Looking for Closure: 30 Years After His Sister's Disappearance, Man Seeks Answers
Joe Chartier, now of Concord, N.H., was 19 when his 17-year-old sister disappeared from East Chelmsford.
Joe Chartier considers himself a realist: he knows it's unlikely that his sister, Judy, will be found after she went missing on June 5, 1982, but that doesn't mean he is going to stop looking for answers.
Judy Chartier was 17 when she was last seen in East Chelmsford after attending a party in Billerica. Chartier - one of Judy's seven brothers - was 19 at the time and decided not to go to the party with her.
Chartier said Judy went to the party with her boyfriend at the time, but the pair may have argued and she left the party to bring him home to East Chelmsford. It was then her intent to return to the party, Chartier said, but Judy and the 1977 Dodge Swinger she was driving have never been seen since she dropped off her boyfriend.
"It's been difficult, I don't really talk about it a lot," said Chartier, who still checks in with the police once in a while on the case and keeps up-to-date on any Jane Doe bodies that may have been found matching Judy's description. "She was very sweet, she loved animals. She was nice to everyone, she didn’t have a mean bone in her body. We were best friends, we did everything together."
As Judy got older, Chartier said she started hanging out with the wrong crowd. Chartier suspects someone who was at the party that night knows what happened to his sister but won't talk about it. A series of strange occurances after Judy went missing lead him to believe foul play was involved, he said.
"Just before she went missing, she said to my father that she wanted him to check the trunk of her car. She said there was something in it and she was scared, and that was the day before the day she went missing," Chartier said. "We suspected maybe they were using her as a (drug) mule ... so we’re not sure if someone killed her because of what she saw or knew. We have really no clue."
Another strange incident happened shortly after Judy disappeared - a phone call came to the house from a woman to claimed she knew what happened to Judy but couldn't talk about it because someone had threatened to kill her.
"We know someone knows something," said Chartier.
According to the Charley Project, the U.S. Secret Service was investigating a man named James Mitchell DeBardeleben for counterfeiting when they discovered he may have been connected to a number of murders. The U.S. Secret Service searched DeBardeleben's car and found a map of the Chelmsford region where Chartier disappeared, and a receipt for a motel dated June 4, 1982 - the night before Judy disappeared. According to the Charley Project, however, "the leads never panned out."
Chartier said every so often the police make his sister's photo public again, hoping someone will see it and want to talk about it.
"I don’t think she ran away, I highly doubt that. She was so close to my mother .. she was spoiled to say the least. When she was hanging around with me, she wasn’t in the wrong crowd, but it had something to do with partying in Billerica. It was someone or something involved in that group of people because (DeBardeleben) was in the area, he was known for this and he was friends with people who were at that party," said Chartier.
Chartier's parents have since passed away and now he sees it as his responsibility to find closure.
"I don’t have hope she’s alive. I wish, but I don’t think she is. I think something happened that night. I don’t think she would have stayed away this long if she could have contacted my parents," she said. "I think someone killed her, for what reason I don’t know, but I know that the crowd she was with that night, some of them were good kids but there was some of them from that area I would never ever be around because I couldn’t stand them."
Chartier said sometimes he can't help but feel like had he gone with Judy that night she'd still be around.
But now, 30 years later and in the age of social media, Chartier is hoping someone will see Judy's picture on Facebook or the Internet, know what happened and talk to the police about it.
"I'm hoping someone's conscience gets the best of them," he said.
Anyone with information concerning this case should concact Chelmsford Police at 978-256-2521.