Jeanette Louise Ray

Jeanette, circa 1965; Renay Ray; Claude Ray Jr.; Marlene Ray

  • Missing Since 10/04/1965
  • Missing From Napa, California
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Age 9 years old
  • Height and Weight 4'0, 80 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A beige corduroy coat, an orange jumper, blue knee socks and buff shoes. Carrying a paper sack lunch with her name written on the side of the bag.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Brown hair, blue eyes. At the time of her disappearance, the underside of Jeanette's right jaw was bandaged due to recent surgery.

Details of Disappearance

Jeanette was last seen with her sister, seven-year-old Renay Marlene Ray, in Napa, California on the morning of October 4, 1965. Their father, Claude Ray Jr., took their brother to junior high school, then returned to pick up Jeanette and Renay, whose elementary school classes started an hour later. He claimed he dropped them off at Westwood Elementary School at 8:30 a.m., but neither girl attended class that day.

At 10:30 a.m., Westwood Elementary School called the girls' mother, Marlene, to ask why they were absent, but she wasn't at home and didn't realize they were missing until 1:00 p.m. She called a social worker, who notified the police. Claude stated he left Napa after dropping off the girls and drove to Point Arena, California, supposedly to look for a job, but didn't stop anywhere. He returned to Napa at 3:00 p.m. and was notified his daughters were missing.

Photos of Claude, Renay and Marlene are posted with this case summary. According to the school, both Jeanette and Renay were well-behaved students with average grades and a good attendance record. Jeanette was in the third grade, and Renay was in second grade. The girls' parents were separated and in the process of a divorce at the time of their disappearances. Their 13-year-old sister, was a ward of the state and living with a foster family; they also had two brothers.

On October 11, Renay's body was found on Schooner Gulch Beach in Mendocino County, California. This beach is about three miles south of Point Arena. She had been murdered by asphyxiation around the time she disappeared, and her body had numerous bruises but had no broken bones. There was no sign of Jeanette.

Claude was arrested and charged with Renay's murder. He had a prior record: in 1956 he had been charged with lewd and lascivious conduct involving a 7-year-old neighbor child, then pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and was sentenced to probation after his trial resulted in a hung jury. Five months later he was sentenced to a year in jail for probation violation.

In 1957 he was arrested and charged with disturbing the peace after an argument with his wife. He was charged with incest with his oldest daughter (this is what led to her removal from the family home and placement in foster care), but had been acquitted by a jury earlier in 1965, before Renay's murder.

At Claude's murder trial in 1966, his oldest daughter and the former neighbor child both testified against him and stated he had sexually abused them. His daughter stated Claude began molesting her in 1959 and that Claude had begun raping her about twice a month starting when she was twelve years old. Marlene also testified, saying after his arrest for incest Claude had threatened to murder her and all five of their children. Claude himself admitted he had threated his mother-in-law and brother-in-law.

Claude said he had never sexually abused the neighbor girl. He said he only pleaded guilty to the reduced charge because his lawyer advised him to and because he could not afford to pay to fight the case, since he'd lost his job after his arrest for child molestation. He also denied raping his oldest daughter and claimed she made up the story in retaliation because he beat her for getting poor school grades and having friends he didn't approve of. He blamed his wife for his 1957 arrest, saying her infidelity led to the argument that led to his arrest.

Although he maintained his innocence, in 1966, Claude was convicted of Renay's murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. In prison he had a record as "an extremely hostile and uncooperative inmate" who was violent and repeatedly refused psychiatric counseling. He was supposed to be automatically paroled after 13 years, the maximum time allowed by law, but got a second life sentence in 1978 for attacking a prison guard and causing serious injury. Claude died by suicide in Folsom Prison in 1983, at the age of 51.

Five-year-old Doreen Heskett, one of Jeanette's classmates in kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary School during the 1962-63 school year, disappeared in March 1963. Her skeletal remains were found in a field in Napa in November of that year. Claude was questioned in her case, but never charged in connection with it. Doreen's murder has never been solved and it's not clear whether Claude was involved.

Jeanette is believed to have been murdered like her sister, but her body has never been found and no one was charged in her case. If her body was disposed in the same manner as her sister's, it may have been washed out to sea.

Investigating Agency

  • Napa Police Department 707-257-9223

Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated March 31, 2024; casefile added.