Karen Lynn Tompkins

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5 6 AP
Top Row and Bottom Left and Center: Karen, circa 1961;
Bottom Right: Age-progression to 63 (circa 2013)

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Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

  • Missing Since: August 18, 1961 from Torrance, California
  • Classification: Endangered Missing
  • Date Of Birth: July 25, 1950
  • Age: 11 years old
  • Height and Weight: 4'11, 55 pounds
  • Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Karen's hair was cut short with bangs at the time of her disappearance. She has freckles across the bridge of her nose and a brown-colored birthmark in the middle of her forehead half an inch below her hairline. Karen's teeth are uneven and the right eyetooth protrudes.
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description: Royal blue shorts with a white printed band on the bottom, a white sleeveless blouse, a white knit cardigan sweater, blue and white socks, blue rubber sandals, a pearl necklace with a clear plastic pendant containing a mustard seed, and a new yellow Hanover watch.
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    Details of Disappearance

    Karen was last seen on Friday, August 18, 1961, in Torrance, California. She and her eight-year-old brother were attending a summer arts and crafts class at Halldale Avenue Elementary School at 215th Street and Halldale Avenue in Harbor Gateway. That day, their dog followed them to the class so Karen's brother took it home before the class was over. Karen stayed behind.

    The teacher and other students saw Karen leave the class when it ended at 5:30 p.m. that day. She was carrying two toy covered wagons, the crafts she and her brother had made in the class. It is a four-block walk between the school and Karen's home, and a classmate rode with her on a bicycle for the first few minutes of the trip. The police were called when she did not arrive home by 6:00 p.m.

    A few days after Karen disappeared, a forty-year-old man was arrested for kidnapping her when the police found bloodstains on his underclothes. He denied having anything to do with her disappearance and was eventually released for lack of evidence connecting him to Karen's presumed abduction.

    In 1962, an eleven-year-old girl, Dorothy Gale Brown, was kidnapped and her body was found in the ocean off of Marina Del Rey, California, thirty miles from Torrance, the next day. She had been sexually molested and drowned. Investigators at the time believed the Karen and Brown cases were related. Both girls were the same age, both were blonde, and both disappeared at around the same time of day and from only blocks apart. Brown's murder has never been solved.

    Authorities believe Mack Ray Edwards was responsible for Brown's murder, Karen's disappearance, and a string of other children's disappearances and homicides in California. In 1970, Edwards pleaded guilty to killing three California children and sentenced to death at his own request. He confessed to killing Brenda Howell, Donald Baker and Roger Madison as well, and authorities believe he was also most likely responsible for the disappearances of Thomas Bowman, Bruce Kremen and Ramona Price.

    Edwards lead authorities to a site where he said he had buried some of his victims, but no evidence was located. He committed suicide on death row in 1971. A photograph of Edwards is posted below this case summary. His alleged victims ranged in age from seven to sixteen years old.

    Karen resided with her younger brother and infant sister, her mother and her grandmother at the time of her disappearance; her father was stationed at sea with the United States Navy, but returned home when he realized his daughter was missing. Her case remains unsolved. Karen was a good student in 1961 and enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.

    The case was reopened in 2007 as authorities renewed the search for the bodies of Edwards's victims. He was employed as a heavy equipment operator in the 1950s and 1960s, and helped construct many highways across the state of California. Investigators believe he may have buried the children's remains under the highways.

    Mack Ray Edwards
    Above: Mack Ray Edwards

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    Investigating Agency
    If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
    Los Angeles Police Department
    213-485-5381

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    Source Information
    The National Center For Missing and Exploited Children
    California Attorney General's Office
    The Doe Network
    Los Angeles Police Department
    Unsolved-Crimes International
    Newspaper Archive
    The Daily Breeze
    The Los Angeles Times
    The Whittier Daily News
    NamUs

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    Updated 10 times since October 12, 2004.

    Last updated April 18, 2014; age-progression updated.

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