While the family of a missing person never stops holding out hope that their loved will one day return, authorities often let the case go cold unless they come across new leads. This is exactly what happened when a woman from upstate New York went missing more than four decades ago.
On August 3, 1975, 36-year-old Florence "Flora" Stevens's husband dropped her off at a hospital in Monticello, New York, where she was scheduled for a doctor's appointment. He was supposed to pick her up two hours later, but when he came back, she was nowhere to be found, according to the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office.
For years, police kept their search going, hoping that they would one day find her. Even if she was dead, they wanted to find her remains so her family can have closure.
This past September, investigators followed up on a new lead after a set of unidentified remains that matched Stevens's description was found by the state police. They were unsuccessful in locating Stevens's relatives, but instead they found out something else that would lead them to Stevens.
Although the cops failed to find any of Stevens's relatives, they discovered that someone was still using her social security number. They tracked the source and it led them to Lowell, Massachusetts.
The investigators traveled from New York to Lowell to follow up on the lead. When they arrived at the CareOne assisted living facility, they found a 78-year-old woman who could be Stevens. A DNA test was ordered, and when it came back it confirmed their suspicions to be true.
The old woman, who is now known as Flora Harris, is in fact Stevens.
For further proof, they brought along some photographs of Stevens and Robert, who has since passed, and as soon as they showed them to her she whispered, "me" and "Robert." The Sullivan Country sheriff's detectives also showed her photos of places she would be familiar with, like The Concord resort where she worked during the summer.
"She says, ‘Wow!'" Detective Rich Morgan told the Associated Press. "She wouldn’t let that photo go."
Unfortunately, the reason why Stevens went missing may never be known because she now has dementia. She was unable to explain where she has been for the past 42 years, and most people who knew her during that time have probably died.
"Most of the secrets are locked inside of Flora and I don’t think we’ll ever get them," Morgan added.
Some of the staff at the long-term care home have their theories.
"To be honest, I don’t think she ever really wanted to be found," said Festus Mbuva, one of Stevens's caretakers. "You can tell something happened in her past that she didn’t want any part of."
Authorities say it is possible that Stevens hopped on a bus at the station near the hospital, and never looked back. Through her medical records they found out that she had spent some time in nursing homes in New Hampshire and New York City, but the documents only go back about 30 years before they started to appear "sketchy."
In the end, the detectives are just happy to close the case knowing that Stevens is safe.