Freda Winget, age 15-17, was last seen in the Bronx, New York on October 19, 1944.
A cousin of Freda’s posted a query regarding her disappearance, which is how I first learned of this case, but to the best of my knowledge, it is not an open case with any law enforcement agency.
He stated that Freda (which he spelled Frieda, and whom he described as 15 years old) disappeared on her way home from school in the Bronx. He also mentioned that Freda was known to regularly stop at a Chinese laundromat on her way home and chat with the two owners – one of whom fled a day after being questioned by police. He said he has a news clipping of the story.
So, I started searching to see if I could find the article. I didn’t find the same one, but I did find one that described how she had run away from home before.
The article I found, dated 1943 (a year prior to her disappearance), states that Freda, age 16 at the time, was found accompanied by three other runaway girls: Dora Mostakis, 15, of the Bronx, and Clara Gussie and Agnes Rodriguez of Jersey City, NJ. Freda initially told police that her name was Jean Byrnes, but later admitted that she was ‘the girl all the excitement was about in the Bronx.”
An early part of the article states that none of the four girls had previously known each other, but that the runaways met while milling around Times Square, and chipped in for a room in a midtown hotel.
At some point, the four girls were jammed in a cab with five sailors, and Dora Mostakis fell out at the intersection of Ninth Avenue and 38th Street (in Manhattan), and was injured. The sailors took her to the French Hospital, where police were called and the girls were apprehended.
Although the girls were all returned to their parents at that time, the author of the article noted that by the time the article was run, Freda and Dora had run away again.
When police spoke to Freda’s mother, she mentioned that Freda would hang around a Chinese Laundry, and that some of the neighbors had begun to talk threateningly about its owner.
Detectives spoke with the owner of the laundromat, and found that Freda and her friends had used the place as a mailing address for ‘shady boyfriends’, and loitered there against the owner’s wishes. The laundromat owner stated that he lived in fear of them and what they might do.
I could not find any article in the New York Times about her ultimate disappearance in 1944 – I’d have to assume the article her cousin has is from the Bronx Home News, which is not archived online.
After reading about Freda, I did a search on Ancestry to try to see if I could find any information on Dora Mostakis. I could not find any Mostakis family living in New York City anywhere near that time, but I did find a Moustakis family in the Bronx in 1930 – I cannot find them in 1940, however, nor can I find them in the World War II drafts, which were happening around that time. The Moustakis family I found, in 1930, had a 10 year old daughter named Helen and a 6 year old daughter named Jennie.
If Dora was 15, as the article stated, in 1943, she would have been born in 1930 and should appear on the 1930 and 1940 census, but I cannot find a Dora Moustakis or Mostakis anywhere. The fact that she doesn’t appear on the censuses is unusual, but the fact that I can’t find any sign of her as an adult is even stranger. I wonder if she went missing as well.
This, of course, takes me back once again to this unidentified woman that Joanne was nice enough to hunt down for me in regard to another case.
Unfortunately, there is no actual photo that I could find for Freda, but there is a drawing in the 1943 article, at the bottom of the page, of three women loitering in front of a Chinese laundry. I am not sure which girl in the drawing is supposed to represent Freda. I also could not figure out how to convert it to a JPG to post it here. Found a photo!
I find myself in a bit of a dilemma now, as one thing I never do is initiate contact with anyone (other than law enforcement, missing persons organizations, etc) connected to the cases, unless they are soliciting information, through a Facebook page or something similar. I just do not like to intrude on people that way, therefore, trying to contact her cousin is really off limits for me…. except, that it doesn’t look like Freda had any siblings, and obviously no children prior to her disappearance, so this cousin may be the only chance to obtain a DNA sample – and the only way to determine if this Jane Doe could in fact be Freda. What to do, what to do…
UPDATE: I have contacted him and he sent me a couple more articles that I need to go through – this entry will be updated again at some point within the next day or two.
On a side note, this is quite often the reason why I don’t post new cases as often as I’d like to. If I know there’s a photo (even if it’s a drawing), I want to include it so I mess with it until I’m confident it’s not going to work. When I know someone should be on the census, or when I know there’s a more recent article, I want to find them before I post so I can include that information. So I try searching different spellings, different keywords, different databases, sometimes even contacting libraries to request look-ups.
UPDATE – 12/30/13
Frieda’s relative was nice enough to direct me to two additional articles that did not come up in my initial searches.
One article is from January 1943, and tells the same runaway story as the original article I found. It appears that she had just been located and reunited with her family at the time of the article, and had been missing since October 14, 1942. The article states that she lived at 1257 Brook Avenue in the Bronx. It also mentions the elusive Dora, and gives her address as 901 Tinton Ave in the Bronx.
This article tells basically the same story, about how Dora tumbled out of the taxicab and ended up in the hospital, where they were apprehended. But this article goes on to say that Frieda ran away partly because she hated school, and partly because she wanted to get a job and buy a fur coat. She had, indeed, gotten a job – a few, actually, during the time she was gone. She’d worked in a factory, in a Times Square movie theater as an usher, and as a waitress.
Interestingly, she told the reporter that she really wanted to work in a defense plant, but was afraid that she’d be asked for her birth certificate, and commented that she wasn’t 16 until Christmas (1942).
She also stated that she was afraid to come home, because she had missed so much school, that she was afraid her teachers would send her to reform school.
The references to working in a defense plant and being worried about having missed school took me back to the original article I’d found – since that article was about runaways in general, I only looked for pieces of the article that were clearly about Frieda and her friends. I did, however, remember reading something else:
The mother of one missing child kept calling up the Missing Persons Bureau every day, demanding that the police find her daughter at once. By far the most insistent of all parents, she didn’t appear to be especially anguished or even worried about her daughter, but the phone calls kept up until the detective in charge of the case flinched at grabbing the receiver. On one of his trips to talk to the mother, a neighbor accosted him in the hallway of the apartment house and told him that the apparently bereaved parent was hearing regularly from her daughter. It turned out the girl had gone to Bridgeport, where she had a well paying job in a defense plant, and was sending home a sizable money order every week. The fond mother had reported her missing so as to cover up from the school authorities the fact that she had winked at her daughter’s desertion from classes.
When I first read the article, I did not have any reason to think this person might be Frieda, but now I’m thinking it very well could be. Could she have gone to work in Bridgeport and not really been missing? Since it was mentioned that the detective was informed of this false report in a hallway of an apartment building, I tried to look up Freda’s 1257 Brook Avenue address to see if it was an apartment, but this address does not seem to exist anymore.
The second article I was directed to by Frieda’s relative only mentioned that a laundryman was being ‘hunted’. He disappeared after being questioned in the disappearance of Frieda, at that time (November 1942), being missing a month. Although her mother insisted that she would not have left home voluntarily, we now know that she did, at least that time. This article, however, gives her address as 489 E 169th St. From Google maps, I can’t tell exactly where this location is, but it is in an area of apartment buildings.
Frieda’s cousin is still anxious to find out what ever happened to Frieda.
The Restless Sleep (reply #9)