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Oklahoma woman seeks answers 37 years after the abduction and murder of her best friend, Marilyn Joi Base

22-year-old Marilyn Joi Base was abducted while doing laundry at an apartment complex in Tulsa, Oklahoma on April 9, 1987. 10 days later, her body was found at the base of a mountain. 
Marilyn Joi Base
Marilyn Joi BaseCharlotte Autry

“We always called her Joi,” Charlotte Autry, Marilyn Joi Base’s childhood best friend, told Dateline. “She was, absolutely, a joy.”

Charlotte thinks fondly of the childhood she spent alongside Joi in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, just outside of Tulsa. She talked about the blissful, slow-paced lifestyle they led as young girls — running around the farmland behind their properties, playing with horses, and singing in church. “[Joi’s family] had a ditch in their backyard, and they had a swing on a rope — and we would swing over that ditch,” she said. “It was a blast.”

Charlotte remembers Joi as a “gentle spirit,” and told Dateline about the simple things she loved. “She was artistic; she would draw all the time. She taught me how to draw a horse,” she said. “That’s the kind of thing we did.”

Marilyn Joi Base
Marilyn Joi BaseCharlotte Autry

Joi was half-Sioux on her father’s side, and Charlotte told Dateline that Joi and her family were “very proud” of their Native American heritage. 

Joi lived her life truthfully, according to Charlotte — never ashamed, and always kind. “She was just far older than, what, you know, what her age was,” she said. “She was very wise. She was just very tender.”

Joi and Charlotte lost contact sometime in the early ‘80s, pulled away by their lives moving in different directions. “The last time I saw her, she was getting into a car in her driveway, and, I don’t know, we had exchanged some words, you know — just some niceties,” Charlotte recalled. “And she said something back to me, and her hair was blowing in the wind, and that — she just had that beautiful smile.” 

A few years after they said goodbye, the unthinkable happened.

The Murder of Marilyn Joi Base

This month marks 37 years since Joi Base was murdered. She was only 22 years old.

Marilyn Joi Base's playing card from the OSBI
Marilyn Joi Base's playing card from the OSBI

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has a page on its website dedicated to Joi’s case. Joi is also part of an OSBI initiative called the Cold Case Playing Cards program, in which the department features cold cases on playing cards and distributes them to prison inmates. 

The cards are also available to view by the public on the OSBI website. Joi is featured as the Queen of Spades. In 2023, Dateline covered the case of Mary Morgan Pewitt, who was featured in the same program as the Three of Diamonds.

According to the department, on April 9, 1987, Joi was doing laundry at an apartment complex on 12500 E 41st Street in Tulsa around 9 p.m. “Base was then abducted from the laundry room,” the OSBI wrote.

Charlotte said she learned of a missing person on the news when the investigation first began, though she did not realize it was her friend Joi. “They called her Marilyn Base.” Charlotte said she knew her friend had been married and divorced, but didn’t recognize the last name. Charlotte knew Joi by her maiden name, Bowker. 

It was Charlotte’s mother who eventually put the pieces together. “My mom called me and said, ‘Do you know that gal that they’re saying is missing?’ And I said, ‘Yeah,’” Charlotte remembered. “And she said, ‘That’s Joi.’” Charlotte recalled the feeling that followed. “I just was sick to my stomach,” she said. 

In the days after Joi’s disappearance, Charlotte felt certain that she would be found safe. “I just couldn’t imagine what had happened to her. I thought, ‘Oh, surely she’ll show up,’” she said.

Marilyn Joi Base
Marilyn Joi BaseCharlotte Autry

According to the OSBI, on April 19, 1987, Joi’s body was found at the bottom of Bragg Mountain in Muskogee County, Oklahoma — about a 30-minute drive from her apartment complex in Tulsa. “I found it out on the news,” Charlotte told Dateline. “I went over to see my mom because we were just devastated. We just couldn’t believe that she had — that she had, you know — that the worst possible thing would ever happen to her had come true.” 

Dateline reached out to the Tulsa Police Department and the OSBI regarding Joi’s case. Both departments agreed to receive a list of questions, which Dateline sent over email. 

Lieutenant Brandon Watkins of Tulsa PD told Dateline that while his department has done some work on Joi’s case over the years, they are not the main investigating agency on the case. “The documentation I have found on it has been very sparse,” he wrote in an email.

Watkins also said that Tulsa PD officials “haven’t had time to look at [the questions provided by Dateline] yet,” citing two recent deaths that the department is currently investigating — David Drywater and Jesus Huerta Sanchez. He suggested reaching out to the OSBI for more information. 

Public Information Manager Hunter McKee of the OSBI responded that the investigation was still “ongoing and active,” and told Dateline that he would reach out if he had any additional information to share.

In 2023, the OSBI did post about Joi’s case on Facebook on the 36th anniversary of her abduction. “Someone out there knows something about this case,” they wrote, asking for tips from the public.

Charlotte Autry is waiting for those tips to come through. “There’s got to be an answer,” she told Dateline. “There’s got to be some kind of justice.”

Life Without Joi

According to Charlotte, Joi had a beautiful voice, and would often record herself singing — “some really awesome songs,” Charlotte said. Two of the songs Joi recorded were The Old Rugged Cross and Amazing Grace. “At her funeral, they played her songs,” Charlotte said. “She was singing at her own funeral.”

Marilyn Joi Base's headstone
Marilyn Joi Base's headstoneCharlotte Autry

Charlotte told Dateline that Joi’s parents, brother, and sister have all since died. “Joi being murdered just really made her family vulnerable to dying early,” she said. “It just crushed the family.”

With no one from Joi’s immediate family alive to advocate for her, Charlotte has taken it upon herself to push for justice. “I’m sure her family would still be pushing,” she said. “And I am sure that, if this had happened to me and Joi was still alive, she would be doing the same thing for me.” 

In 2019, Charlotte created the ‘Justice for Joi’ Facebook page to advocate for her friend in the hope that it will help her murder get solved. “She deserves justice,” she said. “Somebody needs to answer for the voice that has been silenced.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation at 800-522-8017 or email

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