Rachel Trlica, Renee Wilson, and Julie Ann vanished from a shopping mall just 2 days before Christmas in 1974. They have not been seen since.
In a world before online shopping and cell phones, 3 beautiful girls, with the desire to buy Christmas gifts for their families, ventured off to the Seminary South Shopping Center(now known as the Fort Worth Town Center). The home of many popular department stores like Burlington, Sears, and J.C Penney. Rachel Trlica, Renee Wilson, and Julie Ann Moseley vanished from that shopping center just 2 days shy of Christmas, and have not been seen since.
Their unsolved disappearances have left their families filled with anguish and tragedy, hoping every day for their return. That tragic day of December 23rd, 1974 began as normal as any other. Rachel Trlica, 17, in a 1972 Oldsmobile 98, drove to the home of Renee Wilson,14, with the idea of shopping at the mall for Christmas Presents. Julie Ann Mosley, 9, who lived across the street and wanted someone to hang out with, asked to tag along. After getting permission from Julie Ann’s mother, the girls headed to the Seminary South Shopping Center to begin their shopping excursion, promising to be home by 4 pm, Renee was to attend a Christmas party that night, wanting plenty of time to get ready.
Once 4 pm rolled by…then 5 pm …then 6 pm the families of the girls became increasingly worried and made the families of the girls became increasingly worried and made their way to the shopping mall, clinging to the hope of a rational explanation as to why the girls hadn’t come home. In the world before cell phones, if something happened to the girls, they would have no way of calling for help. Upon their arrival at the shopping mall, they discovered Rachels 1972 Oldsmobile 98 vehicle in the Sears upper-level parking lot, with the purchases the girls made inside the vehicle. Renee’s father waited in the parking lot that whole night, anticipating their return.
With this discovery, the Fort Worth Police Department was notified and immediately presumed the girls were runaways. If they did run away, why would they leave those purchases in the car? Why not leave in Rachel’s vehicle? What really happened to these girls? No child would run away just 2 days before Santa was to arrive. If you have been following my past Missing Person Monday Posts, you can note a uncanny trend of police assuming most children are runaways from the get go. Arguably, the cases I have covered so far have occurred in a time when our world was ignorant of the idea of children being taken.
A few witnesses claim to have seen all 3 girls that day. A store clerk accounted a woman told her she had seen some men push the girls into a yellow pickup truck. However, the police were unable to locate that woman, leading them with little to go on. The woman’s identity in this encounter is still unknown. One witness claims to have seen all 3 girls in the back of a security patrol vehicle. Years after the disappearance, a man came forward claiming to have seen the girls that day in the parking lot being hurled into a van by a strange man. He confronted the man who yelled out to him it was a family dispute and to stay out of it. All these witnesses yielded no results. Speculations arose that at least one of the girls may have known the identity of their abductor, thinking they may have gone with someone they thought they could trust, leading to something sinister.
"I know I'm going to catch it, but we had to get away. We're going to Houston. See you in about a week. The car is in Sears' upper lot. Love Rachel"
On December 24th, the morning after their disappearance, Rachels Husband of 6 months, Tommy Trlica, received a letter in his mailbox that made it seem like it was written by Rachel. The letter wrote
"I know I'm going to catch it, but we had to get away. We're going to Houston. See you in about a week. The car is in Sears' upper lot. Love Rachel". The letter was written in ink on a single sheet of paper, but the envelope was written in pencil. In the upper left-hand corner of the envelope was the name Rachel, but seems as if it were initially misspelled, then written correctly. The letter was addressed to Rachel’s Husband, formerly written as Thomas A. Trlica, but always went by the nickname “Tommy”. The postmark on the envelope did not appear to have a city but a blurred numbers police believe to be either “76038” or “76083”. The letter was examined by handwriting experts in the 1970’s and 80’s, with results coming back inconclusive each time. Renee’s boyfriend at the time of her disappearance, Terry, said in an interview to Dateline “I don’t understand the letter at all. The letter seems to me like it almost points to someone who knew them. People say it’s to throw us off the track. Throw us off what track? There has never been any track. I don’t know if we will ever know what happened”.
The families refusing to give up, canvassed neighborhoods, and set up Missing Persons Posters. A witness came forward claiming to be a friend of Rachels, and saw her that day she went missing in the record store of the mall, conversed with her briefly, and noticed a man with them, but was unable to provide an accurate description.
"I don’t know if we will ever know what happened"
1975 had approached and the families still left without any answers, ensue the services of Private Investigator, Jon Swaim. Swaim became the center of newspaper headlines when he claimed to have received a phone call from a strange man wanting to collect the reward money that had been offered in exchange for information. Later making headlines again when he received an anonymous tip saying girls remains were near Port Lavaca, none of this panned out and nothing was found. Swaim later passed away from a drug overdose in 1979, with all of his files being destroyed, just as he wanted.
Over the years, the families of the trio have received dozens of anonymous phone calls of them claiming to be one of the girls. Eventually having to change their phone number due to the increasing number of prank calls.
Rachel’s younger brother, Rusty Arnold, has spent part of his childhood and adult life enveloped in a conspiracy-like frenzy. Never being able to forget the anguish that consumed him. Rusty has never believed Rachel wrote that letter that came that day after they disappeared. Rusty and Rachel share an older sister named, Debra, who was just 19 when Rachel went missing. It's alleged their father was very hard on them, installing a bond in the siblings from day one.
Before Rachel married Tommy Trlica in 1974, Tommy and Debra had a relationship. Debra claims the relationship wasn’t that serious and was destined to never work out. She also reports there were no hard feeling between them regarding their breakup, and there was no bad blood between Rachel and her, so much so that Debra even lived Rachel and Tommy at the time of her disappearance. Even being present with Tommy at his home the morning he discovered the letter on December 24th, 1974. Debra was invited to accompany Rachel and Renee to the mall the day they went missing but declined.
Over the years some witnesses have claimed to have seen Rachel and Renee at multiple different places like a Walmart, country store, and a gas station. When Rusty first heard of these sightings, he immediately dismissed them as hoaxes, his mind was eventually changed when he met a Private investigator named Dan James, who had been unofficially following the case since 1975. Matching his eagerness to solve this puzzle Dan James joined the families crusade in searching for the Trio, offering a 25,000 reward from his own pocket in exchange for the “arrest and conviction of person or persons responsible”. Upon joining the case, James began to receive anonymous death threats.
When Investigating the case, James found several credible witnesses, one claiming to have seen Rachel in Fort Worth during Christmas time in 1998. James has created the assumption that Rachel visits Fort Worth even year during the Christmas Season, and presumes to be the only one alive, but is evasive as to who he thinks is behind these heinous acts.
Rachels mother dedicates Christmas every year to the lost girls of Fort Worth. Sprawling 3 angels across her front lawn memorializing their memory. 45 years have come and gone, lives lost and new lives born. Days wallowed with contentment followed by melancholy dips. The families of Rachel, Renee, and Julie Ann vowed their girls did not run away and assured Rachel did not write that letter and have been waiting ever since for them to come home.
Mary Rachel Trlica, who goes by her middle name Rachel, is a Caucasian female with brown hair and green eyes. She has a small scar on her chin and a chipped front tooth.
Lisa Renee Wilson, who goes by her middle Renee, is a Caucasian female with light wavy brown hair and brown eyes. She has a scar on the inside of her thigh.
Julie Ann Moseley has sandy brown hair and brown eyes. She has a scar in the middle of her forehead, on the back of her calf, and under her left eye.
If you have any information regarding these girls disappearances I urge you too call The Fort Worth Police Department at 817 468 8477 or visit namus.gov