The Cathy Marie Moulton Disappearance, Part I

At 1:15 in the afternoon on Friday, September 24, 1971, almost 49 years to the day of this podcast episode’s release, Lyman “Roy” Moulton bowed to his oldest daughter’s request for a ride into town to do some shopping. It was a quick drive from their home in Deering Center, only about 2 miles, a straight shot down Forest. Before walking out the door, Claire Moulton asked her daughter to pick up two tubes of toothpaste while she was out and handed over some change for that and her bus fare home.

Lyman dropped Cathy Marie off on the corner of Cumberland and Forest Avenue, and watched her walk up the gentle incline towards Congress Street, carrying her favorite handtooled leather handbag she picked out as her 16th birthday gift that summer. 

Cathy loved swing dancing and there was a dance at the YWCA that night. Her pantyhose had a run in them, so she needed to pick up a new pair before the dance. 

Between 1:15 pm and 5:30 pm, it’s assumed Cathy was shopping in downtown Portland. It’s not publicly reported what exactly she was doing during that four hour window besides making a purchase at Porteous, Mitchell, and Braun. We don’t know if she was spotted with anyone or met up with friends on her shopping trip. There aren’t any reports on if she actually picked up that toothpaste her mother asked for and the pantyhose she needed before the dance. 

But it’s assumed she bought something, because by 5:30 p.m. Cathy was at Starbird Music on Forest Avenue chatting with her friend Carol Starbird. Starbird Music was halfway between Congress Square where her father dropped her off four hours earlier and her home in Deering Center. Cathy told Carole she was walking home because she spent her bus fare on something else. The dance started soon, so she needed to hurry home to take a shower before the festivities began. Cathy told Carol she’d see her at the YWCA for the dance, and she stepped back out onto Forest Avenue in the direction of home.

Sometime just before 6:30 that night, about an hour after Cathy was talking with Carol at Starbird Music and 5 hours after her father dropped her off downtown, Claire Moulton started to worry. Cathy wasn’t home for dinner yet. She told Portland Monthly magazine in a 1988 article, “In our family we always called when we were going to be late.”

Knowing the dance would start soon, it was strange that she hadn’t returned to shower and get ready. The skirt she’d made for the occasion was still draped on the back of a chair in her room. With no call and no Cathy, Claire phoned the Portland Police Department to file a missing persons report.

The Portland Police Department dismissed her as a runaway in 1971. Nearly 200 teens had runaway from home that year in Portland, Maine alone, but that didn’t fit the daughter that Lyman Moulton and his wife Claire knew and loved. 25 years after her disappearance, a new detective was assigned to the case, and he uncovered new details that no one bothered to look into when Cathy first disappeared. 

Press play to hear the Cathy Marie Moulton Disappearance, part I.