Judy Martins was excited about her plans for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend in 1978. The 22-year-old, who was a junior at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, was going to be spending the weekend with two of her friends in New York. On Tuesday, May 23, 1978, Judy left her dorm room in Engleman Hall and visited with some friends who lived in Dunbar Hall. After visiting with her friends for a couple of hours, Judy left their dorm room around 2:30 am Wednesday to make the five-minute walk back to Engleman Hall. She never made it back to her room and she was never seen again.
Judy was a resident assistant for her dormitory; one of the perks that came with the position was a single room. Because of this, Judy had no roommate to raise the alarm when she didn’t make it back to her dorm room and her disappearance initially went unnoticed. One of her friends reported her missing to campus police Thursday night, and officials didn’t call Judy’s parents until Friday afternoon.
At first, Kent State police thought Judy had left on her own and would probably come back after the holiday weekend. They told Judy’s family that they had looked all over campus for the missing student, but no one knew how far they had looked. A lot of Judy’s classmates were gone for the weekend, so they couldn’t be reached for comment.
Friends who saw Judy in the hours before she went missing told the police that she was happy when she left Dunbar Hall and planned to go straight back to her room. The friends were having fun because the spring quarter was almost over. That night, Judy played a joke on her friends by dressing up as a prostitute. When she left to go back to her room, she still had on a curly red wig.
There was a younger sister and a younger brother for Judy. She was the oldest daughter of Arthur and Dolores Martins. After graduating from Avon Lake High School in 1973, she went to Ohio University the following fall. After going there for two years, she decided to take a break from school. After living with her parents for a while, she chose to go to Kent State.
Judy had always done well in school and was very dedicated to learning. She was an art major at Kent State and a women’s studies minor. She wanted to be a therapist one day and hadn’t ruled out going to graduate school yet. She liked helping people and volunteered as a counsellor at the Pregnancy Information Centre at Kent State.
Judy was an outgoing and friendly young woman who was well-liked on campus. People said she was the life of the party and that her smile could light up a room.
Judy’s family was adamant that she wasn’t the kind of person who would leave for a long time without telling them where she was going, even though campus police said she would come back when she was ready. Judy was very close to her younger sister Nancy. They talked on the phone a lot, and Nancy was sure Judy would have called her if she could.
From the start, the Kent police seemed to want to play down Judy’s disappearance. Her family thinks that this is because the university was still trying to recover from the public relations disaster that the 1970 Kent State shootings caused and didn’t want any bad press to come from a missing student.
It had been a week since Judy was last seen, and the Kent State University Police Department asked the public for help in finding her. They said the woman who was missing was “reliable and dependable,” and her family didn’t think she had left on her own. They said that they had called local police departments and reported Judy missing to a national network of police, but they didn’t have any planned searches.
Police Chief Robert Malone of Kent State said the next week that they had reason to think Judy had gone to Mexico. According to Chief Malone, Judy was seen at a garage sale in Kent on Memorial Day. She looked at the items for sale for about an hour before buying some clothes and telling some people that she was going to hitchhike to Mexico. The witnesses were shown pictures of Judy and told the police they were sure it was her that they had seen.
Investigators thought the witnesses were telling the truth, but Chief Malone told reporters that they were still going to search the Kent State campus and the area around it from the air. The Kent State University Foundation was also offering a $1,500 reward for information that would help them find Judy.
Judy had never hitched a ride before, and her parents didn’t think she would have gone anywhere without her own car waiting for her at home. They thought that the witnesses had probably seen someone else instead of the person they thought they saw.
The woman who had been seen at the garage sale was seen again on June 5, 1978. This time, she was getting a passport photo taken for her trip to Mexico. Investigators talked to her and were able to confirm that she was not the missing woman, even though she looked a lot like Judy. As Judy’s parents had feared, the witnesses were wrong, and they still didn’t know where their daughter was.
She was sure that her daughter hadn’t meant to run away, Dolores thought. “Judy never caused us any trouble.” We were always friendly with each other. Judy left her clothes, books, makeup, and glasses in her dorm room, along with everything else she needed. “I know every piece of clothing she owned.” There was nothing missing. Judy’s contacts were on when she disappeared. She never wore them overnight, and she probably planned to take them off as soon as she got back to her room. Because her cornea was flattened, she had trouble seeing, and she would never have gone anywhere without seeing glasses.
Officials at Kent State said they had no idea what had happened to Judy. They searched the campus and a large wooded area with a heat-seeking radar-equipped helicopter, but they couldn’t find Judy. Four people, including a man Judy had been dating, took and passed polygraph tests. All of Judy’s friends and acquaintances were also questioned. They couldn’t give her any hints about what had happened.
Detective Tim Brandon from Kent State was in charge of Judy’s case, but he told the press that he didn’t have much to work with. “We’re looking into some small leads, but so far nothing important has come up.” Because her case didn’t get much attention from the media, detectives didn’t get many leads. The investigation stopped before the end of summer, and the case soon went cold.
Nan Abdo, a friend of the Martins family, said in January 1980 that she would pay $10,000 for information that would lead to Judy’s return. “My dad left me a small amount of money, so I wanted to do something useful to help Judy.” It’s not likely, but this might work.”
Judy’s parents thought about hiring a private investigator to help them find their daughter, but they couldn’t afford one. “They are out of reach of the average family,” Dolores said. They were thankful that Nan decided to offer a reward for information, and they were hoping that someone would finally come forward. “Someone must know where she is.”
Investigators from the Kent State Police Department said they were still working on the case, but they hadn’t heard anything new in months. Judy’s family had a hard time because they didn’t know much. No changes were made to the original sentence as it was not part of the formal writing. A rumour that wouldn’t go away said that Judy was working as a prostitute in Cleveland, Ohio. “We looked into it, and it’s not true.”
Dolores called the police every week to see if there were any new developments in Judy’s case. Detectives never had anything new to report, which was a shame. “Some days are really tough. I’d like to believe she’s still alive somewhere, but it’s hard to believe that right now. She cared a lot about her family…I’m sure she would have tried to call us at least.”
Chief Malone said that detectives had been having a hard time with the case. “As far as I know, this is the only time we have had a missing person case at Kent State where we could not find the person…”There are a lot of reports of missing people here, but there’s always a reason. Only Judy’s case was still not clear.
He said in February 1980 that Kent State Deputy Chief John Peach was looking into the idea that a man named William Posey might have been involved with Judy’s disappearance. Posey was charged with kidnapping and kil*ling a woman in Illinois. Detectives in Kent became interested in him when they learned that he had lived in Kent from June 1978 to September 1979. But there was no proof that he knew Judy, and he denied having anything to do with her disappearance.
To the press in March, Deputy Chief Peach said he didn’t think Posey was to blame for Judy’s disappearance. “We put him in Columbus on May 11, 1978, but we can’t put him in Kent at all in May 1978.”
Later that same year, Posey admitted to ki*lling someone in Illinois. The next year, he was found guilty of kidnapping a woman in Vermont. He was given a life sentence and in 2008, when he was told he had a terminal illness, he admitted that he had ki*lled the woman he had kidnapped in Vermont and told police that he had thrown her body over a guardrail on Interstate 89 outside of Burlington. Posey was never charged in Judy’s case, and he always said that he had nothing to do with her disappearance.
Dolores and Arthur were desperate to find their daughter, so they went to see a psychic. They were ready to try anything, even though neither of them had ever believed in mediums before. “We brought this woman an item of Judy’s clothing, and she told us personal things about Judy that had never been in a newspaper and that only we knew,” Dolores wrote.
The psychic didn’t have good news for the couple, though. They were told that three men had taken their daughter and ki*lled her. Her words were that Judy’s body was dumped from a low-flying plane. She said the body is on an island with lots of trees and no people living on it, at least 50 miles northwest of Kent.
The police did say that there were islands in Lake Erie that fit the psychic’s description, and they told the Martins that they would search some of those islands when the weather got warmer. The psychic told Judy’s parents, “The earth will give up Judy’s body in April or May.” This made them seem like they were sure they would be successful. By the end of May, it was clear that the psychic was wrong about Judy’s chances of getting better. She was still missing, and the case quickly went cold again.
Over the next few decades, Judy’s case seemed to be forgotten; there were no articles or news stories about it, and it wasn’t clear if any detectives were still looking for her. Kent University amazingly threw away all of its files about Judy’s disappearance in 2000. It seems that officials didn’t see a reason to keep the case open since Judy had never been found. In the end, they told Judy’s family that the files had been thrown away properly in line with the university’s policy on keeping records.
Lots of the records had been thrown away, but Deputy Chief Peach did say that some had been given to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation. “It was never thought of as a crime, and that was before the rules for missing persons were set up and before we could preserve records electronically.” He said he still didn’t know what happened to Judy all those years ago. “This is a strange case.” That event is still too strange for me to even think about. It’s too strange to think that there wasn’t a crime going on, but we don’t know for sure.
Their bodies have been found after Judy has been missing for years. Nancy, her sister, said that her parents were very upset that Judy had gone missing. “This ended their lives too soon.” Arnold died at the age of 57, and Dolores at the age of 71.
Nancy and her brother Steve gave DNA samples to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation so that they could make a profile of Judy and see if the DNA matched that of other bodies that haven’t been identified across the country. Even though Judy’s siblings knew she was probably dead, they still wanted to be able to bury her properly. Steve said, “Not knowing is hard. It would be better to know what happened, no matter how terrible it is.”
One of the worst things for Nancy is that the Kent University Police Department didn’t seem to care that her sister was missing. “The most upsetting thing is probably that Kent State deleted its files on Judy’s disappearance.” It was in May 2023 that she said, “We don’t care about prosecution or anything else.” We only want to know where she is and what happened to her.
Judy Martins died in Kent, Ohio, in May 1978. She was only 22 years old. Investigators at first thought Judy had gone missing on her own, but her family was sure she had been raped or k*illed. It was too late for the case to be solved when police realised Judy wasn’t a runaway. The last time we saw Judy, she was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 120 pounds. She has hazel eyes and black hair. Judy was last seen wearing a light-colored trench coat, a blouse with yellow and brown stripes, and brown boots. She also had a big white purse on her shoulder and a curly red wig on her head. Please call the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at 330–672–3070 or the U.S. Marshals Tip Line at 866–492–6833 if you know anything about Judy. You don’t have to be identified.