Details of Disappearance Willoughby was last seen in Clayton, Indiana on June 6, 1978. His live-in girlfriend of two years, 22-year-old Mary Ann Higginbotham, a waitress, disappeared at the same time he did. They lived on Rural Route 3 in Clayton.
A photo of Higginbotham is posted with this case summary. Her family wasn't concerned when she dropped out of sight, and no one ever filed a missing persons report for her.
On June 4, 1979, almost a year to the day after she disappeared, her skeletal remains were found welded inside a 55-gallon drum in White Lick Creek at the end of Sycamore Lane in Mooresville, Indiana, about a dozen miles from her home. She was fully clothed and had been shot in the head with a small-caliber handgun, execution-style. There was no sign of Willoughby, however, and he has never been located.
Authorities initially believed Willoughby had killed Higginbotham, but they could find no evidence to support this theory and the couple wasn't having problems in their relationship. He was never charged in her death and no warrants were issued for his arrest.
In 1982, an anonymous informant told police that both of them had been murdered on the day they disappeared by two people they knew, Ronald C. Tomasik and James L. Kellam. Willoughby was supposedly shot in the head, like Higginbotham, about a mile from his home and his body was put in a barrel as hers had been.
The alleged motive for the murders was to keep the couple from telling the police about Kellam and Tomasik's roles in an auto theft ring. Investigators don't believe Higginbotham was involved in any crimes, but shortly before his disappearance, Willoughby had been arrested for attempted auto theft, auto theft, and arson of the stolen vehicle.
Based on the witness's information, Tomacik and Kellams arrested for the murders, but both of them were later released and the charges against them were dropped for lack of evidence.
Investigators are still hoping to recover Willoughby's body and solve his disappearance and Higginbotham's murder. Foul play is suspected in his disappearance due to the circumstances involved.
- Indiana State Police
Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 20, 2016; picture added, details of disappearance updated.