Official Site of Speaker, Historian and Author Sean Munger

Missing Persons

Disappeared: Debra Frost, missing 29 years.


Here’s a disturbing missing persons case with a long tail–crucial evidence that didn’t surface until decades later. It didn’t solve the case, but at least there’s more to go on than there was before.

Debra Frost, age 17, vanished from Salt Lake City, Utah in July 1984. She had been visiting her boyfriend at his place of work, and she planned to either walk or hitchhike back home. She never made it. Debra was planning to move to California the next day, for what reason is not entirely clear.

The next twist happened many years later. As Debra’s Charley Project file puts it:

In 2011, authorities learned Debra had contact with the police in Rock Springs, Wyoming on July 21, twelve days after she disappeared from Utah. The nature of this contact isn’t known, however, since the police records have been purged. Rock Springs is about 200 miles from Salt Lake City. Fred Martinez, a man Debra had dated occasionally, traveled between the two cities. He was 30 years old in 1984. Martinez committed suicide in 1995. Investigators haven’t named him as a suspect in Debra’s disappearance, but they are talking to people who knew him to see if there is any connection.

Something bad appears to have happened in Rock Springs, Wyoming later in July 1984. With the main suspect dead there’s not much to go on, and we will probably never know what really happened to Debra. She’s gone, yet another young person who simply vanished. There are disturbingly many of these cases out there.


  1. twoislands

    Twice I tried to comment and old password problems interferred. Now it will have to wait until another day, but thank you for your work.

    • Argh, sorry for the difficulties in replying. WordPress’s comment system leaves much to be desired. Unfortunately we’re stuck with it, because if it wasn’t on, this whole blog would be flooded with spam comments!

      Thanks for reading. I’ll continue to feature missing persons on this blog from time to time.

      • I think I have learned to copy my message in case I have to paste it into another box.
        What I wanted to say is your thought, “yet another young person who simply vanished. There are disturbingly many of these cases out there.” resonates very much with me. I started on missing persons sites years ago looking for someone and became fascinated. Then I found the John Doe site and that galvanized the story teller in me. Every time I read the meager facts around an unknown person I mind started filling in the picture.
        I wonder about the statistics per capita – does the U.S. align with European countries in persons gone missing and persons unidentifiable? (aside from the politically disappeared) I am interested in what it is about our culture that produces this end product, or about the nature of the human animal. And another question; do social networking, the internet and the cell phone compromise the ease with which one falls into anonymity?
        Anyway, thanks for responding. I probably would never have found the moment to try to comment again.

        • That’s an interesting question–how US rates of disappearances compare to Europe or other parts of the world. I don’t know the answer to that. I’ve done some perfunctory searches for European-based databases of cold missing persons cases, but haven’t found anything comparable to the various sites we have here in the USA and Canada.

          I don’t believe that social networking, the Internet or cell phones have significantly altered either the rate at which people disappear or the “success” rates in solving missing persons cases. It just merely alters the dynamics of the searches. For example, in the 2000s and 2010s, when most people carry cell phones, missing persons cases will now often involve phone records and technical search strategies like “pinging” a person’s phone off a cell phone tower, but the answers these strategies supply don’t seem, in my opinion, to be more conclusive than any other less technological means. I’m thinking (for example) of a girl who disappeared in South Carolina in 2009, I can’t recall her name but she was profiled on the Discovery show “Disappeared.” Somebody tried repeatedly to call or text her phone in the first hour after she vanished. Although police were able to construct a trajectory for her based on the locations of the cell towers where her phone “pinged” with each call, the final location where her phone was evidently turned off was completely nonsensical. Either she was there with her phone, for reasons unknown or had gotten there by some unknown process; or her phone had been separated from her. Either way it provided no concrete answers.

          Similarly, social media increases the reach of a call for missing persons, but can’t yield results beyond the same human elements upon which recovery of missing persons have always depended. Shawn Hornbeck, held hostage for 4 years in Missouri, had a cell phone, a Myspace profile and free access to the Internet during the entirety of captivity. People claim to have recognized him all the time from websites and wanted posters, but he (and his abductor) always explained away the supposed resemblance. It was in fact not recognition of Shawn himself but of his captor’s car which led to his recovery. Social media played a very limited role. So I don’t think it has altered the dynamics one way or the other–either by making people easier to find, or by making them easier to disappear.

          You raise some very interesting questions. Thanks for your comments.

  2. There are thousands and thousands of missing persons. I watched a video (conspiracy theory) about Unsealed Files that said that below the ground, there are thousands of miles of tunnels built by our government and others. There are supposedly 7 levels down there and in one level, they do experiments on humans. It also says that there are aliens running this world, so take it for what it is. But you never know…

    • I don’t believe that’s true. There are many reasons far less exotic for why people disappear.

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