Details of Disappearance
Bruhl and two of her friends, Patricia Blough
and Ann Miller
, drove to the Indiana Dunes State Park in Indiana on July 2, 1966. Miller drove her four-door 1955 Buick and picked Blough up from her family's residence in Westchester, Illinois at approximately 8:00 a.m. Blough told her mother the women planned to return home early in the evening to allow Bruhl time to prepare dinner for her husband.
Miller and Blough picked up Bruhl from her home on West Fulton Street on the west side of Chicago, Illinois and stopped at a drugstore to purchase suntan lotion. The women arrived at the Indiana Dunes State Park at approximately 10:00 a.m. Miller parked in the park's lot and the women hiked to a spot approximately 100 yards from the Lake Michigan shoreline.
A couple reported seeing the women leave their belongings on the beach at approximately 12:00 p.m. and enter the lake together. The witnesses saw them speaking to an unidentified man operating a 14- to 16-foot-long white boat with a blue interior and and outboard motor sometime afterwards.
The couple reported their observations to a park ranger around dusk when they noticed that the women's belongings were still sitting unclaimed on the beach. The witnesses stated that the women went aboard the boat and headed west with the driver. Bruhl, Blough and Miller have never been seen again.
Bruhl left her large-sized towel, shorts, blouse, cigarettes, suntan lotion, 25 cents and her purse containing approximately $55 in checks on the beach. The three women's belongings were collected by the ranger the night of their disappearance and stored in the Park Superintendent's offices until two days later on July 4, 1966. Blough's father called the office on that day, asking if anyone had seen the women.
The park rangers soon learned that missing persons' reports had been filed for Blough, Miller and Bruhl over the weekend in Illinois by their families. The rangers began investigating the park and located Miller's Buick in the parking lot. Her car keys had been located with her belongings and some items of the women's clothing and other personal effects were still inside the vehicle. The car was apparently parked in its original space from July 2. The park rangers contacted other law enforcement agencies, including the United States Coast Guard.
A search for the missing women was initiated on July 5, three days after the women disappeared. Additional witnesses came forward with conflicting stories regarding the women's last known movements, but authorities believe that the first witnesses' reports stating that the women were seen boarding a boat were the most reliable.
The search was extended to a six-mile stretch of beach west of the state park near the Ogden Dunes later in the week. More witnesses began substantiating the initial reports that the women entered a white boat operated by an unidentified man. Later accounts described the male as in his early twenties with a tanned complexion and dark, wavy hair. He was wearing a beach jacket at the time. A visitor was filming home movies at the state park on July 2 and offered his reels to investigators.
The search was immediately narrowed to two boats once authorities viewed the footage. One was a fiberglass 16- to 18-foot-long trimaran runabout with a three-hulled design, which was operated by a man fitting the description of the unidentified driver. Three females matching the missing women were seen aboard the smaller boat in the footage.
The second boat identified was a 26- to 28-foot-long Trojan cabin cruiser with three men aboard along with three women. The cabin cruiser was seen at approximately 3:00 p.m. three hours after the women entered the smaller vessel.
Investigators believe that the women may have been dropped off on the beach by the driver of the smaller boat while he drove back to retrieve two male friends and the cabin cruiser. Blough, Miller and Bruhl were reportedly seen eating and walking along the sand dunes after this time.
They were approached by another unidentified man, who accompanied them on to the cabin cruiser. Witnesses stated that the cabin cruiser was equipped with a radio/telephone antenna, but apparently did not have a name printed on its stern. This final sighting has never been confirmed, but is considered reliable by authorities.
Investigators began researching the women's backgrounds in an attempt to discover if their disappearances were voluntary. Authorities found a note addressed to Bruhl's husband in her purse. The couple had been married for 15 months in July of 1966. The note stated that Bruhl felt her husband spent too much time working on hot-rod cars with his friends and insinuated that she wanted to leave the relationship.
Her husband told authorities that he was not aware of any major marital problems at the time his wife vanished. Her family agreed with his statement, telling investigators that they felt Bruhl penned the note in a moment of anger and never gave it to her husband because she changed her mind.
All three women were horse enthusiasts, which pointed to a possible connection with criminal activity. Blough and Miller met while boarding their horses at the same Illinois stable. Bruhl was a classmate of Blough's from Proviso West High School in Maywood, Illinois. Bruhl completed a one-year course in medical technology at a school located in The Loop of Chicago after her high school graduation.
Miller and Blough were associated with men who had criminal backgrounds in the horse market. Blough was reportedly having problems with "horse syndicate people" in the spring and summer of 1966.
Blough was a very skilled swimmer who could swim 20 to 30 miles; Miller was thought to possess similar abilities and Bruhl's family stated that she had fair swimming skills. Accidental drowning was considered a possibility in the disappearances, but an unlikely one.
Miller's friends told authorities that she was three months pregnant in July of 1966 and mentioned entering a home for unwed mothers prior to her disappearance. Blough may have been pregnant as well. The two women's boyfriends were reportedly both married.
Another person who visited the beach that day was Ralph Largo Jr. He resembled the boat driver Miller, Blough and Bruhl were seen speaking to shortly before they disappeared. He lived with his aunt and uncle in Gary, Indiana. Largo's aunt and uncle performed abortions, which were illegal at the time.
One theory about the women's disappearances is that they went with Largo to a larger boat several miles offshore to get abortions for Miller and Blough, and something went wrong with the procedures and the women were killed and dumped into the lake. This theory has not been confirmed. Largo died in Florida in 2009.
There have been many unconfirmed sightings of the three women throughout the years, but leads never surfaced. The boats they were reportedly seen boarding on July 2, 1966 have never been located, nor have the unidentified men spotted on the vessels been seen again.
Debris from an apparent boat wreck were discovered near the Bailly Generating Station of Northern Indiana Public Service Company on Lake Michigan shortly after the July 2 disappearances. There were no reports of any missing boats the day the women vanished and authorities do not know if the debris is connected to their cases.
Blough, Miller and Bruhl frequently rode horses at Tri Color Stables in Palatine, Illinois in 1966. The stables were owned by George Jayne, a prominent horse dealer. George and his brother, Silas Jayne, were involved in a bitter argument over horse dealing during the mid-1960's. Cheryl Ann Rude, a young woman associated with the horse market, was killed at Tri Color Stables in June 1965 by a car bomb discovered to be intended for George. George asked Rude to move his Cadillac from the stable entrance and the bomb exploded.
Investigators have explored the possibility that Blough, Miller and/or Bruhl may have witnessed the bomb being planted one year prior to their disappearances. This theory may explain Blough's odd remarks about a facial injury she received March 1966 and the connection to "syndicate" people. It has never been proven.
George and Silas's phone numbers were discovered in the belongings of one of the missing women in 1966. George was killed by a gunshot wound in 1970; Silas was later convicted of conspiracy in his brother's murder and imprisoned.
Silas died in 1987; he is also a suspect in the 1977 disappearance and probable murder of Helen Brach
. In 1997, James Blottiaux was charged with planting the 1965 car bomb that killed Rude at George's stable. None of the men have been proven to have been involved with Blough, Miller and Bruhl's disappearances, but it does lead to speculation that something may have occurred to cause the three women to vanish.
Silas Jayne reportedly told a sheriff that he had three bodies buried underneath his residence some time after the women's 1966 disappearances. Law enforcement took the comment seriously and planned to search Silas's property; the sheriff involved was killed in a farming accident before the search took place. As a result, the lead was left cold.
The Indiana Dunes State Park where Blough, Miller and Bruhl were last seen is now called the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Their cases remain open but inactive and unsolved.