Renee LaManna was acting strangely on the evening of Friday, January 7, 1994. The 35-year-old had a fight with her boyfriend, Robert Saberry, while the two of them were eating dinner in the New York City apartment they shared. Robert wasn’t sure what to think. “She was depressed. We had soup for dinner and she tried to tell me I was trying to kill her. That was the first time she ever said such a thing.” The two started fighting and even discussed breaking up at one point. Things finally calmed down somewhat, and Robert went to bed. He woke up to an empty apartment.
At some point after Robert had fallen asleep, Renee had left the apartment and wandered out into the bitterly cold night. The thought that her 10-year relationship with Robert might be coming to an end seemed to push her over the edge; a passerby found her walking around barefoot in a somewhat confused state. The man realized that Renee needed help and called the police; they took Renee to Queens Hospital Center for a psychiatric evaluation.
At the hospital, Renee was more coherent; although doctors wanted to admit her for observation, she refused treatment. Instead, she agreed to go to her sister’s home in Ocean City, New Jersey. Margaret LaManna, a physician in the Philadelphia area, was recovering from pneumonia at the time and was unable to make the drive to New York City to pick up her sister. Instead, she arranged for a limousine to collect Renee and drop her off in Ocean City.
Renee was somewhat distraught when she arrived at her sister’s home but seemed to cheer up a little once she got settled. Margaret ordered dinner from a local pizza parlor and the two chatted about some upcoming vacation plans. As Margaret started to clean up the kitchen, however, Renee started acting strangely again. “I was putting dishes in the dishwasher when she said she was going out for some fresh air.” Before Margaret could react, Renee jumped up and ran outside.
Margaret quickly followed after her sister, noting that she wasn’t dressed for the below-freezing temperatures. Renee appeared to not hear her and took off into the dark night, wearing only a bathrobe, sweatshirt, red silk pajamas, white socks, and a pair of hospital slippers. One of her slippers fell off as she raced away from the house, but it didn’t slow her down. Within seconds, she was gone.
Margaret ran after Renee but couldn’t catch up to her. On the dark beach, she soon lost sight of her. She went back inside and called for help. The Cape May County Sheriff’s Office quickly sent deputies to Margaret’s house, but Renee was already gone. Whiskey, the department’s bloodhound, was sent to Margaret’s house to try to figure out where Renee had gone.
For Whiskey, it only took a second to smell Renee. He ran off down the beach. He left the beach after about two blocks and went toward Central Avenue, where deputies found Renee’s bathrobe. Whiskey took a whiff of the bathrobe and then sat down on a nearby curb. The trail for Renee seemed to end there. It’s possible that she got into a car and was driven out of the area.
For the next few hours, Ocean City police and Cape May County deputies, with help from the Coast Guard, kept looking for Renee but couldn’t find her. The police didn’t find any evidence that the missing woman had been a victim of mu*rder, but they were worried about her mental health and thought she might die from the cold if she didn’t get inside quickly.
In the late evening, police were called to a bar in Somers Point, New Jersey, which is about four miles from where Renee was last seen. There was a customer who had just left the bar that made Dolores Beck, the owner of Dolores’ Loft, call the police. She told the police that around 9 p.m., a woman came into the bar and asked for a Scotch on the rocks. The woman seemed tense, and it was clear that something was wrong with her.
Dolores saw right away that the woman didn’t have a coat on and looked like she was wearing pajamas. “It was really cold outside.” It was one of the coldest nights we’ve ever had that night. To find out if the woman needed help, she tried to talk to her, but the woman just stared straight ahead and pretended not to hear anything. “She left without saying a word. I called the police because I thought something was wrong.
Dolores knew right away that Renee had been the woman in the bar when she heard that Renee had gone missing. They had eaten there before with the LaManna family, and Dolores remembered meeting Renee a few months before. She told the police that she was positive that the woman was who she said she was. “It was she. “I am sure it was her.”
Renee was looked for in Somers Point, but police could not find any sign of her there. After she left Dolores’ Loft, no one said they saw her again. It was like she left the bar and disappeared into thin air. Police thought she might have tried to get back to her New York home, but Margaret told them she didn’t have the means to do so. “She didn’t have any cash, credit cards, ID, or anything else.”
Investigators looked all over Ocean City and Somers Point but couldn’t find any signs of Renee. The investigation had been going on for three weeks when Ocean City Police Captain James Nickels said that not much progress had been made. “We’ve looked in every house in a big part of the city and haven’t found anything.” We want to know who gave her the ride from Ocean City if she did get one. No one came forward to say they would pick up Renee that Saturday night.
Since there were no signs of foul play, Captain Nickels thought it was possible that Renee had left her life on her own. “The girl might not want to be found.” But because her mental health was so weak, she was especially at risk, and police wanted to find her to make sure she was safe.
Months went by, and Renee still hadn’t been seen. Robert, her boyfriend, spent some time looking for her in Ocean City and still doesn’t understand where she went. “How did she get out of that area?” It’s really safe. There is no crime in this wealthy area. He was sure Renee hadn’t just vanished on her own. “She’s not running away. She wasn’t the type of person who could do everything on their own. He thought that someone had done something bad to her.
To be honest, Renee had a lot of problems in her life, like panic attacks and anxiety. She went to the University of Scranton with honors and got both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree there. After college, she joined the Peace Corps and worked in Morocco. She could speak many languages well, such as Arabic and French. She had just started school again to study nuclear medicine technology.
Renee was smart enough to plan her own disappearance, but her family and friends didn’t think she would have done it. Janet thought Renee might not remember who she was because she had amnesia or was in some other kind of dissociative state. She was sure Renee would have called her or their parents if she could, and she was afraid for her safety.
Renee might have been seen at a Northfield, New Jersey, car dealership in May 1995. Howard McCrickard, an employee, told the police that a woman who looked like Renee and was messy had come into the dealership and tried to sell him a hair dryer and a makeup mirror. She told me she had to get money to get back to New York. After that, she asked me to take her back to New York. The woman was pretty lost. He didn’t think much of it until a few weeks later, when he saw that Renee had lost one of her posters. He was sure it was the same woman who had been in the rental car. After following up on his tip, police found the woman, but if it was Renee, she was long gone.
Renee’s disappearance was shown on an episode of “Unsolved Mysteries” in November 1995. Her family hoped that the show’s national reach would lead to new leads in her case. Investigators got 44 calls after the show from people who thought they knew something about Renee, but none of the calls led them to where she was. It made her mother, Anne LaManna, sad. “She seems to have disappeared.”
Renee might have been seen again in December 1995 in the New York City subway station on Chambers Street. A worker for a utility company saw a woman he thought was Renee. She was staring blankly at one of her own missing posters. Investigators thought that the witness had seen Renee after talking to him, but they still didn’t know where she went after leaving the subway station.
Renee’s family hired a private investigator to help with the search because it was clear that the investigation into her disappearance was getting cold. In August 1996, they put up new flyers about the case in Ocean City and New York City, asking anyone who knew anything to get in touch with them. They wanted to hear from Renee more and more, but they were still hopeful that she was still alive.
Detectives said they still didn’t know what happened to Renee as the fourth anniversary of her disappearance drew near. Sgt. Bill Wilent of the Ocean City Police Department told reporters, “We’ve tried everything we can think of.” People are just waiting for someone to call with information. Either she doesn’t want to be found or, worst case, she’s not with us anymore.
“This case is about as cold as it was when we started,” said private investigator Andy Sloan.It doesn’t look good to me. He said it was possible that Renee had lost her memory and couldn’t get in touch with her family because of it, but there had been few possible sightings of her and no new leads to follow up on. Renee hid the fact that she was living alone or somewhere else from everyone.
Anne LaManna told reporters in January 1999 that she didn’t think her daughter would have chosen to not call her for five years. “On Mother’s Day, she always sent me a rose.” We had not grown apart. Our family was very close. She didn’t understand why she disappeared. It looks like she’s gone, but someone must know something. Sgt. Wilent agreed that Renee’s case was hard to understand. “I don’t know. It looks like she just vanished.
Frank and Anne LaManna spent a lot of their lives looking for their daughter, but they never found her. They would never find out what happened to Renee, which was sad. Anne died in 2003, and Frank died in 2013. Still, they both hoped that Renee was still alive. In all of their de*ath notices, she was listed as living on.
Renee’s case remained ice-cold until 2015, when police received several reports about a homeless woman who was believed to be Renee. The woman, spotted in both Virginia and North Carolina, had no identification on her and seemed unsure of her own name but eventually said that it was Renee Leman. She mentioned that she was trying to get to Florida and stated, “I have been looking for my family for a long time. I can’t understand why they can’t find me.” Someone took a photograph of the woman, and when Margaret saw it, she was convinced that the homeless woman was her long-lost sister. “Those pictures, 100 percent, this is Renee…there was no doubt in my mind.”
In March 2015, the state of North Carolina issued a Silver Alert for Renee, reigniting the investigation into her disappearance. There were dozens of reported sightings of the homeless woman as she appeared to make her way south through the state. It took nearly a year, but in February 2016 police finally caught up with the woman in question in Kissimmee, Florida. It wasn’t Renee. Margaret was crushed. “We are heartbroken and we are absolutely devastated. We are back to square one.”
Despite the setback, Margaret was adamant that her search would continue. “There is always hope. We are going to keep on looking. We are not stopping.” She remained certain that she would one day be reunited with Renee. “I’m praying for that phone call. She’s alive. I’ve always felt that.”
Renee Martine LaManna was 35 years old when she went missing from Ocean City, New Jersey in January 1994. She was a brilliant woman who had accomplished many things in her life, but she was plagued with severe anxiety and panic attacks and may have entered a dissociative state around the time of her disappearance. Renee has brown eyes and brown hair, and at the time of her disappearance, she was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 100 pounds. Renee was a vegetarian in 1994, and she is fluent in several languages, including French and Arabic. She was last seen wearing red silk pajamas, a white sweatshirt, and white socks. If you have any information about Renee, please contact the Ocean City Police Department at 609–399–9111.