Karen Anne Spencer, age 17, was last seen exiting a car along a Miami Township, Ohio highway on December 29, 1989.

Karen had been staying with her brother, Curtiss and his wife, Christy at their apartment.  She was helping them prepare to move to Florida.  Plans were in place for Karen to relocate with them.

On the night of Karen’s disappearance, a fight had occurred between Curtiss and Christy, and Christy stated that she would not be going with her husband to Florida.

Karen and Christy left the apartment, getting into Christy’s car, with Karen at the wheel.  The two began arguing.  The argument led to Karen pulling over and exiting the car angrily along Interstate 275, between the exits of Montgomery Road and Route 28, at about 3:00am.

In 1990, an accountant named Kate Harner was watching the news, and saw a photograph of Karen in a segment about her disappearance.  She contacted police and told them she’d offered a ride to a girl she’d seen walking alone on Interstate 275.  The girl was walking southbound, the opposite direction of her sister-in-law’s recollection of her heading north after exiting the car.

Harner was certain that Karen was the girl she had seen.  Although the girl believed to be Karen declined her offer of a ride, Harner noticed a red pick-up truck pulling in front of the girl.  The girl appeared to recognize the driver.  She smiled and was last observed talking to the young male through a rolled down window.  The truck may have had Kentucky plates.

In February 2000, a family received a disturbing call from an unknown person, stating that Karen was buried in Renfro Valley, Kentucky.  The recipient of the phone call did not know Karen and was unaware of her case, but contacted police to report the bizarre call.  It was surmised that the caller had intended to call Karen’s parents, but misdialed.  The call was traced to a pay phone at a BP gas station in Hamilton, Ohio. The call was found to be a hoax.

Police questioned a man who admitted to having seen Karen on the night in question.  He stated that he had been driving a red Datsun B-310 and that he had stopped to offer his help to both Karen and Christy.  He denied any involvement in her disappearance, but police have noted that his statements over the years do not add up.

Christy acknowledged that she and Karen were approached with an offer of help just after they had pulled over, but that Christy quickly blew the man off.  Christy described a red sports car as the vehicle the man had been driving.

The person of interest was questioned by police, and was unable to explain how he knew what the two had been arguing about prior to Karen exiting the car.  He also reportedly was talking to a friend about her disappearance before it had been publicized.

He passed a polygraph, but later analysis of the results showed he was manipulating the test.

Investigators now are convinced that the male driver, who was in his early 20’s and just out of the military at the time, is responsible for Karen’s disappearance.

Karen was a senior at Reading High School, and was employed by Frisch’s Restaurant as a waitress.  She had only $7 with her when she vanished, and never picked up her paycheck.  Her parents described her as someone who would not have gone willingly, and who would have fought back against an assailant.

Law enforcement states that they are convinced the man they have questioned is responsible for Karen’s disappearance, adding that his red Datsun vanished at the same time she did.   He has not been arrested, though, because they feel they don’t have enough evidence to ensure a conviction.

The police continue to ask for information that will lead to the evidence necessary for an arrest – but they don’t reveal who the guy is!  Since this is believed to have been a stranger abduction, people who knew this man and might have seen things wouldn’t likely know Karen.

How are people supposed to know that anything they saw could be relevant to Karen’s case if they don’t know who he is?  Heck, the car might have ended up in someone else’s possession and that person would have no idea that he was linked to an abduction and homicide.

His neighbors, friends, co-workers and even family members may have noticed defensive wounds on him, or odd behavior that wouldn’t cause them to come forward, since they have no idea he was the last person to see a missing girl.

It just baffles me that they wouldn’t release his name so that people who knew him would realize that things they saw might be important.

Karen’s family has been waiting 30 years, and it makes me sad and angry that being secretive is more important to authorities than doing what is needed to find her!  What’s needed is giving the community an idea of where to look and whose actions to try to remember!

Karen’s family recalls a prosecutor asking once if they would be satisfied with agreeing to a lighter sentence in exchange for the location of her remains, and they said they absolutely would.  Yet, he’s been charged with nothing.  And he probably won’t be as long as his identity remains unknown to potential witnesses.

Although I can no longer find a source for this detail, I could swear I remember reading in the past that the suspect was believed to be in the music industry.


Above: Karen’s father and step-mother



The Charley Project



Cincinatti Enquirer

The Times Recorder

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