Cesilia Pena, 14, disappeared en route from Manhattan, NY to Bronx NY, on October 6, 1976.
Cesilia was last seen by classmates after school, at the 149th Street stop on the #2 train between 3pm and 4pm. Her normal routine was to travel another five stops to the Simpson Street Station in the Bronx, where she would catch the #5 bus to her home.
Several days later, a woman told authorities that she had seen Cesilia later that afternoon at the corner of 163rd St. and Southern Blvd, accompanied by a man she recognized as Anthony Flores, also known as Rudy.
Flores was spoken to by police, but denied having been with Cesilia on the day in question. Flores is reportedly serving a 50 year – to life sentence, for a subsequent murder in New York.
Just shy of three months after Cesilia vanished, another girl, 9 year old Nelida Del Valle, disappeared from her Boston, Massachusetts home while walking to her school, a block and a half away. In Nelida’s case as well, Anthony “Rudy” Flores was implicated by at least 2 witnesses. A sketch was released, after someone claimed to have seen a man walking and holding Nelida’s hand. A Boston woman contacted authorities after she claimed that Flores gave her a hat and gloves, as a gift for her children. She told police that she became suspicious, because Flores resembled the police sketch. The hat and gloves were identified by her family as Nelida’s.
Police again talked to Anthony Flores, who claimed that he found the items and did not know anything about Nelida’s disappearance. In his possession were a gun, and a fake badge. It was theorized that he used these items to impersonate a police officer, in order to lure children away. It was stated that Flores lived in various rooming houses in Hispanic communities.
I have been unable to find the elusive sketch referred to above, after scouring several old newspaper articles.
Searches for Anthony Flores proved baffling as well. I was curious about the subsequent murder he was convicted on, as I wanted to see if he followed a pattern that might give some indication of what might have happened to Cesilia and Nelida. Some reports state that this murder was of a young girl, while others state it was of a mother and daughter. No date of this crime is specified..
All I was able to find, was an article from 1982, where an Antonio Rudy Flores, age 44, lured two ‘young women’ into an abandoned building in South Bronx, with the promise of a job. One of the women was killed, but the other managed to escape by jumping out of a 5th story window. He was charged with rape, in addition to the homicide. I did notice a similarity in that this Antonio Flores is listed as ‘no permanent address’ in the article, which matches the statement regarding Cesilia and Nelida’s presumed abductor, who lived in various rooming houses.
It seems unlikely that this is the same person – the article stated that he had only been released from prison earlier that year, stemming from a 1969 kidnap and rape of a 19 year old woman. It sounds like this guy was incarcerated when Cesilia and Nelida went missing.
Searches of both New York and Federal prison records have not turned up any likely matches.
Although there was a frenzy of media attention in Boston surrounding Nelida’s disappearance, a search of Cesilia Pena in the New York Times archives yields 0 results. It was the Bronx – specifically, the South Bronx. It was the 1970’s, when the Bronx was not a nice place. Abandoned tenements were being set ablaze, drug and gang warfare were rampant, and missing teens, who were considered runaways by default, were not a priority.
The Bronx has seen, and continues to see revitalization in recent years. Many of the old abandoned buildings have been renovated, or torn down and rebuilt. Many more are slated to be revitalized in the future. There will be surveyors, construction crews, demolition teams, and inspectors combing the interior of the buildings, and they probably are unaware that Cesilia is missing, let alone, that she may be located, in some form, in one of these very buildings.
And where is this Anthony Flores? 37 years later, he might have something to say.
You’ll see this sort of suggestion from me a lot – I think law enforcement has a tendency to exhaust all their initial leads, then place the case on the back burner until they receive ‘new leads’. I am a believer that the passage of time can make old leads new again. People are often afraid to talk to police initially, out of fear that they themselves may meet the same fate – but in 30 years, loyalties fade, and fears subside. If Anthony Flores had a girlfriend, roommate, brother, or neighbor at the time, I think they should be talked to, if nothing else, just to find out where these two innocent girls are.
And a final suggestion: A partial skull was located in Marshfield, MA on October 25, 1976. It is believed to be that of a female between the ages of 15 and 19 years old, and the date of death is believed to be in 1976. This skull was located in the ocean, 5-6 miles off the coast, so it may have originated in Boston or NYC, both places that Flores had ties to. I have submitted this possible match to Law Enforcement, and will update if I hear any news on it.
Their families have been waiting long enough.