Overview of Cynthia Constantine
Oakdale, situated on Long Island in New York, has had its fair share of notable residents and grand estates for a small area. The grounds of the Connetquot River State Park Preserve contain the historic South Side Sportsmen’s Club: a place of respite whose rooms were once filled with entertainment for the wealthy who hunted and fished within its borders. The businessmen and the tycoons, like the Vanderbilt's and others of their ilk, followed the railroads creeping east into the sprawling woods. They built mansions with names like Idle Hour and Pepperidge Hall near the club. This gilded era was very Gatsby and very grand.
Oakdale was changing face by 1969. It was less gilded and more suburban, inhabited by nuclear families instead of railroad pioneers and barons of business. Connetquot River State Park became a place to stroll on foot, by horse or by snowshoe for all. The local newspapers shared the stories of kayak trips and canoe regattas, town politics, school board squabbles, petty crimes and the achievements of locals, particularly college-bound high schoolers and Little Leaguers.
But on July 17, 1969, the headline at the far-right corner of the Suffolk County News was different. It read, “OAKDALE GIRL STILL MISSING. No new leads for police dept.”
The "Oakdale Girl" was 15-year-old Cynthia Dawn Constantine. During the evening of July 11, 1969, Cynthia, clad in black shorts and a white shirt, clipped the leash to her dog’s collar and left her home on Montauk Highway. She headed towards the woodsy area by the Oakdale Long Island Railroad station. Three young boys saw Cynthia enter the woods with the dog north of the train station; her family later mused that Cynthia might have been going to inspect a muskrat hole she and her older brother had discovered earlier in the day.
It was not long before the dog returned home, leash trailing behind him, without Cynthia. Her family was immediately alarmed. The teenager was a quiet and reserved girl, not a troublemaker. She had no history of running away from home. She wasn’t fighting with her parents or brother. In fact, another pet, her rabbit, was about to give birth at any moment, and the prospect of baby bunnies was exciting for Cynthia.
Everyone in the hamlet searched for Cynthia. Third Precinct police officers organized searches with volunteers from the Boy Scouts, the West-Sayville Volunteer Fire Department and parishioners from the St. John’s Lutheran Church. A nearby lake was dragged. The woods were scoured. Police dogs searched for a scent, but their noses found nothing. Her brother led the police to tracks consistent with a girl and a dog in the direction of the muskrat hole, but rain washed the prints away before they could be further investigated or preserved.
The days stretched into weeks, and Cynthia was still missing. “MOTHER’S HOPE IS STILL STRONG,” the headline of the July 24, 1969, Suffolk County News headline read. Despite the lack of leads and rumors swirling through the town, Cynthia’s mother was resolved and hopeful, according to the report. “I just want everyone to know I have a strong hope that she is still alive,” she was quoted at the beginning of the article.
A reward was offered for credible information, but no tips trickled in. The weeks stretched into months. Cynthia’s classmates returned to school, summer bled into autumn, and the headlines of the local newspaper were taken over by other Suffolk County affairs. And the girl was still gone. Cynthia had vanished; her disappearance was the textbook definition of the term. Several things come to mind when theorizing about her disappearance. A small aside to one of the articles in the Suffolk County News reported that a 14-year-girl had told her mother of an encounter with a man, 30 to 40 years old, wearing a suit and driving a red car in the adjacent town of Sayville. The man asked the teen to get into his car; she refused and told her mother. The train station itself became a character in the mystery. The Oakdale train station lived on the Montauk branch of the railroad, which traveled through the south shore Hamptons towns to the farthest point east, Montauk—“The End,” as Long Islanders refer to it. Trains would be packed on a summer Friday evening with city dwellers heading to the Hamptons for weekends, oftentimes running express and blasting through stations with a few sounds of the horn. If Cynthia was abducted, would she be seen or heard over the roar of a passing train? Did the train bring someone into Oakdale with intentions of abducting or harming a young girl?