For this next post we continue to wade in murky waters. We’re jumping ahead to 1973, which is a smaller gap than we’ve seen so far – and we will not see a time period as we continue with this series. Again, not a lot is known about Rita Jolly, her disappearance, or the ensuing investigation.
Who Is Rita?
Yet again, we have very little information on Rita’s life before her disappearance and who she is as a person. We know her parents were named Mary and Donald. She has two brothers and a sister. In 1973, she was about 5’6” tall and weighed around 130 pounds. She has brown hair and hazel eyes. She had fractured her left leg earlier and life and it healed improperly, leaving her with a slightly uneven gait. Her front teeth are slightly crooked, and overlap just a bit. Some outlets report that Rita was a junior at West Linn High School at the time of her disappearance, but a contemporary newspaper article that interviewed Rita’s father reported that she skipped her senior year of high school and was attending the local community college, where she achieved high grades. Rita’s father reported that she was a bit of a loner with few friends, but I think that may have been a result of graduating early and being the “young kid” in college. Her father also described her as mature and independent.
Edit: Thanks to a comment on this post, we now know a bit more about Rita as a person. She is an adventurous person – at the time of her disappearance, she often hitchhiked to get where she was going, and she enjoyed going to concerts and parties. She is a free spirit, enjoying the freedom and independence that comes with being in college. It would seem that Rita was not as much of loner as contemporary reports led us to believe at first.
At about 7:15 PM on June 29, 1973, Rita left her house. She told her parents that she was going for a walk and seemed okay – she often went for walks alone, and she did not have any known problems with people in her life. She was wearing a brown Pendleton shirt with olive-colored, army-style pants (or blue jeans in some reports) with low-top blue sneakers. She was next seen on the main street of Oregon City. A possible further sighting was reported by two young men in Seattle the following night, though when the young woman was approached she claimed her name was Mary. The young men reported the sighted, but did not leave their information with the police, who were therefore unable to follow-up.
Leads to Rita’s disappearance petered out pretty quickly. By July 15, the possibility of Rita having run away or disappeared of her own free will had turned into the idea that foul play was likely involved in her disappearance. Rita’s father was instrumental in keeping the case alive. He hand delivered letters to local news stations and the local police, begging for help. City, state, and county police were all involved in the search for Rita, but it seemingly went nowhere. I can’t find anything about any local suspects or tips or polygraphs given. The only suspect that comes up when researching this case is Bundy. It is, however, worth noting that Rita’s brother believed that the perpetrator was someone local, who possibly knew Rita.
The Bundy Connection
Again, this is a suspected case where things seem very tenuous. While some aspects of Rita’s disappearance do line up – it being a crime of opportunity, her physical attributes matching Bundy’s victim profile, etc. But that’s it. Bundy was still living and working in Washington at the time. He was just months away from entering law school at the University of Puget Sound. Bundy claimed to have confessed to all of the victims he murdered in Oregon, and Rita was not on that list of confessed victims.
So there seems like a lot of things leaning against Bundy being involved in Rita’s disappearance, but there are things that do line up. It’s not impossible to consider he would travel over state lines to murder someone, as he would confess to doing that very thing several times. And Rita does match Bundy’s victim profile in looks. He can’t be ruled out, but the things that link him to the case are loosely circumstantial at their strongest.
This year marks the 48th anniversary of Rita’s disappearance. Her family still needs answers. Unfortunately, both of her parents have passed away without finding out what happened to Rita – her mother, Mary, in 2005 and her father, Donald, in 2010 – but her three siblings are still alive and looking for the truth. Rita needs to be found and laid to rest so she can rest easy. If you or anyone you know has information about Rita’s disappearance, please contact the proper authorities. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office can be reached at 503-785-5140 in reference to case number 73-9833. It looks like the contact person on Rita’s case is Detective Eric Lee.