New England’s Unsolved: Jennifer Fay disappearance 30 years later

I first learned about Jennifer Fay about twenty years ago, when we were launching New England’s Unsolved. Then, as now, I was searching for stories to cover in our new franchise.

And that’s when Jennifer came to me, in my mailbox, on a postcard that asked, “Have you seen me?”

When I contacted Dottie MacLean, Jennifer’s mother, she told me I was one of the first reporters to ever reach out to her about Jennifer’s case.

By that time, Jennifer was missing for ten years.

On November 14, it will be thirty years since Jennifer Fay was last seen.

I can’t even begin to understand the frustration and heartache Dottie and her family have endured for three decades.

Since that day that I first reached out to Dottie, I have covered Jennifer’s case for New England’s Unsolved, and for Boston 25 News countless times.

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I would like to think that my coverage, starting with our first story 20 years ago, is a major reason why Jennifer Fay’s name is not forgotten to time, but instead, is featured on a sign at a Brockton playground near her old neighborhood.

I wish our stories brought Jennifer Fay’s family some answers by now, but at least Jennifer’s case is widely and publicly known. That was not true 20 years ago.

Jennifer Fay loved to have fun, and in many ways, was a typical 16-year-old girl.

On Tuesday, November 14, 1989, Dottie asked Jennifer to babysit her younger brother and sister for a few hours.

Jennifer protested, but Dottie was firm with her daughter. She wanted Jennifer to watch the kids, which she had done many times before, with no trouble.

Jennifer Fay had other ideas. That night, she wanted to hang out with her neighborhood friends.

Yvette Aubin is Jennifer’s sister. She tells me she remembers that night like it was yesterday.

“I begged (Jennifer) not to go out,” Yvette said. “It’s almost like I knew something was going to happen.”

As soon as she could, Jennifer called a cousin who lived around the corner from the Emerson Avenue apartment to watch the kids. When the cousin arrived, Jennifer slipped outside.

A little while later, Yvette remembers seeing Jennifer come back to get a light jacket from her room.

Shortly afterward, Dottie called to check up on the children. She was shocked to hear the cousin answer the phone, not her daughter.

“You know how they say a mother’s intuition?” Dottie asked me. I got this feeling that something wasn’t right. And that’s when I decided to come home. And Jennifer wasn’t there. It was a feeling like, something is wrong, a panic feeling. Little did I know, 30 years later that she was gone.”

Dottie MacLean told me Brockton Police considered Jennifer Fay a runaway and there was no immediate search, no immediate investigation.

Instead, Dottie and Yvette say, they tried to talk to Jennifer’s friends. They were met with silence.

Dottie remembers it was three years before detectives started asking around about Jennifer.

Three years.

I approached Dottie in 1999.

The next year, Warren lifeguard Molly Bish disappeared. State Police turned out in force to find Molly.

Across the state in Brockton, people started asking Dottie, why is no one looking for Jennifer?

Eventually, the paths of Molly and Jennifer’s families crossed.

Through the Molly Bish Foundation, Dottie teamed up with a group of private investigators who, to this day, are still working the case.

They have interviewed 250 witnesses. They’ve traveled across the country tracking down anyone who might know what happened.

At first, the team had to determine if Jennifer was still alive.

And, quickly the team developed a lead that Jennifer might be alive and living in Corpus Christie, Texas.

The story goes that as Jennifer’s trail went cold, this woman in Texas seemed to have no verifiable background before the time Jennifer disappeared.

A check of driver’s license photos showed a remarkable resemblance between Jennifer as she looked in 1989 and what she might look like dozens of years later.

There was only one way to know for sure.

So, Dottie and the team flew across the country to Corpus Christie. Dottie walked right up to the woman’s door and talked to the woman. The team videotaped the exchange from across the street.

A few minutes later, Dottie turned around and walked down the woman’s driveway. The tears were flowing.

This was not Jennifer Fay.

Today, there is no evidence Jennifer Fay is still alive.

Soon, the team developed a list of sites around Brockton where Jennifer’s body may have been disposed of.

The team, working with Brockton and State Police, organized massive searches complete with volunteers and cadaver dogs.

It was years after the fact, but finally, Jennifer was getting the search she deserved.

The searches have turned up nothing.

So where does this leave us today?

Private Investigator Charlie Castro tells me some of Jennifer’s closest friends, the people she was with the night she disappeared, are refusing to answer questions.

>> More: Jennifer Fay PI Team Letter Marking 30th Anniversary of Jennifer’s Disappearance

“We believe we know what happened to Jennifer. We believe we know who the perpetrators are, but without finding Jennifer, or her remains, or without getting a witness to come forward and give us first- hand information, it’s extremely difficult to get closure to this case,” Castro told me.

There is one tantalizing clue.

Castro tells me his team has developed a witness who places Jennifer on Broad Place, a small alley off Brockton’s Broad Street. The witness, a teenaged boy who was drinking, told the team that while he got sick in the bushes, he saw Jennifer talking to someone in a brown pickup truck. Jennifer approached on the passenger side. The team says it is likely there were two people in the truck.

This witness is the last person to see Jennifer Fay.

Castro and his team tell me they can account for two brown pick-up trucks belonging to young people in that neighborhood. The team can account for one of the trucks. But the second truck, like Jennifer, disappeared.

“There is no reason for the truck disappearing,” Castro said. “It was only three or four years old. The truck was never sold, it was never re-registered, it just disappeared shortly after Jennifer's disappearance.”

Jennifer’s family, as well as the team of private investigators, is convinced the answer to Jennifer Fay’s disappearance is somewhere in Brockton, somewhere in Jennifer’s circle of friends.

Thirty years later, it is hoped someone will break this circle of silence.

“Unfortunately, Jennifer trusted everybody,” Dottie MacLean said. “I believe that's who ended up taking Jennifer, somebody she trusted.”

“What does this 30th anniversary mean to you?” I asked.

“It means I still don’t have my daughter. And I don’t know where she is,” MacLean said.

Thirty years is a long time, an eternity, to hang on to this deadly secret.

If you know what happened to Jennifer Fay, call the team of private investigators at 508-328-9285.

>> More: Jennifer Fay PI Team Letter Marking 30th Anniversary of Jennifer’s Disappearance