34 Years Ago, A Man Disappeared From His Home

Still Unsolved

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Tom Roche with Barbara Rondeau(Unsolved Mysteries Wiki)

The Story

Tom Roche and Barbara Rondeau were a happy couple. At 37 years old (Tom) and 32 years old (Barbara), the couple had hit the 16-year mark in their relationship. Tom had been raised in Pittsfield, Massachusetts before spending time in Rhode Island. While he was there, he met Barabara and the two began dating. Among many other commonalities, the two were able to bond over their shared love of motorcycles. In 1988, the couple relocated to Burbank, California where they were able to make a lot of friends through their shared hobby. Barbara took up work at a blueprint company in the area, while Tom was pursuing a position in his area of expertise: metal plating. In September of 1991, he was offered a position in management for a company that did just that. He was set to start on the 16th of that same month.

Three days before he was set to start, circumstances would lead to him never starting that job at all. On Friday, September 13th, Tom dropped his girlfriend off at work. Before driving off, the two firmed up their plans for lunch later that day. When the time came, however, Tom was a no-show. Barbara grew even more concerned when he never called. She got home at around 5:30. Curiously, the front door to their home was unlocked. However, Tom was not inside and was still not heard from. She noticed that the newspaper had not been opened. Tom also had a motorcycle battery he’d planned on installing that was still left on the counter. Lastly, the answering machine had been turned off, something Tom only did when he planned on being home for the day. Barbara waited for Tom to either come home or at least reach out to her in some way. When he didn’t, she reported him missing the next day. Investigators began their work immediately.

On September 19th, six days after she’d not seen Tom. Barbara got a strange letter. The person who wrote and sent the letter claimed to have killed Tom. They even included some of his personal belongings to prove their case. Part of the letter reads:

I am suffering a great deal of guilt right now about what I have done and I feel it is necessary to write about it for my sake and yours. You don’t know me, and hopefully you never will, but I am the one who killed Tom Roche. I sent along some personal belongings of his just so that you won’t think that this is some kind of sick joke or anything.

The Investigation

With this apparent confession, the police had to double their efforts. They began with retracing Tom’s steps on the day that he was last seen. According to bank records, he made two deposits at around 8:20 that morning. He never took any money out, which would dissuade any thought that he was planning on voluntarily disappearing. A little less than an hour later, one of the neighbors spotted Tom leaving his house. With him was a man that had yet to be identified. The police now believe that the neighbor actually spotted Tom with the man who would eventually kill him.

Then there was Andy Marsala. Andy was the owner of a store that sold motorcycle parts in a nearby area. Andy recalled seeing Tom come into his store after he was last seen. On Saturday, September 14th (this would be the same day that Barbara reported him missing), Andy claims that Tom came to the store and was acting very strangely. After this, some started to suggest Tom had planned his disappearance. In fact, they believed that he had written the letter himself and sent it to Barbara to make her believe that he was dead.

Just months later, that theory would be put to rest.

On January 11th, 1992, bone fragments and personal belongings were found in Placer County, California. There were motorcycle emblems stitched onto some of the personal items that were found. The initial thought was that they’d all learned Tom’s fate. Interestingly, some of the items found were a duffel bag, flashlight, hunting knife, bottled water, a pair of glasses, and a lot of clothes. Contrary to what was believed earlier, this new set of evidence suggests that Tom was actually planning on leaving. Barbara was able to confirm that the clothing and glasses did belong to Tom.

The scattered possessions included a duffel bag, flashlight, hunting knife, bottled water, two pairs of prescription eyeglasses, an empty prescription medicine bottle, and several shirts. This suggested that Tom was packed and ready to go on the road. Barbara confirmed that the shirts and one of the pairs of eyeglasses belonged to Tom. Testing then began to determine whether or not the bones belonged to him. As for the earlier letter, it claimed that Tom was buried in an entirely different place. It now appears that the letter was a fake.

Status

In 1994, the testing on the fragmented bones was completed. DNA testing confirmed that they belonged to Tom. The reason it took so long was that investigators needed to find a familial match to test against the remains. It was determined that he was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. To this day, his case still remains unsolved. Sadly, Barbara died in January of 2010. She was 49 years old.

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