It was early in the morning when Joanne Briscoe left her home on Friday, December 13, 1985. She was vaguely aware of the date — Friday the 13th — but as a single mother working two jobs, she didn’t have time for superstitious thoughts. As usual, both of her children were still asleep when she left the house. Both Latanya, who was 17-years old, and Allen, who had just celebrated his 16th birthday, were students at Bartram High School in Philadelphia. Since Joanne had to leave for work before her children had to get up, she would call home around 7:30am to make sure the two teens were up and getting ready for school. When she called home on that morning, however, there was no answer. This was unusual; one of the kids had always answered before. Although she was somewhat concerned, she forced herself to shake it off and get back to work.
Joanne called the apartment again around 3:30pm that afternoon, assuming that the kids would have arrived home from school, but once again there was no answer. Superstitious or not, Joanne was beginning to feel quite uneasy, but forced herself to focus. She was due to start her shift at her second job, and she couldn’t afford to miss the shift. Her children were usually very responsible, but they were only teenagers and it was likely that they had met up with some friends after school and didn’t plan on returning home until later. They knew that Joanne was working two jobs in order to make some money for the upcoming holidays and wouldn’t be returning home until later that evening. Joanne told herself that the kids were probably just taking advantage of that fact, figuring that as long as they got home before she did they would have nothing to worry about. Latanya was less than a year away from turning 18 and becoming a legal adult. Allen had turned 16 the week before, and Joanne figured he was just testing to see how far he could go now that he was one step closer to being an adult. Joanne wasn’t happy about it, but she was a calm and logical woman. It wasn’t her style to scream or shout at her children, but she decided that she would have a talk with Allen when she got home that night.
Joanne finished her shift at her second job and wearily made her way home. It was around 11:30pm when she arrived, and she was greeted by an ominous silence. Neither one of her children were home. Joanne could feel herself starting to panic, but she had only been home for a few minutes before LaTanya arrived. She told her mother that she had returned to the house earlier in the evening, but the door was locked and Allen had been the one holding the keys that day. She wasn’t sure where her brother was, so she had gone to a relative’s home and waited there until she knew her mother would be home from work.
Joanne and her daughter waited anxiously for Allen to get home, but there was no sign of him. In a panic, Joanne began calling her friends and family to help her search for her son. Neighbors joined in the search effort as well, and soon there were dozens of people scouring the area for any sign of the missing teenager. They searched for him the entire night without success. As the sun came up, there was still no sign of Allen and Joanne called the police to report him missing.
Detectives arrived and began interviewing everyone who knew Allen, trying to determine when and where he had been seen last. The investigators soon learned that Bartram High School had an early dismissal the previous day. While Joanne had been worried that Allen may have skipped school, detectives spoke with people who had seen him at the high school so it seems that he attended at least some of his scheduled classes that morning. He and a friend had left school together, and the friend told police that they had spent most of the day riding around on the Philadelphia subway. Eventually they had gotten bored with that, so they decided to take a bus back to their own neighborhood. Although both boys initially planned to go home, Allen ended up getting off the bus at Woodland Avenue, telling his friend that he wanted to visit a female who lived nearby. His friend watched as Allen exited the bus and began walking up the street, but quickly lost sight of him when the bus continued on its way. It was the last confirmed sighting of Allen.
In an unusual twist for a missing teenager case, the detectives determined that Allen did not fit the profile of a teenage runaway, and they believed that he did not voluntarily disappear. It was a conclusion that was rarely reached in cases involving missing 16-year-old males, especially in the city of Philadelphia. Allen’s family, of course, agreed. The teenager had not had any problems in his personal life and was not a troublemaker. He was extremely close with his family and had many friends. He had not taken any extra clothing with him, and the $50 he had received for his birthday was still in his bedroom, right where he had left it. It seemed extremely unlikely that he would have left the cash behind if he had planned on running away. His disappearance was a complete mystery.
Detectives struggled to determine what had happened to Allen. It was as if he had gotten off the bus and vanished into thin air. Family members wondered if he had been in an accident of some kind and was suffering from amnesia, unable to remember who he was or where he lived. Detectives checked with all the area hospitals, but none had admitted a patient matching Allen’s description. While talking to police, Joanne recalled that there was one teenage boy that she had never liked and had warned Allen to stay away from. He lived near the area where Allen was last seen after getting off the bus, but there was no evidence linking him to Allen’s disappearance. It’s also unclear who Allen intended to visit that afternoon. No one has ever admitted to seeing him after he walked away from the bus stop.
The case was frustrating for Allen’s friends and family as well as for the Philadelphia police. They continue to maintain that Allen was most likely the victim of foul play, but they have no idea exactly what happened to him or who was responsible. There was some speculation that his case could be related to that of Christine Green, another Bartram High School student who went missing in April of 1985, but they have never been able to confirm any links between the two cases. Christine was also 16-years-old when she went missing, but it is unclear if she and Allen knew each other as they were not in the same grade at school. Police believe that the cases could possibly be connected since their disappearances were only eight months apart, but they lack any firm evidence to support this theory.
Allen remains listed as a missing person, but his family knows that there is only a slim chance that he is still alive. Police believe that there are people out there who know what happened to Allen, and they remain hopeful that they will someday come forward with this information.
Allen Briscoe, Jr. had just turned 16-years-old when he vanished on December 13, 1985. He is a black male with black hair and brown eyes. At the time of his disappearance, he was 5’8” tall and weighed about 140 pounds. One of his front teeth was chipped, and he had a small scar on his forehead and a lump on his left shoulder. He is bowlegged and his nickname is Squeaky. When he was last seen, he was wearing blue jeans and a black jacket. If you have any information on Allen, please contact the Philadelphia Police Department at 215–685–1173.