Details of Disappearance Karen and her then-sister-in-law, Christy Spencer, were driving along Interstate 275 in Miami Township, Ohio on December 29, 1989. Karen was driving Christy's car, a black Buick Regal.
At approximately 3:00 a.m., the two women got into an argument regarding plans for Karen to move to Florida with her brother and Christy. Karen pulled over between the Montgomery Road and Ohio 28 exits and got out. According to Christy, Karen began walking north after she left her sister-in-law's vehicle. Christy drove away; Karen has not been heard from again.
A man driving a red 1982 Datsun B-310 stopped after Christy pulled over, and asked the two women if they needed help. Christy claims she told him to go away and never saw him again. However, when he was interviewed by police, the man knew what Karen and Christy had been arguing about before they stopped their car.
Authorities said the man gave inconsistent statements, but he passed a polygraph and was ruled out of the investigation. FBI behavioral scientists later reviewed the polygraph results and stated they believe the man was manipulating the test. A friend of the man claims he spoke about Karen's disappearance before she was reported missing.
A woman driving the same night on Interstate 275 claimed that she offered a ride to a young woman fitting Karen's description sometime later in the early morning hours. According to the witness, the girl appeared to be cold and was walking along the road at a brisk pace and headed southbound.
This would contradict Christy's statement, which said that Karen was walking in the opposite direction when she last saw her. The witness said that she pulled over to offer assistance to the girl. An unidentified young male in a red vehicle with Kentucky license plates pulled in front of the girl on the shoulder of the road. The girl seemed to recognize the driver and smiled.
The witness then drove away, assuming the girl received a ride from the male. It has not been established that the unidentified young woman was Karen. The woman did not come forward until 1990, when she saw Karen's photograph on television.
The Spencer family dealt with a hoax regarding Karen's fate in 2000. A male caller claimed that Karen was buried in Kentucky; however, the story ended up being proven false and the man was charged with interferring with a police investigation. He was fined $500 and given a sentence of 45 days in jail. He had a history of making prank calls to the surviving relatives of crime and accident victims.
Karen has never been located. She is originally from Reading, Ohio and was a high school senior at the time of her disappearance. When she vanished she was carrying only $7 in cash. She left two paychecks behind from her serving job at the Kings Mills Frisch's restaurant in Mason, Ohio.
Foul play is suspected in her disappearance. Investigators have a suspect in her case, but he has not been publicly identified. Her case remains unsolved.
- Miami Township Police Department
Updated 6 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated September 2, 2013; age-progression updated.