Details of Disappearance
Peggy and her common-law husband, Bernard Rusness
, disappeared from their Wolf Lake, Minnesota farm on April 3, 1976. They went to the grocery store together, and later, at 4:00 p.m., Rusness was seen leveling his driveway.
Between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, neighbors noticed the house was on fire. It burned to the ground; nothing could be saved. The body of Bernard and Peggy's eight-year-old son, Brian, was found in his bedroom, and authorities also discovered the remains of two family dogs in the ashes, but Bernard and Peggy were missing and have never been heard from again. The fire marshal concluded they had survived the blaze.
All the family vehicles were left in the driveway with the keys in the ignitions of each one. The hood was up on their four-wheel-drive Ford pickup truck, as Bernard was installing a sound system. The couple also left about $1,000 in their bank accounts and never picked up their last paychecks from work.
The family's house had originally belonged to Peggy's mother. Peggy moved there in 1974 to care for her mother, who was sick. Bernard visited on weekends. Less than a year later, Peggy's mother died, and Bernard moved into the home with Peggy. At the time of their disappearances, the couple had recently finished remodeling the house.
Although the family lived in a very small town, they didn't socialize often and their neighbors didn't know much about them. Contrary to what they told people, they were not legally married; Bernard had never divorced his first wife, who lived in Fargo, North Dakota. Peggy's former husband also lived in North Dakota. Brian's babysitter described Peggy as a very protective mother.
Bernard and Peggy's disappearances remain unsolved. Foul play is suspected in their disappearances.