon after, when the trooper made a comment about finding Mr. Osellanie’s semen on Renee’s body.

Today, Mr. Carlson is a private investigator. But even though he’s retired from the state police, he still thinks about Mr. Osellanie and the unsolved cases.

“It’s frustrating as an investigator,” he said. “You have a gut feeling, you’re almost 100 percent sure he did it. But you can’t get him into court.”

After noticing the similarities in the murders of Renee and Ms. Finn, Mr. Carlson said investigators handled those and the two disappearances as a group. They discovered that Mr. Osellanie frequented a race track in Englishtown, N.J., where Ms. Finn worked.

There was also a match in some of the substances used to set fire to Renee and Ms. Finn, including Drydene, a cleaner used in auto shops, Mr. Carlson said.

‘They have me’

During the investigation, several people came forward and told police about odd things Mr. Osellanie allegedly said.

A prison inmate who met Mr. Osellanie several years prior to Renee’s murder spoke to police in late May 1989. The inmate said Mr. Osellanie told him, “They have me on the two burnings, but on the others, without the bodies they have nothing.”

The inmate also said Mr. Osellanie talked about police “cutting up the floor in his garage,” saying, “It’s going to be funny when they dig it up and don’t find anything.”

Judge Michael Barrasse, who was the district attorney in the late 1990s, is one of several people close to the Renee Waddle case who believes Mr. Osellanie may have had something to do with Ms. Finn’s death and the disappearances of Jolene and Ms. Williams.

Barely a month after Mr. Osellanie was found guilty in Renee’s murder, Judge Barrasse directed state police to use a radar machine — usually used to test bridge decks and roads — to look for voids in the floors at 417 Walnut St. and 1000 Jefferson Ave., where Mr. Osellanie formerly had a garage.

Reports at the time said Mr. Osellanie may have sealed a pit where a hydraulic lift had been in the Walnut Street garage and poured a layer of concrete over the earth floor of the Jefferson Avenue building.

State police found no remains at either place.

Judge Barrasse also directed a search at Lake Wallenpaupack between the Ironwood and Ledgedale access areas and on an island on the lake in Palmyra Township. Reports showed that Mr. Osellanie docked his boat at the Ironwood access site and frequented the lake. The water and land searches came up empty, too.

“Looking back, it seems foolish to dig up a concrete floor and dredge a lake,” Judge Barrasse said. “There was a number of similarities and connections between Osellanie and the victims. We were just unable to get a sufficient amount (of evidence) to prosecute.”

Mr. Osellanie is not the only suspect in the unsolved crimes.

Investigators identified several suspects in the months following Ms. Finn’s murder. Most were quickly ruled out.

In December 1988, police announced their intention to test semen found on Ms. Finn’s body and compare it to DNA of two University of Scranton students — one of whom was with her the night she died and another who lied to police while being questioned about her death.

The tests came back inconclusive, according to District Attorney Andy Jarbola.

“The two worst things for DNA are heat and water, and we had both in this case,” he said. “It seems like whoever killed her was trying to erase evidence by setting the body on fire.”

A month after Jolene disappeared, police began investigating a Brooklyn, N.Y., man accused of raping a 14-year-old girl from the Scranton area. Police searched the man’s house after receiving tips that Jolene may have been with him in New York, but came up empty. There was no evidence linking him to the 11-year-old’s disappearance.

Police also focused on Jolene’s father, who hadn’t been heard from in years prior to the girl’s disappearance. Jolene’s mother, Lois Lakey, now Lois Dunham, told police she didn’t know where he was, even after attempting to locate him to serve divorce papers. In March 1987, the police issued a warrant charging him with nonpayment of child support. Isaac “Woody” Lakey surfaced soon after, saying he’d only recently heard of Jolene’s disappearance and immediately joined the search.

‘Without a trace’

Until his death in early 1981, Mr. Williams searched the woods and junkyards near where his daughter’s car was found, usually in the company of longtime Scranton Detective William Walsh. Both men were consumed with the case.

Detective Walsh had a hunch that Ms. Williams’ body may have been dumped in one of two Cathedral Cemetery graves that were fresh when she disappeared. He had both graves dug up in July 1982, but nothing out of the ordinary was found.

Detective Walsh, now retired, said he is surprised Ms. Williams’ body was never found and the case never solved.

“I always thought I’d hear something or they’d find something,” he said. “People don’t just vanish without a trace.”

After many years of involvement in the case, Detective Walsh doesn’t believe Mr. Osellanie had anything to do with Ms. Williams’ disappearance.

For him, it just doesn’t fit.

“I just don’t see how he could have been involved,” he said. “Her mom has said the family didn’t know him, that he never worked on her car or any of those stories that were around at the time.”

In 1990, Ms. Williams’ mother, Christine, petitioned the court to have her daughter declared dead.

“I don’t know what to think,” Christine Williams said about her daughter’s case. “We thought someone had abducted her. We thought she’d been killed when it first happened.”

Even though the court declared her daughter presumed dead, Christine Williams said the family has never had a funeral for her. State police have never returned the items found in the car, she said, and she hasn’t heard anything from the police in years.

“I wear her picture around my neck,” Christine Williams said. “I never take it off. I’d just like to know what happened.”

Mrs. Dunham confirmed that Jolene knew Mr. Osellanie, recalling that his garage was on Jolene’s way to school. Jolene liked to stop and pet Mr. Osellanie’s German shepherd.

“I know the state police think he did it,” she said. But she remains skeptical. “Show me some proof. I don’t hold any stock in any theory until there is proof.”

Justine Lakey, Jolene’s sister, also remembers Jolene visiting Mr. Osellanie’s garage to pet his dog. Now living in Massachusetts, she says the brutality of Renee Waddle’s murder still gives her chills.

“I sincerely hope it was not Mr. Osellanie,” she said.

Back when that case was in full swing, Judge Barrasse said he remembers several conversations with Mr. Osellanie’s attorneys about the unsolved cases. He said prosecutors made it clear they would be willing to “make concessions” on charges and sentencings if Mr. Osellanie provided information.

“We wanted the information so families would be able to know what happened,” Judge Barrasse said. “Nothing ever materialized, though.”

Chris Powell, a Scranton attorney who represented Mr. Osellanie in the murder case, said investigators and prosecutors have always thought his client had something to do with the unsolved cases. But despite the deals offered, Mr. Osellanie never admitted to killing anyone. Does Mr. Powell believe him?

“I can’t give you an opinion on that. I don’t have an opinion on that,” the attorney said. “He told me he did not kill anyone. I have to believe Frank.”

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©The Times-Tribune 2007

monkalup - August 1, 2007 01:07 AM (GMT)
No greater mystery than missing person
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Patty Grendel made the call to city police at 11:45 p.m. By midnight, Patrolman Leland Palmere was standing at her front door.

When her son, Matthew, didn’t return home after Scranton’s St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 10, and even when he hadn’t shown by the time she went to work the following afternoon, Mrs. Grendel didn’t panic.

It wouldn’t be unusual for Matthew, 20, to spend the night with a friend, and his mother simply left a message on his cell phone reminding him of his mid-term exam the next day at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

However, after she got home from work and Matthew still wasn’t there, she knew something was amiss.

“We just had this awful feeling,” Mrs. Grendel said.

Her call to police that Sunday night — March 11 — set in motion one of the largest missing-person investigations in the city in more than two decades. Two weeks later, Matthew Grendel’s disappearance — seemingly into thin air — continues to baffle and frustrate police.

“You don’t just fall off the face of the Earth,” Police Chief David Elliott said.

City police do not have a missing-persons bureau, so reported disappearances are handled on a case-by-case basis.

So far this year, the department has investigated 43 reports of missing people, including 11 adults.

Most were cleared in 24 hours or less, and as of Friday, only a handful remained open.

“Usually, the person just went somewhere and didn’t tell anybody,” Chief Elliott said.

Although missing juveniles are far more common than missing adults, the protocol for both is the same — to a point. Chief Elliott said the Patrol Division gets involved first, gathering preliminary information about the missing person and the circumstances of the disappearance, including where the person was and who he might have been with.

If it’s a child, officers try to determine whether the juvenile was abducted, ran away from home or is simply lost, since the circumstances will shape the response. In most cases, a juvenile unit detective will be called in immediately.

“For an adult, you give a little more leeway because they are adults,” Chief Elliott said. “But if it’s somebody who calls their parents every day and suddenly stops calling, that’s a red flag. If they call their friends every day and stop calling, that’s a red flag. If it’s somebody who stops going to work or stops going to school, that’s a red flag.”

In Matthew’s case, based on the information Patrolman Palmere received from Patty and Dennis Grendel, police issued an alert to other departments in the county early on March 12 that he had been reported missing. Later that day, with evidence piling up that Matthew was not simply AWOL, city detectives jumped into the case.

Matthew’s friends last saw him at Mert’s in downtown Scranton about 2 p.m. on the day of the parade, and he told a friend who called him at 4:17 p.m. that he was “on his way to or already at” a party near the University of Scranton, Chief Elliott said. It was the last time his cell phone was used.

Matthew had a credit card with him, but there has been no activity on it.

“If it was just a case of he hadn’t called his mom, we wouldn’t have gone all out,” Chief Elliott said.

City police and volunteers scoured the Hill Section three consecutive days — March 13, 14 and 15 — without finding any trace of the missing man. Search teams looked in alleys, backyards, stairwells, even under porches. Nay Aug Gorge was checked, as was Roaring Brook.

Last Monday, police notified Mrs. Grendel and her husband that they were no longer actively searching for their son.

“The criteria (for halting the search) is different in every case,” Chief Elliott said. “In this case, we did the same area over and over and over. We really had nowhere else to search.”

Chief Elliott said the investigation has been the most extensive involving a missing person in his five years as chief. He said you would probably have to go back to the 1986 disappearance of 11-year-old Michele Jolene Lakey to find one comparable. Ms. Lakey, who would be 31 now, is still listed as missing.

Detectives are still working on Matthew’s case, and if new leads develop, “whatever we’re doing, we’ll drop, and follow up on it,” the chief said. The case will remain open until Matthew is located.

The first 24 hours are often critical when a child is missing, particularly in abduction cases. Time is less of a factor if the missing person is an adult, he said.

The chief said police have not given up hope of finding Matthew alive.

“You always want to have a positive outcome, but the other is always in the back of your mind.”

One of the vexing mysteries of Matthew’s disappearance is that, even though there were an estimated 115,000 to 120,000 people in downtown Scranton for the St. Patrick’s parade, no one has reported seeing him after he left Mert’s.

Private investigator Victor Cushing, who operates Blue Knight Detective Agency in Moscow and occasionally works on missing-person cases, said if someone didn’t already know Matthew, he would have been “just another guy in a green shirt.”

“People didn’t see him because they weren’t looking for him,” Mr. Cushing said. “If he’s an average-build, average-height college male, who’s going to notice him?”

While his parents find it difficult to believe Matthew was alone, they agree their son would not necessarily have stood out in the parade-day crowd.

“He is just a nice-looking college student,” Mrs. Grendel said.

As they sat in their Minooka section home last week and discussed the investigation, the Grendels said they believe police are doing everything possible to find their son, even though solid leads have dried up. Two photos of Matthew stood on the coffee table in front of them, next to a Bible.

“We’re praying that if someone knows something, they will speak up,” Mr. Grendel said.

“The hardest part is not knowing,” Mrs. Grendel said. “This is where faith is being tested, but we are not going to waver. We’re praying for a miracle. ... We just want our Matthew back. That’s all.”

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©The Times-Tribune 2007

monkalup - August 30, 2009 04:45 AM (GMT)

Twenty-three years later, search continues
By Cecilia Baress (Staff writer)
Published: August 26, 2009

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It's been 23 years since the little 11-year-old girl with brown hair and bangs disappeared without a trace from Scranton's Hill Section.

Investigators don't know what happened to Michelle Jolene Lakey, but they believe they know what she would look like today at 34 years old.

A composite photo from the National Center for Missing Children shows her in her 30s, still wearing her brown hair with bangs. Her smile makes slight indentations in her cheeks similar to the way it looks in a photo circulated 17 hours after she was reported missing Aug. 26, 1986.

Jolene's case remains open, Scranton Police Chief David Elliott said, and it's possible the passage of time could loosen the lips of someone with valuable information about what happened to her.

"People may have not wanted to talk back in the day, and now it's something they may want to discuss," he said.

Jolene was last seen leaving Mercy Hospital after visiting her mother, Lois Dunham. She was supposed to sleep over a friend's house about a block and a half away from her home at Rear 1372 N. Washington Ave.

Jolene's case went four years without a major suspect, until state police received information linking her disappearance to Frank Osellanie, a former Scranton auto mechanic convicted in 1990 of raping and murdering 9-year-old Renee Waddle, also a Hill Section resident. Mr. Osellanie was never charged in relation to Jolene's case, but family members indicated she knew him and often visited his Walnut Street garage to play with his German shepherd.

During Mr. Osellanie's trial, police received a tip he had been seen with a young girl at Lake Wallenpaupack around the time of Jolene's disappearance. Police searched the lake for Jolene's remains, including two islands near Iron Wood Point. They also searched Mr. Osellanie's garages at Walnut Street and Kessler Court, using special radar to look for voids in the concrete floors.

Investigators also focused on a Brooklyn, N.Y., man, accused of raping a 14-year-old Scranton girl who had ties to Jolene, three months earlier. In September 1986, police searched his house after receiving tips Jolene may have been with him in New York. They found no evidence to tie him to Jolene.

Though the National Center for Missing Children is handling the case now, Chief Elliott said the case still holds an interest locally.

"We just want people to know she's not forgotten," he said.

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monkalup - September 7, 2010 01:02 PM (GMT)
'I don't want to forget,' Lakey says of sister missing since '86
Published: August 29, 2010

Times-Tribune File Jolene Lakey at age 11.

On Aug. 26, 1986, Jolene Lakey set off for home from Mercy Hospital, so this is where her sister starts, too.

There are two decades between the footsteps of Jolene, eternally 11 years old, and those of Justina Lakey, now 37, who traces her little sister's walk to remember her disappearance.

Ms. Lakey has driven five hours from where she lives in Massachusetts to make this walk in seven of the past eight years. It is about a mile long, a 20-minute trek. Maybe longer for an 11-year-old.

The path today leads from Scranton's lower Hill Section through a zone of broken windows, peeling paint, shuttered industrial buildings and working auto shops.

Along the walk, it is hard to keep at bay the doubt, the guilt Ms. Lakey feels. She keeps her thoughts clear and concrete. Like how Jolene would put olives on all her fingers, wiggle them about and then eat them one by one. Or how good she was with animals, and everybody thought she would be a veterinarian.

On the day she vanished, Jolene was wearing blue sweatpants with a blouse trimmed in purple. "She was forever wearing outlandish clothes," Ms. Lakey said.

Ms. Lakey is 13 again when she follows her missing sister's footsteps. And just maybe there is a detail her memory has overlooked, some piece of information that could help if Jolene were still alive.

But then she thinks about Jolene's eyes. All the Lakey children have deep, coffee-colored eyes, Ms. Lakey said. In Jolene's there was a hint of green. Or was there?

"I forget so much," Ms. Lakey said. "And I don't want to forget the color of her eyes or the exact shade of her hair, or the sound of her laugh, but these things fade. So I take this walk, desperately trying to remember."

Next year will be the 25th anniversary of the day Michelle Jolene Lakey disappeared. But what kind of milestone is 24 years? Who remembers?

Ms. Lakey's life is full of little milestones that stir memories of Jolene. Months can go by when she does not think about her sister. But then Christmas comes, or Jolene's birthday. Or she sees a woman with a jacket like her sister had. The anniversaries of Ms. Lakey's high school graduation or her wedding are reminders of Jolene's absence at those milestones.

"There is a Jolene-shaped hole in my life," she said.

As she traces Jolene's walk down North Washington Avenue, Ms. Lakey must pass Walnut Street. To the right is a high wall and the hulking old Pennsylvania Power and Light Co. building with its singular smokestack. To the left is where Frank Osellanie - who raped, burned and killed 9-year-old Renee Waddle in 1989 - had his garage.

Mr. Osellanie, 65, is serving life in prison for Renee's murder. He was a primary suspect in Jolene's case, and although investigators were unable to prove it, Lackawanna County District Attorney Andy Jarbola is "pretty confident" that Mr. Osellanie killed her.

The investigation into Renee's death also represented the last real movement on Jolene's case. A state trooper tried to interview Mr. Osellanie a few years ago but was rebuffed, Mr. Jarbola said.

Ms. Lakey said she figures the chances are about the same that Jolene is alive or dead, although Mr. Osellanie has said some incriminating things that make her think twice about those odds.

Jessica Shipton, however, is positively hopeful about Jolene.

"For some reason, I've always felt she's still alive, because nothing has said different," said Ms. Shipton, who lives near Williamsport and runs a missing persons awareness organization called Project Angel Eyes.

Ms. Shipton, who grew up in Old Forge and founded Project Angel Eyes last year, has helped organize vigils for Jolene as part of the national Missing Children's Day. She also tracked Jolene's social security number to see if it was recently used, and she searched for variations of her name everywhere, she said.

That after all these years Ms. Shipton would find Ms. Lakey and ask if there was anything she needed, even just someone to talk to, was a revelation to Jolene's older sister.

"People weren't helpful when Jolene disappeared," Ms. Lakey said. There was a "screaming silence." When she walked into rooms, peers walked away. "It was more we were shunned and scorned."

Ms. Shipton - the mother of three kids ages 1, 5 and 7 - became interested in missing persons during the 2008 disappearance of toddler Caylee Anthony, which drew national headlines. But she did not want to be a voyeur of other people's tragedy, she said. She wanted to help.

The friendship that grew between the women was the first good thing that came from Jolene's disappearance, Ms. Lakey said. Now when she sees missing children cases in the news, she too reaches out to the families to offer the kind of support she never had.

It is still painful, though, to wonder what might have been. Guilt wells up in Ms. Lakey's mind when she thinks maybe if she was with Jolene that day, if she wasn't working to clean offices at the Connell Building for $50 a week, money the family so needed, well maybe…

When Ms. Lakey rounds New York Avenue to Dix Court behind the 1300 block of North Washington Avenue, she completes the walk that Jolene never did. Ms. Lakey hopes her sister will somehow still come home, but hope can be a "terrible thing" that "springs upward on you, only to collapse on itself," she said.

"It's like a star dying brilliantly," she said. "One day she's alive and you just know it, and the next you're just crushed."

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monkalup - August 30, 2011 07:40 PM (GMT)

SCRANTON -- She loved to roller skate and dreamed of becoming a veterinarian.

When the Scranton girl disappeared, her loves and dreams went with her.

At just 11 years old, Michelle Jolene Lakey -- known as Jolene -- was reported missing on Aug. 26, 1986.

Friday was the 25th anniversary of her disappearance.

"I know it was 25 years ago, but she's still my little girl. In my mind, she's still that way," said her mother, Lois Dunham, who left Scranton after Jolene vanished and lives in Oxford, N.Y.

"Every moment of every day, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't miss her," Dunham, 60, said. "It's too painful just coming into Scranton. It takes my breath away. It's been ... too long not to have any answers, not to know anything."

But Jolene's mom and her sisters, Justina Lakey, 38, and Lois Feringa, 40, mustered the courage to come back to Scranton and retrace what are believed to be the last steps Jolene took before they lost her. The path took them from the former Mercy Hospital where she was visiting her mother, a patient there at the time, to their former home.

"I feel I can walk (with) her spirit," said Justina Lakey, who also left the city and now resides in Foxborough, Mass.

Justina Lakey has taken this journey nine times before. But this time, she sought Jolene's friends or anyone who may have known her to join in.

"I really want people who knew her ... that remember things about her," she said. "It would mean so much to me."

"It's more about remembrance. I don't think her abductor will be found."

The investigation into the girl's disappearance was long in the hands of city police until it was transferred to state police. Nobody has been held criminally responsible.

Trooper Bill Satkowski, a spokesman with the agency's Dunmore barracks, said the case remains open, but he declined to release details because it could hamper the investigation.

"We have troopers that regularly review old cases," he said. As a rule, "we don't discuss it," he said.

Jessica Shipton Dutter, who founded Project Angel Eyes, a Williamsport organization that strives to bring missing people into the public eye and works with police agencies to find them, said Jolene was last seen that day in 1986 getting into a vehicle in her neighborhood.

"We definitely hope we can find her alive and well," said Dutter, who planned to accompany Jolene's family on the walk.

In Pennsylvania, her group is tracking at least 530 cases involving missing people.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recently released an age-progression photo of Jolene, who would be 36 years old, showing what she might look like today.

Justina Lakey hopes the past entwines with the present today, for a friend, a companion, a school classmate of Jolene to shed light on the sister she lost.

"I just desperately want to know more about my sister," she said.

monkalup - August 28, 2012 11:50 PM (GMT)
Community holds walk for girl who disappeared 26 years ago
By Rebekah Brown (Staff Writer)Published: August 27, 2012

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SCRANTON - Lois Dunham used to save the last two olives in the jar for her daughter Jolene Lakey.

Now she just throws them away.

In October, Dunham will mark the 38th anniversary of the birth of her daughter, who went missing when she was 11. Jolene was walking toward her home at rear 1372 N. Washington Ave. after visiting her mother at the former Mercy Hospital in on Aug. 26,1986, but she never completed her trip.

"She will always be my 11-year-old child," Dunham said, standing in front of what is now the Regional Hospital of Scranton.

Sunday, on the 26th anniversary of that day, Dunham was joined by family, friends and community members to retrace the last known steps of her daughter, symbolically completing the unfinished trek.

"This is going to be my first year doing it," she said, adding that she had lived too far away in the past. "As soon as I hit Lackawanna County today, I knotted up and started to cry."

Dunham said that she and her family moved away from Scranton after Jolene disappeared because her children were harassed about the disappearance.

"It was a good place - I thought - to raise my kids," she said quietly.

Though it has been 26 years since her daughter was last seen getting into a car a few blocks from her home, the case remains unsolved, which is why the annual walk will continue, Dunham said.

"I want to keep this in the community's memory. She was a child here. She lived here," Dunham said, recalling a fearless girl who loved bright, mismatched colors.

Several members of the Scranton Police Department joined the approximately 20 walkers with the same hope.

"Maybe someone will see something in the paper or see us walk by and remember something about that day. Sometimes, (vigils) generate tips," Acting Deputy Lt. Bob Martin said. "She's a Scrantonian. She's part of our lives. It's an unsolved case. It's a cold case. Someday, we'd like to provide closure."

Jolene's unsolved story is one of many across the state and the country, Jessica Dutter of Williamsport said.

She founded Project Angel Eyes, a volunteer organization that works to locate missing persons and support their families.

"I lived in Scranton most of my life and never heard of Jolene," she said of why she works to bring such cases to the public's attention.

"She's still somebody's sister and daughter and friend," she said. "She still deserves to either come home to her family or have a proper burial. We'll do it for 20 more years."

Strolling down Washington Avenue with her son-in-law's dog Trixie, Dunham reflected on her animal-loving daughter. Learning what happened that day would not erase the pain she said, but it would help to bring some closure.

"It would still be a hole," she said, describing the void in her heart. "It just wouldn't be an open wound." @rbrownTT

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