Janet Kramer, age 13, went missing from Willmar, Minnesota, on January 1, 1971.
There is very little information about her disappearance; it is known that she was living in a group home for girls at the time, and that she had left to visit family and was never seen again.
It’s worth noting that January 1, 1971 may not have been the date she actually went missing. According to Peter Henderson’s comment on the Charley Project blog, her sister inquired with law enforcement in 2015 – 44 years after her disappearance – and learned that there was no report on file. This could mean one was never filed back in 1971, or it could mean it was lost over the years – but that’s still a long time.
Many databases require a date of a person’s disappearance, and when that date isn’t known, it defaults to the 1st of a given month. And if the month isn’t known, it defaults to the first month. So if all her sister recalled was that she went missing sometime in 1971, or even sometime in January, January 1 of that year would be the default date.
With January 1 being New Years Day, it could also have been memorable that this actually was the date of her disappearance. Whether or not she actually did vanish on January 1 would make a difference as to my thoughts on this case.
It was 1971. Hitchhiking was common, and teenagers had more independence. It wasn’t uncommon for a 13 year old girl to be out and about unsupervised. Would a group home have allowed her to leave to visit family, finding her own way via hitchhiking, bus, or walking? Possibly.
Would they have allowed this in January of 1971? Doubtful. I could not locate a weather report for this exact date, but websites vary on the average January temperature in this part of Minnesota. The range is from 9 to 13 degrees F. Even back in those days, I can’t see them letting her go in those frigid temperatures unless someone was there to pick her up.
It’s worth noting that while her profile states that she left to visit family, it doesn’t specifically say that she never arrived. Maybe just me nitpicking about wording, or maybe suggests that her sister doesn’t know if she arrived at her destination. I don’t know what was happening in Janet’s family that caused her to be living in a group home, but it’s quite possible that her sister was not living at home either, and doesn’t know if she ever arrived. Add that to the fact that she may not have been reported missing for 44 years, and it certainly raises a flag.
Janet is listed on most sites as an Endangered Runaway, although I haven’t seen anything to suggest that she actually did run away voluntarily. It seems unlikely to me, especially in that weather.
It appears that the biggest factor in the idea that she ran away voluntarily relates to an unidentified female, known as Cheryl Doe or Sherry Doe. This unidentified teenage girl was found in Tennessee in 1976. Although Jane Doe is clearly not Janet, there is some strong speculation that there is a connection to Janet’s disappearance. The deceased girl was reportedly picked up while hitchhiking with another girl. The two men who came forward to say that they picked up the two teens, described Jane Doe’s companion as having sandy brown hair and wire rimmed glasses. They also reportedly told these men that they had run away from a group home, possibly in the St. Paul/Minneapolis area. The girl who was possibly the Jane Doe stated she was in the group home due to alcoholism, and the girl whose description resembles Janet said she had been in the home due to suicidal tendencies.
While it certainly could cause one to think that the companion was Janet, I’m not so sure. First of all, Jane Doe was found in 1976 – 5 years after Janet’s disappearance. At the time her remains were found, she had only been deceased for a matter of hours. It seems unlikely to me, that after five years as a runaway, that these two girls would mention having run away from a group home. Janet would have been 18 at that time, and was only thirteen when she left the group home. My hunch is that whoever these two girls were had only recently run away from a group home.
Many people do believe that Jane Doe’s companion was Janet, however.
I hope her sister can get the answers she needs.