Vigil set for long-missing Oregon teen

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WARRENTON, Ore. (AP) — One of the North Coast’s biggest mysteries is no closer to being solved now than it was 30 years ago.

Joanie Leigh Hall of Warrenton vanished shortly after school on Sept. 30, 1983. The police report states she got a ride in a car with another student to the local Mini Mart, where she bought a Coke and left on foot.

The 17-year-old was then supposed to help tutor kids and grade papers for her aunt, a third-grade teacher. But she never made it. That night, Hall’s brother Chuck told a Warrenton police officer she hadn’t come home from school and he searched for her at the football game. Joanie’s mother phoned the Clatsop County Sheriff’s Office to file a report.

Family and friends will gather Monday evening at Warrenton City Park for a candlelight vigil. Thirty years have passed, but they have not forgotten the quiet girl with the beautiful smile. Hall’s parents died a little more than two months apart in 1994; they had never stopped looking for the youngest of their six children.

“I would love to think we’re going to find her, like Jaycee Dugard or one of those girls from Cleveland,” Hall’s cousin, Valerie Alexander told The Daily Astorian newspaper (http://is.gd/JuCvEt). “I’d love it. She was more than my cousin, she was my best friend. Is it realistic? No. But there’s always hope. There’s always hope.”

Alexander said someone knows something. If Joanie is deceased, all the family wants to know is the location of her remains.

“Send an anonymous letter, send a post card, call from a payphone,” Alexander said. “Just tell us, so we can bring her home. So she can be buried where she is supposed to be. We want justice, but we’ll let the law deal with that. What we want is peace.”

As with any disappearance that haunts a community, people have suspects in mind and theories about what may have happened. But Clatsop County Sheriff Tom Bergin says he’s not one of them.

“I don’t believe we’ll ever close the case,” said Bergin, describing all the efforts conducted over the years — interviewing, re-interviewing, searching, reconstructing and even using cadaver search dogs.

“I don’t have a theory, I just try to look at the facts,” he said. “And we’ve gone over those facts with a fine-toothed comb.”