Josephine Doris Despard

Despard, circa 1984

  • Missing Since 02/07/1984
  • Missing From Olean, New York
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Date of Birth 01/24/1958 (60)
  • Age 26 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'2, 102 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A red hooded coat, a beige sweater, blue jeans and brown knee-high boots.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Black hair, brown eyes. Depard's nickname is Josie. Her maiden name is Cottone. Her hair was cut short at the time of her disappearance. She has a Caesarean section scar on her abdomen.

Details of Disappearance

Despard was last seen in Olean, New York on February 7, 1984. She was separated from her husband and living with her mother and her six-year-old daughter on north Clinton Street, taking classes at Jamestown Community College. Her husband was in California.

On the day of her disappearance, at 5:00 p.m., Despard left her mother's home with a male acquaintance, Dale Vereecken. They were going to his residence to swap stereo components. Vereecken said they didn't go there after all; instead, they went to the Olean Mall for a cup of coffee. He said Despard met with friends at the mall and he left her there at 6:00 p.m.

Vereecken was considered a person of interest in her disappearance for some months afterward. After her disappearance he tried to leave the country, but was stopped at the Canadian border, charged with parole violation and drug possession, and returned to the United States. He committed suicide later in 1984, and his mother also took her life a few years later.

Vereecken is still considered a strong person of interest in Despard's disappearance. His identity wasn't publicly released until 2018, 34 years after she vanished. He and Despard were friends but were not romantically involved with each other.

Despard's loved ones don't believe she left of her own accord. She was fighting with her husband for custody of their daughter, and her family doesn't believe she would have missed her court date.

She is the oldest of seven children and was close to her relatives, especially her mother. Her sister adopted and raised Despard's daughter after her disappearance, and her husband has remarried. Despard's disappearance remains unsolved and foul play is suspected.

Investigating Agency

  • Olean Police Department 716-376-5678

Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated April 3, 2018; details of disappearance updated.