Left and Center: Sarah circa, 1981
Right: Age Progressed to age 38
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: July 21, 1981
Missing From: Joliet, Will County, Illinois
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: January 6, 1975
Age: 6 years old
Height and Weight: 4’0″ and 45 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Blonde hair, Brown eyes
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A Joliet District soccer shirt, blue/red/white colored jogging pants, and blue sneakers with a white stripe
NCMEC Number: 600166
Details of Disappearance
Sarah Elizabeth Avon was last seen in Joliet, Illinois on July 21st of 1981. She was accompanied by her sister and met a group of friends at the end of Richards street. Sarah apparently walked away after an argument occurred between her and a playmate. She was never seen or heard from again and her family reported her missing at approximately 9:00 pm that night.
Searches for the girl produced no trace of her whereabouts. Various volunteers searched the areas surrounding the Avon home and the street she disappeared from. A quarry was also dragged in search of Sarah but nothing was found as a result of the intensive efforts by police and her family.
In January of 1985, a photograph that was thought to have depicted Sarah was found in the apartment of David R. Collins. He was previously convicted of kidnapping a teenager from California and was also convicted of assault in several other cases. At least 25 pictures were found in his apartment. It was thought that another girl was Nelida Del Valle who was abducted in 1976 from Massachusetts. The photos were later found to be someone else. Authorities do not believe that Collins had anything to do with Avon’s or Del Valle’s disappearances.
In 1993, a former neighbor of the Avon family, Ernest Wilson Sr., died in Arkansas. After he died, his nephew, Robert Tadej summoned authorities and told them that Wilson had made a “deathbed revelation” in connection to Sarah’s disappearance. Wilson drew a triangular shape on a piece of paper. This drawing stuck out to the family because it resembles the triangular shaped lot that the family home once stood in Joliet.
Wilson’s son and another boy allegedly implicated themselves in Sarah’s abduction and murder. His son was 15 years old and was considered mentally disturbing. Tadej said that when he had a conversation with the nephew, he admitted to sexually molesting Sarah on the night she disappeared. He also said he was in the house when Sarah was killed.
Investigators and Tadej believe that Wilson found Sarah slain and that he buried Sarah’s body on their property so that he could protect his son. A man came forward after the revelation and stated he may have witnessed Wilson burying Sarah’s remains. The witness was a teenager at the time and he reportedly went outside during the night to see Wilson digging a large and deep hole with a shovel.
The hole was approximately chest deep. The witness actually asked Wilson why he was digging the hole and he responded by saying that he planned to transplant sunflower seeds to that location. The witness said he had seen Wilson on one other occasion digging or operating in his backyard at night after Sarah’s disappearance.
This time, Wilson was using his bulldozer and was seen pushing mounds of dirt near Hickory Creek and was also knocking over trees at the junction of Hickory Creek and Spring Creek. Later on, the Wilsons reportedly moved their above ground swimming pool near the location where he used the bulldozer to pile up dirt.
After getting this information, investigators excavated the vacant lot which was located on Miller Avenue. This is where Wilson’s property was located in 1981. While the initial search did not yield anything, an official involved in the search believes that the area they dug up was too small for them to be absolutely sure that Sarah’s remains weren’t located on the lot.
The man who saw Wilson digging was quoted as saying the hole was chest deep and thought authorities were not excavating deep enough during the search. The man even brought this to their attention but they paid no attention to his statements. Sarah’s body has never been found.
Authorities continue to keep the case open and have searched relentlessly for her. In 2004, authorities dug underneath an old garage on Noel Road which was south of Joliet. Authorities were hoping to locate Sarah’s remains but only unearthed clothing and no evidence relating to Sarah’s disappearance.
Sarah’s case remains unsolved. Authorities believe that Sarah was the victim of a stranger abduction.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Will County Sheriffs Office 815-727-8574