The Cold Case of Mary Catherine Olenchuk

On Sunday, August 9, 1970, Mary Catherine Olenchuk was at the beach with her family, just down the street from their summer home on Israel Head Road in Ogunquit, Maine. Mary was 13-years old and the youngest of three girls.

Ogunquit is among Maine’s many popular summer destinations for locals and tourists alike. Though the off-season population is the hundreds, it swells to the tens of thousands in the summertime, and it was no different in the 1970s. 

Israel Head Road is just off Shore Road, in the heart of Ogunquit with hotels and rental condos intermingling with private residences and little roadside shops and restaurants selling fried seafood, sunscreen, souvenirs and other essentials

Around 4 p.m. that Sunday afternoon, Mary left the beach ahead of her mother and sisters for a solo trip into town. She was going to pick up the Sunday edition of the New York Times and a pack of gum. Mary stopped at home to change out of her beach clothes, throwing on a pair of pink faded shorts and a long white t-shirt with the words “Yokomiko, Andrews AFB” printed on the front. Her dad was a military guy.

Instead of walking the short distance from their house to the store, not much more than a half mile, Mary passed through her neighbor’s yard and hopped on a bike they kept in the backyard. She had a standing agreement with the family-friends next door that she could borrow it whenever she needed. 

As she pedaled the black Hercules English racing bicycle with it’s saddlebag holders down Israel Head and onto Shore Road, she waved at a few familiar faces at the Marginal Way House hotel. She must’ve taken her time perusing the wares at the little shop in town before selecting a pack of gum, because she didn’t make her way back to Israel Head Road until around 5 pm, an hour after she left the beach.

Meanwhile, a woman gazed out over the crashing surf from her third floor balcony of The Lookout hotel. At the edge of her view, just below on the street that the hotel shared with many beautiful seaside homes was a young red-haired girl standing next to a maroon car.

She paid loose attention to the scene below and watched as the girl, wearing pink faded shorts and a white t-shirt, climbed into the maroon car with a male driver she couldn’t quite see. Nothing strange or alarming, just a girl hopping into a car, probably her father or a family friend, bringing her home in time for supper. The woman turned back to the rolling waves landing with a perfect, predictable rhythm. 

The rest of the Olenchuk family had left the beach by then and followed the path back to their home to wash the sand off their feet and rinse the salt water from their hair. When Mrs. Ruth Olenchuk walked through the front door, she was surprised that her calls to Mary went unanswered. It was after 6 p.m. Two hours since Mary had left the beach for a quick excursion into town. 

Ruth asked her other daughters if they’d seen Mary, but none of them had. She asked the neighbors if Mary was at their house, but she wasn’t and the bike was gone. Mary hadn’t returned yet. Even on foot, it wouldn’t have taken her this long to make the trip.

By 7 p.m. after checking with  friends and all over the small seaside neighborhood, Mrs. Olenchuk reported Mary Catherine missing.

Press play on this episode for a full look at the cold case of Mary Catherine Olenchuk.

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