It has been more than three decades since the day 41-year-old Audrey Groat left her Northfield, Vermont home supposedly for an afternoon of shopping only to vanish without a trace.
The initial search for the missing mother had just a few details to go on, but not even those details can really be trusted. The most important question still lingers: What really happened on that August afternoon in 1993?
If you have any information relating to the disappearance of Audrey Groat, please contact Vermont State Police Lieutenant John MacCallum. His email is in the show description for this episode. Or you can submit an anonymous tip by texting VTIPS to 274637.
About Audrey Groat
Audrey Groat was a dedicated, adoring mother… And a busy one, too. She had six daughters with about an eight year gap between the oldest and youngest, and four of the youngest lived at home with her. Audrey and her husband of 11 years, James Cote, divorced in 1983 and he moved out of state and so times were tough and money was tight as a single mom, but she did everything she could to make a comfortable life for her family.
According to Peter Hirschfeld’s reporting for the Times Argus, Audrey and the girls were living in a small Northfield, Vermont apartment in 1990 when she presented an idea. She had a small plot of land on Holstrom Road, a more rural part of the same town, and Audrey suggested they build a house of their own. The girls were all-in on the plan and together they began construction that very summer. One of Audrey’s daughters later reflected on their home with pride, “Mom and us girls built it…It was pretty cool.”
Whenever there was time and money to spare, Audrey was working away on the house. Debra Derby writes for the Rutland Herald that Audrey referred to it as a pioneer project. It didn’t have electricity for about eight months, and it never had running water while Audrey lived there. The single lofted bedroom that was open to the rest of the house made privacy and personal space a rare commodity, but it meant they all got to spend a lot of time together, too.
Audrey had been working at Community Products in Montpelier, a candy manufacturer once responsible for the popular cashew and Brazil nut treat called Rainforest Crunch. That’s where she met a man named Patrick Jarvis. He moved back to Vermont from South Carolina and started working at Community Products sometime in 1992. There’s not a lot of information in the source material about how Audrey and Patrick met or how they became friends, but we can assume they had seen each other around the water cooler, so to speak, and hit it off from there.
Some sources refer to Patrick as Audrey’s boyfriend while the majority say he was just a friend, but according to reporting in the Rutland Herald, their relationship developed over the course of a year, both in and out of work. Audrey eventually introduced Patrick to her daughters and they all went camping and boating at the Wrightsville Reservoir together. Patrick helped Audrey with home renovations, too, like hanging sheetrock and installing a shower stall.
In 1993, life threw Audrey a curveball when she got laid off. So that summer, she started searching for a new job to provide for her family all while keeping up with projects at the house and getting the girls ready to go back to school that fall. But one afternoon that August, Audrey put everything on pause in favor of some different plans.
Disappearance & Early Search
On August 21, 1993, Audrey left her house in Northfield reportedly to do some shopping in Burlington with Patrick Jarvis. As she walked out the door that afternoon, leaving her younger kids in the care of a babysitter, she promised to be back by 6:30 the latest. She dropped another of her daughters off at a friend’s house a few towns over in Middlesex around 2 o’clock, 2:15-ish and then drove to a commuter lot off Interstate 89 in Montpelier where she met up with Patrick to carpool to the University Mall together. She parked her Chevrolet S-10 pick-up truck in the lot and hopped into Patrick’s beige Ford Escort. Then off they went.
Audrey should have been home that night, by 6:30 just like she promised, but hours ticked by and she never walked back through the front door. Diane Derby reports for the Rutland Herald that one of Audrey’s daughters tried calling Patrick’s apartment to see if he knew where Audrey was, but his roommate said Patrick wasn’t there and stopped answering the phone after her third call.
The next morning when Audrey failed to pick up her daughter at the friend’s house, and she hadn’t called to let anyone know where she was or when she’d be back, the worry really set in.
The daughters and their babysitter started calling Audrey’s friends and the friends started calling each other. No one had seen or heard from Audrey since she left for that supposed shopping trip. And they still couldn’t track down Patrick Jarvis. Something definitely wasn’t right, and so, they called local police to file a missing persons report that Sunday, August 22.
Police were reportedly dismissive at first, suggesting that Audrey was taking a little unannounced break from the demands of motherhood and life in general. But her daughters knew that couldn’t be the case – Audrey may have had moments where it all caught up to her, but she wasn’t going to walk out the door one afternoon and then decide to make it an overnight escape without some sort of warning or check-in. Her daughters insisted that something was truly wrong, and so police made their first attempts to locate their mother that same day.
Northfield Police found Audrey’s red Chevy truck parked in the Montpelier commuter lot, just sitting there looking completely…Normal. Reports vary here, but it seems the truck was locked. One detail everyone agrees on though is that there were no signs that something bad had happened near or inside the vehicle, nothing that would indicate a struggle of any kind. So police left the truck right where they found it. Maybe Audrey would be back to get it soon and this whole thing would prove to be just a misunderstanding.
For three days, Audrey’s truck sat unmoved in the lot, and for three days her daughters waited for Audrey to come home. Police followed up with other family members and friends to see if Audrey had called or seen anyone, but by Wednesday, there still wasn’t any sign of her. And so police impounded her truck and started circulating her description in the media, asking anyone who may have seen the 5 foot 6 blonde haired, blue-eyed woman to call Northfield PD. Audrey’s daughters began printing posters and distributing them across Vermont.
At that point, investigators weren’t even hinting at any suspicion of foul play. This was just a mysterious disappearance. But mysterious barely covers it. Audrey’s youngest daughter had a birthday coming up the following week and she’d already bought a present. Audrey had put clothes on layaway at a local store for the girls since school was starting back up soon. She had house projects in progress and more planned. These weren’t the behaviors of a woman plotting to leave her life behind voluntarily. The more likely scenario, at least as far as her family was concerned, was that Audrey didn’t go away on her own.
Northfield PD continued their missing person investigation, following up on a number of leads and tracking down Audrey’s last known movements, including speaking with the person who last saw her that Saturday afternoon.
Audrey’s story continues on Dark Downeast. Press play to hear the full episode wherever you get your podcasts.
Episode Source Material
- Vermont State Police: Audrey Groat
- Northfield woman missing from lot, Burlington Free Press, 26 Aug 1993
- Police continue search for missing woman, AP/Burlington Free Press, 27 Aug 1993
- Disappearance of Northfield woman remains a mystery by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 27 Aug 1993
- Missing woman leaves no trace by Ann E. Donlan, Burlington Free Press, 28 Aug 1993
- Still no clues in case of missing mother; friends confused, mad, sad by Kathleen Hentcy, Rutland Daily Herald, 29 Aug 1993
- Daughter worries over missing mom, AP/Bennington Banner, 30 Aug 1993
- Police seek information about missing woman, Burlington Free Press, 31 Aug 1993
- Foul play considered in disappearance case by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 31 Aug 1993
- Missing woman’s companion arrested on charge of assault by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 01 Sep 1993
- Missing woman’s friend arrested by Mike Donoghue, Burlington Free Press, 02 Sep 1993
- Dog fails to turn up missing woman’s tracks, Burlington Free Press, 01 Sep 1993
- Sex assault suspect linked to possible homicide by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 03 Sep 1993
- Police hope festival yields leads on missing woman by Mike Donoghue
- Police investigation annoys family of missing woman by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 15 Sep 1993
- Police search home in missing person case, AP/Burlington Free Press, 17 Sep 1993
- 3 families offer to care for missing woman’s kids, AP/Burlington Free Press, 18 Sep 1993
- Files shed light on inquiry into disappearance, AP/Burlington Free Press, 25 Sep 1993
- Warrants reveal probe into woman’s disappearance by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 25 Sep 1993
- Charges reduced against Barre man by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 20 Oct 1993
- Search for Northfield woman moves to dam area by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 06 Nov 1993
- Dogs pick up scent at reservoir by Shay Totten, 07 Nov 1993
- Vt. State Police divers fail to find body of Northfield woman, AP/Brattleboro Reformer, 10 Nov 1993
- Groat’s disappearance frustrates police by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 06 Dec 1993
- Missing woman’s friend takes lie detector test by Mike Donoghue, Burlington Free Press, 08 Dec 1993
- Suspect pleads guilty, will take lie detector by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 08 Dec 1993
- Investigator, attorney take up the search for missing woman, AP/Burlington Free Press, 27 Feb 1994
- But for 6 daughters, a day of sorrow and remembering by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 08 May 1994
- Search continues for missing woman by Wilson Ring, Burlington Free Press, 29 Jun 1994
- Police search pond for body, find nothing, AP/Brattleboro Reformer, 08 Jul 1994
- Police, others continues search for Groat by John Dillon, Rutland Daily Herald, 21 Aug 1994
- Police search pond for missing woman, AP/Bennington Banner, 22 Aug 1994
- Divers fail to find missing woman’s body, AP/Brattleboro Reformer, 25 Aug 1994
- Suspect may walk out of jail by Wilson Ring, Burlington Free Press, 06 Dec 1994
- Suspect will be released by Wilson Ring, AP/Bennington Banner, 06 Dec 1994
- Abusers release is upsetting to guardian by Wilson Ring, AP/Brattleboro Reformer, 10 Dec 1994
- Suspect in missing woman case freed, AP/Rutland Daily Herald, 23 Dec 1994
- Police address unsolved homicides by Mike Donoghue, Burlington Free Press, 29 Dec 1994
- The Disappearance of Audrey Groat by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 02 Apr 1995
- Graveyard unearthed in Woodbury by Cassandra Hemenway, Hardwick Gazette, 12 Jul 1995
- Benefits withheld from missing mom’s kids by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 11 Nov 1995
- No new evidence in Groat mystery by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 03 Aug 1996
- Dig refutes rumor of a buried body, AP/Boston Globe, 05 Aug 1996
- Death certificate ordered in Groat case by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 06 Dec 1996
- Officials hoping TV spot on Groat will produce clues by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 22 Aug 1997
- Daughters search for closure by Diane Derby, Rutland Daily Herald, 22 Aug 1998
- Reservoir is drained in search for woman by David W. Smith, Rutland Daily Herald, 09 Nov 2001
- Woman not found in reservoir search, Burlington Free Press, 16 Nov 2001
- Search takes toll on reservoir by Nancy Bazilchuk, Burlington Free Press, 26 Nov 2001
- Body parts discovered in Northfield by Stephen Mills, Rutland Daily Herald, 11 May 2002
- A family remembers by Sam Hemingway, Burlington Free Press, 22 Aug 2006
- ‘We deserve an ending’ Audrey Groat’s family gathers in remembrance of missing woman by Peter Hirschfeld, Times Argus, 27 Oct 2006
- Police search for missing woman, AP/Burlington Free Press, 29 Apr 2009
- Police renew search in disappearance of mom by Thatcher Moats, Rutland Daily Herald, 01 May 2009
- Police: No identification of skull fragment by Peter Hirschfeld, Rutland Daily Herald, 24 May 2012
- Police doubt remains belong to missing woman, AP/Burlington Free Press, 25 May 2012
- Police seek new leads in Vermont cold case, WCAX, 21 Aug 2019
- This Place in History: The Wrightsville Dam by Mike Hoey, WVNY ABC22 & FOX44, 27 Jul 2023
- North Branch Cemetery, Wrightsville, Vermont Relocation Records, 1934 MSA 616, Vermont Historical Society