The more time I spend digging into homicide and missing persons cases in Maine and New England, the more I am left speechless at the secrets kept hidden. Secrets that span decades and generations. And the lengths some people will go to keep them locked away.
For nearly three decades, the family of Kitty Collins Wardwell hoped that the whereabouts of their daughter, sister, and mother would be revealed and the secret of what happened to the smart, beautiful Kitty would come out into the light. But they wouldn’t learn the truth about Kitty until someone else passed away unexpectedly 28 years later.
You won’t find her name on the Maine State Police Unsolved case list anymore, as cases like Kitty’s are excluded when there is evidence establishing beyond a reasonable doubt that the person responsible is dead.
But the death of a key individual is not a true resolution for Kitty Wardwell. Is someone out there, still walking the streets of Maine, holding onto information that could uncover the secret of why Kitty disappeared and the person, or persons, responsible?
About Kitty Wardwell
Kitty Collins Wardwell was born to her parents Forrest Collins Sr. and Ruby Collins Doughty in Bangor, Maine on July 1, 1953. She grew up in Dedham, Maine – a small town east of Bangor, historically well-known for the 1961 crash of a Cold War airplane on Bald Mountain within town limits. The fuselage remains on the mountainside, a shredded metal memorial to the two men whose lives were lost in the accident.
Or maybe you’re familiar with Lucerne-in-Maine, a village within the town of Dedham, referred to as a “Beauty Spot of America” on the town website. It sits on the shores of Phillips Lake, a favorite summer spot for locals and tourists alike.
Growing up in small-town Maine, Kitty Wardwell was an undeniable beauty. Beauty and cosmetology was a passion of hers. After graduating from Brewer High School in 1971, Kitty attended the Finishing Touch Modeling School in Massachusetts. I’ve seen what appear to be modeling photos of Kitty, posing against a vintage floral wallpaper backdrop in a women’s suit with a jacket slung over her shoulder, her dark hair blown out in that perfect 70s way.
In the midst of pursuing her modeling dreams, Kitty Collins was married, becoming Kitty Wardwell, and had a son – a little boy. She worked as a cosmetologist and at a few retail shops around the Bangor area, sticking close to her hometown and family.
By 1983, Kitty was divorced. She moved into a new place at the Greenwood Gardens Apartments in Holden, Maine and was working for a man named Francis Julian, better known as Frank.
Who is Frank Julian?
Frank Julian was born in 1931, making him about 22 years older than Kitty. According to reporting for the Bangor Daily News by Andrew Neff, Frank Julian also grew up in the Bangor area, attending John Bapst High School and playing on the state championship football team in 1948.
After high school, it appears Frank had quite the entrepreneurial spirit. He opened the well-known Pizza Roma on Main Street in Bangor and then went on to become a novelty salesman, buying bulk wares out of state and reselling them in Maine.
According to a letter written to the Mid-American Broadcasting Company by Kitty Wardwell’s mother, Ruby Doughty, Kitty worked for Frank in his wholesale business, often traveling to Providence, Rhode Island with him to pick up merchandise that would later be sold to shops in Bangor.
Before she passed away, Kitty’s mother spoke with HAAD Enough, an organization that is now known as Maine Cold Case Alliance. Maine Cold Case Alliance documented what Ruby told them about her daughter and the circumstances of her life and relationship to Frank Julian in 1983.
Ruby claimed that in addition to working with Frank, Kitty was also “going with” him, meaning dating or at least involved in some sort of relationship beyond employer and employee. Documents seem to confirm this – News 8 WMTW obtained copies of the lease agreement for Kitty Wardwell’s apartment at Greenwood Gardens Apartments in Holden. Frank Julian’s signature also appears on the lease.
Whatever the true circumstances of their relationship, they were physically together in early June of 1983, the last day Ruby Doughty saw her daughter alive.
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Episode Source Material
- Kitty I. Wardwell Case Summary, Bangor Daily News
- Kitty Wardwell Obituary, Bangor Daily News
- Letter by Ruby Doughty to Mid-American Broadcasting Company, 1983
- Body found in Lewiston storage unit by Andrew Neff, Bangor Daily News, 24 Oct 2011, page 2
- Woman’s neighbors in Holden sought by Alex Barber, Bangor Daily News, 25 Oct 2011, page 2
- Old Salem motel may figure in Maine cold case by Doug Ireland, The Eagle Tribune, 25 Oct 2011
- Retired detective suspected boyfriend by David Sharp, Bangor Daily News, 27 Oct 2011
- Body in freezer identified as Maine woman missing for 28 years by Reuters Staff, Reuters.com, 02 Dec 2011
- State police confirm body is Wardwell’s by Nok-Noi Ricker, Bangor Daily News, 03 Dec 2011
- Who killed Kitty? Freezer with missing Maine woman’s body was likely moved, investigator says by David Charns, WMTW, 17 Nov 2016