Ruth Purcell Murphree Dorsey

Dorsey, circa 1974

  • Missing Since 08/17/1974
  • Missing From Opelika, Alabama
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race White
  • Date of Birth 07/21/1905 (118)
  • Age 69 years old
  • Height and Weight 5'4, 105 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A flowered blouse and a long brown skirt or pants.
  • Associated Vehicle(s) 1972 Ford Galaxie (accounted for)
  • Distinguishing Characteristics Caucasian female. Light brown hair, gray eyes.

Details of Disappearance

Dorsey was last seen on August 17, 1974 in Opelika, Alabama. She visited the Spring Villa Grocery between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m. and got gasoline for her car, a 1972 Ford Galaxie. Dorsey told the gas station attendant that a relative had called her and she was going to pick the person up.

One of Dorsey's neighbors reported seeing her turn into her driveway at 6:00 p.m. She has not been seen since. She was reported missing after she failed to arrive at church the next day; she was a Sunday School teacher and pianist and it was uncharacteristic of her to miss services.

When authorities went to Dorsey's home on Route 1 in Opelika, they found the front door open and a side door unlocked. Laundry was hanging on the outside clothesline, Dorsey's Bible and Sunday School teaching materials were laid out on the table, and her bed did not appear to have been slept in.

Her three dogs were found "cowering" in the bathroom, which is unusual; the animals would typically try to defend the property if someone came in while Dorsey was there.

Dorsey's car was found in downtown Opelika near the First Baptist Church after her disappearance. The keys were the ignition and her eyeglasses and purse were on the front seat. Nothing appeared to be missing from the purse and it contained $11 in cash. Investigators stated it appeared that the car had been left by someone who was running an errand and intended to return within a short time.

Curiously, the vehicle was parked in front of the first house Dorsey had lived in with her late husband. The door of the house was open, but authorities found no indications that Dorsey had been there recently.

There have been no withdrawals from Dorsey's account since she disappeared. Police initially believed she left of her own accord, but her family suspected foul play from the beginning, as she was close to her relatives and it is uncharacteristic of her to leave without warning.

Dorsey is a graduate of Randolph-Macon Women's College in Ashland, Virginia. She taught French and mathematics until her marriage in 1928. Her husband died in 1965. After his death she worked for the First National Bank in Opelika; she retired shortly before her disappearance. Dorsey is described as a strong, independent woman. Her case remains unsolved.

Investigating Agency

  • Opelika Police Department 334-705-5220
  • Lee County Sheriff's Department 800-239-7072

Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated May 1, 2006; casefile added.