Karen Denise Wells
Missing since April 12, 1994 from Carlisle, Middlesex Township, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania
Classification: Endangered Missing
Circumstances of Disappearance
Denise Wells, a single mother of Haskell, Oklahoma, was traveling cross-country in April 1994 to to visit with a childhood friend in New Jersey. She dropped off her son at her parents' home April 10 before she left on the trip. She told her mother she was going to visit a high school friend who used to live in Haskell and planned to be back in about four days.
Ms. Wells' family was not worried about the length of the trip because she had driven long distances when she lived in South Dakota.
She checked into the Pike Motel in Middlesex Township, outside Carlisle, and asked for directions to McDonald's, at about 20.00.
The last time anyone heard from Ms. Wells was when she called her friend in New Jersey about 19.30 April 12. She called her friend to tell her she was not going to make it to New Jersey and made plans for the friend to drive to the hotel the next day. Ms. Wells also told her friend she was going to go to a McDonald's restaurant for dinner, and then return to the motel to sleep.
Wells' disappearance was discovered when her friend arrived at the Pike Motel early on April 13 to meet Denise as they had planned. There was no answer at the door of Denise's room. When entering the room, they found Wells' belongings, apparently untouched. Beds were undisturbed. There was no other sign of a struggle. The room key was still there.
The friend immediately filed a missing person report with Middlesex Township police.
Her white, Plymouth Acclaim, rented in Tulsa, was found abandoned in a rural part of Perry County, near New Germantown, along Route 274, early in the morning of April 13. Motorists had stopped and tried to turn on the hazard lights, but the battery was dead.
Out of gas, the car appeared to have stopped in its tracks in the road's westbound lane. It bore several scratches and was spattered with mud. The passenger's and driver's side doors were standing open.
Wells' change purse, with cash still inside, was found in a nearby ditch. There were no signs of a struggle inside the car. Investigators found some french fries in the car along with maps, a pair of shoes and empty soda bottles.
State Route 274 runs through the Tuscarora State Forest near New Germantown in the western end of Toboyne Township, Perry County. Several hunting cabins are in the area just west of Conococheague Mountain. Police combed the area with helicopters and dogs, but turned up no sign of the missing woman.
A time line pieced together from witness accounts and telephone logs places Wells as far east as Schaefferstown in Lebanon County and Bernville in Berks County before she apparently doubled back to the Carlisle area.
Odometer readings from Wells' rental car showed the car traveled 700 miles more than the distance from Oklahoma to Carlisle.
Denise had a forgery conviction from South Dakota, where she apparently went to live with her biological father for a short period. She returned, pregnant, to Haskell sometime in 1992 to give birth to her son and raise him in familiar surroundings. Life as an unemployed, single mother was tough, but Denise seemed to be handling it. And she loved motherhood.
Foul play is suspected.
Investigators Middlesex Township Police
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
PA State Police
Middlesex Township Police
Agency Case Number: H02-0769858
NCIC Number: M-726660373
Source Information: Return to the Unexplained Disappearances' Index
Please refer to this number when contacting any agency with information regarding this case.
The Patriot-News (Harrisburg, PA)
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