Josephine Carroll Chatraw

Chatraw, circa 1984; Phillip Whaley in 1996

  • Missing Since 07/29/1984
  • Missing From Syracuse, New York
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 03/09/1948 (76)
  • Age 36 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'3, 125 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A white blouse, blue jeans, a silver chain with a small heart on her left hand, and possibly a mother-of-pearl ring in a silver setting on her right hand.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown eyes. Chatraw's nickname is Josie. She has a scar on her chin and a long scar on her head.

Details of Disappearance

Chatraw was last seen on July 29, 1984 in Syracuse, New York. She spoke to one of her three sisters at approximately 1:00 a.m. that day from her home in the 200 block of Seymour Street that day. She has never been heard from again. Her sisters reported her as a missing person on August 3. She left behind five children.

Philip S. Whaley Sr., her boyfriend of several years, was the last person known to have seen Chatraw. A photo of him is posted with this case summary. He lived in the 100 block of Seymour Street, a block from her apartment, and Chatraw visited him as his home on the day of her disappearance.

Whaley told police he and Chatraw got into an argument and she accused him of infidelity. He went into the bathroom to shave and when he came out, Chatraw was gone. He said he saw her walking alone on Seymour Street afterwards.

Chatraw and Whaley had a troubled relationship. Her loved ones frequently saw them fighting, but Chatraw disliked it when others intervened and tried to protect her. Whaley was charged with unlawful imprisonment and assault several weeks before her disappearance; he had allegedly held her inside his apartment against her will. (The charges were dismissed in 1988, in exchange for Whaley's testimony against another person.)

Chatraw told her sister Whaley had threatened to kill her and hide her body so no one could find it. One of Whaley's neighbors reported seeing Whaley beat Chatraw at approximately 1:00 a.m. on the day of her disappearance, in the hallway outside her apartment. Her punched her several times and dragged her inside by her hair. This is the last time anyone besides Whaley saw Chatraw.

Whaley was eventually charged with Chatraw's murder and the murder of another woman, Margaret Reiley, who disappeared in 1992. He went to trial in 1996. One of his friends testified that Whaley admitted to causing Chatraw's death and burying her remains in a wooded area near Central Square. Several former girlfriends testified as to his violent behavior towards women.

Whaley maintained his innocence, but was convicted of both murders and sentenced to 50 years to life in prison. He was the first person in Onondaga County history to be convicted of murder without the victim's body, and his trial was also the first where DNA evidence was presented.

Whaley, who is still in prison and now in poor health, admitted responsibility for Reiley and Chatraw's deaths in 2011. He said they were not intentional homicides, however. He offered to lead authorities to the bodies, and a search was launched in November.

Authorities looked for Chatraw in a wooded area off Cusson Drive in Amboy, New York, but found nothing and gave up after two days. Whaley said he'd put Reiley's body in a garage next to his mother's home in Pulaski, New York, but the building has since been demolished and investigators believe her remains wound up in a landfill.

Foul play is suspected in Chatraw's and Reiley's disappearances due to the circumstances involved. Their remains may not be recoverable.

Investigating Agency

  • Syracuse Police Department 315-442-5330

Updated 7 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated May 7, 2019; clothing/jewelry description added, distinguishing characteristics updated.