Michelle Kelly Pulsifer was a three-year-old Caucasian girl from Huntington Beach, California. Her parents, Donna Prentice and Richard Pulsifer, got married and had a baby boy while in high school. A couple of years after having a daughter, Michelle, the pair amicably divorced. Richard regularly visited his children and paid child support.

Along with her mother and six-year-old brother, Michelle lived with her mother’s boyfriend, Michael Kent, and his two-year-old son from a previous relationship.

Not only was Michael known to abuse drugs and alcohol, but he also had a criminal record and a history of violence against women and children.

Around the Fourth of July 1969, Michelle barged into her brother’s bedroom in the middle of the night. She wanted Richard Jr. to hide her under his covers.

He recounted the incident that:

“She came, walked, strolling in the room and crawled up on my bed and asked me to hide her. You know, she said, ‘hide me.’
Not even a minute after that, you know, mom came in and took her out of the room.”

Richard Jr. would never see his sister again.

He was in the garage the next day when he saw a large cardboard box covered with blankets that had not been there before. His mother claimed it contained a motorcycle seat and told him to get out.

Just days after, the family packed their belongings and moved to Illinois. Richard Jr. was told Michelle would not be going with them as there was not enough room in the car. Nevertheless, they did take their dog and two cats.

Richard Sr. made an unannounced visit to his children’s home during the summer of 1969. He hadn’t seen them in a while, but no one answered the door. After a second failed attempt, he called one of Donna’s friends. He was left shocked when they told him Donna and Michael had moved the family to Illinois without leaving a new address behind.

He tried to report his children missing, but authorities refused to take action as Donna had full custody.

It wasn’t until nearly a year later that Donna and Richard Jr. made a sudden reappearance in California. Donna let Richard Sr. speak to his son, and only then did he realize Michelle had not been with them since they had left for Illinois. He asked Donna where the young girl was, but she told him it was none of his business.

He again tried to file a missing person report for Michelle, but authorities took no further action after Donna claimed she knew where the child was. A few days later, Donna and Richard Jr. left the state. Richard Sr. would not hear from them for a decade.

In 1980, Richard Sr. was served with court papers. Donna was requesting he pay child support, but only for Richard Jr.

The documents revealed Donna and Richard Jr. were living in Wisconsin (they had moved there in 1979 after Donna divorced Michael). Richard Sr. contacted them, but Donna refused to tell him where his daughter was.

A judge eventually ordered child support payments to be withheld until Donna revealed Michelle’s whereabouts, but she never did.

Growing up, Richard Jr. was not allowed to mention Michelle. When he did, Donna would ignore him. He moved back to California at 18 to be with his father.

Desperate to know what happened to his little sister, he called his mother in the late 1980s.

He told said:

“And she just flat out said, ‘I’m not going to tell you.’ I said, ‘Well, you know, I’m her brother. Don’t you think I have the right to — to know?’

And she goes, ‘Rich, you know, things happened. We didn’t have a whole lot of money, and we couldn’t keep all three of you. And be grateful that I chose you.’

And I asked her, ‘Well, is she still alive?’ and she said, ‘yes.’ And I asked her, ‘Well, is she still under the last name of Pulsifer?’ And she said yes. And I said, ‘Well, what’s it going to take for you to tell me —’ when she goes, ‘Rich, I’m not here to make a deal with you.’

And that was pretty much it. That was the conversation.”

Michelle’s paternal aunt hired a private detective in 2001. The detective could not find any record of Michelle following July 1969 and gave the case file to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.

34 years after Richard Sr. tried to report his daughter missing, Michelle’s abrupt disappearance was finally being investigated by official authorities.

Donna, living in Wisconsin with her third husband, was interviewed by authorities in September 2003.

Not only was there not enough room in the car, but Donna didn’t think a long road trip would be ideal for her 3-year-old daughter, so Michael left her with his mother. Once settled in Illinois, they would bring Michelle to their new home.

Those around Michael’s mother never saw Michelle with her. They also don’t believe Jane Lambert would have agreed to take care of such a young child. By 1969, she was an alcoholic and dying of breast cancer.

After Jane passed away in 1972, Donna says she did not try to find Michelle as she was afraid of Michael. He had a violent temper and had threatened her.

After a year-long investigation, Donna and Michael were arrested and charged with Michelle’s murd*er in August 2004. Similar to the findings of the private detective, the authorities could not find any trace of Michelle after July 1969. They believe the couple killed her and quickly moved away in hopes of no one noticing her missing.

According to Michael, he and Donna found Michelle lying d*ead in her bedroom. She had no signs of injury but was in a fetal position, motionless and cold to the touch.

He claimed to have buried the child in a shallow grave in Silverado Canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains. Wrapped in a blanket, Michael covered her body in stones. He guided authorities to the burial spot, but there were no signs of human remains. The area is known for floods, and unless buried deep, the body was likely washed away or eaten by animals.

The couple never spoke of Michelle’s de*ath. Michael assumed Donna had ki*lled her as she was the one taking care of the child at the time. Both pled not guilty.

Michael agreed to testify against Donna but died before he could do so. His health had declined during the six months he spent in custody — he had suffered from diabetes, internal bleeding, and severe liver and kidney problems.

Donna went to trial in 2007, continuing to deny any involvement in her daughter’s disappearance. The jury was unable to reach a verdict, and a mistrial was declared.

A jury in 2008 was again unable to reach a verdict. The judge dismissed the charges as the evidence was not enough for a third trial. Donna was released after being in custody for four years.

Richard Sr. and his wife Cathe drove 270 miles (about five hours) from Las Vegas to Orange County to attend every hearing and trial. He never stopped searching for his daughter.

Michelle Kelly Pulsifer has been missing for 55 years. If alive, she is now 58-years-old.

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