Details of Disappearance
Carrisi was touring Central America and North America when she arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1993. She had gone with her parents on a trip to the city then decided to stay after the vacation was over and her parents returned to Italy.
At first she traveled to Florida, left a few days later, after telling her parents she feared two men in Florida were trying to drug and kill her. She traveled to Belize and Mexico before going back to New Orleans.
Carrisi, who speaks fluent English, immersed herself in the street culture there and kept company with street musicians and homeless people. She painted and took notes about the people she met, stating she planned to write a book, possibly a novel, about her experiences. Her father believes she may have been using drugs during this period.
At the time of her disappearance, Carrisi was staying in the LeDale, a cheap hotel in the 700 block of St. Charles Avenue, five blocks from the French Quarter, with 54-year-old Alexander Masakela (often spelled "Maskela"), a street musician who had performed in several countries in Europe. She checked in on December 31, the week before she disappeared.
Masakela said they slept in separate beds during the time they shared the hotel room and she refused to have a sexual relationship with him in spite of his urgings. He had a history of drug use and sexual violence as well as a reputation as a guru. Carrisi seemed fascinated by him. She referred to him as "my master" and said he had opened "completely new intellectual horizons" for her.
Carrisi was last seen in the city's French Quarter area on January 6, 1994. Her parents, who last heard from her on New Years' Day, reported her missing on January 18. They traveled to Louisiana shortly afterwards to assist in the search efforts.
No evidence regarding Carrisi's whereabouts was discovered. Most of her personal belongings, including her passport, backpack, clothing, camera, luggage and notebooks, were left behind at the hotel.
Masakela showed Carrisi's passport to the hotel staff after her disappearance and attempted to use her traveler's checks to pay the bill from their room, but the checks were refused because they were unsigned, and he was evicted. He told police he did not know Carrisi's whereabouts, but believed she was all right. He was arrested on January 31 after a former girlfriend claimed he had raped her, but released for lack of evidence after less than two weeks.
The only other possible lead was a security guard who saw a woman jump into the Mississippi River near the Aquarium of the Americas at 11:30 p.m. on January 6, the day Carrisi was last seen.
Prior to jumping, the woman was acting strangely and said, "I belong in the water." She swam for approximately 100 yards, began to struggle against the current and the wake from a passing boat, screamed for help, and then sank. She fit Carrisi's general physical description and was wearing similar, but not identical, clothing. It has never been established that the person was in fact Carrisi, but many authorities in New Orleans believe it was her.
Not everyone believes Carrisi is dead, however. No trace of her remains were found in the river, but it's possible she was washed into the Gulf of Mexico and out to sea. Since January 1994 there have been many reported sightings of her in the United States, Italy and elsewhere in Europe, even more than a decade after her disappearance. None of the sightings have been confirmed and Carrisi continues to be listed as a missing person.
Carrisi studied literature at King's College in London and earned excellent grades before she took a break from her studies to travel. She played a role in an Italian film in 1983, and in 1989 she was the letter-turner on the television show La Ruota de Fortuna, the Italian version of Wheel of Fortune. As a result, she was something of a celebrity in her native country.
She was born in rural Cellino San Marco in the region of Apulia in southeast Italy and comes from a performing family: her parents were popular entertainers in Italy in 1994, her maternal grandparents and maternal aunt were all film actors, and her two younger sisters have both appeared on Italian reality television. She also a younger brother.
Carrisi's American-born mother has since returned to the United States, but her father still lives in Italy. Members of her family are divided in their opinions to whether she is still alive. Her case remains unsolved.