Sandy Rea told her friend that she was going to run to the store and get a pack now that she was out. Before going to stay with a classmate’s family in Shawnee, Oklahoma, the 17-year-old had just moved out of her mother’s house. She told her friend she would be back soon when she left the house in the evening of September 19, 1984. But she never got back to the house, and after that night, no one saw her again.
Sandy left her purse and everything else she owned at her friend’s house. She had planned to walk to a nearby convenience store, but her friends stopped and asked her if she needed a ride somewhere along the way. She asked them to drop her off at the Windsor Bowling Alley, where her cousin Jerry Doyle worked. She spent some time with him. Then she asked if he could take her to get cigarettes, but Jerry said he had to go to work.
Sandy called a friend that night to see if she wanted to go to a party with her. The friend said no because her parents wouldn’t let her. Sandy said she was going to look for a ride with someone else. He thought she called a few people, but he wasn’t sure which one finally agreed to take her.
Sandy left the bowling alley around 8:30 pm. Someone gave her a ride, but no one knew for sure who it was. However, Sandy often hitched rides and accepted rides from strangers, which made it very hard to figure out who had picked her up that night. Sandy was nowhere to be found after leaving the bowling alley.
When Sandy Rea’s mother found out that no one had been able to reach her daughter, she thought the worst. She told the Shawnee Police Department that the teen was missing. Investigators, on the other hand, weren’t worried. It was likely Sandy who had run away and would come back when she was ready.
Carol was certain that Sandy would never run away from home as a teen. Even though she lived with a friend, she often went to her mom’s house to see how her younger siblings were doing. That was especially true after Sandy’s parents split up a few years before. She saw herself as their mother. Carol was sure that she wouldn’t have left her family on her own.
In January 1985, detectives began to rethink their theory about the runaway. Shawnee Police Lt. Charles Philips said that Sandy hadn’t been seen since September of last year and that they weren’t sure if she had gone missing on her own. He said Sandy turned 18 on November 25, 1984, which meant she was an adult legally and had no reason not to call her family because they couldn’t make her come home.
Sandy went from being a runaway to a missing adult, and the police asked local newspapers for help in finding her, but they didn’t go out and look for her. “We don’t want to blow it out of proportion,” Lt. Philips said, “because it still looks like a runaway—there is no evidence that there has been any foul play.” What the police thought was that Sandy was just missing.
Lt. Philips said that detectives didn’t have any solid leads on where Sandy was, but there were rumors that she had been seen in Oklahoma City. He did say that detectives hadn’t talked to all of Sandy’s friends, so they didn’t know if any of them knew where the teen could be.
An employee of The Daily Oklahoman called Carol and asked if she thought her daughter had been killed. “Before, Sandy never left without calling me…She left her purse behind. She just bought new clothes. If you bought new clothes, would you then leave them behind?” She said Sandy always looked forward to spending Christmas with her family, and Carol was sure the teen wouldn’t have chosen to miss it. “I think she took a ride with someone and got into trouble.”
The search for Sandy was never over for Carol. To keep an eye on some of the people her daughter had been hanging out with, Carol became a bail bondsman in the years after her daughter went missing. These were people she knew had criminal records. Some of the people Sandy hung out with were in and out of jail, but Sandy herself had never been in trouble with the law. She was sure that someone she thought was a friend had killed her daughter. She prayed that someone would come forward with the clues that would help solve the case, but no one did.
It was said over and over that Sandy’s ex-boyfriend had killed her and buried her in his basement. Danny McLeod was very angry and jealous when Sandy broke up with him, according to Carol. She thought he was dangerous and could kill her. In 1992, he was interviewed in depth and passed a polygraph test. Ground-penetrating radar also put an end to the rumor that Sandy was buried in his basement. In the end, he was ruled out as a possible suspect.
It had been years, but Sandy’s case was still open. One of Sandy’s old friends decided to look into what had happened to Sandy online in July 2012 to try to figure out what had happened all those years before. A search for missing people led her to NamUs, the National Missing Persons and Unidentified database. She read about a piece of a skull that was found in Pottawatomie County in November 2007.
The skull was found in a river not far from where Sandy was last seen. It belonged to a woman who was between 14 and 30 years old when she died. Sandy’s friend emailed Kayla Berg, who was listed as the person to contact in the NamUs case file, to see if it might belong to her.
Kayla, an anthropologist who works for the Oklahoma State Medical Examiners Office, set up a way for DNA samples from Sandy’s mother and sister to be compared to DNA from the unidentified skull. As of July 2023, the skull still hasn’t been identified as belonging to Sandy. However, Carol and Sandy’s sister Brandy were hopeful about the case for the first time since Sandy went missing. At least their DNA was saved, so it could be compared to DNA from any other bodies that had not been identified in the hopes of finally finding Sandy.
Brandy told the news media that she didn’t think her sister would be found alive. “I don’t think there’s any other chance than to find her body.” We just want to be sure that she’s gone.
Sandy’s family put up a billboard in Shawnee in 2013 with information about her disappearance in the hopes that someone would see it and finally come forward with information about what happened to the teen so many years before. The Shawnee Police Department also spent a lot of time on the case, talking to people who knew Sandy before she went missing and trying to find solid clues about where she was.
Sgt. Greg Gibson of the Shawnee Police Department agreed with Sandy’s family that she had been killed. He said that Sandy’s case would remain a missing person case until they had proof that she was dead. He said that Sandy’s family had gotten a lot of attention for the case on social media, which helped detectives find out more about what had happened.
In October 2013, police got a tip that gave them information about a certain place where Sandy’s body could be buried. The Crime Scene Archaeology Recovery Group was called by the Shawnee Police Department to help them look for Sandy. They dug in the area that was shown, which was near some railroad tracks, but they couldn’t find any signs of Sandy.
Jeff Price, Sandy’s cousin, said that Sandy had been hanging out with some bad people when she went missing. “They drank, got high, and had a good time.” On the other hand, she was in her element. This is the girl who did well in school and was elected president of the Vocational Industrial Club of America at Shawnee High School.
Detective Ronnie Wilson of the Shawnee Police Department was given Sandy’s case in 2015. Detective Wilson was still hopeful that the case could be solved, even though she hadn’t been seen in 30 years. He talked to Sandy’s friends and ex-boyfriends again to try to figure out what really happened in 1984. Even though he wasn’t ready to name names, he did say that he thought he had caught at least one person lying, and he was sure that the truth would come out in the end.
Since Sandy went missing almost 40 years ago, more than 200 people have been interviewed about it. However, not much more is known now than it was then. Detectives think there are still people in the Shawnee area who know what happened to Sandy. They hope that one day these people will do the right thing and tell the police what they know so that Sandy and her family can finally get justice.
The last time anyone saw Sandy Pathresa Rea was in September 1984 in Shawnee, Oklahoma. She was only 17 years old. Investigators have never been able to figure out what happened to her because of how badly her case was handled in the beginning. They do not think she is still alive. The last time we saw Sandy, she was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 110 pounds. She has brown eyes and light brown hair. She wore a gray cropped T-shirt, pink jogging pants, and flip-flops the last time she was seen. Please call the Shawnee Police Department at 405–273–2121, if you know anything about Sandy.