In 1961, 25-year-old mom of two Lucy Ann Johnson mysteriously disappeared from her family home in Canada. Her daughter, Linda, was only seven years old when her parent vanished, and, as a grown up, scarcely had any memories of her. Nevertheless, she spent decades wondering what happened to her mom. More than half a century later, the abandoned daughter was determined to get some answers. In 2013, the cold case investigation was reignited and Linda discovered the truth.
At the time of her disappearance, Lucy was resident in the city of Surrey, in the province of British Columbia, Canada. However, the woman had been quite the wanderer. Originally from Alaska, she had been born and raised in that state’s coastal settlement Skagway before roaming to the Canadian towns of Bennett and Pennington. Following a stint in the Yukon community of Carcross, Lucy had moved to Surrey and married her husband, Marvin, in 1954. As well as Linda, the couple had a son, Daniel.
Lucy had vanished in September 1961, but Marvin did not report his wife missing until May 14, 1965. This was more than three years after she had disappeared, and consequently the police considered his behavior suspicious. Treating the case as a homicide, cops searched the family home and dug up the yard. Marvin was interviewed intensely and the Johnson’s neighbors were all quizzed. Nevertheless, the police could find no trace of Lucy Ann Johnson.
Despite their abiding suspicions, without a body the cops were unable to charge Marvin with any crime. Over the years, investigators would continue to test Lucy’s DNA against any unidentified human remains that came their way. However, there were no clues and never any matches. Marvin went on to remarry and forbade Linda and Daniel to even mention their mother’s name. The old man died of natural causes in the 1990s.
But it was also natural for his children to wonder what had become of their mom. “I don’t remember much about my mother,” Linda sadly reported to the Canadian newspaper National Post in an interview from August 2013. “When my father remarried, me and my younger brother were not allowed to bring up Lucy’s name. So all I was left with were two little pictures of Lucy, and one bigger one. That is all I knew of my mother.”
Indeed, by 2013 so many years had passed since Johnson went missing that a breakthrough seemed unlikely. Linda, a former nursing home attendant, was herself a grandmother by this time. The then 49-year-old lived in a basement apartment in Surrey with her 16-year-old grandson who had special needs.
But then in June 2013 Lucy’s long-dormant case was featured in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – or RCMP – “Missing of the Month” publicity initiative. This was a regular media campaign which highlighted individual missing-person cases. The series ran in the Canadian press and online until December 2013, and reopened unusual unsolved cases some of which dated back to the 1950s.
Meanwhile, prompted by her mother’s “Missing of the Month” feature, Linda decided to do some amateur detective work. It was then that she discovered some crucial documents, including her parents’ marriage license, which contained useful information about Lucy’s past. Linda learned that her mom had once lived in the Yukon, so the north-west Canadian territory became the focus of the bereft daughter’s quest.
Consequently, Linda placed an advertisement in the personal classified section of the local Yukon News weekly paper. “I am looking for my relatives,” began her long-shot plea. “My grandparents’ names are Margaret & Andrew Carvell. My mother’s name is Lucy Ann Carvell. She was born Oct. 14, 1935 in Skagway.” Somewhat incredibly, shortly after the ad went to press, an interested party telephoned the Surrey department of the RCMP.
“We received a phone call from a woman in the Yukon,” Corporal Bert Paquet, a spokesman for Surrey RCMP, told the Canadian national broadcaster’s CBC News in July 2013. “[She] called and claimed that she had seen the picture of the missing person in the free newspapers, and said the missing person we were looking for was actually her mother.”
The Yukon News is published in the territory’s capital, Whitehorse, where apparently a relative Linda didn’t even know she had lived and worked. Paquet continued, “[Linda]… the original daughter of Lucy Johnson… actually somehow connected with a [half] sister… The stars aligned, the timing was perfect.”
In fact, according to the caller, Lucy was still very much alive. She was 77 years old and had been living in the Yukon with another family. Apparently, after abandoning Marvin and their two children in Surrey, Lucy had resettled in eastern Alaska. The runaway mom had remarried and given birth to four other children. And one of them – Rhonda Glenn – had seen the advertisement in the Yukon News and answered it.
Later, Linda’s half-sister spoke to the National Post about coming across the ad. “At first I thought Linda must have been given up for adoption,” Rhonda explained. “I didn’t know the RCMP was involved or that my mother was a missing person.” Evidently it was a bitter-sweet discovery for Rhonda. “We are all still in shock,” she added. “As a kid, I had always wanted an older sister. I am just happy Linda knows her mother is alive now. I feel so badly for her, for what she missed.”
Meanwhile, as far as Linda was aware, her mother had never attempted to contact her or her brother after she ran away. “As I got older, I thought she must be dead, maybe even murdered,” she told the National Post. But now it was Linda who made contact, after being given Lucy’s phone number by Rhonda.
Nevertheless, the abandoned daughter did not resent her mom. Linda said, “I am not angry with her. Not now… I cried when we spoke for the first time. I called her mom. I almost didn’t know what to say.” But she knew she had to act, so in September 2013 Linda caught a flight to Whitehorse. Outside the airport, she met with several relatives – her half-sister Rhonda, a half-brother, a few aunts and, of course, her estranged mother who recognized her daughter right away. “I went downstairs, my mom grabbed me, gave me a big hug and said ‘I love you,’” Linda recounted to the CBC.
But the encounter was understandably awkward at first. “I don’t know how to describe it – it was, like, surreal because I could see my face in her face, and her eyes in my eyes,” Linda continued. But no matter the physical resemblances, there was a crucial difference between mother and daughter. “I wouldn’t take off on any my kids the way she had to,” Linda insisted to CBC News.
On day two of their week-long reunion, the abandoned daughter asked her mother why she ran out on her family. “She told me that my dad was really abusive to her, and that he was running around with other women,” Linda told the CBC. “She said that he told her to get out, and she went back to get us, but my dad said, ‘You’re not taking the kids’ and that was the end of that.”
However, Linda was in two minds about whether her mother was telling the entire truth. Nonetheless, the daughter decided to let it be. “I didn’t want to doubt anything she was telling me, but there was still a bit of doubt in my mind,” she said. “I think I believe her, just because of the way she would look at me. She wants me to believe her.”
In what must be something of an understatement, Linda described the reunion as “emotional” with lots of crying and hugs. As well as seeing her mother for the first time in 52 years, Linda had the sad duty of informing Lucy that her brother, Daniel, had died. Lucy’s first-born son had drowned at the age of 20. But despite everything, the get-together left Linda yearning to move to the Yukon. “It has changed my life,” she explained to CBC News. “I want to go up there, like, really bad.”
So it became a happy ending for Lucy and Linda and their extended family. But the conclusion of their story also pleased another group. The Surrey Mounties were delighted to be able to close a long-standing missing person case. “We are extremely happy about the outcome of our investigation,” Corporal Paquet told Canadian daily The Globe and the Mail in July 2013. “This was the only active investigation left from 1965 at the Surrey RCMP. This not only brings closure to family and friends, but investigators that have worked on this case throughout the years…” It’s said that the Mounties always get their man, it would appear that this goes for women too.