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Reward reopens girl’s ‘74 vanishing

Laurie Partridge
 (The Spokesman-Review)
Laurie Partridge (The Spokesman-Review)

Laurie Partridge has been missing for 31 years, but time hasn’t dampened her family’s hope of finding out what happened that winter day in 1974.

The 17-year-old left Ferris High School on Dec. 4 because she had stomach cramps, and then she “fell off the face of the earth,” a sheriff’s detective said.

A $5,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the resolution of Partridge’s disappearance, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office announced Thursday.

Officials of the Carole Sund/Carrington Memorial Reward Foundation agreed to post a reward after they were approached by Taryn Chambers, Partridge’s youngest sister.

“I was 6 years old then, but I am the one that’s the most determined to find out what happened,” Chambers, 38, said. “I’m the one getting it resolved.”

Chambers, who lives in Florida, works for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “I’m always asking: What else can I do?” she said. Her co-workers suggested she go to the foundation, which was established by the parents of another missing teen in 1999, to ask for help.

“Nothing has been found out,” Chambers said of her sister’s disappearance. “There’s obviously someone who abducted or killed my sister, and they are getting away with it. There’s someone who knows something out there.”

Spokesman-Review news clips, the last of which was published in 1991, offer snapshots of the family’s broken heart, the investigation and a mother’s longing to know the end of her eldest daughter’s story.

Partridge left Ferris High School about 12:30 p.m. on a Wednesday. The blond, blue-eyed teen said she had cramps and wanted to leave. When no one was able to give her a ride, she decided to walk the two-plus miles to her house in the 5400 block of South Custer Street, saying perhaps the walk would help her feel better.

She was wearing a long, navy blue coat with a hood similar to that of a monk’s robe. She wore a tan sweater and tan plaid pants. Her shoes were blue denim with a crepe sole. She carried a brown leather purse with a blue flower design and a braided shoulder strap.

When the 5-foot-4, 105-pound teen didn’t come home or show up for work at Lincoln Heights Theater, her father, Kenneth Partridge, and one of his six children went knocking on doors along the route. Laurie Partridge was last seen walking south on Havana between 43rd and 49th avenues.

According to newspaper clips, the Sheriff’s Office hesitated to start an intense investigation at first, suggesting the 17-year-old was a runaway – an opinion that embittered Partridge’s parents as they dealt with their daughter’s absence.

But investigators explained it was common for teenagers to run away. Also, the Partridges had moved from California, and the detectives knew that Laurie Partridge was open about her displeasure with the decision and her desire to move back.

However, by the time she went missing, she’d gotten involved with the high school’s newspaper and was a member of the drill team. And she was engaged to a 20-year-old man from the Nine Mile Falls area. The two had planned to go pick out engagement rings the next day.

Also, her father had given his daughter tickets to an upcoming Beach Boys concert to hold for him. A few detectives were at the concert to watch for Laurie Partridge, just in case she showed up. She didn’t. But investigators discovered the tickets had been used.

The teenager’s mother thought the Sheriff’s Office failed the family by not having more manpower at the concert to capture the person who used her daughter’s concert tickets.

Detectives questioned three suspects after the girl’s disappearance, including serial killer Ted Bundy. But on Thursday, Sgt. Jim Goodwin said there were no suspects.

Chambers regrets that her mother died without knowing what happened to Partridge, but she’s still determined to find the answers.

“Anybody who can give us information to get it resolved will help,” Chambers said. “It’s worse not knowing.”

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