Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: October 24, 1953 from La Crosse, Wisconsin
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date of Birth: November 21, 1937
Age: 15 years old
Height and Weight: 5’7, 126 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Brown hair, blue eyes. Hartley wears eyeglasses, but did not have them on when she disappeared. Her blood type is A.
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A size 34 plain white Ship n’ Shore blouse, size 16 red denim White Stag jeans and white bobby socks.
Details of Disappearance
Hartley was baby-sitting at the home of a La Crosse State College professor on the evening of October 24, 1953, when she disappeared. The residence was located in the 2400 block of Hoeschler Drive. She was supposed to call her parents during the evening but did not. Her father tried to call several times that day and never got an answer. He became worried and went to the house to check on his daughter.
Hartley’s father found all the windows in the house locked except a basement window in the back. Bloodstains were found around that window and in the grass of the yard, and there was a bloody handprint on the side of the house next door. The furniture inside the living room was disarranged. One of Hartley’s shoes and her eyeglasses, which were broken, were on the living room floor. Her other shoe was found in the basement. There was no other trace of Hartley inside the home. The twenty-month-old girl she had been baby-sitting was found unharmed, sleeping in her crib. Tracker dogs traced Hartley’s scent only as far as the street, leading authorities to believe she had been taken away in a car. They believe she disappeared at approximately 7:15 p.m.
Several days after her disappearance, Hartley’s underpants and brassiere were found near Highway 14 outside of La Crosse. They too were stained with blood. A bloodstained pair of men’s pants was found along the same road four miles away; it is unknown if the pants are connected to Hartley’s case. A pair of size 10 or 11 bloodstained tennis shoes was found in the Coon Valley area southeast of La Crosse. They were apparently dumped there only a short time before they were discovered. The soles of the shoes matched the footprints found near where Hartley was last seen and the blood was her type; investigators believe they were worn by her abductor. Inside one of them was a single human hair. They had a distinctive circular wear pattern on the soles, suggesting that their owner frequently operated a Whizzer motorbike.
Within 800 feet of the shoes was a well-worn, blue denim jacket with metallic buttons and bloodstains on the front, back and sleeves. Investigators are uncertain if the jacket was linked to Hartley’s abduction. The blood on it was her type and blood smears found at the house she was taken from were apparently made by cloth with the characteristics of denim, but the jacket was too small to be worn by someone who could have also worn the tennis shoes. It was medium-sized, possibly size 36.
Police suspect Edward Theodore Gein may have been involved in Hartley’s case. A photograph of him is posted below this case summary. He was visiting relatives in La Crosse, just blocks from the home where she was babysitting, on the night of her disappearance. In 1957, police went to question Gein about the disappearance of a local barmaid and found human remains all over his house. He had killed two women and had dug up other women’s bodies in the cemetery and mutilated them. Gein was declared insane and died in a mental institution in 1984. No trace of Hartley was found on his property and he denied any involvement in her case. He has still not been absolved of suspicion, however, and is also being considered in the 1947 disappearance of Georgia Weckler.
Hartley was an honors student student at Central High School at the time of her apparent abduction. She has a younger sister and an older brother; another brother died of polio a few years before her disappearance. Her case remains unsolved.
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