Details of Disappearance Teresa was last seen in Elwood, Indiana on May 24, 1990. Her husband, James L. Wisner, said she left home at 9:30 p.m. She never returned. She placed a call from Roxie's Airport Inn at 10:00 p.m. She may have left the business with an unidentified individual.
Two men saw a woman matching Teresa's description walking along Indiana 37 at approximately 10:30 p.m. The witnesses also saw a man driving in a car alongside the woman; the man shouted obscenities at her before driving away.
Two days later, Teresa's brother-in-law found her gray 1979 Toyota Celica was found abandoned in a rural area along Indiana 37, south of Elwood. It had a flat tire. There was no sign of her at the scene and she has never been heard from again. It should be noted that Teresa's vehicle is similar to the one described by the one seen by the two men on the night she disappeared. One of the men said the muffler sound was the same as well.
Teresa left behind a toddler son. She and James were having marital difficulties in 1990 and Teresa planned to seek a divorce. She wasn't having any other problems in her life, however; she had no history of mental illness, drug use, or leaving without warning. She had just started a new job at a finance company in Carmel, Indiana, and had worked there for only four days before her disappearance. She also left all her clothes and belongings behind.
Police believe Teresa met with foul play, and have identified James as a suspect in her presumed murder. Teresa's parents, Walter "Sonny" Lawyer and Wilma Lawyer, smelled a foul odor in the Wisners' home a few days after Teresa was last seen, and friends said James poured concrete in his basement around that time. A search of the house turned up nothing, however.
The Lawyers stated that James did not want a divorce and that he had gone to them before Teresa disappeared and asked them to help change her mind about it. They described their relationship with James as "distant," but said they were close to Teresa and that she had confided in them about her problems with James. They never believed she left of her own accord.
For several months after Teresa went missing, James allowed Sonny and Wilma to visit and babysit his and Teresa's son. In November 1990, however, after Sonny asked him to "clear himself" in her case, James cut off the Lawyers' access to the boy. In the spring of 1991, less than a year after Teresa's disappearance, her parents went to court to be allowed to see her the child.
State law granted visitation to grandparents in the event of the death or divorce of their natural child. James contested this, arguing that this law didn't apply because there was no evidence that Teresa was dead. A judge granted visitation rights to Sonny and Wilma, noting in his filing that there was a preponderance of evidence that Teresa was dead. This was not the same as a formal declaration of death, however.
Teresa's disappearance remains unsolved and foul play is suspected. No one has been charged in her case and her body has never been found.
- Madison County Sheriff's Department
Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated April 17, 2018; casefile added.