Details of Disappearance Shirley was last seen leaving her half-sister's apartment on Union Street in Concord, New Hampshire at 9:30 p.m. on July 13, 1984. She was planning to pick up some money a woman owed her for babysitting, then visit her 21-year-old boyfriend at his place of work, Concord Litho, which is on Old Turnpike Road near the Merrimack River.
It's unclear whether she ever arrived at Concord Litho. She has never been heard from again. She had a history of leaving home overnight without telling anyone, so she wasn't reported missing for a couple of days. She did not take any of her personal belongings or clothing with her and did not have any additional cash.
Shirley was living with her half-sister, Donna Whitcomb Reil, and Reil's children at the time she disappeared; she had moved out of her parents' home, with their permission, a few months before. She had begun to have problems in 1983 after her family moved from Manchester, New Hampshire to Pittsfield, New Hampshire.
She couldn't make new friends in Pittsfield, was often truant, was suspended from school, and used marijuana. She regularly visited people at the state prison at the time she vanished; it is unknown whether any of the inmates are connected to her case. She earned spending money by babysitting for local families.
Despite her personal problems, Shirley's family does not believe she left of her own accord. Within a week of her disappearance, her father decided she was probably dead. He suspected her boyfriend was involved in her case and tracked the man's movements; as a result, Shirley's father was arrested for stalking. The boyfriend has not been ruled out as a person of interest in her case.
There were many sightings of Shirley in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York state after her disappearance, but none of the accounts were verified and police don't believe any of them were genuine. Investigators believe Shirley met with foul play, possibly on the day she disappeared, and that she probably never left the city of Concord.
Another possible suspect is Walter Davis II, a Merrimack, New Hampshire man who worked in Concord at the time of Shirley's disappearance. His teenage half-sister and mother caught him trying to burn some damp clothes, including denim bib overalls and a stained cotton shirt, in the fireplace in July 1984, the same month Shirley disappeared.
Davis reportedly told the women he had raped a girl, thrown her in the Merrimack River and kept her clothes. His half-sister hid the clothes in a closet and told a friend about what had happened. The friend told the Merrimack police, who retrieved the clothes and questioned Davis and his family.
He told them he'd simply found the clothes on the edge of White Park Pond in Concord, and said he took them home because he thought the overalls might fit his teenage sister. White Park Pond is near Reil's Union Street Apartment.
Shirley's parents and Reil went to the Merrimack Police Department to look at the overalls and shirt Davis had tried to burn, and they identified the items as Shirley's clothing. Merrimack investigators asked Davis to take a lie detector test in Shirley's case, but he refused. He died in 2003. The Concord Police Department, which was investigating Shirley's disappearance, didn't learn about the existence of the clothing until 2014. The Concord police took custody of the clothing at that time and said they were going to test it for DNA, but it's unclear whether this was ever done.
Shirley's parents had her declared legally dead in 1996, twelve years after her disappearance. Her mother died in 2003, her father died in 2015, and her older sister Robin has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Both Robin and Reil hope for answers in Shirley's disappearance. Her remains unsolved.
- Concord Police Department
Updated 7 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 14, 2019; two pictures added, details of disappearance updated.