Left and Center: Michelle circa, 1983
Right: Age Progressed to age 42
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: April 2, 1983
Missing From: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky
Classification: Family Abduction
Date Of Birth: October 5, 1979
Age: 3 years old
Height and Weight: 4’0″ and 30 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Brown hair, Brown eyes, Michelle’s nickname is “Shelly”
NCMEC Number: 603380
Details of Disappearance
Michelle was last seen in Louisville, Kentucky on April 2nd 1983. Her mother, Debra Leigh Newton, apparently accepted a job offer in the state of Georgia at some point prior and took Michelle to move to their new home on the date they disappeared. However, when Michelle’s father went to join them in Georgia, the two were gone and had disappeared. Neither of them ever returned.
Investigators believe Michelle was abducted by her mother when they vanished in 1983. Michelle’s father was awarded sole custody of the child later in the year after she vanished. A warrant for custodial interference was issued for Debra sometime afterwards. A FBI warrant for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution was issued for her on May 3rd 1985.
After they were reported missing, Debra forged her husbands name in order to sell the family vehicle, a 1980 Ford Mustang in Rex, Georgia. She signed the title as Debra L. Hartmann and Michael D. Hartmann. She also filed for divorce against Michelle’s father in Clayton County, Georgia but her attorney closed the case when he found out that Michelle was considered a missing child and that her father had reported her case to the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children.
The attorney dropped her case because Debra had lied to him and claimed she as well as Michelle had been abandoned in a Holiday Inn by Michael. It’s unclear what happened after this.
Debra was born on November 10th 1959, making her 23 years old at the time of Michelle’s abduction. She is described as being 5’5″ and 135 pounds. She has brown/sandy colored hair and blue eyes. She might use the following alias names: Debra Curry Newton, Debra L. Hartman, and Debra L. Hartmann. Some agencies might spell her middle name as “Leight.”
Due to inaccurate information, Michelle’s missing persons case was removed from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on January 2nd 2005. The warrant for Debra also ended some point afterwards. The case was closed for some years until it was reopened as a cold case in 2015. Debra has been indicted for a felony count of custodial interference.
Some agencies may state that Michelle was located safely at some point in late 2005 or early 2006 but this is false and she remains missing. Michelle’s missing persons information was added back to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in December 2021.
Michelle and Debra have been sighted a few times since their disappearance but they have never been located. Investigators believe Debra might be deceased as she was known to use drugs at the time she abducted her daughter. They might be in the Clayton County, Georgia area. Michelle’s current whereabouts are unknown and her case remains unsolved.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Jefferson County Sheriffs Office 502-574-5469
Crimes Against Children Unit 502-574-2465
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Missing Persons Cold Case Network (archive)