Details of Disappearance
Karen was last seen on Friday, August 18, 1961, in Torrance, California. She and her eight-year-old brother were attending a summer arts and crafts class at Halldale Avenue Elementary School at 215th Street and Halldale Avenue in Harbor Gateway. That day, their dog followed them to the class so Karen's brother took it home before the class was over. Karen stayed behind.
The teacher and other students saw Karen leave the class when it ended at 5:30 p.m. that day. She was carrying two toy covered wagons, the crafts she and her brother had made in the class. It is a four-block walk between the school and Karen's home, and a classmate rode with her on a bicycle for the first few minutes of the trip. The police were called when she did not arrive home by 6:00 p.m.
A few days after Karen disappeared, a forty-year-old man was arrested for kidnapping her when the police found bloodstains on his underclothes. He denied having anything to do with her disappearance and was eventually released for lack of evidence connecting him to Karen's presumed abduction.
In 1962, an eleven-year-old girl, Dorothy Gale Brown, was kidnapped and her body was found in the ocean off of Marina Del Rey, California, thirty miles from Torrance, the next day. She had been sexually molested and drowned. Investigators at the time believed the Karen and Brown cases were related. Both girls were the same age, both were blonde, and both disappeared at around the same time of day and from only blocks apart. Brown's murder has never been solved.
Authorities believe Mack Ray Edwards was responsible for Brown's murder, Karen's disappearance, and a string of other children's disappearances and homicides in California. In 1970, Edwards pleaded guilty to killing three California children and sentenced to death at his own request. A photograph of Edwards is posted with this case summary. His alleged victims ranged in age from seven to sixteen years old.
He confessed to killing Brenda Howell, Donald Baker and Roger Madison as well, and authorities believe he was also most likely responsible for the disappearances of Thomas Bowman, Bruce Kremen and Ramona Price. Edwards lead authorities to a site where he said he had buried some of his victims, but no evidence was located. He died by suicide on death row in 1971.
Karen resided with her younger brother and infant sister, her mother and her grandmother at the time of her disappearance; her father was stationed at sea with the United States Navy, but returned home when he realized his daughter was missing.
Karen was a good student in 1961 and enjoyed playing with Barbie dolls. Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved.
The case was reopened in 2007 as authorities renewed the search for the bodies of Edwards's victims. He was employed as a heavy equipment operator in the 1950s and 1960s, and helped construct many highways across the state of California. Investigators believe he may have buried the children's remains under the highways.