Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: July 5, 1977 from Staten Island, New York Classification: Endangered Missing Date Of Birth: September 24, 1958 Age: 18 years old Height and Weight: 5'4 - 5'5, 115 pounds Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Light brown curly hair, brown eyes. Nerenberg has freckles on her nose, cheeks, shoulders, and hands, and a gap between her upper front teeth about one-sixteenth of an inch wide. She smokes cigarettes. Nerenberg's hair was long, past her shoulders, at the time of her July 1977 disappearance. Clothing/Jewelry Description: A blue tube top, cut-off bleached dungaree shorts or blue jeans, open-toed clear plastic sandals, and possibly a sweater tied around her waist. Carrying a small brown shoulder bag containing $2 in cash. Medical Conditions: Nerenberg was diagnosed with hebephrenic (disorganized) schizophrenia at age fifteen, approximately three years prior to her 1977 disappearance. She heard voices and occasionally became paranoid. She was taking large doses of the anti-psychotic medication Thorazine and was under a doctor's care at the time she was last seen. She functions at the level of a fourteen-year-old. /blockquote>
Details of DisappearanceNerenberg was last seen leaving her family's residence in the 1200 block of Ryder Street in the Canarsie section of the New York City borough of Brooklyn at 2:00 p.m. on July 5, 1977, one of the hottest days on record. The house was located near Kings Highway, Flatlands Avenue and Flatbush Avenue. Nerenberg told her mother she was going two blocks away to purchase cigarettes and would be right back, but she has never been heard from again.
Nerenberg's father received a call from an anonymous individual later during the day. The person claimed he abducted Nerenberg and instructed her father to collect as much money as possible before he called back. Her father contacted the Federal Bureau Of Investigation (FBI) and the agency sent conspicuously dressed officials to the Nerenbergs' home. The agents left after the caller failed to communicate within three hours. They made no attempt to trace the call. Nerenberg's father thinks the caller was possibly someone from the Flatbush area, possibly someone even known to the family, who watched as the officials entered their house.
Nerenberg had been hospitalized for brief periods of time in several New York City medical facilities from 1974 to 1977 as a result of hebephrenic schizophrenia. She has been a patient at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, Gracie Square Hospital in Manhattan and Hillside Medical Center in Queens. Nerenberg was an outpatient at Kingsboro Psychiatric Center in Brooklyn at the time she disappeared. She was not carrying any identification or medication with her at the time she was last seen. It is possible that Nerenberg walked out of her residence while disoriented and did not know her name. However, Nerenberg's parents say she was doing very well on her medication at the time of her disappearance and was able to safely go places on her own. She wasn't attending school and didn't have any friends. She had formerly attended an adult day care center, but it closed and so Nerenberg was more often left to her own devices. She had no history of running away from home, and althought she did occasionally get lost while away from home, but she would always know to call her family for assistance.
Nerenberg accompanied her family to the borough of Staten Island during the evening of July 4, 1977, the day prior to her disappearance. They watched a movie at the former Jerry Lewis Theater on Forest Avenue in Mariners Harbor on the Island. The theater was close in proximity to a campsite once used by Andre Rand, a convicted child sex offender whose birth name is Frank Rashan. Photos of him are posted below this case summary.
Rand was convicted with kidnapping in connection with the 1987 New York abduction of a twelve-year-old girl named Jennifer Schweiger, who had Down Syndrome. She was murdered on the grounds of the now-defunct Staten Island Developmental Center (formerly known as the Willowbrook State School) near his campsite. He was not convicted of her murder; the jury could not reach a verdict on that charge. In 2004, Rand was convicted of kidnapping in the 1981 Staten Island abduction of Holly Hughes. Authorities suspect Rand may have been involved in the Staten Island disappearances of Alice Pereia in 1972, Ethel Atwell in 1978, Tiahease Jackson in 1983, and Henry Gafforio in 1984. Rand may be connected to several other missing persons' cases from the Staten Island area as well, but no evidence has been discovered which may link him to the disappearances. Nerenberg's mental illness sometimes caused her to repeat her actions, and there is speculation that she may have traveled back to the Island on July 5 while disoriented and may have come into contact with Rand. He has not been linked to Nerenberg's case.
In 1982, five years after Nerenberg vanished, one of her brother's friends was sentenced to eighteen years in prison for stabbing a woman. The victim survived. Nerenberg's father did not like the boy and would never allow him into the house. He lived a block away from where Nerenberg was last seen and after her disappearance he never asked to go into the house again. After the man's conviction, the police interviewed him about a possible connection to Nerenberg's disappearance. They could find no evidence to implicate the individual. He declined to take a polygraph regarding the case. After serving almost twenty years in prison, he was released and returned to New York City.
Some investigators believe it is possible that Nerenberg may have been admitted to a psychiatric facility as a "Jane Doe" (an unidentified female patient) after she vanished in 1977. A search of medical centers failed to produce any leads as to Nerenberg's whereabouts. Nerenberg accused a the operator of a Flatbush-area ice cream parlor of raping her prior to her disappearance, but he denied the allegation, claiming it was consensual sex. No charges were filed against him. A large hole has been cemented over a section of the business's walls after she vanished. It is not known if the damage is related to her case. The ice cream parlor owner sold the business and moved away three months after Nerenberg vanished. Nerenberg's father theorizes she was adopted by another family and given another name and Social Security number. There's been no activity on her own Social Security number since 1977.
In 2003, because of the pressure of Nerenberg's father, a Florida state representative sponsored a bill in Congress that would require the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to assist in locating adults who have the mental capacities of children, like Nerenberg. Previously the NCMEC is required to help only in cases where the missing person is under the age of 18. The Protect Act, as the bill was called, was signed into law in April 2003.
Nerenberg enjoyed shopping, music and dancing at the time of her disappearance. Her parents moved to Citrus Springs, Florida in 1985. They have never stopped searching for her. The police investigation into her disappearance is still active, but her case remains unsolved.
Left: Rand, circa 1987;
Right: Rand in 2004
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
New York Police Department
New York State Troopers
New York City Police Department
Child Protection Education Of America
Peggy's Pages Of Hope
The Staten Island Advance
The Brooklyn Skyline
Child Alert Foundation
Missing Person, Audrey Lyn Nerenberg
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Missing Pieces Show
The Ocala Star-Banner
Updated 5 times since October 12, 2004.
Last updated July 15, 2012; age-progression updated.
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