Details of Disappearance
Martha's was last seen in St. Augustine, Florida on November 27, 1985. She lived on Kerri Lynn Road off Holmes Boulevard. She has never been seen again.
Her family life was troubled. Neighbors said Martha was a friendly girl but that she was often dirty, her father was an alcoholic and there was a lot of loud fighting at their home. The Lambert children had been in foster care before due to child abuse, and her brothers had previously run away.
Her case was initially investigated as that of a runaway, but police eventually concluded she had not left voluntarily. Extensive searches of the area turned up no sign of her or her remains.
Although Martha's mother, Margaret (who now goes by her later married name, Pichon) believed she had been abducted from outside her home, authorities long suspected her older brother, David Allen Lambert, knew more about his sister's disappearance than he had disclosed. He was fourteen years old in 1985. A photograph of him as an adult is posted with this case summary.
David gave conflicting accounts as to what happened when he last saw Martha. Once he claimed she left home after dinner and refused to say where she was going, and that he saw her walking down the street towards Lil' Champ on State Road 207. Another time he said he saw her get into a black vehicle. Margaret noted that while she was looking for her daughter that night, she saw David laughing for no apparent reason.
In September 2009, David confessed in detail to having caused his sister's death. He stated it happened while they were playing on the grounds of the abandoned Florida Memorial College on King Street and Holmes Boulevard, near their home. They got into a disagreement over money and the argument turned physical. Martha slapped David and in response he pushed her. She fell back and hit her head on a piece of steel, which killed her. David stated he panicked afterwards and buried his sister's body in a shallow grave on the grounds of the college.
Investigators made considerable efforts to find Martha's body on the land where Florida Memorial College once was, but couldn't locate any remains. They don't expect to recover Martha's body, as Florida Memorial College has been razed and the area completely rebuilt.
David's statements were not made public until December 2009. Police believed his story, but no charges were filed against him, because he was a minor at the time of the incident and the statute of limitations for manslaughter has expired.
His 2009 confession wasn't the first time David had confessed to causing Martha's death. When he was arrested in 2000 for passing a bad check, he told police he was responsible for Martha's death and had buried her at a coquina mine on Holmes Boulevard. He wasn't charged at that time because investigators couldn't find Martha's body or any other evidence to support his statement.
After David's confession was publicized, his mother told the media she didn't believe it. She stated David often makes up stories to get attention and she thinks others were responsible for Martha's disappearance.
Shortly after Margaret voiced her opinion to the press, David retracted his previous statements. In media interviews he stated the police wanted to close Martha's case and he only told them what he wanted to hear. He said he is "mentally incompetent," has long-standing emotional problems, and has no idea what happened to Martha.
Investigators still believe David was telling the truth about his sister's death, however; they stated he became very emotional during his statement and appeared overwhelmed with grief. Cadaver dogs taken to the site where David said his sister was buried also showed a "change in behavior," although an excavation of the area turned up nothing of interest.
Martha is described as a trusting and happy person who wanted to be liked, but she had few friends at the time of her disappearance. She was a seventh-grade student at Ketterlinus Junior High School in St. Augustine, Florida in 1985. Her mother stated she wouldn't have run away, in spite of the problems at home, and that she knew not to get in anyone's car, even a friend's, without permission.
Foul play is suspected in her case due to the circumstances involved. It remains classified as a non-family abduction or runaway with most agencies.