OSCODA — They can be found on telephone poles, cork boards, and business windows all around Oscoda. They are posters looking for information on the disappearance and suspected murders of two Oscoda High School students, Pamela “Pam” Sue Hobley and Patricia “Patty” Ann Spencer.
The youths disappeared on Halloween of 1969 and were reported missing after they did not arrive for a Friday night Oscoda Owls football game, according to police Chief Mark David, who since 2010 has renewed efforts into examining the case when he reopened it
David said, however, the case was never really closed, as loved ones and members of the community have continually sought answers to the girls’ disappearance. As the posters are removed, fade out, or are damage by the wind and the rain, they are replaced by Hobley’s younger sister, Mary Buehrle, who has worked with David to track down leads and information that could lead to answers for the family and bring closure on the case.
David, an Oscoda native, was just 12-years-old at the time of the girls’ disappearance and became a police officer in the early 1980s, and said the case was always something on everyone’s minds and talked about for decades.
He said since it has reopened there have been new leads, and said he hopes more information will come as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children work to generate a new case profile on the missing girls.
“They have a unit that is called their case analysis unit that is going to start looking at some of the people involved in the report and gathering more information for me,” he said.
David said there is a chance that he could meet with members of the center to go over the two large binders of information on the case.
“They would profile the case, and possibly give me leads or information on which way to go with the case,”
David said there are several issues with the information on the case. One is that many of the people that were interviewed at the time, even those who were high school kids at the time, are getting up in age. He said going through the files, which he does on a weekly basis to run down names, he has found that more and more of the witnesses on the case have died over the years.
Sometimes, for instance, there is information from new interviews that were not in the report, even though people were originally investigated by law enforcement at the time. An example of this is the nature of the missing girls. David said the story has been that the girls, walking on River Road from the Oscoda Area Schools campus in the late after noon toward downtown Oscoda, went missing and were last seen on River Road. He said they were expected back at the high school later that night to attend a football game and party, but they never showed up.
After their initial disappearance they were considered runaways, with rumors spreading around the community that the girls got a ride downstate and were in Flint. Soon it was evident that they were kidnapped as no one had any contact with them.
David said a new interview conducted several months ago with a man who was interviewed at the time of the girls’ disappearance, led to new information.
“He said ‘I don’t know why all the authorities said (they were last seen on River Road),’” David said. He said the man, who worked as an attendant an a gas station that was once on the corner of US-23 and River Road, said he picked the girls up and gave them a ride into town, dropping them off at the station as he was coming into work that day.
“He was contacted by Ray Knuth a detective at the time, and that information was not in the report,” said David.
After the reported disappearance, rumors of all kinds circulated throughout the community, which was devastating for the families, including Arlene Spencer, who was the mother of Patty Spencer.
Anyone who shopped at Gilberts Drugs in Oscoda would know Arlene, who spent decades working there and was affectionately known in town as “Grandma Spencer.”
David said Arlene, who died in 1991, spent the rest of her life looking for her missing daughter and sought closure in the case and was wracked by the constant rumors about the missing girls.
A letter to the editor printed in the Jan. 7, 1970 edition of the Oscoda Press, which is an item in David’s massive case file, exhibits her grief and frustration.
“I have done everything I can think of to find my daughter. So now I am just plain begging. Some of you have to know how the girls left here,” she wrote. “I know it’s a sin for one kid to tell on another and I admire your loyalty to a certain extent. I feel sometimes you use it in the wrong direction. You do not tell on a friend. If they use drugs, drink or steal. That is their business, you don’t approve abut you don’t tell.”
In the letter she told area youth that if they were friends of the girls, they wouldn’t keep their whereabouts secret, she also rallied against hearing rumors that people had information, but would not release it about the case.
“I get to tired of hearing ‘I heard someone say they know where they are, but don’t want to get involved.’ Why not? What about the mothers? We have felt since the second week the girls were gone we would never see them again, but we have to keep looking.”
David said he will keep looking for Pamela Hobley and Patricia Spencer, and hopes that anyone with information on the case, however small or seemingly insignificant, will come forward and give it to investigators.
Arlene Spencer, in her 1970 letter echoes what David believes today, that “If we knew how they left it might help.”
Nearly 50 years after the disappearance David said the families have resigned to the fact that Pamela Hobley and Patricia Spencer are dead, most likely the victims of murder, but said closure on finding their whereabouts and what happened, would help them and the community heal.
“I would like to get a lead to lead us to where the girls are actually at, whether it goes into prosecution or not, and return them to their families.” He said.
David said he hopes his continued interviews and new tips will get the job done and close the case once and for all.
“I have no physical evidence,” he said. “However I had Michigan State Police profilers look at it, and the fact that there is no physical evidence, is evidence. That is because they have not been found; hunters would come across them. They’re somewhere where someone does not want them to be found.”
He said anyone that would have any information can contact him at the department by calling 739-9113 or by emailing the information to otpd@OscodaTownshipMi.gov. Tips can be given anonymously at Crime Stoppers of Michigan by calling 800-773-2587.
David reiterated that even the most seemingly insignificant tip could lead to a break in the case.