BILLERICA, Mass. — For 39 years, the disappearance of Judy Chartier was a heartache to her family and a conundrum for investigators. On June 5, 1982, Judy Chartier seemed to have driven her Dodge Dart right off the face of the earth after attending a party in neighboring Billerica.
Over the course of four decades, no one could satisfactorily explain how the 17-year-old Chartier, along with her car, could vanish without leaving behind any substantial clues.
On Tuesday, November 2, 2021, everything changed. That’s when I got a call, just before going on air with another important story, that Judy’s car had been found on the bottom of the Concord River in Billerica. I was floored. That phone call set in motion a fast-moving chain of events that allowed me to break the news of the discovery of Judy’s car on Boston 25 News at 6 p.m.
The rest of the week was a news tsunami of new developments, capped with the biggest development of all: Judy Chartier herself was also found in the Concord River.
In 2001, as our New England’s Unsolved series was just beginning, we featured Judy’s case. At the time, the internet was a relatively new tool for newsgathering and I have a memory of first learning about Judy’s case from a mailing to my house on a postcard that bore the headline: “Have You Seen Me?” I followed up with Chelmsford Police who put me in touch with Judy’s parents who, at the time, were living in Limestone, Maine, near the Canadian border.
We flew to Maine and interviewed Judy’s heartbroken parents. They told me about the last night they saw their daughter and how they waited for her to come home. They told me about a strange visit from two men who showed up at their house that night. And they told me about how deeply they wanted to find Judy. Sadly, they did not live long enough to get those answers.
Judy Chartier’s case was so old that one could be forgiven for thinking the truth about that night might never be told or that Judy would never be found. But behind the scenes, law enforcement never fully closed the case. And just as importantly, a group of determined and dedicated civilians refused to give up on Judy Chartier.
In the end, it was that remarkable partnership, law enforcement and civilians working together, that located Judy’s car and ultimately brought Judy Chartier home. Thanks to their hard work, a major piece of this mystery is known and Judy’s family has some important answers.
Our New England’s Unsolved Special: Finding Judy Chartier, examines the known facts of Judy’s disappearance and it tells the story of her recovery.
The Judy Chartier Mystery is still a mystery unsolved. The Medical Examiner has not made a ruling on Judy’s cause or manner of death. We don’t know how Judy’s car ended up in the Concord River. And we don’t know if she was a victim of foul play.
Answers to those questions may come with time.
But at least we know where Judy Chartier is right now. And we hope Judy’s family can find some peace in that.
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