The mystery of Rose Lena Cole is one that stays on my mind constantly. I’ve been putting off featuring her here for a couple reasons. The first and most significant reason is that, although she has received no press coverage in the media, she is high profile in the MP community, so I have figured that most of my readers are already familiar with this story. It’s also a complicated one that is difficult to dissect and still have it make sense.
Rose Cole was born on December 23, 1956 and lived with her father and siblings in Flint, Michigan.
In September 1972, at the age of 15, she ran away from home, and somehow found herself at the mercy of the courts. After a comment Rose reportedly made about selling drugs, she was sentenced to a ‘treatment program’ called Synanon in Oakland, California.
Synanon was later found to be a cult, with its leaders having violent tendencies against anyone who attempted to leave, or help its residents leave. It was eventually shut down by the government.
We do have some record of her time at Synanon, thanks to some letters she sent home, which were saved by her family.
Much of the writing from while she was in Synanon was poetry, desperate pleas to come home, and feeling that her family no longer wanted her. She mentioned a girl named Ruth who she had become friends with, and a man named Rick, who she disliked. Neither Rick or Ruth have ever been identified or located.
Rose eventually ran away from Synanon, and sent a couple more letters home from Chinatown in San Francisco. These letters expressed some fear of being found by Synanon and brought back. She no longer signed her full name, but only her initials. In her last letter, she said she would not be contacting her family again until she turned 18 and could not be ordered back to Synanon.
She additionally stated that she was staying in a big house with an older couple, and that she’d contracted a kidney infection.
The last letter was written on her sixteenth birthday, December 23, 1972. It was not mailed until February 3, 1973 – she’d added a note saying she’d just gotten a stamp. This is the last positive contact we have from her.
Interestingly, a court document dated January 1974 was located, which was a dismissal of all charges against Rose. The document strongly implies that Rose was present at this court date, but her family members all denied that she was in fact present.
During the time that Rose has been missing, her father and step-mother split up, and her father remarried again. A child of this later wife has recently come forward to say that Rose called sometime between 1979-1982 (the period that Rose’s father was married to this wife) and stated she’d been living on the street for a year. It is unknown whether she was referring to the streets of San Francisco, or elsewhere.
Here are a couple images of the letters she sent home:
And the text from the Court document (with relevant portion bolded by me):
WHEREAS: A petition has been filed for proceedings and disposition in accordance with the Juvenile Code, Chapter 712A of C.L. 1948, as amended, and upon investigation and hearing, upon due notice, as provided by said laws and said child appearing in Court with parent or guardian and from the evidence and admissions of said petition are true and that said child is subject to the power of this Court, which ORDERS, as follows:
ON THE COURT’S OWN MOTION, This matter be and the same is hereby dismissed.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
This is one of several cases (Melinda Creech and Ida Dean Richardson-Anderson come to mind) where the missing person was in the custody of the government at the time they went missing. In each of these cases, including this one, the government has been uncooperative in trying to help the families locate the person THE GOVERNMENT WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR!
I just don’t get it. I do get that people run away, and that the government can’t watch every single person 24 hours a day, but can you imagine if YOU lost someone else’s child and wouldn’t cooperate with the child’s family? You’d be locked up in a minute – so why does the government get away with it so easily?
I hope Rose just got on with her life under a new identity somewhere. I think it’s just as likely as any other scenario.
It’s also possible that she ended up back at Synanon, or that something happened to her on the streets of San Francisco, or that she could still be a part of San Francisco’s massive homeless population.
Many, many wonderful people have worked very hard to figure out what might have happened to Rose, to no avail. A few former Synanon residents have been contacted, but none could be sure if they’d ever seen her. A multitude of UID’s have been compared, but all have been ruled out.
I am trying to find someone who may have been familiar with Chinatown in the early to mid 1970’s. We’ve thought of trying to locate free clinics (since she said she had a kidney infection, it insinuates that she saw a doctor), but the odds of anyone remembering her are so slim… unless Chinatown was less touristy then, where a girl like Rose would have stood out among the Chinese population.
There is also the idea of finding an old San Francisco city directory – and try to contact older Chinatown couples who lived in a house – but, of course, we don’t know how much older (She was 15-16, so 30 would be older!) and we don’t know nationality or anything else.
We would also like to locate Ruth, the friend of hers from Synanon, but we don’t know her last name.
Rose’s parents are deceased, but her siblings are still searching for her.