ROWDY – The last time any of Juanita Ritchie’s family saw her was in the Rowdy community in November 1966, nearly 46 years ago.
In the decades that have passed, what happened to Juanita Ritchie remains a mystery to officials, but it’s one for which her brothers, Scott and Boyd Oliver, say there is an answer.
According to Scott Oliver, Ritchie, a resident of the Dwarf community, was with another woman at the time that her son last saw her. She reportedly told him that she would be home soon, and after he left she was never seen by her family again. To both Scott and Boyd Oliver’s knowledge, there was never a formal investigation conducted into the disappearance of their sister.
Juanita Ritchie was 38 years old at the time and a mother of six children. Scott Oliver described his sister as both a good person and a caring mother.
“She was a beautiful lady, not only on the outside, but the inside,” he said. “She was just a fine person, and she loved her children. She loved them so much.”
Ritchie had been missing for about a week when Scott said his father and brother went to the Kentucky State Police. There was supposed to be an investigation, but he said that never happened. Some of his family went back to authorities from time to time in attempts to find answers, but nothing came of it.
“It seemed like she was never important enough to even raise their heads and say, this lady is gone,” Scott said. “She had some children out there. She had a father and some family that’s looking for her. It’s like they (the police) never cared.”
Then, in 1993 as best he remembers, Oliver noted that a man gave police a written statement that another man living in Rowdy admitted that he had killed his sister while trying to rape her. But again, no arrests were made or charges filed. Oliver said he believes the state police detective that took on the case, for some reason, didn’t look into his sister’s disappearance.
“The only thing that he did, he might have made a phone call or two, or wrote a letter,” he said.
According to Boyd Oliver, who said he was present when the statement was given to police, authorities at the time didn’t think the statement was credible. “We never did get any proper help from the police,” he said.
Several more years passed without any word as to their sister’s whereabouts, when just a few months ago Scott Oliver said he received an anonymous telephone call. The caller didn’t offer a name, and the number was blocked.
“The person said that my sister was in a well down in Rowdy, and told me where it was at,” Scott said, adding that the well is located close to where Juanita Ritchie was last seen. “Going through my mind was all the different things we had been told down through the years, and where it came from. It just made sense to me that she was down in that well.”
Ritchie’s family again contacted the Kentucky State Police in Hazard, and that’s when Det. Billy Pollard became involved in the case. Pollard, who hadn’t yet been born when Ritchie disappeared in 1966, noted that a couple months ago the well was drained, and while nothing was found, authorities at that time didn’t deem it safe to have someone physically enter the well.
Boyd Oliver had the well pumped again more recently, and while no trace of his sister was found, what they did discover brought more questions than answers.
According to Boyd Oliver, there was concrete at the bottom of the well and nothing else. He’s hoping to mount another search in the coming weeks. “We’ll have to go back and pump it again, and take a piece of concrete out of the bottom, which could be covering some the of the DNA possibly,” he said.
Boyd Oliver said there is no question in his mind as to what happened to his sister, and who was responsible for it. He said police were given the man’s name nearly two decades ago.
“We know who killed her,” he said. “There’s not a doubt. We know.”
Det. Pollard said at present this case will be a difficult one to investigate considering that the people suspected to have been involved are now deceased. He ran a check on Ritchie’s social security number, and there was no activity to indicate that she is currently alive. He contacted KSP’s archives department in Frankfort, and searches on their computerized database turned up no active cases.
Pollard added that he will open a missing person case and hopes to obtain DNA from family members for the file.
But for Boyd and Scott Oliver, they are hoping that anyone with information can come forward, and they can finally give their sister the burial she deserves.
“It’s not that we’re looking to try to put somebody in jail,” Scott said. “That’s not it. If my sister is out there, which I know she is somewhere, and if we could find her, we just want her to be in a proper grave, have a headstone where we could go visit, just like every year I go visit my mom and my dad and my brother and my sisters. We’ll have a place to go to. We can say, that’s our sister there.”
“I would just ask them if they had any kind of information, that they call the Kentucky State Police, or they could call myself,” he added. “We would be more than thankful for any kind of information that we might get. We’re just looking to find our sister and give her a proper burial and just have closure.”Anyone with information about Juanita Ritchie's disappearance can contact the Kentucky State Police in Hazard at 606-435-6069.