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Runaway Train: Andrea Durham

          The first case in our runaway train series comes to us from Fort Walton Beach, Florida. Andrea Durham was last seen on February 1, 1990. What led her to leave her apartment that night, and why did she take nothing with her? Let’s explore.

Who Is Andrea?

          Andrea D’Anne Durham was born on April 24, 1976. At the time of her disappearance she was living at the Royale Apartment complex on Colonial Drive in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, with her mother and sister. They had recently moved to the area, and Andrea wasn’t thrilled about it. Despite this, though, Andrea remained a good student. She attended Prior Middle school, where she was known as a mellow person. Her hobbies included camping, playing tennis, trips to the beach, and dancing. According to many stories, Andrea also had a very strong sense of faith from a young age, even donating her allowance to Christian missionaries.
          Andrea had seemingly fallen in with a not-so-great crowd, however. Mischievous at best, and criminal at worst. In fact, shortly before her disappearance, Andrea and her friends were caught in the act of stealing money from cars in a local parking lot. Andrea did not commit the burglary herself – rather, she was stationed as a lookout, to warn the others of anyone coming. Perhaps this is why she was sentenced to community service rather than anything more severe. According to Andrea’s older sister, the brush with the law hadn’t fazed her much.
          At the time of her disappearance, Andrea Durham was 13 years old. She stood at 5’3 and weighed around 110 lbs. She has green eyes and blonde hair. She was last seen wearing a black sweater, white tee, black stonewashed jeans, and white sneakers.

(A photo of Andrea shortly
before her disappearance.
via the FDLE)

The Disappearance

          Andrea was at home with her mother and older sister on February 1, 1990. Her mother and sister left to attend a meeting, asking Andrea to vacuum the apartment on their way out. Andrea agreed, and everything seemed fine. They arrived back at the apartment two hours later to an unlocked door and the vacuum standing alone in the middle of the apartment. Andrea was nowhere to be found. All of her things were just where she had left them. The pair were immediately uneasy – Andrea was not the type of person to just leave by herself at night. With the way the vacuum was set up, it almost looked like Andrea had been interrupted. So they called the police.

The Investigation

          The investigation began the way it so often does with cases of missing young people: Andrea was considered a runaway. There were no signs of forced entry, and Andrea had been unhappy with the move. She’d be back soon, but they would keep an eye out. But Andrea did not have a history of running away. She had never even made a threat to do so. As time went on, it became clear that Andrea wasn’t just a typical runaway. The investigation began in earnest.
        While there were no concrete leads in this case, all leads have been thoroughly followed up. Local men who were suspected of murder in prior years were looked into. Andrea and her mother gave their DNA to law enforcement to check against any remains discovered. Andrea’s case information was put on cold case playing cards, which were the distributed to inmates across the state of Florida, in hopes that someone would recognize her and speak up, or rat someone out. There were TV appearances, the Soul Asylum music video, even psychics got involved at a point. And yet, here we are, 32 years later. There have never been any concrete leads in Andrea’s case.

(A photo of Andrea at age 13 and an age-progression of her to age 35.
via People Magazine)

Theories

          There are two schools of thought when it comes to Andrea’s disappearance – either she left of her own accord, or she was taken against her will. Teenagers are often deemed to be runaways when reported missing, especially in the decades prior to the 2000s. The logic behind declaring Andrea a runaway was that she was unhappy with the new apartment and had a relatively minor run-in with the police for her role in a robbery. However, the fact that none of her belongings were missing leads me to think she didn’t leave intending to stay gone. If she’d thought she would be gone for any amount of time – even overnight – something would be gone. Be it a toothbrush, a hairbrush, some clothes, or some money. Something would have been missing. To put more weight behind the writing-off of this theory, her family never believed that she disappeared of her own accord.
          When it comes to the idea that Andrea was forced to leave, the idea that investigators believe is that she was kidnapped – though the reason for the kidnapping is not speculated upon publicly by the investigating agencies. Theories have, of course, abounded online. There are three that I would like to address here – the random (serial) killer, the person she knows, and the trafficking. The random killer theory is fairly self explanatory, and it’s possible in any case that a person ran into the wrong stranger on the street, and that stranger murdered them for their own reasons. The theory that Andrea was taken by someone she knew is more nuanced. It could have been a neighbor, or a teacher, or someone in a uniform she was taught to trust – like a cop or a firefighter. Again, this person would have their own reasons for wanting to take Andrea – reasons that are grim, and I don’t want to speculate too much on – but because Andrea would have likely trusted this person, she would have gone with them willingly. The trafficking theory is also straightforward – she could have been targeted as a young, easily manipulated teenager who was unhappy with her home life, and promised a better future…only to be forced into the hell of sex trafficking.
          Of these theories, I think it’s mostly likely that someone who knew Andrea – even peripherally – had a hand in her disappearance. That would explain the fact that no one remembered any scene being made the afternoon she went missing, and it would also explain the fact that all of her belongings were accounted for at the apartment.

Investigating Agencies

          If you or anyone you know has any information about the disappearance or fate of Andrea D’Anne Durham, it’s time to speak up. It’s been time to speak up. Please reach out to Lieutenant Larry Donaldson with the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office at 850-651-7400 in reference to agency case number: S90002378. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children case number for Andrea’s case is NCMC735437, and the National Crime Information Center case number is M-405147317.

Sources

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