Thursday, December 13, 2007

Jean Marie Stewart: newspaper write-up

This is the first media mention I've found about her death. It seems like the reporters were quite thorough.
After 27 years, girl's cold case becomes a homicide
Thursday, December 13, 2007
By Jonathan D. Silver, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
The night before she
was to leave, her friends had a going-away party for her. A friend picked her up
to bring her back to the house when she wanted to stop at the convenience store.
The friend went in to make her purchase, as she had already removed her shoes.
He was inside only minutes (there were no other customers), and when he
returned, she was gone. Her purse, shoes and money were all still in the car.
She never returned to the house to get money, ticket or other belongings. Foul
play is suspected in her disappearance.
-- The Doe Network
As a teenager
in Brookline in the 1970s, Jean Marie Stewart was a wild child -- drinking,
skipping classes at Brashear High School and dating an older boy.
"She was
out of control," recalled her father, Robert E. Stewart. "I think I was pretty
broken down, to be honest with you."
In the summer of 1978 when Jean was 15,
Mr. Stewart agreed to what he viewed as a last-ditch plan. He signed paperwork
to allow her to move in with her boyfriend's family in Miami Lakes, Fla. Jean's
mother, Mr. Stewart's ex-wife, Jean Hahalyak, said she argued with her daughter
for taking up with a boyfriend several years older but could not dissuade her
from leaving.
Jean visited home twice the next year. On March 25, 1980, the
eve of what would have been another trip home -- this time to celebrate her 17th
birthday -- she vanished.
That night, Jean attended a going-away party. She
drove home with her boyfriend. They stopped at a convenience store. He went
inside; when he returned, Jean was gone, never to be heard from again.
didn't want to be here," Mr. Stewart, 75, of Mt. Lebanon said this week. "She
wanted to be there with him, all the way until her death."
Date of Death or
Discovery: 1981-04-20. Estimated Age of Decedent: 11-20. Presumed Race: White.
Gender: Female. Location Found: In a remote field at 6001 W. 28th Ave., in
Hialeah. Scars, Surgeries and Other Dental and Medical Information: Complete and
partial root canal. Decedent had an overbite.
-- Florida Unidentified
Decedents Database
Mr. Stewart and Mrs. Hahalyak telephoned police
departments in Florida. All said they had not seen Jean and that, as an apparent
runaway, there was only so much they could do.
Mr. Stewart also contacted
Therese Rocco, then a Pittsburgh police captain who oversaw the bureau's missing
persons squad.
As part of her investigation, Ms. Rocco sent Jean's dental
records to Miami Lakes, nearby Hialeah and other places in the nation that
spring. Nothing came of her efforts.
About 13 months after Jean disappeared,
human remains were discovered in a remote field in Hialeah, a city of about
250,000 adjacent to Miami Lakes. They went to the local medical examiner's
office and became Case No. 1981-01253.
They would go unidentified for 26
In Miami Lakes, another type of investigation began, one much more
informal, by Lauran Halleck, a Brookline native.
It was her mother who took
in Jean. It was her brother, David Nolle, who was identified by Mr. Stewart and
Mrs. Hahalyak as Jean's boyfriend, though Ms. Halleck believed they were only
Ms. Halleck, 54, an artist who lives in South Carolina, said she was
fond of Jean, whom she recalled as a headstrong, beautiful girl with modeling
"She was a typical 16-year-old. The grass is always greener.
Somebody else's rules were always better. She loved her family dearly," Ms.
Halleck said. "They loved their daughter and wanted her happy. Jean was just the
typical troubled teen in that sense, even with us. We had difficulties getting
her to school. She'd walk in the front door and walk out the back door."
the night of the party, Ms. Halleck said her brother chauffeured Jean in their
stepfather's new Cadillac. On the way home, they stopped about a block from
their house to buy cigarettes. Jean, who often didn't wear shoes, could not go
in because she was barefoot.
"He walked in and walked out, and she was gone,"
Ms. Halleck said.
Mr. Stewart said he heard a slightly different story from
Mr. Nolle's mother, that Jean and Mr. Nolle had argued and she ran out of the
car when he stopped to buy cigarettes.
By then, the relationship between the
two had soured, Mr. Stewart said. During a phone call the day she disappeared,
Mr. Stewart said Mr. Nolle made it clear he wanted Jean to move back to
Pittsburgh for good.
Ms. Halleck said her brother called the family
immediately, and she and her siblings -- seven of them in all -- scoured the
area to no avail.
"I was all over the place trying to find her. There was no
Internet. I was calling medical centers, calling hospitals, calling juvenile
detention centers. I mean I covered everything within 100 miles religiously,"
Ms. Halleck said.
A man who answered the telephone at Mr. Nolle's home
yesterday said he was not available and hung up.
Ms. Halleck eventually
became involved with volunteer groups that search for missing persons by
trolling for information and passing it along to investigators. In March 2006,
she started Porchlight for the Missing and Unidentified, a Web site dedicated to
Jean's memory.
"I just couldn't let her go. I felt like somebody needed to be
her voice," Ms. Halleck said. "It started me on a lifelong quest."
parents have given DNA and we are awaiting the results of several different
possible matches. The waiting seems to get harder, not easier ... sigh. Still
searching for you, Jean. No matter what ..."
-- Posting Aug. 22, 2005 by
Lauran Halleck on
Dinorah Perry, a Broward County real estate
agent, has a second job. She runs Missing Children International Ministries, a
group she founded in 2004 to help raise awareness about Florida's missing
children. One of the cases she initially reviewed was Jean's.
"Jean Marie's
background really took my attention because it said a girl on her way to
Pennsylvania, and I said to myself, 'That girl never made it out of Miami Lakes
let alone Pennsylvania,'" Ms. Perry, 45, said.
"I knew in my heart that no
one was working on Jean's case so I just started yelling at every detective I
could find that would listen to me."
The case was reopened by the Miami-Dade
Police Department. Lead investigator Detective Brigitte Robert credited Ms.
Perry for her doggedness.
"Because you know what? If that didn't happen, this
possible match might have just gone into the case files," Detective Robert
In late 2006, as part of a routine look at cold cases, the Florida
Department of Law Enforcement asked Miami-Dade police to track down Jean's
parents and obtain DNA samples. Detective Robert did so. In December, she was
assigned the case.
"Jean Marie Stewart has been Identified ..."
-- Posting
Dec. 5, 2007 by Ellen Leach on Porchlight.
Ellen Leach, 49, of Gulfport,
Miss., works as a night stocker at a store. Her second job -- this one unpaid --
is to find missing people. She worked first with the Doe Network, then with
Porchlight. She has known Ms. Halleck for several years and was familiar with
the story of Jean, that she disappeared from Miami Lakes and had an
On Nov. 10, a posting on the Doe Network about unidentified remains
drew her attention.
There was more information on the Florida Unidentified
Decedents Database, a Web site with information from the state's medical
examiners' offices. That information was put online in April.
"It mentioned
the overbite and that's what caught my eye," Ms. Leach said.
She checked the
mileage between Miami Lakes and Hialeah and saw the communities were within a
few miles of each other. She faxed Miami-Dade police. Detective Robert picked up
a phone.
"She called me 45 minutes within faxing of it there. She was excited
about the possible match and was gonna get it checked into," Ms. Leach
Detective Robert contacted the Miami-Dade County Medical Examiner
Department and provided Jean's dental records. Police had them on file, but
Detective Robert could not say when they first obtained them.
On Nov. 28, a
positive match was made.
"I was elated," Detective Robert said.
"Thank you
all for looking for Jean Marie all these years. At least we know she is at peace
and she can come home now. She was apparently found just about five miles from
home, and just a year later. She is much loved and greatly missed. A long
journey is now over, and I am brokenhearted."
-- Posting Dec. 5, 2007, by
Lauran Halleck on
Jean's case is being investigated as a
homicide, according to the medical examiner's office.
Mrs. Hahalyak, 75, of
Greenfield, said she's been told her daughter might have been shot, but she
knows little more than she did decades ago.
"I just figured something bad had
to have happened to her, that her remains were in the ocean or something,'' she
One of her current husband Eddie's late brothers was a Pittsburgh
police detective and another was an Allegheny County police officer, and as the
years passed she drew comfort from their assurance: "Police keep working. They
never give up on anything."
"I've cried and prayed every day she's been
missing. She would have been a nice sister for my other kids."
Robert and Sgt. Frank Nazario, who oversees the Hialeah police homicide squad,
would not discuss the investigation, except that Sgt. Nazario said two
detectives have been assigned to investigate. He would not say if they have
identified a suspect or comment on past aspects of the case.
Mr. Stewart said
he was glad to be rid "of the great pressure of just not knowing" what had
happened to his daughter. "We want to see them get the culprit no matter who it
Who killed Jean Marie Stewart? That is the biggest question of the
But there is another major question. If police in Florida had Jean's
dental records, if the remains of a young woman with an overbite were discovered
only a few miles from where Jean disappeared a year later, why did it take more
than a quarter-century for a volunteer advocate to put two and two
"It should have been solved in 1981," said Ms. Rocco, who went on
to become assistant chief of the Pittsburgh police and retired in 1994.
was the question we had," Detective Robert said. "What happened? And we don't
have an answer."
Staff writers Bill Schackner and Cindi Lash contributed.
Jonathan D. Silver can be reached at or
First published on December 13, 2007 at 12:00 am

If you have any information on who killed Jean Marie Stewart, please call the Miami Dade Police at (305) 418-7200.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why isn't that boyfriend, David Nolle, being looked at closer? He wanted to be rid of her, they had been fighting, he was the last one to see her and his story of her disappearing in thin air sounds real fishy. Not to mention her body was found right near where he lived and where she was seen last. Husbands and boyfriends are usually the killers of women.