Details of Disappearance Judith was last seen on the afternoon of May 19, 2003 in New Haven, Michigan, driving her silver 2003 Chevrolet Impala, which has dark tinted windows and Michigan license plates numbered 3AQW95. A photograph of the car is posted with this case summary. A neighbor who saw Judith two days before she vanished reports that she was unusually quiet at the time. She has never been heard from again. She was reported missing by her daughter two days after she was last seen. Judith resided in the 59800 block of Cynthia in New Haven at the time of her disappearance.
On May 22, Judith's estranged husband, James David "Jim" Mattise Sr., 61, was found dead at 9:30 a.m. in downtown New Haven in his Ford pickup truck, which was parked between two church vans. He had strangled himself with a plastic zip tie and left a suicide note addressed to his children, the wording of which implied that he was involved in his wife's disappearance. The note said she might be found in a "large pile." Based on the information in note, authorities searched the local Pine Tree Acres landfill and located no evidence. James and Judith's children describe the search as perfunctory.
Judith and James had been married for thirty-four years prior to his death and had an adult son and daughter. They also owned a home in Las Vegas. They ran an optical supply store, Unlimited Services, together with their children, but in March 2003 James filed for divorce and accused Judith of hiding joint funds from him. James also discovered that in 2003 Judith had a relationship with a prisoner at the nearby state prison where she volunteered; she sent money from Unlimited Services to the individual to finance his appeal. He had been convicted of rape. James had filed for divorce once before, in 1980, but the claim was dismissed. The couple had been fighting with the township as well, and had been accused of numerous zoning violations.
Before his death, James had not been considered a suspect in Judith's disappearance. After he died, however, investigators theorized that the case may have been a murder-suicide. James and Judith's three children also believe their father was responsible for their mother's disappearance. Their son looked in the trunk of James and Judith's other car, which was at their second home in Las Vegas, Nevada. He found, among other things, a tarp and some rope. Such items could be used to transport a body.
James and Judith's children theorize that James killed Judith on the night she was last seen, then put her remains in their company's dumpster which is emptied between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. ever day. Their oldest son smelled cleaning products when he went to Unlimited Services at 4:30 a.m. on May 20, and when the family looked in the company trash bin the next day, the same odor was present there. The children have criticized police for not looking harder for Judith. Investigators have said that the children would benefit financially if Judith was found; much of the assets of Unlimited Services were in her name. James and Judith's children are continuing to run the company.
In September 2003, Judith's abandoned car parked outside an abandoned house on Adelaide Street near Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan and towed. It had apparently been left there for months and was infested with two nests of bees. A parking ticket dated July 3 was on the windshield; the car had apparently not been moved since the ticket was written. In October 2003, police announced that evidence relating to Judith's case had been found inside the vehicle. Her purse, containing cash and personal items, was located in the car. There was no evidence indicating Judith's whereabouts, however.
A body washed ashore at Pigeon Lake in Port Sheldon Township, Michigan in March 2004; investigators originally believed it may have been Judith's, but forensic testing ruled out that possibility. Judith was declared legally dead in August 2004, fifteen months after her disappearance, after authorities convinced a judge that James had murdered her before committing suicide. Police stated that if James had not killed himself, they would have had him arrested for murdering his wife whether or not her remains were ever recovered.
Judith's case remains unsolved. Foul play is suspected in her disappearance due to the circumstances involved.
- Macomb County Sheriff's Office
- New Haven Police Department
Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated February 5, 2008; date of birth and alternate weight added, distinguishing characteristics and details of disappearance updated.