Details of Disappearance
Debra resided in Gibson County, Indiana with her husband and two daughters in 1974. She was employed as a server at The Windmill, a truck stop and restaurant near Indiana Highways 41 and 57. She had been working there for only a week. Her co-workers said that she worked her normal shift during the evening hours on October 16, 1974.
A man entered the restaurant shortly before the end of Debra's shift. He said he had hitched a ride on a cattle truck to Evansville from Indianapolis to collect some money owed to him, and that he was staying in a local motel. It was raining at the time and his clothes were wet. He asked Debra to give him a ride to his motel.
The unidentified man is described as middle-aged and medium height, with dark medium-length hair. One witness was under the impression that the man and Debra knew each other; another witness thought they did not. Debra left with the unidentified individual shortly afterwards, when her shift ended.
She never returned to her family's residence and has not been heard from again. Her vehicle, described as a green two-door hardtop 1966 Ford Galaxie with the license plate number 26B2953 and vehicle identification number (VIN) 6W66X173520, has never been recovered.
She occasionally left the Evansville area for several days at a time prior to her disappearance. She was not immediately reported as a missing person as a result. At the time, it was believed that she may have traveled to California after her disappearance.
Only two cattle truck drivers are known to have been in the area on the night Debra disappeared. When interviewed, one of them told police he hadn't given a ride to any hitchhikers, as this was against his company's policy. The other truck driver moved away after Debra went missing and investigators were unable to locate him for questioning.
Her husband, Jeffrey Wilhite, had called her at The Windmill on the night she disappeared, and she'd agreed to pick him up at a bar in Evansville after her shift. When she didn't show up, he called his mother-in-law, who was watching their children, to say he wouldn't be there to pick them up that night. Two days later, Jeffrey contacted the police in Princeton, Indiana, where he and his wife lived, to say she'd stolen his car.
There was speculation that Debra was killed by a gunshot wound to the head shortly after she departed from the restaurant. Rumors surfaced that her alleged murderer drove her car into a stripper pit outside of Elberfeld, Indiana, and abandoned it there with Debra's body in the trunk. The stripper pit was nicknamed "The Duck Pond" and was filled with water in 1974. It was drained sometime afterwards.
Wayne Gulley and his former wife, Ella Mae Dicks, were charged with the 1974 murder of Sherry Lee Gibson in 2002. Dicks reportedly confessed to her role in the homicide, which occurred near Evansville. Gulley and Dicks's photos are posted with this case summary.
There are several similarities between Debra and Gibson's cases; both women were around the same age and disappeared within months of one another. Gulley matches the description of the unidentified man who departed with Wilhite from The Windmill Restaurant. Neither he nor Dicks has been charged in connection with Debra's disappearance.
Jeffrey was killed in a vehicular accident two years after her disappearance, and one of his and Debra's two daughters died of leukemia in 1978, at the age of seven. The other daughter was raised by her grandmother. She still hopes for resolution in her mother's case. Debra's disappearance remains unsolved.