NBC News’ ‘Dateline: The Girl in the Little Blue Dress’ delves into the puzzling case of Michelle Pulsifer, a 3-year-old that suddenly disappeared in July 1969. In the years that followed, her father, Richard Pulsifer Sr., desperately searched for answers but faced roadblocks from all directions. It took more than three decades for the authorities to look into the case, eventually believing that Michelle’s mother, Donna Prentice, was responsible. So, if you’re wondering how Dick dealt with it over the years and where he might be today, here’s what we know.
Who is Dick Pulsifer?
Richard Sr. Pulsifer AKA Dick was relatively young when he first met Donna in El Cajon, California. Their romance started at the beginning of high school. He said, “I met her at a high school party. And we kind of danced, talked, and I got her telephone number, and we started dating.” After about three years, Donna became pregnant with their son, Richard Jr. So, while Dick stayed in school and worked in the night, Donna dropped out to take care of their son.
Then, about two years after Dick graduated from high school, Michelle was born. However, by 1968, the relationship broke down, and the two divorced. At the time, Dick was okay with his ex-wife receiving full custody of the children. He said, “It was a mutual agreement. Nobody fought anything about the custody or anything. I had visiting rights. I paid child support.” Dick was happy with the arrangement, visiting the children on weekends.
By 1969, Donna had begun a relationship with James Michael Kent. They began living soon after that with Richard Jr., Michelle, and Jamie, Mike’s son from a previous relationship. It seemed like things were going well until Dick decided to drop by one day in July 1969. There was no answer at the door, but he wasn’t too worried, assuming they were just gone for the day. But when Dick spoke to one of Donna’s friends, he was shocked that Donna had moved with the kids without telling him.
Dick said, “I went to the social services. Told them– I said, ‘They can’t do that. It’s illegal.’ And they said, ‘Well, yes, she can. She’s got full custody, she can do what she wants.'” He learned that Donna was back in California sometime in 1967. By then, Dick knew that Michelle was nowhere to be found. At that point, Donna married Mike and lived in Illinois. When Dick asked her where Michelle was, he claimed that she said it was none of his business.
In the time that followed, Dick felt that his hands were tied since Donna had custody of the children. The authorities wouldn’t take a missing person report from him because she claimed to know where Michelle was. He was frustrated at the time, adding, “She’s missing. And they would not do anything. I was so beside myself; I could have ripped the counter off because I knew there was something wrong. I didn’t think anything violent or, you know, anything physical happened.”
It was only in 1980 that Dick learned Donna was in Wisconsin with Richard Jr.; she had disappeared from California again. At the time, Dick received a court order to pay child support. Curiously, Michelle’s name was missing. Then, in 2001, one of Dick’s former in-laws offered to hire a private investigator, kickstarting an investigation into Michelle’s case. The authorities eventually arrested Donna and Mike in 2004, with the latter claiming that he helped bury Michelle’s body in a canyon.
Where is Dick Pulsifer Today?
After that, Dick made sure to attend every court hearing involving Donna’s case. He drove to be there several hours from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dick said in May 2007, “It doesn’t matter. Every day she (Prentice) is in court, I will be there, too. I just feel that maybe my presence will have some sort of effect on her to tell what happened.” However, despite being tried twice, Donna was not convicted of murdering Michelle, with a judge eventually dismissing charges against her.
Dick reconnected with Richard Jr. when the latter was about 17-years-old. Over the years, Dick was frustrated with the outcome, adding, “I have no clue what happened to Michelle. That’s– that’s the question, and that’s the answer I’ll probably never get.” He ran a martial arts studio in Las Vegas and lived there with his wife, Cathe. It appears that Dick had to deal with more tragedy later, since Cathe passed away. From what we can tell, he lives in Las Vegas and has retired after working for a casino.