Details of Disappearance
Anna Marie lived with her mother, Anita Maria Vega, her stepfather, Luis Vega Sr., and six siblings, including her nine-year-old sister, Margarita, at the time of her disappearance. She disappeared sometime in the winter of 1969 - 1970 and has not been seen again.
Police were unaware of Anna Marie's disappearance until Margarita went to them in the autumn of 1992. By then she was 33 years old. Margarita stated her mother had severely beaten Anna Marie, deprived her of food, forced her to take a bath in cold water and held her head under the water until she drowned.
Several hours later, Anita wrapped Anna Marie's naked body in an Army blanket and put it in a cardboard box from the turkey farm where Luis worked. Luis took the box away after he came home from work. Margarita overheard him telling Anita he buried Anna Marie's body near the railroad trestles in Frankfort, which are known as "the viaducts."
In 1985, Anita showed Margarita a sack of dirt and bones and said they were Anna Marie's remains. Several months later, Margarita asked her mother what she'd done with the sack and Anita said she'd buried it at a fresh grave in the Bunnell Cemetery.
Margarita told police she hadn't come forward before because her mother had threatened to kill her. She went to law enforcement with her story after spending a month in a California mental health facility getting treatment for anxiety.
Margarita had talked about her sister's death during therapy sessions at the facility, and the staff told her that if she didn't report what had happened, they would. She took a polygraph about her statement, but the results were inconclusive. Police went to the Bunnell Cemetery and sifted through the dirt at the grave Margarita indicated, but found only turkey bones.
When police investigated Margarita's claims, they could find very little evidence for Anna Marie's existence, only her birth certificate and a single photograph of her. Anita's other children denied Margarita's story, and one of them, Guadalupe Thomas, was ultimately indicted for lying to authorities; she had told a grand jury she didn't remember her mother forcing the children to take cold baths as punishment.
Thomas pleaded guilty to perjury and agreed to testify against Anita at her trial. A photograph of Anita is posted with this case summary. She was charged with involuntary manslaughter in October 1993. Luis died in the mid-1980s, before police realized his role in covering up his stepdaughter's death.
When questioned by police, Anita at first denied Anna Marie's existence. After police confronted her with the child's birth certificate, she changed her story and implied that Margarita had killed the child.
When police pointed out that Margarita had only been nine years old at the time, Anita said Luis had killed Anna Marie, then changed her story again and said she found Anna Marie dead in bed. She stated she had kept the death a secret because Luis, whom she claimed was abusive, had threatened her. Luis, she said, was afraid he would be deported to Mexico if they reported Anna Marie's death.
At Anita's trial, Margarita testified about witnessing her sister's murder and Thomas partially corroborated the story, saying she had seen Anna Marie's body. Anita's attorney suggested Margarita had made up the murder story to get revenge on her mother for not supporting her when she told her Luis had sexually abused her.
Anita was convicted; the jury deliberated only 15 minutes before bringing in the guilty verdict. She was sentenced to one to ten years in prison and served three. Her other children supported her and are now estranged from Margarita. Anna Marie's body has never been found.