Vernon-Tolland Three: What Happened to Them?

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Three girls disappeared from the distant neighboring cities of Vernon and Tolland in Connecticut between 1968 and 1974. Crime Junkie Podcast follows the mysterious disappearance of all three, Debbie Spickler, Janice Pockett, and Lisa White, as they interview people related to the investigation and try to find out whether the cases are connected and what might have happened all those years ago.

What Happened To Deborah Spickler?

Deborah “Debbie” Lee Spickler was born in the village of Mystic in Groton and Stonington, Connecticut. She was 13 when she visited her aunt’s place in Vernon, Connecticut, in July 1968. The family went to Henry Park on 120 South Street, in Vernon, on July 24. The young girl was last spotted walking from Foxhill Drive toward the park’s swimming pool.

According to reports, one of the adults had returned home to get towels the girls had forgotten to take with them for swimming. When she returned to the spot where Debbie was supposed to wait, she was nowhere to be seen. Her family claimed she had no prior incidences of running away or delinquent behaviors. On the very day she disappeared, her mother received a postcard from Debbie, stating she was doing well and helped her relatives a lot.

At the time of her disappearance, she was wearing a white sleeveless blouse, homemade dark green pattern shorts with no pockets, and white low-top tennis shoes. The 13-year-old had brown hair and brown eyes, was 5’5″, and weighed 125 pounds. Although almost no evidence is available regarding the case in the public domain, the authorities believe Debbie’s disappearance is linked to two girls who would go missing four and five years later in the same area, same time frame, and under the same circumstances.

What Happened To Janice Pockett?

Janice Kathryn Pockett was born in Tolland, a quiet community in the semi-rural suburbs of eastern Connecticut. She was only seven years old in July 1973 when she asked permission from her mother to retrieve a butterfly she’d caught and left on a rock by the road a couple of days earlier. Her younger sister, Mary Engelbrecht, then six, could never forget the afternoon of July 26, 1973, when Janice set off on her green Murray banana-seat bicycle.

Mary reminisced, “We were driving my mom crazy, I remember. My sister and I had been bickering over something stupid – a toothbrush, I think.” She also recounted how it was a big deal for their mother to permit Janice to ride there alone since it was the first time she was allowed to do so. Their mother had also handed Janice an envelope to bring back the butterfly. After the girl did not return even after half an hour, the family set out to look for her.

They found her bicycle less than a mile from her home, abandoned on a dirt road close to the woods. Over the years, the Connecticut State Police would try their best to solve the case – from attempting to retrieve fingerprints of the deserted bike to searching every inch of the woods on foot, horseback, and with cadaver dogs. A pedophile, Charles Pierce, admitted to burying Janice and 3-year-old Angelo Puglisi in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

While the authorities thought it was a promising lead, they dismissed him as a probable suspect after no graves that fit that description had ever been uncovered. In 2000, the police had another lead when they found a child’s bone fragments in the garage of Nathaniel Bar-Jonah, a convicted child abductor, in Great Falls, Montana. He, then 14, lived only 20 miles away from Janice’s home in 1973 and had been accused of strangling another child.

However, he was ruled out as a suspect in the case after the bones did not match Janet’s DNA. At the time of her disappearance, Janice was wearing navy blue shorts with an American flag emblem, a striped pull-over shirt, and blue sneakers. She was blonde with blue eyes, around 4 feet tall, and weighed 65 pounds.

What Happened To Lisa White?

More than six years after Debbie Spickler’s disappearance, the town of Vernon was met with another tragedy when 13-year-old Lisa Joy White went missing on November 1, 1974. According to reports, she had been grounded by her mother after she was recently arrested for underage drinking. When her mother left for work at 4:30 pm, Lisa snuck out to meet a friend on Prospect Street in Rockville, Connecticut, about two miles away from her residence.

Lisa’s friend confirmed to the authorities that she had seen Lisa walk home at 7:30 pm. She was last spotted strolling along Prospect Street in Vernon, Connecticut, at 8:00 pm. Like Debbie and Janice, that was the last time someone her, and her disappearance remains a mystery to date. At the time of her disappearance, the young girl was wearing green slacks and a blue jeans/denim jacket. She had strawberry blond hair, blue eyes, and a small chicken pox mark on her forehead.

Are The Girls Dead or Alive?

The three girls — Debbie Spickler, Janice Pockett, and Lisa White — also known as the Vernon-Tolland Three, went missing between 1968 and 1974. Though the respective authorities tried their best to solve each case – from pursuing leads to interrogating potential suspects – the cases remain unsolved to date. The Tolland County Cold Case Squad was formed in October 2014 to look into these three cases.

The officers evaluated all three cases and claimed to have found an alleged connection between them. The authorities have circulated age-progressed images of the three victims, which are updated every few years, for the public to help identify the victims. Governor Dannel P. Malloy had also authorized rewards in each case, culminating in a total of $150,000 for revealing any relevant information regarding the girls’ whereabouts or helping catch the perpetrator(s).

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