- Associated Press - Friday, August 12, 2016

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Nearly a quarter-century after 14-year-old Tracy Pickett disappeared, her family is still waiting for closure.

Thursday marked the 24th anniversary of Tracy’s disappearance, the Joplin Globe (https://bit.ly/2b3JkE8 ) reported.

The Joplin girl went to stay overnight at a friend’s home in Webb City on Aug. 11, 1992, but never returned home. Police believe Tracy was killed and they think they know who did it, but her body was never found and police have been unable to find enough evidence to file charges.

Tracy’s mother, Glenda “Kay” Blaser, says the case should have been solved years ago.

“We’re very angry,” Blaser said. “We just don’t know what to do.”

Tracy, her mother and two older sisters were grocery shopping that day, when they ran into Tracy’s friend, who asked her to spend the night.

The friend was a couple of years older than Tracy and lived on her own. A third girl was spending the night, too. As the night wore on, the third girl’s boyfriend showed up and brought along a friend who introduced himself as “Al.” Police later identified both “Al” and the third girl’s boyfriend as ex-convicts.

What happened that night isn’t clear. Blaser said she had a message on her answering machine the following morning from what sounded like a recorded female voice: “Tracy’s on her way home to change her clothes.” She never made it.

Police were told Tracy accepted a ride home from “Al,” who was driving a black van with Oklahoma plates. When police later found him in Oklahoma, he said he dropped off Tracy near a pawn shop downtown. But Blaser said an investigator told her that neighbors saw a girl running down an alley screaming, “Get away from me! Leave me alone!”

That investigator is no longer with the Joplin department and the newspaper was unable to reach him.

Blaser believes police erred in allowing “Al” to leave Missouri. The man, who had the van crushed at a salvage yard, was convicted of kidnapping and sex crimes in Oklahoma the year after Tracy’s disappearance. He is currently in custody for allegedly violating probation related to a conviction for failing to register as a sex offender.

Joplin police Capt. Larry Swinehart said officers interviewed the man again last year, but learned nothing new.

Blaser said losing Tracy has been a strain on family members. The girl’s father died a couple of years ago.

“He just sat down, got into the pain drugs and never got back up,” she said. “He died never knowing what happened to his little girl.”

___

Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, https://www.joplinglobe.com

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