Over the past few decades, what happened to Michelle Pulsifer in 1969 has remained a mystery. The little girl seemingly disappeared, with the behavior of her mother, Donna, arousing suspicion in the years that followed. However, in a tragic twist of fate, Michelle was not reported missing despite the best efforts of her father, Richard Sr. “Dick” Pulsifer. NBC News’ ‘Dateline: The Girl in the Little Blue Dress’ focuses on the startling tale of the events leading up to Michelle’s disappearance. So, if you’re curious to find out more, we’ve got you covered.
What Happened to Michelle Pulsifer?
Michelle Kelly Pulsifer was born on St. Patrick’s Day in March 1966 to Donna and Richard Sr. Pulsifer AKA Dick. After the couple separated, Donna received full custody of Michelle and their son, Richard Jr. At the time of the incident, Donna had been in a relationship with James Michael Kent; the couple lived together in Huntington Beach, California, with Michelle, Richard Jr., and James’ son from a previous relationship. On July 4, 1969, Dick dropped by Donna’s home to visit his kids.
However, Dick realized nobody was home, later learning the whole family had moved elsewhere. Richard Jr., who was 6-years-old at the time, recalled seeing his sister in his room before Donna took her away. In the years that followed, nobody knew what happened to Michelle, then 3-years-old; she seemingly disappeared. Richard Jr. maintained they left without Michelle when they moved out of California. However, the authorities believed she was murdered shortly before Donna and Mike moved their family to Illinois.
Was Michelle Pulsifer Killed? Have Her Remains Been Found?
When Dick Pulsifer initially learned about Donna moving away, he had no idea where she went. His pleas with Social Services fell on deaf ears since Donna had sole custody of the children. A few months later, Dick learned that Donna and Richard Jr. were alive and well, but there was no sign of Michelle. Close to a year after leaving, Donna returned to California but refused to tell Dick where Michelle was. Richard Jr. then told his father that Michelle never came with them to Illinois, upon which Dick confronted Donna.
After that, Dick went to the police, but yet again, since Donna had full custody and claimed to know where Michelle was, a missing person report wasn’t filed. Soon after that, Donna took off again with Richard Jr. It wasn’t until 1980 that Dick learned where they went. At the time, Dick received papers requesting to pay child support, but only for Richard Jr. Furthermore, he learned that Donna had been living in Wisconsin. By then, she had married and divorced Mike, starting a new life in another state. Richard Jr. later told his father that Donna would refuse to talk about Michelle.
All Richard Jr. remembered from one night in July 1969 was Michelle coming to his room and asking him to hide her. He then claimed that Donna had taken Michelle with her. In 2001, Dick met a former in-law, Ann Friedman, at a family reunion. She offered to pay for a private investigator, who found no existing public record of Michelle since 1969. After looking into the case for about two years, he turned the case over to the Orange County District Attorney’s office in California. The authorities then looked into the case and believed foul play was involved.
In September 2003, Donna was questioned, and she claimed that Mike had left Michelle with his mother before they left for Illinois. According to her, the plan was for Michelle to come later. However, the police learned that in 1969, Mike’s mother, Jane Lambert, was an alcoholic and had cancer; it was unlikely that she would have agreed to care for a 3-year-old. Furthermore, Jane died in 1972, and Donna never came for Michelle. The authorities believed that Donna and Mike were somehow involved in killing Michelle. They arrested both of them in 2004.
At the time, Mike told the police that he didn’t harm Michelle but helped bury the body in a canyon. He said the boys were eating breakfast when Donna called for Michelle to come, but she didn’t. So, the mother went in to check, only to come out alone. Mike added, “She came back out and, uh, I remember she had — all the color in her face was gone, and she was leaning up against the house like support, you know.” He then claimed he checked on Michelle and believed that she was dead. He then wrapped up her body, drove to Williams Canyon in California, and buried her. While Mike led the authorities there, the remains were not found.
It was reported that the area had regular floods, increasing the possibility of any potential remains being washed away. The authorities decided to try Donna for murder and planned to rely mainly on Mike’s testimony. However, Mike passed away in February 2005 from kidney and liver failure. Since 2007, Donna was tried twice, but both ended in mistrials, with the jury remaining deadlocked. In December 2008, the judge dismissed charges against Donna, citing there wasn’t enough evidence to try her for the third time. Since then, Michelle’s father and brother have been looking for answers.
Read More: Where is Dick Pulsifer Now?