Karen Rae Bosta was outgoing and friendly – a kind, compassionate, and loving daughter, her mother Arlene Murin told Dateline. Arlene raised Karen, the youngest of two kids, in New Jersey. Arlene moved to North Carolina once her kids were grown, while Karen stayed in New Jersey to attend Morris County Community College and study Early Childhood Development.
Arlene told Dateline that Karen loved working with children.
“They were drawn to her boundless energy, enthusiasm, and caring, fun-loving nature,” Arlene added.
In 2014, Karen, then 38, moved to Hertford, North Carolina to live with her mother.
According to Arlene, at around noon on May 30, 2015, Karen told her she was heading out to run some errands and was going to see a few friends later in the day. That evening, Karen texted her mother saying she would be home early, Arlene told Dateline. Arlene believes Karen was with her friends about 20 minutes away in Edenton at the time she sent the text.
But Karen never arrived home. Arlene tried calling her daughter many times, but her phone just kept ringing.
A couple of days later, Arlene called the Perquimans County Police Department to report her daughter missing.
“I didn’t report her missing at first, because I just couldn’t believe it,” Arlene told Dateline. “I never in a million years thought something like this would happen to her.”
While family told Dateline they believe Karen was last seen at a local Walgreens, Perquimans County Sheriff Shelby White said their investigation shows Karen last being seen at a Food Lion store.
“She had three separate transactions there, and the cameras showed her all by herself, around 10:00 p.m.,” Sheriff White said.
Sheriff White said Karen did make a few calls from her phone after the cameras showed her at the Food Lion, but the phone died two days later on June 1.
For days, there were no clues as to where Karen could have been. Then, a few days after she was last seen on that video, Karen’s car was found in a parking lot, about a mile away from the Food Lion.
The Perquimans Police Department told Dateline there were no fingerprints or DNA on, in, or around the car. According to police, there was nothing left in the car except a pack of cigarettes. Arlene told Dateline that she had loaned Karen a credit card so she could buy a pack of cigarettes that day. Arlene did notice there was activity on that credit card the day after Karen was last seen on video at the Food Lion.
“It was used at a gas station that was on the way back from Edenton to Hertferd,” Sheriff White told Dateline. “When I went to look at the gas station footage, I realized it was someone Karen knew. He also attempted to use it at a Food Lion in Edenton, but the card was denied.”
Arlene told Dateline that the man who used the card is Thomas Edward White, who they say was a friend of Karen. According to Arlene, White claimed he found the credit card on his front porch.
“He was brought in for questioning,” Sheriff White – who is not related to Thomas Edward White – told Dateline. “And he was given a polygraph test, [which] he failed.”
Sheriff White said he spoke to the polygraph administrator after the test. Together, he said they determined White “didn’t do this, but he knows what happened and just won’t tell us anything.”
Thomas Edward White is not considered a suspect in Karen’s disappearance.
“There have been multiple search teams, helicopters and ATV searches, foot and canine pursuits, dive teams, and cell phone tracking. We saw where the phone went and what she did,” Sheriff White told Dateline. According to the police, Karen’s cell phone showed that she was driving around Edenton, was at a fast food restaurant, drove past a bridge, and went back and forth to White’s house. According to Karen’s family, this activity was not unusual.
Since the last known location for Karen was Edenton, the Edenton Police have also helped investigate her disappearance. Edenton Police Chief Henry King told Dateline how difficult the search was since the surrounding areas are all farmland or ocean.
Debbie Manning, Founder and CEO of the National Center for the Missing and Endangered Inc., has been an advocate for Karen and her family for the last three years.
“It is a very, very sad case,” Manning said. “It’s been crazy from the beginning. A nightmare of a case.”
Karen’s mother Arlene told Dateline that Karen has a mental disorder and was on medication.
“Since Karen had a cognitive impairment, a Silver Alert should have been enacted and it wasn’t,” missing persons advocate Debbie Manning said, adding that she believes having multiple agencies working the case also slowed down the investigation. “Since Karen lived in a different county than where her car was found, there were two police departments working on her case, which allowed for miscommunication between the different police departments.”
In September of 2017, Governor Roy Cooper, announced that the state of North Carolina would offer a reward of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for Karen’s disappearance.
“But still, no one has come forward,” Edenton Police Chief King said. “I want to get this solved for this family, but it’s one of those tough cases where nobody is talking.”
The Perquimans sheriff agreed.
“We believe somebody knows something, but they’re just not saying it,” Sheriff White told Dateline.
Arlene told Dateline that the rest of the family is “just praying for an answer. We just don’t know what to do or where to turn.”
Karen Rae Bosta would be 43 years old today. At the time of her disappearance, Karen was 5’4”, weighed about 140-150 lbs., with brown curly hair and blue eyes. If you have any information on the circumstances surrounding Karen’s disappearance, please call the Perquimans County Sheriff's Department at 252-426-5615 or the Edenton Police Department at 252-482-5144.