Regina Armstrong and her sister, Christina, were dropped off by their father at their babysitter’s apartment early on the morning of Tuesday, June 18, 1985. Their babysitter lived in the Semoran Terrace Apartments in Orlando, Florida, and the siblings spent much of the day playing with the babysitter’s younger brother in the parking lot of the apartment complex.
Around noon, the children were approached by a strange man who tried to start a conversation with them, but he left after a few minutes and the children continued playing. The man returned around 3:00 pm, and this time he convinced 6-year-old Regina to take a walk with him. She never returned.
According to the two older children, the man had told them that he would give them money if they would sit on a bench and watch the entrance of a nearby apartment for him. He then invited Regina to accompany him while he went to pick up his grandchildren, who he said were about her age. He promised to bring her back to the apartment complex within half an hour, and Regina said she would be happy to go with him. She was last seen walking alongside the unidentified man, barefoot and wearing a sundress.
Christina and the babysitter’s brother walked over to the bench and sat down, but within a few minutes, they seemed to realize that something wasn’t right about the situation. They ran to the babysitter’s apartment and tried to get inside, but the door was locked. They yelled for the babysitter to let them in, telling her that Regina had been kidnapped, but she didn’t believe them and yelled for them to stop fooling around.
The babysitter finally opened the door and Christina raced inside and grabbed the phone, intent on calling 911. Incredibly, the babysitter’s boyfriend grabbed the phone out of her hand and hung it up, telling the 9-year-old, “If she’s gone, it’s your fault.” He and the babysitter told the kids to stay in the apartment and they would go find Regina, but they refused to allow the police to be involved, clearly worried that they would get in trouble since the abduction had happened when they were supposed to be watching the kids.
When the babysitter finally opened the door, Christina rushed inside to get the phone and call 911. The babysitter’s boyfriend amazingly grabbed her phone and hung up, telling the 9-year-old, “If she’s gone, it’s your fault.” He and the babysitter told the kids to stay in the apartment while they went to find Regina, but they wouldn’t let the police help because the kidnapping happened while they were supposed to be watching the kids. They were clearly afraid of getting in trouble.
The kids’ mother came to pick up her daughters about an hour later. Christina was sobbing so hard inside Donna Armstrong’s apartment when she knocked on the door. Her mother picked her up and held her as she sobbed, telling her that Regina had been taken and the babysitter was looking for her. Donna called the Orlando Police Department right away to say that her daughter was missing.
A neighborhood in southeast Orlando got about 70 police officers who searched the whole area for any sign of the missing girl. Some of the officers went home to sleep around midnight, but more than twenty of them refused to stop searching and kept going all night. They couldn’t figure out where Regina was.
Christina and the babysitter’s son were able to give police a detailed description of the person they thought took the child. They said he was a white man in his early 30s with dark brown or black hair that was curly. He was about 6 feet tall and had a cut or sore on his lip. They thought he might be missing a few teeth. He was wearing worn-out blue jeans and a shirt with blue, brown, and white checks and silver snaps. On one wrist, he had a gold watch. A sketch artist made a composite sketch very quickly, and it was sent to the news media.
Wednesday morning, the search got tougher. Police went door-to-door in the neighborhood, looking for anyone who might have seen the man talking to the kids the day before. They put up missing person flyers with pictures of Regina and a sketch of the suspect, and several people who saw the man said they remembered seeing him.
Around 3:30 pm, a woman told police that she saw Regina walking with the man. They were going toward Englewood Park, which is about six blocks from the apartment complex where Regina had been playing. In the same area, another woman saw a man who looked like the kidnapper dragging a young girl. The park and buildings nearby were searched by police, but Regina and her kidnapper were not found.
In the afternoon of Wednesday, Bob Armstrong talked to reporters. In the morning, he had helped look for his missing daughter. He begged for her safe return and begged the kidnapper to let the 6-year-old go. “I miss her and so does her mother.” We adore her. “We want her back safely,” he said, adding that he and Donna were offering a $5,000 reward for information that would help them get Regina back safely.
Donna said she didn’t think the babysitter was to blame for Regina getting lost because she was more worried about finding her daughter. She said, “I just want my baby back.” She and Bob were still trying to figure out what was going on. Press asked Bob, “I don’t see why anyone would want to take her.” My wife and I are almost done with everything. Watching TV shows about other kids who go through this makes you never think it will happen to your own kid.
Bob also wanted to talk to his daughter. Gina, your dad is not mad at you. There’s nothing wrong with you. He told the reporters that Regina knew her home address and phone number and that he was sure she would call her parents if she could. He could only pray that she would call.
A spokesperson for the Orlando Police Department, Betty Bowers, told reporters that the police were doing everything they could to find the girl. Tracking dogs, horses, and helicopters were all used in the search on Wednesday. “We have every officer we have out there looking.”
By Thursday, almost every store in Orlando had Regina’s missing poster and the sketch of the suspect hanging in the window. In the first 72 hours of the investigation, investigators got more than 500 phone calls with tips about possible sightings of both Regina and her kidnapper, but they were not able to find any solid leads.
Agent Mary Ann Waits of the Orlando Police Department told reporters that all they needed was one good tip to find Regina. “We want to think she’s still alive.” I also think we’ll find her. We think the biggest lead will come from someone in the public who sees Regina or the man who took her. Right now, we need everyone to keep their eyes and ears open and call us right away if they see anyone who fits the descriptions.
By Friday afternoon, volunteers had helped put up more than 250,000 missing posters in Orlando and a number of towns nearby. It was possible to see them at gas stations, restaurants, toll booths, and rest stops on major highways.
Over the weekend, people kept calling police headquarters to report possible sightings, so the phones were always ringing. As many as 40 calls an hour came in, and even though many of the tips were vague, each one had to be carefully looked over to make sure nothing was missed. Sadly, none of the leads led to Regina or the person who took her.
On Tuesday, June 25, 1985, investigators and more than 220 Navy cadets began a three-day search of an 18-square-mile area in central Florida that had swamps, woods, creeks, and canals, as well as empty buildings. Even though they hadn’t been given any specific clues that led them to the area, they wanted to make sure nothing was missed because it hadn’t been searched during the first search. They found the body of an adult man who had been d*ead for about a year on Wednesday, but Regina wasn’t there.
While police were searching central Florida, John Walsh, the father of Florida toddler Adam Walsh who was ki*lled, brought the case to the attention of people all over the country by appearing on the Today Show and showing Regina’s picture and the sketch of the suspect. He was supposed to be on the show before Regina went missing. When he found out she wasn’t there, he called her parents and promised to do everything he could to help them find their daughter.
The physical search did not turn up any clues about where Regina was, but the police were still hopeful that they would be able to find her. “Right now, we are hopeful that she is alive,” said Orlando Police Lt. Don Glass. Someone who wanted to start a family might have taken her. We will look into the case as if she is still alive until we find proof that she is not.
Police kept getting reports of possible sightings of Regina and her kidnapper. Over 200 calls were made on June 28th and 29th, but none of the sightings could be said to be true. Two teens were sure they saw the two at a fast food restaurant in Orlando, but they drove off in a beige car before the teens could call the police. Someone else who saw Regina and her kidnapper thought they were at an amusement park. Each sighting was looked into by police, but none of them led them to Regina.
A 7-year-old girl was attempted to be kidnapped in Cocoa Beach, Florida, two weeks before Regina was taken. Investigators thought the two cases might be connected. A 9-year-old girl in Cocoa Beach woke up in the middle of the night to see a man trying to pull her younger sister out of their bedroom window. Her screams woke up her parents, who rushed into the room where the kids were. Though the man got away through the window, he dropped the girl, who was seven years old. The sketch of the suspect in that case looked a lot like the one made for Regina. When the 9-year-old girl saw the news story about Regina’s disappearance, she was sure that the man who had taken Regina was the same person who had tried to take her sister. Police were eager to catch the man before he could take another child.
There were hundreds of volunteers helping Naval cadets and police search the area for Regina and her kidnapper. It was the biggest search for people in Orlando’s history. When they were done, they found a marijuana patch, a lot of trash, rattlesnakes, earrings, dozens of clothes, stray cats, plenty of trash, and even a hidden hutch with fighting roosters, which they quickly gave to animal control. They couldn’t find any hints about where Regina was or who took her.
Investigators kept looking into the dozens of reports of seeing Regina and her kidnapper. They told reporters that they were sure the two were still in the Orlando area because they had been seen so many times. A few people saw the two of them in a brown car, which could have been an Oldsmobile Delta 88. Several of those people said that Regina was with two men in the car.
Regina’s parents were losing hope as weeks went by and they still hadn’t heard from their missing daughter. Bob thought that the fact that her body had not been found meant that she was still alive and being held captive by the person who had taken her. “Now we think this means he still has her, that they’re somewhere together, and she’s okay.” We’ll keep thinking she’s okay until we know for sure.
One month after the kidnapping, the case went from having 35 investigators to only 16. Only about 15 tips came in every day, so Orlando Police Capt. George Macnamara told the press that detectives should be freed up to work on other cases. “There are still a lot of things we can do, but we need to get back to other cases right away.”
Over the next two weeks, there were no new leads, and police said it was possible that the person who took Regina had taken her out of the Orlando area. On August 1, 1985, a man in San Pedro, California, was sure he saw Regina on a bus. The man she was with was acting strangely; he kept pulling the little girl closer to him, and she looked scared of him.
In the Los Angeles, California area after the bus sighting, six more reports came in of a girl who looked like Regina. Each witness said the girl was wearing a blue and green flowery sundress that looked a lot like the one Regina was wearing when she disappeared. A lot of the witnesses also said the girl wasn’t wearing shoes.
That’s why Bob and Donna flew to Los Angeles: they were sure that the sightings were real and wanted to find their daughter and bring her home. Along with police, they put up missing posters all over the area and asked people to keep an eye out for Regina. Over time, police were able to figure out who the child seen by witnesses was and confirm that she was not the missing girl, even though she looked a lot like Regina. Bob and Donna went back to Florida because they were sad.
After a few months, the case stopped being interesting. As of February 1986, volunteers had raised more than $37,000 to pay for 100 billboards spread across the southeast of the United States. Each one had a picture of Regina and a sketch of the person who took her, along with details about the case and the reward. Investigators hoped that the billboards would bring in some new leads, but they only got a few possible ones.
The day after his daughter went missing for the first time, Bob told reporters that he and Donna were still praying that they would find Regina. “It seems like a long time ago and a short time ago at the same time.” We remember everything about June 18, but it seems like a long time ago when you think about how long she hasn’t been here. He still saw her in his dreams. “I wish I could see her. I would give my life to see her again. I think I would squeeze her so hard I would knock her out.
Police in Orlando have followed up on more than 2,700 tips in the past year, but Detective Mary Ann Waits said that not a single one of them had led them to Regina. She was supposed to be found in two days, I hoped. She’s out there. All that needs to be done is to find her. As long as we don’t find a body, bones, or other remains, we think she is still alive.
A construction crew in Oviedo, Florida, found a child’s skull and the torn pieces of a flowery sundress on September 10, 1987, while they were breaking ground for a new housing development. They stopped working on the site right away and called the Oviedo Police Department. Officers came out and found the body.
Even though Oviedo was only 20 miles from where Regina was abducted, the police there couldn’t connect the body to her and didn’t even bother to let the Orlando Police Department know about the find. It wasn’t until July 1988 that the bones were finally identified. That’s when Dennis Peterson, who used to be a lieutenant in Orlando, became the chief of police in Oviedo. As he got used to his new job, he looked through the evidence locker for a while and saw the tiny sundress. He knew right away that it was the one Regina was wearing when she was last seen.
For some reason, former Oviedo Police Chief R. Wade Hancock had never bothered to notify anyone about the discovery of human remains. State Attorney Robert Eagan admitted, “This is the most incompetent piece of police work I’ve seen in my 20 years in this business.” During his investigation into the mishandling of the case, he learned that a Florida Department of Law Enforcement analyst who had been called to the construction site repeatedly told Hancock that he thought the remains could be linked to Regina’s case, and Hancock assured him he would contact detectives in Orlando, then failed to do so.
Donna Armstrong viewed the sundress and confirmed that it belonged to her daughter, ending years of speculation that Regina was still alive. State Attorney Eagan was frustrated by how long the remains had been sitting in the evidence locker. “Here we have a missing child, m*urdered as it turns out, and now the trail is absolutely cold. There’s no way of saying what might have been if they had handled it properly.”
Regina’s family members were extremely angry about the situation, noting that they had been forced to wait an extra ten months for answers due to the incompetence of the Oviedo Police Department. The discovery provided some measure of closure but no answers, as the medical examiner was unable to determine how Regina had died.
Sadly, Bob and Donna’s marriage fell apart in the months following Regina’s disappearance, and by the time her body was found they had divorced. They set aside their differences to plan a memorial service for their youngest child, and they would frequently visit her grave in Orlando’s Woodlawn Cemetery. Both of them hoped that her ki*ller would one day be brought to justice, but police never made any progress in identifying the man who abducted and mu*rdered Regina.
Regina Mae Armstrong was just 6 years old when she was abducted and m*urdered in Orlando, Florida in June 1985. She was a sweet and friendly child who adored her older sister and was constantly hugging her parents. She was abducted by a white male in his early 30s, around 6 feet tall, who had an open sore on his lip and may have been missing a few teeth. Despite numerous reported sightings of the man in the months following Regina’s abduction, he has never been identified. If you have any information about Regina’s mu*rder, please contact the Orlando Police Department at 407–246–2470 or Crimeline at 800–423–8477.