Left and Center: Tricia circa, 1982
Right: Age Progressed to age 36
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: May 7, 1982
Missing From: Chicago, Cook County, Illinois
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: May 31, 1973
Age: 8 years old
Height and Weight: 4’0″ and 70 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: White Female, Blonde hair, Hazel eyes, Tricia has previously broken her wrist and has also fractured her skull, she had a distinctive gap between her upper front teeth in 1982
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A blue long sleeved sweater, blue jeans, and brown shoes
NCMEC Number: 601784
Details of Disappearance
Tricia was last seen in Chicago, Illinois on May 7th 1982. Tricia left her family’s apartment after returning from school and went out to play with friends in the street. Tricia was seen playing with puppies on a neighbor’s porch. She was last seen entering an unidentified vehicle with 1 or 2 men near the corner of Leland and Malden.
The vehicle was described as a blue four door 1979 Dodge or Pontiac car. The most distinctive features of this vehicle was a damaged front passenger door and that the beginning letters of a license plate were “Q” and “R”. Tricia was never seen again and her abductors and the vehicle remains unidentified.
Tricia was discovered missing at 4:00 pm and at that point her family began searching for the child. Her mother called the police quite a few times that evening but they did not join the search for her until 10:00 pm of that night. No trace of the girl was ever found despite various searches that took place for her.
Investigators believe that Tricia got into the vehicle with a man named Marvin Pontarelli. He owned a car that matched the description of the one sought in Tricia’s abduction. He had a extensive criminal history which included sexual assault, rape, and kidnapping. People who lived in the same neighborhood recognized his photo.
Pontarelli was charged with the 1967 abduction of his wife, Donna Pontarelli, and a young man, Robert Shearer from Quincy, Washington. Donna and Robert were allegedly tied up at gunpoint by Marvin before Robert said he was released on Highway 17. He also said that Pontarelli threatened to kill him if he reported the abduction. He was apprehended later on and charged with kidnapping and 2nd degree assault for firing at an officer when being apprehended. He was released later on.
Three witnesses picked him out of the lineup as the man they had seen with Tricia on the day of her disappearance. One witness told investigators they had seen Pontarelli go into the Malden Arms Hotel with Tricia and another unidentified man. He was questioned regarding the girl’s disappearance and was also given a polygraph exam which he failed.
On the day of her disappearance, three of Tricia’s friends who were aged between 11 and 12 years of age told investigators that Pontarelli had taken them to his apartment where he gave them beer and drugs and sexually assaulted them. He also forced them to engage in sexual acts and photographed them. His apartment was searched and inside, investigators found various items in relation to child pornography.
Investigators found photographs of the girls, guns, tear gas, brass knuckles, cattle prods, and handcuffs. He was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor, indecent liberties with a child, child pornography, and charges regarding the extensive amount of weapons he had in his possession.
The charges were dropped months after they were filed, however, after the victims failed to show up in court to testify against him for what he did to them. Investigators believe he payed off their families so he could avoid trial and sentencing.
Investigators believe that Pontarelli might have kidnapped Tricia for purposes relating to prostitution. In 1984, he attempted to photograph a blonde Caucasian girl having sex by Larry Fassler so he could have blackmail against him. Fassler has met Pontarelli while they were in prison together and he owed him money.
Investigators from Chicago were able to find Fassler’s address book and noted that an entry from October of 1982 bore Tricia’s name and home address at the time of her abduction. Underneath her name was Pontarelli’s name. During an interview, he said he had written the entry after he was questioned in relation to the girl’s abduction. He wrote it down because he felt Pontarelli was someone who would have been responsible for Tricia’s disappearance due to his violent history as well as his attraction to young children.
In 1985, Pontarelli was arrested in Arizona and was questioned again about what happened to Tricia. This time, he cried and stated that Tricia was killed after her abduction. He stated that Fassler was responsible for her death and that her body was buried on a property that his family owned in Illinois.
A few weeks after he told investigators that she was murdered, he recanted his statements and told investigators that he believed Fassler had taken Tricia to Mexico. Pontarelli has previously gone to Mexico with underage girls. Investigators believe that Pontarelli was likely responsible for Tricia’s abduction and murder. It’s possible her remains were concealed within the cement foundation of Pontarelli Apartments in Chicago. Cement was being poured at the complex when she was taken.
Pontarelli and Fassler were never charged with kidnapping Tricia or charged with anything in relation to her presumed death. Pontarelli died while serving prison time in 1994 and Fassler has also allegedly died in recent years since Tricia’s disappearance.
At the time of her disappearance, Tricia lived with her mother and stepfather but she did see her biological father regularly before she went missing. She was well known around her neighborhood and was an active member at her local church as well. Her mother has since moved to Missouri and her father died in 2009. Her sister is still alive and continues to hope that Tricia will be found.
Tricia’s abduction remains unsolved and foul play is suspected.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Chicago Police Department 312-744-8266