Name: Phyllis Eleanor Berry
Case Classification: Endangered Missing
Missing Since: November 1, 1975
Location Last Seen: Terlingua, Brewster County, Texas
Date of Birth: September 16, 1954
Age: 21 years old
Height: 5'3" - 5'5"
Weight: 110 lbs. to 120 lbs.
Hair Color: Brown
Eye Color: Hazel
Nickname/Alias: Phyllis Eleanor Benny; Phyllis Eleanor Ecklison
Distinguishing Marks/Features: a flat brown mole on her lower right abdomen and a freckle between her thumb and right wrist; pierced ears; a slight space between her two front teeth.
Clothing: A pair of blue jeans, a tan and black shirt, and a pair of knee-high granny boots which laced up the front.
Additional Personal Items: Unknown
Ms. Berry was last seen at the Terlingua Chili Cookoff near the Texas-Mexico border. Sometime between midnight and 8 a.m. on November 2nd, she disappeared.
According to the Odessa American in an interview with Texas Ranger, Alfred Allee, back in 1975, Phyllis made the weekend trip from her hometown of Odessa with two friends: her roommate Vangie Strait and another friend, Terry Robert Bailey. After arriving at Terlingua, Bailey went to visit friends while Strait took a nap in a friend’s camper and Berry went motorcycle riding. Later that evening, after the sun had gone down, a large crowd attended an impromptu dance. Phyllis ran into two friends from Odessa, John Jackson and Dale Wade. She also met a third man named Jim from Austin who Jackson had picked up as a hitchhiker en route to Terlingua.
Shortly before midnight, Jackson and Berry returned to camp with Wade on Wade’s motorcycle; Jim followed a few moments later on foot. "The fire had just about burned down and [Phyllis] asked us to get more wood for the fire," Jackson said. "I don’t remember her exact words, but she said she was going to sit by the fire and wait for us to return." Jim sat with her on the cot for a minute or two and then joined us about 20 feet away where we were gathering the wood. "We all walked back to the campfire a few minutes later and she was gone," Jackson said. "She was there one minute and gone the next. She just kinda slipped away. At first I thought she must have gone down the hill to party some more or to use the bathroom," Jackson said.
A short time later, probably not more than five minutes, Bailey came to the camp in Berry’s auto looking for her. "He was driving her car and had her Irish setter puppy." Jackson said. He said Wade rode around for about an hour on his motorcycle looking for the girl unsuccessfully. "We didn’t think too much about it," Jackson explained. "We figured maybe she just went down the hill."
The next morning, Jim walked down the road to catch a ride back to Austin. Wade packed up and headed back to Odessa. Jackson said he remained behind and spent half of Sunday with Bailey searching for the missing woman. Jackson returned to Odessa Sunday night, but Strait and Bailey remained behind to hunt for their missing friend. Strait said she and Bailey telephoned back to Odessa Sunday night, thinking Berry caught a ride home with friends. The first missing person report to the sheriff's office at Alpine was made that Sunday night by telephone from Odessa. "The last time I saw her was about 10:30 or 11 o’clock Saturday night," Miss Strait said. "She seemed to be having a good time." Strait and Phyllis Berry were in Terlingua not just for the cook off. They had both quit their jobs and were going to camp out in the area for a while after the celebration ended. They had packed food and clothes in Phyllis’ car, and the Irish setter puppy that belonged to Phyllis. When Berry disappeared, everything she owned was left behind. The theory that Phyllis 'took off with someone' is not a viable one to Strait. “I know she wouldn't do that. If she was going to leave, she would have said so. She would have taken something with her.”
Brewster Sheriff James Skinner is resigned about the fate of Berry, “I think she’s dead.” He further states she may have been the victim of foul play. The fact that her body has never been recovered means little to Skinner. “This is a very hilly area with a lot of mine shafts around," he states. “Some of them are open. She might be in one of them.” It would be difficult to locate a body in one of those mines, Skinner says. “You could stay down there for many years before your bones are found,” he states, adding: "They may never be found.”
The cold case was re-opened in 2000 at the request of Berry's sister, Lucy Wiley.
Agency Name: Texas Department Of Public Safety
Agency Contact Person: N/A
Agency Phone Number: 432-447-3533
Agency E-Mail: N/A
Agency Case Number: M0007006
Agency Name: Texas Rangers
Agency Contact Person: Sgt. David Duncan
Agency Phone Number: 432-249-0961
Agency E-Mail: N/A
Agency Case Number: 961
NCIC Case Number: M-400921199
NamUs Case Number: 2927
Odessa American (10/16/75, 11/30/75, 10/28/00)
Added: Prior to 2011; Last Updated: 7/15/2017
Questions or comments? Please contact appropriate member of the Area Team
** Listed information is from the time of disappearance.