Thora Afton Chamberlain, age 15, disappeared from Campbell, CA on November 2, 1945.
Thora’s last class of the day had just let out, and she was walking with friends along the sidewalk in front of the school, headed to the football field to watch a game. One of her friends reported that Thora stopped to talk to a man who was stopped at the curb. Thora motioned her friend to come over to the car. She explained to her friend that this man needed someone to babysit his younger siblings for a half hour. Her friend declined. Thora then told her friend that she would be back shortly, and to save a seat for her.
Thora got in the car and it drove away. She never came back.
Thora’s friend who had been just outside the car got a good look at the man, and was able to give a detailed description of his clothing. She specifically described a ‘hawk nose’ and some military issue clothing and adornments, including a purple heart.
Very soon after Thora’s disappearance, Thomas Henry McMonigle packed up and traveled to Illinois, but the FBI was already considering him a person of interest, and they had him trailed as he rode buses to Illinois and back.
Police arrested Thomas Henry McMonigle as he returned to San Francisco, and he eventually confessed to kidnapping and murdering Thora. He gave several differing accounts of how he’d killed her, and where he disposed of her body.
He stated that she’d been dumped off a cliff just north of Half Moon Bay, in an area known as Devil’s Slide. He later stated that he’d buried her in a drainage ditch in a field adjacent to his workplace in Burlingame. He also stated that he’d placed her alongside the road just west of Campbell, only minutes from where she was last seen.
Thora’s socks were found near Half Moon Bay, and several of her other belongings were found in the field adjacent to his workplace. McMonigle stated that her clothing would be found buried in his backyard in San Mateo, but a search turned up nothing.
McMonigle was sentenced to death and was executed in February 1948. Just prior to his execution, he wrote a note denying any involvement in Thora’s kidnapping.
Her body has never been found.