Deborah Lee Tomlinson, age 16, disappeared from Creswell, Oregon on October 15, 1973. She was believed to be a runaway.
Honestly, this entry should be titled “Deborah Tomlinson and My Scatterbrained Approach to Researching Missing Persons”
Usually, I try to clean up all the evidence of my getting sidetracked from the case at hand, but this time I’m going to post the whole trail of where this case led me.
First of all, the only information I could find regarding the circumstances of her disappearance, is that she ran away with an unidentified/unknown teenager.
I thought that kind of odd, as Creswell is a small town – it currently has a population of approximately 5000, I’d guess it would have been half that in 1973. It only has one high school, so I just thought it seemed strange that nobody would know who she ran away with. I figured it could be that the person was not local, possibly from Eugene, which is the nearest large city.
Then, I found this site – which, on Deborah’s page, states that ‘Samantha‘ may travel to Portland and has several piercings.
Did they mean to type Deborah, but typed the wrong name? Why did they have the name Samantha on their mind when typing it? Could that have been the friend’s possible name? Or was the whole paragraph related to another case and somehow pasted on Deborah’s page in error? I couldn’t find any Samantha missing in Oregon.
One of the first things I found that led to some confusion, is that there was another Deborah Tomlinson who was the victim of a homicide in Colorado. It turned out that she was not this Deborah, though about the same age. Searching for Deborah among the living, using her own name, yielded nothing useful.
So I started looking for others who had gone missing in Oregon during the same time frame, hoping someone might stand out as possibly being her runaway companion. I did find some missing women from around the same time, but only one, Rita Jolly, was a teenager. She was from the greater Portland area.
Virginia Erickson – age 32 – missing October 21, 1973 from Sweet Home, OR
Rita Jolly – age 17 – missing June 29, 1973 from West Linn, OR (presumed Bundy victim)
Vicki Hollar – age 24 – missing August 20, 1973 from Eugene, OR (presumed Bundy victim)
Suzanne Justis – age 23 – missing November 5, 1973 from Portland, OR
Seeing that there were two likely Bundy victims in Oregon around the time of Deborah’s disappearance, I couldn’t help but consider that she may have also been a victim – it’s been reported that Bundy was in the area at the time of Vicki’s disappearance. However, this detailed Bundy timeline clearly shows he was in Seattle on the days of both Rita and Vicki’s disappearances, and was in Tacoma on the day of Deborah’s. (That doesn’t necessarily mean he couldn’t have traveled to Oregon on those days, but I’m not sure why they believe he did so.)
It’s worth noting that Bundy confessed to many killings, including two in Oregon – one of whom is still unnamed. He did not confess to the murders of Rita Jolly or Vicki Hollar, although I’m not sure if he specifically denied them, or couldn’t recall who the unnamed victim was. I became curious as to why Rita and Vicki were listed as Bundy victims – I wanted to see what information there was on Bundy’s time in Oregon. I couldn’t find anything.
With that trail being a dead end, I started looking at the UID’s in Oregon. The first one I came across was this one. I don’t think this is Deborah, the height is too far off. I did notice that this UID was found in Sweet Home, which sounded familiar, because Virginia Erickson (mentioned above) went missing from there. I saw that Virginia wasn’t ruled out, and started comparing vitals. Height is off by an inch, age range is correct, city is the same, so it almost seems too obvious – they had to have looked into this, right? I’ve made a note to ask them. (This UID could possibly be Vicki Hollar as well)
So, back to Deborah. There are actually quite a few female UID’s from that time period, many are partial remains, and had been deceased for years before they were found.
Deborah was 5’5″ 140 lbs at the time of her disappearance.
Female, 18-99yo, found in forested area East Linn County, 4/27/1978, interval: years
Female, 14-18yo, found Williams (Josephine County) 5/9/1978, interval: years
Female, 17-23yo, found in Multnomah County Med Examiners Office with no documentation, 1/1/1980, interval unknown, approx 5’6″
Female, 18-30yo, found in Government Camp, 8/2/1986, interval: at least 1 year
Female, 19-45yo, found in field in Eastern Linn County 3/28/1996, interval: years
The first and the last from this list caught my attention, because there were two of them found in the same general area, and we know Deborah ran away with someone. Of course, we don’t know if that person was never reported missing, or if that person returned in a short time and really isn’t missing.
Of course, there still had to be one more distraction. The ruleout list for the Government Camp UID found in 1986 contained some names I hadn’t heard of: Jeanie Bennet (found an article here), Betty Johnson (from comments here, it appears she has been located deceased), Jeanne Palinkas (can’t find anything about her).
Jeanie (whose given name was Floy) and Jeanne are both missing from Oregon and are not listed in NamUs or on any of the missing persons sites.
In any case, I have no idea what kinds of problems Deborah was having that might have led her to run away all those years ago, so there’s no telling what the likelihood is that she’s alive and well, just not wanting contact with her family and friends. I hope that’s the case, and that someday she will be found safe.