Mary Frances Hunter

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Above: Mary, circa 1996

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: September 1, 1996 from Burlington, Washington
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: November 30, 1960
  • Age: 35 years old
  • Height and Weight: 5'3, 170 - 185 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown eyes. Mary's nicknames are Fran and Francine. Her maiden name is Tremblay. She smoked cigarettes at the time of her 1996 disappearance. Mary has birthmarks on her chest, abdomen, right hand, neck and face. She has a scar on her left hand.
  • Medical Conditions: Mary has white patches on her skin caused by vitiligo. She may use heavy cosmetics to conceal the condition. She also has a history of severe depression and takes Prozac to control it. She has been suicidal in the past and was hospitalized once after a suicide attempt.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Mary's husband, Derek Hunter, stated that he last saw her in the parking lot of Cascade Mall in Burlington, Washington on September 1, 1996. They were on a trip with Mary's dog to go target shooting in rural Skagit County when they stopped to shop at the mall in Burlington. A photograph of Derek is posted below this case summary.

    Mary had introduced Derek to an unidentified male while they were inside the shopping center earlier in the day. The man is described as about six feet tall and clean-cut with an average or thin build. Mary said that the man was a former high school classmate. She introduced him as "Tony" or "Todd." She and the man were standing by the Hunter family's vehicle in the mall's lot when Derek went to use the toilet. When he returned to the car a short time later, Mary had vanished. The man and Mary's dog were also missing. None of them have been seen again. Derek searched the mall for five hours before giving up and going home. The next day he went to the mall again to look for his wife and found her dog, which was slightly scraped or scratched as if it had fallen out of a vehicle. He never saw Mary or the unidentified man again. She was last seen carrying an orange backpack which contained two Smith & Wesson guns, a .357 Magnum and a 9-millimeter semi-automatic.

    Mary resided at the United States Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Oak Harbor, Washington in 1996. Derek was an officer in the Navy at the time of her disappearance. Mary left a significant amount of cash in her bank account. She and Derek have two children. They were living with their teenage son at the time Mary disappeared, but their fifteen-year-old daughter ran away from home in 1995. The daughter has since married and moved away from the area.

    Mary has never been heard from again. She took no credit cards, clothes, money, or her driver's license. Derek reported her as a missing person to authorities on September 3, 1996, two days after she was last seen. After her disappearance he claimed that Mary was withdrawing money from her bank account at automatic teller machines (ATMs), but security cameras at the ATMs showed Derek withdrawing the funds using Mary's ATM card. He also took Mary's name off of his insurance policy and attempted to do the same with their jointly owned vehicles, so he could sell them. Derek filed for divorce a year after Mary vanished, but withdrew the filing three months later.

    Derek retired from the Navy in 1998; medical records indicate that he suffered progressive mental and physical deterioration after Mary vanished. He was treated for depression, alcoholism, and post-traumatic stress disorder in the years after his retirement, and suffered from fainting spells and occasional episodes of amnesia. Derek shot himself to death in his parents' home in Florida in September 2003, seven years to the day after his wife's disappearance. He left several notes, including one which stated that Mary had committed suicide and at her request he would never reveal the location of her body. Investigators believe Derek, who is described as a possessive and controlling husband, may have murdered Mary. They contemplated charging him prior to his death but there was insufficient evidence to ensure a conviction.

    Mary is very fond of children and animals. She has been frequently employed as a babysitter. Her hobbies include hiking, target shooting and visiting libraries. She was born in Phoenix, Arizona and raised in Mount Vernon, Washington, near Puget Sound. Mary frequently visited the Seattle, Washington area prior to her disappearance. She has left her home before, but never for very long. Authorities have received numerous tips as to where her remains might be, and have dug in several places in the Burlington area, but have not found anything connected to Mary's case. Her case remains unsolved.

    Derek
    Above: Derek Hunter

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Burlington Police Department
    360-755-0921

    OR
    Naval Criminal Investigative Service Headquarters
    202-433-9225

    OR
    800-479-9685

    OR
    NCIS Resident Agency,
    Whidbey Island, Washington
    360-257-3359

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    Source Information
    Naval Criminal Investigative Service
    TroubleShooters International Inc.
    The Skagit Valley Herald
    The Seattle Post-Intelligencer
    Washington State Missing Persons

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    Updated 2 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated September 28, 2007; distinguishing characteristics updated.

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