40 years later, no one knows ‘Who killed Mary Ann Favre?’
By Dwayne Bremer
Apr 15, 2014, 21:34
Mary Ann Favre
It was every parent's worst nightmare, a crime so heinous that it was unfathomable that it could ever happen in a place like friendly Bay St. Louis.
But the kidnapping and murder of 15-year-old Mary Ann Favre did happen and, 40 years later, the person responsible may still be alive, free, and walking the streets of South Mississippi.
The Sea Coast Echo recently partnered with the Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers group to periodically spotlight some of our communities' unsolved cold cases.
Our first case involves the disappearance and murder of Favre, who vanished on April 22, 1974 after escorting her sister to school at North Bay Elementary.
The Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case and/or information in other cold cases across the Gulf Coast.
Another routine morning in Bay St. Louis:
According to reports in the Sea Coast Echo, Favre, who lived on Boardman Avenue, left home shortly before 8 a.m. on a bicycle that morning escorting her sister to North Bay Elementary.
Favre, who was not in school at the time, friends said, was a popular baby sitter for many younger children in the community.
She would often escort them to school while riding her bike behind them, friends said. One of the children Favre took to school was neighbor Starlyn Mitchell, who lived nearby on Dunbar Avenue.
"Mary Ann was older than us and we were always by her house," Mitchell said Tuesday. "She was supposed to take me to school the morning she disappeared, but I think my mom was late in getting me ready."
After seeing her sister off to school, Mary Ann then went to the Yankee Doodle grocery store on Dunbar Avenue to get a soft drink.
It was the last time Mary Ann was seen alive.
When Favre did not immediately return home, her mother became concerned and called police.
Later in the day, Favre's bike and the soft drink bottle were discovered in the weeds near the corner of Boardman and Dunbar avenues.
A massive search soon began with police and residents alike combing the area.
"We were all concerned about the girl," William "Bugger" Schwartz said Monday. "I think there must have been 250 people out there looking for her, but she was nowhere to be found."
Tracking dogs were brought in, but a rain storm that afternoon hampered the search.
The search lasted almost a week, but no sign of Favre was ever detected.
Clues paint tragic
The Bay St. Louis Police Department was in charge of the investigation, but many other agencies also assisted, including the FBI.
One lead which developed during the case, was that witnesses said they had observed a light-green '60s model Chevy which had three tail lights on each fender parked on Dunbar Avenue with the trunk open on the morning of the kidnapping.
Witnesses told police that the vehicle was driven by a young black male.
According to news reports police began to suspect Favre had been abducted.
A community in fear:
Former Hancock County Sheriff Ronnie Peterson, who was a narcotics investigator at the time, said Monday that Favre's disappearance "shocked and concerned the community."
"It was very shocking," Peterson said. "This kind of thing had never happened before. The community was concerned and worried about the safety of the girl. They were also worried that it could happen again."
Ricky Fayard, a long-time law enforcement veteran in Hancock County, was in grade school when Favre went missing.
"I remember when it happened," Fayard said. "A lot of us walked to school or rode our bikes. I remember them having classes and presentations about not talking to strangers and never going to school alone. It was very scary, even for a grade-schooler."
Doris Penton, who was one of the children Favre baby sat, said Tuesday that the incident has left a permanent scar on her and many others.
"It still haunts me," Penton said. "Every time I go down Dunbar, I always think about it."
Favre was finally located nine months later when two hunters found her decomposed body in a field near Discovery Bay in Pass Christian. She had been shot in the back of the head with a small caliber handgun, officials said at the time.
Clothing and other evidence was collected and sent to the FBI crime lab in Washington D.C., according to reports.
Suspect identified, but arrest never made:
The FBI produced a sketch of the alleged suspect, describing him as a man in his early 20s, of medium build and height.
Despite the lead and others that developed over time, no arrests were ever made and the case went cold.
Peterson said he recalls hearing of police interviewing a possible suspect, but there was never enough evidence to file charges.
"The police worked diligently, but they were never able to get enough evidence to make an arrest," Peterson said. "From what I remember, there was not much physical evidence and back then, there was no DNA or other forensic investigative techniques."
Peterson said since the FBI was involved, it is possible that some of the evidence collected when Favre's body was found may still be in storage somewhere today.
"Generally, evidence was sent to Washington to be examined by the FBI," he said.
Case can still be
In Mississippi, there is no statute of limitations for a murder charge.
Since the suspect in the case was in his early 20s at the time, it is conceivable that he may still be alive, officials said.
Before the case can be reopened, however, officials first must determine if any evidence has survived the years and which agency was actually in charge of the investigation.
According to news reports at the time, BPD was the original investigating agency; however, the FBI, Mississippi Highway Patrol, and Hancock County Sheriff's Office were also heavily involved.
Bay St. Louis Police Chief Mike De Nardo said Tuesday that since his department was the originating agency, it may still have records, but he was not sure.
De Nardo said his department would be happy to look into any "tangible" leads which could arise in the Favre case.
Officials at the Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers group said Monday that they offer cash rewards for information leading to arrests in cold cases such as the Favre case.
"If anyone has heard anything about this case or any other cold case, we would ask them to call us," Crime Stopper official Lori Massey said Monday. "No matter what kind of tip it is, it could be a piece of the puzzle."
Massey said individuals can contact Crime Stoppers by calling the tip line at 1-877-787-5898, texting tips to CSTIPS at 274639, or checking out the Crime Stoppers website at mscoastecrimestoppers.com.
Mary Ann Favre is survived by a brother, sister, and dozens of relatives in Mississippi and Louisiana.
Several of her cousins and extended family were consulted about this story, however, not all family members could be reached.