Police still unraveling mystery of teen's 1987 disappearance
Written by Margaret Harper
Twenty years ago, Alicia Bernice Markovich argued with her
divorced father about child support payments and walked away from his
Blairsville home, where she was visiting, during the evening hours of April 26,
1987, according to state police.
As she walked off, police said she ignored
her father's instructions when he yelled for her to return home by 8 p.m.
Those instructions would be the last words he ever spoke to his daughter, as
the 15-year-old Windber freshman disappeared, never to be seen by her family
again.Alicia Markovich's disappearance has puzzled state police and
investigators for 20 years. And on the anniversary of her disappearance, The Doe
Network, an international volunteer organization devoted to assisting law
enforcement with cold cases, is asking anyone with information to come forward
and help solve the mystery.
"It's like she vanished into thin air," said
Theresa Golden, Doe Network media representative for Pennsylvania.
that his daughter ran away, John Michael Markovich didn't report her as missing
until the next day, police said in reports. She was initially treated as a
runaway juvenile, but as time passed, it became apparent that might not be the
In 1990, days before the three-year anniversary of her disappearance,
state police announced that investigators would treat the case as a homicide,
according to Cpl. Kirt Allmendinger of the Indiana barracks.
would've turned up in a three-year time period," Allmendinger said. "The
investigator believed Alicia Markovich was the victim of foul play."
passed, police investigated any and all leads regarding the disappearance, which
didn't turn into anything substantial. But in 2000, her father received an
anonymous letter from someone who claimed to have murdered his daughter,
Allmendinger said. The letter, marked with a New Hampshire return address,
contained instructions on where to find her body.
Troopers followed up on
the letter and drove 10 hours to New Bedford, N.H., but an unidentified person
at the address had no knowledge of the letter or Alicia Markovich, police said.
Police do not believe the person at the address was connected to the case.
Police also dug up an area near the Conemaugh River outside Blairsville,
where the letter said her body could be found, Allmendinger said. But there was
no sign of her remains.
To this day, it's uncertain if the letter was a
Police have used different tactics in the case over the years. They
have received information locally as well as from out of state and follow up on
every lead, Allmendinger said. They also work with organizations such as the
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which, like the Doe Network,
researches cases in hopes of locating missing individuals.
And while it's
considered a "cold case," that doesn't mean nobody is paying attention to it, he
said. Though there are not active leads, police remain positive that the puzzle
can still be solved.
"We're still hoping that something comes in," he said.
"When it does, we follow up on it."
Allmendinger would not comment on
whether there are any suspects in the case.
"I can't say," he said.
message left Tuesday at a Blairsville phone listing for a John Markovich was not
returned. There are no current phone listings for Alicia Markovich's mother,
Marcie Smith, in Windber.
Published May 09, 2007 11:10 am - “It’s been assigned to different troopers
though the years. We need a lead right now. We have nothing to help us
20 years later, Windber teen's fate still a mystery
By Patrick Buchnowski
THE TRIBUNE-DEMOCRAT (Johnstown, Pa.)
WINDBER, Pa. —
On April 26, 1987, Alicia Markovich left her Windber
home to visit her father in Blairsville.
The 15-year-old Windber Area High
School student was to spend the day with her dad, who planned to drive her back
home that evening.
But as the two discussed grades and her friends, the
conversation became heated.
The bright and energetic track athlete stormed
out of the house.
“She didn’t want to hear it,” John Markovich said at the
time. “She left in a huff.”
She hasn’t been seen since.
notified when she failed to return. Now, 20 years later, police are no closer to
solving her disappearance than they were back then. The search for a runaway has
turned into a homicide investigation, although investigators are unsure whether
the girl was murdered.
Patrick Buchnowski writes for The Tribune-Democ rat
in Johnstown, Pa.
“We don’t close out these cases,” said Cpl. Kirt Allmendinger of the state
police at Indiana.
“It’s been assigned to different troopers though the
years. We need a lead right now. We have nothing to help us out.”
is among thousands of children reported missing each year. In one year alone,
797,500 children younger than 18 were reported missing, according to the
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington. Nearly 2,200
children go missing each day.
State police have been working closely with
the missing children’s organization, but Allmendinger said new leads are scarce.
The 2-inch-thick case file is filled with lab reports, letters and police
Alicia’s Social Security number and checkbook haven’t been used,
meaning no one has stolen her identity. Investigators believe that, if she were
a runaway, the woman would have surfaced by now.
Authorities thought they
caught a break when John Markovich received a letter in 2000 saying Alicia had
been murdered and describing where her body could be found.
But when investigators searched an area near a bridge on Route 220 near the
Indiana-Westmoreland County line, they found nothing. After tracing the return
address, authorities concluded the letter was a hoax.
“We don’t believe those
people (at the return address) sent the letter,” Allmendinger said.
passing of the years has not made it easier for Alicia’s family, who continue to
hope for her safe return.
“We cherish her memory,” said her grandfather, John
Markovich of Windber.
“We’re still hoping she will return.”