The Criminal

In 1970, She Left A Bar With An Unknown Man And Disappeared For Four Weeks: She Was Later Found Murdered, But The Identity Of The Man Has Never Been Determined

In 1970, Phyllis O’Brien Carson was a thirty-two-year-old mother of four children. She lived in French Camp, California– a small rural town located seventy-seven miles east of San Francisco.

But, in October of that year, the tight-knit community became populated with new transients. At the time, Highway 5 was in the process of being built, which attracted many construction workers. The Stockton area and Teamsters’ Union Hall were also hosting different trucking outfits.

So, both residents and out-of-towners would often frequent local bars to mingle and relax since there was not much else to do in French Camp at that time.

And on October 24, 1970, the evening was no different for Phyllis. That night, she decided to go out to a popular bar known as Francis Truck Stop with her sister, Laurel, and her sister’s boyfriend, Cyril.

Phyllis’ own husband, Ed, had gone out on a boating trip earlier that day and was not home in time to visit the bar with the trio.

After hanging out until about 10:30 p.m., though, Cyril and Laurel ended up heading home early. It was at that point that Phyllis phoned home to check on her children. She ended up speaking with her eldest daughter, Melissa, who was eight at the time and claimed she would be staying out a bit longer. Phyllis also said she had a ride home with someone she did not name.

But, the night grew later and later before turning into the morning, and the young mom never arrived home. In fact, she was never seen alive by her children, her siblings, or any of her loved ones ever again.

While at Francis Truck Stop, Phyllis, Laurel, and Cyril had been joined by an unknown man. The man talked with the trio, and they all played games together.

Then, following Phyllis’ disappearance, an investigation was launched by authorities, and several witnesses remembered seeing the man at the bar that night. The bartender also claimed that the man had purchased two six-packs of beer before leaving with Phyllis that night. However, the man’s true identity was never ascertained.

Facebook – pictured above is Phyllis

Instead, about four weeks after Phyllis disappeared, a group of hunters found her body on November 21, 1970. Her remains were discovered in a ditch located on the north side of where the new Highway 5 construction had been underway– just two miles away from Francis Truck Stop.

And unfortunately, Phyllis’ body was so severely decomposed due to bad weather and animal predation that her cause of death was unable to be determined.

The police still launched an investigation and were ultimately faced with several rumors about that night– reportedly made up by a man known as Al “Tuffie” Sullivan. Most of these rumors ended up being lies, though, and the authorities found his behavior strange– particularly how he was very nervous about taking polygraph tests.

Al ended up leaving the area before police could look further into him, however. Instead, Phyllis’ husband, Ed, cooperated with investigators and even attempted to track down the sources of other rumors.

By June of 1971, though, Phyllis’ family was heartbroken after her case was actually suspended. Apparently, the authorities claimed that all investigative leads had been exhausted, and DNA test results had come back negative.

Although, there are a plethora of remaining unanswered questions that may point toward who murdered Phyllis that fall evening.

For instance, the week before she went missing, a construction worker had danced with Phyllis and her friend, Mary, on October 17. But, this man was never investigated fully, despite his similar facial appearance to another person of interest– an explosives driver.

That explosives driver had bought Phyllis and Mary drinks on October 11 and was actually never interviewed, either. Instead, after authorities failed to locate the driver three times, investigators reportedly “gave up.”

Witnesses who were at the bar on the evening Phyllis went missing also reported seeing a large, light green sedan that had a dark green top. However, investigators never determined the make and year of the car and were never able to track it down.

Moreover, investigators never established the firm whereabouts of anyone who had visited the bar that evening– despite some timelines reported by witnesses and bar patrons being off. It also became apparent that many locals had spoken to the unknown man Phyllis left the bar with that night. However, no one was able or wanted to identify him by name.

All of these unanswered and looming questions have pushed Phyllis’ daughter, Melissa, to tirelessly work on reopening her mother’s case. Since 2002, she has been trying to persuade the authorities to launch a complete and thorough investigation.

Unfortunately, though, police have only investigated Melissa’s specific questions, which involved DNA testing or possible suspects.

So, after Melissa learned about genetic genealogy in 2020, she made one more ditch effort. She requested that investigators reach out to CeCe Moore, a renowned expert in the field.

Because there was no DNA extracted from any evidence in Phyllis’ case, Moore was never able to help with the case investigation. Then, soon afterward, investigators formally closed the case again– claiming that there were no leads, the case was fifty years old, and most of the witnesses were no longer alive.

In spite of this upsetting roadblock, though, Phyllis’ family has refused to give up hope. After encountering pushback from investigators again in October of this past year, they decided to reach out to a private organization that is now conducting a full case review.

Melissa has also created a Facebook page entitled Cold Case of Phyllis O’Brien Carson to help spread awareness about her mother’s case.

“I know there is someone out there that knows something. So, this page is a start for us getting her face and name out there,” Melissa said.

At the time of Phyllis’ murder, she was five feet tall, weighed ninety pounds, and had brown hair and blue eyes.

If you have any information regarding her case, you are urged to contact the San Joaquin Sheriff’s Office Homicide Department at (209) 468-4400.

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