48 Hours on ID are investigating the disappearance of Mary Day, who vanished from her home 40 years ago.
It was assumed Mary had been murdered, and the detectives suspected her parents were the killers. However, the case took a bizarre twist when a woman turned up years later, claiming to be Mary.
At some point in 1981, 13-year-old Mary Day disappeared from her home in Seaside, California. Her mother, Charlotte Houle, and her step-father William Houle failed to report her missing and told their other children that she had run away.
Mary’s younger sister, Kathy, would later state that step-father William had severely beaten Mary on the night she vanished.
Another younger sister of Mary’s, Sherrie, who had been fostered by another family, became suspicious about how her mother evaded talking about her missing sister.
Eventually, in 1994, when Sherrie had grown up, she approached the police to report her sister as missing and told them she suspected Charlotte and William of murder. Sherrie told the cops she’d heard her mother talking about burying a body in California.
The police officially opened an investigation into Mary’s disappearance in 2002. They tracked William and Charlotte down in Kansas. The pair admitted they’d made mistakes in not reporting their daughter as missing, but they denied killing her.
At first, William had told the police that he had reported Mary as missing, but when this was revealed to be a lie, he changed his story. The investigation began to focus on William.
At one point, he confessed to beating Mary on the night she vanished. Amazingly, he then claimed he’d been possessed by a demon, who he said may have killed Mary.
A search of the house in Seaside with cadaver dogs revealed the possibility of human remains, but the only physical evidence they found was a girl’s tennis shoe buried in the backyard.
The investigators now firmly believed that William Houle had killed Mary and that Charlotte had either assisted or helped him carry it out.
However, before they could press charges, a routine traffic stop in Arizona blew the case apart.
The reappearance of Mary Day
In November 2003, the police in Arizona pulled over a pick-up truck with stolen plates, and when they interviewed one of the passengers, she claimed to be Mary Day.
The woman had an Arizona state ID, which had been issued just three weeks previously, that bore the name, date of birth, and statistics of Mary Day.
Still, the police were suspicious that the woman was an imposter. She spoke with a strong southern accent that Mary didn’t have when she was younger. There were also massive gaps in her story; she couldn’t seem to remember important facts about her childhood.
When the woman turned up to claim Mary’s inheritance, the police were determined to expose the woman as a fraud, so they requested a DNA match. Incredibly, the results proved that she was the daughter of Charlotte Houle.
Mary’s sister, Sherrie, later told the cops she believed that the woman was her sister. Age progression technology also revealed a 99% chance that the woman was Mary.
The woman died in 2017, which left the police unable to pursue the mystery any further. However, many of the detectives still believe that Mary Day was killed by her parents in 1981.
More from 48 Hours on ID
Follow the links to read about more murders profiled on 48 Hours on ID.
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Sandra Garner claims that her husband, Jon Garner, was murdered in a home invasion in Maypearl, Texas. However, the cops charged Sandra with the crime, but the prosecution could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was the killer.
48 Hours on ID airs at 10/9c on Investigation Discovery.