Will the mystery of what happened to Sandy Rea ever be solved?
There is no body and no crime scene. No eye-witnesses to lay out specifically what became of Sandy Rea the night of September 19, 1984, when the 17-year-old left the Windsor Bowling Alley in Shawnee, Oklahoma with an unknown individual.
Shawnee Police told Dateline NBC that although more than 200 people have been questioned in connection with the case, they've had a hard time following the leads to anywhere but dead ends.
"It's been 31 years since Sandy left that bowling alley and we don't have answers," said Detective Ronnie Wilson. He was handed the case last month as the detective in charge of Sandy's case for 23 years, Sgt. Greg Gibson, is retiring in January.
"This case really bugged him, and from everything I've seen, he's done everything he could to solve it," said Detective Wilson. "Now I want to do the same."
The simple facts are this; Sandy was last seen at the Windsor Bowling Alley in Shawnee Oklahoma around 9:00pm that September night. Her cousin, an employee at the alley, told police Sandy called several people from a payphone asking for a ride. Who eventually agreed, and where they were headed, is unclear. Sandy left and police believe that's the last time anyone saw her.
What complicates the story of Sandy is the cloud of suspicion, hearsay and accusations of a cover-up to mask activities with which the teen may or may not have been involved. Many theories have persisted over the years.
One such theory surrounds what many in Shawnee have called "Suit Parties"; stories of prominent local men exchanging drugs for sex with underage teens. The story goes the girls would congregate in hotel rooms, drink alcohol and take the drugs provided in exchange for performing various sexual acts with the "suits". The rumor is that Sandy may have just known too much.
"That's just one rumor of many," said Mindy Wood, an investigative journalist for the Red Dirt Report. Wood has been digging through Sandy's case files for years now and has published several articles on the case. "There is little evidence to a lot of it, but people are insistent that these things were going on."
There are less salacious theories out there as well. Some say Sandy, who was at times considered a "party girl" around town, headed out that night to a party, overdosed, and those present simply hid her body, afraid of possible repercussions for them.
Yet another centers around one of Sandy's ex-boyfriends with whom the teen lived in the month's prior to her disappearance. The boy was allegedly physically abusive towards Sandy, leading to her moving out of his place several weeks before she vanished.
"She moved in with a girlfriend but still saw Danny a decent amount," Johnny Price, one of Sandy's cousins, told Dateline.
Price has been working closely with Robin Re, who was the person to bring Sandy's case to Dateline. The two, and a slew of others, have been pushing in recent years for more to be done on the case. Both strongly believe solving Sandy's case may lead to breaks in numerous other cases in the area.
"Something fishy has gone on," Re told Dateline NBC. "It's a very small town and people talk. We just are going to keep pushing and pushing until we find something."
Sandy's family, along with Price and Rea, says they are not happy with how the investigation into Sandy's disappearance was handled. "The ball has been dropped so many times with Sandy's case," said Re. There have been several accusations that someone may have covered up what may have happened to Sandy.
When asked about the various theories out there about Sandy and those accusations, Detective Wilson was adamant that everything he has seen proves none of it. "I don't know anyone who would stick their neck out that far and risk their badge or their livelihood for something like this," he said. "I've gone over the case file and the detectives previously working have tracked down every lead in here, but there just hasn't been enough evidence in any area really. We're going to keep doing everything we can to solve this one."
Regardless of the rumors that still circulate around the small Oklahoma town about their loved one, Sandy's sisters simply want closure.
"She is two years, two months, two weeks, and two days younger than I am," Michelle, Sandy's sister, told Dateline NBC. "She was my best friend and nothing has ever been the same."
Just nine when her older sister vanished, Brandi added that the case has been with her almost her entire life. "Growing up, I just remember searching creek beds with my mother. Why hasn't it been solved yet?"
Shawnee Detective Ronnie Wilson is optimistic about cracking the case, saying he hopes to have some type of answer before the first snow falls. "We've got some things underway," he said.
While the police continue to investigate, Price, Re, and Sandy's family continue to push for answers on their own. They are hoping to bring in a private investigative firm to look into the case and have started a Crowd Riser page to raise the funds necessary.
"We're going to do whatever we have to in order to give Sandy justice," Re told Dateline NBC. "Whatever we have to do, we will never stop."
If you have any information that can help solve Sandy's disappearance, please call the Shawnee Police Department at (405) 273-2121 or you can contact Johnny Price at (918) 902-3726.