Local

Property manager’s disappearance still has no answers 48 years later

CHARLOTTE — In 1975, the Yorktown Apartments became the site of a mystery that would baffle police for 48 years. The property manager, 21-year-old Denise Porch, disappeared.

Channel 9 reported on the mystery back then. A bystander got a good look at the driver and told police he favored the man in the police drawing.

Porch was newly married to her husband, Dean, who never got over the loss of his wife.

“Do you think she was abducted?” a reporter asked Dean back in 1975.

”I’m sure of it,” he said.

(WATCH: Channel 9 Video Vault: The Denise Porch case, 1975)

Dean has since died. And 48 years later, the apartment complex off of Tyvola Road still stands. But the questions about what happened to Denise Porch have never been answered.

“I think I would be more at peace knowing that’s what took place, or where she is,” said Diane Hill, Denise’s younger sister.

Hill and Porch grew up in Denton, a small town in Davidson County with a population of 1,600 people.

“We always came back home -- birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, my mom did all the cooking,” Hill told Channel 9′s Glenn Counts.

‘Vanished without a trace’

Denise married her husband in 1973 and they moved to Charlotte, where she got the job at the apartment community.

“My mother didn’t like that idea at all,” Hill said.

Her misgivings were proven right. Denise was last seen on July 31, 1975 at 3:11 p.m.

“Her husband called us,” Hill said. “He called at 7:30 that night and asked my mom if Denise was at the house. She said no, I haven’t seen her today.”

“That evening, her husband comes home and realizes her car is outside, expects to find her inside,” explained Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Lt. Bryan Crum.

Crum is with CMPD’s Missing Persons Unit.

“It appeared as if she completely vanished without a trace,” he said.

In addition to her car, Porch’s purse and identification were left behind inside the apartment.

“Officers were concerned about that,” Crum said. “They started a canvass in earnest. This was after the husband had asked around to see have you seen Denise.”

Days turned into weeks, weeks into months and months into years with no answers. Eventually, the family had her declared dead.

“I know my mother wasn’t happy at doing it because that was her giving up and she never gave up,” Hill said. “‘Till the day she died, she was hoping that something would turn up.”

“So for us, it doesn’t change anything, we want to find Denise,” Crum said.

The challenges of a 48-year-old cold case

Porch’s case dates back nearly five decades. Quite literally, generations of investigators have worked on it.

One challenge the new set of detectives may face is the possibility that some witnesses have passed away.

“We know that some folks had last seen Denise riding in her car with two folks who were unidentified -- no one knows who they are,” Crum said. “That wasn’t unusual at the time, she might have somebody hop in the car to drive them over to take a look at a particular unit.”

The structure of the police department may not have helped. Back in 1975, CMPD didn’t have a missing persons unit. Youth bureau investigators would work those cases. At that time, cell phones didn’t exist and DNA was unheard of in police work.

“You can fingerprint everything you would like to, but it doesn’t give you the full story,” Crum said.

With the same barriers in place, Denise’s husband’s appeal is just as relevant today as it was 48 years ago.

“I just hope we can find somebody that has seen something that would come forward and say something,” Dean said then.

“My mother was just, she was just pitiful and she lived the rest of her life like that,” Hill said. “She in her mind thought that she would see her again, but she didn’t.”

If you have any information about the disappearance of Porch, call CMPD’s Missing Person Unit at 704-336-2311.

You can also call Crime Stoppers at 704-334.1600.

(WATCH BELOW: Police think they’re close to answers in Gaston Co. woman’s 2008 disappearance)