Julia H. Stoddard

Stoddard, about forty years prior to her disappearance (more recent photos are unavailable)

  • Missing Since 12/27/1983
  • Missing From Delavan, Kansas
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Age 68 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'3, 85 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description Unknown, but Stoddard usually wore men's gray work pants, a flannel shirt, a heavy coat, a big scarf on her neck, sneakers and a straw hat.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Gray hair, brown eyes. Stoddard may use the last name Hart. Her nickname is "the Dog Lady."

Details of Disappearance

Stoddard was last seen trying to dig her pickup truck out of the snow at her home in rural Delavan, Kansas on December 27, 1983. She has never been heard from again. The police were called to her residence several days later, after neighbors realized Stoddard's truck was still in the same place and no one had seen her.

The police found approximately 100 dogs on Stoddard's property, but no sign of her. There were four plastic water buckets in the front yard. The large brown leather purse Stoddard usually carried was missing. Her cane, which she also usually carried, was found near her truck, which was parked in the yard.

After she retired from her job as a Civil Service employee at Fort Riley, Kansas, Stoddard had moved to her house three miles northwest of Delavan. She is described as intelligent and a voracious reader, and a very private person. She kept to herself, was divorced, had no children, didn't associate regularly with her relatives, and never let anyone inside her home.

She would often stop along U.S. Highway 77 between Delavan and Junction, Kansas and pick up stray dogs people had dumped there. Over time scores of dogs, perhaps as many as 200, came to live with her, both inside the house and in sheds and shelters on her two-acre property. She had names for each one, and if one would go missing she would call the police to report it and ask them to keep an eye out for the missing dog. Her neighbors viewed her as eccentric but harmless.

When the police went to her home after her disappearance, the dogs were starving. Ten of them were dead and their carcasses had been partially consumed by others. Many were roaming loose and the authorities set live traps to catch them. Ultimately, at least seven were considered adoptable, but the majority were euthanized.

The house itself was filthy, full of clutter and in a dilapidated condition. There was no running water or telephone service, the stove had apparently not been lit all winter, multiple windows were broken, the roof had fallen in over the kitchen, and it didn't appear as if any people had been to the second floor in years. Stoddard apparently lived in the basement, which was full of debris about twelve to eighteen inches deep. Police found a .410 shotgun there.

Investigators theorized Stoddard might have become exhausted and died of exposure while trying to walk through the deep snow to the airfield half a mile away; she often went there to use the phone and get water. If that was the case, though, her body has never been found. Another theory is that her body was eaten by the dogs, but there's no evidence to support that idea either.

Her case remains unsolved.

Investigating Agency

  • Morris County Sheriff's Office
  • Kansas Bureau of Investigation 785-296-4017

Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated January 1, 2020; casefile added.