Details of Disappearance Edward was last seen at his family's 11-acre property in the 3100 block of Winding Road in Springfield, Pennsylvania on the morning of August 25, 1993. He had owned the plot since 1954, and moved there full-time after his retirement in 1981. He called it his "Garden of Eden" and had planted wildflowers and installed statues of cherubs, birds and lions there.
His daughter, Mary Jane Fonder, fixed breakfast at 7:00 a.m., then went back to bed. She heard Edward get up, go to the kitchen, open and shut the refrigerator, then leave the house. She assumed he was getting the newspaper. She fell asleep then, and when she woke up, Edward was gone and the newspaper had not been brought in. Mary searched for him before reporting his disappearance at 11:00 a.m.
A photo of Mary is posted with this case summary. She lived alone with Edward at the time of his disappearance. Their relationship was troubled and they often argued. Mary described her father as temperamental and stated he had been acting hostile towards her and avoiding her in the weeks prior to his disappearance. She said his eating and sleeping habits changed and he spent long periods of time outside.
An extensive search of the area turned up no sign of Edward. Bloodhounds tracked his scent only as far as the driveway before it was lost. He left behind all his belongings, including his medication, but did take his antique rosewood walking cane.
Edward's two children, Mary and her brother, speculated their father either took his own life or deliberately walked away. He was depressed over his wife's death and his own failing health, and his son stated Edward had told him he "couldn't take it anymore." The anniversary of his wife's death was on September 7 and he was troubled by this. They had been married for 55 years, and he was devastated when she died.
His wallet was located in Allentown, Pennsylvania in May 1994; someone dropped it in a mailbox there. The wallet's contents were intact, but it had been wiped clean of fingerprints.
In November 1993, the detective asked Mary if she might have harmed her father. She reportedly answered that she was taking multiple medications when Edward disappeared and might have done something she didn't remember. She said she "had no recollection of doing anything to my dad, but I do of the dog and cats, I felt like I could kill them."
When investigators searched Edward and Mary's residence, they found a dog's corpse in the freezer; it had died of an overdose of diabetes medication. The police described the home as extremely cluttered and filthy. One detective noted Mary's calendar had an X and the time 8:00 a.m. penciled in for August 24. She asked Mary about this, but Mary couldn't remember why she had marked that date.
In April 2008, Mary, then 65, was arrested and charged with murder in the shooting death of Rhonda L. Smith, a member of her church, who was shot in the head in January. Mary was reportedly infatuated with the church's pastor and felt Smith was a rival for the pastor's affection. She was convicted in October 2008 and sentenced to life in prison.
Edward's disappearance received additional media attention after his daughter's arrest. Police discovered Mary continued to collect her father's pension for fifteen years after his disappearance. The payments were deposited in an account held jointly by Edward and Mary, and Mary withdrew and spent about half the money that should have been going to Edward.
Mary had initially refused to allow police to search the property, and when ownership passed to Mary's brother after her murder conviction, he also refused to allow a search. In May 2018, after the property came under new ownership, that owner allowed police to search. Authorities searched the Fonder home again with ground-penetrating radar, looking for Edward's body. They found nothing.
Two weeks later, Mary died in prison of natural causes, at the age of 75. She has been named the prime and only suspect in Edward's disappearance and presumed death. A neighbor who knew the Fonder family and is now owns Edward and Mary's former residence said he never believed Edward left on his own, because "couldn’t walk off the road if his life depended on it."
Edward is a retired machinist. He formerly lived in suburban Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His hobbies include horticulture, trains, airplanes and playing musical instruments. His case remains unsolved.
- Springfield Township Police Department
Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated June 20, 2018; picture added.