Patricia Elayne Action, age 25, went missing from Clearwater, Florida on May 27, 1978.
On the morning of May 27, 1978, Patricia left her Tarpon Springs home, telling her parents that she planned to go out with co-workers after work, and not to worry if she came home late. She was to receive her first paycheck, and wanted to go out to celebrate. She worked her shift as a waitress at the Kapok Tree Inn in Clearwater, then proceeded as planned, with co-workers, to the Ramada Inn Lounge at the intersection of US 19 and State Route 60. She ordered a drink, sipped half of it, then excused herself to use the restroom. She has never been seen or heard from again.
The following morning, when Patricia didn’t return home, her parents went to the Kapok Tree Inn, but nobody claimed to know anything other than that she had left the night before.
After another three days (some reports claim June 1st, which would be 5 days total), Patricia’s 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle was located in the parking lot of the Days Inn, on US 19 in Tarpon Springs. Patricia’s shoes were in the car, and there was enough blood spatter on the seat and inside the car to indicate that someone had sustained a serious injury. The blood was tested, but they were only able to determine that it was Type O blood – they were unable to specify whether it was Type O Positive, which was Patti’s type. The only fingerprints found in the vehicle belonged to Patti and her family, and the keys were not found.
A massive search ensued, using search helicopters, off-road vehicles, and hundreds of volunteers on foot. No trace of Patricia was found.
Patricia was said to be a responsible young lady, always keeping her parents informed of her whereabouts. No one seemed to believe that she had left voluntarily.
There was a potential suspect at the time, but he has not been named. The then police chief described him as a ‘real weird-o’ who had dreams ‘too damn accurate to suit me’, but were unable to hold him due to lack of evidence.
It appears that at the time, law enforcement took her disappearance very seriously, and great pains were taken the attempt to locate her. However, February 1979 marks the last article indicative of an active investigation, with no follow-up to be found.
I think it needs to be looked at again.
I have come up with three possible scenarios relating to her last known location, and the claim that she had gotten up to use the restroom:
She could have been abducted while making her way to or from the restroom, or while inside. This would depend greatly on the layout of the Ramada Inn, whether the restroom was located in an isolated area, or anywhere near an exit. She could have been grabbed, or she could have been lured outside somehow.
She could have chosen to leave the Ramada Inn – possibly someone in the group made her feel uncomfortable, and she said she was going to use the restroom, but intended to go home. This theory, as well, only works if the restrooms and exit were not visible from where her companions were sitting.
The whole story about getting up to use the restroom may have been fabricated. This scenario would be most likely if someone from the group had done something to her. Her mother, quoted in the Evening Independent, said “But no one seems to know – or is willing to tell – what happened to Patsy Action after she sipped half a drink and left the table of friends to use the lounge restroom.”
It sounds to me as if her mother suspected that the co-workers knew more than they were telling. It’s been 35 years. Loyalties fade over the years, consciences develop, and someone who might have been afraid to talk back then, just might be willing to talk now.
Patricia’s car was located at the Days Inn on US 19 in Tarpon Springs, which would have been along her route home. The car was found with blood spatter on the seat and inside the car. It was undetermined whether the blood type was Patti’s, which was Type O Positive.
Obviously, that could be determined now, and even identified as hers, if it was indeed hers.
I would like to know if there was any speculation as to whether the blood spatter was positioned as such that a person would have been sitting in the car when the injury occurred. I also wonder if the seats and mirrors were adjusted to Patty’s height – she was 5’4”, and 96 pounds. It would have been difficult for the average male to drive with those adjustments. It would help to have an idea of whether or not Patty herself drove the car to the Days Inn. My guess is, she didn’t.
Researching this case has led me to read dozens of articles about other cases in the area from that time, including many articles and profiles about Barbara Barkley, who disappeared from nearby Pinellas Park, FL on May 29, 1981. Barbara was last seen working alone in a furniture store. Her car disappeared with her, however her purse had been left behind in the store. A few days later, Barbara’s car was located at Studio 19, a nightclub at US 19 and State Highway 60.
Note that Barbara’s car was found at the same intersection as Patricia had gone missing from.
In reading articles about Barbara’s disappearance, it was mentioned that she could have possibly been a victim of James Delano Winkles.
A profile of Winkles can be found here.
On September 11, 1980, Winkles scheduled an appointment with the Pampered Poodles dog grooming service. He had given a bogus name, and the address turned out to be a vacant house, on a dirt road, in St. Petersburg in Pinellas County. The groomer, Elizabeth Graham, was never seen again. Reports state that he had met a different groomer at a nearby convenience store, and had requested her, but for unknown reasons, Graham was sent instead. This was only Graham’s second day working for Pampered Poodles.
In 1981, Margo Delimon, a Clearwater real estate agent, went missing after James Winkles entered her office, requesting to look at properties.
In 1983, Winkles abducted Donna Maltby, but she managed to escape, and her police report led to the arrest of Winkles, who was sentenced to life in prison.
He later admitted to the above crimes, which will be discussed in more detail further on.
On September 2, 1980, Cynthia Clements, 19, went missing from her job at the Li’l General Store, a convenience store in Pinellas Park. The door was left unlocked, her purse was left in the store, and a radio was playing. No money was missing from the cash register. It is worth noting that the Li’l General Store is where Winkles was believed to have met the dog groomer he had requested, that was replaced with Elizabeth Graham. Cynthia had been working at the store for less than a week when she went missing. Her body was located six weeks later, in the woods off Bryan Dairy Road, apparently beaten and strangled.
Winkles did not confess to, nor has he been charged, with Cynthia’s disappearance.
In the 1990’s, while serving a life sentence for the kidnap of Donna Maltby, his health began to decline, and he summoned Pinellas Park law enforcement to come to the prison and speak with him.
At this time, he admitted to the kidnapping and murders of dog groomer Elizabeth Graham, and realtor Margo Delimon. He went into disturbing detail about how the crimes had taken place, stating that in each of the two cases, he had held the victim for four days for his sexual pleasure, before murdering and dumping them.
To briefly explore some similarities, other than all the above mentioned women disappearing from the Pinellas County area between 1978-1981, they all worked in ‘public places’, where a would-be predator could easily patronize their workplaces in order to scope out victims. Winkles was known to do this, in the case of Margo Delimon.
They all went missing from their workplaces, with the exception of Patricia Action, who had left her workplace less than an hour before.
Elizabeth Graham, Cynthia Clements, and Patricia Action had all been new to their jobs, having started work within the past three weeks.
Barbara Barkley’s car was found at the same intersection that Patricia Action had gone missing from.
James Winkles claimed that he held each victim (that he confessed to) for 4 days. Patricia’s car was found at Days Inn 4-5 days after her disappearance.
More details of James Winkles’ confession revealed that he claimed to have kidnapped and murdered a total of 26 people between 1967 and 1982. He also stated that “things I’ve done make Ted Bundy look like a choirboy”. Investigators were skeptical, however, as not that many people had been reported missing, and he never gave any details on any other murders.
The bodies of Elizabeth Graham and Margo Delimon were recovered based on information Winkles gave investigators.
Winkles claimed that he had buried their bodies, then returned soon after to remove the heads, removing the jaws and tossing one into a river, and burying one in a separate wooded area. The skulls were subsequently located.
I believe Winkles is a good candidate for Patricia’s disappearance, and although Winkles died of natural causes in prison in 2010, there may still be clues to his involvement.
It is stated that at the time of Winkles arrest, he was found with an ‘abduction kit’ and his van had been modified to prevent the passenger door from being opened from the inside. He also had a collection of female undergarments.
I think it’s time to dig these undergarments out of the evidence room and test them for Patricia’s DNA, as well as all other females missing from Pinellas County during that time.
Winkles also claimed that he buried a box which contained photos of his victims. While he gave investigators a location of the box, a search did not produce anything. I think it’s worth going back to this location with ground penetrating radar – I don’t know what the description of the location was like, whether it was exact or vague – but I think it should be looked into again.
Also worth noting is this unidentified skull, missing it’s mandible (jaw), that was located in Florida. With the knowledge that Winkles removed skulls from his victims (and jaws from skulls) and placed them elsewhere, I think they need to be compared with both Patricia Action and Barbara Barkley, as I believe both fell victim to Winkles.
Also worth a look: this unidentified jaw, also located in Florida.