Three young girls doing some last minute Christmas shopping on December 23, 1974 at the Seminary South Shopping Center in Fort Worth Texas would never make it home again.
Mary Rachel Trlica, who went by her middle name Rachel, was 17. She had been married to her husband, Tommy Trlica, for about six months.
Lisa Renee Wilson, who was also known by her middle name, was 14 years old. She had a new boyfriend who had recently given her a promise ring and she was looking forward to a Christmas party with him that evening.
The youngest of the trio was Julie Ann Moseley who was only 9, she only joined the two older girls at the last minute. Her brother Terry was Renee’s boyfriend. He was meant to go with them that day but he told Dateline
“She wanted me to go with her. I backed out at kind of the last minute, because a friend of mine was going to go to the hospital to have an operation, and I told him I would hang out with him. I didn’t really want to renege on that.”
At first her mother said she could not go but Julie Ann begged, she was lonely and had no one to play with. Her mother knew Renee and her mother so she said she could as long as she was home by 6pm. The two older girls wanted to be home by 4pm so that didn’t seem to be an issue.
Many witnesses saw the girls at the mall that day but when they were not home by their 6pm curfew, the families traveled the 10 minutes to the shopping center to see what was going on. Terry stayed at home to wait by the phone in case any of the girls called.
They found Rachel’s 1972 Oldsmobile 98 still in the parking lot of Sears. The vehicle had all their brought gifts within so the assumed the girls had been back to the car and would be back soon, they waited at the mall all evening and some went to every store as there were closing.
Rusty, Rachel’s brother, says there was no sign of a struggle on or around the vehicle
When the girls did not return, the Fort Worth police were contacted and they assumed they were runaways and passed it over to the Youth Division of the Missing Persons Bureau. The next day Rachel’s husband Tommy received and letter in the mailbox. Addressed to ” Thomas A. Trlica ”
“I know I’m going to catch it, but we had to get away. We’re going to Houston. See you in about a week. The car is in Sears’ upper lot. Love Rachel”
It was written in ink but the envelope in pencil, ”Rachel” was written in the upper left-hand corner of the envelope. It appeared to be initially misspelled, as the “l” in her name was written as a lower-case “e”, but then it had been gone over again to form the correct “l”. The zip code was blurry and the 3 appeared to be backwards in the “76083” digits leading them to believe it was a misprint and should be an 8. 76088, comes from Weatherford, Texas.
“It is of my opinion that Rachel did not write that letter,” Rusty said. “But that letter remains the only physical piece of evidence we have in their disappearance.”Dateline interview.
The FBI and other handwriting experts looked at the note in the 70’s and 80’s but each time the results came back inconclusive. Her family do not believe it was from Rachel and none of the families believe their daughters had runaway. Judy Wilson, Renee’s mother, is noted to have said:
“I could have told you that night that they didn’t run away. [Renee] wanted to go to that party. And no nine-year-old is going to run off two days before Christmas. Everybody knows that!”.
Handing out flyers and contacting newspapers, the families did not give up.
A store clerk came forward around the time of the girls’ disappearance and said that a woman told her that she had seen the girls at the mall that day. The woman reported that she saw three girls being forced into a yellow truck near the grocery store at the mall. The truck was described to have lights on top of it. This witness, however, could never be located by police and the story never verified.
In early 1975 a young man came forward to claim he saw the girls in the record department of the mall, he claimed another person was with them and he spoke to Rachel briefly. Growing frustrated with the police, they hired a PI called Jon Swaim. He found a guy who worked at the mall who was making obscene phone calls to young women in the area but nothing came of it.
In April Swaim took 100 volunteers Port Lavaca, Texas after a tip was called in, the searched areas and under bridges but found no trace of the trio.
March 1976, a psychic called one of the families and told them that the girls could be found near an oil well, for unknown reasons they searched in the small community of Rising Star but again nothing was ever found.
Joe Swaim died of drug overdose in 1979, his death was subsequently ruled to be suicide. Upon his death, he ordered that all of his files on the case be destroyed.
Years after the disappearance, in 1981, a man said he’d been in the parking lot that day and he’d seen a man forcing a girl into a van. The man in the van told him it was a family dispute and to stay out of it.
Renee’s father Richard that prank calls became a cruel joke in the years following his daughter’s disappearance.
“It’s been really bad since they disappeared,” Richard said. “We had to get an extra phone in the house because people would be calling and saying it was the girls when it wasn’t them.”Dateline interview.
Over the years sets of remains have been found and have been tested against the trio, but none have been connected.
In January 2001 they reopened the case but no more evidence or information about the girls has ever come to light.
Today Rachel Trlica would be 61 years old, Renee Wilson would be 58, and Julie Moseley would be 53. If you have any information on the disappearance of the missing trio, please call the Fort Worth Police Department at 817-469-8477.