Details of Disappearance
Georgia was last seen near her farm home in rural Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin at approximately 3:30 p.m. on May 1, 1947.
A neighbor gave her a ride part of the way home from the Oakland Center school, where she was a third-grader, and dropped her off at the entrance to the half-mile-long driveway leading up to her home. Georgia told the neighbor that she might go into the woods and pick some flowers for a May Day basket before going home.
She and her siblings normally rode their bicycles to school, but it had rained recently and the ground had been muddy, so Georgia's father drove his children to school the morning of her disappearance. Georgia was released half an hour before her older brother and sister, and found a ride with the neighbor, who had gone to the school to pick up her own child.
The neighbor saw Georgia collect a large bundle of letters from her family's mailbox and start walking up the driveway, but she never arrived at her house. She has never been heard from again and the mail she was carrying at the time of her disappearance has never been found.
Georgia's mother was initially not concerned when the child did not arrive home; she assumed Georgia was with her father. The parents began searching at 6:00 p.m. when Georgia's father arrived at home without his daughter.
Witnesses reported seeing a dark-colored, possibly black, four-door 1936 Ford sedan with a gray plastic spotlight in the vicinity that afternoon. The car vanished at the same time Georgia did, and deep tire tracks were later found on the road, as if a vehicle had pulled out fast. The car was being driven by a blond man, 20 to 25 years old.
This man is the prime suspect in Georgia's presumed abduction. He has never been identified, though many individuals were questioned over the years. Several witnesses reported seeing a young girl struggling and pleading with a man inside a similar vehicle in Fort Atkinson shortly after Georgia vanished. The child inside the car has not been confirmed to be Georgia, but she closely resembled her.
At first investigators believed Georgia had been kidnapped for ransom, as her father was a public official and a man of means. Days passed and no ransom demands were made, however.
Authorities now believe Georgia was taken by a sexual predator. Curiously, prior to her disappearance, Georgia had made several remarks indicating that she especially feared being kidnapped.
Buford Sennett, a convicted rapist and murderer who had just started serving a life sentence in prison, confessed to Georgia's murder in the fall of 1947. Photographs of Sennett in 1947 and 1987 are posted with this case summary. He claimed that he and a companion he refused to name had kidnapped her for ransom purposes and given her some sleeping pills and she had accidentally overdosed and died.
Sennett said he had tossed Georgia's remains into the Blue River near the town of Blue River, Wisconsin. A search of the river turned up no sign of Georgia, however. Some ashes were found in the woods near his former hideout and were subjected to forensic testing, as a woman reported witnessing Sennett burn Georgia's body. No clues were gained as a result of the testing.
Sennett was never charged in connection with Georgia's case and police are not certain whether he was involved. He later recanted his confession and afterwards maintained that he had nothing to do with Georgia's case.
He was paroled in 1974, but arrested again for the sexual assault of two young girls, and in 1987 was sentenced to twenty years in prison. This sentence ran consecutively to the remainder of his 1947 rape/murder sentence, since he violated parole by being rearrested.
Sennett died in a Wisconsin prison in 2008. He was not the only person to confess Georgia's kidnapping and murder; a number of other individuals, including a convicted murderer from Nebraska, confessed over the years. Nothing could be proven against any of them and most of them later recanted.
Georgia's case received additional attention ten years after she vanished, in 1957, when authorities in Plainfield, Wisconsin arrested Edward Theodore Gein for murdering a local female tavern keeper. A photograph of Gein is posted with this case summary.
Investigators uncovered a gruesome scene at his farm which is still legendary; many body parts and items such as lampshades made from human skin were located. Almost all of them turned out to be from local cemeteries; Gein confessed only to the murders of two tavern keepers. He was declared insane and sent to a mental hospital, where he died in 1984.
Gein is considered a possible suspect in Georgia's disappearance and also in the disappearance of Evelyn Hartley, who was abducted from La Crosse, Wisconsin in 1953. Neither of them have ever been found. They do not fit the profile for Gein's known victims; both of the people he killed were middle-aged women. Gein also does not match the description of the man believed to be Georgia's abductor, but he did own a black 1937 Ford.
Georgia's disappearance remains unsolved.