GREENACRES, Fla. (AP) — All this weekend, Marjorie Christina Luna will take over social media for the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office. She’ll do this despite having vanished more than three decades ago.
The 8-year-old Greenacres second-grader will speak vicariously through sheriff’s office tweets and Facebook postings, recreating in real time the events before and after 2:30 p.m. on May 27, 1984.
That’s the moment she walked, barefoot, in her turquoise swimsuit, two blocks from her home to the venerable Belk’s General Store on Swain Boulevard to buy food for her cats, Boo Boo and Skeeter.
“Follow her as she tells you her story of how she went missing, as it happened at exactly the time it happened, 33 years ago,” the sheriff’s Facebook page says.
The Facebook posting, in advance of this weekend’s event, became active at 8:49 a.m. May 16. By the afternoon of May 18, 62 comments had been posted.
Some were from detectives who handled the case, or from their relatives. Some were from people who’d been neighbors or classmates of Christy.
“Every time I have ever passed that little store she went to,” one post read, “I think of her. Every single time.”
In May 2013, her mother Jennie Luna, now Jennie Johnson, stood with Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw and others in front of an image of what Christy might look in her mid to late 30s.
“I know somebody knows something,” the mother — who is not commenting for this weekend’s effort — said at the time.
“Please stop my suffering,” she said, “and find my little girl.”
The idea for making Christy’s last day a social-media event came from Anthony Rodriguez, social-media unit manager for the sheriff’s office. In April, he attended a “Social Media, the Internet and Law Enforcement” conference in California. There he heard the story of Kerrie Ann Brown.
The 16-year-old had been murdered in 1986 her hometown of Thompson, Manitoba, a hamlet of 13,000 nearly 500 miles north of Winnipeg.
“For 30 years, no one in Canada knew her name,” a Royal Canadian Mounted Police presentation said.
Then, it said, on Oct. 16, the 30th anniversary, “her name was trending across Canada and new information about her last day alive was being received. How? By bringing her back to life on social media.”
The Mounties’ Manitoba district had had the dead girl “take over” Facebook and Twitter and, as Palm Beach County is doing with Christy Luna, describe in real time the moments leading to her slaying.
“I want to talk about the day I was killed,” one tweet said. “I want people to know what happened to me. I want the killer caught.”
Tips and leads came in during the October event, but the RCMP, and the staff at the Thompson Citizen newspaper, told The Palm Beach Post the case remains open.
“It was absolutely worthwhile. There was no arrest but we definitely did get some action on the investigation,” Tara Seel, spokeswoman for RCMP Manitoba, said Tuesday from Winnipeg. While she didn’t have exact numbers for tips leads, “our investigators were definitely pleased with the response,” she said.
Palm Beach County detectives have a strong indication who might have killed Christy Luna.
Victor Wonyetye, a golf-course worker who moved to Florida from New Hampshire in 1984, reportedly was at a party in Christy’s neighborhood the day she disappeared.
Authorities said Wonyetye moved back to New Hampshire after Christy disappeared and was working in a town where another 8-year-old girl, Tammy Belanger, disappeared in November 1984, just months after Christy vanished. Tammy was on her way to school near the body shop where Wonyetye worked. He quickly became the primary suspect in that disappearance as well, but never was charged.
Wonyetye later would return to Palm Beach County. He went on trial locally in 1992 on unrelated charges of indecent exposure and burglary. Police testified some inmates in a New Hampshire prison told them Wonyetye had confessed to abducting, raping and then killing both Christy and Tammy back in 1984.
Christy’s mother said in January 1992, during Wonyetye’s trial, that she even had consulted a clairvoyant.
“She said right away that she’s (Christy) dead,” Jenny said. “She told me all about how it happened, about how he used acid to destroy her body, so there wouldn’t be a trace.”
Wonyetye was sentenced to 75 years. In the courtroom, Christy’s mother screamed, “I know you killed her. What did you do with my daughter, you monster?”
Wonyetye was let out of prison in April 2012 and died 8½ months later in Central Florida, records show. He was 69.
At that 2013 Palm Beach County gathering, detectives appealed to anyone who might been afraid to talk while Wonyetye was alive. And who’s “brave enough and strong enough to finally tell Jenny what happened to Christy,” said Nancy McBride, director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Detectives also looked hard at Willis and Chuck Rambo, brothers who lived on the same street as the Lunas. Christy had visited their home, and they were charged with molesting Christy’s best friend, a 6-year-old neighbor.
In 1993, workers spent two days digging a hole at a Boynton Beach condo where Willis Rambo worked. He went to state prison in 1993 after he was convicted of raping his stepdaughters. But no evidence emerged to link him to Christy’s disappearance.
Other leads came and went. One that Christy was buried under her mother’s house. And one in which a man serving a life sentence in a Virginia prison allegedly made a comment early on that Christy had been “taken to the Everglades with the alligators, where she would never be found.”
As the years passed, authorities and the press dutifully noted anniversaries. Five years. Ten. Twenty. Twenty-five. Over and over, the description; 4 feet, 60 pounds with brown hair and hazel eyes. Artists created images of how Christy might have aged.
Christy’s mother Jenny remarried and became a grandmother. She still lives in the house Christy left that day.
Information from: The Palm Beach (Fla.) Post, http://www.pbpost.com