Posted by: Brenda Kula | February 24, 2008

Imagine This: The Rest Of The Story

Everyone has their own story. Some are tragic, beyond comprehension. That is how I categorize the mystery of Charlotte and Cinda’s disappearance. 

As a freelance journalist in the 1980s, I heard a lot of heartbreaking stories and wrote about them. But the thing was, for all the others, I had an ending. For Charlotte and Cinda’s family, there apparently is none.

After the story was published, I could not shake it. There was little to go on. Eventually a man was implicated. He was already in prison in another state, serving time for the kidnapping in 1984 of a 12 year old girl. Another girl who was with her had somehow managed to escape. With some degree of evidence, the local DA went after him for the kidnapping of Charlotte and Cinda. But with no bodies, and a cold trail, it ended just as it began. The man was tried and acquitted for the Oklahoma girls’ kidnapping in 1985, and sent back to prison for his other crimes.

I wrote a letter to the man (I will call him Ray), who was serving back-to-back life sentences, one day in the fall of 1986. He wrote back. Thus began a correspondence between us. He told me that he had information, but would only talk to me in person. I, along with two men; one a radio reporter, the other a private investigator, made plans to visit him behind bars.

Information started drifting my way. Mysterious phone calls. I documented them, in the event something unforeseen happened, as some were of a threatening nature. A man from another state contacted me; said he led an organization that searched for missing children. He said he was interested in my communication with "Ray." I don’t know how he learned of it.

There was information that suggested organized crime, pornography, kidnapping. Women who were to testify against "Ray", and then recanted. Evidence that "disappeared." Police officers who could purportedly be "bought."

The man who contacted me said that the name "Joseph" tooled into the man’s belt from the fair was traced to a book of phone numbers that was in "Ray’s" possession. The phone number, according to this source, led to a New Jersey warehouse. This, he told me, led to a syndicate-based pornographic operation. The man suggested that the girls were then taken to Mexico.

I began to receive letters from a woman who had befriended "Ray" during his incarceration. She of course fully believed that he was innocent of all charges, and she was using her own resources to help defend him. I have never figured out why it is that women become enamored of men in prison, and begin relationships with them. Perhaps it is because of the control involved. A man who is locked up is dependent on the outside world for things he cannot get on the inside.

The upshot of all this is, I did not get to visit "Ray." My letters were being censored, and the authorities decided that they would not let me into the prison for a face-to-face exchange, as earlier promised. "Ray" was furious. I was very disappointed. I did talk to him on the phone once. Perhaps, it is for the best. I don’t really know what information, if any, he had. "Ray" has since died. I don’t know what happened to the man who contacted me with the aforementioned information, or whether any of it was in fact true.

Charlotte and CInda would now be 40 years old. As far as I know, there has never been a sighting or any other news of them. Who would even recognize them now, even if they were alive? Sometimes I wonder about Pearla. At that point, Charlotte still had a grandmother and grandfather, and at least one great-grandmother. How many family members are still alive? The memories must surely have faded, as all things do with time. What happened to the shrine of a bedroom? To all the notes in the dresser drawers?

As mentioned in a previous entry, I walked away from this life in the late 1980s. I had had enough. Too much information filled my head. Too much heartbreak and disappointment and countless hours of research. I moved away a few years later.

I live a quiet life now, far from all the "hoopla," shall we say. I tend to my gardens, volunteer my time to Meals On Wheels, and live my life. The closest I get to kidnapping and murder is the evening news. Sometimes I am reminded of something about them. I dig my hands into the dirt in my gardens and try to forget.

My heart aches for the children never found. Every time I hear of a stranger abduction, I know in my heart that the chances of finding them after a day, two days, are remote. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be a parent and go to your grave wondering what happened to your child. The never knowing, the always wondering, the ifs and why nots, would surely drive you crazy.

I have come to the point in my life that I understand that you don’t always receive answers to questions. I was reading an article in a magazine last night about midlife for women. A passage read: "Being more comfortable accepting what you can’t do, leads you to be more confident about what you can do."

That resonated with me. I guess that is the lesson I have learned. That is the period I mentally placed at the end of the sentence about what may have happened to Charlotte and Cinda.   




  1. When I saw the part 2 today, I was hoping it was good news. You did your above and beyond. You did all you could and more than anyone else. Thank you for that. I can see why you would leave that type of work. Every time a person is kidnapped, I imagine it is a group porn thing. I’m so sorry for you but you did take an important role. I would want you on my team. Let the gardens take your sorrow away. It is good soil for the soul.

  2. Wow, Brenda, I remember that case and all the articles written about those girls. So sad, so very sad. I didn’t know you used to be a hard nosed reporter. (I mean that in the best sense.) You know, I always wanted to write fiction, and I have. But, now I spend more time writing articles about less controversial things.

    You have the beginnings of a novel in that post. Think about it. :-)~~Dee

  3. Are you OK? I think that what you wrote about, was a real heart felt recolletion. It seemed to be a letting go and admitting of— you did all you could. Just wanted you to know –you are the best! Sending hugs your way today!

  4. Profound writing Brenda! Stories such as this are forever heart wrenching beyond words. So sad that parents and family members have to endure such grieve. And so very sad that we live a world filled with despicable acts against humanity.

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