Mary Day or imposter? Alleged homicide victim “came back from the dead”

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CBS News / Wikimedia

For decades, detectives believed that a 13-year-old girl who disappeared from her home in California, in the United States, had been murdered. Is it a Phoenix woman who claims to be an impostor?

Along California’s rugged central coast, the legend of Mary Day haunted two generations of homicide detectives in Monterey. Since the mid-1990s, it was rumored that a girl as young as 13 had disappeared without a trace of her home near the army base in Fort Ord.

However, there is no record that anyone reported his disappearance. Detectives in the small military town of Seaside, California, have never laid hands on the case until more than 20 years have passed.

According to CBS News, it was Mary’s sister, Sherri Calgaro, who managed to get the authorities to take the case. Sherri was 10 years old when Mary disappeared and always heard that Mary had run away, but she never accepted this justification and, when she grew up, she finally reported her sister’s disappearance.

Since Mary’s stepfather, William Houle, was a soldier, the family’s life was fleeting – they moved from base to base across the country, so it was not uncommon for anyone to really know the family. Even so, it was strange that they had never enrolled their daughter in a local school.

The detectives were unable to find any trace of Mary: no identity issued, no paycheck, school records, prison records – nothing for more than 20 years.

Quickly, detectives they were convinced that Mary had been murdered. Dogs warned near a tree in the backyard where the family lived at the time it disappeared and the police dug up a girl’s shoe.

In an interview with the police, Mary’s stepfather admitted to having a big argument with the girl, but assured him that he hadn’t killed her – but the demon inside him could have done it.

Detectives also suspected Mary’s mother, Charlotte Houle, and believed that he may have been an accomplice in covering up the crime. Detectives say the mother did not cooperate with the investigation and seemed not to mind finding out what happened to Mary. When detectives asked her why she was not interested in finding her daughter, she replied: “If she is dead, she is dead.”

When homicide detectives were building their case against Mary’s stepfather, an extraordinary thing happened. Police in Phoenix, Arizona, stopped a pickup truck at a traffic stop. The woman in the vehicle told them it was Mary Day and that he had the identity to prove it.

(h) Sherrie Calgaro / Phoenix Police Dept.

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However, the police were suspicious, since the identity certificate was issued a few months later that detectives interviewed Mary’s parents.

The police asked for DNA tests and, to everyone’s surprise, the woman who called herself “Mary” was Charlotte’s daughter. However, the woman they started to call “Mary Phoenix” could not remember important facts about her childhood, had a strong southern accent and was unaware of an inheritance to which she was entitled.

When the Phoenix woman received Mary’s inheritance, detectives wondered if they were dealing with an imposter – one who shared the DNA of the “real” Mary.

In 2017, according to the Daily Mail, the acting chief of the Maritime Police Department Judy Veloz visited Mary Phoenix, who died nine days later. Veloz said that Mary referred her to Morie Kimmel – a woman who took her in after she ran away. A photograph taken a year after the 13-year-old girl’s disappearance shows Kimmel and a girl who resembled Mary.

Despite doubts, Calgaro believes that the woman is, in fact, his missing sister.