Pamela Neal Photo courtesy Families of Victims of Homicide and Missing Persons
The circumstances of Pamela Lynne Neal’s disappearance couldn’t have been more routine.
The bank teller at Key Savings and Loan at the intersection of Broadway and West Hampden Avenue in Englewood set off for lunch on a sunny, windy afternoon, during which the temperature rose to 62 degrees.
At 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 31, 1983, Pamela, who didn’t have her own car, left her bank window and walked two blocks east to another bank.
She was wearing high-heeled shoes and a light green dress.She cashed a check and then stuffed several hundred dollars into her coat pocket.
Then she stopped at a Safeway grocery store, bought a Colorado lottery ticket, a pack of Winston cigarettes and a delicatessen lunch.
Then she crossed Broadway headed for her apartment. The 22-year-old woman lived in a third-floor apartment at 9 W. Hampden Ave. that she shared with another bank employee, Darlene Heintz.
Her roommate was at her own bank teller’s window at work. She watched as Pamela walked to her apartment. She walked by a cabinet-making shop in her building. A man there saw the pretty young woman pass by.
That was the last time that anyone willing to talk about what became of Neal saw her.
When she didn’t return to the bank to work after lunch, co-workers, including her roommate, were worried. She was anything but irresponsible.
Heintz called the apartment at 2:30 p.m. Heintz was beginning to worry.
Heintz left work and went to look for her roommate. She found the door ajar. She called her boss at the bank, who called police.
Pamela was not the kind of person who would just leave on a whim. She had a stable background. She loved her job and was a happy person. She was soft-spoken and somewhat shy. She was considerate of others.
She grew up in Hunter Hill. She drew pictures of people and the wilderness. During the summer, she spent her time swimming. During winter, she would ice skate. She was a Brownie and a Girl Scout.
Pamela was born in Denver on July 18, 1960. She graduated from Cherry Creek High School in 1978. Pamela attended Western State College at Gunnison the following year before spending a year in Alaska, where she photographed the wilderness.
Pamela Lynne Neal Photo courtesy of Colorado Bureau of Investigation
After a short time in Maine with her parents, Pam returned to Colorado and landed the bank teller’s job.
“Pam was a happy person. She had a great sense of humor and always seemed upbeat and friendly. Pam enjoyed the outdoors and liked to go camping.
She liked plants and designing jewelry. She was bubbly and friendly. She would never forget anyone’s birthday.
Pamela wasn’t extremely close to her parents but she did speak with them every week on the phone.
She had been working at the bank for five months. She worked a shift from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Her father, Barney Neal, had agreed to pay a down payment on her behalf for a car she badly wanted.
Police officers went to the third-floor apartment and found the front door to the apartment ajar. When they entered the apartment they found her lunch – a piece of fried chicken and a cheese and macaroni side dish – in an unopened bag on the coffee table.
Her lottery ticket was still inside a wallet inside her purse, which was standing next to the coffee table. She hadn’t had time to scratch the ticket to see if it was a winner. An unopened pack of cigarettes and another half a pack, were left behind.
Her shoes were under the coffee table, suggesting she had kicked them off when she got inside the door. The keys she usually tossed onto a chair lay on the floor. She probably missed the chair when she tossed them that day.
Ordinarily, she’d turn on her stereo and crank up the sound or turn on the TV and watch her favorite soap opera while she ate her lunch. All the evidence suggested that she was in her apartment a very short time.
One theory was that she ran down to get her mail and was nabbed. But the most likely scenario was that she didn’t lock her door and someone opened it and surprised her.
The information all pointed to an abduction, even though there were no signs of a struggle. Englewood police took the case very seriously.
They began searching for the 5-feet-4, 105-pound woman with brown eyes and hair.
Thirteen detectives, including six investigators from the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s Office, dived into the investigation, some working around the clock.
A team of laboratory technicians scoured the apartment for evidence that might point to a suspect.
“We turned her apartment upside down for any sign of evidence,” Englewood police Sgt. George Egri told a Rocky Mountain News reporter. “We vacuumed the floor, the furniture…everything for a shred of clothing, a piece of hair or skin. We found nothing.”
They interviewed neighbors looking for anyone who may have seen the young woman after she left her apartment. The prevailing theory was that someone followed her into her apartment, kidnapped her, then forced her down two flights of stairs to his vehicle.
West Hampden was then, as it is today, a very busy street. Police were looking for someone who would have seen her abductor forcing her into a car or down the street.
“In the first 72 hours, we investigated it like a triple-ax murder, Egri said. The investigation had been “about the most zealous I’ve ever seen.”
Police mounted large sheets of paper on an easel that listed everyone who was interviewed and all the leads that were pursued. The flow charts were checked and rechecked by sergeants, lieutenants, detectives, division chiefs and prosecutors from the district attorney’s office. Investigators held brain-storming sessions.
Pamela didn’t have a large circle of friends. She had a steady boyfriend, who was in Longmont when she disappeared. A previous boyfriend lived in Alaska at the time. She didn’t go to nightclubs.
“She did not lead an exciting young single’s life,” Egri told reporters.
Acquaintances were telling officers that she was the type of person who wouldn’t aggressively resist a physical threat from someone.
What perplexed police was how brazen the attacker would have to be.
“How would he know he was not going to pass someone, or that someone wouldn’t be coming into the shops (on the street levels),” Egri told a Denver Post reporter.
The cabinetmaker told police he didn’t recall seeing Pamela leaving the apartment. She would have been fairly conspicuous walking outside without shoes.
Her roommate told police that none of Pamela’s shoes were missing from the apartment.
Police showed photographs of the young woman to taxi drivers and bus drivers to see if any of them recalled the young woman, on the off chance that a shoeless woman paid for a ride. They interviewed shoe store salesmen in the area to see if she had bought shoes.
A psychological profile also indicated that it was highly unlikely that she just picked up and left on her own.
Pamela’s disappearance came during a period of time when several young women of similar backgrounds vanished from the Broadway corridor in Englewood.
Three years earlier Helen Pruszynski, an intern at KHOW radio in downtown Denver, who was staying with aunt and uncle in Englewood in early 1980, disappeared on the evening of Jan. 17, 1980.
The body of the senior at Wheaton College in Norton, Mass. Her partially clothed body was found in a field the next morning. She had been raped.
Helene Pruszynski, 21 (
“Both women were very attractive, petite, pretty, about the same age and short,” former Englewood Sgt. George Egri told a Rocky Mountain News reporter in 1983. “And both were apparently kidnapped in or near their homes by someone who knew their daily routines.”
Detectives organized widescale searches for bodies in fields. An airplane equipped with infrared cameras crisscrossed Douglas County barren fields searching for “hot spots” where Pamela’s body may have been left.
But searchers didn’t find a single trace of Pamela’s remains.
There had been other disappearances in the same area dating all the way back to 1968.
Another young woman had also been attacked, sexually assaulted and murdered 12 years earlier in March 1968. Constance Marie Paris, 18, disappeared after getting off a bus at South Broadway and Girard Avenue. She had taken a bus home from a Denver library. Her nude, battered body was found days later in southwest Denver. She had been strangled to death.
Marilee Burt Photo courtesy Family of Homicide Victims and Missing Persons
Two years later in February of 1970, 15-year-old Marilee Burt disappeared while walking home near Columbine Country Club. Burt had been strangled and raped.
Ongoing search for answers
Nearly two months after their daughter’s disappearance Barney Neal, a mechanical engineer who worked for the federal government, spoke with a Denver Post reporter. Barney and Patricia Neal lived in Frederick, Md., at the time.
“I’m in contact with her friends and the Police Department several times a week. If there are any scenarios that I can come up with, I certainly relay them to police. Most of the time, they though of them three weeks before…I’m an engineer by trade. I deal in fact, I have very few shades of gray in the way I operate. But when you’re talking about the life of a human being, I don’t shut anything out. Especially, if it’s your daughter.”
One theory he had was that she was in a stressful situation and just walked away and then was afraid to return when she saw what kind of a fervor her disappearance had caused, Barney Neal told a Rocky Mountain News reporter.
“But, I must admit, it’s totally out of character for her to walk away. This really is a mystery.”
Families of missing persons often cling to scenarios that are improbable because they include an outcome that their loved one is still alive.
Barney Neal was clinging to the hope that his daughter left her apartment willingly even though he knew that wasn’t like her. It was better that she had a streak of irresponsible behavior that could be forgiven than she would never come back.
“It would be painful if they found her body, but the uncertainty of what happened just amplifies the pain by a factor of many times. As far as what I can do, you tell me, and I’ll do it.”
By then, detectives had tracked down all possible leads that could but ran out of clues. By then only one detective was assigned to the case. Egri told a reporter that they were expecting that any day they would find a body.
Beth Miller, 14 Photo courtesy Colorado Bureau of Investigation
Five months later 14-year-old Beth Miller disappeared while jogging in Idaho Springs. Her body has also never been found.
Barney Neal spent thousands of dollars and countless hours consulting with a private detective, printing reward fliers and posters and placing her picture in national magazines of missing persons.
Pamela’s body has never been found. Nonetheless, her case is listed as a homicide and not a missing person’s case.
Anyone with information that could help solve this this is asked to call Investigations at the Englewood Police Department at 303-762-2460.
Denver Post staff writer Kirk Mitchell can be reached at 303-954-1206 or twitter.com/kmitchelldp. Mitchell’s book “The Spin Doctor” is available now from New Horizon Press.